A Stay at the Barclay
Last time I was in New York, I was frantically searching for apartments and slept on what felt like a gym mat on an upper bunk in a $50 hostel on the Upper West Side. My life now is totally different than it was three years ago - luckily, the latter half of "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere" proved true, even if the former was a bust. Knowing I was only going to be in town for a night or two, and knowing February isn't peak tourist season, I decided to try my luck with Midtown hotels.
I was amazed to find rates comparable to what my parents used to pay in the late 90s. When I saw that the InterContinental New York Barclay - a newly renovated, historic hotel near Grand Central - was going for about $150 a night, I jumped on that rate and booked two nights - the Saturday and Sunday of President's Day weekend.
Despite the Barclay being located just a few blocks from the 456 and E trains, I got off at the wrong subway stop and ended up walking crosstown, so I was a sweaty mess by the time I rolled into the hotel. I was also a couple of hours early for check-in, but when I asked if early check-in was a possibility, I was told my room was ready. Yay!
After peeling off my unneeded winter coat, I took a few moments to settle in. First impressions - the redecoration looks great. Classic, but still fresh. Touches like the gallery wall, neutral grays and bronzes, and gold light fixtures will probably look dated in ten years, but work great for now. My window didn't overlook an airshaft, but an uninspiring view of the office block across the street. Sheer curtains let in light while allowing for privacy and double-paned glass means very little street noise, despite the location.
The large mural on one wall had me singing, "General Howe's got troops on the water/32,000 troops in New York Harbor," even if the Statue of Liberty and steam ships didn't quite fit in from a historical standpoint. Also - you know a hotel's just had a facelift when you find a missed bit of painter's tape in the closet!
The bathroom was spacious and clean with classic black and white tile on the floor and white subway tile for the shower. Cute monogrammed touches like the soap dish and tissue holder were a nice reminder that the hotel is historic, built in 1926 with Vanderbilt money. Famous guests range from Bette Davis to Ernest Hemingway to Bill Clinton.
I also appreciated the full-length mirror and the little alcove for the coffee maker and minibar. Closet space was great - tucked away was a luggage rack, an ironing board and iron, a safe large enough to hold my laptop and camera, and a monogrammed bathrobe and slippers.
My absolute favorite thing about the room? The bathroom mirror. It sounds silly and ridiculous, but the large bathroom mirror had a light inset around the frame, producing the same effect as that Kardashian light-up phone case. I take enough photos to know that lighting is everything, but that mirror was absolutely magical. You flip a switch and you *glow*.
Case in point - my flawless-looking skin in the picture on the lower left is 80% due to lighting. Both selfies were taken with the same makeup and the same "+2 beauty mode" setting on my phone (which account for the other 20%). The difference? The magic mirror. I need one for my home!
Overall, the Barclay was a great choice. I didn't take advantage of any of the amenities that can quickly add up on a hotel bill, but I thoroughly enjoyed returning to a quiet, lovely room every time. You can read more about the Barclay's history and renovation here.