Tag Archives: manhattan

Traveling Back in Time and Loving the View: The Cloisters and Fort Tryon Park

One of the greatest things about New York is that the subways can turn into time machines–if you know where to go–seemingly whisking you away to an entirely different era. Easily accessible by public transportation, the Cloisters and Fort Tryon Park are a beautiful and serene part of the city where visitors can stroll through real medieval halls, view the pristine Hudson River as seen by the first European explorers and experience an unparalleled escape from the chaos of the city.

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The Cloisters – a slice of Europe in Upper Manhattan

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The nature of the Hudson River as seen by the eponymous explorer Henry Hudson himself in 1609

Located in the upper Manhattan neighborhood of Inwood, the Cloisters houses the vast medieval art collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  On display are extravagant tapestries, priceless stained glass windows and intricate stone carvings–flourishes that once adorned the walls of monks, knights and nobles.  The building itself is made up of stones from five different European abbeys which were partially disassembled in the 1930s.  Piece-by-piece, the structures were shipped to New York to be rebuilt and combined into a single building.

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Arches incorporated form the French abbey Saint Michel de Cuxa

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The Unicorn Defends Itself: In classic fashion, the humans in this tapestry find a unicorn and decide they need to kill it and take it home

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Old sentinels in a new home

Fort Tryon Park, which surrounds the museum, stands on land donated by John D. Rockefeller Jr. The park was beautifully landscaped by the the sons of Central Park architect Fredrick Law Olmsted and offers magnificent views of the Hudson River, the George Washington Bridge, and the New Jersey Palisades, also purchased and preserved by Rockefeller.

Walking around the grounds you’ll be charmed by rolling hills, vibrant flowers and New York City wildlife.  The Heather and Alpine Gardens offer two different walking paths for gorgeous year-round view.

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The Heather Garden is part of the original Olmsted Brothers design for the park.

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Excellent opportunities for nature photography…

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With luck, you might see a rare sight, a real New York groundhog!

Whether you’re a New York native or a visitor don’t miss this chance to go back in time…take the A train up to Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters!

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Filed under Museums, New York, Parks, Photography

“It’s Complicated” with the Statue of Liberty

New Yorkers have what I’ll call a failing long-distance relationship with the Statue of Liberty. We love her, and we tell her we love her all the time. But we never visit her.

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We never decide to hop on the ferry and have a picnic by her pedestal or bring a date up to her crown.  Maybe we head out once every 10 years if friends are in town, but even this pilgrimage tends to be approached as a necessary evil of introducing visitors to New York.  Perhaps this is because we New Yorkers (like people everywhere) often pride ourselves on avoiding the parts of our city that are overrun by tourists.  Or perhaps we’re satisfied with our first and only visit to the Statue, the one we took when we were 10 years old.

With curiosity about this pervasive attitude in mind, I decided to go myself to see if the trip deserves a higher place on New Yorkers’ respectable afternoon excursion list.  Even though I’ve worked in tourism for years, I amazingly had not been to the Statue since I was a child.  So here’s a no-frills evaluation of the Statue of Liberty experience, from a local perspective.

I waited about half an hour including passing through security before boarding the ferry at Battery Park.

I waited about half an hour including passing through security before boarding the ferry at Battery Park.

A ticket online costs $18 with pedestal access, $3 more for the crown.  This includes admission to Ellis Island as well.  I showed up, gradually progressed through the line and then grabbed a spot on the top deck next to the ferry’s guard rail.  The boat ride offered breath-taking views of Lower Manhattan and the Statue that I almost would have paid $18 for alone.  However, you can get almost the exact same ride for free on the Staten Island Ferry so I needed more to be really impressed.

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What a great view of Lower Manhattan!

Warning: Make sure you reserve tickets on the official website for an exact arrival time on a specific day.  DO NOT under any circumstances arrive without a ticket and buy one from a third party vendor on the streets next to Battery Park.  They will sell you marked-up “flex” tickets that you will almost definitely have to wait in a multi-hour line to use.

As we approached Liberty Island, the air hummed with excitement.

As we approached Liberty Island, the air hummed with excitement.  Even though I see the Statue from afar every day, I have to admit that I felt like I was really seeing it for the first time.

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Once on the island, I took a free ranger tour…which was fascinating. Even though we all take the Statue for granted, it took a series of minor and major miracles and over 20 years of work to transition her from an idea to a reality.

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I think one of my most striking realizations was that the Statue is first and foremost a work of art. It’s a sculpture after all and a masterpiece at that.  I have to say that I never grew tired of looking at her from different angles as I struggled to comprehend her gargantuan scale.  Most New Yorkers only see her from afar or in photos, neither of which compares to seeing her up-close and personal.

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Perhaps the biggest drawback was the 45 minute wait on the island for a ferry to pick us up. The wind whipped all around and many of us were underdressed…these are the 21st century huddled masses.

In the end I had a great day.  The enthusiasm and thrill of the tourists rubbed off on me and made me feel like I was on vacation myself.  Perhaps for the first time, I really looked at the details of the statue–the stoic expression on Lady Liberty’s face, the tablet in her hand and the lift of her back foot, revealing that she is actually walking forward–progressing.   My verdict is that the Statue is not overrated.  The fact that people from all over the world come to see her is a clue that New Yorkers should too.  So if you love her, pay her a visit!

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Filed under General, Landmarks, New York

Ray’s Manhattan: Less forgotten but equally majestic

Lest Manhattan gets jealous of my Forgotten Brooklyn Post, I’ve compiled 10 of the most striking pictures I’ve taken on this storied island.  Click to enlarge…and enjoy!

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Rainy Little Italy

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Central Park’s great mirror – the Onassis Reservoir

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Our lady, as seen from the ferry deck

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The Dakota Apartments’ silent guardians

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge as seen in the famous children's story

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge as seen in the famous children’s story

Lower East Side native Sol Matsil displays torah scrolls in Kehila Kedosha Janina-the Western Hemisphere's sole Greek Orthodox Jewish synagogue.

Lower East Side native Sol Matsil displays Torah scrolls in Kehila Kedosha Janina–the Western Hemisphere’s sole Greek Orthodox Jewish synagogue.

Look, Mommy!

Look, Mommy!

One of my favorite castles in New York - the Jefferson Market Library

One of my favorite castles in New York – the Jefferson Market Library

We must protect this house!  From the Grinch who stole Christmas...

We must protect this house! From the Grinch who stole Christmas…

 

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Filed under General, New York, Photography

Ray gets trailed by the Paparazzi!

Last month, my friend and fellow Carleton-grad Teddy Wolff joined a tour of mine with the intent of documenting the experience photographically.  Teddy works as a professional photographer and he recently published the resulting photo series–Lower East Side Tour with Ray–on his website.  You can view the full suite of photos as well as a number of other excellent albums on Teddy’s Website.  Below are my favorites, with my captions added.

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The tour begins

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The breathtaking Eldridge Street Synagogue, the subject of an earlier blog post of mine

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Preparing to enter the sanctuary

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Passionate words being delivered in front of the walnut ark

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Describing the 21st century addition to the synagogue–the new stained glass window

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The synagogue interior has been masterfully restored

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The illuminated rose window

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Hey!

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Looking up for a hidden sign of immigrants past

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Ginger Ale! Note one of NYC’s rare L-shaped buildings

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Hot bialys, straight from the oven!

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These guys RUN the pickle shop…you can’t sneak anything by them!

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Willy Wonka-style candy shop, anyone?

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What a great tour! Thank you Teddy Wolff for the photos.

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Filed under Neighborhoods, New York, Photography, Religious Spaces, Tours