Home Sweet Home: Searching for Peace and Quiet In Ever-Luxurious New York

The New York Palace.

The New York Palace.

The press release from the New York Palace invited me “to attend an exclusive staycation evening.” There would be Champagne at a bar called Rarities, a tour of the Villard Mansion and mignardises in a “Specialty Suite.” And then, after the night ran its course, there would be a big bed in a room 50 stories above the city.

All of this sounded immensely appealing, of course. In New York City, with its subway rats, garbage smells and hordes of unpleasant strangers, staying at a hotel is something like booking an appointment with an analyst. A friend recently put it to me this way: “A night at the Soho Grand was probably the best decision I made all year. It was highly irresponsible, and I can’t wait to do it again soon.” The ’70s in New York was gritty; the ’80s was about go-go hedonism; the ’90s was when everything cleaned up. We now live in the era of luxury hotels.

So rather than fight it, on a Saturday, I went to the Palace and checked into a room—but not for the “exclusive staycation evening” junket. That was, tellingly, all booked up. Instead of eating petit fours, I watched No Reservations while it rained and pretended I was in a distant exotic city. The fantasy didn’t quite take. Later, in the elevator, an older couple asked which Broadway show I was off to. I ate dinner in Midtown.

Brian Honan, the Palace’s marketing director, had framed my hometown respite with lofty P.R.-speak: “Imagine being only a subway ride away from a five-star hotel, 24-hour room service and luxurious Italian linens changed each morning for you.” True, there isn’t room service at my closet-size bedroom in Williamsburg, and no one ever changed the “luxurious Italian linens” at my squalid place on Avenue B, nor would I give my sheets the dignity of calling them “linens.” (Plus, you can’t even take the subway to Avenue B.) The mattress was firmer, and the shower was more, let’s say, inviting, but this wasn’t exactly the Grand Tour.

I tried again at the Refinery Hotel, a Garment District spot in a old hat factory, which is “currently working on staycation outreach” for its first planned events in June.

“While people have been taking staycations for a while, the actual phrase and concept has gained significant traction recently,” Manya duHoffmann, the director of sales and marketing at the Refinery Hotel, told me. “Sometimes, we need a break from our routines, and without dropping everything to take a full-fledged vacation, we can relax and enjoy New York City’s greatest attractions by taking a staycation.”

What was my stay like? At some point, I went to the rooftop for a drink. It was a crisp Sunday afternoon, and a deejay in a vest was spinning EDM tracks at a very high volume. I returned to my room and watched Mad Men, like I do every Sunday.

Perhaps the recently opened Broome Hotel, in Soho, would be different. The requisite publicity invitation said: “The Broome is a 14-room boutique property opening soon, and we are planning an overnight for a select few to be our guests there for the night and get a sneak peek. You and a guest can have a little staycation in Soho!”

So I checked in (sans guest) and then spent the day watching New Girl in bed wearing a white linen bathrobe. I wandered rather aimlessly downstairs. There wasn’t a whole lot else to do. “I got the funniest call the other day,” a hotel employee said while sitting in the café, which is stocked with some serious espresso machines and little else. “The voice sounded very familiar, Scottish, and he was asking about staying here, asking about whether or not there’s a screening room.”

She leaned in. “Eventually, I asked who he was. ‘This is Sir Sean Connery,’ he said.”

Apparently, James Bond is tired of staying at Soho House when he’s in New York. He’s looking elsewhere. He has lots of options.

“Do you like how quiet it is?” asked another employee. It was quiet, almost disconcertingly so, given the fact that we were in Soho. The hotel is a converted apartment building, set in the middle of a block.

Later, I posted a picture of the rooftop penthouse on Instagram.

“That was my garden and apartment for five years,” a friend wrote in a comment. “Sigh. Enjoy.”

Home Sweet Home: Searching for Peace and Quiet In Ever-Luxurious New York