Field Report:
The Plaza Hotel
Diana DeRiggs

The Plaza Hotel is famous for a number of things, of varying sorts. It is famous as the hotel in which Mick Dundee slept on the floor in an expensive suite overlooking Central Park. It's also the place author Kay Thompson wrote, "I am Eloise. I am six. I am a city child. I live at the Plaza." It's also famous as contested part of the alimony to Mrs. Trump (the first one) -- she maintained a salary of $1 a year while married to The Donald, and renovated many of the rooms and chambers. The Augustus Saint-Gaudens statue of General Tecumseh Sherman riding a stallion and lead by Victory (Nike) to the northeast of the hotel was gilded about that time -- a questionable "improvement," at best. Many southerners taking the open-air bus tours of the city avert their eyes, though I'm not sure if it's because of the Civil War general's accomplishments, or of the gaudy shine ...

It's a landmark building, in a style called Beaux Arts, which cam be called a sort of American Rococco. It's got a euro-feel to it, and indeed was an interpretation of central and northern European architecture, complete with copper trim and roofing. It's very "Victorian" -- there are whole cities in Canada with buildings like this. But for New York, it represents a certain era, and in terms of "sumptuousness," it's epitomized in hotels like the Plaza.

The Palm Court restaurant of the Plaza is famous for it's High Tea -- that English institution that consists of tea (or coffee, as we're in the US), pastries, cucumber sandwiches, and other dainty nibbles. There are actually little girls dressed like Eloise who come for it -- complete with bows in their hair. The uniformed waiters help them stir their milk and sugar (in lumps or spoons), and arrange the cakes and sandwiches "just so." It's a very nice touch.

The lobby has a lot of rather pricy looking shops in it, including "Peppe's hair styling for men" in a shingle style that evokes the 1940s. There is a lot of gilt, many many urns filled with huge fresh flower arrangements. There is a concierge there too, who will search the internet for you and print out train schedules or tell you how to get to chinatown, or can get tickets to a sold-out Broadway show. There is no charge; it's a service of the Plaza.

The rooms are cozy, as much as $429 a night (single rate, not including taxes, tips, etc., with $35 extra per additional adult) for a small standard room is cozy. The suites range from $709 to $1600, with two and three bedroom suites also priced on request. It's not a bad price for this beautiful hotel. The linen is first rate, the blankets are appropriately warm, the pillows adequately home-like, but bigger and fresher. The bathrooms echo, they're tiled and chromed, and are stocked with big, fluffy towels and "bathroom condiments," so no need to take your toiletries with you when you travel.

There was a bride on her way from her reception (we assume so, anyway, it was nearly midnight), revelers staggering under the weight of their consumption, Scottish pipers between sets, many tourists from all over, judging from the accents. The concierge was beleaguered by a glitch in the Long island Railway website, but he was still responsive and polite. He handed a pen to a woman who said she needed one (she didn't tell him), he gave me some brochures of the hotel for this report (and he thanked me for being so patient), and got the bellman for a guy in a kilt who'd left his clothes somewhere ...

It's a famous, landmark, luxurious place. You come in here and you are pampered, and you immediately behave differently. Everyone should stay here for a night, if at all possible. It makes the trivial stuff go away. Okay, so the bill might stun you at the end, so try to arrange for the credit card to be handed over at the beginning of your stay. If you can't swing that, come for High Tea. Oh, and if you want to add a bit to that experience, take one of the horse-drawn carriages for a ride around the park, and have them drop you off or pick you up at the carpeted front steps!

Photo of the "Plaza Hotel at Night" courtesy of the Plaza Hotel.

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