A few days ago, I went to New York City.
I had it all planned out. I was going to go to The Cloisters, I was going to see their exhibition of the Lewis Chessmen, and… well, that really was all I had planned. Which caused problems when I discovered upon arriving there, due to my own lack of research beforehand, that the museum was closed on Mondays.
These things happen.
I said to myself, “Well, Allyn, this just means that you’ll have to go to London and see the Lewis Chessmen at the British Musuem.” The pieces were on loan, and the exhibition ended on April 22nd. That was the way it was going to have to be.
Then my mom said to me on Tuesday, when I explained my story of my New York expotition, “Why don’t you buy another bus ticket and go back on Saturday?” Wednesday, then, I bought another Megabus ticket, and yesterday morning I drove to White Marsh, picked up the bus, and off to New York City I went.
Rain was in the forecast. I did not prepare for rain. I would do this trip light and fast — a tee-shirt and cargo shorts would have to suffice. If I got wet, then so be it.
Here’s the good news. I did see the Lewis Chessmen. Here’s the bad news. I have no pictures of them; they didn’t allow photography. Other than that…
The Cloisters was awesome.
It’s a museum dedicated to medieval European artwork. That means more than just painting. There’s sculpture. There’s stained glass. There’s reconstructed chapels. It’s amazing stuff. I was impressed that I could identify the places where certain pieces where made — “Okay, that looks Flemish,” “That style looks Dutch,” etc. I’ve been to too many museums in my life, I think. There wasn’t as much to see as I was hoping for — I was in and out within an hour, and I think there’s more work of that time and place in the Smithsonian’s National Gallery of Art — but it is a lovely place to visit. First, the building itself feels old. Second, it has a nice flow and it’s impossible to miss anything unless you deliberately don’t go and look at it.
I bought the official book of the Lewis Chessmen exhibition and, since the show’s t-shirt was on sale (50% off!) I bought one of those, too. The t-shirt is cool; it shows three of the Warders (we’d call them Rooks today), and the Warders are depicted as Viking Berserkers, biting their shields.
After the Cloisters, I hopped the A Train and headed back downtown. I got off in Harlem at 125th Street; I thought about walking to see Grant’s Tomb. I didn’t actually make it there. Instead, I just wandered around, and then I saw a cathedral.
Yes, despite my rampant heathenism, I love cathedrals and any sort of religious architecture.
I stopped in a pizza place near there and had some lunch (by this time it was about 2:30), and then I saw a subway station for the 1 Train and, having no place I needed to be (my bus home didn’t leave until 7:30), I decided to take that to someplace. Once I was on the train, I saw that it went into lower Manhattan, so I decided to see where the Twin Towers once stood.
I made it there, saw the new building that was being built in its place, walked through Greenwich Village, went to the waterfront along the Hudson, walked that to Canal Street, then found my way back to a subway station and took the 1 Train back north.
Getting off a Lincoln Center, I skirted the edge of Central Park, walked past the Apple store (it was sufficient to look down into it through the glass — I saw no reason to wait in the line to go down the stairs) and went in FAO Schwarz.
One thing I saw when I was near FAO Schwarz was a group protesting the treatment of the horses who draw the carriages in and around Central Park. (It may have been this group, honestly.) I have to admit, the images their posters showed of dead horses made me quite sad. I thought of the Amish from when I lived in Chester County, Pennsylvania, much as I did on Monday when I saw the Central Park horses in person for the first time. (My comment at the time: “I haven’t smelled this much horse manure since leaving Amish country.”) Horses are powerful, beautiful creatures; they need to be cared for, they have their feelings and their fears as well. It was an emotional moment I wasn’t expecting yesterday.
The other unexpected moment of yesterday came inside FAO Schwarz. I felt very disconnected from the commercialism of the store. I was surrounded by people who were happy, even deliriously so, by the things around them, and the consumerism on display was very alien to me. I was puzzled by it.
On my way back to the bus pickup, I stopped at The Irish Pub and had a few Guinnesses (consumed Irish-style — four rings or less), and that basically finished off my day.
The trip home was uneventful. We ran into the day’s forecast rain somewhere in the middle of New Jersey.
Of course, I suspect you’re reading this more for the pic-spam than for an accounting of how I spent my day.
The flowers at Fort Tryon Park:
Outside the Cloisters:
A Unicorn Tapestry:
King Arthur Tapestry:
Burial Crypt inside the Gothic Chapel:
The Gothic Chapel at The Cloisters:
The Fuentiduena Chapel:
The One World Trade Center, under construction:
LEGO Statues inside FAO Schwarz:
I have to admit, though, that when I learned that a friend who lives in New York injured herself a few days ago, I wanted to scrap all of that touristy stuff, even the Lewis Chessmen, which I really wanted to see, for her — change her ice packs, bring her food, keep her company — if it would have helped speed her recovery. If she’s reading, I hope she’s resting comfortably and feeling better today.
For all that I went through the see the Lewis Chessmen, was it worth it? I think so. I admit, for what I spent on four bus tickets, admission to The Cloisters, the official book, and the t-shirt, I could have bought a very nice replica set of the Lewis Chessmen. (In fact, I’m honestly surprised that the museum didn’t have a replica set for sale.) Still, it was nice to see them. We don’t really know who made them, we don’t know who they were for or why they were buried in the sand of the Isle of Lewis. The prevailing theory is that they were abandoned en route to their destination to keep them from being stolen and that they were never used. They are remarkable pieces, whatever their origins, and no two look exactly alike, with different facial expressions, different hair, different armaments, different poses. The artistry is amazing.
There you have it. The tale of Allyn’s second adventure in New York City in a week.