Live like a local in Manhattan

42 West 69 Street, Apt.4B.

An old Brownstone of four levels complete with the quirky ground-floor neighbour 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.

But that was my address. 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 jam most mornings. It’s almost been three years since my passport was stamped at JFK yet memories of a city like New York are hard to shake off and forget.

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. Back then, it was hard to pay less than US$350 a night and that wasn’t even four stars.

Perusing in a book store holed up in the travel section, I was flicking through one of those Fodors-Lonely Planet books and came across the following lines of if you’re game, up for a new experience and not a Holiday Inn type where continental breakfast is an essential visit

Enter my 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 this site was offering. I entered my dates and choice for a 1 bedroom place, please. I looked at Downtown, Upper West side, Times Square, Greenwich, SoHo and Meatpacker’s District. Places looked homely, quirky, minimalistic and hoarder-central but very livable. Prices were affordable ranging from $150 – 280 per night for my specific preferences. My search narrowed down to two potential places and I started emailing back and forth with a Kelsey who I imagined was somewhere in Manhattan answering my constant questions. The process was seamless and easy. I made my choice quickly, going with an Upper West side place with close proximity to the park over a SoHo pad and the price of $180 per night was quite unbelievable. Kelsey emailed me a detailed information pack on 42 West 69 Street, Apt.4B. The owner was an ex-editor of a major home decorating interiors magazine who had furnished her home with a combination of modern and antiques and the photos showed a clean, comfortable and central home. The deposit was sent, the balance paid on arrival and in my hot little hands were the keys to my first Manhattan address.

Now don’t get me wrong as I am the first to admit I am the type of person to use the little hotel shampoos and put the white terry towelling robe and matching slippers on after I arrive at a hotel so I was not expecting there to be any of the niceties when I arrived at the apartment. So 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.

The six days went by quickly and I covered all of the usual suspects one goes to in New York and in the end it was the discovery of a completely random and unexpected one as I loved the simple feeling of being a temporary local and having a home to go home to in a city like Manhattan.

One comment

  1. Kelly Rafferty · March 25, 2010

    Thanks for sharing; I’m thinking of heading to NY late this year, so look forward to having a similar local experience. It’s such an amazing city; I agree that the memories resonate long after you have boarded the plane to come home…


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