I went again eight years ago, pregnant and desperately claustrophobic. I didn't enjoy it at all.
I've just returned from my solo weekend there and now remember why I fell in love all those years ago. I'm not sure whether it was the 18'c temperatures, being with old friends, the stunning triple aspect penthouse apartment I was staying in or the total lack of responsibility, but I feel like I've dropped ten years. I realise that when you give birth you are essentially giving birth to a lifetime of responsibility, not just a child. The child may grow up and leave you. The sense of responsibility never does and escaping it even for a few blissful hours is not straightforward.
I have never left all three of my children before. Last time I went away I only had two which is an easier number to leave both for me and for the person looking after them. But by the time you get to three, the need to get away for a bit is overwhelming and I have to confess that I didn't miss them one bit. They were being well looked after, were old enough not to contract any sinister life threatening illnesses or choke on a piece of brocolli so I was happy to board the plane and jet off to NYC without looking back. After nine years of motherhood never before have I so needed my own space nor did I realise just how much good it would do me. One always assumes that one needs time away with the husband, some quality 'couple' time.. sod that. From now on it's all about me time and going away without any of them for a bit of peace and quiet.
Not only did I not have to cook, wash anything, lean down to talk to someone smaller than me or pick anyone up from school, I actually finished a book, read a newspaper, ate out for every single meal for four days, spent an hour getting ready to go to a party, blow dried my hair, had many long discussions with my friend about life and the universe, lay in bed gazing out of the window. I feel invigorated, inspired, relaxed and rested. Not necessarily words that you would associate with this crazy city.
And so to the city itself.
A lot has changed in thirteen years. The TV is as bad as ever and the coffee stinks (although dedicated European style coffee bars are popping up). Duane Reade is still on every corner but has had a mega makeover and is all glossy aisles selling everything from cosmetics to frozen peas. There are Boris Bikes NY style about to launch all over the city although god knows who would dare cycle there with all those crazy cabbies. There are ice cream vans on every corner which I don't remember and everyone's eating fat free frozen yoghurt. The pet shops still have floor to ceiling cages full of every breed of puppy you could buy (slightly sick), everyone eats dinner at 7pm, there is dedicated doggie day care with drop off and pick up, blow out bars which do nothing but blow dry your hair, manicures for $12 on every corner and still the whole city goes out for brunch on the weekend - all things that just don't ever seem to catch on over here. But that is the wonder of New York. The positivity, the energy, the 'can-do, can-have' attitude. If you want something you can pretty much get it, any time, any place, anywhere.
For this burnt out, frazzled London mum - bliss.