Category Archives: Side Trips

The Cloisters

The Cloisters is a part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but it is located on the north end of Manhattan between Inwood and Washington Heights. From its terrace, you can see the Hudson and the George Washington Bridge.

GW bridge

The Cloisters advertises itself as a museum of medieval art, architecture and gardens. It is that. First of all, it is designed to resemble a monastery or castle.

building

The museum incorporates three entire cloisters from monasteries that were located in various parts of Europe, as well as original stone for parts of its walls.

WindowIn the various individual cloisters, you can see the same sculptures worked into the tops of the pillars that the monks saw. Portrayals of hell, for one thing, were common themes. Flames, chains and gleeful demons abound.

Hell 2Hell 3

Stained glass windows are also worked into the design. This one has survived from the 12th Century.

Stained glass 3Some of the stained glass pieces are displayed as you might display a painting, and with good reason. The one following is meant to show the Israelites gathering manna in the wilderness.

Stained glass 2This is another particularly nice one.

Stained glass 4In every cloister, a garden is planted in medieval style, with plants that might have been seen in those gardens.

Garden

I am guessing the monks would have enjoyed the butterflies also,

FullSizeRenderThey certainly had a sense of humor; witness this drooling monster, used as a fountain.

Drooling Monster

The Cloisters is also home to the Unicorn Tapestries. They are beautiful, but certainly not joyous.

Unicorn 2

Most museums are quiet places. This one is especially a place for peaceful contemplation of art and life and religion. it is difficult to come away without encountering something that makes one think.

thomasThe piece of art above is a carving that represents the death of Mary, the mother of Christ. You will notice that there are ten men attending her, and you would be right if you guessed they were disciples of Jesus. Who was missing, other than Judas, who had hung himself long before this event? Thomas was not able to make it. But here is the interesting part, at least to me. When he was told by the others that Mary had risen into heaven (the Assumption), he doubted their story. In other words, the same fellow who didn’t believe that Christ rose from the dead until he could touch the wounds himself also doubted that Mary was lifted into heaven. Once a doubter, always a doubter, is the moral of that story, I guess.  And by the way, according to legend, the belt on Mary’s robe fell to earth, convincing Thomas that she had indeed been lifted up. Do you think his face turned red?

 

A Walk to Randall’s Island

Distant Bridge copy

 

This is a view to the east from our terrace. When we first moved here in 1976, it was a much more expansive view, but, New York being what it is, a host of new huge buildings have gone up along Third Avenue and so we are miraculously left with this view of a little slice of the river and of two bridges in the distance.  Those bridges are the RFK Bridge (once known as the Triboro Bridge, an uninspired name if ever there were one, but descriptive) and the old Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge, over which the trains from Penn Station travel on their way to New England.

I have decided that it would be a fun idea to walk across the RFK (Triboro) Bridge (no, I wasn’t on any drug except coffee at the time).  And the first leg was to find out how exactly one gets from the RFK Bridge to Manhattan.  Getting on in Queens was easy to find on the internet.  Getting off on Randall’s Island was not so simple.  So, I asked my son, Zach, who trained for the Marathon by running back and forth to Randall’s Island Park (among other far-flung places), to come with me and show me how such a walk might work.

So we set out on a beautiful day (of which we have had many this summer).  We walked over to the FDR drive at 96th Street and took the path along East River.  In the distance we could see the footbridge that would carry us across. Doesn’t it look graceful?

Footbridge

And this is a view on the footbridge itself.

Footbridge 2Since we live in New York, most bridges have been fitted with fencing that makes it more difficult for “people” to throw things off at other people passing below.  I know, I know … it’s hard to believe that “people” do such things.  It is maddeningly astoundingly mindblowingly (maybe not a word, but you get the idea) STUPID.  And this is the view we are left with on the footbridge itself:

Safety firstI guess it’s cute that some sweet couple pledged their love forever by leaving a lock on the fences.  Awwwwww …

Moving on, this is what greets you on the other side of the footbridge.   I was very glad that there was no reason to put a fence around it.

hello

This is a picture of the Triboro (sorry, RFK) Bridge up a little closer.  Do you think it is the beautiful blue sky, or the clouds, or the water that makes even this most practical of bridges something to admire?

Triboro RFKAnd here is the Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge.  If I had been paying a little attention, I would have gotten a picture of a train coming over that bridge.  But I was too busy enjoying the sun and the blue sky and the clouds.  You will have to imagine it!

Railroad Bridge  Then we got a surprise and something of a puzzle.  Beneath the uprights of the Triboro Bridge (there I go again), there was a 8 or 10 foot high stump of a tree that had been (guessing) fifty to sixty years old when it was cut.  All of the bark had been worn off and an amazing tree face was left.Randalls Island

 

Here is the puzzle.  The Bridge was opened to the public by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1936.  If it had been cut off at that time, I doubt that even a stump would still be left.  Therefore, it seem more likely that it began to grow sometime after the bridge was first opened and continued to grow in this unlikely spot until someone realized that it might be doing damage to the bridge itself.  So, is it a face that is smiling at the thought that it lasted so long, or a face that is sad considering what it might have become?  Your choice.

