I completely underestimated winter in New York. As I got out of JFK, the biting wind gripped and refused to let go. And then, it began to rain. Cold, wet, nursing a headache and shivering; I didn’t really envision my first trip to New York in such a state. Bundled up in three layers and the warm taxi seat keeping me comfortable after the initial shock, my eyes slowly began to take in the sights. The bumper-to-bumper traffic is a Manhattan staple but oddly, comforting. As bright neon lights and lit-up billboards came into view, my sweet driver (who tried to make sure I was comfortable, cranking up the heat till my posterior could take it no more) drew up in front of a glass facade and I read the words Riu Plaza New York Times Square, my home for the next two days.
It was a treat to escape from the cold of the sidewalk as I entered. A lively atmosphere with pops of purple and pink in the lobby and iconic New York art gracing the walls, greeted me. A surprise room upgrade (junior suite) left me smiling.
As they say ‘location is everything’ and what more can one want but a room on the 27th floor that overlooks Times Square! The gigantic LED signboards that make up New York’s famous square can be overwhelming. The piercing lights, the advertisements and announcements all make for an experience every first-time visitor looks forward to.
High above, the lights were bright enough to penetrate my room and give a warm glow in the darkness. Look out one of the many windows to see Broadway show signs and the famous restaurant row down below. And Hell’s Kitchen, where Daredevil casually hangs out, is just next door!
As the really comfortable bed called out my name, still sniffling, I managed to crawl under the blanket as the pops of red in the overall grey and white room felt oddly cozy. The wooden floor reminded of home but before my thoughts could proceed, deep slumber overtook my senses.
Have you seen those films, when a ray of sunlight falls directly on the main star’s face as she wakes up startled? Well, it was unsettling to wake up to skyscrapers around me. I had inconveniently left the drapes open the night before and while initially disorienting, the clear blue skies coupled with excitement and anticipation of the day’s explorations gave me enough reasons to jump out of bed. The headache had disappeared and the stomach grumbled for food. That indicated it was time to head to ‘8th Avenue’ - the restaurant that offers hotel patrons complimentary breakfast.
I wasn’t the only one with the unique idea. The place was teeming with people! With over 600 rooms at the Riu Plaza Times Square and it being holiday season, it wasn’t surprising but as my mathematical skills have failed me more often than not, I was taken aback. But then, as I caught the whiff of food in the air, my focus changed to hot scrambled eggs. “Would they have it?” I pondered as my stomach craved some with toast and orange juice, making my way to the breakfast buffet. Not just scrambled, but eggs cooked other ways, along with meats, breads, cheese, fruits and beverages were on offer. Looking around, I saw everyone had the identical idea – fuel up for an exciting day of adventure ahead.
The hotel is part of the Spanish chain Riu – and opened its doors in March 2016 in New York. While the preferred language is Spanish, even among customers, the staff is fluent in English too. For the cosmopolitan outlook, all menus and signs are written in both languages.
Having consumed enough fuel for the morning, it was time to start exploring. Riu Plaza’s location in Manhattan makes it an ideal stay. As the city is best explored on foot; Central Park, Fifth Avenue, the Empire State Building and of course various Broadway theatres are all nearby. As I had promised myself a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a day filled with Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Picasso made me extremely happy, coupled with a walk in the green centre of the city.
How does one spend an evening in Manhattan? Sipping on a well balanced Whiskey Sour and gorging on cheese and meat from the antipasti platter, I sighed. It was a good idea to come back to ‘Fashion’ at the hotel, I thought. Thanks to my upgrade, I had access to the lounge on the 26th floor. It’s a fine enough, but smallish, lounge, well stocked with finger foods and beverages. It’s a place to relax with sky scrapers for company but I preferred Fashion, the restaurant-bar at the ground level, which overlooks the street. People-watching is a rather enjoyable pastime.
While my spacious room was extremely comfortable and the staff very courteous, especially when I asked for an extension during check out, I realised I would miss waking up on the 27th floor on a regular day -- looking down from my room to see the yellow taxis making their way about the crossings, people hurriedly going about their busy day and of course enjoy the spectacle that’s Times Square.
Location: 305 West 46th Street, New York, NY 10036; 26km from New York’s John F Kennedy airport
Accommodation: 600 rooms in 29 floors
Tariff: From $320 including breakfast
Contact: 1 800 031 0011; www.riu.com