NYC Trip Report: A Second Visit

Old Oct 25th, 2021, 11:46 AM
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NYC Trip Report: A Second Visit

I hadn’t been to NYC for over 20 years…the last time staying in the Plaza Hotel as part of my spouse’s employment perk. The company also arranged for us to see three Broadway shows. We did the typical NYC sites over the course of our seven day stay. Fast forward to present. I wanted to visit the 911 Memorial (spouse had been with a friend a few years ago) and we both wanted to see Moulin Rouge: the Musical. It was a hastily planned trip (was holding off for Christmas in London...maybe next year) beginning two weeks prior to departure. I hemmed and hawed about the hotel…considering the chain hotels around Penn Station and a hotel in the Chelsea area. One day will surfing a new hotel popped up: Hotel Henna Na, a Japanese hotel chain, that would be open about ten days prior to our arrival. I ended up booking Hotel Henna Na and below is most of my long, trip advisor review. I figured I’d be one of the first so I wanted to really show folks what the hotel is like. Skip the hotel experience coming up and two nearby restaurant recommendations if that part of the report doesn’t interest you.



Hotel experience:



My spouse and I stayed here for five nights in mid-October 2021. I was drawn to this hotel because it was brand new, and I figured new carpets! New towels! New mattress! Cleanliness and safety are huge factors for me, and as I read through reviews of nearby hotels, there were complaints about the dirty carpets, or lack of replacement towels, or battered furniture or a dead-bolt that wasn’t working. In reality, Henna na fit the bill. The photos on the website offer an accurate representation of the rooms.



I had requested a quiet room about halfway up the 18-floor hotel, and when we checked in after a long travel day from California, we were offered a high floor or a midway floor across from the elevator. I was pretty disappointed but Winston offered a change of room the next day. Fine. We were on the 6th floor in one of three king bed rooms that faced W. 35th street. The other two rooms on the floor were tucked back facing the back and those we were to find out were double doubles.



The king room was spacious and clean. Towels were larger and absorbent (Kassatex), mattress wonderful (with one pair of slippers at the base of the platform frame), linens and pillows nice to the touch. There was a refrigerator with a glass door, an open closest with about 8 hangers (and one super long robe) and just enough space to place the luggage stand. The bathroom had two bath towels, two hand towels, two washcloths, and another brown washcloth designated for make up. CO Bigelow soaps, lotions, and shampoo were all in larger bottles attached to the wall by the sink and in the shower, so if you like soap bars, bring your own. Nice to have a European-stye detaching shower head for a more thorough shower experience. The one physical amenity was a 1.4 fluid ounce of CO Bigelow hand sanitizer found on the generous sink counter. The toilet also functioned as bidet complete with a side panel of functions. It created a heated seat as well. The attached-to-the-wall hair dryer blew out a weak force. The closet-shaped clothes sanitizer/freshening was present in the room, but we didn’t try it. Attached-to-the TV worked well and there was an extended desk on the TV wall to place things. The room was great until the realization that the elevator may not be the problem but the outside noise.



After the first night, we switched to a room a floor up and one that did not directly face the elevator. Same room set up. This night we weren’t as wiped out as before. We discovered the windows did not block out any of the consistent street noise…the sirens, the cars, the motorcycles, people talking/yelling, the late night and early AM boom boxes, the 12:30AM garbage trucks. I get that we were in the middle of the city, but the windows should have been triple-paned. We managed to fall asleep. Room service is limited during COVID but my requested fresh towels resulted in a cleaned bathroom and made bed as well. A request for an extra luggage stand was no problem either. The next night, a Friday night, the street noise went on and on resulting in a very fitful sleep. We spoke to the front desk Saturday morning to switch rooms yet again. I didn’t want to go any higher because I don’t like heights, wanted stair access in case of fire, or a way out in case the elevator stopped working. We ended up going up a floor to a double bedded room facing the back (office building…no street). No fancy sanitizing closest and a little less space, but oh, so quiet at night. What a difference!! It’s too bad that the rooms facing the back are all two double bed rooms. The front desk staff was sympathetic and helpful during the moves…Jennifer, Winston, and Gladys. The room changes all happened on our convenience so it never spoiled our day out in the big city.



The area around the hotel is sketchy…homeless people camped out on the sidewalk here and there as well as folks slumped over presumably from exhaustion or drug use. No one was ever aggressive but when you are walking to Penn Station at 5AM in the morning, you walked quickly and purposefully.



