Bed Check: For this GEM, it’s all in the setting


GEM Hotel Midtown West - Exterior (Sonheim Photography/SONHEIM PHOTOGRAPHY/GEM HOTEL)

Apart from the name, there’s nothing flashy about the GEM Hotel Midtown West. The lobby’s compact and not designed to impress, unlike those of its more stylish sisters in Chelsea and SoHo. The elevator’s practically single occupancy.

What the address has going for it, however, is convenience. It’s a 10-minute walk from Penn Station and nearby drop-off points for several Washington-to-New York bus lines. And the direction of that walk is away from the neon jungle, toward the Hudson River, a body of water that plenty of out-of-towners never catch a glimpse of.

GEM is short for Gemini Hospitality, a four-year-old Manhattan-based hotel chain that’s proud of its commitment to supporting the gay and lesbian communities. (This was not especially apparent during my stay, but something I learned from the company Web site.)

Midtown West has 10 floors, with four rooms on each one. This might suggest generously sized quarters, but the compact feeling extended right into my single room, with a roller bag’s width of passage between the small desk and the foot of the comfy king-size bed.

But a short-term traveler’s needs are met. The accommodations are clean and spare: a bedside table with alarm clock, a lamp and (free) bottled water. Easily accessible WiFi. TV. Small safe. Coffeemaker. Iron and board. A window that opens (slightly). Artwork that is not distracting. A bathroom with just enough surface area to let you plop down a Dopp kit, plus commendable water pressure.

And, best of all, quiet. Behind closed doors, I couldn’t hear a thing, a.m. or p.m.

Hmm. Did you notice that food was left off that list of needs? In lieu of room service, the GEM has the menus of restaurants within a two-block radius and beyond — including the Skylight Diner, with 24/7 delivery service. (It is New York, after all.) You can place your order online and negotiate with the hotel front desk about letting the food come to your door.

The GEM also has no exercise room of its own. Guest privileges, for a fee, have been extended at a few nearby sports clubs. Instead, I recommend a brisk, three-block early-morning walk westward to the Hudson and then down to the delightful Chelsea Waterside Park. You can return to the GEM through parts of the Garment District that offer interesting window-shopping.

In doing so, you may come to understand what savvy collectors know: A nice setting can greatly enhance a modest jewel.

Bonnie S. Benwick has the job most envied among cocktail-party conversations. If they only knew ... Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes: washingtonpost.com/recipes.
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