New York and the Near-Death Experience: A Review of the Affinia Shelburne Hotel

The first day in New York was ridiculously hectic.  I had recommended the Affinia Shelburne Hotel to my travel buddies, after my fabulous stay there in 2010. “It’s really clean and they give you free nail polish remover towelettes!” I said.

(Photo is from the Affinia website, but other than that tray of fruit, it’s pretty true to life)

It was unfortunate, however, that their first impression was of this gooey thing in the shower which looked like it was either alive, or would come to life while we were sleeping:

But they give you free nail polish remover towelettes!” I was thinking.

Potential unwanted roommates aside though, we actually had a very busy schedule for that afternoon so we quickly asked reception for a new room and then split like a banana.

While my travel buddies went to the Rockefeller Center to pick up our New York Explorer Pass (which I totally recommend if you’re planning to check out a lot of the tourist attractions), I headed to the Banana Republic store in SoHo, where the lovely international man from Boston had arranged for my collarless red coat to be put on hold for me:

After regrouping (a.k.a. a bit of pre-Woodbury scouting/research), we all returned to the hotel where the receptionist was very apologetic about the bathroom goo, and said that they would need to shut that room down for cleaning but could offer us an upgrade, which was very exciting.

But wait, what was that machine in our new room which looked like it could be an explosive? Bombs don’t usually plug into the wall, right??  Was it really safe to take a photo, and was there some type of bomb waves causing this blurry photo?  I don’t know.

Travel buddy 1:  Wait, let’s all stay calm, it’s ok as long as there isn’t a timer on it.

Travel buddy 2: ….but there’s a timer on it!!! And it’s on!!!

Me: (as we are in the lift) Should we have moved our bags? I don’t want that thing to blow up and damage our stuff.

Random lady in lift: (concerned, after eavesdropping) Er, what’s in your room?  And you’re on which level?

Receptionist: Oh, that’s just a machine we use to dry the carpet after cleaning. We’ll send someone to remove it right away.

…And so that concluded the brief drama we had at the Affinia Shelburne, which for the record I still say is an amazing boutique hotel that is value for money.

Quick review:  4 stars.

As well as being modern/clean/safe (these are my prerequisites), there were a couple of things I really appreciated from my 2 stays there:

  • Friendly service and quick to solve problems (see long winded story above)
  • Great value for money in comparison to other similar hotels, plus they have extended stay discounts
  • Fantastic views from the rooftop bar
  • You could get online shopping delivered to your room!
  • Staff don’t bat an eyelid if you return after every day (or after every breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snack) with gigantic shopping bags
  • Great Thanksgiving dinner in the Rare Bar & Grill downstairs
  • Choose your pillow from the Dream Pillow Menu
  • Coin laundry located in the basement

I only wish they were closer to the subway — it’s about a 5-10 minute walk from Grand Central, which is nothing until you factor in the many many trips to drop off shopping bags. But given the amount of food we ate, this was probably a blessing in disguise…

And yes, they did still give free nail polish remover towelettes.

Manhattanhenge?

I read this post about 3 times but I still don’t get the science behind it (something about the sun setting, east/west alignment, and equinoxes?).  Honestly, I just like this photo of Manhattan (by John Makely of msnbc.com):

Also, it brought back some very good memories of the Joe Fresh store which is just down the street on the corner of 5th Avenue and 42nd Street.  Joe Fresh is a Canadian brand, where I bought this silk shirt for the amazing price of $39!  The price was so amazing I bought the shirt in 3 different colors, and am now wishing I just got one in every color!

Unfortunately, there’s no online store so there’s no quick fix… I guess the only logical thing to do now is to plan another trip overseas!!

Watertower by Tom Fruin

This is completely unrelated to shopping — gasp! shock! horror! falls over like the loser in a tug-of-war at an everything reduced by 90% sale! — but just wanted to share this amazing outdoor sculpture installation by Brooklyn artist Tom Fruin:

Watertower by Tom Fruin (via designboom)

The kaleidoscopic watertower sits at 25 feet (or 7.6 metres) tall, and is made from about 1000 pieces of plexiglass collected from all over New York City — maybe even an old Macy’s sign, they were renovating when I was there!

This will be on display from this month until June 2013.  It’s located at 20 Jay Street, Brooklyn, but can be seen from DUMBO, the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, FDR Drive and Lower Manhattan.

