Don’t miss this New York City oasis

It was a sunny Autumn day in New York City when we came across Trinity Wall Street.

Striding briskly through the frenzy of the city’s Financial District, in lower Manhattan, we were unexpectedly faced with an extraordinary sight – an old burial ground of tilting headstones, manicured green lawns and shady trees.

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Alongside this green oasis – in the shadows of surrounding skyscrapers – stood a magnificent old stone church built in the classic Gothic Revival style.

We meandered along the stone pathways of the graveyard to discover that we’d stumbled upon a venerable American institution – Trinity Wall Street Episcopal church and its famous 300-year-old cemetery.

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Photo courtesy: Village Voice

Apparently, the church site dates to 1697 when it was earmarked by the English King William 111 as the Anglican seat in the capital city.

There have been three church buildings on the site – near the corner of Wall Street and Broadway.

The current structure was built in 1846 and has been designated as a national historic landmark because of its architectural significance and place in the history of New York City.

We were told that, at the time of its completion, the 281 foot Neo-Gothic spire, surmounted by a gilded cross, dominated the skyline of lower Manhattan and was the highest point in New York until being surpassed in 1890 by the New York World Building.

Trinity became a welcoming beacon for ships sailing into New York Harbor.

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Pausing in the shady cemetery, we also discovered that the two-and-a-half-acre yard contained the tombstones and memorials of notable 18th Century New Yorkers, including many leading participants of the American revolution and the early years of Republic.

We were also intrigued by the obviously more modern bronze sculpture of a tree alongside Trinity Church.

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Apparently, the base of the sculpture is made from the roots of a huge sycamore tree that had stood for almost a century before it was flattened by falling debris from the nearby World Trade Centre after the September 11 terror attacks in 2001.

During the attack, people took refuge in Trinity from choking clouds of dust.

The tree sculpture carries a credit to artist, Steve Tobin.

Heading back into the busy Manhattan Financial District, we marvelled at the enormous contrast of such an oasis of calm and tranquility amid the hustle and bustle.

From Central Park to the High Line and Turtle Pond, such contrasts are not uncommon in New York City, where a special kind of beauty can await around almost any corner.

Main photo courtesy  Gigi alt (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

New York City Upper West Side

Age-Friendly Rating: The Belnord Hotel, West 87th Street, NYC

Manhattan’s upper west side is truly the New York City of the movies – attractive tree-lined streets, grand buildings and families walking their dogs.

The Belnord, on West 87th Street, is squarely in keeping with this atmosphere – and we have spent some wonderful days and weeks at this hotel.

However, this lovely part of New York City certainly pre-dates the era of Age-Friendliness.  And the Belnord was no exception.

The hotel is about three blocks from Central Park and amongst the restaurants, community stores, supermarkets and cafes that line Broadway and Columbus and Amsterdam avenues.

Zabar’s, NYC’s famous food emporium, is about seven blocks away and it’s a short stroll to museums and similar attractions.

In short, the Belnord’s location is superb.

Hotel decor

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The hotel does not carry the luxury tag, but is certainly in keeping with its surroundings; spotlessly clean, modern, neat, tidy and understated. It is definitely NYC.

The hotel’s foyer is unpretentious, clean and no-frills.  The hotel is in a particularly quiet area of NYC, largely free of wailing city sirens and general street noise.

How quick and efficient was the hotel check-in?

Staff are friendly, efficient and service oriented, without intruding.

Sign-in was quick and pleasant and we are given a map of central Manhattan and directions to the 86th Street subway station, which is located close to the hotel.

Did we feel welcomed by the Belnord staff?

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Certainly.  The Belnord is relaxed, but the staff team is willing to go that extra distance to ensure your stay is as enjoyable and smooth as possible.

For our most recent stay, we were at the hotel for 19 days and found the staff so helpful that we even left a small travel gift to show our appreciation.

When we used a nearby laundry, the hotel staff delivered our freshly-pressed clothes back to our room.

Were we offered help with our luggage?

Yes, but the hotel lifts were so roomy and efficient that we chose to handle our bags  ourselves.

Did the hotel offer wifi – and how did it work?

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The Belnord has an excellent free wifi for guests. On arrival, we were given the password and it was clearly explained when it would change and how to maintain the service.

The system worked without a hitch throughout our stay.

This was a huge plus, as we were not forced to seek out wifi at coffee shops, restaurants etc.

The room experience

Our double room was ready when we arrived and was a typical NYC size – tight, but very well presented and immaculately clean, with modern decor.

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There was a comfortable double bed with individual readings lights;  a flat screen TV set;   wardrobe; ensuite and breakfast bench. .

The cable TV worked perfectly – but the lack of a bar fridge, tea and coffee facilities and the showed without a curtain took a little adjustment.

We overcame the lack of a bar fridge by liberal use of free ice from the hotel’s ice machines. We purchased a humble kettle – and we never really became accustomed to the lack of a shower curtain.  However, the bathroom was a decent size and, although the floor could be  sodden after each shower, it wasn’t really a hassle.

Power points

This is increasingly becoming important, with phones, iPad, iPod and the like all requiring charging, as well as the usual requirements for electric razor; hair dryer etc.

Our Belnord hotel room had  numerous points – all in handy positions, so there was no problem charging devices.

Room service

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Room service was prompt each morning, but  was not intrusive.  If it was obvious that if you were still in the room, service staff would wait as long as possible and then eventually knock on the door to check when it would be suitable to enter. Like all Belnord staff, they were friendly and polite.

Towels and bathroom accessories.

These were soft and fluffy and were left daily, if you needed them.  It was a similar story with bathroom/shower accessories.

Food

Like many NYC hotels, the Belnord does not have a restaurant, but is located right in the middle of an ‘Eat Street’ section of Broadway.  Restaurants and coffee shops offering an array of meals are scattered throughout the area.

 

 

Would we stay again?

Yes, without hesitation.

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Our Age-Friendliness Rating

6/10:  Unfortunately, most of the wonderful old buildings in this part of the Upper West Side are set back and up from the street.  From our experience, there were about five steps from the footpath to the hotel doors. The steps didn’t worry us, but we not sure how a wheelchair would cope. Inside, the reception, lifts and corridors were level, roomy and easy to negotiate. The room doors were simple to use, the floors were level and the hotel’s central location offered easy, comfortable walks to the many restaurants, attractions and shops along Broadway and other streets. The Belnord is also particularly close to a metro station for easy transport throughout Manhattan and beyond. The hotel’s website is modern and was found it a simple task to book a room.

Age-Friendly US Hotel Ratings