View of Midtown Manhattan from the Lotte New York Palace.

Lotte New York Palace | Luxury Hotel Review

Palace New York Hotel

Formerly the Helmsley Palace and then the New York Palace, today the Lotte New York Palace, in my opinion, has neglected attention to detail, unlike the previous owners.

Lotte New York Palace Address

The Lotte New York Palace is located at 455 Madison Avenue at 50th Street, New York, NY 10022. Customers can choose between booking rooms or suites in the Palace or Towers.

When we had stayed in the New York Palace and the Helmsley Palace, the hotel lobby and rooms gleamed, and you could usually depend on excellent service.

However, last year at the Lotte New York Palace, I was disappointed when I presented my room confirmation and tried to check-in. The front desk receptionist informed us that she would return, and she exited through a door and closed it. She had left us for about ten minutes.

King Bed Corner Cathedral View Room

Lotte New York Palace Corner Cathedral View Room overlooks St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Though I had booked a corner room for the holiday season two months in advance, the receptionist returned and informed us that the corner room was unavailable because it had water damage. She said that they had another place for us.

When we asked to see the damage, she exited again. She returned and told us that we had to take the room that they offered, though it lacked the view of the one that we had booked.

Although we were disappointed, the management had sent a gift basket to our new room, and we appreciated the gesture.

Lotte New York Palace Towers

Corner Towers suite at the Lotte Hotel

A Towers suite at the Lotte New York Palace offers a Manhattan skyline view.

The next morning, one of the employees admitted that someone had reserved the entire floor that included our confirmed room. They offered to upgrade us to a Towers suite. We felt that they went out of their way to compensate us, and we loved the suite’s extra space.

The Lotte Palace offers upscale amenities.

Lotte Palace offers Morton Brown personal care items.

In December 2017, we revisited the Lotte New York Palace. When I entered our room’s bathroom, I noticed that it smelled sour. I called housekeeping, and when we left for dinner, they freshened it.

View of Manhattan New York from the Palace New York hotel

Corner Cathedral View Room with one king bed overlooks St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Manhattan.

Another disappointment was that while most luxury and non-luxury hotels provide two pillows per guest, housekeeping had supplied only one along with a decorative pillow. My husband and I felt that it made sleeping a little uncomfortable, but we didn’t bother to request more.

Though we have had some issues with this hotel, we still love the Lotte New York Palace because the location is within walking distance of Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale’s, and the iconic St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

In addition, over the years we have noticed staff members from the previous hotels still working for the Lotte Palace. One employee that we know has been working for the Palace for over thirty years. We think that makes a statement about mutual loyalty.

The Christmas tree at the Lotte Palace is decorated with white lights and red and gold ornaments.

Lotte Palace is decorated for Christmas and the holidays.

Lotte New York Palace Christmas and Holiday Season

People flock to see the Palace decked out in holiday décor. Lighted garland with red ribbons and gold balls frame entranceways and wrap railings. Red and gold lighted Christmas trees are displayed throughout and live classical music drifts through the lobby.

If you are in Manhattan during Christmas or the holiday season, the Lotte is a must-see.Ã

Two Traveling Texans
Rolf's German Restaurant is in Gramercy.

Rolf’s German Restaurant

Rolf’s Restaurant Address

Three of us stood in line to get in Rolf’s German Restaurant at 281 Third Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010, in the Gramercy Park area of Manhattan. Rolf’s is renowned for their Christmas decorations and “October Fest” spectacle.

Rolf’s New York City Christmas

About 100,000 lights are twisted around garland and poles. Thousands of ornaments and icicles hang from the ceiling and walls mixed with Santas, sleighs, angels, and hundreds of dolls.  Its screaming decor creates an ambiance that makes it one of the best Christmas restaurants in New York City.

When Does Rolf’s Decorate for Christmas

Rolf’s Christmas decorations are up from September to the end of May.

Rolf’s New York Reservations

Rolf’s is open every day from 12 p.m. until 10 p.m., and they accept reservations.

Our Experience with Rolf’s German Restaurant

We went to have a drink with our friends who were eating lunch inside. About 20+ people stood in line ahead of us. While we waited, it appeared that more people exited the restaurant than entered.

A man, who was waiting in line, approached the front door and announced that no one seemed to be manning the door and seating people.

Our friends inside noted to the host that a table next to them, that could seat six, was vacant. The host responded that the table was reserved. Ironically, our friends had partied for over 2 ½ hours while the table remained empty.

After 20 minutes in line, we decided to leave. Before we left, I ducked in and snapped a photo. I may be mistaken, but I wonder if Rolf’s German Restaurant keeps a line outside for appearances.

Don't miss the hot chocolate at Squish Marshmallows.