If you’re going to be in NYC in the next 12 months, I hope you check it out!

A suitcase full of heaven

I’ve been trying to find the right words to describe my first full day in NYC, but this little family portrait of goodies from Woodbury Commons pretty much sums it up:

Best finds of the day were definitely the $300 red Miu Miu cross-body bag and the $75 Sam Edelman suede/leather ankle boots from Saks Off 5th.

The lack of food pictures is because to offset my spending, I ate McDonalds for breakfast (before arriving) and dinner (after shops closed).  I could not afford that third meal in the middle of the day.  Cheapest (food) day ever.

The Shopparama approach

If you are in New York, you must go to Woodbury.  No excuses.  Go early.  Set aside an entire day and bring an empty suitcase, unless you plan to buy one at Samsonite (shop no. 642).

(Yes, your inexperienced fellow passengers on the bus may laugh at you when they first see your suitcase, but you will laugh last by the end of the night when your suitcase is overflowing and those poor novices have been limited by what they can carry in their two bare hands… mwahahah!)

Bring water.  I don’t want to advocate starving yourself, but perhaps some barley sugar is not a bad idea.  And maybe bandaids.  Wear comfortable but still fashionable shoes that are easy to put on and take off (e.g. flats).  Use the same principle for what you wear.  Download the center directory and memorize your plan of attack, because there is no time to look up shop locations while you’re on the move!

Or, you could just have a nice stroll around the outdoorsy outlet village, but you may suffer non-shopping remorse.  As a survivor, I am here to tell you that this is a serious condition.  It’s best not to risk it.

Some practical information

There’s some information on the Woodbury Commons website about how to get there, but it’s basically a one-hour bus ride from Manhattan.  You will even see some highway scenery along the way — talk about multi-tasking!

I used the New York Explorer pass to get to Woodbury (the bus is the best included “attraction”, in my opinion), but the return trip is usually $42.  Either way, this includes a voucher for a booklet of discount vouchers which usually gives you an extra 10% off most stores excluding designer brands, to be picked up at the Information Desk in the tower building near the bus stop.

You can buy the bus tickets inside Madame Tussard in Times Square (fun fact: this is very close to the Forever 21 which opens til 2am), but there are probably other bus operators and ticket outlets as well.

Even more practical information

And in case you’re worried that Woodbury will ruin all other shopping experiences because, oh em gee, will everything else be full price??

Never fear.

  • Macy’s and Bloomingdales both have a 10% discount for international visitors.  You’ll need to show your passport or driver’s licence at the Visitor Center to pick up the pass.
  • Lord & Taylor has a 15% discount for international visitors, which is matched by the Bloomingdales on 59th Street if you have the New York Explorer pass.
  • Other department stores might agree to give some type of similar discount if you ask, but I don’t think they officially offer it.  Choose your sales assistant wisely.  I’d say the likelihood of getting this is proportional to how much you bring to the table.  (This is not code for negotiating tactics, I just mean how much you are buying.)
  • It’s also worth knowing that these discounts usually exclude designer brands and cosmetics, but I know for a fact that the Bloomingdales discount works on Ferragamo shoes. 😉

In conclusion: I think it’s time to book another trip!

P.S. In case anyone is wondering, I bought the Mini Elsie bag from Chloe in skylight blue and I just want to pinch its cheeks every time I see it!

A Burst of Colour!

The sun is out, the sun is out this morning!!

I don’t exactly leap out of bed most mornings (and I didn’t today either), but I did get a nice burst of energy when I stepped out of the house and felt the natural sunlight on my sunscreened face, the sea breeze in my hair… the sound of nearby traffic reminding me that my bus was due any moment now.

I did however find a spare moment to photograph my outfit today, inspired by in my shoes‘s photos of her outfits, as seen from an “in my shoes” viewpoint.

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Wearing: silk floral dress by Warehouse, cyan coloured heels by Hobbs, and cerise mini shoulder bag by Reed Krakoff (you may remember this bag as the other half of a tumultuous love affair that started in Boston).

And to my shopping buddies on the trip: yes, the heels and bag are filed under “C” in my mental shopping Filofax!

