Day 14: Hudson Hotel.
386 West 58th Street.

I’d challenge anyone to try writing a novel in a New York nightclub on a Saturday night. Whilst drinking martinis. But the reality of summer holidays means the mornings are no longer available to me. So, yesterday I clocked on at 9pm and clocked off at, umm…
This is dangerous territory. The ghost of Hemingway looms large. Disappearing into the vast, pumping city is immensely appealing to this author (day or night) and when truffle popcorn is on offer, the hours easily slip away. When I emerged back onto the street the city was really just getting going, the subway packed, and if I’d had the energy could have found another venue no problem and kept writing. New York, as everyone knows, doesn’t sleep.
Now, down to brass tacks. How productive was I? Bearing in mind that it was too dark to read my notes, I could hardly hear myself think, and I was increasingly distracted by beautiful people dancing only feet away from me (oh, and the music was amazing – will definitely be taking Lynne here for a hot date soon), not to mention the martinis, I think I did OK.
My average word rate so far is (or rather, was, until last night) 823 words per hour. The first hour in the Hudson’s disco I managed: 686. Not shabby at all. However, the second hour produced only 410 words – which those mathematically inclined among you would note is but half my usual. But by golly it was a delight watching how the barman made that lemon twist.
And the third hour? Well, you might have thought it was a catastrophe and in fact I didn’t last a full 3rd hour. But pro-rata, it came to 548. Spooky. An inverse bell-curve.
The Hudson has more bars than I’ve ever seen in a hotel. I counted four on the lobby level alone. I’ve no idea which one I was in, but you can check out the place here:…/hudson-new-yo…/eat-drink
My tip: go at 9pm when they’ll let in people with iPads intent on writing Middle Grade novels. After midnight the rope barrier comes out and you’ve got to get past security (and be waaay more beautiful than I am).

Today’s word count: 1370. Word count to date: 37,051

  • One of the multiple bars in the Hudson. Or it could be reception. I’ve no idea. It’s that kind of place

  • I really should be dancing, but a middle-grade novel needs writing

  • A martini and truffle popcorn. Yes, this is tax-deductible

  • The waaaay cool escalators leading to the street

  • When I left at whatever time it was, the place was really only just getting started

  • A beautiful window display


Day 13 – Hotel Sofitel

45 West 44th Street.

I was back on 44th Street today, where I began the book. The Sofitel is a beautiful French themed hotel with nearly 400 rooms a couple of doors down from the Algonquin, but the lobby (lobbies, really) restaurants and other public space are more the scale of a much smaller, continental hotel. Which I like. Cavernous, polished marble lobbies – like the Pennsylvania, my previous post – are not my bag.
Above, though, is a soaring 30 storey tower with extraordinary views over midtown.

Having opened only in 2000, this place has yet to build a list of notable writers, poets and l’infant terribles (this author, notwithstanding). But it has unfortunately garnered attention for other, less savoury, exploits. It was here that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former head of the IMF, attacked a cleaner in his room and ended up being arrested and lead out of the place in handcuffs. Nice. Such things must be a nightmare for the hotel’s management, but don’t let it put you off. It’s a beautiful place.

Today’s word count: 2300

Word count to date: 35,465

  • The main lobby

  • The Sofitel on 44th St

  • WIP on a very bright iPad

  • The cafe faces 45th St and is superb

  • It’s orchid season in New York

  • As befitting a beautiful, French hotel


Day 12 – Hotel Pennsylvania

Cnr 7th Ave & 34th Street

Lacking former glory – that’s the only way to describe this vast, underwhelming hotel. When it opened in 1919 it had 2200 rooms and sat overlooking the now-demolished Penn Station (the original one). Now Madison Square Garden (surely one of the ugliest buildings in Manhattan) faces it and the area is filled with cheap burger joints and half-finished construction.

