We stayed in the fabulous Library Hotel, a skinny Art Deco building within walking distance from the public library (pictured above). For the crazy book-lovin' people my beloved and I are, it was as if we had died and gone to heaven. Except instead of fluffy clouds and annoying angels playing on harps, we had a reading room with a grand piano and floor to ceiling bookshelves.
A few highlights:
- Central Park: you could pretty much spend your whole holidays here as it's almost the size of a small village (provided you were happy just to live off hot dogs and super-sized bagels). Plus, in summer there is so much going on from outdoor cinemas to yoga to concerts, and if you want your portrait done (which of course our son insisted upon) there are dozens of overqualified artists from Eastern Europe and China all over the park who can do an expert sketch of you in five minutes with an enormous head on a Spider Man torso - what more could you want?
- The bookstores: it goes without saying that for a family of book obsessives we ended up returning with suitcases we could barely lift any more. I would have loved to spend more time exploring all the book stores around New York, and finding all the second-hand ones, too, but we would have had to pay the price of another plane ticket to bring any more books home with us. Next time!
- The galleries and museums! Oh lordy. MoMA NY had almost ALL my favourite artworks in it. All of them together - on one floor! It also had a wonderful kids audio program and fabulous activity sheets. Once again, it definitely needed more time than we could give it. Sigh... And we didn't even dare venture into The (incredibly enormous) Met. We may never have been seen again!
(Self-portrait looking wistful that I can't visit MoMA every day!)
- The homeless. They seemed to be on every corner, most of them so sad and vulnerable. Or maybe I was just acutely aware of them because I was walking around with my youngest son. He wanted to know everything about every one of them. 'Why don't they have a home? Why don't they have any money? Where are their mothers?'
On our last day, on Madison Avenue, not far from the Tiffany windows where diamond-encrusted butterfly brooches glittered in the windows, we saw a bird-like woman lying in a muddle of blankets, mouth open and tears streaming down her face. She broke our hearts. When my son walked up to her and offered her some money, she looked up at him as if into the face of an angel.
That afternoon, we walked back without speaking, hand in hand, to our expensive hotel, past all the shiny shops and fancy restaurants, feeling very humbled.