Speaking of shopping, Harrods has a 10% off offer available to Rewards members this weekend. I’ve been trying to decide on a colour in the Chloe Elsie mini bag, and this sale is just the push I needed to make a decision!
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My heart says coral but my head says I have too much coral, so go for the skylight blue. (Net a porter says papaya red, which I’m not entirely sure is a different colour, but there’s no sale there so it doesn’t get a vote).

This is too much to deal with on a Tuesday morning!

Snoozes in Sydney (and Toronto too)

Fast forward 2 and 1/2 weeks. New York and Las Vegas went by in a blur of activities and food and shops and clothesandshoesandbags and feetohsotired (hold that thought, I need time to describe that whole part of the trip in much more detail).

And, oh, there was a pitstop in Toronto as well but I found that to be a total snooze — literally. I spent the whole afternoon taking a long nap at the hotel. Someone has since told me that Toronto is an underground city, and I sincerely hope that is true because I did not see anything there other than the CN tower, a nauseating couple that called their two daughters “Sweetie 1” and “Sweetie 2”, and a Japanese restaurant called Nami that had sushi pizza.

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The rice base is fried. It was an interesting dish. And a very good afternoon nap.

But NYC! Oh, I’ve been back in Sydney for almost a full week now, and I’ve already had that “still on holiday” dream.

You know the type — everyone has them. It usually happens around the time that the post-holiday glow fades and post-holiday blues sets in.

In my dream I was back in the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, oh, there’s nothing you can’t buy…

Ahem.

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I can’t remember what I was doing but it had something to do with looking for food (potentially Ippudo Ramen, which is the 2nd best ramen I’ve ever had in my entire life, and which I’m sure will have its own full-featured dream one of these days).

What I do distinctly remember though is thinking: hmm, I wonder if I told work that I was off again. Because in my dream I had come back for 2 days, and then (as planned) took another 14 + 6 hour flight back to New York. Yeah, even in my dream it sounded weird, but, you know, I went with it.

And then I woke up to this:

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Ok, not really.

For one, I don’t live in the rainforest. If I did, something within me would DIE (context: here).

Second, I actually woke up to a very sunny day, but that day is gone and today is pouring. Luckily, I managed to completely rainproof myself with Hunter rainboots, a low maintenance Le Pilage bag and an enormous golf umbrella as provided by the esteemed place of my ex-employment.

And third, this has gotten way off-topic and I’m almost at my bus stop, so signing off!

I Love Boston in their Springtime!

I thought Boston would be the coldest of all the cities, but it’s actually been the warmest so far! Time to break out the summer dresses.

To save time, I took the red eye from San Francisco, arrived in Boston at 7am, and had to wander around the city because the hotel didn’t have our room ready yet. Oh well, I guess the only thing to do was to walk over to the shops and wait for them to open? After stocking up on some skincare and makeup from Sephora, I fell in love with this mini shoulder bag by Reed Krakoff.

But like with any good ol’ fashioned romance, I was riddled with doubt and confusion. Was it really love or just sleep deprivation? How could I tell if the feelings were genuine? I didn’t know, so I put the bag on hold and went back to the hotel to take a quick shower before heading back out.

After a whole day of walking around, I couldn’t get my mind off the bag so I went back to Saks and bought it.

(As it turns out, true love came around again the very next day, at another department store… Aren’t I fickle? But that’s a story for another day.)

During the trip, I also bought a pair of block heels from Banana Republic, before calling it a day because we were supposed to spend the day sightseeing in Harvard and the North End.

(Still managed to buy another pair of flats from Nine West and blush coloured Sanctuary jeans though. Totally unplanned — it just happened to be on the way to the Fanueil Marketplace… and ok, in the Marketplace. Whatever.)

Speaking of Banana Republic, though, the store on Newbury Street has The Nicest SA named Alan, who helped me track down a coat that I wanted in New York. Actually he kind of reminded me of Bryan Brown, the Australian actor, international man accent and all.

Memorable food was probably at the Atlantic Fish, where I tried some clam chowder in a bread bowl and Maine lobster, which is dipped in a pot of melted butter. The waiter accidentally spilled some of the butter on my bag, but that spot is now buttery soft so I might try rubbing some butter onto the rest of the bag when I get home!

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Oh yeah, and Harvard is coming up to a big anniversary, but my favourite part was a cute cupcake shop nearby with a cupcake ferris wheel!

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