In this New York state-of-mind, the only way to go is downtown
AS I step outside the newly spruced up Affinia Manhattan in midtown, the rush of traffic along Seventh Avenue pulls my attention inexorably downtown. The odd-numbered avenues all head in this direction, but in the past I’ve always stayed closer to the cultural and entertainment parts of town: the theatres above 42nd Street, MOMA, the Metropolitan Museum and Lincoln Centre have been the lure.
I’ve not before had such an irresistible urge to go with this particular flow, and it’s all to do with location. It’s the easiest thing in the world to get to anywhere in Manhattan from anywhere else, yet I find being in this spot has a profound effect on what I want to do and see.
It’s a state-of-mind thing, so I head out of the hotel lobby and resolutely turn left, to stride through Chelsea, and towards Greenwich Village, Soho and Nolita. It’s a bracing feeling, and the fact the hotel is on the corner of 31st and 7th, bang-smack opposite Pennsylvania Station ( very handy), only adds to the sense of going on a journey. (Indeed, I’m able to take advantage of Penn’s proximity when taking an upstate day trip. Too easy.)
It doesn’t surprise me to be told the hotel is popular with visitors from Washington — political and business types — who these days prefer train travel to the everincreasing hassle of flying. I’m slightly more surprised to bump into dancers from Sydney Dance Company and Melbourne’s Chunky Move. A complete coincidence, but they are making backto-back appearances at the famed Joyce Theatre (on the corner of 8th Avenue and 19th Street; a short walk from the Affinia, as I discover when going to see a show) and it’s fun to catch up with them.
For those who can’t manage too much by foot, there are plenty of subway options close by, but Manhattan is a joy for the keen pedestrian with time to devote to just being there. I note that the Empire State Building is not far away, but that’s not for me. Much more compelling — and a rather newer attraction — is the High Line, the reclaimed elevated freight rail track that starts at Gansevoort Street in the trendy Meatpacking District and ends at West 30th Street; if you rushed, you could go from end to end in about 15 minutes. Naturally, that isn’t the point. For the saunterer the charmingly landscaped High Line offers unusual views of Manhattan’s architecture, some very close up; inviting benches (some sun-lounges at one point); and the chance to eavesdrop on groups of schoolchildren on educational outings.
A few blocks further east is Broadway and a walk downtown brings you to Union Square, a place where a number of Manhattan districts collide and a farmers’ market thrives.
That’s a good place for the solo traveller to buy food to take back to the hotel, although the Affinia has plenty of options closer by.
I enjoy a snack and a good glass of wine at Niles NYC Bar & Restaurant, attached to the hotel (no, I don’t think it’s named after pernickety sitcom psychiatrist Niles Crane) and feel comfortable sitting at the bar, with ipad, reading and taking in the energy of the early-evening crowd. The bartenders are charming and helpful; not a small thing when one is alone.
The Affinia has a number of properties around Manhattan, each with a different atmosphere. The midtown refurbishment has created a smart and comfortable destination with excellent facilities. I’m not entirely sure about the 70s vibe thrown off by my suite’s large- scale ( thankfully muted) floral accents, but boy, the bed is super-comfortable, there’s space to spare, and the toy King Kong on the bed (available for purchase, natch) is a cute touch. Deborah Jones was a guest of Affinia. Affinia Manhattan, 371 Seventh Ave, Manhattan. + 1 212 563 1800; affinia.com.
From $US249 a night for a one-bedroom suite; from $US319 for a one-bedroom deluxe suite with two beds.
Yes, 31 by Chelsea denizen William S. Burroughs.
Head for the Meatpacking District’s vibey bars and restaurants.
The nearby fire station can be quite noisy; miserly space for one’s personal items in an otherwise attractive bathroom; no free Wi-fi.
Smart refit, loads of space and excellent kitchen facilities for staying in.
The Affinia’s rooms are spacious and the beds super-comfortable
The first house to be built by Habitat for Humanity Thailand
The Affinia Manhattan hotel