Then I got the big surprise.  Zach led me to a path that I never knew existed, past wetlands habitat and lined with beautiful flowers.  Butterflies were on the flowers. And, although this is a terrible photograph (it just would not sit still) I was able to identify it as a spicebush swallowtail.  Nice!

Spicebush Swallowtail   So here are some photographs of the path that we walked.  The first is looking across the East River toward Harlem.walk 1

This  one shows how the path winds through the trees.  The shade was very inviting on that hot summer day.

Walk 2

Purple flowers.  Who does not like purple flowers?  Are they lavender?  I don’t know.

walk 3

More flowers of many types.  Bees and butterflies were plentiful.

walk 5All in all, it was a beautiful day, and as we passed back over the footbridge, I barely thought once about “people” who throw things off bridges.  Although I did curse the fence.

Boscobel and the Old West Point Foundry

Last week Anne and I took a little road trip up the Taconic to a house we had never visited before called Boscobel.  It was a beautiful summer day with a brilliant sun and a very blue sky and white fluffy clouds and almost no humidity.  Here is a picture of the house.MansionThe house was not originally on this spot, but had been removed from its previous location and placed here by heroic efforts led by a local historian, Benjamin West Frazier during the 1950s.  The renovation was twice funded by Lila Wallace a co-founder of Readers’ Digest and is now regarded as one of the most authentic reproductions  of architecture, decorative arts  and furniture of the Federal Era.  Thank you Mr. Frazier and Ms Wallace.

The outside is kinda nice too.

YardThis is the view from the “back” of the house, looking down toward the Hudson River.  If you follow the red brick path, you come to this.

Constitution marshIn the distance is the Hudson River.  In the foreground is another important piece of preservation work —  Constitution Marsh. This good deed for us all was accomplished by the Audubon Society which has preserved the marsh for many years and will, it is hoped, preserve it into the distant future.  Vigilance is needed!

West PointIf your eyes were to travel to the right of the prior photograph, you would see this — West Point, without which, I suppose, we might not have the ability to preserve anything.  yesterdayThis is a painting of essentially the same area.  We will come back to the subject of this painting later in this post, but it seemed a nice counterpoint to the other photos.

The grounds of Boscobel include trails through a woods and even down to the Constitution Marsh.  We kept to the high ground.

TrailWe saw many things along the way, but this little mushroom caught my attention.  Red!  That means we can eat it, right?  Or does that mean we should not eat it?  Where is that guidebook when I need it?  Oh well.

MushroomAnd here is a picture of the caretaker’s house.  Nice work if you can get it.

CaretakerAfter we left Boscobel, we traveled a short distance down the road to Cold Spring Harbor and explored yet another preservation effort, this time for the West Point Foundry.  The foundry was built  around 1818 and supplied the army with guns, among other things.  It is famous for the Parrott guns (there were many sizes) that were used during the civil war to kill people and destroy things with great accuracy and at amazing distances.  Amazing to me anyway.  They used the mountain across the Hudson river for target practice when they tested the guns.

Here is a very big Parrott gun.

Parrot large

And here is a little baby one.Parrot smallBoth have the same singular purpose.  During the Civil War, 2,500 guns were manufactured here and 3 million projectiles.

The foundry made other products.  Pipes for the New York City water system.

water pipesAnd cast iron fronts for some of New York’s buildings, many of which are still in use today.

Home depot facadeHere are some of the men who worked in the foundry.  I love looking at pictures like this.  I imagine each of them had a wife and children who loved him.  They worked very hard.

workersHere is a painting of the inside of the furnace.  Imagine it on a day when it is 90 or 100 degrees out.  I doubt they got the day off.  Remember the painting of the Hudson River with all the smoke?  That was the dock from which product was shipped down the river.  The black clouds were not rain clouds.

Painting interiorToday there are hiking trails through the area once dominated by the foundry. You can see the actual spot where they once shot “projectiles” at the mountain across the river. 

factoryThis is one of the buildings that remains standing.  Birds call.  Raspberry bushes grow along the trails.  Wild flowers broom.  Mostly it is very quiet.

 

A Walk Across High Bridge from Manhattan to the Bronx

On July 4th, Alice, Zach and I took a trip up to Highbridge Park in Washington Heights, on the upper end of Manhattan, and walked across High Bridge.  I had driven under it many times, wondered about it, marveled at it, and read about it, and when it was reopened in June of this year after being closed for over forty years, I was determined to walk across it.  (More on why it was closed later).  Oh yes, click on pictures to enlarge them!

