Thursday, November 01, 2007

NYC - A Limited Tour

A favorite cousin and her daughter arrived in the States recently to do a quick tour of NYC, Boston, and Washington DC. The whirlwind trip was a reward of sorts by my cousin to her daughter for getting through law school. Regardless of the jaded learning that law school unloads on a person, my cousin's daughter (let me call her Jasna) was all wide-eyed about NYC. Jasna's been in quite a few places and countries in her short time on Earth, so I was surprised at her ebullience. My ever-loving wife and I spent a Saturday with her and my cousin in NYC, doing the tour guide thing. Stayin away form the traditional Empire State Building, Central Park, Guggenheim Museum, MOMA, SOHO, and Greenwich Village items, which I knew they did or would do on their own, we agreed to do visit some of the places they would not have (relatively) quick access to.

Channeling my (very) younger self, we took the car into the city so as to do the taxi-like careening I was still capable of after all these years. The car of choice was my 180,000 miles (and still running) 1999 Camry. Nicked, dented, and put upon, it has that "Go ahead, hit me attitude" made from steel from the last century that you need to be encased in while driving in the City, unless, of course, you have unlimited funds for repairs and an auto insurance policy that is, let's say, "understanding". I was considering undoing one of the front headlamps and leave it hanging by its wires off the side of the car, giving it that detached orbital socket effect that is so persuasive when you're about to be in a merge-jam with a new Beemer/Benz/Bentley. But, it was a low light kind of day, so I actually needed my headlamps to be pointing straight.

So, we drove up, down, across and sideways around Manhattan. Up in Harlem and then by the Hudson River to tour the Cloisters, which is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was a foggy and misty day which negated one of the pleasures of being at the Cloisters, the gorgeous view of the Hudson in all directions. It's a fabulous site, a perfect setting, grounds, and building to contain the Met's medieval art collection. I thought it a bit pricy ($24 each with admission and guided headset tours), but cheap if you consider that you can park for free while there and then, if your head hasn't exploded from taking in all of the exhibits, a "free" entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art if you go the same day. The last time I was here was in the early '80's. A friend and I attended a horn and piano recital in one of the many small enclosed gardens on the site. An intimate setting with grand acoustics. If anything, the Cloisters have improved. There are more rooms open to the public. Restoration of some of the larger rooms lets one wander for hours in a world of stone walls and floors. A great place to have an iPod with Gregorian chants selections. That or Tortoise's TNT.
If tapestries are your thing, the Cloisters is your place. Low lighting, absolute quiet save for the occasional high-heeled pitpatting on the stone floors echoing through the many chambers. Well-preserved stain glassed windows are another attraction. The self-guided tours are well-done as are the stories aside some of the paintings, windows, gardens, and tapestries. I've only been there in the summer and, now, in the fall. Because of the location, the attention to both the exterior visitation points and the interior presentation, the Cloisters are certainly a site worth seeing in all of the seasons. In the two times that I've been there what surprised me the most was that the Cloisters were in Manhattan, a place usually associated with bruising walking, high levels of noise pollution, and the helter-skelter of intense perambulation. The Cloisters are another world and I'm not talking about a medieval one.

(Additional posting on NYC - A Limited Tour to is, after all, NaBloPoMo)

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Someday, I will visit NYC. And when I do, I'll be calling on you to be the tour guide. I have always wanted to tour the Cloisters. What a setting!
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