While booking our plane tickets to New York was quick, cheap and easy, finding appropriate accommodations proved quite the challenge. We’re not at all persnickety when it comes to our lodging, but we are cheap (did you know that?) and we do have at least some semblance of standards. The few things we were looking for in our home away from home were a private bathroom, proximity to subway and bus lines, and a kitchenette (fridge and microwave at a minimum). Those three things together are actually not at all difficult to find in NYC. But…those three things together in NYC during the popular travel month of September for a nightly rate that wouldn’t make actually leaving our room impossible? Commence most exhaustive lodging search ever. We searched every hotel, travel deal, NYC vacation rental and Craigslist site possible in our attempts to line up a reasonable stay. That one had a shared bathroom, that one wasn’t available, that one got 1 out of 5 stars with reports of roaches/rodents/robberies, that one was in Jersey City, that one was half my mortgage payment for one night, and so on and so on. Finally Pete found it – a charming little apartment on the upper west side with exactly what we needed and within budget. WHEW! But was it too good to be true?
When you’re reading the reviews on these vacation apartment sites one of the common complaints and cause for a thumbs down is that the owner pulled a little bait and switch. They post cute photos of a place to stay, take your money, and then when you show up to check in they feed you some line about why the original room is not ready/available and put you up in an entirely different space that in no way resembles the cozy digs you were expecting, but rather comes a little closer to that 1 out of 5 stars hovel with the roaches/rodents/robberies. Needless to say, we were nervous.
We arrive at our building just before 10 and call our vacation landlord to let him know we’re outside. A pleasant little dude in his late sixties – Bill – meets us at the front door, we exchange pleasantries and he assists us with our things. The interior of his building is quite lovely and we’re feeling pretty good. Bill guides us to his “elevator” – a 3×3 box that couldn’t possibly be safety rated for more than a couple hundred pounds – and we cram three grown adults and two suitcases inside and shut the “door.” With his face just inches from mine (I can see pretty much every ounce of dental work Bill has had in his sixty plus years) Bill proceeds to tell us about his cleaning lady canceling on him that day, leaving the room we were supposed to occupy unprepared. Oh. Shit. So many things raced through my mind in the brief moment between that statement and his next, most of which would not be suitable for children under 13. His next statement, however, was that instead of the ground level apartment we were expecting, he was going to put us in his wife’s office on a higher floor and there was still a private bathroom and kitchenette and bedroom. Huh. Bill let us in to the room and despite the semi-awkwardness we felt at being in what was clearly his wife’s personal space (she was out of town), the place was pretty nice. Whew. We bid goodnight to Bill and head out for some beer and grub.
Upon returning to our humble abode, Pete decides to go and test the bed and what does he find? A fucking air mattress. It was actually a double stacked air mattress all dressed up with sheets, skirt and pillows so that the only way you’d know it’s true substance was to touch it. Pete was livid. Air mattresses are what you sleep on when you go visit relatives with limited space and beds, and are absurdly inappropriate for an anniversary vacation. Of course at this point it was nearing midnight and though we were just a wee bit annoyed with Bill, we decided to be decent and wait for the AM to give him a piece of our mind. We made it through night one without too much discomfort and then first thing in the morning, Pete took care of business.
Pete told Bill this was unacceptable, Bill feigned ignorance about the crapiness of air mattresses, Pete gave him a thorough account of the pitfalls, Bill got the point and agreed to remedy the situation. After explaining that he still wasn’t able to get his cleaning lady to come (really, Bill? there aren’t 8,000 other cleaning people in NYC you could call?) he said he could move us up to his “library” (quotes because it was really just some built-ins with books on one wall, but there was a bed!). We gathered and packed our things, met him in the hall and moved on up. The library was on the top floor of the brownstone and just one flight of stairs up from where Bill and his wife Reese hosted the Contemporary African Art Gallery. It was kind of freakin’ amazing. We again had a private bathroom, Bill let us keep the keys to the last spot to continue use of the kitchenette, and we were surrounded by some pretty badass art. Perhaps best of all was that we had the only access in the building to the rooftop deck. Schwing! Bill offered that his cleaning woman could come the next day and we could move once again, but we offered that we were done moving and would be fine to stay right there. I imagine that wasn’t an ideal situation for him as we were kind of in his space, but I also imagine he understood that he was no longer in the position to get his ideal.
So there we stayed for the remainder of our trip and it was perfection. Sunsets and skyline views with some dining and drinking al fresco, a walk through the Gallery every time we came and went from our space, and no awful air mattress. We never did see the original apartment. We do believe that Bill’s story was legit and he wasn’t trying to put one over on us and that said apartment did actually exist, but in the end we weren’t at all sad to miss it. All in all, Bill was super nice and worked very hard to make sure we were happy and had everything we need. And we sure did.
Still to come, some snippets about the subway and a general recap of what we did/ate/saw.
Elderland out. XO.