New York City Hotels – The Chelsea Hotel, the TWA Hotel

Friday, 20 October 2023

◄ The Chelsea Hotel, New York City

Maureen and I spent four days in New York City in early October – she flew in from Milan, Italy, I met her from the Iguassu Falls in Brazil. We met at The Chelsea Hotel, if there’s an iconic hotel in New York this has to be it. We actually intended to stay there back in 1984, we were living in San Francisco when we set up the Lonely Planet office in the USA and flew to New York for a bookselling sales conference. We turned up at the Chelsea and they’d lost our reservation and the hotel was booked out.

▲ One of the popular Chelsea Hotel legends is that much of the art work hanging in the corridors and on the stairs is by residents who couldn’t pay their rent and donated art work instead. There is a – not very informative – Chelsea Hotel art work book. Surely there must be a website on the topic?

◄ No problems with my booking this time and indeed this is a hotel with lots of history, just check the Wikipedia entry on Chelsea Hotel residents and visitors – Arthur C Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey while staying there. Bob Dylan, Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands. Dylan Thomas drank 18 whiskies and ‘sailed out to die’ (or so the brass plaque at the front door announces), Naked Lunch (written here), Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols killed his girlfriend here and Leonard Cohen (room 424) sings about his sexual encounter with Janis Joplin (room 411) in his song Chelsea Hotel, also noted on a brass plaque. A hotel with a hell of a lot of history.

▲ On night four we shifted to the TWA Hotel at JFK Airport, very convenient for an early morning departure the next day.

▲ The TWA terminal was designed by star-chitect Eero Saarinen, opened in 1962 and was instantly obsolete. It was the last shout of the propeller airline story, before the jet age arrived. As an airline terminal it may have been an economic disaster, as a hotel it’s wonderful.

▲ And it looks the part, it’s clearly out of the 2001: A Space Odyssey playbook, it’s a vision of the future from 1962. It simply looks wonderful.

▲ The hotel plays the part, starting with the baby blue VW Kombi parked outside, right behind a Kennedy assassination Lincoln Continental convertible.

▲ The TWA Lockheed Constellation fits the mood as well, was there ever a more beautiful airliner? Today it’s a bar, but have a look inside, then enjoy your drink in the hotel itself.

▲ The departure and arrival boards are party of the story, there are no BOAC or TWA flights arriving in real life at JFK today.

▲ Finally head up to the rooftop swimming pool and gaze out over the infinity edge to the arriving and departing flights, particularly from jetBlue. You can get a room with runway views and the glass is double-glazed to keep all the noise at bay.