5 days in nyc


Our first day in New York starts off marvelously. We grab brunch at Champs Diner, a completely vegan diner on the outskirts of Williamsburg. Lydia and I share an enormous Nut Shake, filled with chocolate and PB. I order the Bananarama Pancakes (encrusted with a generous amount of chocolate chips), and Lydia gets the Biscuits & Gravy, an American classic. Yum!

We then wander around Williamsburg under the blazing sun. I show Lydia our usual spots: the cooking store Whisk, Mast Brothers Chocolate, Catbird, Brooklyn Charm, as well as the waterfront, from which there is a beautiful view of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge.

The L takes us back to Union Square, where we step inside Strand. We explore the Union Square Farmer’s Market on our way to ABC Carpet & Home, which Lydia seems to love as much as I do (the children’s section is simply a dream).

A new Tiger shop has opened not too far from there, and we stop there as well before wandering through the appetizing isles of Eataly.

Back in the Upper East Side, we have just enough time to see an exhibit at the Met. We decide to start with the current exhibit put on by the Costume Institute, Art of the In-Between, which features the avant garde pieces of Comme des Garçons designer Rei Kawakubo. The pieces are organized by theme - ‘self/other’, ‘object/subject’, ‘fashion/anti-fashion’ - and demonstrate exquisite technique and creativity. Love.


This morning, we’re off to Harlem. We take the bus, then the subway, to 190th Street to visit the Cloisters. I haven’t been for at least ten years, and am glad to rediscover this peaceful part of the city with my friend.

We head down to Chinatown to get lunch at a restaurant called Vegetarian Dim Sum House (they couldn’t have picked a more self-explanatory name, haha). We share an assortment of dim sum: sweet & salty dumplings, spinach dumplings, rice flour rolls with mushrooms, mock roast pork buns, and sesame paste buns. Our favorite? The sweet & salty dumplings and sesame paste buns, without a doubt!

We walk a little more in Chinatown, then walk north toward SoHo. I’m sad to learn that Pearl River has closed its original location and moved to a smaller store, which lacks its original charm. Such a shame! Still, I am glad to find the knitting and sewing boutique Purl to be standing strong!

I take Lydia through the West Village (with mandatory stops by the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop and the famous Magnolia Bakery). We also discover Sockerbit, an adorable candy shop that also sells Swedish imports. We soon arrive in the Meatpacking District, where I show my friend the now not-so-new Whitney, as well as the Highline. It’s scorching hot out, and we take refuge in the ever-so touristy (but comfortably air-conditioned) Chelsea Market.

We rest at home before going to check out the Museum Mile Festival, an evening where a handful of 5th Avenue museums are free to the public from 6 to 9pm. Since we don’t have time to see all of them, we decide to focus on the Jewish Museum, to which I have never been. And we’re not disappointed! On the second floor is Bear Mitzvah Meshugahland, an installation by artist and musician Charlemagne Palestine. This immersive piece assembles hundreds of stuffed animals for a colorful (and somewhat creepy) result.

We then fall in love with a retrospective exhibit on Florine Stettheimer (1871–1944), a New York-based artist raised in a rich Jewish family who studied at the Art Students League, which happens to be the school where my mom currently does pottery. Her ethereal, poetic and prettily colored paintings remind me of some of Chagall’s pieces. I highly recommend it!

Before leaving the museum, we take a quick peek at Russ & Daughters restaurant, whose babkas look quite irresistible...

On our way home, we also get to explore the National Academy, an art school where the exhibit Creative Mischief, featuring student works, is currently on view. We are very impressed with the quality of the pieces shown.


Our morning begins in Midtown’s crowded and chaotic streets, where I show Lydia the luxury boutiques lined up along Fifth Avenue. We also pass by Trump Tower, in front of which you’ll currently find an assortment of cops and intrigued tourists.

After an express visit of St. Patrick’s Cathedral (which I am visiting myself for the first time) and a stroll around Rockefeller Center, we are ready for the day’s most awaited attraction: the American Girl Place. This staple store of my childhood has barely changed: apart from a few new ‘Girls of the Year’, Lydia and I reunite with our favorite historical characters: Josephine, Felicity, Abby, Kit... as well as all of their adorable accoutrements. Licorice and Coconut seem to have been discontinued, but at least there are now many more other pets to choose from...

