In this New York state-of-mind, the only way to go is down­town

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - DEB­O­RAH JONES

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;

From $US249 a night for a one-be­d­room suite; from $US319 for a one-be­d­room deluxe suite with two beds.

Fam­i­lies, busi­ness



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

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