The Cloisters

Earlier this summer, a friend was in New York for a business trip, and I jumped on the chance to hang out with her. She came up a day early on a sunny, hot Sunday. We agreed to meet at her hotel with another college friend.

First to arrive, I sat in the snazzy hotel lobby. A bit later, I received a text from my friend saying that she had arrived and how about we meet in ten minutes? I looked up and saw her checking in at the reception desk. Not wanting to scare her or interrupt her conversation with the receptionist, I creepily stood behind her at the distance you’d stand behind the customer at a post office counter when you’re next in line (in the U.S. I mean… in France mosey on right up behind that stranger).

We went up to put her bag in her hotel room, which to her surprise was stylishly decorated but did not feature a desk. Considering she was there for work and would need to use her laptop several hours a day, she called reception to inquire about it. They responded that she hadn’t requested one. We were baffled. Even in low-cost motel rooms, I have always seen a bed and a table.

Our friend joined us, and after a leisurely lunch and animated chat at a restaurant in the neighborhood, we took the subway up to the Cloisters, which is built from stone and materials from four French medieval abbeys. It contains art, objects, and tapestry from the Middle Ages. There was a surprising lack of signage leading to its location in Fort Tryon Park. We followed somewhat inclined paths surrounded by trees and plants before reaching the fortified structure. 101_1003

You may recognize “The Unicorn in Captivity” (1495–1505).


You’ve probably never seen this guy, though. He is an aquamanile from Germany (ca. 1425-50), used for handwashing at the table.


This stained glass window from the cathedral of Notre-Dame in Rouen (ca. 1200-10) depicts a scene from the Legend of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus.


The gardens were lovely. 101_1009101_1010

There was an entertaining garden of plants grouped by use in medieval times: magic and ceremony, arts and crafts, brewing, medicine, vegetables and salads. Plants had funny names like wallflower, scarlet pimpernel, mandrake, common foxglove, catnip, and butcher’s broom.


A couple of trees reminiscent of pipes or menorahs stood against a wall. 101_1050

Our visiting friend had chosen the perfect museum for her trip because she spent time looking at every object and artwork in the building. Meanwhile, our other friend and I sat in one of the peaceful gardens for a while after looking through the Cloisters until she joined us.

On our walk out of Fort Tryon Park, we took a different meandering path and found a small cave.

101_1055We topped off our day with dinner at an airy restaurant near our friend’s hotel. Old friends and the even older Cloisters, a delicious Sunday indeed.

4 thoughts on “The Cloisters

  1. I’m a bit off topic here but.. a hotel room without a desk??? It’s called a freaking hostel 😆 And you have to request a desk? That sounds so odd. Kind of like requesting a shower or a toilet!

    Re. queuing. I always find it amazing the way people in North America seem to walk within a bubble and no one ever dares to get too close. Anyone who doesn’t understand this concept of “personal space” is called “a creep”. It’s funny to me… in China, people will happily walk on your feet.

    • We were shocked too. Lower end motel rooms I’ve stayed at had desks. This hotel was very stylish– you could tell everything was artfully done– but lacked some substance!

      It drives me crazy when I line up and the person “behind” me stands next to me or keeps bumping my back. It is interesting to observe cultural differences. If one lives or works in a city, it’s easier if one doesn’t require personal space. Unfortunately that’s not me…

  2. Looks great, I would love to visit! I’m with you on the personal space, it drives me crazy when I keep inching forward and the person behind takes that as an invitation to keep coming closer too, arrgh.

    • You would have enjoyed it! It’s also suggested contribution, which is amazing.

      Yes, they should realize that we’re only inching forward to move away from them, not towards the person in front of us. It’s not like the line is going to move any faster by touching the person ahead.

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