It has survived numerous attempts to demolish it, and the current owners have declared they’ll restore it. I can only hope so, because in its current iteration, it’s depressing.
William Faulkner stayed here. Charlie Chaplin too. And like many New York hotels of this era, its ballroom was filled with the Big Bands of Glenn Miller, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and more. But those days are long gone.

As the lobby resembles an airport lounge with people sitting on their luggage, I chose to work in the cafe. With a $10 buffet breakfast, it proved a productive morning.

Word count: 2643

Word count to date: 33,165

  • Directly opposite Madison Square Garden

  • Like an airport without class

  • Author and WIP in the very quiet lounge

  • Remember these?

  • The hotel is a wonderful example of art deco – but not as wonderful as this

  • Statler who built the Pennsylvania


Day 11: The Plaza
Fifth Avenue at Central Park South

Even the address speaks volumes. There’s nothing else like this place, looking North across to the park and East to the Pulitzer fountain and beyond to Fifth Ave, a glorious Chateau-like structure soaring 20 stories high. From Eloise to Crocodile Dundee to the very, very nasty Christopher Walken pic, ‘King of New York’, you’ve seen the Plaza already a dozen times before setting foot in NYC.
Why the Australian flag out the front? Well, our Tony was in town and he chose the Plaza. He’d left early that morning, my good waiter told me (who’d also served another Australian PM, ‘the woman’. Ah, yes. I remember her.)
There are too many beautiful rooms to show here, but if you’re in town, allow an hour or two to explore this place. It has its own food court that is unlike anything else I’ve seen – including cakes that made this old Delington King stop and stare, mouth open.
So far on this quest, for the big old hotels, there are only two names that matter – Waldorf-Astoria and the Plaza and I choose the Plaza. What’s more, I finished Act 1 of the book here. 3 Acts to go.
Word count: 2377. Word count to date: 30,522

P.S. Watch their site to see how beautiful this place is.

  • This was my office. Ahem

  • The iconic Plaza from Pulitzer Square

  • Our PM was in town. He’s got good taste

  • WIP with Pulitzer Place beyond the thick curtains

  • The Oatmeal. Ranks marginally higher that the Waldorf Astoria

  • The Author – ensconced in the Plaza – looking down his nose at you

  • Another view from my place of work. Mid-morning

  • The famous palm court

  • Downstairs is a fabulous food court (but that name really doesn’t do it justice) and the Eloise store

  • A very young Mr Hemingway


Day 10: Mandarin Oriental.
Columbus Circle.

For some reason I love Columbus Circle. Bottom of the park, Central Park West becomes 8th Ave (and much more aggressive), Broadway cuts across at an oblique angle, busy, busy, busy and traffic moving in a circle (which you don’t see much in New York – perhaps it reminds me of my childhood in Canberra).
And soaring above is the magnificent Time Warner Center (or, Centre). This twin monolith contains a Wholefoods, a beautiful shopping center (or centre), two jazz venues, the headquarters of Time Inc. and a very nice hotel – the Mandarin Oriental.

Now there are not many hotels where the lobby is on the 35th floor. It is stunning – both daytime and at night. Once I sat there with Lynne watching a snowstorm, the little yellow taxis struggling around the roundabout.

If you want to feel you’re in New York, may I recommend lunch at the Mandarin Oriental. Order the Manhattan. Tell them I sent you.

Today’s word count: 2,687

Word count to date: 28,145

  • The Mandarin Oriental is waaaaay up there somewhere

  • WIP and view from the 35th floor

  • Nowhere made me feel more like I was in New York than this place

  • Spectacular view, warm iPad, hot coffee – what else does an author need?

  • The jaw-dropping lobby – 35 floors up

  • Glass tulip/lily/triffid things


Day 9 – Essex House

160 Central Park South

A beautiful, historic art deco building, Essex House has one of the most iconic and easily identifiable outlines overlooking Central Park. It’s not hard to spot with its enormous red lettering visible from halfway up the park.
Summer is now in full swing in New York and the park is heaving, the horse and carriages are doing a roaring trade (after a very long and cold winter) and tourists are swarming. Parts of Central Park South were almost blocked by the busyness.

