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The Cloisters: A Medieval Sanctuary

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This charming enclave of The Met is housed in a re-constructed ensemble designed to resemble a medieval-era monastery on four acres in Fort Tryon Park.  Located in the Bronx, the lovely park runs along the Hudson, with views across the river of the New Jersey Palisades’ plateau, and is beautiful in the spring.

The museum focuses on medieval art, architecture and gardens with the main focus on religious artifacts. It’s not large, but beautifully appointed and you truly feel you are transported to a hilltop somewhere in Europe.  It’s hard to believe you are a short subway ride from the middle of Manhattan.

Open since 1938, The Met Cloisters has been heavily endowed by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., including the gift of the famous Unicorn Tapestries, my favorite. There is an incredible collection of striking tapestries on display.  Exhibits span from the Romanesque through the Gothic periods. IMG_5754

If You Go:

Open seven days a week, during the day from 10 AM, closing hours vary slightly by season, so check the website for up-to-date details.  Adults $25; seniors $17; Students $12 and children under 12 free.  Tickets also entitle same-day admission to other Met museums. If you go by subway, take the “A” train to the 190 Street stop and walk through the gardens to the museum.  Or, grab an Uber to 99 Margaret Corbin Drive.  There is a nice gift shop as well as a café (open April – October) on premises.

http://www.metmuseum.org/visit/met-cloisters

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NYC, Riverside

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Yes, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.  No, it was not my idea.

For the record, I do not like heights. But on a last-minute trip to NYC to visit our daughter, I got a bit outside my comfort zone.

We began the outing by taking the East River Ferry (@ 34th St), to the East River State Park in the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn.  Williamsburg is a gentrified area very popular with young families. On Saturdays during the warmer months, locals swarm the “Smorgasburg” held in the park

Only seven types of velvet cake available this day; I wanted to try their Praline Bourbon.

Only seven types of velvet cake available this day; I wanted to try their Praline Bourbon.

just off the ferry landing. Dubbed by the NY Times as “The Woodstock of Eating”, it features more than 100 gourmet booths offering every imaginable type of food. We sampled Texas-style moist beef brisket, Maine lobster rolls, hummus, red velvet cake, and a salted chocolate ice cream sandwich.  All delicious.

Once fortified, we launched an ill-fated search for some great local chocolate bobka.  Despite conflicting info on their website, and failure to get them on the phone, we gave it a try.  We ended up with a nice ride through the Russian Hasidic community (and men with their giant cylindrical fur hats), and ended up at a closed, red-brick warehouse . . . hmmm, no bobka for us.  Good thing we weren’t hungry.

Walking to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Walking to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Our daughter announced she would like to return to Manhattan by way of walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. My husband was 100% enthusiastic, so I kept quiet and off we went.

It was actually a lot of fun.  The Bridge is an impressively majestic, historic structure that made me feel pretty safe. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the views north towards the midtown skyline and south towards the new Freedom Tower and the Statue of Liberty were chamber-of-commerce perfect.  I’m happy to say I did it!

 

 

Waterfront Dining Tips

View from the Boat Basin Cafe.

View from the Boat Basin Cafe.

Our daughter is still a Florida gal at heart and doesn’t miss a chance to be around water when possible.  This trip, she took us to the Boat Basin Café on the Hudson (Upper West Side at W 79th St), for a beautiful sunset, drinks and a casual dinner overlooking the marina and river. Don’t get caught walking along the river with an open drink, you will be fined (we weren’t caught).

We had a great late lunch-break from our chores at The Water Club’s Crow’s Nest on the East River at 30th.

The main restaurant has a nice bar and indoor dining, and the Crow’s Nest offers roof-top drinks and lighter fare (classic NY hot dogs, lobster rolls,  salads, etc), paired with a super view across the river and the 59th St Bridge to the north.  Word has it, it’s also a great spot for happy hour. BTW, our city friends tell us, it’s also great because they have parking.

The Water Club; Crow's Nest on top.

The Water Club; Crow’s Nest on top.

 

NYC Notes:

Brooklyn also has a TKTS office for discount tickets.  Just like the office at the South Street Seaport, it opens at 11 AM and also offers tickets to the matinees the following day (the Times Square ticket windows open at 3 and don’t offer next day matinée tickets).  While in Brooklyn, we stopped by for Broadway tickets and literally walked up the window, no wait.

There is no charge to walk or bike across the Bridge. It is about a mile once you are on the Bridge and from the Brooklyn side, a least a mile from downtown to get to the starting point.  On the Manhattan side, the Bridge is close to the subway station.

The Smorgasburg event has expanded throughout the boroughs on different days with different names.  Can’t vouch for the other locations, but you can find more food on Sundays in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 5 (near Manhattan’s NY City Hall); and just this weekend a location opened in Long Island City, Queens on Saturdays.  All open 11 AM – 6 PM.

Fans of the Carnegie Deli will be disappointed they are temporarily closed (since late April) and surprised to find out it’s been reported they’ve been stealing about half the gas they use for cooking and heating – for five years. Apparently, once they pay their fines, they can make repairs and Con Edison will turn on their gas again.

Step Back in Time at the NY Tenement Museum

The Tenement Museum, Lower East Side on Orchard Street.

The Tenement Museum, Lower East Side on Orchard Street.

