Putting on The Ritz

When I was a child, I read a book about a little girl who leaves home only to return moments later with a suitcase and a grownup identity to match her grownup clothes. She then proceeds to become a guest in her own home, hosted by her amused — and, as it turns out, wise — mother.

I always loved that story and would, from time to time, conduct staycations in my own home in that spirit. But I also harbored a secret fantasy of checking into a hotel in my hometown. So when I had an opportunity to stay overnight at The Ritz-Carlton New York, Westchester in White Plains — in preparation for a piece about the hotel’s enhanced wedding offerings — I realized it was a chance to live out a dream that began in the pages of a children’s book.

I arrived at the hotel precisely at 5 p.m. on June 24 with enough luggage to qualify for the starring role in a bus-and-truck company production of E.M Forster’s “A Passage to India.”

There was emotional baggage besides. It was the first day of Brexit — the British exit from the European Union — putting a big, fat exclamation point on a week of challenges. I needed to exhale — fast.

Fortunately, I was greeted by General Manager Jeff Dziak, who said he was able to upgrade me to one of the hotel’s 38 suites — setting the tone for a weekend of great service. Things were looking up already.

“Where are you coming in from?” a bellman asked.

“The other side of White Plains,” I said with a laugh, explaining the purpose of my visit.

“Well, enjoy your White Plains fantasy,” he said.

“I will and I think I’m going to call my story that.”

He liked that idea and I liked my suite, with its bowl of flowers, cake pops and gracious welcoming note from Maureen Stella, director of sales and marketing, in the living room. Inside was a bedroom with a sitting/desk area and an invitingly crisp-white, king-size bed that flowed into a spacious bath with the deepest tub I had ever seen.

I could live here, I thought.

“It’s just like being Julia Roberts in ‘Pretty Woman,’ but, you know, without Richard Gere,” I told my cheery waitress at dinner in the lobby lounge.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, I felt I had to earn that dinner. So I threw on a pair of shorts and a tank top and headed up to the fitness center, which was immaculate and comfortable, with every kind of Life Fitness equipment imaginable. Being clumsy and unmechanical, I opted for 20 minutes on a rather straightforward bike before hitting the five-pound free weights and finishing up with ab work on a mat as two senior citizens pedaled away on recumbent bikes. Outside, a steady stream of couples and families made their way to the adjacent indoor rooftop pool, which I checked out next.

Even if you don’t swim, I thought, this would be a good place to catch up on some conversation or magazines while lounging about in deck chairs overlooking the cityscape. But I had no time for that. The tub in my suite was calling me and, anyway, I planned to dress for my 6:30 dinner engagement with myself.

I arrived a fashionable five minutes late and seated myself at a table with my journal, in which I would furiously scribble about Brexit, revising my thoughts later on my laptop for my blog. The resourceful waitress struck the right balance between attentiveness and the space a writer requires. She steered me toward the peach gazpacho, served in a Mason jar (I could’ve had two or three it was so delish) and a red snapper entrée, whose crispy skin perfectly offset the meaty white filet.

I saved a mini jalapeño corn muffin from the breadbasket to relish with a pot of decaf for dessert. Is there anything better, I wondered, than to write with a soupçon of something sweet for sustenance and the whole evening stretching out before you?

“When you love what you do, you’re never at work,” the waitress said. True that. I would’ve been delighted to sit there all evening, but my blog entry and mani-pedi weren’t going to do themselves.

Back in my suite, I refined my blog post while channel-surfing, then indulged in what I like to call “A Night of Beauty” before succumbing to the luxuriant lure of that king-size bed.

I didn’t need the 7:30 a.m. wakeup call. I was already up, anticipating my favorite Saturday morning ritual — a big breakfast and the newspaper — before my 10 a.m. massage in the spa. There I was greeted warmly by Cecile Chapaveyre — the lead of salon services, whom I wrote about in the March 2014 WAG — before I placed myself in the skilled, sympathetic hands of a massage therapist. I opted for a relaxation massage with a lavender-scented body cream and hot stones. This turned out to be an intense experience, not unpleasantly so, in part because I have so much tension in my neck, shoulders and back from sitting at a computer but also because I found myself straining, as if I had to make an effort there. It was only when I gave myself over to the experience — using the yogic concept of acknowledging passing thoughts and allowing them to float away — that I became one with the experience.

All too soon it and my staycation were over. Time to return to my everyday cares. At the end of that book I read as a child, the little girl went back to being her mother’s daughter — as her mother knew she would. One of the best things about being away, if only for a night, is that it allows you to see your life from a distance, with perspective — even if that distance is but a few miles.

My mind drifted back to my heavenly breakfast:  As I unraveled both The Wall Street Journal and a sticky cinnamon bun, I came across an article about the newly renovated Ritz in Paris. I looked around. White Plains may not be Paris. But at the moment, reading the paper and eating that bun, I was happy.

For more, visit ritzcarlton.com.

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