Titanic, Tile & Sharing Baths. The Jane Hotel, NYC.

October 10, 2016 at 2:38 pm
The Jane Hotel Lobby

The Jane Hotel Lobby. Beautiful Tile!

I’d like to say I put hours of thought and research into my New york City hotel choice, but the truth is The Jane Hotel was included in the package deal I booked through Expedia. For just $988 I had 5 nights stay and airfare, so this stay definitely fell into the bargain category. I’m pretty picky when It comes to hotels. I love a comfy bed and cleanliness is pretty vital. Ideally located in the West Village on the Hudson River, this historic hotel elicits strong reactions both negative and positive. The Jane averages 2.5 stars on most reviewing sites and swings wildly between 5 star, loved it and 1 star, hated it responses. So, how did the Jane stack up?

the Jane Hotel Exterior

Free Bikes to Rent

When I first walked in off the street, I was struck by the quirky charm of this old hotel. The tile and woodwork are gorgeous! The bellhops and desk personnel are uniformed in classic vintage attire and I love any type of costume, uniform or get up. You check in and are handed a strange metal keyfob which inserts into the electrical box in your room. The lights, TV and air conditioning only work when the fob is inserted, so there is no wasting electricity when you’re not in the room. The hotel was originally built as a seamen’s lodging and retains the feel of a ship with long narrow hallways and tiny berth-like cabins. I chose a standard cabin which was about 50 square feet and optimized to use every square inch wisely. A person with claustrophobia might not do well, but I loved my little old fashioned cabin. I found the shared bathroom situation perfectly acceptable. The baths were clean and again the tilework was amazing with black and white hexagons and traditional subway tiles. The Jane has a long, interesting history which you definitely feel while staying there. This was the hotel where they immediately brought the survivors from the Titanic. There is a tremendous “old New York” atmosphere.

Jane Hotel Room

My Tiny Berth

jane hotel hallway

A Bit Like the Shining?

I found the public areas of the Jane fascinating. There are two bars and a restaurant, Cafe Gitane, which also has a bar. Perfect. The rooftop bar is filled with velvet settees, leather stools, chandeliers and panelled woodwork. My first evening, I sipped a brown sugar mojito and watched the sunset over the Hudson with just the tiniest glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. I was sold and came back every night. The ballroom is frequently the site for special events including fashion week galas and in the 80’s and 90’s was part of downtown New York’s bohemian culture hosting Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the Million Dollar Club and various rock and roll events. I enjoyed three solidly good meals at Cafe Gitane which has the most lovely, warm ambience.

 

Cafe Gitane

 

The location really is great. It’s steps away from the Whitney Museum and the High Line. I could easily walk to the Chelsea Market for meals and shopping and the surrounding neighborhood is packed with upscale restaurants and bars. There’s even a Magnolia Bakery site within a couple of blocks. Hello, delicate golden cupcake with whipped lavender buttercream frosting! The 14th Street Station was a ten minute walk(well 15 for me) and provided access to the ACE lines, so it was easy to get up, down or cross town. The area felt safe with young families everywhere and is definitely the spot to see Manhattan’s fancy dog set. The streets are full of shady trees, colorful doors, window boxes, cobblestones and curly wrought iron railings. All my favorite things!

So, what were the downsides? This is a hotel that is old and when it was restored they obviously worked to keep many old-world attributes in place. It smells like an old hotel. Not necessarily bad, but definitely not “fresh.” There are areas where housekeeping could be improved but, honestly, nothing shocking or disturbing. Just a bit of mustiness. You may want to ask yourself if you’ll feel comfortable roaming the hall in hotel bathrobe and slippers to and from the shared bathrooms. I ended up letting go of some inhibitions(no, not that much!), but this may not be for everyone.I originally thought that partiers coming in after a night on the town were waking me up. After rising myself at 4am to catch my flight home in Newark I realise it may have been people checking out that I’d heard. Either way, the halls creaking and doors shutting in the night woke me. I decided to be okay about that, too. You know,” The City That Never Sleeps'” kind of okay.

The bottom line? I liked it. The quirky, fun, vintage Jane Hotel was  lovely. I’m starting to look for travel experiences that are unique and packed with personality. I’d say go with an open mind and you’ll like it, too. What do you think?

Our Meeting the French Bakery Tour

July 12, 2016 at 7:37 pm


Meeting the French Bakery tour

My two adult children are often aggravated with me because I am an over planner. I believe half the fun of a vacation is researching and booking your time well before hand. My daughter was very surprised when we got to Paris and didn’t have every minute of the trip planned out. I knew we would see the big sites, but to be honest Paris overwhelmed me a bit. I had been apprehensive about the Parisian’s brusque reputation . From the minute we got off the train however, things felt really wonderful. We got lost walking to our hotel and a lovely French woman led us all the way to it.  This was the first of some great surprises. The Parisians were so warm and welcoming!  

I asked my daughter what she wanted to do and she decided she would love to tour a French bakery.  I didn’t think I would be able to make this happen without reservations weeks in advance, but started researching on the internet just in case. There were a number of companies that offered bakery tours or special tastings, but they were very expensive and already booked up. Then I found Meeting the French. This company offers special experiences like tours of bakeries, flower markets and vintage shopping excursions with a Parisian guide to give a behind the scenes experience. After some discussion, we decided to book a baking lesson at a French bakery for the next day.

The bakery was tucked away on a quiet street, but we had no trouble finding it. We met our guide and the one other participant inside and were taken to the back room for introductions and an overview of the morning’s activities. Our guide was amazing! She graciously translated the French of the baker to Japanese for the other guest and English for us. She never missed a beat and was able to make the complicated process of making baguettes understandable to each of us.

French Baker with Baguettes

Our Charming French Baker

We headed down into the basement of the small, family-owned bakery, where our baker charmed us with humorous anecdotes and inside stories about life as a Parisian baker. He gave us an overview of the types of flour and other ingredients used to bake traditional Parisian baguettes. He explained the difference between boulangeries (bread bakeries) and patisseries (pastry bakeries.) Baguettes are created using a very specific set of rules: #55 flour, Parisian water, hot steam ovens and careful shaping techniques. Once we had the rules down, we started  baking. He guided us through each step until we had created a variety of breads and croissants. When we got our loaves into the oven we headed back upstairs for a mini pastry baking lesson. It was fun to see all of the fillings for the elaborate pastries.

Learning to Mark Baguettes

Learning to Mark Baguettes

Two hours later we left the bakery loaded with toasty, fresh baguettes, croissants and a deep affection for the French. We would heartily recommend this tour. Our tour cost 113 euros each and lasted over 2 hours. Our guide and baker were warm, friendly and knowledgeable. We definitely loved “Meeting the French!”

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