I tend to remember most of the places I’ve spent the night, by which I mean actual physical structures. Maybe it has something to do with the importance of shelter on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, or maybe I just like to sleep, but in my great vault of memories, moments most indelibly chiseled into my brain are not instances of self-actualization. They’re overnights in the woods with my best friend and a bottle of Rare Breed; sleeping on a snow-covered doorstep in Slovakia; the sad and weird Airbnb experience in Edinburgh in which a single father and his young daughter shared a cot in what amounted to a closet while I had the bed (Why are you renting this room, sir?!); the downright spacious Comfort Inn I stayed in the night before Ironman Louisville in 2012; and most recently, an overnight at The NoMad in New York to celebrate an anniversary.
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Located in the Flatiron District of Manhattan in a Beaux-Arts building fully restored and upgraded to LEED-certified status, The NoMad has 168 guest rooms and an enviable labyrinth of rooms that make up its restaurant and bar offerings, with food from the highly regarded chef of Eleven Madison Park, Daniel Humm. Much has already been said about this restaurant (and, well, we ordered take-out cheeseburgers from Brgr); I was there for the simple pleasure of the hotel room. Those rooms, designed by French architect Jacques Garcia, are meant to channel a Parisian flat of the mid-20th century; in reality, they’re just plain nice, with nothing twee or overly produced about them. The standout features are king beds with leather headboards, mahogany writing desks, photographs and artwork on the walls, reclaimed maple floors, antique Persian rugs, a minibar inside a leather trunk that was a treasure trove of everything from Milano cookies (consumed) to locally made chocolate (left intact) to what may have been a facial mist (tempting, but of course not), and a Victoria and Albert clawfoot bathtub (in Atelier I rooms and better).
With a list of bourbon you couldn’t drink through in a month, and a menu of urbane American food (crispy grits with bourbon aioli, whole smoked trout), Maysville is the ideal dinner just two blocks from the hotel. maysvillenyc.com
On the roof of the Italian delicacy superstore, Eataly, is a bar called Birreria, where you can get unfiltered, unpasturized cask ales made right on site, plus grilled sausages and meats. eataly.com
Right around the corner from the NoMad is CrossFit NYC, one of the largest CrossFit gyms in the world and the oldest one on the East Coast. crossfitnyc.com
They’re also large by New York standards, beginning at 340 square feet — compared to, say, the Marlton, with similarly priced rooms that are only 125 square feet — for a classic King room (starting at $295) and going up to 1,800 square feet for the Suite Royale (starting at $1,800). Including taxes, I paid $350 for a second-level Atelier I room, which is 370 square feet and includes the aforementioned clawfoot bathtub. According to a 2013 study by the Hogg Robinson Group, the average nightly rate for a room in New York in 2012 was $350. Having stayed in or seen the rooms at other hotels in the area — the Ace, Bryant Park, The Roger, others — it’s obvious the rooms and quality of service here are second to none. The staff at the front desk were helpful, well dressed and deferential in a way that felt Old World. When I mentioned that I was there for an anniversary, they slipped into the room while we were gone and left a bottle of sparkling wine. Small but thoughtful touches go a long way in the travel and hospitality industries.
The NoMad is in the Flatiron district (“NoMad” is “north of Madison Square Park”), a neighborhood that’s a few blocks from Penn Station, right next to Koreatown, a short walk from Union Square, and which has undergone a sort of renaissance in the last five years or so, with the opening of the Ace Hotel — another hotel with a rich eating and drinking scene — and lots of other coffee shops, restaurants and bars (see sidebar). The area is vibrant during the week because it’s a business district, but it can feel a little vacant over the weekend; it lacks the coziness of the West Village or old timey New York feel of Central Park, but it’s far more agreeable than staying near Times Square and on the same level, convenience-wise.
The first luxury hotel I stayed in was the W in Santiago, Chile. The most underwhelming business hotel I ever patronized was in Odessa, Ukraine. Thirteen years ago, as a prefrosh visiting Hamilton College, I slept on a couch covered in laundry while my hosts smoked weed out of a coconut. In this great swath of lodging-related memories, an overnight at The NoMad is a welcome addition.