Next door is a happenin’ bar/restaurant called Juniper where we enjoyed a meal one night and another night had dinner at a front-desk recommended place called the Tic Toc Diner on 8th street.



The grand total for five nights came to $856.95 which included the $20 a night resort fee. I frequently use/consult/cross reference booking.com when I book for our European adventures and found that booking.com offered me a better rate that the hotel website. The price point was up to $200 less overall than chain hotels in the area. I felt really good about our stay…appreciating the cleanliness of the hotel, location to Penn Station and other planned activities, and responsive front desk staff.



End of hotel experience. Back to the report.

We arrived at 5:30 PM at JFK having gotten up in California at 4:00AM to catch BART (our version of an El train) to SFO for a 9AM flight. We both have Global Entry and TSA pre-check, no line, so all went smoothly at the airport. I had purchased a United Economy Plus subscription in November of 2019 for a Christmas Market trip to Vienna that December. We used the Economy Plus going and booked Business class seats home with miles so we had only used the subscription once. We had anticipated three round trip flights for 2020 so we knew we’d get our monies worth and then some. Enter the pandemic. United extended everyone’s subscription by six months as a courtesy so that took us to May 2021…still not the greatest time to vacation. I figured out who at United was in charge of the subscriptions (first name Luc) and wrote an email asking for another six-month extension. A few weeks later I received a PHONE CALL from someone from United telling me they would extend the subscription. Sweet! We were able to use that subscription for our round trip tickets. Middle seats were empty between us on both flights, so not a total loss.



Being rush hour, we took the Air Train (like the Chicago El train and our BART train) to Jamaica Station, about a 15-minute ride. As you exit the AirTrain part, you then pay for your ride. We were able to purchase a metro ticket there along with enough to cover the AirTrain. In addition, we purchased two tickets for the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) as the railroad was a quicker ride to Penn Station than the subway. I also figured it would be easier with our luggage to be on the train rather than the subway at peak commute time. That all went smoothly… and we did the reverse on the way back. I was really pleased with the way it worked out. Checking the schedules on line is critical. The morning we left we just hung out and the waiting area until the track posted on our app and then made our way to the correct track. The New York City Transit app was so helpful in tracking subway trains and the LIRR. Also we downloaded the NYC Covid Safe app so we could add our driver’s license and COVID vaccine records for easy showing. We were asked EVERYWHERE to show proof: theatres, restaurants, museums.



Activities:

Day 1: We took a meandering walk in Central Park. Leaves hadn’t changed yet, but it was a beautiful stroll. We exited near Strawberry Fields and walked to a restaurant for lunch called Friedman’s. Great menu with salads, burgers, etc. We then checked out a nearby yarn shop (new pandemic knitter, I am!) called Knitty City. The week prior to our leaving, NYC yarn/fiber shops had a yarn crawl. I read about the yarn shops on the yarn crawl page and zeroed in on this one. It did not disappoint. Lots of wonderful yarns in a homey setting. Yarn shop employees were very helpful in locating the yarn colors I wanted to see. Free skein winding was a plus as well. After that we walked over to the American History of Natural Science where I purchased tickets on-line just before we entered. It looked like you could buy them inside but we did circumvent the ticket-buying line. Really enjoyed the Early Man exhibits, the gems, and the meteorites.



Day 2: Booked tickets on-line for the 911 Memorial and Museum. Arrived to find a long line but it went fairly quickly as it was all about checking for the COVID vaccination and a fast security line. I have watched a lot of shows and documentaries over the years so I knew a lot about the scope and sequence. What you aren’t prepared for are the personal mementos of the victims, the voices of the trapped on answering machines, and the quotes on the wall from survivors and family members. The one quote that resonated with me was from a wife of a victim who said (paraphrasing) As much as Sept. 11 was horrible, I didn’t want the day to end because Sean (her husband) had been part of that day. The museum, I thought, did a thorough job in presenting that events of that terrible day. After leaving the memorial, we headed to a restaurant a few blocks away called Trinity Place Bar and Restaurant, “built inside a turn of the century wall street Bank vault commissioned by Andrew Carnegie, advertised as the world’s largest and strongest bank vault in the world in 1904. Sure felt safe and secure while eating! The ambiance was pub-like….long bar, wood table and chairs, not too brightly lit with the fries tasting more like roasted potatoes. Food was excellent! We began with a Charcuterie Board with meats, cheeses, a bit of bread, veggies, and some wonderful pate. It was our favorite dining experience of the trip. Headed over to Greenwich Village for a leisurely walk. Ended up on Prince street heading for Bleeker Street. The section of Bleeker Street we intersected with wasn’t the Bleeker Street I remembered from my past visit. That’s OK, we just kept walking and headed back, passing the Scholastic headquarters and a few other interesting buildings. Walked from the hotel to explore Times Square later that afternoon. What a busy hub of humanity!



