The Cloisters

An unplanned Saturday

When I woke on Saturday morning, I realized it was the first weekend day since August (or maybe May?) that I didn't have a single responsibility.

I just lay there awhile, basking in the ability to do exactly that.

I thought about scrolling through Netflix, but opted for this instead.

I read about President Lincoln's funeral procession and the beetle epidemic killing off Canadian forests, about land battles in India and an ancient Roman emperor.

Oh the possibilities.

At some point I checked my phone. My friend Lainie had texted to say she was in NY with her mom, just for the day. Did I want to meet up? Inspired by the magazines in my lap, I rattled off a text about maybe going to the Cloisters.

The Cloisters is this spot at the tippy top of Manhattan, where the A line ends. I'd been planning to go for the last six years, but never made it that far north. Not many of us New Yorkers do, really.

Soon enough my phone went off: "Ha I read this to my mom and she freaked out about going to the cloisters. She wants to do that so badly." We agreed to meet there at 3:00.

Magazine still in hand, I jumped on the train. Turns out it's only 40 minutes door to door, and the train spits you out in a neighborhood complete with coffee shops and parks.

From the Dyckman Ave. stop you stroll up a few steep hills, following signs all the way.

Perched at the top of the mount, overlooking the Hudson, you find the Cloisters.

In a book that Lainie's mom read in high school, the character had ended up at the Cloisters. She'd wanted to visit ever since.

They were not what I'd long imagined, not a spot to bring a book and sit amongst the columns. No religious figures ever strolled these walkways, at least not for reasons any different than my own.

It is a museum, a building constructed using pieces of European structures built in the 12th-15th centuries. Roman sculptures just like those I'd read about that morning sat next to intricately carved stone archways imported from French monasteries.

On the garden terrace, the most interesting pear trees grew out of beds of wild strawberries.

You're strolling through a room hung with tapestries and suddenly you're in a French church. The next room is catacomb of sorts. John D. Rockefeller imagined this space as a way for New Yorkers to see the world, when international travel was less accessible.

We wandered through the ancient stone structures for a little over an hour, then along the Hudson and through Fort Tryon park. It was a lovely Saturday, inspired by a book Lainie's mother read in the 1970s and a magazine I read that morning, made possible only by leaving the day completely free and being open to possibility.

Join me as I wander New York and the world beyond. @daniellelliot #seewhatisee #newyork #noplans

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