Last month on the 29th my wife and I went to the Brooklyn Museum. Since we were there, we decided we should take a look at the Botanic Gardens, which are right next door. It wasn’t really the season for it. The place is supposed to be a lot nicer when all of the flowers and trees are all in bloom, but it was still a nice place to stop and look around. It’s quiet there. You can almost forget you’re in a city for a while. Some of the roses were still in bloom, which was nice, but I think my favorite part of the trip, which I unfortunately have no pictures of, is the Fragrance Garden. You get to walk around and touch different plants, each of which naturally produces strong fragrances like lemon and spearmint. The odor sticks to your fingers. It’s a great spot for kids and probably for blind people as well, and they had that in mind, because most of the signs in that area are in braille.
The food at the Botanic Garden was surprisingly good, even the butternut squash soup. It tasted real, if you know what I mean. Not that it necessarily was, but it was thick and was spiced just right. Expensive, though, just like all museum/park cafes. The next time we go, we want to take a picnic lunch to eat on the lawn under the trees. I’m not sure if it’s allowed, but this is one of those things where I don’t think I’d feel bad about it unless I got caught.
The Cloisters is the medieval art branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, located in Fort Tryon Park in upper Manhattan. The building that houses the galleries is an amazing conglomeration of multiple monasteries from Europe that were crated up, shipped here to New York, and then reconstructed on site using a mix of original and modern materials. The attempt was well done and walking through the Cloisters feels like walking through an old monastery. There’s a main chapel, a smaller chapel, gardens and exhibit halls. The gardens are full of growing herbs and plants that were used during the medieval period, from nightshade to hops.
Going to the Cloisters is a pretty short trip. You can easily see everything in a day, and that’s if you take your time walking around and reading all of the inscriptions. The Met advertises that you can pay at either the main branch or the Cloisters and then access both branches in the same day, but I think that’s a bit of stretch, unless you do it on a Friday or Saturday, when the main building doesn’t close until 9 PM. Also, keep in mind that the prices listed at the entrance are “suggested” prices, meaning that’s what they recommend. You don’t have to pay that much to get in, so if you’re a little tight for cash, you can give them a dollar or two and they’ll still let you in.
Another great thing about the Cloisters is the park it’s located in. Fort Tryon park has some great views. Unlike most parts of Central Park, Fort Tryon Park is extremely hilly, with lots of paths, stairs, and great places for photo opportunities. When my wife and I went to the Cloisters, we rode the bus in from the train station, but on the way out we walked through the park. We’re looking forward to going back to the Cloisters in the near future, but we’re looking forward to exploring the park just as much.
On Sunday afternoon, my wife and I were by the United Nations to take advantage of a Groupon deal I got for the Indigo Indian Bistro on East 50th Street. We didn’t realize the place closed for a while after lunch and before dinner, so we found ourselves standing in the cold with an hour and a half to kill.
I thought about going to the United Nations for a tour, since we were right next to it, but it looked like it was closed too. There weren’t even flags up on the poles. So, we started walking around. First, we poked our heads in at the Japan Society to see if there was anything going on (and to warm up a bit), but they were just finishing up a New Year’s celebration for kids. Then we went next door to look in the Holy Family Church. The building is really weird looking from the outside.
Turns out it’s a Catholic church. It’s sort of nice inside. The giant Jesus on the wall above the priest leading the service was a little scary looking. It made me think about the conflict inherent in the concept of a trinity model of monotheism, and whether or not a distant and cold concept of God was being replaced by the warm and gentle spirit of a man, someone that people could understand and empathize with. That’s a subject for another post, though. I’ve been doing a lot of theological reading that I’ve been slowly digesting, mentally.
After warming up in the church foyer, we went back out to find our next opportunity for passing time. As we were walking away, I noticed a side path that led into a garden that was covered in snow and ice. We figured it was worth a few minutes to go in and look around.
What really peaked my interest was the fact that the garden pool was covered in a layer of ice and snow, and so was the artificial waterfall. I don’t suppose there’s anything unusual about a waterfall icing over in winter, but it’s not something I really expected to see in the middle of Manhattan; not even an artificial one. So, I think the unexpectedness of seeing what I didn’t expect to see made it more worth seeing, if that makes any sense. I’ve also always enjoyed religious settings and architecture, of a certain type. The more solemn and thoughtful type. I’ve always thought religion should be a solemn, thoughtful and meaningful thing.