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Ventana - An Enchanting Resort in BIg Sur

Summary: I love Ventana. I highly recommend visiting  and exploring the landscape at Lime Kiln and Andrew Molera State Park which I've blogged about here. Please note this is #notsponsored . Yes, that means we paid our own bill! Lots of details in the following review. including a Post Ranch vs Ventana comparison.  Can you tell there's something exciting beyond this beautiful gate? There's something special about Big Sur, a magic in the light, the presence of the Pacific, the cliffs, beaches, redwood forests and the murmur of the surf. It's one of my favorite places in California. I couldn't think of anywhere else I wanted to be to celebrate turning fifty, because it's a place where there's a sense of nature, space and light and a wide horizon. We've been to Big Sur many times and for a celebration there are two fantastic hotels vying for your attention. The exclusive, modern and very private, cliff top Post Ranch Inn and on the other side of the road the …

Hotels in New York

Last month I wrote  How to Get the Best Deal on a Hotel, and as I'm currently booking a hotel in New York City I thought I'd add something more specific. I'd love to say I've found the perfect place to stay in New York-- somewhere distinctive, well located, affordable and charming, but I must admit that while we've stayed in some nice places there's always somewhere new beckoning.

Hotels in New York are expensive and you should remember to budget for hotel taxes of 15%. Finding a place that you like under $200 is an  achievement and to be realistic we aim for something below $250, including taxes. Prices vary considerably by season so a hotel that was reasonable in February could be astronomical by September. In New York I don't want the view unless I'm very high up, because a view over the street may be pretty but it means noise, cars, cabs and ambulances day and night. New York is one of the few places I'm happy to look out at the back of another building! You should expect the hotel to be intolerably hot in the winter;  once I moved out of the Iroquois (which has great rates over public holidays) and into the Algonquin next door because our room was so overheated I couldn't sleep. Their solution was to put on the air conditioning because it was too noisy to open the window!

We've stayed at lots of different places over the years and our choices are determined by which properties offer the best value. Here are some of the places we've stayed or that I've considered. You'll have to shop around and I suggest reviewing the earlier post for details on comparison shopping, coupons and promotions.


HOTELS TO CONSIDER

These are what I think of as "possibilities" - places that have good reviews and look like a good value. I suggest checking any properties you're considering on Oyster which has opinionated reviews that summarize the pros and cons of various New York properties, from Holiday Inns and boutique hotels to the Plaza.

The Shoreham and The Mansfield - We've stayed at both of these properties, which are part of the same group. Small hotel with limited facilities; they're fairly stylish, well located and reasonably priced. We've also considered their sister hotel, the Franklin, which is wonderfully located on the Upper East Side (UES), though the rooms are very small. Tip: they often have three nights for the price of two on their website, and this deal has allowed us to stay in their larger rooms. 

Desmond Tutu Center - We haven't stayed here but the reviews on TripAdvisor are fantastic.  This is an Anglican conference center with newly remodeled rooms and a gorgeous private garden. The rates vary but seem to be in the $200 range. I'd like to try it out, and the neighborhood near the High Line looks great, though there's a six block walk to the subway.
Tip: when checking the prices here I've noticed it's often cheaper to buy through a third party.


St Giles Hotels - I first saw these on Luxury Link, they're the rebranded W Tuscany and W Court located in Murray Hill. The reviews look good and the rates are reasonable. There are a cluster of places in this neighborhood including the Park South and several Affinia properties which come up  consistently when I search with an eye for price/value.

The Beacon - On the Upper West Side (UWS), this newly refurbished hotel with large rooms and affordable suite accommodation for families is a Fodor's Choice. It's fully booked for the dates I need, but perhaps we'll stay next time.
Tip: book well in advance!

 On the Avenue on the UWS is recommended by a well-travelled friend, and we'll make it there eventually. My brothers-in-law like the New Yorker which seems to be a consistent value, with rooms of a reasonable size and well priced suites. My sister-in-law stays at the New York Palace because of generous rooms and excellent service, but it's in an entirely different price range.

On my wish list-- the realistic one, not the Mandarin Oriental/Ritz Carlton Central Park fantasy one:

Ink 48 - I like the location in Hells Kitchen and the stylish modern rooms look great at this newly opened Kimpton Hotel. Ink 48 is on my wish list for the roof deck alone! Kimpton is a great chain and they have a number of nice hotels in NYC. Currently there isn't anything under $300 for the dates we're looking for;  I should have booked our trip when I saw a great deal last month, but live and learn!  Tip: it's worth subscribing to Kimpton's email newsletter which often highlights rates not available elsewhere. 
Outside the Guggenheim Museum, Fall 2010



RESOURCES AND  SUGGESTIONS

The Friends and Family rates which I discussed in a previous hotels post could be helpful in New York. At the end of April the IHG "friends and family" rate covers a range of different properties,  including a number of well reviewed Holiday Inns from $166 (plus tax) to the Intercontinetal Barclay for a very reasonable $173 (plus tax). On my wish list is the trendy Hotel Indigo in Chelsea with a roof deck from $229 (plus tax) -- the reviews on Tripadvisor are fabulous.
Tip: these are nonrefundable prepaid rates, remember to print out the  friends and family coupon in case they request it at check-in.

Quikbook.com has a great selection of hotels in New York and in addition their "Secret Hotels" provide a Priceline like option for boutique properties. You select the number of stars and the location and they reveal the name of the hotel after you pay.  Obviously this is best for the flexible cost conscious traveller.
Tip: they currently have a "secret sale" with rates from $150. While you can't guarantee where you'll be staying  this thread on TripAdvisor discusses some of the possibilities.

Renting an Apartment - We have rented apartments in Paris and Rome so maybe it's time to try it at home too? We've used vrbo.com in the past but I like the look of Air BnB, which has great pictures and an easy to use website. This looks like a good option for longer stays and there are places under $200 but check carefully for additional cleaning fees.
Caveat - some of the helpful people on the Tripadvisor forum for NYC have pointed out that most of these short term apartment rentals are not legal and that the situation in New York may be different to the cities where we've rented in Europe. Check out this comprehensive post on Tripadvisor for further details.


Priceline - We used Priceline years ago when there was only one  four star hotel in the UES. It was great because you could get the Priceline discount knowing you would get The Stanhope. What a wonderful hotel, right across from the Metropolitan Museum.  It was an incredible deal, true luxury for $118! It has since turned into a multi-million dollar condo complex, R.I.P. to the best Priceline deal ever! However, Priceline remains a good option if you're happy to stay in a larger brand name hotel and want to get the best price. 
Tip -Before you bid do check out what hotels are currently coming up at biddingfortravel.com

Check for Bedbugs  I hate to bring this up as we've never had an encounter, but it seems prudent to check any hotel you're considering on the bedbug registry. Don't worry, there are lots of places that don't appear!


I'd love to know where you stay in New York? Let me know any of your suggestions in the comments section.



Comments

Jessica said…
That looks like once of the nicer boutique hotels nyc has and reminds me of when I stayed @ the SohoGrand.

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