2:22 Cloistered Away

I must confess I had a drink. Well, maybe two. Or perhaps several more than that. The ‘experimental guitar festival’ proved too much to comprehend. Who are these people?!? What have they done to the proper New York? I cannot understand yet know I must try.

Good morning. Shower, breakfast (which included a thick raisin bread with caraway…weird) and a quick chat and it seems we are off on the A Train to the north tip of the island. The Metropolitan Museum has an out station called the Cloisters, which houses its medieval collection.

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It was built in the 1930s specifically to house these artifacts. A sculptor toured Europe and acquired lots of stone work and sculpture, even an entire apse, to incorporate into the building. Leslie has tainted me enough with her Marxist claptrap that I have been regularly referring to the ‘stolen’ nature of all the archways and frescos that are more naturally situated in the south of France and Spain whence they were ‘acquired’.

Beautiful nonetheless.

Some of the doorways and vaults are reconstructed from fragments rescued after they had been sacked or destroyed during various European conflicts, some as late as the Spanish Civil War in 1936. I guess I approve of that. That is, if anyone cares for my approval.

I saw a great description of the transition from Romanesque to Gothic and while I didn’t learn any new facts I had a few new mini-epiphanies about walls and decor. Of course stained glass arose as a result of the new vaults and buttresses; they didn’t need the walls for support so why stick with frescos when you could kill two birds with one stone?

There are some tremendous tapestries here from the 15th and 16th centuries. Huge pieces that were once 21 x 16′ wall coverings but have since been cut down into curtains; they’re still huge, though.

Downstairs is a collection of prayer books dating from the 1200s: stunning.

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At 2:43 Leslie strong-armed me onto the M4 to take the bus back into town. Well after a grueling hour of plebeian transit, we finally disembarked at the Met around 3:55. It didn’t kill me. Quite.

Next up, since our Cloisters tickets are good at the Met, is to try and finish it off. It’s open until 9 tonight so if our feet can take we might finally win this one. First up a pretzel and chicken gyro (which is New York for donair) from a street vendor. Next stop: musical instruments.

So of course we stopped in European art to ogle the Rembrandts and Vermeers. Then we wandered through the musical section and learned about diatomic and chromatic instruments. Harpsichords, pianofortes, bagpipes and violins; they wouldn’t let me play the Strad. Then it was back to Europe and more masters from Gainsborough to Fragonard.

Wow. There are a lot of them: Botticelli, Dürer, Jacometto, Titian, Raphael, why the list is endless. And my feet are very tired.

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After the Caravaggio we cried hold, enough and bailed on the European painters. A spin through printmaking and a bit of Spanish art and decor and I dragged my tired ass to East Asian art. Buddha and Vishnu in a million incarnations; I’d love to do it again when I wasn’t tired.

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We finished off with Japan and saw a 11th-century silk scroll and some spectacular watercolours of birds. After that we both decided to call it quits. It was 7:45 and we were hungry. In honour of our last sight of the Met we opted for Japanese.

Back on the M4 bus as far as Penn Station and onto the blue line back to Chelsea where there is a nice Japanese place a couple of doors down from the Leo House.

Yes there is a lovely, very full Japanese place right next to the Leo House. So we bailed and hit the diner on the corner where Leslie will indulge in a Cornish game hen and I will brave the Pizza Burger Deluxe.

It was good. And we slept.