The best thing about Manhattan is the way it looks from Brooklyn.
Sure, the city's got plenty of other draws, but the view is its initial charm: It's postcard-perfect, a reminder of what New York looked like before you knew it in earnest. Or at least, that's always been my take on the matter. So it should come as no surprise that my preferred form of local tourism revolves around a Brooklyn rooftop with a view. And there are few finer vantage points than the rooftop of The William Vale hotel — which makes it the ideal spot for a staycation.
Shorter than a vacation and by definition closer to home, a staycation is one of the safest ways to satisfy the desire to get away — or more specifically, to spend time anywhere other than your own apartment — after all these months of being cooped up. A recent visit to The William Vale revitalized my mood so much I hardly recognized the robed, relaxed girl in the mirror (although that could've been the complimentary face mask).
Perched 22 stories above Williamsburg, everything about the 183-room luxury hotel is elevated — have I mentioned the rooftop ice rink? The only view that can rival it is back in the room, a minimalist, modern space with geometric accents. Sure, the walls are decorated with eye-catching custom art from local Brooklyn artists, and each room features floor-to-ceiling windows and private balconies that leave little to be desired, but the true draw is the jacuzzi-sized bathtub (and the heavenly Le Labo bath products that go along with it). Framing a sprawling view of Brooklyn and the East River, with the silvery-grey-blue of Manhattan's skyline jutting out behind it, it's the optimal place to soak in the moment, ideally with a glass of wine in hand.
There's wine stocked in the mini-bar, but you'll have to call down for that glass thanks to enhanced COVID-19 safety precautions. To encourage proper distancing and minimize interactions between guests and staff, turndown service is available only upon request during your stay, as are the full array of goodies you look forward to when staying somewhere luxe: fresh robes, slippers, towels, and fancy bath products. All deliveries are prompt and contact-free.
The William Vale's pandemic precautions begin upon arrival, where disposable masks and hand sanitizer are available at the front desk. I felt more at ease knowing that high-touch areas are frequently disinfected, face masks are required in public spaces, and they've upgraded their air-conditioning filters throughout the building.
With Valentine's Day rapidly approaching, the hotel is offering a bouquet of romantic offerings in addition to their usual range of amenities, from rose-petal-and-tea-light strewn beds to pleasure packages from nearby adult store Shag. If you're looking to splurge on the ultimate luxury, the two-story Vale Garden Residence is a jaw-dropping penthouse suite, home to an open-air hot tub that's sure to keep any romantic celebration extra steamy.
The Gotham Corner Suite I stayed in is a more affordable luxury, complete with a plush king bed, its own living room, the deep soaking tub of my dreams, and the pièce-de-résistance: a 380-square-foot wraparound balcony, where you, too, can take elaborately-staged self-timed photos in a bathrobe.
Once you've snapped a suitable number of pictures (if there is such a thing), head to the rooftop for the ultimate Instagram-worthy photo opp: the ice skating rink. The synthetic rink doesn't require water or electricity to operate, making it more sustainable, but unfortunately less of a smooth skating experience. It's more of a hobble-and-hold-the-handrails sort of thing. Vale Rink may not be the best place to practice your triple axel — or much skating at all, for that matter — but it's a novelty worth checking out while you're there, particularly to catch the sunset.
While you may not work up much of a sweat skating, it's easy to make up for it at the Winter Spa, where a friendly attendant tucks you into a heated infrared blanket in a converted guest suite and leaves you to sweat out all the toxins (in my case, wine) that your body's been holding onto. "It's cardio," she informed me. Lying down to watch "The Parent Trap" on the smart TV, it quickly became my new favorite workout. Whether you opt for streaming your favorite show or zoning out to music, you'll emerge from the 55-minute session — which supposedly helps improve sleep, skin, and stress levels — flushed, drenched in sweat, and ready to retreat to a bubble bath back in your room.
Back on the rooftop for dinner that evening, I felt giddy with the pleasure of being elsewhere (that, or it was the lingering effects of the infrared treatment). Surrounding the rink is the Winter Village, a seasonal pop-up of charming chalets where you can indulge in après-ski (or more accurately, après-skating) vibes with a glass of Champagne and a pot of Swiss-style fondue while still gazing out at the city. The private enclosures are warm and cozy, decorated with flokati-style pillows and throws and reminiscent of a European Christmas market from the outside. The full menu of large and light bites and cocktails from trendy Westlight — overseen by James Beard award-winning chef Andrew Carmellini – is available to order as well.
In my post-fondue food coma, I popped down to Westlight's spacious heated enclosure on the 22nd floor, where the martinis are not to be missed. As a firm believer that cheese should always be followed by more cheese, I opted for the burrata with orange jam, and was delighted that they didn't skimp on the accompanying triangles of perfectly-toasted sourdough bread. Another favorite: duck carnitas tacos.
Under few circumstances would I be thrilled to be jolted awake by the sunrise after a double-martini kind of evening, but on this particular morning, having forgotten to close the blackout shades, I woke up to the miracle of Manhattan outside my window. Slipping into the skyline-facing tub as the clouds streaked pink and orange was perhaps the best hangover cure I could've asked for.
For more information about The William Vale's winter activations, COVID-19 protocols, or to book a stay, visit thewilliamvale.com.
Sophie Dodd is a Brooklyn-based writer with an affinity for dirty martinis and bathtubs with a view. You can follow along as she seeks out both on her Instagram, @sickofsuburbia.
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