Back home, in Hong Kong, the mountains are rarely more than a gaze away. I could be walking down the city streets, running along the harbor, or waiting for a tram, and I only have to look off a little into the distance to see towering hills and undulating ridgelines. Princeton is much flatter and less dramatic, and as much as I have loved the lake and the towpath and the nearby meadows, nothing quite compares to climbing up a mountain, with the majestic sweep of the city right below you and the ocean just beyond that.
In Cleveland Tower, I have found a close equivalent. It is not a place I visit often –– in fact, I have squeezed my way up its narrow, spiral stairway exactly once, when my brother came to visit one spring. After climbing its 137 stone steps, we pushed open the door to the tower’s gravelly rooftop, enclosed at its corners by four elaborate pinnacles, and took in the panoramic view of Princeton. I loved seeing the manicured fairways of the golf course, embellished with long shadows of trees cast by the mid-morning sun. I pointed out Forbes College, where we had just had brunch; the tower of Dillon Gym, where we would play badminton later that afternoon; and Holder Tower, which only a lucky few get to climb. This gazing and spotting was much like what we often did from mountaintops at home, pointing out apartment blocks we’d lived in, skyscrapers we’d been to, landmarks we recognized.
This ritual of observing from above always leaves me with a feeling of lightness. It’s a breathtaking reminder of perspective — something that any Princeton student would welcome every once in a while.
More Favorite Places