My obsession with ancestry.com has been renewed during our recent visit to the New York Tenement Museum.  This salvaged treasure offers a glimpse into the lives of a sampling of early immigrant families, German, Irish, Russian/Jewish and Italian. From 1863 through the Great Depression, this small Lower East Side building housed thousands of residents passing through its 22 apartments.

Originally, there were gas lights, no plumbing, few windows and shared outhouses.  Innovations and local laws would eventually result in windows between rooms (to help prevent TB), running water, electricity and a shared toilet on each floor!

Our informative, charming guide did a fantastic job bringing history to life, as we toured two floors and visited apartments of two Jewish immigrant families.  Known as the “Sweatshop Workers” tour, these families worked in the garment industry, turning their tiny 3-room (just over 400’) homes into workshops to piece together clothing sold in department stores and catalogues.

You see the state of disrepair in which the building was found, the stages of décor throughout the decades and, finally, the re-creation of how the apartments looked during the timeframe of the tour.

Make no mistake, these are real families that are profiled, and some of their artifacts and photos are also displayed.

There are lots of tour options at the Tenement Museum, including stories about German, Italian and Irish families, as well as the shops and neighborhood itself. On certain days they feature actors, lectures and special programs about restoration, etc.

If you had relatives pass through New York when they came to the US, this museum is extra-special. But whether your family arrived on the Mayflower, or on a 777 last month, this museum offers a must-see slice of American history.

As for me, I’ve now successfully located address for all family that immigrated through New York and have a few new stories of my own.

Tips: You do need to be able to walk up stairs and you do stand during the tour, but folding chairs are available for anyone needing to sit. Be forewarned, since there is no A/C, it would be best to visit on cooler days. Adult Tickets are $25, $20 for Seniors & Students.  Not all tours are appropriate for young children, so check out the website for special children’s programming.  103 Orchard Street    http://www.tenement.org

New York, New York, even when it's freezing, I love it.

New York, New York, even when it’s freezing, I love it.

Secrets of Grand Central Terminal & Early New York

Lobby of the Grand Central Terminal.

Main Concourse of the Grand Central Terminal.

Who does a Sunday morning tour?  Anyone wanting to see Grand Central Terminal (Station). And it’s no wonder, you would never be able to get around so easily during a normal business day.

We learned about this great tour from some good friends and are so glad we hauled ourselves out of bed and out into the freezing weather – it was fantastic.

And fortunately for us, most of the tour was indoors.

Our tour guide, John, was excellent as he wove together the history of New York City.  He brought just the right balance of a historian’s knowledge and perspective, combined with a visitor’s sense of discovery and an insider’s wisdom.  He did a superb job of keeping it colorful and entertaining as he conveyed a tremendous amount of information to a wide assortment of ages, tourists and even a few locals. My group of three included one local and one who used to live in NYC and we all agreed, we learned so much (and the info we did know, our guide was spot-on).

We explored the terminal from all angles, as well as the Art Deco showpiece lobby of the Chrysler building.  Our visit made it abundantly clear how often we take what’s around us for granted. We never knew the value of the opal clock in the main hall, the acoustical tricks near the Oyster Bar, the design intentions of the intuitive architecture, it was a Nazi’s target in WW2, or that the clocks inside are set a bit ahead to help people catch their trains on time . . .  and so much more.

Inside Info: I know these tours are billed as “free” but I do hope you tip well, because they deserve it; guides split any tips with their office. This company has lots of creative excursions and we will try another walking tour on our next visit to the city.  Explore options and book on-line: http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com/

9/11 Memorial Museum

One of 2,00 saved pieces of the World Trade Center, stands as a sentinel next to museum windows overlooking the memorial site.

One of the more than 2,000 saved pieces of the World Trade Center, stands as a sentinel next to museum windows overlooking the memorial site.

This is a fitting, somber, respectful museum, strikingly curated and staged, to honor those who lost their lives during the 9/11 attacks. A must-see for every American, exhibits show not only artifacts from the devastating tragedy, but beautifully honor details about the lives of those who died. The museum includes information about the Pentagon attack and Pennsylvania crash as well as a haunting, detailed timeline and background of the terrorists’ planning.  Video and audio clips greatly enhance the experience. Much of the story is told through family members of those who were killed as well as the men and women who survived and responded to the sites.

It’s those personal stories that really make your heart break . . .

 

Essentials: Guided tours are available for an additional charge and there is a self-guided tour with a smartphone app narrated by Robert De Niro. Admission is $24, $18 for seniors, and free on Tuesdays after 5PM (on a first-come, first-served basis, available after 4PM). If you are buying tickets, the on-line process will save you time.  Tickets are sold with entry at 30-minute intervals, beginning at 9AM. Allow 2-4 hours. We entered at 9:30AM and by the time we left, at midday, it was getting very crowded. Visitors need to review the rules of decorum, as is befitting. It’s quiet, no sitting on the floor, no flash photography and in many sections, no photography at all.

The last piece standing, bearing "signatures" of the many rescue teams working the aftermath of the tragedy.

Known as “the last piece standing”, bearing “signatures” of the many rescue, recovery and clean-up teams working the aftermath of the tragedy.

One of the twin reflecting pools inscribed with names of those lost at the World Trade Center on 9-11.  Part of the 9/11 Memorial located outside the museum.

One of the twin reflecting pools inscribed with names of those lost at the World Trade Center on 9/11; part of the Memorial located outside the museum.

NYC Perspective

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