But for those authors who drift in and out of the hustle and bustle of the city looking for a place to write, may I recommend Essex House. Art deco magnificently restored, large, sun-filled windows overlooking the park, white leather lounges and decent coffee. Suits me, sir.

Today’s word count: 2420

Word count to date: 25,458

  • Just in case you forget the name of your hotel

  • The Author (looking a little smug) and WIP on a gorgeous summer’s day overlooking the park

  • The lobby – where I moved after the cafe closed

  • Unobstructed views north across the park

  • Wollmann rink in Central Park with Essex House beyond

  • The passageway to 58th street


Day 8 – The Hotel Theresa

2082-6 Adam Clayton Powell Jnr Blvd. Harlem.

In its heyday (which wasn’t this morning) this hotel was known as ‘the Waldorf of Harlem’. It looks so much taller than its 13 stories as it’s thin and there’s nothing much that height around it. It has a rich history. Castro stayed there in 1960 after getting kicked out/fed up with another hotel in midtown (either for killing his own chickens in the room because he didn’t trust the hotel chefs, or over the bill, depending on which story you believe). Khrushchev visited him while he was there. Malcolm X was a regular to the place and famously gave an address out the front.

But it’s a sorry sight today. It’s been closed for years but you my story of the Chelsea Hotel has taught you anything, a closed hotel won’t stop me. The only place open in the building where I could sit and drink coffee and work was White Castle – a hamburger chain that predates McDonalds by about 30 years and is happy not to compete with such a high-quality upstart establishment. I went mid-morning so I was one of the first ‘diners’ (they don’t do breakfast – mind you, anyone who takes their food seriously would claim they don’t do lunch or dinner either). I perched on a stool, opened up the iPad and got to it. Service, it must be said, wasn’t up there with my previous day’s experience at the Waldorf Astoria, but the coffee was surprisingly drinkable. Three hours later I hopped up and walked back up to the counter – which has a bullet-proof perspex screen separating you from the ‘servers’, who speak through microphones when they want to read back your order. I amused myself by quipping in my offhand way, ‘And now I think I’ll try the fish burger.’ No one else seemed amused.

I’ve never been to a White Castle before (nor since) so I’ve nothing to compare it to, but this one functioned more as a community drop-in centre. At any one time, twenty people were milling around with only one or two eating. The main topic of conversation was a police raid nearby on some gang houses – the biggest in New York’s history apparently – that had taken place early that morning.

A productive day with some of the most entertaining customers in a hotel ‘lobby’ I’ve come across.

Today’s word count: 3054

Word count to date: 22,740

  • Adam Clayton Powell marching towards the (now closed) Theresa

  • The Author ponders why he’s the only one writing a novel in the White Castle fast food joint

  • This is a slider. It is a type of burger. Inexpensive, small and ghastly.

  • Castro and Malcolm X enjoying a laugh at the Theresa back in 1960

  • NYPD outside the Theresa when Castro was staying.

  • Twas a bleak and rainy day in Harlem

  • I pity the fool who dares to deface this garage


Day 7 – The Waldorf Astoria

On Park Ave somewhere – massive. You can’t miss it.

Possibly the most famous hotel in the world? Certainly in the US. By golly it’s an impressive monster. Originally two hotels (you’ll never guess their names) it even has, or had, its own train station in the basement (it’s on Park Ave under which run the Metro North trains). 

In the history of grand hotels, basically, there is BC and AWA, that is Before Conrad (Hilton) and After the Waldorf Astoria. Hilton is largely responsible for the massive 1000 room hotels we see around the world today. Before him, hotels were more ‘gentlemanly’ in scale. 200 rooms was considered large. After he purchased the Waldorf Astoria, Hilton hotels have always been on a grand scale. Read his autobiography, ‘Be my guest’, if you’re keen to know more.

