We have been around. Just a little further. “How about New York,” the husband says one day. A little mulling over and then that was it. Little B was going on a very long flight. What could we do that was different from then? The memories of a certain time will be written over and the layers will make our New York new again. And so, first the scent of a different air; the grit, the towers – we peer through the taxi window trying to make past memories come alive but that’s a haze as we look through tourist eyes afresh at the fountains, the food trucks – we’re being driven down Avenue of the Americas – the business people in their suits, in their winter clothing like a uniform, the brick walls, the stone walls that clamour upwards to frame azure skies, the piercing sound of sirens (a new sound, Becky gets frightened, shocked, comes running towards us each time and then after it becomes a familiar sound, comes for hugs anyway but smiles as if in cahoots).
We arrive at our hotel. It’s green, it smells green and the happy, shiny people check us in. 1 Hotel Central Park – that spot of green that is Central Park at the end of the Avenue is such a lovely sight – is perfect. We drink triple-filtered water from the taps and sleep on hemp-blend mattresses (it sounds very new-agey but it’s very good for us who down gallons and the sleep is fine and luxe). Through the bay windows we glimpse down between the towering mountain walls of mortar and glass, at the minuscule cars. Like toys they line up in rows – there are many yellows – and people are walking up and down the sidewalk scatter scatter like little ants. The scent of cedar wood in the room is like an antidote to the long flight. The visuals of timber ceilings is rustic – a change from white bare ceilings, enhancing the feeling of being away. Your eyes just want to run along the lines of the wood grains. The patterns of nature are a beautiful canvas for night.
A little 17-month-old runs around, peering in and out and through doors, chubby fingers feeling the bed sheets, the sheer curtains, the carpet, the wood elements. We are exhausted and after doing the one-hundred-and-one things you need to do to prepare a baby for bed, we are under the covers and even the sirens don’t keep us awake. This is Becky’s first sleep in New York City.
Over the next few days we prowl the streets like hungry wolves, part dreamlike, to write our New York story part two. Two plus one. The Stokke Xplory stroller is a dream; we tuck Becky into the woollen blanket. She doesn’t like it when it gets too cold, the wind biting into her flushed cheeks. But that’s only for two days. Central Park for breakfast one morning, past runners, past mothers and fathers and babies, past dogs, past old women and old men; all happy and relaxed under the canopies of trees, under dappled sunlight, as people are among nature. Other days, breakfast at Maison Kayser where I hover a little too long at the counters, reading carefully each detailed description of pastries: chocolate and cream eclairs? Morello cherry macaroons? Basque cake? Being enticed is a sweet feeling (pun, yes); sometimes you choose by colours, sometimes by pattern, sometimes by the words. All this in 30 seconds. We let Becky have some madeleines. And how cute are little babies in their puffy jackets? Becky has on a red one the rich colour of ripe strawberries. Red is her thing.
We also eat a lot of Luke’s Lobster Rolls. Those savoury, buttery things rolls heaped high with fresh meat and a sprinkle of spice; it is now my favourite way of eating these crustaceans. We end off with gelato. Of course, Becky has some. We also have dinner one day in a restaurant in Chinatown, randomly chosen. I know, you don’t get the best Chinese food in Manhattan. But how about this: walking into a restaurant where a wedding is taking place and the waitress rushers us to some empty tables and says it’s all right. So we attend a Chinese wedding full of Chinese-wedding-kitsch in Manhattan, drinking egg drop soup while watching the guests go on stage to take pictures. It is very, very Chinese-y, ching chong.
Some other days we stay at The New York Edition, the Ian Schrager masterpiece. We do like that it’s next to Madison Square Park, which means all time access to Shake Shack (a lifesaver after baby goes to bed at 8pm where we sit on the sofa and delight at the greasy goodness, trying not to wake her, holding our breaths each time she turns or stirs loudly).