Favorite City: Cleveland

By Elinor Garely

In Cleveland

* Favorite Breakfast: House of Blues Sunday Gospel Breakfast
* Favorite Dinner Restaurant: Blue Point Grill
* Favorite Museum: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
* Favorite Tour: Lolly the Trolley
* Favorite Theatre: Great Lakes Theater Festival
* Favorite Hotel: Intercontinental Hotel and Conference Center
* Favorite Outdoor Walk: Botanical Gardens
* Favorite Jewelry Shop: Jewelry Studio @ Murray Hill Galleries
* Favorite Dress Shop: Anne van Hauwaert @ Murray Hill Gardens
* Favorite Clinic and Medical Center: Cleveland Hospital and Clinic

Cleaveland or Cleveland?

There are not many cities that have had their names changed so that a newspaper editor could fit the letters on its masthead, but this is exactly what happened to Cleveland. Originally spelled Cleaveland after General Moses Cleaveland who surveyed the land for the Connecticut Land Company. Initially this “surveyor” determined that this one-half million acres of land located on the shores of Lake Erie should be called “New Connecticut” after the company for which he worked. It was subsequently renamed Cleaveland after the General and since 1831 it has been known as Cleveland.

Largely Appealing

It appears that Clevelanders have always been practical and inventive. Following in the footsteps of the newspaper editor, the first person to settle in this new locale, Lorenzo Carter, built himself a log cabin on the East Bank of the Cuyahoga River, which was also used as the village jail and inn.

Visitors to Cleveland in 2005 don’t have to worry whether there is room at Carter’s inn and jail, for today it is a major destination for national and international visitors. I am not alone in finding this city a very attractive destination. Greater Cleveland was recently named one of four “most livable cities” in America by Partners for Livable Communities, judging locales on environmental quality, parks, arts, culture, planning, and public/private partnerships. It is not surprising that the city is an attractive place to live as well as visit. Cleveland is the 16th largest metro area, and 15th largest consumer market in the US, with 2.9 million residents in the Greater Cleveland metro area, and nearly 500,000 living in the City of Cleveland.

Sunday in Cleveland

Praise God..and the Chef

Clevelanders certainly know how to jump start their Sunday mornings – by putting on their Sunday “go to church” best outfit and heading for the Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues. Combine a bountiful buffet with hot and spiritually satisfying gospel music, and no matter how depressed you may have started the day – your spirits will soar as you dig into the colossal buffet, full of shrimps, assorted pastas, salads and luscious bread puddings. With a tummy fully packed you are ready to get your hands clapping and feet stomping to Gospel that praises God and the chef. It takes a lot of energy and strong encouragement for me to get on any stage – and yet that is where I spent part of Sunday morning, dancing and praising until I was hoarse.

Rock and Roll

With a mimosa to cleanse the palette and vitamin C to provide energy, the next stop for the perfect Cleveland Sunday is the I.M. Pei designed Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. With a jaundiced eye I walked into the “museum” – totally expecting it to be a waste: Was I ever wrong!

My first stop anywhere is always the gift shop. I truly believe that life is short – so shop first – there may not be another opportunity. I circled the shop like an Indian scout and could easily have walked off with at least two jackets, 5 t-shirts, a fabulous blue denim shirt (size 8) and a dozen CDs.

Fully shopped, I joined a crowd that takes casual dressing to a new level. If you want to be “dressed for the occasion” – select your oldest jeans and t-shirt, and put them on as you dash out the door. Forget about your hair and make-up…the more “undone” the better.

Now I take a very deep breath, check my oxygen supply – for I am prepared to be very bored viewing videos featuring the beginning of rock and roll. Once again I got a shock: Not only was the intimate theatre attractively designed with excellent acoustics, the videos were terrific and in a low-key but meaningful, tender and artful way, provided a poignant stroll down memory lane.

With rock and roll put into an evocative context, I moved through the museum halls, selecting early musical periods, putting on a headset, avidly listening to the fabulous musicians that created the music that is so identifies the USA. If other museumgoers were not standing behind me, waiting to get to the music stations, I could easily have spent an hour at each position, keying in the movers and shakers of rock and roll.

The museum curators have collected thousands of priceless artifacts and, with the mind of a historian, and the eye of a successful retail merchant, placed this recent history before an adoring public. It is difficult to recognize that the artists and their “stuff,” which we currently live with – is really what history is all about. The museum has “artifacts” from nearly every major figure of rock and roll, from Louis Jordan to L7, and from Aretha Franklin to Z.Z. Top, Iggy Pop and Pop Staples. The museum focuses on the music, but realizes that the artists are more than their instruments and their clothes, and fortunately presents everyday items such as report cards, letters, business correspondence, and contracts – making the superstars more human and more endearing as a result.

More to See/Do

There is nothing like a city-tour to provide an overview of a new town, and most destinations put visitors on an air-conditioned bus, creating serious distance between the city and the experience. Clevelanders want you to get to know and love their city and some smart tourism folks have created “Lolly the Trolley” for the introductory tour. “Lolly” are lovely ambassadors from Cleveland who provide the running commentary in an open-air vintage trolley, describing the buildings, statues, gardens, and museums that are part of the “who we are” experience. The 20+ mile tour of Cleveland on the Trolley is a charming and informative way to spend a few hours getting to know the appealing parts of the city, as well as to understand its history and diversity.

No Time for Sleep

Although evening is approaching, there is no opportunity to stop. Don’t even think about going to sleep. The restaurants are fabulous and you will want to experience as many as possible. (So much to eat so little time.) Do not miss dinner at the Blue Point Grill. Regardless of your seafood or fish preference you will immediately go to gourmet heaven while gorging on Blue Point Seafood Chowder, fried octopus, shrimp and scallops, lump crab cakes, seared Singapore tuna, and “lobster mashers” which are whipped potatoes with lumps of lobster meat.

