I began to feel like we were never going home – that was it, we lived in NYC: an exciting thought. A three week break can have that effect I think. It goes on forever. My little boy however, if he fell over/got upset /felt tired, began to ask to ‘go home’. Crying he would say repeatedly, “I want to go home, Mummy! I want to go home to our home in London. In London, Mummy!” It was a heartbreaking. And then the next minute he was cooing over the Empire State’s ‘spikey bit.’
Quite clearly our days were numbered. J and D had dived in to NYC but three weeks was a tough call in the city heat. We stayed local more, often just in the playgrounds, the outdoor pool and coffee shops. Our final destinations brought out a mix of emotions, but all were worth it.
Prospect Park, Brooklyn:
This is a luscious park, which was designed by the creators of Central Park – I heard that they felt Prospect was actually their master piece, rather than Central, which is incredible considering how loved the massive green rectangle on Manhattan is.
Prospect Park is most definitely worth a visit, it is incredibly green, pretty large (though no where near the size of Central Park) with a Zoo, carousel, heritage home ( I think about 200 years old, so like the house round the corner for many Europeans), a few cafes, playgrounds, ponds (or were they lakes?), trails through the trees and a massive open grassy area to chill, listen to music and meet friends. We found our way across it following paths and signs and revelling in the shade of the many, many trees. I had not seen the kids run like that for a while – the day was cloudy, but I felt like the plethora of green invigorated them – it most likely reminded them of our lovely Brockwell Park back home – so familiar and free. I think the only down point about this park is the subway ride. It is convoluted – unless you live close by – we actually jumped in a cab: the subway at that point would have broken us.
The High Line:
This is similar to the park above the city that Joanna Lumley has pitched for London and so I was intrigued to see New York’s creation. It is a one mile long park, running along a disused rail track – long and slim in stature – with fauna, benches and seats to rival art in the Guggenheim (almost), and giving it’s visitors a view from above and out on to the streets and towering buildings of Manhattan (a giant piece of art in itself from this vantage point). There are food stalls, coffee vendors, ice cream sellers, a beer stop and even an area to paddle in and cool off your sweaty feet – kids can run ahead, walk on granite benches and stop to rest on the tiered seated area that looks out on to the streets below via a massive window – genius, and so simple.
Locals use this pathway as a way to get from A to B, and avoid the hectic streets below, whilst visitors (and maybe those on their days off) can stroll and sit and take in the views – obviously with kids the pace is the usual mix of busyness and calm (with ice cream), followed by screeches in the water and running to catch up with whoever they want to catch up with!
But it is calmer, and it is quite simply lovely. Joanna has my vote on this one.
Nowadays this old military base, which sits out from the southern most tip of Manhattan and close to the Statue of Liberty, is open to all with a short ferry ride (only $2) from the ferry point next to the Staten Island departure dock.
The buildings date from the 1700s and 1800s and I have to admit I saw huge potential for the development of some amazing residential home through their renovation – but, this would probably end up cutting off the accessibility to the island and become a gated, and overtly wealthy playground – instead, we can all go and hang out. And in fact this and many ideas for the future of Governors Island have been discussed until it became the peoples hang out. Now there are playgrounds, bikes-to-hire, paths to explore and educational activities for kids.
We played on the swings and hammocks, ate ice cream, explored the massive, multi-coloured tree house and played crazy golf – all this was over-seen by a giraffe and gorilla – in-situ. Always love some animal-art. The bikes were a topic for discussion that we never quite got too – they look like a lot of fun and when a whole family can get on one (more like a big peddle car), I’d recommend it even just to avoid the cries of disappointment as you leave.
Our final stop – the day before we left – was the iconic Empire State Building. It is magical from a distance and typically hectic and busy close up – but what a beautiful building it is. Its 1930s decor is incredible – even the doors on the lifts – so look around and up and down and EVERYWHERE! I would avoid the Sky-Ride but the kids loved it, so hey-ho! For my daughter the visit was important as she’d read ‘James and the Giant Peach,’ and for my son, it was simply the fact that we had looked at it each night from the roof terrace as it lit up and changed colours. In fact, it was the one time in the day (late in the day), when Daddy was home from work and we were all together. The Empire State Building was ours. We chatted about it, invented stories about it and imagined what it would be like to climb the ‘spikey thing’ on top.
So our final destination was important: we saw the view, my daughter drank it in, my son looked, nodded and sat down. It was time to go home.
Thank you NYC. We love you, we will be back, but next time we will head out to get some air and respite. Then we will return, and play again in your concrete playgrounds, luscious parks, museums and toy shops.
Hello London Town. How are you?
Quote of the day (when we arrived home):
“Mummy! I’d forgotten about my home!” said my little boy as I pulled his PJs over his head. “I never want to go to another country again!”
No place like home, no place like home.