Canadian Wanderer

Travel plans, thoughts & lessons

Month: June 2017

Hotel review: Innside New York NoMad Hotel

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The Innside New York NoMad is the Spanish Meliá hotel chain’s first foray into North America for its upscale sleek & modern designer brand of boutique hotels and I came away quite impressed as the stylish hotels and its amenities have form as well as function so are very user-friendly making for a comfortable stay.

Rather than risking a long taxi ride into Manhattan on a Friday afternoon rush hour made longer and costlier because of a multi-year, multi-billion dollar LaGuardia Airport (LGA) redevelopment project I opted to catch the local Q70 bus to the nearest Subway station and ride the R line all the way to 28 Street & Broadway which is conveniently only two blocks to the hotel. Having spent much time riding New York’s extensive Subway system and travelling light I’m comfortable with this transportation option in from LaGuardia but wouldn’t recommend it to first-time visitors and/or those lugging large luggage.

Located in Manhattan’s NoMad district – the acronym means North of Madison Square Park – which sits on the edge of Chelsea the Innside New York NoMad is within walking distance to many notable local sights including the Flatiron and Empire State Buildings, Macy’s and Pennsylvania Station. A thoroughly modern exterior greets visitors and quickly sets it apart from the neighboring buildings which are more typical of the neighborhood.

Opened in March 2016 this three hundred room hotel has a bright lobby with warm colour accents that help make it seem more welcoming than some stark white modern boutique hotels. The welcome from the friendly hotel staff was also warm and beyond letting me know about the room and hotel answered a few questions about the neighborhood and recommended restaurants while checking-in and this level of local knowledge was confirmed several times during my three night stay.

Opposite the front desk is the lobby bar.

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The patio is off the lobby bar and features sliding doors that can open the space up in warmer weather. Given that I arrived at the start of a heat wave I expected the patio to be open in the early evening of a Friday night but perhaps a lack of patrons prevents that from happening.

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The patio is a good place to catch up after a day of business or sightseeing as the traffic along W. 27 Street isn’t great and is in the shade thanks to the surrounding buildings.

My Innside Deluxe King Room #312 at 260-square feet the room is bigger than most in Manhattan and overlooks the front entry but doesn’t suffer from an excessive amount of street noise. This room has  faux wood flooring, 42-inch flat screen TV, free mini-bar with juices and cans of soda, laptop safe, Nespresso coffeemaker, free Wi-Fi and dual European and North American electrical outlets which is a very user-friendly feature for the larger number of Spanish visitors likely to at this hotel that’s part of a large Spanish chain of hotels.

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The room has space-saving sliding doors on both the bathroom door and the shower stall which is equipped with a rainfall shower head and shower wand. I prefer a really good shower stall over a combination tub/shower so very much appreciated the quality showers I enjoyed several times per day thanks to the record-breaking heat wave. The stall has French designer SAMPAR shampoo, conditioner and body lotion in pumps mounted to the wall.

The bathroom offers good vanity space for toiletries beside a large white sink with a sloped surface draining at the back under the faucet making it different than any other hotel sink I’ve encountered.

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The clean modern décor of the bathroom was helped by hiding away towels, hairdryer and miscellaneous items in a large vanity drawer.

The room features floor-to-ceiling windows allowing in lots of natural light and neighborhood views that are  quintessentially New York such as the water tanks on the roof of the building opposite.

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Guests wanting a better view can opt to spend a little more money for what is essentially the same size room with the same amenities except higher on the 17th – 20th floors as the Innside Deluxe King City View Room offer either Empire State Building or One World Trade Center views.

My room rate included daily buffet breakfast which is served in American celeb-chef Scott Conant’s  Impero Caffè reached either by elevator or by a striking set of stairs which are just off the main lobby. On your way down that staircase it’s impossible to miss the huge playful wall mural of dancers caught in mid-motion.

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While interesting as a mural itself upon closer inspection the art work is not just paint on the wall but  a living wall with a plants providing the three dimensional colour that really make it memorable.

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Having a full hot buffet breakfast included in the room rate is a $25 value per person per night so comes as a big bonus. There are a number of cereals along with pastries, bread and bagels, yogurt, cheese and cold cuts plus bacon and sausage and scrambled eggs.

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One low-tech quirk comes at being asked to sign a bill with your room number after each breakfast as this bill is matched to those rooms whose nightly rates include breakfast as not all do. I’d expected a more advanced feature to allow staff to pull up whose rooms included breakfast but guess that isn’t the case or at least not yet.

Note that the hotel does have a USD$19+tax per room per night “Facility Fee” that includes access to the Wellness Suite fitness facility, high speed in-room Wi-Fi, Press Reader access to newspapers and magazines on your device, mini-bar and Nespresso, and luggage storage.

Off to one side of the lobby are wall-mounted tablets for guest use and while I found these handy to quickly check weather forecasts or Subway routes they aren’t designed for prolonged use having to stand as no chairs are provided.