Union Square Holiday Market

Manhattan New York

Urbanspace

Union Square Holiday Market

Union Square Holiday Market is an Urbanspace project in Manhattan New York. Vendors sell holiday merchandise including Christmas ornaments, accessories, art, specialty food, and more. Stalls line the stone mortared paths at this world-renowned Christmas market that runs from November 16 to December 24.

Manhattan New York

Manhattan’s Union Square Holiday Market is the perfect place to shop for boutique items during the holidays.

Union Square Holiday Market is a New York Christmas market.

Union Square Holiday Market in Manhattan is an Urbanspace project.

Holiday and Christmas Shopping

Colorful Christmas trees and sculptures are scattered throughout the Union Square Holiday Market.

My daughter and I tried on wool hats and scarves, smelled sprigs of lavender and perfume, handled jewelry and Christmas ornaments, and laughed at the pet outfits on display. Though we bought a few gifts, the vendor that we liked best was Squish Marshmallow, and it wasn’t because of their marshmallows.

Christmas Market un Manhattan

Shoppers choose from a large selection of merchandise during the holidays.

Manhattan New York

This Union Square Holiday Market vendor displays colorful, unique wool hats.

Manhattan New York

Union Square Holiday Market in Manhattan is world renowned.

Christmas Market

German Delights features hot apple cider and German specialties.

 Squish Marshmallow

Squish Marshmallow sells hand torched marshmallows that are tan on the outside and warm and gooey inside. Flavors include gingerbread, jelly donut, peppermint bark, chocolate dipped and more. We tried the chocolate dipped donut flavor that crunched, and the taste reminded us of s’mores. We enjoyed them and liked the unique concept.

But what we loved best was their hot chocolate because it tasted authentic.  It consisted of cream infused with Dutch cocoa and chocolate blended with vanilla and a touch of sugar. The decadent dark drink was bursting with cocoa.

We split one, and it tasted delicious. We passed it back and forth several times, and it lasted only a few minutes. Our gluttony made me forget to photograph the drink. However, you can find Squish Marshmallow in Manhattan’s East Village.

Union Square Holiday Market

Visiting Union Square Holiday Market is an excellent opportunity to find something for everyone. If you didn’t make it this year, put it on your must-see list for 2018.

 

The Freedom Freedom Tower at One World Trade Center rises in the background.

Warning: ​Citi Bike Overage Fees

Citi Bike App

These are the facts, and you be the judge. My daughter, J, and I rented Citi Bikes in New York on Governors Island, a ten-minute ferry ride from Manhattan. I downloaded the Citi Bike app on my iPhone and paid twelve dollars for the day pass which is good for 24 hours. I received a code to unlock the bike.

We explored the island and returned the bikes. J docked her bike. She snapped it in the rack, and the light blinked green indicating that she locked it properly. She helped me dock mine. It clicked in, and we both saw the green light flash.

Citi Bike Customer Service

We boarded the ferry and headed back to Manhattan. At 5:20, after the last ferry had left from Manhattan to Governors Island for the day, I received an email from Citi Bike that read that my bike hadn’t been seen for three hours. I called the number, and the agent stated that they knew that the bike was at the docking station and that I had tried to secure it but it wasn’t done properly. He also said that they were charging me additional fees until it was latched. I had the option to jump in a cab and take the ferry to Governors Island that had stopped running for the day or swim over and re-dock the bike.

I said, “I already regret that I rented the bike, I’m not taking a ferry back, and I have a train tomorrow morning. What do you want me to do?”

He said that my best bet was that someone would rent the bike tomorrow, and the charges would stop.

I sent an email to customer service about my bad experience with Citi Bike, and I wrote that I felt that we had fastened the bike correctly and I didn’t understand why I had to pay more. I also wrote that I am a blogger and I had planned to write a good review.

Citi Bike Cost

I received an email the next day that congratulated me for docking the bike correctly and that they would remove the $100 penalty. A Citi Bike agent explained that it is not a bike rental but a bike share.

Citi Bike Usage Fees for a Day Pass or 3-Day Pass

According to Citi Bike, “The first 30 minutes of each ride are included in the pass price. If you keep a bike out for longer than 30 minutes at a time, it’s an extra $4 for each additional 15 minutes.

To avoid additional usage fees, keep your rides to 30 minutes each. Take as many rides as you want while your pass is active!”

In other words, you have to dock the bike for two minutes for each 30 minute-ride to avoid a $4 fee.

Citi Bike Annual Membership

An annual membership is $14.95 per month or $163 per year. The first 45 minutes are included, but you are charged an additional $2.50 for each 15 additional minutes unless you dock the bike between rides.

Citi Bike Complaints

A Citi Bike agent admitted that they have received complaints about these fees. However, they have your credit card on file and can deduct the penalties.

I wonder how many customers Citi Bike has hammered with overcharges. Do you think that the average person would know that the bike is subject to these fines? What are your thoughts?

