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Tag Archives: Cloisters
There really is nothing going on this weekend, at least that I can find. Sure, there are tons of samples sales, barbecues, etc. But nothing that really sings to my heart as sustainable.
So, let’s switch it up! Now is a great time for me to tell you all the amazing places you can go this summer that aren’t one-time-only.
Click on the pictures below for your six fresh, green, summer getaways right in the city.
My mom and her friend Sharon were in town last week, so on Saturday we took the A train up to the Cloisters. The Cloisters inhabit a strange space in New York. Just barely on the edge of being actually in the city, right out of the reach of Harlem, and miles and years away from the hustle and bustle of the dirty city streets.
As soon as we stepped out of the subway at 190th Street, we found ourselves in a quiet stone courtyard shaded by trees. “Where do we go?” Mom asked. We walked up a set of stone stairs, and onto a street emptying into a roundabout. Glancing about, we found a small sign: Cloisters. –>
Peaceful noises enveloped us: the cry of birds, a distant “whoosh” of an occasional car, and quiet conversation by the few other visitors who were making their way to the entrance of Fort Tryon Park.
If there were a ranking system for New York City Parks based on beauty, noise level, and meandering paths, Central park would get a seven, and Fort Tryon would get a ten. It’s lusher, quieter, cleaner. It’s free of the pompous cyclists that yell at you in Central Park when you’re trying to cross the main loop, and free of homeless men napping on the benches in the early morning with their shopping carts of stuff. The paths aren’t dirt, they’re flagstone. The fences aren’t plywood and chain-link; they’re stone.
Fort Tryon is gorgeous. Blooming shrubs and lush flowers line the main walkway, their heady scents wafting across our noses as we ambled toward the Cloisters. Looking at the map at the entrance, we could see a dense network of smaller paths crisscrossing across the park, hinting at shaded strolls ending in secret enclaves. The park is perched high above the Hudson, affording us a clear view of the sailboats slicing through the tiny cresting waves, and what looked like a hillside villa clinging to to the opposite bank. We stopped often to lean against the solid stone walls and take it in.
It was a cool but sunny day. The kind of day where you have to notice the bright green leaves against the bright blue sky, as if an overenthusiastic graphic designer made a poster for the park and chose his favorite colors.
I knew little of the Cloisters history before we came. I figured they were the result of some misguided monks settling north of New York City before settlers razed it flat and stacked buildings all over it. The actual story is somewhat less romantic, and quintessentially American.
John D. Rockefeller though America should have its own medieval structures. So he created one. Through his endowment, the Cloisters were built, incorporating genuine medieval art and architectural elements. The result is several enclosed gardens with no two pillars alike, old fountains set into the (relatively) new stone, and priceless tapestries warming the gallery walls.
Rockefeller scooped up the land around the park for the gardens, and even bought land for the Palisades Park in New Jersey, just so the view wouldn’t be sullied by development. I would like to lay some flowers on that man’s grave, really.
We took a the garden tour with an extremely knowledgeable tour guide. She sounded like she could have waxed on forever about the varieties of flora, their medicinal uses, names, mythology, and use in medieval art.
Mom took a break to sit on a stone bench in a courtyard, and nearly fell asleep in the warm sunshine. Have I mentioned yet that it was peaceful?
When my friend Rachel, who lives all the way up at 169th, emailed me that night asking to meet up for a jog, I suggested the Fort Tryon Park. She is massively more in shape than I am, so I figured it would be a good way to get a more intense jog in after I had to quit.
She met me at the entrance and we set off, taking random turns down paths. No particular route, just a sped up version of a casual stroll. We passed under a high arch, sprinted up stone steps onto forest trails, and rounded a corner to take in the view of the Hudson.
It was such a cool morning, I gazed up at the trees in confusion. Where are the yellow leaves? I thought of Homecoming, football games. What a welcome relief from the muggy, hot, New York summer!
We ended up going in a lot of circles, crisscrossing paths. “If we were a piece of string, we would be tied in a knot by now.” I said to Rachel. So it’s not a great place for a long run. But we managed to get in an hour of jogging, tacking on a jaunt out of the park and down the street.
It was one of those times when you look around you and you ask yourself, “Am I really in New York?” The street we took felt like the suburbs crossed with Europe: green lawns, benches and pavilions overlooking the water, German style facades, children yelling and playing… love.
Or when we were in the park, and came upon a view of the city spread out below us. It reminded me of Santiago in Chile, when Andy and I hiked to the top of the hill at the center of the city and looked out over the buildings below.
I can’t wait to go back, this time with a blanket, a bottle of wine (not technically allowed, but whatever) and a picnic basket of goodies. Or maybe with nothing but my boyfriend so that I can explore all the wooded paths…