The Cloisters (Metropolitan Museum of Art – Medieval Gallery)

DSCN2697The 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.

The Hudson River Greenway

The Hudson River Greenway
The Hudson River Greenway

I’ve started taking long walks for exercise purposes. While I’m out, I usually listen to the news using a new app I found called Umano (which is pretty cool, by the way), but still, looking at the same scenery over and over gets old, so I’m always looking for new places to go. Normally, I walk down Riverside Drive and head south along the river, past Riverbank State Park. Saturday, my wife and I took a detour and discovered the Hudson River Greenway.

My wife and I had seen the Greenway before, from Riverbank State Park, which is completely elevated, but we didn’t know how to actually access the area. The Greenway is a route that follows the edge of Manhattan island and caters to cyclists, joggers and walkers. There are plenty of places to picnic and barbecue along the way, as well.

So, Saturday, my wife and I were walking down Riverside Drive when I saw a woman walking up a set of steps that led down towards the highway. We’d always wondered where those stairs go, but the area looks a little creepy, so we never went down to check. The woman told us the stairs lead down towards a park, so we decided to take a chance and headed down the steps. The path led to a set of metal stairs at the on-ramp for the Hudson River Parkway at 158th Street and at the bottom of the steps, we found the Greenway.

We went right, only because we were hoping for good views of the George Washington Bridge. We didn’t realize how long the path is, or how much stuff there is down there. There are parks, camp areas, tennis courts, basketball courts, and there are areas under construction that look like they’re going to be really nice sitting areas.

We didn’t leave for our walk until late. We didn’t expect to find an interesting trail to follow, and while we were down there, it started to get dark. It’s a little spooky down there when the sun starts to go down. There are places along the trail where the brush is hollowed out like people (or animals) are living there. I was really surprised at how many people there are using the trail, though, and how even after dark women were walking through there alone. I don’t think I’d want to walk there alone at night.

We followed the trail under the George Washington Bridge, where it doubled back on itself and headed up to street level, and then we headed back home through the city. The walk was really fun and not too tiring at all. And, we discovered that the neighborhood around the George Washington Bridge is really, really nice. We saw a few new restaurants we’d like to try. I suppose that’s one of the great things about going out for walks. It helps you discover cool stuff in and around your neighborhood.

An Evening Walk Down Riverside Drive in Manhattan

View of the Hudson River from Riverbank State Park
View of the Hudson River from Riverbank State Park

I sort of let myself fall off the exercise wagon while struggling with other commitments, so now that Summer session classes are over, I’m taking August to try to get myself together. That involves a lot of sorting, organizing, shopping, bill paying, appointment scheduling, and, of course, getting myself back into shape. I’m not going to be a hero and try to go from barely being active for two and a half months to dropping 5ks like they’re nothing, so I’m starting out with long walks first. This is definitely a great neighborhood for it, both in terms of scenery and because the area is hilly, rather than flat, making walks more physically challenging.

We walked down Riverside Drive from about 168th Street, where Columbia University Medical Center is and eventually wound up in Riverbank State Park, which is the nicest park I’ve seen in New York City, other than Central Park. The facilities are probably better than those at Central Park, though, since they’re newer. We saw an Olympic-sized running oval, a skating rink, and somewhere in that park there’s also a pool. We’re looking forward to going back and spending some time there. I bet that oval makes for good running, that’s easy on the knees.

Classes start again at the end of the month, so hopefully I can make the most out of my time!

Washington Square Park

My mother’s side of the family has lived in New York City since my great-grandmother immigrated here from Spain (via Puerto Rico) in 1930.  Ever since I was a kid, I came here to visit family every summer and then, about every 2 to 3 years.  My family has always lived in the East Village and I remember when I used to step out on the streets in the morning and see used syringes in the cracks, but I don’t recall that I’ve ever been to Washington Square Park before last Wednesday.

Arch at Washington Square

It’s possible.  They’ve renovated it a lot recently.  In fact, they were still doing renovations on about half the park when I went through there last week, but I’m pretty sure I’d remember that big arch at the entrance.

Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park is a really nice, quiet, classy type of area.  It’s surrounded by NYU buildings so the crowd is diverse but generally classy.  It’s the type of place I’d want to go for an afternoon of reading or people watching.  I wish I had more time for that, but lately I’m always so busy.

Graffiti At the Somerset MRT Skate-Park

The most used entrance and exit for the Somerset MRT station is the one that opens into the new 313 @ Somerset mall.  Even before that mall was there, that entrance was still the most used since it opened onto Orchard Road, which is the main shopping strip in Singapore.  I actually never even knew there was another entrance and exit until I was directed to go back into that area to find an iPhone armband for jogging at the SingTel store.

The area that surrounds that MRT entrance is very green, with tall trees and lots of grass. There’s also a skate park there.  It has half-pipes, rails and ramps, at least that I noticed.  It looked like a good place for people to hang out.  The idea of skateboarding there wasn’t what caught my attention though; it was the graffiti.

Graffiti isn’t something you see in Singapore all that much to start with, and you definitely don’t see graffiti of the quality that’s on display in this skate park.  As we passed by I snapped a few shots.

I don’t have a problem with graffiti.  I think it’s pretty cool, as long as it’s tastefully done on public areas, rather than people’s businesses or personal property.  It’s a great method of self expression and goes a long way towards cultivating artistic talents.