An Artist’s Hotel Bar Tour In NYC: Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle

You probably know Ludwig Bemelmans as the creator of Madeline, a plucky children’s book heroine from Paris. What you may not have known is that the Carlyle Hotel, at Madison and 76th, is home to a bar named after the famed illustrator and author. According to the Carlyle, the hotel was New York’s luxury residence du-jour when Bemelmans was commissioned to paint large scale murals in the hotel bar in 1947. In a turn of total brilliance (if you ask me), Bemelmans bartered his mural work for a year and a half of accommodations for himself and his family. Simply awesome.

This classic New York haunt, Bemelmans Bar, was the second stop on our Day-After-Christmas Hotel Art Bar Tour (I posted about the St. Regis’ Old King Cole Bar Lounge on Tuesday). From the authentic prohibition era cocktail menu (I recommend the Gin-Gin Mule…gin, homemade ginger beer, fresh mint, and lime juice) to the leather banquettes, the cozy atmosphere evokes a feeling of nostalgia… almost as if you’re in old Manhattan. From the walls to the lampshades, almost every surface in the place are kissed with Bemelmans’ signature style. The murals depict Central Park, but Bemelmans-style. Rabbits out for a picnic, a balloon vendor, artists painting al fresco (and of course a special stateside appearance of Madeline)…the bustle of the park is perfectly captured, but with a whimsy and charm that only Bemelmans brush could imagine. Bemelmans is pretty upscale and that is reflected in the pricing, but again…for a special occasion it’s a great place to visit and definitely worth the stop.

Like Parrish’s Old King Cole, The Bemelmans Bar murals were also given a touch up in 2002. I look forward to returning to this swank grown-up scene, and as luck might have it I could return sooner than planned. This time with my own little girls in tow! Every weekend The Carlyle hosts Madeline’s Tea Party at Bemelmans Bar. With treats like Petite Banana Splits Fontainebleau, a storyteller spinning our favorites (Madeline’s Rescue and Madeline and The Gypsies, come to mind), as well as songs sung from the Madeline songbook…it shouldn’t take much to get them on board! Besides…who doesn’t love a day out in NYC. On my list for Future Art Bar Hotel Tours The Monkey Bar at the Hotel Elysée (complete with a 72 year old mural of simian monkeys (of course!), and a visit to Everett Shinn’s murals at The Plaza’s Oak Bar. So much art, so little time!

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