Cleveland Day III : Museums & More…..

27 Jun

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It was our last day in Cleveland and we still had a list of things we wanted to do. The day promised to be a warm one, so we thought we’d check out a few museums in air-conditioned comfort. The University Circle district is home to more than a dozen museum and cultural institutions; anchored by hospitals and universities this part of town has lots going on. We began with a visit to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. The building is laid out in a way that leads you from gallery to gallery; teaching us about all aspects of nature from prehistoric times to the present. We had just begun to walk around the lobby area when Kris noticed a man walking around holding a skunk; getting ready to do a lecture, the speaker paused for a while to let anyone interested pet the animal. Getting a closer look at the black and white critter, she is really very cute. I stroked her back and the top of her head, the fur is stiff and somewhat bristly. Keeping with the wildlife theme we went outdoors to the Wildlife Center and Woods Garden; just over 2 acres of plants and animals native to the area. Shaded by large trees we saw owls, Bald Eagles (Wow are they big!), fox, bobcats and a deer. The museum itself is a mix of old and new;  a large open space from floor to ceiling, displays divide the galleries. The Kirtland Hall of prehistoric life features a full size replica of a T. Rex and a Triceratops; why is it children are afraid of Santa Claus but the sight of a gigantic skeletal figure with huge teeth is fun? Check out the Dunkleosteus Terrelli…it’s a fossil fish that was found in the shale around Cleveland, don’t think I’ve ever seen one of those before. Follow the formation of the universe, feel the rumble of an earthquake, touch a volcanic rock, a stalagmite and a stalactite. I really liked the section of gems and minerals; colored diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and a large display of mineral eggs, beautiful!

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Next up, the Cleveland Museum Of Art; opened in 1916 the Beaux Arts style building was designed by local architects Benjamin Hubbell and Dominick Benes. Originally two wings flanking a central rotunda, it has undergone many changes and additions throughout the years, its beautiful white Georgian marble facade has remained.  Each time we enter an art museum we are offered a map, we prefer to wander aimlessly and discover things on our own. The interior is elegant; marble columns, exquisite sconces, architectural details everywhere, it feels light and airy. Currently undergoing yet another expansion and renovation, there is still plenty to see; African, Medieval, Greek and Roman art. Decorative art and design showcases incredible items such as furniture, clocks and other household type things that are opulent and magnificent. Hard to believe people actually used such pretty things. The vibrant colors and amazing details of European paintings from 1500-1800 are amazing, the sculpture always fascinates me too. Internationally renowned for its collection of Ancient Egyptian Art, the gallery is impressive. I can’t wait to come back and see the museum when renovations are complete.

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Just a hop and a skip from Little Italy, lunch was close at hand. With more than a dozen restaurants to choose from parking would dictate where we ate. With an open space directly in front of Etna Restaurant, we took it as a sign. Cute cafe tables sit on the sidewalk under a kelly green awning; with the threat of rain looming we chose to dine inside. Traditional in decor with white tablecloths the space is charming. Our server arrived quickly to greet us and recite the specials of the day. When he arrived to take our order he brought along a basket of delicious, fresh, crunchy crust, chewy middle, Italian bread with plenty of butter.  Our Caprese salad arrived first; fresh mozzarella and slices of vine-ripe tomatoes laid across a bed of mixed greens. Drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and torn basil leaves it was seriously good. They were nice enough to divide the ravioli among two plates; tender pasta pillows with a spinach and ricotta filling, covered in a cream sauce that had a hint of tomato sauce….scrumptious!

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We began the drive back westward; before setting out on the journey home we stopped in the neighboring city of Lakewood. We thought it would be nice to take a walk and burn off some calories. The homes in the area are fantastic! Of course the closer you are to the lake, the more incredible they become. Like Detroit, the Clevelanders of the industrial age had money to burn, and what better way to show off than with a grand home. We parked the car on Lake Ave; the street is tree-lined, ornate old apartment buildings are intermixed with distinct homes varying in size from modest to very large. Houses wear tile roofs and sport lush green lawns and professional landscapes. We took a perpendicular street over one street closer to Lake Erie, Edgewater; here the houses grow larger and can be referred to as estates. Usually made of brick or stone it is not uncommon to see a turret, elaborate doorways, large urns and stone statues, window boxes overflow with colorful annuals. Many of the houses are historic and were built by the finest craftsmen of the day.  The neighborhood sits upon a high bluff overlooking Lake Erie; these homes have a picturesque view of the smallest of the Great Lakes right out their back door. It is absolutely wonderful to wander through, I like to  imagine what the homes look like inside. 

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Heading back to Detroit we continue to follow the lake through Lakewood, Rocky River and Bay Village enjoying a lake view until just east of Lorain. Here we drop south to Amherst and continue westward through Ohio farm country, finally going north to the mitten state. Our time in Cleveland was a blast; we revisited old favorites and found new ones. By freeway it takes under three hours  from here to there, making it a perfect weekend getaway. Go see for yourself!

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