Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters

My wife and I have been taking some time to go out for long walks while I’m not so swamped with classwork. Central Park is nice, but we live a lot closer to Fort Tryon Park, which is also an awesome place to visit. We can walk there from where we live and the park itself has some great views of the Hudson River and The Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that houses a large part of the museum’s medieval collection.

We walked around there on a Saturday afternoon. Since it was a Saturday afternoon, the park was full of Jewish people relaxing for Shabbat. We saw families sitting on benches, walking together, taking in the view, and kids playing. There were groups of people on picnic blankets and some playing games.

My wife and I would like to go back and have a picnic. Maybe we can pull that off this weekend.

Guyon-Lake-Tysen House c. 1740 with kitchen addition in 1820s.

Visiting Historic Richmond Town on Staten Island

Before this month I’d never heard of Historic Richmond Town on Staten Island. The place isn’t heavily advertised and the carpenter in the recreated shop there told us that he wasn’t surprised, because a lot of people that live there in Staten Island have never heard of the place either. You almost wouldn’t know it was there if you rode by on the bus or in in a car. Maybe that says more about the quality of buildings on Staten Island in general than it does about the site, though, that it’s hard to tell buildings that are almost 300 years old apart from the rest of what Staten Island has to offer.

Getting to Richmond Town from Upper Manhattan was a little bit of a struggle. The A train kept stopping in the tunnel and then went local below 59th Street. I know they’ve been doing some construction on the tunnels during the week, at night, but it would be nice if the city could keep the trains running on time when they’re not doing work on the tracks, otherwise what’s the point of the new construction schedule the city pushed? The ferry ride was nice, at least. I always enjoy the views of the city from the boat. The bus ride from the ferry to the town was about 25 minutes, which isn’t too bad.

When we got to Richmond Town we were afraid it was closed because the place was so quiet and empty. I guessed that it was because this is Memorial Day weekend and most people probably stayed home to relax or went out of town for barbecues. When we got to the ticket counter in the gift shop, the clerk there said that Memorial Day weekend is usually really quiet and cited the same reasons I suggested. I didn’t really care that the place was empty of people. Getting away from the crowds in New York City, seeing some trees, grass, fresh air and open spaces was just fine with me.

The fact that most of the buildings were closed was a problem, though. No one there was in costume. When we went on the 3:30 tour, our guide used a set of keys to open up each building we went into and had to take time to open the shutters so there would be light inside. She kept mentioning that the buildings saw regular, period-style use during the week. I wonder who has time to go out there during the week? I’m going to have to do some research and make some phone calls to find out if we can go back on another weekend and see the place completely up and running.

That being said, the tour was really good and our guide knew quite a bit about the houses she was showing us. She was also ready to answer random questions about the facilities and other buildings we were walking by. I was not disappointed at all. It was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Here are some of my favorite photos from the place:

Better quality images and more details can be found in my Historic Richmond Town Flickr gallery.

Inspiration Point on the Hudson River Greenway

Inspiration Point on the Hudson River Greenway in Northwest Manhattan

Inspiration Point on the Hudson River Greenway in Northwest Manhattan

If you go up the Hudson River Greenway, between the 181st pedestrian footbridge and where the Greenway currently ends at the northern branch of Riverside Drive at the northern edge of Fort Tryon Park, you’ll find Inspiration Point.

There’s no way to access Inspiration Point except by using the trail. There are no parking spots and no way to pull over to the side of the road, though it looks like there might have been at one time. There is a raised section of concrete there that my wife stood on while she waited for me to finish taking pictures and looking around.

I suppose it’s a spot that not many people will visit. It’s isolated, and regardless of whether you enter the Greenway on the north end or at the pedestrian footbridge to the south, it’s a pretty long walk to get there. Maybe the fact that there are rarely people there is why the area is called Inspiration Point. You can be alone with your thoughts there, if you can ignore the highway traffic directly behind you anyway.

Inspiration Point

View of the Hudson River from Inspiration Point

View of the Hudson River from Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point

Regardless, the structure is really well made, and really interesting. It has a sort of ancient Rome feel to it, minus the red brick flooring anyway. What was this structure originally built for? I can’t imagine such an extravagant structure would be erected just for the occasional walker on the Greenway. Looking at Google Maps, I got the impression that the section of the Henry Hudson Parkway between where Riverside Drive stops at 181st Street and where it starts again north of Fort Tryon Park used to actually be Riverside Drive and was then converted into the northbound lane of the parkway.

A little further down from Inspiration Point are two pillars on the opposite side of the road that look like the entrance to an old driveway. It is currently overgrown. That, and what looked like an old parking area near Inspiration Point makes me think traffic on that road used to be a lot slower.

