Adventure Hoteling at the Chelsea Hotel

Posted by Ash K on Tuesday, March 15, 2011 1

Some accommodations cost more than they are worth. Some accommodations are worth less than any price given. The world renowned Chelsea Hotel in New York City is a national historic landmark, but it is one of those places some people think of as worse than The Bates Motel.

A quick perusal of reviews about the Chelsea range from disgusting to fabulous, and you will note that there appears to be little middle ground. 1 star and 5 stars are more common than anything in between.

Only one phenomenon I can think of can explain this: there must be people for whom adventure is more important than luxury. These are the people who would rent a room at The Bates Motel. I know these people exist, because I am one of them. Our passion for the eclectic and unique may redefine Cheap City Breaks.

During my most recent stay in New York I decided to do some adventure hoteling myself. I was asked to come down to New York City to join the Welsh Society's Saint David's Day event honoring Catherine Zeta-Jones. (Of course, everyone has been asking me if she is as pretty in person as on screen. This is my un-doctored amateur photograph. You can judge for yourself.

I have not been enthusiastic in my past visits to New York City, so I decided I would do something unique. Wales' most famous poet in the 20th century, Dylan Thomas, was found unconscious in room 205 of the Chelsea Hotel and died two days later of supposed alcohol poisoning. The young musician Bob Zimmerman stayed in that same room some years later, and changed his last name to Dylan. Nancy, the girlfriend of Sid Vicious from the Sex Pistols was found murdered in room 100, and the list of stories and famous musicians and writers who have lived in the Chelsea goes on. My reason for wanting to stay at the Chelsea was based on the history of Dylan Thomas. The price was about one third lower than other options I was given by friends.

The Chelsea is still a live-in residence through 3/4 of the hotel, and the residents have a blog describing the Chelsea as "The Last Outpost of Bohemia", but 100 rooms are set aside for rental to travelers. I checked into the Chelsea Hotel earlier than the 3pm check-in time, and it was not a problem. The lobby was small, but fun and filled with eclectic art and friendly people. To my wonderful surprise I was given room 206, just across the hall from the famous Dylan Thomas room.

People were friendly. Every floor was like a modern art gallery with paintings, photography, and collages on the walls. The room came with a shared bath down the hall. It was a clean, but very old room in want of renovation. There was no hot water in that afternoon, but the water was nice and hot the next morning.

I would stay there again, but that is because I am of the class of people who stay at The Bates Motel, because it is The Bates Motel. The Hotel Chelsea is an adventure in history.

Last year I climbed Cadair Idris and slept on the famous Welsh mountain, because the legend says that in doing so one will either become a poet or a madman. In further hopes of gaining the inspiration of the great bards I spent the night at the Chelsea, and slept with the ghost of Dylan Thomas.

Okay, Dylan didn't really visit me during the night, and I didn't see any apparitions, but having stayed there has brought inspiration in itself. Perhaps a bard is nothing more than a person who finds the adventure in common things, and learns how to pass it on to others in written or spoken word. Today the words above the door of room 205 read "Bring Back the Bards!" Of course, it is probably a reference to the the previous proprietor Stanley Bard who is talking about purchasing the whole of the hotel back from the shareholders, but the double entendre is not lost. The Chelsea may not be luxury, but it just may inspire the bard deep inside you.

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1 comment:

  1. The Kokoda Track is an important part of Australian history. It has left its mark on the Australian people and is rightly now, within the last decade or so, being recognised. Peter Brune's book 'A Bastard of a Place' is the recognised authoritive book on the Australians in Papua. It is a very fine read and this movie does a good job at portraying this important period of Australian history.



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