“There were no utensils in medieval times, hence there are no utensils at Medieval Times. Would you like a refill on that Pepsi?”
“There were no utensils but there was Pepsi?”
– Cable Guy, 1996
Everyone’s a fan of Arthurian legend, whether you fell in love with The Sword in the Stone as a child, or with Monty Python and the Holy Grail as an adult. Your favorite Arthur might be Sean Connery, while your favorite Guinevere might be Ava Gardner. You might’ve liked Steinbeck’s traditional retelling, or Mark Twain’s humorous alternative history version. There’s just something about the warrior king, the code of chivalry, the mysticism, drama and romance of the time that intoxicates. And it’s those same magical elements you’ll find at The Cloisters. (No dinner and jousting though, sorry.)
Every neighborhood in New York has a story, but only a neighborhood within a neighborhood has secrets. Unfortunately, the prerequisite for discovering these secrets is usually the possession of an address within its boundaries, with time and growing familiarity eventually earning the distinction of being accepted within the community as a “local”.
And that’s exactly where Local Expeditions comes into play. Billed as the “anti-tour” and offering “unique 2-3 hour excursions designed by locals for a true New York experience”, the previously mentioned prerequisites are graciously waived. We spied a new tour available on the website billed as the “Cabrini Heights/Fort Washington” tour, and we got slightly nostalgic for a previous visit during which we stayed with my cousin in Washington Heights. It was a whirlwind trip that didn’t permit us much time to explore the area and we hadn’t been back since, so we signed up.
Commendably, the business model for Local Expeditions incorporates a 5% charitable donation, as well as a generous wage for the guide, giving back to the community and supporting the wider New York economy. In the interest of full disclosure, at $40 per person, the cost of the tour is still on the higher end of the market, even factoring the 5% donation in. Most tours average $20 per person, while tours from established names like the Municipal Art Society and Untapped Cities run at $30 per person.