 

Canal Street and Mulberry Streets in Chinatown

Canal Street Counterfeits and Criminals

Woman on Canal Street in Chinatown in Manhattan.

Are her boots counterfeit or authentic? (Photo by JL)

Canal Street in Chinatown in Manhattan

Canal Street in Chinatown in Manhattan, N.Y. is where vendors sell couterfeit merchandise. (Photo by JL)

 

Child Labor

I was naïve the first time that I had shopped on Canal Street in Manhattan. I wasn’t aware that children, sometimes chained, made counterfeit purses in China and were paid a pittance. I also didn’t know that I would mingle with purse thieves, pickpockets, con men, con women, gang members, human traffickers, and counterfeiters wanted by Homeland Security.

Canal Street whirled with activity the day my daughter and I shopped for a faux-designer purse for her. Shoppers ducked in and out of stores haggling over prices for counterfeit designer merchandise: watches, bags, sunglasses, perfume, electronic equipment, jewelry, clothing and more. Everyone wanted a deal.

Two women stood in front of a merchandise-packed store and whispered to us, “Gucci, Gucci, Prada?” Why were they whispering? Were the police around?

My daughter said, “Coach.”

The women whisked us through the store between shabby curtains and down dirty basement steps. Gucci, Prada, Coach, Hermes, Channel, Louis Vuitton were a sampling of their counterfeit wares that loaded the room. Many of these bags sold on Canal Street for under $100, but if the bags were genuine, they would retail in the hundreds and some in the thousands. Luckily, my daughter couldn’t find what she wanted, and we left.

As we headed down the street, another vendor hustled us. I heard, “Channel? Loui Vuitton?”

My daughter said “Coach.”

 The woman said, “Follow me.”

She walked ahead of us for several blocks while talking on a walkie-talkie and approached a man and told us to follow him. We walked a few blocks, and he handed us off to another man. We followed him for several blocks, and he turned down an alley. I was concerned that they didn’t want us to recognize them, but now I was worried. I tried to get my daughter’s attention who was right on the man’s heels and didn’t seem to think twice about following him down an alley.

He approached a blue van, opened the hatch, and before I knew it, my daughter had climbed in the back. I imagined someone slamming the door, and the van taking off. I believe that I would’ve been too stunned to get the tag number.

Suppose they trafficked her?

“Get out of there now!” I said.

She reluctantly left the van. A man who had watched this scene approached and said that he was worried when he saw my daughter enter the truck because he knew that the police were surveilling the street for gangs who controlled the counterfeit, drug and human trafficking markets.

 How does counterfeiting work?

 Alice Hines in the Village Voice wrote about a 2012 case when a group of criminals purchased legitimate designer goods and shipped them to China. Months later,  counterfeit designer boots, purses, and coats arrived in the U.S.

Mills in China manufacture bags for less than $2 each and they sell them to distributors for $10 – $30. They ship them to the U.S. hidden among other merchandise, or they mislabel them. Street vendors sell them for $50 – $100 per item. Most vendors are impoverished, and some are homeless. They sell their wares on the streets from trash bags, suitcases, cars or vans, or from stores or warehouses. The higher-tier criminals can make millions.

Why Don’t They Arrest Them?

If caught, street vendors are arrested and fined, though they could get a year in prison, they often return to the streets. The maximum jail term is four years for counterfeit possession valued at $1,000 or more, and 15 years for $100,000. Also, it is not illegal for the customers to buy fakes.

Buyer Beware

Fake designer perfume seems to be the riskiest item for consumers because bottles may contain chemicals like antifreeze. In spring 2016, Homeland Security confiscated a shipment headed to retailers and online sites.

The best bet is to buy your merchandise from a reputable dealer or do without. That’s my plan.

Below are the links that I used for my article:

https://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/26/city-raids-counterfeit-triangle-shutting-32-storefronts/?_r=0

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/21/nyregion/counterfeiting-trade-settles-into-a-new-york-standby-self-storage-units.html

http://www.villagevoice.com/news/knockoff-another-day-at-the-office-on-canal-street-with-counterfeit-vendors-8626379

http://abc7ny.com/news/counterfeit-purfume-seized-in-raid;-could-contain-urine-antifreeze/1355189

http://www.nytimes.com/1989/03/04/nyregion/a-new-gang-s-violent-role-in-chinatown.html

http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/452164-shift-in-approach-to-counterfeits-shown-in-new-un-campaign/

http://nypost.com/2013/04/07/tourists-beware-councilwoman-wants-to-make-it-a-crime-to-buy-knockoff-handbags/

http://www.nychinatown.org/articles/3cardmonte.html

http://www.allny.com/shopping-articles/canal-street-deals-new-york.html

Two Traveling Texans