1024px-Penn_Station_NYC_main_entranceJust imagine. This image depicts the busiest hub in the world. Seriously. This is Penn Station, NYC at Madison Square Garden. We were there picking up our house guest. Lana, my editor’s daughter from South Africa, came to get the best tour ever of New York City, after four weeks with her daughter and new baby in Virginia. Tom manned the MDX, and I paced the sidewalk. We had never met and she had never been to the States. We had skyped briefly once or twice, so we knew what each of us looked like. She didn’t have to wear a red rose and neither did I, but just imagine finding each other in this people maze. We did it. She recognized me first, and a moment hence, I recognized her. She arrived mid-afternoon, Thursday, the 4th. The plan was not to waste a moment. The timing was perfect to visit the Cloisters on the way home. The first of many sights. We had every minute  of each day planned until she had to leave on Monday, the 8th. So, here goes. I will share what we experienced on this day. I hadn’t been to the Cloisters since the days of historic investigations while in interior design school, long, long ago.

The tower at the Cloisters

The tower at the Cloisters

The Cloisters is a museum located on a hill overlooking the Hudson River, in Fort Tryon Park in the Washington Heights section of Upper Manhattan, New York City. It is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, used to exhibit the museum’s extensive collection of art, architecture and artifacts from Medieval Europe.




Lana in the cloistered garden

Lana in the cloistered gardens

The area around the buildings was landscaped with gardens planted according to horticultural information obtained from medieval manuscripts and artifacts, and the structure includes multiple medieval-style cloistered herb gardens.


Cloistered columns

The cloistered columns

The Cloisters was designated a New York City landmark in 1974, and Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters were listed together as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.


One of the many tapestries

One of the many tapestries

The 66.5-acre Fort Tryon Park was created by the philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. beginning in 1917, when he purchased the Billings Estate and other properties in the Fort Washington area and hired Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., son of one of the designers of Central Park, and the Olmsted Brothers firm to create a park, which he then donated to New York City in 1935. As part of the overall project, Rockefeller also bought the extensive medieval art collection of George Grey Barnard, an American sculptor and collector, who had already established a medieval-art museum near his home in Fort Washington, and gave it to the Metropolitan along with a number of pieces from Rockefeller’s own collection, including the Unicorn Tapestries. These became the core of the collection now housed at the Cloisters.

Vaulted ceiliings

Vaulted ceiliings

The museum was designed by Charles Collens who incorporated parts from five cloistered abbeys of Catalan, Occitan and French origins. Buildings from Sant Miquel de Cuixà, Sant Guilhèm dau Desèrt, Bonnefont-en-Comminges, Trie-en-Bigòrra, and Froville were disassembled stone-by-stone and shipped to New York City, where they were reconstructed and integrated by Collens into a cohesive whole by simplifying and merging the various medieval styles in his new buildings.


Medieval depiction of Christ on the cross. Notice the stiffness of this early work of art.

Medieval depiction of Christ on the cross.

The Cloisters collection contains approximately five thousand European medieval works of art, with a particular emphasis on pieces dating from the 12th through the 15th centuries. The Cloisters also holds many medieval manuscripts and illuminated books.






Library and Archives

The Cloisters Library is one of the Metropolitan Museum’s thirteen libraries. It contains 15,000 volumes of books. The Library and Archives contains Museum Administration papers, the personal papers of George Grey Barnard, early glass lantern slides of museum materials, curatorial papers, museum dealer records, scholars records, recordings of musical performances at the museum, and maps.

Italian Savonarola chair 15th-16th century. Back splat is embossed leather

Italian Savonarola chair 15th-16th century. Back splat is embossed leather

Although the Cloisters was established specifically to house Medieval Art, we noticed that over the years the collection grew, encompassing the art of later centuries up to and including the seventeenth century.

Friendly birds looking for handouts. We were seated right beside them.

Friendly birds looking for handouts. We were seated right beside them.

We enjoyed a rest and cool bottled water. Lana was shocked that the two waters, one carbonated, cost $8.00. So did we, in fact.



Come back for more of what we did during the days of Lana’s visit. It was amazing.

Did you find anything here inspiring you to visit the Cloisters? Be sure to take the tour.  Fascinating.




Christmas at The Biltmore House

Christmas at The Biltmore House

Biltmore keyhole roof

Christmas at The Biltmore House is unlike any other. When you are there it is 1895. Where can you go in this year of 2011 to experience life in 1895? The Biltmore House, of course, where candlelight Christmas is celebrated most every evening throughout the holiday season, starting just before Thanksgiving.  Presented as though the Vanderbilt family were our hosts. We spent three nights at the Inn at Biltmore on the grounds of the estate and enjoyed tea in the afternoon, lunch at the Bistro, dinner in the dining room. Five star accommodations, five star food, five star grounds.

Gargoyle without water spout

"The Grounds" designed in 1895 by Frederick Law Olmsted, Landscape Designer of Central Park, NYC

The  landscape was designed in 1895 by Frederick Law Olmsted, who  also designed Central Park in New York City.

Olmsted described Biltmore Estate as “The most distinguished private place.”

Below is my photo of our breathtaking, spectacular view from our room.  Olmsted’s design, with a mountainous backdrop. It was mesmerizing.

Tom Claus & Gail Ingis Claus in the library lounge

Tom and I were dwarfed by the mantle in the library lounge.

Dining room fireplace

Below are images of Biltmore Christmas.





Christmas Biltmore shoppe decor

Poinsettia in the Conservatory

Christmas doggie doll

The Vanderbilt rail empire was created by Biltmore’s George Vanderbilt’s grandfather, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, who died in 1877. It was Commodore that bought out LeGrand Lockwood after Black Friday in July 1869 when Lockwood lost his empire. The same Lockwood who built the Mansion in Norwalk, Connecticut. The same Lockwood who commissioned Albert Bierstadt to paint “Domes of the Yosemite.”

Most of my readers know about my journey writing about the life of painter Albert Bierstadt. My visit to Biltmore Estate was inspired by my research while creating a copy of Domes and henceforth, writing my romance novel.

Tree greens at the Inn at Biltmore entry







What would you do if your home was stolen away by a friend, especially if your friend said he would save you and save your home?

To be continued…


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