Au Revoir New York City, Bonjour Paris!
I have read it is every Parisians’ dream to live in New York City. Equally, most New Yorkers I know have a penchant for anything French, particularly Paris, the epicentre of chicness and culture.
Given the mutual adoration between these city folk, our relocation to Paris earlier this year stands a good chance of being a harmonious one. I am, of course, delighted to have landed here, and am firmly within the heady throes of the love affair that accompanies a move to new abode: “C’est trop beau…j’adore Paris!”
So many tantalizing new discoveries to describe, but before I start it does seem appropriate to have some form of closure on our two year stay in the land of the green lady, New York City. As with any past relationship that has run its course, it is healthy to reflect on the ups and the downs; to dish the dirt, or lavish praise where due.
These are some of my lasting impressions of NYC:
The NYC vibe: this is a city where doorstep deliveries of groceries to dry-cleaning are made 24/7, emails are answered within the hour, budding entrepreneurs help shape the next NYSE listed company and the Museum Mile boasts of its latest art exhibitions. Each day, zillions of feet, from all walks of life, pound the sidewalks in a purposeful fashion to catch a Broadway show, or better still, pip another New Yorker to the post on hailing a yellow cab.
The city that never sleeps: and have you ever wondered why? See above. Then add the incessant honking of taxis, pent-up New Yorkers behind their wheels, and the whining sirens of police cars chasing them. The phantom ringing embedded in my head since I left in January took weeks to wear off…
The skyline: I miss waking up to my majestic forest of platinum tinted skyscrapers, and watching Empire State Building’s nightly beacon mark calendar events (turning red for Valentines, green for St Patrick’s Day etc.). Then there’s simply nothing quite like NYC’s Christmas lights on Fifth Avenue, Rockefeller Center’s 70-80ft Christmas tree and Bergdoff Goodman’s opulently divine festive window displays. Another enduring image is peeking over The Peninsula’s rooftop bar (after a Cosmo or two) to see the concrete crevasse created by the most expensive street in the world, Fifth Avenue and 55th Street, perfectly delineated by the North-South flow of yellow cabs ferrying shoppers to De Beers, Fendi and Prada.
Wealth: think nothing of spending $40,000 per year on your kid’s education and anywhere between $7000 to six-figures per month for a three bedroom NYC rental apartment. And if you want to get your darlings into the NYC’s holy grail of education held by the likes of private schools Dalton, Brearley or Trinity School, generally considered to be the Harvard ‘feeder schools’, then expect to be an old New York name, or open your coffers reall-y wide.
For a family to live on Manhattan Island (one of the five NYC boroughs) comfortably you need to be earning around $500k. But it is a city of distinct haves and have-nots, with many eking out a meagre existence. “A good number are one paycheck away from being on the streets,” one limo driver proffered on the issue of the city’s homeless, as he ferried me into Manhattan during my first recce there. I told my husband’s boss over cocktails in Kuala Lumpur’s Sultan Lounge to discuss his next career move, that it was: “New York or bust”; ironically if we’d stayed we undoubtedly been the latter!
Don’t get sick! And don’t get me started…The resetting of a dislocated thumb after a ice-skating fall in the first few weeks of landing in NYC set me back $3500+. The health insurance company paid, but only after a year’s worth of countless emails and phone calls. Identical asthma medication costs $40 in KL verses $255 in NYC. My relocation agent spent over two, tearful years trying to get her health insurance company to pay her deceased husband’s cancer treatment costs. Sad state of affairs.
We left NYC carrying the threat of legal action for my daughter’s unpaid bill for a knee x-ray totalling $1380; the insurers did finally cough out the full amount. And these are fair examples of the fraught dealings of those who can actually afford healthcare in the first place; one in six Americans can’t. No surprise that more than 50% of bankruptcies in the US result from inability to pay medical bills.
I LOVE Magnolia Bakery: its fame rocketed after being featured on Sex and the City series. A cupcake to satisfy everyone’s tastes; I craved the Hummingbird, a luscious concoction of banana, pineapple, cream cheese sprinkled with pecans. But the kids will miss the sour candies at Dylan’s Candy Bar owned by Dylan Lauren (Ralph Lauren’s daughter).
Central Park: Undoubtedly the best park in the world…As I write the intensity of the spring blossoms will be causing many a New Yorker to run late for work. From sledging down Pilgrim’s Hill during the winter snows, summer’s balmy ‘movie in park’ nights, weekly jogs around Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, to my Central Park swan song of completing a four-mile midnight race on New Year’s Eve sporting a wholly inappropriate moth-eaten Playboy Bunny outfit. Copious champers beforehand fully enabled this bold endeavour, as well as causing a few pitstops along the way.
Broadway and celebs: A bit disappointing as I didn’t see many save for Sex and the City’s Mr Big, Chris Noth, President Obama behind a dark limo window and CNN’s Anderson Cooper at this Christmas’ Nutcracker Ballet (oh how exciting). Less inspiring was bumping into a crusty Joan Collins—actually, for 79 years-old she looked pretty phenomenal—and her nubile hubby pushing a trolley around the bread aisle at my local Food Emporium on 59th and First.
Tipping: Required in almost all transactions in NYC from your doorman, your waiter (a standard 20% of your restaurant bill) and expect to spend much more than a penny when nipping to the loo. It is a practice, owing largely to America’s service industry being grossly underpaid, I am pleased to say good riddance to. So too is my husband after one grossly indulgent trip to a Park Avenue hairdresser set me back $270 for the cut and colour plus a “recommended” $66 tip split between the coat lady ($1), shampoo lady ($5), the cutter ($20) and colourist ($40).
Pups in their pushchairs, it’s a New York thing…
Dogs: goodbye Head to Tails day-care, Biscuit & Bath spas, ‘Canine Carts’ for dogs to accompany owners grocery shopping, the near religious poop ‘n’ scoop ethic (that I can no longer scoff at given ‘le turd’ rules the streets of Paris) and the cutest, yet darn right freaky sight, of pups in pushchairs—who’s walking who?
The Naked Cowboy of Times Square: last but not least. Oh lá lá. Somehow, I do not think that we shall be seeing the equivalent flashing his pert derrière outside the elegant Hôtel de Ville in central Paris. Enjoy ladies. He’s truly “aaaawesome”.
A common site in NYC’s Times Square, The Naked Cowboy!