Day 3: We began the day by taking the subway to the Chelsea Market, a revitalized old Nabisco factory. Inside were shops, restaurants, bars. Reminded me a little bit of SF’s Ferry Building innards but more compact and way more atmospheric. A few of the shops were still pandemic closed but it was fun to stroll through. I knew there was a Friedman’s restaurant there so we had another meal, enjoying a chat with a couple from Austin. Interesting glass frame shop called Moscot…worth checking out. We exited the building and walked a block to the entrance to the Highline, once an abandoned elevated train track turned into an urban walking trail complete with art installations, fauna, close-ups of buildings old and new, and views of NYC from the elevated angle. Lots of folks were out enjoying a beautiful October day. I think it was about a 45-minute walk from start to finish. We exited and walked back to our hotel to get ready for Moulin Rouge! Easy enough to walk to the theatre. Loved, loved the show! We splurged for great orchestra seats where we could see facial expressions and feel the actor’s emotions. Juxtaposing this with Hamilton and Lion King, this was definitely in that category. We had listened to the soundtrack prior so we could really enjoy the music. Many folks apparently didn’t so when a well-known song came up, you could hear a surprise murmur from the audience with “Oh, that song is being used here.” After Moulin, we headed back home and nipped in to an Italian restaurant Il Forno around the corner from the theater. Not good. The pizza was on flat bread that was cardboardy. The Caesar salad tasted flavorless. Oh well, the Tito martini was generous.



Day 4: Took a morning walk to the Plaza Hotel area, Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and 5th Avenue in general. We lunched at an Indian restaurant Saar Indian Cuisine right across from the Gershwin Theater where we would see Wicked that afternoon. Food was excellent but pricey. Chicken Tikka Marsala wasn’t on the menu but I had seen it on the on-line menu. No problem, the waiter said, we can make it for you. My spouse asked for a little extra marsala sauce for nan dipping. Sure, the waiter said. The chicken ended up $5 over the price posted on-line, the extra sauce was $15, and the diet cokes were $4 each as was the re-fill. I questioned about the $15 extra sauce price(for about 1/3 a cup) and he apologized and brought back the bill and made it $7. Ouch! At least the food was really good. The whole time we sat through Wicked it felt like the first time as we had forgotten a lot of the story line. The acting, especially by the two leads, was stellar.



It was a wonderful trip and a good first outing post (fingers crossed) the worst of the pandemic. We experienced quite a cross-section of activities: the museum, the walks, the musicals, restaurants, and public transportation. New Yorkers were kind and helpful. Weather was on the warm side, high 70’s, and the one afternoon of rain we missed by being in the theater. We are so glad we went!












Janeyre is offline  
Old Oct 25th, 2021, 12:19 PM
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Great report...thank you!
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Old Oct 26th, 2021, 09:27 AM
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Great report. Glad you had a good time.

(Sorry about the excess noise, but traffic is traffic. Covid or not, things have to kept moving).
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Old Oct 26th, 2021, 12:14 PM
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Nice report, and you had a good variety of NYC experiences

Tnanks
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Old Oct 27th, 2021, 02:45 PM
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Thanks for all the details, Janeyre. Super that you had extensions from the airlines. It's such a shame noise blocking windows were not in the hotel. I saw the effects of a photographer at the Newseum so can empathize with what you felt.
A very enjoyable TR!

Last edited by TDudette; Oct 27th, 2021 at 02:52 PM.
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Old Oct 28th, 2021, 07:02 AM
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Thanks for this trip report to New York City, a city I know very well. It’s always fun to read a trip report from the perspective of a first-time visitor or someone who has not been somewhere in a long time. Sorry to hear about the dining experiences.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2021, 10:51 AM
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Nice report. I took up knitting just a few years ago and I have to check out any nearby shop when I travel.
gardendiva is offline  
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