In a New York State of Mind
14 November 2016
Charlie and I are back from the most wonderful trip to New York – we arrived home on Wednesday night, but it already feels like a dream. I’m sure I’ll have already written that there’s something strange about air travel – how it allows us to move so far, so fast – yet I read once that the mind can only really move at the speed of a walking person. So I think that part of us is still there. What an amazing few days we had – followed by an unreal election night. We watched the results in a small bar in the West Village, the New York Times’ prediction meter starting our evening with an 85% certainty of a win for Clinton, and slowly, unbelievably, dropping the other way. Around midnight, on our way home, Charlie and I took a taxi up to Times Square, just to have a glimpse of the atmosphere there (tense: the results were clear but nothing had been declared) before returning to our hotel, packing, and setting the earliest alarm clock ever for the flight home. A surreal night. Extraordinary times. If I am completely honest, I wasn’t surprised by the final result.
We had arrived a few days earlier to get ready for my book party which was going to be on the Monday night. New York was bathed in the warmest November I think I’ve known there, the city basking in sunshine, sparkling from every corner, every day we were there. Incredible.
We took many trips up and down the High Line, staying as we were at the Highline Hotel, and walking down to see Valentina in the village. The High Line has settled and matured hugely since my last trip – it really is the best place.
The Village was perfect, russet toned, autumnal.
This photograph, snapped from the High Line early on Saturday morning, reminded me of a painting by Edward Hopper, reimagined for the 21st century.
We were on our way to meet Valentina to take her dog Daisy to the Dog run.
A completely fun New York start to the day.
We walked to breakfast in the Village. 18 years ago, when I lived in New York I worked on the restoration of these the two townhouses. The stoops – the tall flight of steps to the front doors – had been removed in the 1950s and were completely new, as was all the ironwork, and the tall double doors. It was wonderful to see the houses settling in to the streetscape as if nothing had happened at all.
We were heading up to Grand Central, to catch a train.
Destination: Connecticut, where we were visiting the beautiful studio of the potter Frances Palmer. I’d bought some of Frances’s wonderful pots for Charlie’s Christmas present (don’t worry, it wasn’t quite a surprise, as he’d chosen them…) and she’d invited us out for lunch. It was an exciting day.
Frances’s studio, an old timber-framed barn, beautifully restored, happened to be laid out for her once-a-year studio sale that was happening the following day. Tantalising.
If you don’t know Frances, then do visit her website – or better still, I suggest following her on instagram where she posts beautiful photographs of the pots arranged with flowers from her garden. The dahlias, sadly, had been hit by frost about a week before we arrived. Still beautiful, though.
We returned, carrying a few more pots, back to Grand Central, and walked back through busy New York streets to Chelsea.
It’s the tiny details of this city that I love:
A perfect Saturday evening at Valentina’s catching up with old friends. Bliss.
On Sunday we woke to sparkling sunshine and headed down, first, to see the 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Centre.
The memorial was extraordinarily powerful. I hadn’t been to the site of the towers since that dreadful day.
Next door, the newly opened Calatrava Transit hub:
This made me smile… windowlene left on a ledge:
And we made our way back up through Tribeca for coffee with a friend in the Village, and brunch with friends.
After lunch, a trip over to the East Village. We called in at the La Guardia Corner garden, which I must admit, in the 5 years when I lived here, had never, ever been open. So it was nice to get inside!
We called in to John Derian’s incredible shop, the best shop in the world, really, which was looking its usual beautiful self. And of course John was there, and it was great to see him!
At dawn on Monday morning, Charlie and I went to the flower market. We were getting flowers for the table for the book dinner that night.
The morning sparkled brighter than ever before.
Back on the High Line:
We were setting up tables at the Coffee House club. There’s the huge table cloth with our favourite fabric from Soane Britain:
You can see photos of the finished table setting over on the website of Architectural Digest, who were incredibly generous in hosting the event at the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art. Neither could have been kinder or more welcoming. I gave a little talk about some of the stuff we’re up to in the office; then conversations and questions, and a happy, raucous dinner which ran long into the night on the eve of election day.
Time had flown. I was having lunch near Central Park on the Monday, so we had the briefest wander through the park, which was looking spectacular. So different being uptown.
And then I met Charlie down in Soho, and we wandered lazily through what I think are the most beautiful streets in the whole of New York City as the sun gently settled. And the light faded, and dusk fell over the great city, and a thousand memories flooded back – this place I called home for five years, and loved, and still love, to the bottom of my heart. It had been a magical few days.
Blinking into the dawn on Wednesday morning, we left to come back to a London that feels somehow a little less exciting, a little drab, a little less energetic by comparison. That mood lasted two or three days… perhaps because my brain was still there? But we’ve had the best weekend ever in London, rain pouring all day on Saturday, incredible sunshine all day on Sunday, and taking Mavis for a walk down towards the city, we wondered at the sparkling, older beauty of our own place that we call home.
Thoughts this morning with New Zealand.