New York hotels and leisurely reads

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There’s little doubt that New York City has, arguably, the best choice of top hotels in the world. By no means does this suggest that London, Paris and Bucharest have a paucity of upscale digs, but merely a statement of fact.

When an editor suggests an article picking the five best hotels in New York, that’s somewhat akin to asking which of your children is your favorite. Any parent worth his or her salt would say that each one was on a par with the other.

Picking great hotels in the Big Apple presents much the same dilemma. There’s no doubt that an argument could be made for any hotel left off the list, but what we have here is simply a matter of personal opinion and choice as well as firsthand knowledge.

Price and snob appeal are not necessarily indicators of quality. At the top of the list are comfort, amenities, location, location, location.

All of that being said, following is a personal viewpoint of the best hotels in New York City:

Hotel Plaza Athenee

The Plaza Athenee must be considered at or near the top on any list. Opened in 1927 as the Hotel Alrae, the landmark building became the Plaza Athenee in 1987 and has undergone two multi-million dollar refurbishments since. No expense was spared in providing comfort for guests of the hotel favored by the late Princess Diana and the late actress Elizabeth Taylor during their New York forays.

Located on quiet East 64 Street, a tree-lined residential neighborhood, the hotel is steps from both Park and Madison Avenues and within walking distance of Central Park, museums, art galleries and some of New York’s best shopping.

A hallmark of the hotel is the fact that both staff and guests are in for the long haul. There are employees who have been with Plaza Athenee, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, since it opened and guests who return with regularity. Staff greets them by name and is cognizant of their personal preferences.

Dutta, an Indonesian native, has worked here for 14 years as a bartender. Recognizing returning guests, he will frequently have their orders prepared before they have a chance to order.

Attention to detail is obvious throughout the hotel. Comfort is immediately obvious in each guest room and suite.  he daytime view across the city and Central Park is beautiful but cannot compare to the same at night as the city’s lights glisten below.

A unique feature is the spa. Here at Plaza Athenee guests are treated to total privacy and comfort.  Guests are afforded to a private suite where treatments are applied and they can relax in a separate sitting room.

Mandarin Oriental

Uniquely located in the upper reaches of Columbus Circle’s Time Warner Building, the Mandarin Oriental boasts a five star designation and provides one of the more luxurious stays available in New York City.

Its size, only 251 rooms and suites, affords it the ability to provide guests with an exceptional experience.  All rooms have an unequalled view of the city’s skyline, Central Park and the Hudson River with the New Jersey skyline in the distance, thanks to its 280-foot elevation in the Time Warner Building.

Opened in 2003, all accommodations offer in-room advanced entertainment technology. The huge, 14,500 foot holistic spa includes a 75-foot lap pool in addition to a state-of-the-art fitness center.

The hotel reflects its group’s exotic Oriental heritage as seen by the use of artifacts and attention to small details that add to the overall feeling of luxury.

The hotel is especially situated for business travelers as well as an upscale leisure clientele. The location at Columbus Circle is convenient to all sections of New York’s business community while at the same time within easy distance of museums, galleries, shopping and across the street from Central Park.  It also offers a quiet and relaxing respite from the hustle and bustle only a few floors below.

Leisure Reads

Since the terrible days of November 1963 and the end of the Camelot presidency, a host of questions have remained about the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the people involved in the tragedy. Conspiracy theorists have abounded and Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother went to her grave declaring her son’s innocence, claiming he was a government agent.

With all that has been investigated, delved into and churned out much is still unanswered. The biggest question of all…WHY? Why would Oswald commit such a crime?

A new book, Me & Lee, on the subject by a small publishing house, Trine Day, tells the story of Judith Vary Baker, a young woman bent on finding a cure for cancer who is drawn into the vortex of Oswald and the murder of a president.

The story is a photograph of the times. Judith herself runs the gamut from unintentionally living in a brother she thought was a rooming house to her tender memories of Oswald and his friendship that helped her pass through some dark hours and problems with her personally distant husband.

According to Baker, she became Oswald’s lover shortly before the assassination. But her book details how she was drawn into the intrigue of a plot to kill Fidel Castro by inducing cancer cells into him.  Her contention is that Oswald was part of this government supported plot.

She was involved in research with Dr. Alton Ochsner, former president of the American Cancer Society, who, she claims, was a major player in the Castro plot. The book is heavily footnoted and has scores of illustrations.

At 600 pages, Me & Lee is a long but fast read. Believe it or not Judith Vary Baker puts together a very persuasive argument for her contention that Lee Harvey Oswald was framed.