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The Innside New York NoMad is an excellent additional to Manhattan accommodation choices for it’s location, quality and relative value of USD$350 nightly room-only rate which is noticeably less than comparable four-and-a-half star luxury accommodation nearby. For someone who prefers to stay out of the constant pedestrian and traffic flow of Times Square this hotel checks all of my boxes and would at the top of my list of hotels to consider on a future return trip so would highly recommend it others.


Visiting One World Trade Center Observatory New York City

Like watching in horror as a good neighbors’ house you’ve visited often burns to the ground at the hands of an arsonist and taking a personal interest in its reconstruction I was excited to experience the One World Trade Center Observatory on a recent New York City visit as I’d watched from a distance the gleaming new landmark rise from the ashes of the “Twin Towers” felled by terrorists on September 11th, 2001.

I’d stared down on Manhattan from the heights of the indoor observation deck of the original World Trade Center months before their destruction but a small fear of heights prevented me from venturing to the outdoor viewing platform much to my regret and it was these memories that flooded back while confirming my admission to the One World Trade Center Observatory.

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Visitors are encouraged to confirm tickets online in advance as walk-up entry can’t always be accommodated to due high demand. The lowest priced standard adult admission is USD$34 but evening entrance after 8 PM is half price. There are online discount codes posted regularly such as this one from “New York’s Original City Guide” which can save as much as 20% off the adult daytime admission and I took advantage to save USD$7 on my entry fee. Note that at this price level visitors must select a specific date & time of entry and once booked no refunds or changes are possible so you should be very sure of your plans before booking. I waited until a few days prior to departure to confirm my ticket and there was still space available on the 9 AM entry which is the earliest of the day but holiday long weekends or other high demands times may mean having to confirm your entry further in advance to lock in your preferred time. There is a Flex admission that allows visitors to enter anytime during operating hours and bypass any lines however this type of ticket is double the cost of the regular daytime adult admission so there’s a hefty price premium for that flexibility.

After clearing a cursory security check in the lobby guests board the elevator for a fast ride to the 102nd floor observatory but rather than a glass elevator showing a view of the city this elevator ride instead projects Manhattan as it was from it’s early beginnings to present day.

From the observation deck there is an outstanding view of Governors Island which is well worth a detour for its amazing Manhattan skyline views as well as its 200-year military history.

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The Empire State Building anchors the midtown skyline with the Hudson River to the left and East River to the right.

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Lady Liberty stands atop her pedestal on Liberty Island while Ellis Island welcomed millions of immigrants to New York and the United States.

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Visitors are able to take a ferry ride to both islands from Lower Manhattan and while the Statue of Liberty is an iconic landmark that should be on any first-time visitors sightseeing list a visit to Ellis Island is highly recommended as it helps to humanize the waves of immigrants that sought a better life in America.

The graceful arches of the Brooklyn Bridge span the East River linking Brooklyn and Manhattan with the nearby Manhattan Bridge just to the left.

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I would budget about an hour soaking in the scenery from the 102 floor observation deck but the ability to linger exists with the small One Café as well as One Dine restaurant and One Mix lounge. There’s a sample menu for One Dine for those not minding the sky high prices.

Back at ground level there are the adjacent 9/11 Memorial & Museum well worth a visit as the two square footprints occupied by the twin towers have been turned into pools with the names of the victims inscribed in the metal ledge that surrounds each pool. The landscaped open-air plaza has a natural feel in harmony with the surrounding neighborhood so didn’t fee as if an artificial memorial has been imposed on the location.

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The striking white winged Oculus is the centerpiece of the Trade Center Transportation Hub and was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava to resemble a dove in flight. Officially opened in March, 2016 the terminal cost $4 billion to build making it the world’s most expensive train station.

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The interior is as striking as the exterior with a stark white cathedral-like central hall resembling something from a science fiction movie.

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The Transportation Hub serves 250,000 Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) commuters daily and tens of thousands more visitors and local workers who use the many pedestrian walkways and indulge in some retail therapy in one of the upscale shops found on multiple levels of retail and dining in this new crossroads of Lower Manhattan.

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The Oculus and towering One World Trade Center are both engineering and design marvels that are easy to explore given their close proximity. This documentary goes into much more detail about how the building was built and the important place it occupies both physically as well as symbolically in New York’s skyline.

 Lucas Franco

Inside LAX during one of the most ambitious airport moves, ever

To say that Los Angeles International Airport is a large hub airport is an understatement as it’s the fourth busiest airport on the planet serving almost 81 million passengers in 2016. Popularly known by it’s 3-letter aviation abbreviation LAX recently completed five days of upheaval that saw 21 airlines including Air Canada swap terminals in the dead of night. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at this massive move.

Air Canada’s has posted this advisory about the new LAX terminal location:

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