New York City is a big, fast-paced city, with lots of brights lights and things to see and do. With its assembly of electronic billboards, hordes of tourists and New Yorkers alike, Times Square is a barrage of the senses and might be one of the busiest and brightest places on earth! And that is just Times Square! Within a few blocks, Midtown New York, in which Times Square is located, offers some of the most recognisable American sites in the world, including the Rockerfeller Centre, the Empire State Building, Macy’s Department Store, the Broadway theatre district and Grand Central Station.
Like most South Africans, my wife and I are not accustomed to public transport. Hopping from the A to the C to the E train, to name but three, the New York subway can be a tricky and tiring, network to navigate. And that is just the start of the sightseeing! You then need drinks, food, maps to find your way above ground and the energy to navigate the throngs of people. “Location, location, location” is an oft-used selling point for houses but this could be applied equally to hotels in New York City.
During our time in the ‘Big Apple’ we were lucky enough to stay at the Casablanca Hotel, located literally a stone’s throw from Times Square. Step out of the lobby and walk down the road 50 metres and you are right there in the midst of all the action. The Casablanca is in a small six-floor building and serves as an ideal entry point to explore the numerous sights of Manhattan as well as the rest of the city – the Times Square subway stop is less than 100 metres away.
The rooms and beds are comfortable and you’d never guess how peaceful it is! My wife had a slight back ache (sightseeing is tough) and the hotel provided her with a memory foam pillow just like the ones we have at home. Rick’s Café, located within the Casablanca, is open 24 hours a day for guests to grab tea, coffee, fruits and pastries. Complimentary breakfast each morning and cheese and wine each evening are an added bonus! However, we found that by far the best thing about the Casablanca was the level of service and friendliness of the staff. It was like having friends look after you to make sure you got the most out of the city and your stay. Nothing was too much trouble, from recommendations of off-Broadway shows to booking cabs and making suggestions of what to see in the surrounding area. We headed for a morning run along the Hudson and down to Battery Park, underestimating the distance, and thought we had missed breakfast – most definitely the most important meal of the day for avid sightseers! The ever-friendly staff put together a breakfast tray with coffee, fruit, pastries and yoghurt, which is the kind of service that would bring us back to the Casablanca.