Saturday, April 09, 2005

Land of the Cleves, Home of the Browns

Following the two weeks in my hometown for my grandpa's funeral - which included roller-coaster emotions, coming down with a nasty cold, helping my grandma move into a new apartment, and cooking Easter dinner - I was in need of a couple days' recuperation to regather my senses and reconnect with my husband before we again entered the bosom of family, this time his family, as we were attending the previously scheduled surprise party for his dad's 75th birthday. While we had already planned on being in Ohio when the news came of my grandpaI had gone earlier than expected and thus had a much lengthier stay than I'd originally anticipated, which was topped with lots of emotion...and, in short, I needed a break!

We headed to Cleveland for a couple days' interlude, and while most people wouldn't think of Cleveland as a vacation destination, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay. I was able to show Bryan some of the places from my childhood memories and we ate some fantastic meals.

We chose the Hyatt at The Arcade for our respite. I had always thought that The Arcade was a beautiful building, insisting on walking into its grand space on every trip to downtown when I was a kid. I was so glad to hear that it had been salvaged and restored. The gleaming brass and immense glass ceiling are now back to their original splendor, and our guest room was placed inside what had once been office space. Standing along the railing outside our room looking into the building gave me a sense of nostalgia, and gave Bryan the feeling of being on a cruise ship. Kudos to Hyatt for their restoration, their hospitality and their very attentive service. (My one gripe? The tacky Hyatt flags marring the scope and view of the glass ceiling.) Everything else exceeded my expectations.

The Arcade stretches between Superior and Euclid Aves. in downtown Cleveland Posted by Hello

Another photo:

Another vantage point of The Arcade interior Posted by Hello

We walked around downtown and saw that Cleveland has done some cleaning up since her ultra-industrial, river-burning days. She still has some growing up to do, though. Disappointed, I saw the empty display windows and gaping darkness beyond where the grand department stores of my youth provided fond shopping trips and elegant-feeling lunches with my mom and grandma. Higbees, Halle's and May Co. are hollow shells on their street corners, like down-on-their-luck panhandlers sitting there, waiting for someone to show them some generosity, to see their goodness behind their now-gritty exteriors, to help them along. It's a crying shame. Just blocks away, the warehouse district has underdone a major revival with high-end lofts and loads of new restaurants placed inside newly-renovated and sand-blasted brick buildings. I truly hope the momentum and enthusiam from that project will carry over the few short blocks to Public Square and downtown.

We had some welcome sunny weather while we were there so we went up to the lakeshore and paid homage to the new Browns Stadium. We could only gaze in from the locked gates, but we saw what we could, glad they had rebuilt on the lake, glad that it was still an open stadium (no wussy domes for Cleveland fans!) and wishing we could be here for a game. Bryan's dream is to be back during football season for a home Browns game and the OSU-Michigan game. Someday.

Other activities:

*The Church of the Holy Oil Can, known officially as the Euclid-Epworth Methodist Church, but more widely recognized locally by its moniker due to the exterior dome and spire, the interior surprised us with a beautiful soaring ceiling, a higher dome than I had expected and gorgeous stained (and other) glass work, including two rose windows. We were greeted warmly and given a personal tour. I'd always wondered what it looked like inside.

Church of the Holy Oil Can, officially known as Euclid-Epworth Methodist Church, located in Cleveland's University Circle area. Posted by Hello

*Cleveland Art Museum, we wandered around a bit, ignoring the main attraction that all the crowds were streaming in for, the Phillips Collection. I'd seen the Phillips Gallery on a trip to DC, and we went in to the museum but didn't feel in the right minds for it. After about an hour we wondered why we were inside on a warm and sunny day, so we retreated and wandered around the grassy areas nearby.
*West Side Market and Gallucci's. Together these spots are a food-lover's paradise. We gawked at the fresh produce and the meats and pastries at the market, then stocked up on lots of Italian cheeses and salami at Gallucci's. We're incurable food tourists!

*Valerio's on Mayfield. This was our highlight, stand-out meal. Located in "Little Italy", I had been wanting to try it for about 3 years, but being closed for lunch - the time-frame I have usually been able to be in Cleveland on my trips back - I was out of luck...until now. Valerio's exceeded my hopes and we "oohed" and "aahed" our way through three courses. We enjoyed a relaxed and flavorful meal, much needed time lingering over our meal, talking and catching up after two weeks apart. I thought Bryan was going to swoon when he encountered the gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce; it was that good.

We visited other restaurants in Little Italy and on Coventry...Cleveland is a pretty good dining town. We certainly didn't go hungry and the only dilemma was narrowing down the field.

It was an enjoyable time. During the previous two weeks, my mom and sister and I had spent a lot of time going through old photos of my grandparents, of the family, of our childhood, so capping off that time by reconnecting with some of my favorite childhood memories seemed apropos.

Cleveland, thanks for the great times, then and now.

copyright 2005 Valerie Schneider

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