From budget hostels to luxury hotels in New York

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    New York – The range of accommodations and packages in New York this summer is astounding. From the glitz of the 1-year-old Ritz Carlton with mesmerizing views of Central Park to the bare bones but hip shared accommodations at the Manhattan Youth Castle, there is a hotel for every taste and budget.

    I managed to spend a perfect day at La Prairie at the Ritz Carlton Spa, located on the second floor of the 33-story (237 guestrooms and 40 suites) Ritz Carlton Hotel. What started out as an Executive Stress break 60-minute massage ($150) turned into a daylong spa journey.

    It started with an elevator ride from my guestroom on the ninth floor, a matter of seconds from my posh golden guestroom to paradise. The odyssey started as I relaxed on a divan, posh enough to please any spa princess. Then, on cue, a spa attendant presents an album of spa-inspired music. This was the first time I had ever been given a choice of music. While waiting for the treatment, the attendant serves tea, on elegant china. Ritz guests can upgrade their accommodations to the Ritz Carlton Club Lounge, which is adjacent the spa, where fresh flowers and six complimentary cuisine presentations are a daily event. After browsing through a varietyof spa-related books in the lounge, I returned to what I called the “Golden Suite ” for a few hours of post spa therapy-read: plush bathrobes in waffle and terrycloth, Frette linens, custom designed brocade draperies, a display of seven bed pillows, flat screen televisions, feather beds, high-speed Internet access on request and a customized bath prepared on request. The Old Fashioned Rose Bath ($75) with rose petals, and champagne with the tartness of fresh strawberries aprs bath, is a Ritz-Carlton exclusive. It is amazing how quiet guestrooms are; it’s almost as if you are on a deserted island.

    Le Parker Meridien (750 rooms) presents another distinctive New York experience; the location next to Carnegie Hall makes it easy to find. Norma’s, the hotel’s legendary restaurant (voted “Simply the best breakfast in New York ” by the Zagat Survey) and Seppi’s (where New York charm meets the Seine) are presided over by Chef Alaine Solliard. The best-kept secret in the Big Apple is the hotel’s signature burger that has it all, from tomatoes to onions. There’s more to discover at this innovative hotel where Steven Pipes, the general manager, puts his spin on hotel style. This hotel, he says, is “uptown, not uptight.” Making good on this promise, Meridien’s Gravity Fitness Spa (see the 15,000 square-foot award winning Cardio Theatre) has spa treatments as well, all managed by Jeremy Brutus.

    The ultimate value in New York, with a Lexington address, is the Manhattan Youth Castle operated by Roland Solenthaler, who I met when he was with the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. This 42-bed youth hostel is a far cry from a luxury property, but it sports a few touches from an experienced hotelier with a wry sense of humor. The building was once a dry cleaner and messages for guests hang from a conveyer belt decorated with miniature flags from around the world. Solenthaler offers shared accommodations for $12.91 per person (dorm style, shared showers) with more lavish options at Manhattan NYC Bed & Breakfast minutes from Central Park and Times Square. I spent five days in one of his popular Broadway Suites last year (double bed, pull out couch, full kitchen cable TV, phone with free local calls) for $950. The location was adjacent to one of New York’s most popular soup kitchens (the inspiration for the Soup Nazi on “Seinfeld,” the TV show) where $7 bought us a fabulous cardboard container filled with crab and corn chowder, a big red apple, slices of bread and butter, enough for two.

    Not much to report from spending two nights at The Modern (243 W.55th St., 212.397.6767), where incoming calls went unanswered the night we spent there, and loose change we left was taken. We prefer, for a smaller hotel, one of the hotels from the Boutique Hotel Group, with rates starting at $99 at their new Hotel 41 in Times Square. (212.624.5710.)

    I was mesmerized by “Goddess,” an exhibit that runs until Aug. 3 at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts Costume Institute. Mingling fragments of ancient Greek statuary with 20th century fashions is a fashion journey. Called the “unbroken line of classical influence” by Philippe de Montebello, the Met’s director, Grecian and Roman fashion has had a lasting impact on designers from Oleg Cassini, Gucci, Yves St. Laurent (Tom Ford, designer) to Versace, Valentino, Holly Harp, Halston, Alexander McQueen and Issey Miyake. The story is reflected in the rippling, flowing fashions, all softly lit, on view behind glass. Isadora Duncan would have loved the show.

    Get a copy of “What’s New In NYC” to get the latest on NYC, from the Tenement Museum on Orchard Street to the Crystal District on Madison Avenue (Baccarat, Daum, Steubem and Swarovski are showcased). All in all, New York is a dazzling experience this summer.

    Pamela Price is the co-author of “100 Best Spas of the World” published by The Globe Pequot Press and co-host of the Spa Show on KGAM 1450 in Palm Springs, Calif. Contact her at radiotrav2002@aol.com