The bridge1The High Bridge, so named because it really is very tall, was originally built to bring water from the Croton Reservoir across the Harlem River and into Manhattan.  It was designed to resemble a Roman aqueduct and no doubt caused feelings of great pride in the New Yorkers of the time.  It was beautiful.

highbridge-rev2Above is a picture from the Bronx side of what High Bridge looked like when it was first built.  In 1928, four spans on your left were replaced by a single steel arch in order to make the Harlem River easier to navigate.

This is a picture of New Yorkers enjoying themselves walking across the span back in the the 19th Century, when this was a favorite excursion.

Highbridge1869rev-323x380This is a picture of some visitors yesterday.

Alice and meO tempora, o mores!

But yes, that would be me and Alice.  And here is Zach and Alice.

Alice and ZachAnd here is a view of the entire bridge, looking from the Bronx side to Manhattan.

The Bridge2You will remember that the bridge was closed for over forty years.  I will show you a picture and ask you to try to figure out why it was closed.

North and fenceNo, the answer is not because that is the ugliest view in America!  Although looking at the Cross Bronx Expressway, the Deegan Expressway, and the railroad tracks is not easy on the eyes.  The reason is illustrated by the fence that was put up to stop “people” from throwing things over the side onto cars, trains, and boats that passed beneath.  I know, I know.  Why the…. Never mind.  Deep breath.

We left the bridge and walked through HighBridge Park on the way home.  The Park at one time had a huge Reservoir.  It now has a nice size swimming pool.  It also has trails on which one can forget that there are people in the world who throw things off bridges.

ThistelThere are also mulberry trees where we stopped and ate a few, as we do every year, at least once a summer, just to prove we know they really are edible and will not kill us!  The park also has beautiful rocks, although (and Alice says I am being paranoid) one rock definitely gave me a Bronx cheer.

Bronx cheerThis rose was not in the park, but was so beautiful, it had to be part of the remembrance of the day.

RoseAnd, since it was a walk on July 4th, it would not be right to leave out one of the nicest sights of all.

Flag and cloudsHappy fourth of July!

 

Rockefeller Park — Let Sleeping Stones Lie.

We went to Rockefeller Park yesterday because it was Alice’s birthday and we always try to take a walk somewhere nice on that special day.  The park is part of the old Rockefeller Estate and has paths that were originally intended for the carriages of the Rockefeller family but which are now open to all.  One of the paths is around a small lake.

Lake 1

I guess I should mention that it was the end of a rainy day, but the trees did not seem to mind at all.  Doesn’t this look like a ship with big colorful sails?

Lake 2 ship

Of course, what would a walking trip be without making the acquaintance of some of the spirits that inhabit the park, including the rocks along the way?

Face 1

They were generally very happy to make our acquaintance.

Face 2

But there were some exceptions.

Face 3

Some of the rocks were inhabited by more than one spirit, which made them a little bit schizophrenic .

Face 4 Plus

There are at least three faces in here.  One grumpy.  One mildly amused.  And one just plain irritated.

Face 5 Sleeping

And then there was this guy, who was sleeping so happily in the midst of an obviously pleasant dream that I could not stop myself from taking his picture.

Lake 3

All in all a beautiful day.

Bethpage Village, August 28, 2014

We went to one of our favorite museums the other day — Old Bethpage Restoration Village, which is in Nassau County, very close to exits on both the Long Island Expressway and the Northern Parkway.  In the early 1970s, the County of Nassau bought a farm that belonged to the Powell family, which had been living and farming in Nassau for many many years.  The county then started accepting donations of old buildings from Nassau and Suffolk county, including a General Store, an Inn, a blacksmith shop, a school house, a church, a hatter’s shop, and many more.  The original 200 acres that made up the Powell farm are now the home for a “town” from the approximate time of the Civil War, although there is some flexibility in the dating of certain of the exhibits.  They also maintain a restoration farm, including farm animals.  Very cool.

Here is the Powell barn.Powell BarnThey have special programs throughout the year.  Music was the theme on the day we were there.  A man played the hammer dulcimer and a woman played the violin, producing old time standards.  Dancers dressed in period costumes demonstrated various steps and encouraged spectators to join in. Dancers

There was also a brass band, dressed up in Uniform.  Among other pieces, they played the Dixie Gallop, Listen to the Mockingbird, and the Handel March from Judas Maccabeus.

Brass Band

All in all, it is an exceptionally peaceful and relaxing afternoon.

Road

If Anne and I ever write a book based in this time period, this will provide a lot of the interiors and exteriors.  Let’s see, a kid is visiting the Village with his parents, he wanders off to a place where he shouldn’t be, hear’s something calling to him in the loft of the barn, climbs up and Bingo, he’s transported to the 1800s and someone is there in need of help.  But who?  A girl?  Of course!

Gotta go back!