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Checking in: the Mark

A Night on New York’s Upper East Side
  • The Mark Hotel

    The Mark Hotel

  • The Mark Hotel

    The Mark Hotel

  • The Mark Hotel

    The Mark Hotel

  • The Mark Hotel

    The Mark Hotel

  • The Mark Hotel

    The Mark Hotel

  • The Mark Hotel

    The Mark Hotel

  • The Mark Hotel

    The Mark Hotel

CHEAT SHEET
WHERE

On the Atlantic coast, where the Hudson and East rivers meet the sea.

WHY GO

This is one of just a handful of cities with a genuine shot at the title of Capital of the World. If it isn’t happening in New York, it isn’t happening.

HOW

It’s practically impossible to avoid — all roads, rails and flight paths in the eastern U.S. seem to lead to New York.

TABLET TIP

Try to see the city’s much-vaunted attitude as a positive rather than a negative. Rarely will a New Yorker leave you wondering what he really thinks.

New York, April, 2013

I’d lived in New York a year without ever having ventured to the Upper East Side, and I can’t say I’d ever much wondered what was up there. Anyone fluent in New York’s particular dialect of provincialism will recognize this as a commonplace boast from someone who lives in a neighborhood somewhere on the downtown side of 14th Street, as wrongheadedly snobbish in its own way as it is to dismiss the vast interior of the United States as a single, contourless entity called “Chicago.” Yet such are the facts — one year in town and I’d never made the trip.

I’d never made the trip, that is, until I received an invitation to spend a night at the Mark. Part of a small triangle of classic Upper East Side hotels that also includes the Carlyle and the Surrey, the Mark is on a very short list of contenders for New York’s finest hotel — not the trendiest, not the most opulent, just quite possibly the best.

Service is of the implicit your-wish-is-our-command variety, which if you’ve got a speck of humility is a little hard to get used to, and then suddenly very easy the moment a whim comes floating to mind. Craving a single appetizer from the hotel’s Jean-Georges restaurant and a bottle of sparkling wine? It’ll be right up on a fully set table, white tablecloth, fresh flower and all. Want to get a new hair style and then admire your reflection in your shoes? Kindly head down to the in-house, celebrity stylist–run salon, then make your choice from the page-long shoe-shine menu. Not that one needs perfectly coiffed hair and professionally cared-for shoes to walk the halls, but if there are a few guests who feel the weight of such exotic burdens, this is a hotel that has them covered.

Arriving in the guest room, it seems at first a little plain — enormous by New York standards, and perfectly tasteful, but a touch subdued after the pupil-dilating glitz of the black and white marble lobby. Your eye is more likely drawn to the jewel-like pâte de fruits on the table than any built-in decorative flourish. But then you start to notice what in a different world could only be coincidences — the bathtub’s edge being just the right width for that dewy silver champagne-bucket — and you realize that the point is not visual flourish but high-pleasure utility.

The invitations to indulgence are relentless. The bathrobes are the sort you’ll want to live the rest of your life in, Hugh Hefner–style. The minibar looks like it’s been stocked for a royal preparing to ride out an insurgency — one drawer dedicated to a candy collection that could put the sweet tooth of a six-year-old to the test, a collection of chilled wines in a fridge of their own, a perfectly silent freezer-drawer full of ice, and on it goes. (Distasteful sidetone: in a carefree mood, you could spend more than a grand on the contents of the minibar alone.) There’s not just a TV built into the bathroom mirror, but a TV whose screen never fogs. That’s despite a shower that releases a tropical monsoon at the turn of a handle, a storm in a marble Deco teacup.

In my experience the room too comfortable to leave had always been merely apocryphal — until, and you see where this is going, it was time to leave my room at the Mark. Sure, there were a couple dutiful forays into the neighborhood — a trip to one of the nearby museums (the Frick), a nice-enough brunch at the Penrose, a perfunctory stroll in Central Park, and a low-key late-night dinner at Dos Toros Taqueria. But nothing was quite as enticing as staying in, holed up in good company behind my high window at the hotel. It had been some twenty-four hours since I’d been downtown, and what I might be missing was the last thing on my mind.

Mike Parker

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CHEAT SHEET
WHERE

On the Atlantic coast, where the Hudson and East rivers meet the sea.

WHY GO

This is one of just a handful of cities with a genuine shot at the title of Capital of the World. If it isn’t happening in New York, it isn’t happening.

HOW

It’s practically impossible to avoid — all roads, rails and flight paths in the eastern U.S. seem to lead to New York.

TABLET TIP

Try to see the city’s much-vaunted attitude as a positive rather than a negative. Rarely will a New Yorker leave you wondering what he really thinks.

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