In lovely New York
In lovely New York
by Sophie Dahl
I lived in New York between 1999 and 2007. For me it has always been a place lit with possibility. I had a second, (and magical) incarnation of a career in the city; I loved and lost there. My beloved grandmother, Patricia, lived for many years in an apartment that overlooked the East River, an apartment I shared with her for a few months, twenty- one and broke. I danced with my girlfriends in New York; I saw the sun rise as we clattered home on cobbled streets. I watched the sky fall down there on September the 11th 2001. I met the man who would become my husband there in the park, one spring day.
For nearly a decade, I lived there, thinking in that invincible way of the young, “ I will never live anywhere else.”
But, I did, and I do, and that is why I found myself on a plane a few weeks ago, with my two young children and husband in tow, flying to the place where the secrets of my twenties dwell.
I was a bit nervous about going, wondering whether I would feel like an outsider, wondering whether my kids would be freaked out by the sheer magnitude and noise of it, the biting wind from the Westside Highway, wondering whether any of would get any sleep AT ALL.
But the answer is – They loved it. We all did. They, and thus, we, barely slept, but it was ok, we managed. We rented an apartment, so had at our disposal, a fridge, a cooker, and a washing machine, which to my mind are integral if you are travelling with young children.
We were up at the time in my twenties I would have been going to bed, but we had the streets to ourselves and did a lot of coffee drinking, namely in Stumptown on 8th Street.
Bouyed by caffeine we’d head to the playground, mostly Washington Square Park, but there are a ton of playgrounds in New York, and downtown along with Washington Square Park, we loved The Bleeker Street playground, and further up, Madison Square Park, which has a great food market called Eataly opposite it; a little manic but worth it.
For peaceful walking, (and you can do blocks and blocks there, that isn’t peaceful) there’s the The HighLine – (entrances on: 30th & Tenth Ave. 23rd & Tenth Ave. 14th & Tenth Ave), a disused rail track that has become a beautiful, green space. It’s worth doing, purely because you can walk for a mile or two (or until your children complain), above New York in an unfettered way. Central Park Zoo has a similar freedom to it, you are surrounded by the huge park, with its ice skating rink and carousel but you can dip into a children’s zoo, or the bigger zoo as you explore.
Our walks took us to two museums we loved, The American Museum of Natural History – (Central Park West & 79th Street) because it’s got dinosaurs, and what’s not to love about dinosaurs? And the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, 145 Brooklyn Avenue, a brilliant interactive museum with a shed load to do. Prior to this we walked around Brooklyn Heights and ate really good pizza.
The grownup stuff – I went to my favourite pharmacy, C.O Bigelow and bought a king’s ransom of scented candles and their own brand lemon body cream. Visited The Marlton Hotel, where Jack Kerouac and Edna St Vincent Millay wrote, and we ate eggs, and I had a lone pedicure, at Jin Soon, 23 Jones Street, a now transcendental experience for a woman who used to be very casual about them.
Going to New York with my family was full circle. I felt like I was bringing them home to meet an ancient, long- lost relative, swamped in big fish tales. I hold New York in my heart, with its pretzels and ghosts and songs, lit up like Christmas.
Sophie and her family flew to New York with the utterly child friendly Virgin Atlantic.