I've just survived my first experience of New York travel with a toddler.
Diana is thriving. She is one of those people (native New Yorkers or otherwise), who really come alive in New York. Our entire time in Manhattan, there was an extra spring in her step, glimmer in her eye, excitable shriek of "BA!" in her budding vocabulary... I have never seen her so smiley, excited, enthusiastic or well-behaved.
Not all of us fared so well from travelling, flying and chasing a baby around an airport and then Manhattan: I am exhausted, bedraggled and for some reason, have the colouring of a corpse with an acne outbreak that can rival a 12-year-old boy's. In fact, I look so deformed that my first thought was that my skin problems were an early sign of pregnancy since hideous skin seemed to characterise the entirety of my last one, but no such excuse this time.
It's pretty obvious why D is happy and I'm a wreck: She's never had a 24/7 servant/chauffeur before (while I am usually with her 24/7, I'm not wheeling her from one side of London to the other) not to mention all of the extra attention from Daddy, who was with us most of the time), which might have had something to do with her significantly improved mood.
We hit an average of three different playgrounds a day (it's amazing what a parent is willing to do while on holiday; I drag myself to the closest playground near home with dread in London because every trip ends with D trying to climb something hideously precarious-looking, or me babysitting five other kids, yet in New York, I was practically dragging her, not the other way around), we traversed the whole of Manhattan, browsing through shops and gawping at buildings, and whenever we stopped anywhere, things only improved for D: she got fed, got bought stuff or got to play.
I am sure in part that her high spirits were due to eating pasta, bagels with cream cheese and Shake Shack milk shakes at virtually every meal; nothing can make you feel better than the thickest of ice creams masquerading as a drink, unless of course, there are bulldogs surrounding you at the time because you are right next to the Madison Square Park dog run.
Yes, even though Bolshy didn't make the transatlantic flight with us, his presence was felt everywhere, because NY has an amazing number of bulldogs (and I may have run down the street in pursuit of them more than once). They all seemed aware that D was very bulldog-friendly and eagerly licked her and kissed her, much to her pleasure.
Diana also experienced a toddler yoga class (the first one I've been to which is geared to the kids, not the parents), which would have been fun if D hadn't been a terror that particular morning - she kept running out of the room to try to steal food from the receptionist and items from the shop. Total yoga poses completed? Zero, with the additional honour of D being the worst-behaved toddler in the class. We also spent some time in the (world's best toy store?), FAO Schwarz, and D ran up and down the massive light-up piano just like Tom Hanks in Big.
But as anyone who's seen Gossip Girl can attest, things move fast for New Yorkers, and girls grow up all too soon. So when (an admittedly super-cute) two-year-old boy approached Diana in the playground one afternoon and planted a kiss on her cheek, we knew it was time to head home. A stolen kiss before at least offering a toy or bottle of milk? Baby D isn't that kind of girl.
It was a whirlwind week of gluttony, spending time with lovely friends, shopaholicism, bulldog-stalking, animal watching, yoga fails and baby kissing, replaced by our distinctly more humdrum existence in London.
And even though things are back to our less-chaotic lifestyles, D's still giggling and smiling away. She's happy to be back. There's no place quite like home and no New York bulldog - no matter how cute - is quite like our Bolshy.