for a day or a lifetime

my very first trip to new york city was in may 2009 and it was a last minute thing. my boss took a leave of absence mere days before book expo america and i was given her hotel confirmation, boarding pass, and a pep talk before she breezed out the door. i landed at laguardia without a clue as to how to get to manhattan, without a clue where my hotel was even. two hours and $20 in a super shuttle later, i was dropped at the revolving doors of a hilton in midtown.

it was a $215/night room and it remains, to this day, the most expensive hotel room i’ve ever paid to stay in. (the nights we stayed in the four seasons over our wedding weekend were comp’d.) for $215/night near central park you didn’t get much โ€” wifi was extra, the gym was extra, having the hotel hold a box of catalogues even cost extra.

since 2009, i’ve returned to a new york a handful of times: book expos in 2010 and 2011 and then again this past week for digital book world’s marketing conference. and i’ve never stayed at the hilton again. shortly after my first trip, i saw an article in the toronto star’s travel section about a $79/night hotel that had just been renovated and reopened in new york’s meatpacking district. (and you know i was familiar with the meatpacking district because whitney port totally lived there on mtv’s the city.)

renovated, great location, cheaper than a hostel? the catch was the rooms were 5′ x 10′ or 50 square feet. yeah, half the size of my miniscule bedroom in the bungalow. but who goes to new york to hang out in their hotel room?

the jane hotel is a former sailor’s hostel and the rooms come complete with a shelves to store your shoes above the door. each single room is a lesson in the economy of space: a rail above a long mirror to hang your clothes, ample underbed storage, and high ceilings. pierre has come to new york with me a couple of times, and we’ve stayed in 50 square foot rooms with bunk beds before, too.

when i first started staying at the jane, rooms were $79/night. last year they were $99 and this week i paid $135. you have to share a bathroom with everyone on the floor, which is why some of my colleagues claim they can’t stay here, but slippers and robes are provided and they’re the nicest bathrooms ever…rain shower heads, marble sinks, and white and black tiles. if my bathroom was terribly outdated (which it’s not), i would remodel it to look something like the bathroom in the jane.

rooms also come with free wifi, cable tvs, ipod docks, and complimentary cruiser rentals. the hotel overlooks the hudson and hudson river park, which has miles of bike and pedestrian trails. you’re also a 2 minute walk from the southernmost entrance to the highline, which i make a point of walking every time i visit.

plus there’s a great bar and cafe right on site, too. service is friendly, but slow, in the cafe, but that just gives you more time to appreciate lou reed on the record player, the red gingham napkins, and the giant crocodile above the bar.

the price of this hotel means it’s also affordable (even if you work in publishing) to tack a few extra nights in new york onto your business trip. i stayed an extra day to putter around brooklyn, visiting a few favourite spots and a few new places, too.

after taking the subway to bedford, i grabbed a drip coffee from blue bottle on berry street. i’ve only ever seen baristas make a coffee this way in new york, although i’m sure there are cafes that do it this way in toronto, too. the method is called “pour over” and it involves grinding 4 tbsp of coffee and pouring hot water over the grounds, letting it drip through a sieve to the waiting cup below.

$4 coffee in hand, i walked over to spoonbill and sugartown booksellers at bedford and north 6th streets. this is a used and new bookstore that specializes in books on art and architecture. it comes complete with an ancient black cat and the newest copies of kinfolk magazine, which i wistfully leafed through, unable to justify the $18 price tag for a magazine.

i spent the majority of the day in the williamsburg outpost of beacon’s closet, an amazing vintage clothing store on north 11th street. it was recommended to me by my hair stylist and the last time i was in brooklyn i didn’t allot myself nearly enough time to go through all the racks. i spent a solid two hours in there on wednesday though, and walked out with four 1980’s sweaters, one button-down top, and a bow-tie for pierre, all for $70.

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then, i had lunch at saltie, on metropolitan avenue. most adorable sandwich shop ever! since i’d been staying at the jane, it was only appropriate that i eat at a nautically themed restaurant.

i had the ship’s biscuit, which is basically ricotta cheese and half-cooked eggs on a delicious, salty bread. saltie is counter and stool seating only, which is perfect for solo travellers. you can also get your sandwich to go and there’s a park right across the street.

last stop was open air modern, a combination bookstore and mid-century modern furniture store on lorimer street. it was nearby, so i just poked my head in for a few minutes, thinking i might find something for my dad’s upcoming birthday.

i love visiting new york, but i’m always happy when it’s time to return home to toronto. i’m back now, excited to wear my new sweaters.

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