Sunday, July 5, 2009

Walk NYC Inwood Park to Fort Tryon Park and Cloisters Medieval Gardens, A Summer Visit

Quote of the Day: Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. ~Soren Kierkegaard

Contents Summary:

  • A Train to 270th St. to Inwood Hill Park (to 190th Street if directly to The Cloisters)
  • Walking Directions to Cloisters from Inwood Hill Park
  • Photos of gorgeous Fort Tryon Park and New Leaf Cafe on the Hudson
  • Photos and captions for the fascinating medieval gardens of The Cloisters
  • Directions home to midtown on the A Train
  •  Recommended Books

We were supposed to meet an AMC group at the corner of Broadway and 207th Street, just above ground from the uptown A train to explore Inwood Hill Park and Fort Tryon Park, and then a visit to the Cloisters.

However... we arrived too late and the group was gone. We decided it would be easy to catch up with them in Inwood Park. Little did we know about the vastness of this northern-most preserve of Manhattan.

Tale of Woe: We headed west on 207th Street and entered the Park at Payson Avenue. But this trail led us back out to the street after only a few yards. The next entrance was a bit of an ascent and at the first fork, we faltered.
From then on, our way alternated between eerily deserted paths and an occasional straggler who had no idea of directions, or even what The Cloisters, our eventual destination, was. One chap babbled on about dinosaurs and geological formations meeting at the vortex there at the tip of Manhattan. We feigned interest but had visions of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre re-enacted in this deserted primordial forest. We finally succumbed, gave up hope of finding our group, and took the nearest downhill trail winding back to civilization.

Luckily, we found Payson Avenue again and followed it south to Riverside Drive where we entered the northern end of Fort Tryon Park, site of The Cloisters Museum and Gardens. (On our winter visit in January '09, Park and Cloisters..., we took the A train directly to 190th Street and entered the park at its southern end.)

The path wound upward. Were we ever going to find our group and The Cloisters?

One of the Tramps takes a breather to contemplate the last views of the street. Note the new fanny back, actually the size of his regular backpack, but remember the emergency room shot on the last Fahnestock Park post? No-o weight on the shoulder, the doctor said. We found this pack is by Northface at Paragon Sports at 18th Street and Broadway. It offered the most zippered compartments, including mesh outer pockets to keep digital devices aerated. It also has a shoulder strap which we figured can be attached in a way to pull some of the weight up from the hips onto the good shoulder when carrying 2 or 3 liters of water, and removed as water is swigged down.

This Tramp felt a lot more secure coming upon a sign to the Cloisters.

Is that our group ahead? Nope, not yet.

That's the George Washington Bridge in the distance. Mies Van Der Rohe called it "the most beautiful building in New York."

Across the river in New Jersey is a building that matches the Cloister's architecture. John D. Rockefeller bought the land and erected this building solely to preserve the view from the Cloisters.

The Cloisters dominates Fort Tryon Park. Later in the day, this lawn and adjoining benches will be full of people relaxing with picnics, pets, and frisbees--or just whiling away the lovely Summer Sunday afternoon sunbathing. In fact, the first bench is where we stopped for lunch.

After our bagels and peanut butter, we decided we needed coffee, so we walked south, taking in this view of the gorge above the Margaret Corbin Drive.

...and we stopped at The New Leaf restaurant set in the park, down the road from the Cloisters for a refreshing iced coffee and Cappuccino, before heading back up to view the museum's medieval gardens.

A Good Decision:
During the beverage break, we decided to take advantage of the 1:00 Cloisters Garden Tour since we had focused on the interior and on the arcades in our last post. The docent was great and we are happy to present some snippets below and more info through links.

Sources for layout and materials of medieval gardens
The first garden in the open atrium is aesthetic and contemplative, and follows the general plan for all medieval gardens. Components of this plan are found in writings of Greeks and Romans: Cato, On Agriculture: De re rustica; Dioscorides Pedanius, De Materia Medica; Pliny the Elder, and later, of the Emperor Charlemagne, who sought to standardize just about everything in the empire, including plantings. Scenes in tapestries and on wallpapers in Egyptian tombs were other valuable sources.