On a blog about infrastructure (infrastructureemily.com), I saw a picture of stairs leading down the side of the Inspiration Point structure to another lookout area. I didn’t even notice that. Now I definitely need to go back and take another look. The author of the other blog didn’t try to sneak down there and look around. I might!

Billings Terrace

Billings Terrace

Billings Terrace

Billings Terrace

Right next to that driveway I mentioned earlier is Billings Terrace. It’s very cool looking from down on the Greenway! I really want to go up there and take a look around. Billings Terrace is in Fort Tryon Park, where the Cloisters and most of the medieval art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art is housed. There are also renaissance fairs there sometimes.

Trekking Across the George Washington Bridge Into New Jersey

Lower Manhattan and Hoboken (I think), New Jersey as seen from the George Washington Bridge

Lower Manhattan and Hoboken (I think), New Jersey as seen from the George Washington Bridge

When I was in the Army, there was a running cadence that went something like this:

I can run to Jersey just like this,

All the way to Jersey and never quit.

I can run to New York just like this,

All the way to New York and never quit,

Because I’m hardcore,

Motivated,

Dedicated,

etc. etc. (The cadence changes here depending on the unit type)

Well, when I crossed the bridge on foot yesterday, I wasn’t running, but this cadence was rattling around in my head. I was thinking that, of all the times I responded to or called that cadence when I was in the Army, I never actually crossed any state lines during PT (physical training). But, yesterday, I started a walk in Manhattan and ended up in the Fort Lee Historic Park across the river in New Jersey, and then came back again. Maybe in a few months I will go back and run that route, but for now I’m trying to take it easy and just enjoy myself.

The bridge’s walkway is pretty popular. I saw a lot of tourists with name tapes stuck to their shirts as well as families walking across, or hanging out on the bridge. Just as a side note, I noticed a lot of Jewish people hanging out up there. I was reminded of how many Jewish people I saw in the Bronx Zoo last June. I don’t say that to be racist or anything. I’m just wondering if I’m stumbling across popular hangout spots for Orthodox Jewish families, because I don’t recall seeing that many Jewish people hanging around lower Manhattan, the Natural History Museum or the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Or it could be that I just never noticed?

Anyway, the views going across the bridge are stunning. My iPhone photos aren’t going to do it justice. I’d like to go back with a real camera to try to get some better shots, and I will definitely have the opportunity, because even if I don’t run across the bridge one day, I’ll definitely be walking all the way back to Jersey.

Also, just as a side-note: In my last blog post I wrote about walking up the Hudson River Greenway underneath the George Washington Bridge and I noted that it seemed like the bushes along some parts of the trail were hollowed out, like people live there. Well, it seems like there are some homeless people living in the park, after all. When I was on the bridge, looking down, I saw a homeless guy through an opening in the trees trying to get comfortable. You can barely see him in this image, but he’s resting his legs on that blue box:

A homeless man getting comfortable in the bushes off the path in Fort Washington Park along the Hudson River Greenway.

A homeless man getting comfortable in the bushes off the path in Fort Washington Park along the Hudson River Greenway.

Weekend Outing to Times Square

Times Square, New York City

Times Square, New York City, June 3, 2012

This past weekend was the only weekend in my one and a half week break between the end of Spring Semester and the beginning of Summer classes.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.  My wife was encouraging me to relax and have a good time.  I was thinking about doing some heavy reading and trying to get ahead on the books assigned on the syllabus for my first summer class.

I never did get around to that, mostly because I decided to migrate my blog from Blogger to WordPress.  It’s taking a lot more time to complete than I thought.  The import was a little complicated.  I had to export from Blogger, import to WordPress.com, export from WordPress.com, and then import to my WordPress installation.  Needless to say, there are tons of formatting errors, not the least of which is that images are either really blurry or not loading at all, depending on the browser.  I have to fix that.  I’ve been working on getting the categories and tags set up first though.  Maybe I’ll be done by next weekend!

Anyway, I didn’t want to spend all weekend in front of my computer screen.  Luckily, one of my wife’s teachers from med school was in town so we went out to meet up with him at Times Square.  After chatting and walking around with him a bit, he left to meet up with other friends, so my wife and I did the tourist thing.  I pulled out my camera and started taking photos.  We did some shopping and window shopping and wound up eating out.  It wasn’t a spectacular day but it was a great day and a good weekend outing.

East River Park Running Track

East River Park Running Track. One of these ladies tried to steal our water bottle.

Sunday, we hit the track and ordered pizza.

Now, the time for fun and games are over.  I have to get ready for the first day of my first summer class: Islam in the West.  It should be exciting!