One of the things I love most about London is the city’s parks – green spaces greeting you around the corner, even if the weather is often too poor to use them. In typical holiday style, this point only became poignant while out of the capital, that moment when you realise, surprisingly, what you miss. Such was the case in my recent trip to New York.
As the slogan goes, I heart NYC. I loved the vibrancy and the bustle of the place, even if the crowds (easily topped Oxford Street), enormity of the buildings and length of the avenues and numbered streets took a few jetlagged nights and Starbuck coffees to acclimatise and become the passe, cool New Yorker. However, one of the things that surprised me was the American “park”, a term so loosely defined in the city that any old section of grass, avec bench, seemed to do. Even the NYC darling and jogging hotspot, Central Park, while impressive and admired, lacked a certain wildness and openness that is integral to the London Park. Rickety deckchairs and over-energetic dogs there were not, and in the city the battle between natural and urban environment seems a foregone conclusion, bar the introduction of a few grassroots initiatives – one being the indoor pop-up park.
Like many memorable city discoveries, I discovered the park while walking lost down Mulberry Street – essentially being the classic tourist looking for Soho (my idea), after tramping through Chinatown (my dad’s idea) and then ending up in Nolita (great compromise). So spotting a fountain through the windows of Openhouse Gallery, and some attractive fake bushes, was something of an oasis. The park, by Park Here, included a fake lawn, park benches, trees and a sky light to let the sun shine in; and odd though it sounds it was easy to forget that you were inside at all. In fact the pop-up park benefited from the best of the indoor and the out – it was dry, warm and dirt and dog-poo free (a major drawback of my local), but also had free wireless (complete with laptops), daily entertainment and food vendors plus an impossible idyllic background of blossom and colour – that in the “real park” would barely last. In the pop-up park – the flowers are out from December to February, and the fake grass lawn remains green.
I also liked how the space functioned as a chill out space too – those there reading, relaxing amongst the beanbags and even picnicking too. For the city “that never sleeps”, this slice of the big apple was sweet and appealling; and that makes me one very jealous and pop-up-park-hungry Londoner.