Our time in New York ended up being just short of six weeks, almost double what we had initially planned. Lucky for us, my parents were gracious hosts who basically let us squat in their house in New Rochelle, a suburb north of New York City in Westchester County. There, our family of four usurped not only their beautiful residence, but also their phone, internet connection and car (and possibly sanity). Above is a watercolor Daniel did of their home. Meanwhile, they also looked after Sophia and Lulu while Daniel and I spent inordinate amounts of time researching cars and trailers. The girls love their grandparents. THANK YOU, Mommy and Daddy.
But New Rochelle was not to be our only abode. Friends and extended in-laws also threw open their doors to us.
We had several sleepovers at Stephanie and Scott’s grand brownstone in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene, one with our hosts and two without them. Fort Greene is a happy mishmash of cultures, where the prevalence of multiracial children reflects a real coexistence I had only really ever seen in northeastern Brazil. The place looks like Sesame Street, and is filled with beautiful people – many of whom seem to work locally. Minutes after I joked to Stephanie about the area’s resemblance to a photo shoot, we stumbled upon…a photo shoot.
Our second city home-from-home was cat-sitting for our friends Elisa and Eric, who live in the most picturesque pocket of the West Village. This is a block where windows offer the passerby views of rooms large enough to hold chandeliers, tall bookshelves and people who most definitely employ staff. Where gym-honed mothers at the local playground dress in Marc Jacobs, and where six-packs of American beer cost $16. We are not the only ones who appreciate its location…being diagonally opposite the fancy cupcake producing Magnolia Bakery, which featured on Sex in the City, the place is regularly taken over by tour buses and gawking, squawking crowds who take the now defunct show’s storyline very seriously indeed.
Our final Manhattan bolt-hole was a fancy company apartment at the flashy Jade Jagger-designed building called ‘Jade’ in the Flatiron District. The modular studio space gave us plenty of room to sleep, eat and even host a mini-pizza party. (Thanks, Stephie).
And we haven’t even gotten to the kindness shown us by my sister’s husband Steve’s extended family. One aunt-in-law included us on the invite list to a pool party at her and her husband’s mansion in New Canaan, Connecticut. We arrived via taxi from the local train station, to which we returned in a car driven by their butler (yeah, really!). Despite their wealth, they are super down-to-earth people. They even sent us home with a doggy bag (we had to leave early).
An aunt-in-law on the other side of Steve’s family actually loaned my sister, me, Daniel and the kids a house on the North Shore of Long Island. We jumped into the calm waters on the private beach, before retiring to a barbeque overlooking the Long Island Sound and beyond that, Connecticut.
Claire – On maternity leave from career as editor of monthly finance trade magazines, and occasionally a freelance translator. Half-American/half-English, raised in the suburbs of New York, has lived in London for almost nine years.
Daniel – Furniture designer/maker based on London’s Columbia Road flower market, for ten years, also an aspiring painter and DIY supremo. On one-year career break to reconsider options. English by birth, but mother is half-American and spent part of her childhood in Bronxville, New York.
Sophia – 3.5-year old spitfire who loves school, singing, swimming and being a big sister
Lulu – Born May 8 of this year, a model baby who eats, sleeps and gurgles.
Special guests – American, British and international friends and family who drop in along our trip to see whatever part of the country they fancy. They’re welcome to travel in the car with us and sleep in an adjoining tent.