While massive, it manages to have beautiful human-scale public spaces. There are two lobbies – both magnificent. I sat in the inner one, which is dark and timber-lined. But it wasn’t a very productive day for some reason. Struggled to get going and ended up writing one scene out of order just so I could get it done. Also, forgot to order their famous salad. Instead, opting for their oatmeal.

Today’s word count: 1300

Word count to date: 19,686

  • The view of the main lobby from my office for the day

  • Majesty New York style

  • Feeling at home in the splendour

  • Conrad and Baron Hilton

  • Oatmeal – with almonds, brown sugar and glacé raisins

  • Hard to tell what Kenneth is selling from this display – but it’s my father’s name, so…

  • The Park Avenue lobby


Day 6: Standard Hotel.

484 Washington Street, Chelsea.

The Standard Hotel is anything but. This amazing place straddles the HighLine and boasts a cool funk vibe similar to yesterday’s Dream Hotel (also in Chelsea). The High Line, if you don’t know, is a former elevated railroad that linked the ports with the various warehouses and factories in lower Manhattan. After years of lying dormant, it has been converted in stages to an elevated garden. It’s so brilliantly done and popular that about the only time to walk it to avoid seething crowds is mid-winter.

The streets around the Standard are cobbled (not a common thing in New York) and are clearly a fav of fashion shoots as I’ve seen numerous models posing in the  area while their photographer snaps away. The lobby of the Standard blends with the cafe with the beer garden with the grill. Most folks were outside in the garden sipping Mojitos and Marguerites and Mimosas on the day I was there, but I chose a quiet corner and coffee.  Music’s nice too – ‘Shoot that poison arrow to my heart’ was just one of a selection heavy on 80’s Britpop.

I didn’t head up to the roof but apparently there are tremendous views of the Hudson and Jersey beyond. If you’re headed to New York and you’re after a hip hotel in the Meatpacking/Chelsea district chose this one or the Dream. Flip a coin.

Today’s word count: 2,291

Total word count: 17,566…

  • The Standard – rising high above the High Line

  • All but deserted inside. But the beer garden was pumping.

  • The somewhat innocuous entrance and the beer garden beside

  • The end of the High Line is just south of the Standard


Day 5 – Dream Hotel.

355 West 16th.

Oh, boy oh boy I’m glad I found this place. There’s cool and funky and edgy and then there’s the Dream Hotel, Chelsea. Being a Sunday, I wasn’t planning on working today, but Ryan had a birthday party at Chelsea Piers so I found myself with 2 spare hours.
This is one cooool hotel. An American flag made of beer cans covering one wall (tastefully done). An array of bespoke leather lounges included a gold one (which I chose for myself). AND A SWIMMING POOL FOR THE ROOF!!

Those of you who know me well, know about the Pool Quest (see here: so can well imagine my jaw-dropping delight when 20 minutes into Roger Spoffin’s latest fabulous adventures, I lean back, take a long, cool swig from my Corona Light (no, I don’t understand what I was thinking either) to see PEOPLE SWIMMING ABOVE ME!! Lost 5 minutes productivity as I gawked up at them. One can just imagine the architects meeting with the owners and revealing, yes, of course, we’ll put the pool above the lobby with a glass ceiling.

Poke around and you’ll find a gallery with some very cool photos of rock stars. Plus flowers growing in the garden in colours I didn’t know existed. Plus grooviness everywhere. I’ll be back with the gorgeous Lynne big time to this place for a hot date one night soon.

I’ll catch you by the pool.

Today’s word count: 1037

Total word count: 15,217…/new-york/dream…/hotel-overview…

  • The pool at the Dream Hotel

  • The pool from beneath i.e. the bar

  • WIP at the Dream (except for the Corona Light – nothing dream-like about that)

  • The lobby – note US flag made of beer cans, pool above and gold leather seats

  • Blondie greets you on the way to the gents

  • One of the gorgeous tiny gardens that dot this hotel