I first learned about the Cloisters when I was a teenager, reading the Babysitter’s Club book where the girls visit New York City. Claudia and Mallory take an art class and they go to the Cloisters to draw. Admittedly, at that time I knew nothing about the place besides the name and the fact that it was nice to draw.
Later I learned that the Cloisters was home to the Unicorn Tapestries. That was when I decided that I should totally go there. This desire doubled once I learned that the Lewis Chessmen would be there in January, 2012.
Before leaving, I figured out where it was on Manhattan and what the closest subways were to it. I assumed that I would be able to find it easily. I was wrong.
There was something missing from all the “how to get here” literature. What was missing? The fact that the Cloisters is on top of a hill. Also missing was the fact that you don’t really see the Cloisters until you’re near the top of the hill. You basically climb the hill and hope for the best.
See, Manhattan lures you into a false sense of security with its flat streets, but when you get North enough – WHAM! – there’s a hill for you to climb! Hope you’ve got your hiking shoes on, buddy.
I must have taken the other subway route to get there, because it wasn’t very Park-ish. There were very few signs, and I had to walk up the winding street that cars take. Thankfully it wasn’t very busy and I didn’t have to move out of the way of many cars. But I was still confused for most of the ascent (and not mentally prepared for hill climbing).
Seriously – just check out the Google-map of the area. The paths to the Cloisters look like they were drawn by a drunk two-year-old. I get that it’s a park, but at least put up some “You are here” signs or something.
But I suppose that’s what happens when someone decides to put a bunch of parts from different European Abbeys on top of a hill.
Thank goodness the view is worth it – even on a damp, grey, January day.