I show Lydia the ever-so impressive sky ceiling of Grand Central Station before we head over to the Public Library. It is also my first time at the Public Library, and I must say I am rather in awe. The halls are very high ceilinged and the reading rooms are extremely spacious. Not exactly the same architectural style as Montreal’s BANQ!

For lunch, we meet my oldest friend Hortense at Franchia, an Asian restaurant near Koreatown. Lydia orders her first bibimbap, and I a mock duck salad with cauliflower soup. Everything is a success! We then walk around Koreatown, which is basically just 32nd Street. Our visit of course involves a bubble tea from Kung Fu Tea and some extreme beauty product sampling at The Face Shop.

The bus takes us back up to 79th Street, giving me the perfect opportunity to introduce my two friends to the French bookstore Albertine. We then climb up to the Met rooftop, where is currently being shown Adrian Villar Rojas’ The Theater of Disappearance, an installation representing some kind of chaotique banquet. We also manage to see a retrospective exhibit of the works of Irving Penn (1917–2009), renown Vogue photographer whose works - most of which are in black and white - exude effortless beauty and grace.

In the evening, we leave the house once more to attend a Super Free Wednesday show at the People’s Improv Theater (affectionately known as the PIT). But first, Lydia decides to purchase her first New York bagel EVER. Yes, EVER. It’s a hard decision to make, but she goes for an everything bagel with tofu cream cheese. Bold choice, and she’s not disappointed. She immediately falls in love and swears it will not be her last. Back at the PIT, greater laughter ensues, as usual.


On our way to the Met Breuer, we stop by one of my favorite delis, Hot & Crusty, so Lydia can grab her second New York bagel. This time, she opts for a cinnamon-raisin, which she enjoys with some vegan butter we sneaked in from home (ah, the wonders of Ziploc!). The verdict? Lydia likes this one even more than her first!

We shortly arrive at the Met Breuer, where we discover a retrospective exhibit dedicated to the Brazilian artist Lygia Pape (1927–2004): A Multitude of Forms. I particularly enjoy her early geometric pieces, as well as her impressive sculpture Infinite Light, composed of golden threads attached from floor to ceiling so as to resemble beams of light. We speed through a second exhibit on the artist Marsden Hartley, which, fortunately, is not at all to our liking.

We take the subway to Spring Street and walk to the Tenement Museum, located in the Lower East Side. We’ve booked tickets for the ‘Shop Life’ tour, which teaches us about the history of the previous inhabitants of the ground floor of 97 Orchard Street, John and Caroline Schneider, two Eastern European immigrants who ran a German beer saloon in the 1870’s. Our guide is really great and answers all of our questions. The building has been well restored, and I really enjoy the way the museum has recreated the saloon to make it look as close to how it would have been back in the day (everything is there, from candles to dominoes!).

After our visit, one of Lydia’s USF classmates (who happens to be interning at the Tenement Museum for the summer), meets us for lunch. She takes us to Vanessa’s Dumpling House, a small and extremely affordable establishment where we order sesame pancakes with vegetables ($2.50!!), which we eat out in the sun. We make an obligatory stop by Erin McKenna’s Bakery, where Lydia tries the cupcake top sandwich (it’s exactly what it sounds like - a generous layer of frosting sandwiched between two cupcake tops). We also step into to more vegan shops, Moo Shoes and Orchard Grocer, conveniently located a mere half-block away from the bakery.


It’s the last day of our trip and we decide to take it easy. After a good ‘lion’ (British for ‘sleeping in), we walk to the Museo Del Barrio, a museum dedicated to Latin American culture. We get to see two temporary exhibits. The first, uptown: nasty women/bad hombres, gathers works of all mediums centered on sexism, racism and homophobia. The second, Nkame, is a retrospective of the cuban artist Belkis Ayón (1967–1999). The latter is known for her use of collography, a printing technique by which materials of different textures are glued to cardboard before being run through a press with paper. Lydia and I fall in love with her unique style, which reminds me a bit of the illustrations in Kirikou, as well as of Aboriginal Australian paintings.

On our way out, we take a quick stroll through the Conservatory Garden.