I'd spent the summer months living and working in small-town, northeastern Pennsylvania. The type of living that clearly defines the necessities of life—food, shelter, sleep, rinse, repeat—for the simple reason that there isn't much else to do there. I mean, it's beautiful and full of fresh air and the sunsets are second to none. After a few months, though, a few of us agreed that we needed to look for a different tune to live by (something other than "Dueling Banjos" anyway). Possibly even one that began with "Start Spreadin' The News".

New York City it is!

My initial reaction to the lights, the sounds, and the scores of people was comparable to an ADHD child who had lost his Ritalin. In short, OVER-STIMULATED! To people outside the cab I must have looked like a goofy, life-size version of the Garfield dolls you stick to your windshield. Anyone who has visited the Big Apple surely wouldn't find this odd for a first timer. However, this was my sixth visit. It does it to me every time.

The cab ride from the Port Authority bus station was about five minutes. Before I had a chance to pay the door was opened and an experience I could never have expected began. A voice spoke in a charming Eastern-European accent:

The San Carlos Hotel
in NYC has been welcoming
guests for over 70 years.
Check-in to see what's "new"!

"Hello, welcome to the San Carlos. Go right on in. I will bring your bags." I walked into the lobby and had a very difficult time keeping my composure as I took in the atmosphere. The wide and elegantly high-ceilinged corridor is decorated in mahogany wood and satin chrome metal on a marble background. It has a contemporary look but the soft lighting and layout give you a very comfortable and spacious feel. The building itself has a clean and welcoming façade to it. The San Carlos includes 83 deluxe rooms, 20 executive suites, 42 one-bedroom suites, and two penthouse suites. These penthouses have an adjoining terrace and one of them features a wood-burning fireplace.

The closer I approached the front desk the more I became aware of my own state. Sleepy from traveling and in desperate need of a shower I felt slightly out of place in this kind of luxury. All these feelings subsided the instant I approached the desk. I was met with a welcoming smile by the concierge. His name was Chris and he seemed to be able to put me at ease with a simple, "What can I do for you today?" After getting my info, he thanked me for coming to the San Carlos and told me that Bobby would take us to our room and if we needed anything else we should feel free to call. Only then did I remember that there were other people with me.

Ruth had been speaking with Bobby since we entered the hotel. She's a very good friend of mine and a lovely person, but I'd never known her to ask so many questions. She seemed to be drilling this kind doorman on everything imaginable and, in Bobby's defense, he was doing a remarkable job keeping up. In a short elevator ride to the fourteenth floor we learned that he was originally from Poland and was working as a teacher until a few years ago. Furthermore, he was quizzed on the hotel and what it had to offer. As can be seen on the computer screen in the elevator there is a board room, conference room, and breakfast room. The business center is complete with high speed internet access, fax machine, and copier service, and a lovely view of the reception area. There are smoking rooms available by request, an adjoining garage, and a penthouse terrace that can also be used as a nightspot for parties. The hotel restaurant was not yet completed but as Chris had said to me during check in, "If you can't find a restaurant in New York City, you're in trouble." Besides, if you need help on finding a specific type of restaurant, the San Carlos staff is more than happy to offer suggestions as well as make reservations and get you a cab. By now Bobby had our complete attention. He moved on to tell us about the room amenities.

The San Carlos Hotel is "wired"
for business. The UN & Wall
Street are around the corner!

Our room came equipped with two 2-line phones - one of them cordless, an in-room safe with room enough to fit a laptop, a pantry and kitchenette, iron & ironing board, two flat screen televisions - one in the bedroom and one in the living area, a clock radio with CD player, complimentary high-speed internet access through a T1 line, bath products by Aveda, bathrobes by Frette, and a multitude of movies and other media to keep you entertained while in your room.

Bobby was now on his way out the door telling us that if there was anything else we needed to call on him. He even told us the hours he was working in the next few days so we could reach him personally whenever he was there. As he left, I asked Ruth the reasoning behind all of the questions. The answer was simple and unexpected, "I just wanted to listen to his accent. It was very charming." I had to agree. In fact, I think the same word could be used to describe the room as well—charming.