If you are looking incredibly fine dining with smooth jazz? Make a reservation for yourself and your favorite others at Nigthttown Restaurant and Jazz Bar. Don’t be put off by the small low-key exterior, and tiny entrance. The dining and music areas are spacious, providing lots of room for dining and listening. If you want to get tipsy and put calorie counting on the back-burner, order the Dublin Lawyer which is made with large chunks of lobster meat sautéed in cayenne butter, accompanied by mushrooms, and scallions – all delightfully marinated in Irish whiskey and cream. Of all the jazz opportunities in Ohio, Nighttown is the only one that made Downbeat’s International Jazz Guide to the 100 Great Jazz Clubs. This attribute brings the club into the same circle as NYC’s Birdland, The Blue Note, The Oak Room at the Algonquin and The Village Vanguard.

Another epicurean option is Castaldi’s Market and Grille where the music is opera, the food authentically old-world Italian, and the proprietor, Neil Castaldi – a foodie who is delighted to share his loves for food and family with his patrons. He keeps his restaurant humming with wonderful gourmet options accompanied by opera and operetta hopefuls who work at the restaurant, using it as the gateway to on-stage performances at the best opera houses on the planet.

Let’s Eat and Move On

Fully stuffed and with a big smile, it’s time to move on to the theatre for a wonderful performance of Amadeus…or whatever is currently playing at the Great Lakes Theatre Festival. As a reparatory group the plays change over the weeks. What will not change is the incredibly talented troupe of performers that will knock your socks off. I have tried to watch “Amadeus” the movie – and have gotten so weary that I clicked onto a McDonald’s commercial. Not so with the Great Lakes Theatres’ adaptation of the play. I was riveted to my seat and totally tuned into the chronicle of Mozart’s’ life. I was happy and sad, laughed and cried as the stars brought me through the tumultuous life of this incredible composer.

Art Before Sleep

Cleveland is a city that does not sleep, so after theatre or jazz, it is time to head onto the Intercontinental Hotel that is a repository for some of the best art and sculpture in the City. Some art historians claim that the Hotel’s collection is equal to or better than some world-renown museums. Organized under the direction of Teresa DeChant, the extensive collection presents some of the city’s major artists. You must not head for your hotel room until you look at Phyllis Seltzer’s Court House, Tower City, Gateway and Composite II which are located in the North Coast Café where you can also sip a cup of late night tea or order a stronger night-cap.

Day Two

Waking up is not hard to do when you are a guest at the Intercontinental and staying on their Concierge level, for this entitles you to enjoy breakfast on the Executive Floor, that is so good that you will want to stash a few goodies in your tote bag to sustain your foray into Cleveland jewelry and dress shops. My favorite store for rings and such is the Jewelry Studio where you can design your own jewels or bring in a picture of your favorite Tiffany design and through a consultation with the designer, make the ring your very own creation. The same process will work with designer and shop owner Anne van Hauwaert. Find what you like – but want a modification? No problem. Consult with Anne and you will walk out with your own signature creation.

Fling the shopping bags over your shoulder, and point your toes to the Botanical Gardens (and maybe to catch a wedding in progress). Starting in 1930 with a collection of books donated by Mrs. Andrew Squire, today the Gardens inspire visitors who are looking for the link between plants, people and the environment. The locale features a spectacular 18,000 sq. ft. crystal peaked conservatory that houses two of the world’s most fragile ecosystems: The dry heat of Madagascar’s spiny desert, and the lush cloud forest of Costa Rica. Within these glass walls are more than 350 species of exotic plants and 50 species of freely flying butterflies, as well as lots of insects, birds and animals.

Cleveland Clinic’s Medical Concierge Program

No one should leave Cleveland without getting his/her annual checkup. This health care center is world famous, and employs over 30,000 doctors, nurses, researchers, etc. The hospital and clinic regularly receive heads-of-state and other folks of fame and fortune from all parts of the US and countries throughout the world. The Clinic ranks as one of the top four hospitals in the nation (U.S. News and World Report).

The Cleveland Clinic Medical Concierge program is available to everyone who lives outside of Ohio. Program staffers assist in making all medical, hotel accommodations and travel arrangements for both the patient and family members. A Medical Concierge meets and accompanies the patient to all medical appointments, if requested. If the visit includes a hospital stay, the staff will also arrange for private nursing support.

Depending on the patients’ budget, medical condition and length of stay, accommodation choices will range from guesthouses and private home visits to the 5-star InterContinental Hotel and Conference Center which offers 299 designer inspired guest rooms, 23 suites, 3 restaurants, 2 lounges, in-room dining service and a 24-hour fitness center. Children and their families can also find comfortable stays at the Ronald McDonald House, which is serviced by the Clinic shuttle bus. The Hope Lodge is a facility provided by the American Cancer Society for adult cancer patients and their families. For patients needing international services, the International Center can arrange visas, travel and lodging assistance as well as interpreters.

Alan Freed, the noted DJ, was born in Cleveland and invented the term, “rock ‘n’ roll.” Dorothy Dandrige, Ruby Dee and Paul Newman are from Cleveland. Cleveland is the home of the Ojays, the Raspberries, and Perry Como got his start in Cleveland. This is a terrific City and should definitely be at the top of everyone’s Top Ten Cities to Visit in the USA.

For additional information, visit www.travelcleveland.com.

Photos by Mary Gallagher

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