“The City That Never Sleeps “, “the Big Apple,” “the Capital of the World”: you do know what I’m talking about? New York City, the Empire City, is visited by millions of people each year. Known for its many attractions, tourists like to be amazed by the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Station, Central Park, and Times Square.
Now, I’m speaking to you, people who are planning on visiting the fabulous city at some point: do you want to shop, but not in stores we already have here in Montreal (or elsewhere)? Do you want to avoid Hard Rock Coffee and Starbucks? Do you want your wallet to say “thank you”? Do you want to live these days like a real New Yorker? If you do, read on to learn how to do it with style.
Three people living or who have been living in New York City have kindly accepted to help me help you in your journey. Plus, Esther Bégin, independent journalist and collaborator of La Presse who lived in New York City for two years, released a new book last week on the best addresses in the Big Apple entitled “Carnet d’une flâneuse à New York”. How lucky are you? It’s in French, but, if you’re a true Montrealer, you can handle it! If not, I’ve got it covered for you.
For people who don’t want to pay a fortune in shopping, SoHo’s the place. “[It] stand for 'South of Houston', [and] as many say it is the best shopping neighborhood in Manhattan,” JB Norman Verances, a photographer who lived eight months in the city, said. “If you love shopping and you have confessions just like a shopaholic, then go to SoHo where you'll meet the world’s unending shopping craze in every block you walk.”
In Bégin’s book, there’s a whole chapter on shopping in SoHo. “Fashion victims, shopaholics fond of good deals, [this is the place],” Bégin wrote.
Another good place to go is at 27th and Sixth St.: Buffalo Exchange. “If you really want to find some steals [head over there],” said Amy Nicole, a student, blogger and part-time model who also works at a PR firm in New York. “There are a lot of really good small places on the Lower East Side,” Bridget Badore, a third year college student who studies at the School of Visual Arts, added. “Just walk around 12th St., around First and Second Ave. and you'll run into tons of them!”
If you want to give your wallet a break and do a little window shopping, walk between ninth Ave. and Washington St. along 14th St.. “Matthew Williamson, Hugo Boss, La Perla… They all settled on 14th St., even the deceased Alexander McQueen,” Bégin wrote. “The creations are amazing.”
A little tip if you are more Macy’s than SoHo: Bégin suggests in her book to go to the Visitors Center, show your ID to prove that you don’t live in the US and you get 10 per cent discount in the huge store.
Eating in New York City can be really expensive if you don’t know the city and walk into restaurants on Times Square. Your wallet will cry murder.
Let’s get you ready for the day ahead without hurting your bank account too much with a good breakfast.
“When I lived on the Upper East Side last year, my favourite place for breakfast was Peter's Gourmet Diner (between 83rd St. and 84th St. on First Ave.),” Badore said. “It's pretty affordable and they have so many options! A lot like any other diner, but the food was just so good. They have a lot of options for vegans, and gluten free too!”
However, if you’re about to start a strenuous day, head toward 205 East Houston St. (corner of Ludlow St.): Katz’s Diner is waiting for you. Remember Meg Ryan’s orgasm simulation in When Harry Met Sally? That’s where it was filmed. “Pastramis can be a breakfast too, right?” Verances asked. “They got good breakfast selections, even entrees, grilled, and traditional ones. Maybe I just eat a lot, but I'm sure you'll start your morning rise and shine with a good-old-bite of a pastrami sandwich and New York egg cream beverages.” Bégin also recommends this place. “[You’ll] eat the best-pastrami- sandwich-in-the world,” Bégin wrote.
Another issue has to be fixed for people who can’t function without caffeine: the best coffee in New York City is apparently served at Think Coffee. “Greenwich Village, located at 248 Mercer St. between Third St. and Fourth St,” Verances said. “I assure you that you'll get a good vibes once you go to Think Coffee. It's like coffee breathes knowledge. Why go here? As well as grabbing the great coffee with a good amount of wisdom, it's ecofriendly too! Go Green!” Need more? Nicole’s way to convince you is with the straightness of her answer, “Think Coffee definitely.”
If you need to relax a little bit from all the walking, there’s a little tea room on the Upper East Side called Alice’s Tea Cup (156 East 64th St.). “They have the best pumpkin scone I have ever had!” Nicole said. According to Bégin, the tea room is decorated with butterfly “on the walls, on the stairs’ banisters, and even on the teapot covers.”
As for lunch and dinner, these can be even more expensive, but you can manage by eating at the right places. Bégin’s list of “must-eat” restaurant and the food writer Ricardo in his magazine’s special on New York City (volume eight, number five) recommend the Halal Cart on 53rd St., corner of Sixth Ave. “The Halal Cart had the honor to receive the Vendy Award, [an award given] every year to the best street food vendors,” Bégin wrote.
In New York City, you can also have Italy on your plate. Eataly’s the place, and it’s “the coolest experience you can have for lunch,” Nicole said. “It is every type of Italian food you could ever imagine. There is also a restaurant on the roof that not too many people know about that has a great view.” Bégin also described Eataly in her book by writing that when you enter the restaurant, “counters of coffee and gelato spread out before [you].”
Nicole also suggests Buddakan, a Japanese restaurant situated on Ninth Ave. between 16th St. and 15th St.. Although it is pricey, “the dumplings are to die for!” Nicole added.
For people who want to visit museums, there is one word you must keep in mind: MoMA. All three New Yorkers recommended the Museum of Modern Art (11 West 53rd St.), and no others. “I know that's a place where everyone goes, but really, I can't get enough of it,” Badore said. “There's something about standing in front of a painting like Starry Night and just taking it in. Oh my goodness, it’s amazing.”
Verances added that you should go there to “get educated while being amused!”
Nicole agreed with the two others. “MoMA is the best in my opinion,” she said. “The whole museum takes hours to see because there is so much beautiful art everywhere. I could spend a whole day there seriously.”
Let’s put the MoMA aside and let’s think about the history of New York City. Bégin’s suggestion: Museum of the City of New York. “To celebrate the history of our Big Apple!” she wrote. “It’s creation, architecture, first inhabitants…”
If you’ve been to Central Park already, New Yorkers propose that you visit others. The most interesting itinerary must be the one Verances proposed with the Brooklyn Bridge Park. “[This] is one that's really amazing,” Verances said. “Just [walk] back and forth [across the] Brooklyn Bridge down to [the park] to see the spectacular view of Manhattan by the water.”
Another park to visit is Washington Square Park situated in Greenwich Village. “There's just something about it that feels so lively and there's always something interesting happening,” Nicole said. “It's really beautiful there too.”
If you are willing to go to Brooklyn, you can visit the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens situated just beside the Brooklyn Museum. “The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens are an amazing place to visit,” Badore said. Apparently, you have to visit it during spring. The trees begin to bud and the colors are just breathtaking.
Last minute tip
“If you're visiting the city, don't stress out!” Badore said. “Anything that you do will be super fun! Just let the energy of the city completely overwhelm you and soak in every minute of it.”
Visiting New York City is quite a challenge, but you can do it. If you do get lost, Bégin assures you that New Yorkers are open to help you to get your way in the big city.
“Just walking around, getting lost without a map is an experience of a lifetime you'll ever have in New York City,” Verances said.
So put your best shoes on and get your camera ready, it's going to be legendary!