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Outside The Mark (The Mark)

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I really wanted to dislike The Mark. As a loud-mouthed Australian native, I don't consider myself a natural fit on the Upper East Side. Moreover, I'd heard reports about the hotel's exclusive (read: snooty) atmosphere. But after checking in for a stay on Halloween weekend, I must admit: The Mark is an incredible place to set up camp for a few nights.

Two things stood out during my stay. The first was the number of quirky touches throughout the hotel—they're additions that give the place a distinctive personality, like the televisions in the bathrooms (see below) and the incongruous shoe-shine kiosk on the second floor. The other defining feature was the A-grade people-watching. The hotel attracts an interesting blend of old and new money, with a significant European presence as well as plenty of classic UES characters. You could spend the entire weekend on the premises, lounging in the bar or dining in the sprawling restaurant, and not get bored.

Here are five more reasons to consider The Mark if you feel like splurging on an NYC staycation:

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The tarts! (The Mark)

1. The hotel has a strong French feel, thanks to a 2009 redesign by Jacques Grange (Karl Lagerfeld's interior designer) and a Euro-style menu in the restaurant. But perhaps the sweetest French touch is the plate of just-baked fruit tarts that awaits you upon check-in. Mine were piled with strawberries and blueberries and dusted with icing sugar. It should be noted that the tarts are not standard freebies—you need to be a regular visitor (or ask very nicely when you book) to score some. If you fail, you'll still get a sugar fix at turndown: every room gets free French macaroons in the evening.

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A luxurious bathroom (The Mark)

2. The rooms have all the usual five-star amenities, but things get really interesting in the bathrooms, which, by the way, are almost as big as the bedrooms. There is a television in the mirror, and it faces the bathtub, meaning you can soak away your stresses while catching up on the news or watching Taylor Swift's latest clip. Decadent, to say the least.

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Snacks galore (The Mark)

3. Unlike many luxe hotels, The Mark has plenty of cool features in even its most "basic" rooms (for example, even the smallest bathrooms have separate showers and tubs). I particularly appreciated the freezer hidden in a large drawer next to the sodas—it came packed with ice cubes for the minibar and allowed me to smuggle in Ben & Jerry's (to eat while I watched TV in the bath, of course).

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The gym (The Mark)

4. Weirdly, The Mark's fitness center specializes not in aerobic exercise or yoga, but in martial arts. Guests can avail themselves of personal training by kickboxing experts or take part in brutal jiu-jitsu sessions. Of course, if you prefer to sweat in more conventional ways, there's all the usual equipment, too. Massage specialists are on hand if things get too strenuous.

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Decadent desserts at The Mark Restaurant (The Mark)

5. The restaurant, helmed by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, is a destination in itself. On Friday and Saturday nights, the place fills up with wealthy Upper East Side families and a sprinkling of famous faces, like Tyra Banks and Mick Jagger. But I didn't feel intimidated by the scene—the vibe is casual, and those seated at the tables around me seemed to have let their guards down. If you keep your ears open, you'll catch some great conversation. And don't miss the French desserts.

Dan Stapleton is a writer and editor currently based in Sydney, Australia. His work has appeared in The Guardian, The Australian, Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, and others. He can be contacted via
email.