Ah, I hear you say, but America wasn’t really around in medieval times. Sure, that’s true, but it doesn’t stop NYC from importing treasures from Europe and displaying them in a made up castle in the far reaches of north Manhattan. I kept seeing reference to the Cloisters in tourist blurb and at the Metropolitan Museum but couldn’t quite imagine what it meant. So on a hot and sunny day earlier this week J and I ventured up the A line all the way to 190th Street, which is a very long way away. And naturally it also involved a ridiculous amount of stairs, curses to you stairs, but I think my arms are rather more sculpted than they used to be, so I shouldn’t complain, really.
John D. Rockefeller Jr funded the Cloisters that emerged from the grounds of Fort Tryon Park in the 1930s. An architect called Charles Collens designed the building to look a bit like a medieval monastery and actually included relics into the construction and I think he did a pretty good job. It’s the home of the medieval collection of the Metropolitan Museum. The cloisters themselves are tranquil and beautifully landscaped and great fun to tootle round if you are 20 months old but hopeless if you are the mother of the 20 month old trying to keep him off the plants, climbing the walls and stopping him from falling into the gardens 20 feet below. But besides that the interior is great if you like looking at really old stuff, medieval stuff isn’t really my thing, but we did get to see the 1930s bowels of the building as we got special dispensation to use the original staff lift to go back up to the entrance – too many stairs. Again.
Fort Tryon Park is a revelation. Snuggled next to the Hudson River, which is very wide at this point, it is an almost tropical haven from the density of the rest of Manhattan. It was hard to believe we were still on the island at all. I doubt many tourists get this far, but on a sunny, hot day, it’s well worth the trip.