A few weeks ago I was invited to a rather swanky literary dinner at a hotel called The Gramercy Park, in Manhattan. It was to be filled with the great and the good, and not only was I excited for the dinner (and utterly thrilled to have been invited), I couldn’t wait to go back to the Gramercy Park hotel.
The last time I went to the Gramercy Park hotel was in 1996. I had decided to write a modern take on the Cinderella story called Jemima J. I had booked an extended stay in Los Angeles to do the research, and was spending a week beforehand in New York with a girlfriend. We were going just after Christmas, with plans to be in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
Both of us were young single girls, with little money. We were doing New York on a shoestring, and had booked into a terrible hotel near Times Square with stained furniture and dirty sheets. We lasted one night, before deciding that squalor was not what we had in mind for this trip, and I would use some of my new book advance to upgrade.
Have you ever tried getting a hotel room in New York at Christmas time? We spent hours desperately trying to find a hotel, and the only thing we could find was a suite at the Gramercy Park Hotel.
A suite! It sounded so grand! We discovered the Gramercy Park had hosted The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and The Beatles. U2 had lived there, as had Debbie Harry of Blondie. This was clearly the epitome of cool, and we had to stay there.
The hotel faces a pretty private park, in a lovely neighborhood. I caught my breath as we got out the taxi, and walked in to the hotel, past the dark wood-panelled bar, and exhaled again in vague disappointment when we were taken up to our suite. I remember the carpet being impossibly worn and shabby, in an unflattering shade of green. The hotel was dated and dingy, with an old and fabulous bar filled with New York characters, and we felt incredibly cool staying there.
We were there for a week, and over the final weekend, I fell slightly in love. A friend of a friend was in New York at the same time, and my girlfriend and I spent the day with him. We came back to the suite, and while she was in the bathroom, he kissed me.
We spent the next two days together, as characters in a Nora Ephron romantic chick-flick, circa 1996. It snowed as we held hands walking down Park Avenue. We had snowfights in Central Park then drank hot chocolate in a storied bar. We went up the Empire State Building, before I left for Los Angeles, itching to get back home to London, to see whether this new romance might turn into something more.
So here I am twenty one years later, a married mother, living in Connecticut, standing outside the hotel that truly epitomized my single girl adventures, and it is almost unrecognizable. A few years ago it was transformed into a sleek, stylish, trendy hotel.
The hotel is now beautiful. The party was wonderful, and the food, delicious. I spent the evening looking over my shoulder expecting to see the ghost of the love-struck girl I once was, but she, along with the shabby green carpet, had long since disappeared.
And whilst I loved everything about the evening, and whilst I am so happy and grateful for the way my life has gone and the woman I am now, I have to confess I had a few moments of yearning for just a touch of the hotel I used to know.