The soft carpet was a welcome comfort for tired feet as we perused our surroundings. The room was gently lit and the beige and mahogany colouring, along with granite countertops and view of a lovely rooftop garden next door gave the room a homey feel that helped relax us even more. With a very comfortable bed and fold out couch there was no lack of places to kick back and enjoy the finer touches. I recall noticing the fresh flowers and chocolates as I fell asleep into my complimentary USA Today.

San Carlos Hotel rooms
and suites are complete
with kitchenettes for
long-term stays.

Wiping the sleep from my eyes, I met the world rested but very hungry. We went downstairs and Chris was practically reading my mind and suggesting a nice little Indian restaurant on the Lower East Side when I remembered that my friend Fox would be in town to drop some things off for me. I mentioned this and seeing the look of urgent hunger on my face Chris then offered to take down my friend's name and let him in. We left for dinner thinking only pleasant thoughts as we were now convinced of Chris' clairvoyance.

The restaurant we were sent to was exactly what we wanted. Low-brow, inexpensive, and most importantly, good food. It was also in a neighborhood surrounded by dozens of other restaurants like it. If we didn't like one, we could shop around, proving again that we were in good hands in the San Carlos. Full of tandori chicken, curry, and enough naan bread to soak up Greenwich pond (not to mention the imported Punjabi beer that turned out to be a lot better than expected) we waddled back to the hotel with new energy to see the city. On the way we ran into a rather memorable gentleman.

His name was Myles and, like me, he was a Canadian. Myles looked as though when he wasn't bailing hay or lifting tractors off of people's legs in his home town of Calgary, Alberta he was building his strength by eating a small town's share of Alberta beef. He and his friend Lyndsie agreed to join us on the town that night so they came up to the room while we got ready. As I was finishing up and about ready to go I heard Myles speak to me from the other room. "This place is pretty posh," he said. "You've even got your own treadmill." I hadn't seen the treadmill but I wasn't surprised. Then it hit me. Before I could say anything, I turned the corner to find the big man grimacing through his great, red beard, scratching his head with one hand and lifting up the Corby pants press with the other in an effort to find out where you get onto the thing. Luckily between belly laughs I was able to convince him that it was meant to keep the wrinkles out of your trousers and not out of your thighs. Besides, the fitness centre is on the third floor and is equipped with everything you'd need to get in shape and fit into your newly pressed pants. As accommodating as the San Carlos Hotel is, I've got a feeling it would have meant an extra charge on the room if the giant man had begun running on it.

Still in good spirits, we made our way to the bar and tipped our hats to Bobby as we left. Myles showed me that he had a much better grasp of a beer pint than he did of exercise equipment.

Thankfully, the San Carlos Hotel is close to everything well worth seeing.

The San Carlos is located in the heart of midtown Manhattan at 150 East 50th Street between Lexington and 3rd Avenues. Area attractions include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Natural History Museum, the Guggenheim, The Theatre District, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, the UN, Radio City Music Hall, the MoMA, and countless venues along 5th Avenue for shopping and sightseeing. As well, it is a short walk to some of New York's finest dining establishments.

The original renovation project for the San Carlos Hotel began in February 2002. Twenty-two million dollars later it is one of Manhattan's premier, four-star hotels. It caters to domestic and international business travelers, diplomats, families, couples on a getaway, group retreats and small meetings. As well, it is part of the Summit Group of Hotels and Resorts.

In a city where anything can happen, and usually does, it is comforting to know that there is a place like the San Carlos Hotel. Regardless of the sites you see or the people you meet in your journeys through New York City you will always have a knowledgeable concierge to show you where to go, a charming doorman to welcome you home, and a comfortable bed to recharge for the next day. It is a stay to remember and, with any luck, I'll definitely be back.

By David Lassarino, Toronto Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent.

Read the Jetsetters Magazine feature: "Spirit Cruises of NYC Dining Cruises."