Being able to tick off a stay in a suite at The Plaza, New York’s landmark legacy hotel, as part of my bucket list is something I honestly never thought I’d be able to accomplish.
Ever since the surprisingly-capable ten-year-old Kevin McAllister used his handy Walkman – one of which I owned as a child – and checked in to Room 411 on his dad’s credit card (after bumping into Probably-America’s-Next-President Donald ‘The Donald’ Trump), asking for an extra large bed, a tv, and one of those little refrigerators you have to open with a key, it’s been a dream of mine to experience the luxury and opulence that enchanted me as a child.
Although the hotel has been completely renovated beyond recognition since the film was released all those years ago, a multimillion dollar project saw its doors boarded up for three years, it would still be magical!
Speaking to a well-travelled client at work the day before we left – whose father happens to own a few landmark hotels himself – the conversation only made me want to get on the plane RIGHT NOW!
Roast turkey at 50,000 feet… kinda
Sadly, time ticked by slowly, and after a rather uneventful Virgin Atlantic flight on Christmas Day, where we narrowly missed out on a scrummy festive dinner thanks to greedier passengers scoffing the lot before we’d even got a sniff, we landed in JFK wide-eyed and raring to go.
After arriving in Manhattan and getting within eyeshot of the building, I couldn’t help but feel utterly awestruck at how beautiful it all was.
The greens and browns of Central Park in winter providing a dramatic backdrop to the already imposing hotel, the smell of Fifth Avenue curbside hot dog vendors filling our noses, the roar of taxis and happy people all celebrating a rather unconventional Christmas Day… it was an experience that’ll live with me forever.
Arriving at The Plaza
Approaching the building, we were slightly confused.
Velvet ropes cordoned off the revolving doors, and the entrance was flanked by rosy-cheeked door staff having their photos taken by tourists looking to capture the iconic building (without paying the hefty price tag for a night’s stay).
We spotted a friendly-looking lady, Emma, and told her we were staying the night. She helped us with our bags up the red carpet-lined steps and lead us to the lobby.
Walking past the opulent, towering Christmas tree, passing the Palm Court serving afternoon tea to hungry visitors, we entered the hotel lobby and were amazed at the sight.
Trying to act all cool, like we belonged (we didn’t belong), we nodded sagely at the expensive bottles of fizz being poured out for ladies decked in designer gubbins. The huge ceilings were peppered with ornate gold coving and crystal chandeliers, and the wooden-decked reception area was covered in huge floral bouquets.
Meeting a Brit abroad
Getting our details together for one of the most seamless check-in experiences known to man, Emma asked about our journey. Her accent wasn’t typically ‘New York’, so I had to ask where she was from.
The answer? LEEDS!
That’s right, the first person we’d spoken to in New York was a fellow Brit! After finding out she’d spent two years in the city enjoying all NYC has to offer, discussing things back home, and being completely amazed at the coincidence, she cheekily whispered that she was going to give us a little upgrade, into a room costing a whopping £1,195 per night.
We thanked her profusely, squealing with excitement in the most dignified way, of course. The porter pushed our luggage to the beautiful elevators and before long we were on the 14th floor, looking forward to seeing our room.
What’s a junior suite at The Plaza like?
Ok, so there was no four-poster bed, a la Room 411, but room 1434 was set to surprise us anyway. Because the sheer size and splendour of the room is incomparable to any other hotel I’ve slept in.
After being all dignified with the porter present, handing him a tip of some amount to thank him for his effort, I’ll admit as soon as he closed the door behind him I literally jumped for joy!
The room… well, look at the floorplan to get an idea of just how vast the space was.
I ran in circles, around the chaise long, around the sofas, around the huge bathroom with enclosed toiled and wet room. I swung open the doors of our courtyard balcony and marvelled at how unreal the rooftops and water towers looked from up high.
It was pure luxury and indulgence. Lights were controlled by an iPad, and could be set according to your mood. The curtains were so heavy they had two pulleys. A butler was available on request with this room. The furnishings were the most beautiful I’d seen.
How did it compare to Kevin’s room?
The bed was most certainly extra large, covered in beautiful fluffy pillows and a faux fur throw.
The TV was so huge, given the distance from the viewing area to it.
The drinks cabinet was hidden behind beautiful cupboard doors, and yes, there was a minibar you had to open with a key.
It ticked all the boxes, and more.
While the bedroom was fairly muted in browns, golds and beige, the bathroom was tiled in opalesque mosaics, with gold leaves in floral patters sweeping over the floor and walls. Two sinks and a huge mirror, a hairdryer more high tech than any I’ve seen in London salons, Caudalie goodies, and fluffy robes… what more could you need?
As we were only staying for one night, we left our things in cases and had a stroll around the city. But I was itching to head back to The Plaza to enjoy some real relaxation after a long journey. Having walked as much as jet lag allowed, it was time to return.
Heading back through the lobby – the doormen made sure everyone who tried to pass through the red rope was a guest at the hotel to stop gawpers peeking – we again met up with Emma, who helped us with a few brunch suggestions and asked us to enjoy a few drinks in The Plaza’s Champagne Bar for a thoroughly American welcome to New York.
So, after enjoying a steaming hot shower in the wet room we got our gladrags on and sauntered down the steps to enjoy a few Bellinis, a couple of French champagne cocktails, and rounded it all off with a rather expensive glass of Dom Perignon (or two).
Flopping into bed, after feeling quite tipsy, we couldn’t believe the welcome we’d had. Everything, every request, no matter how big or small, was completed with expert precision by an army of white-gloved, impeccably dressed, happy to help staff.
Even the newspaper we’d ordered (everyone needs a souvenir New York Times) arrived in a branded linen bag, slung on the door handle in the morning.
With such a huge bed, it was difficult to remember I wasn’t sleeping alone when I woke up refreshed after one of the nicest lazy sleeps in a long time. Jet lag wasn;t
Alas, dear reader, our time enveloped in luxury was at and end. Having another long soak in the ornate monsoon shower, we dried off, wrapped up warm and said our goodbyes (to Emma, who was again so lovely in how she helped us store our bags).
It takes a certain kind of person to work at a hotel this famous, and this posh, and we can’t praise the teams enough. Until next time, I just have the memories of this impossible-to-beat experience. (And one expensive sleep!)