A real home in New York City

On my last visit to New York, I had an experience quite similar to the movie The Holiday where Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet’s characters go for a holiday in someone else’s home.

While I wasn’t exchanging my home with someone else, that in essence was the experience that I was interested in having and it all came about because I stumbled across the idea in a travel guide. The tagline read something like if you’re game, up for a new experience and not a Holiday Inn type where continental breakfast is an essential visit Affordable New York City.

And so that’s what I did. The result was an old Brownstone of four levels complete with the quirky ground-floor neighbor who left his front door slightly ajar with a sign attached to the doorknob completely visible to all tenants “I’m watching you and you’re not welcome”. Great first impression when I moved in and I laughed about it all the way up the stairs to level 4.

But that was my address and for a short time I called West 69th my home. And for six lovely, jam-packed days I lived like a local in Manhattan; upper west side, one block from the park. I even had a rare rooftop garden where I ate fresh bagels with philly and strawberry jam most mornings. On a rainy day, I even holed up inside and watched Patrick Swayze shake his hips in Dirty Dancing and watched re-runs of Sex and the City.

Accommodation on any holiday be it backpacker, 5-star Westin or staying on the couch with your long-lost great aunt is a necessary spend. For some, it’s difficult to justify spending copious amounts on accommodation as more often than not, you’re not even in the room for long periods and it becomes a place just to sleep. Others want the options of room service, in-house dry cleaning, an on-call concierge and the bed turned down and are prepared to pay for it. For me, it was somewhere in between. But finding accommodation that’s nice accommodation which doesn’t resemble a 1m x 1m shoebox is hard to find in Manhattan. When I went, despite all of the discount websites I searched through, it was hard to pay less than US$350 a night and that wasn’t even four stars.Now don’t get me wrong as I am the first to admit that I am the type of person that lets out a squeal at nice hotel amenities especially branded ones and throughout my stays, I use the little hotel shampoos and put the white terry towelling robe and matching slippers on after I arrive at a hotel. So therefore given I was actually in someone’s home I was not expecting there to be any of the niceties when I arrived at the apartment. But it was to my surprise when I found one basket of tea and coffee, sugar, biscuits, chips and other snacks and another basket full of local maps, walking trails, current Time Out and New Yorker magazines and the essential Zagat guide. There was fresh milk in the fridge, neatly folded towels and soap on the bed and a gorgeous note from the owner explaining everything else. A concierge service without a physical person!