Monday, July 4, 2011

Urban Ohio by car: in brief.

Below are Cincinnati and Columbus - from the car.

We spent an evening in Cincinnati at a lovely wedding and swung over the Kentucky border in the morning in order to turn around and get a better view of what appeared to be Ohio's crowning metropolis.  It's a shame we didn't have time to explore the city as it seemed lively and interesting - and deliciously hot.

The Hilton (The Netherlands) was a nice hotel with an excellent Sunday brunch.  What they got right, the got exceedingly right.  Brunch was a cornucopia of delicious food: made to order omelets, belgian waffle bar, assorted meats sliced to your request, a cheese table, pastries, substantial fruit spread, endless crab claws and shrimp, juice and coffee, and a delightful dessert table.  Oh, my!  Yum!  The same went for what they got wrong: not having guest rooms ready for check-in for 1.5-2 hours after the specified hour and tubs and sinks that were so slow to drain that a shower meant standing in 4+ inches of water.  If you don't stay there, make it a point to get to Sunday Brunch and enjoy the spoils.

As for Columbus, we didn't go to the city.  We simply passed it.  But I will say I have never seen such a high concentration of highway patrol cars anywhere, ever, as near Columbus.  Speeding will get you pulled over in a quick minute.  The state of Ohio must have made a nice bit of change yesterday.


Our Friday tour of Cleveland left a great deal of time to visit other destinations.  So we thought we'd swing by Akron.  Akron is a lovely little city.  The architecture is well incorporated, the streets and buildings are surprisingly clean, and there seems to be a good amount of landscaping planned in.  But they forgot to mention that it closes early.  4:00 p.m., to be precise.

Aside from a tiny street fair for children, not a single place in downtown Akron was open.  We stumbled upon a hotel that had one person in the lobby who informed us that we could purchase water from a vending machine in an alcove across the room.  No stores were open.

Again, we didn't stay long.  I did manage to snap a couple nice pictures, though.  Especially as we found a great mural on the back wall of a vacant lot.

Welcome to Cleveland?

The thing about the scenic route is it isn't when you're the driver.  I don't recommend it if you're going to have to deal with any traffic at all, and you will in the Cleveland area.

I will try not to be too hard on Cleveland.  I was warned that there's nothing really there, that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is pretty much a Hard Rock Cafe with no food or drink, and there are no activities to speak of.  It seems to be true.

The city is dirty and unattractive.  What passed for a farmer's market in the city's center was a gathering of 8 small tables, 20 people (15 of which were queued up for the Chinese food truck), and a band that seemed a little deflated by the heat.  The few sites that inspired me to think about my camera were so heavily impeded by... stuff that I couldn't find any worthy angles for photographing.

We did have a decent lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe and a very enjoyable conversation with the bartender, Jenn.  I found an excellent pair of flip flops, saw two streets that qualify as pretty (see below), and I have the dubious honor of saying I've been there.

But I've saved the best for last.

I'm not a 'toilet humor' kinda gal, but this was so repulsive it was hilarious.  We arrived in Cleveland, parked, and walked 20 yards to this riveting sight.  Somebody was really fouling up the system.  And the air.

Must have been great to return to the car with this all around.

I laughed hard - between the moments of full-body gagging.  When a car started to drive toward the river of refuse, we ran for refuge.  The momentarily confused passengers loudly exclaimed their understanding of our behavior when the odor registered in their brains.  I was laughing, crying, and fighting an overwhelming urge to vomit.

Apparently someone didn't get the message...

What a welcome!  We didn't stay long.

Spider bites and sleepless nights.

I am pleased to say that I slept 9.5 hours last night.  Why does this matter so very much?  Because I slept far less than that in the two previous nights combined.  The spiders of the house seem to have found me an irresistible form of sustenance and the burning itching from their venom has been little soothed by the best of efforts.  The best trick we found was a direct application of ice cubes to the bites, but it's tough to cover 21 bites at the same time and the effect is sadly temporary.  Thus, I rejoice this Independence Day not only for the founding of this country, but for the notable reduction in inflammation in this collection of forget-me-nots.

Here's a quick view of some of the fun.  Happy Independence Day!

Thursday, June 30, 2011


I love fireflies.  Right now, I'm sitting in the back yard.  It's dusk, we have a large fire of deadwood going, marshmallows roasting, and the fireflies are dancing.  They're far too beautiful to capture on film and too smart to be captured by the bellowing frogs.  Yes, it's an enchanted evening.  Summer magic, you might call it.  I wish everyone could be here, enjoying this loveliness.

Chagrin Falls

I'm in Chagrin Falls.  I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise that Ohio has its wealthy pockets, but it was one (see stereotypes and travel experiences).  This little town (I really mean 'little') boasts lush, substantial yards, boutique shopping, and one of the friendliest dry-cleaning services I've ever encountered.

Free advertising: If you're ever in the Chagrin Falls neck of the woods and you have dry-cleaning, go to Fussy Cleaners.  They're friendly, quick, and green.  Don't believe me?  Check it out:

Anyhow, they'll help you, they'll compliment you, and they'll get your clothes lookin' sharp.  Go there.

So Chagrin Falls is an amusing heap of Americana.  It's tiny, it's rural, and it's rich.  What does that mean?  Lots of American flags.  And a Starbuck's.  Of course, the Starbuck's here is about 15 feet away from the astrologer.  You can get your Starbuck's and your Star Chart within ten minutes!  That's efficiency, people.

I have to give a nod to my first Ohio dining experience.  Christopher and I went for some nosh at a little place called Yours Truly.  The interior was the bizarre mix of classy hardwood and grandma's wallpaper, playing early 90's pop.  Despite that, the people were extremely friendly and the food excellent.  We both had fresh-squeezed orange juice and I enjoyed a lovely veggie omelet with the absolute best hashbrowns I've ever had.  Kudos to Yours Truly!

After lunch, we wandered around, buying a shirt for Christopher at J. DiBlasi's and being amused by the town triangle.  Yep, it's that small.  They couldn't accommodate a fourth side.  Our afternoon concluded with a quick run to the Giant Eagle (which isn't) for some groceries of the fruit and dairy varieties.  Although it doesn't measure up to its name in size and granduer, the Giant Eagle has a fantastic selection of fruits and vegetables and resembles a Whole Foods more than the Mad Ox I recall from my visit to Texas at 11 years old.  Thank goodness.

It was back to the house after the groceries.  And to my second evening in the Sinclair House...

Why the bookcase?

If you're wondering why I chose the bookcase as a background for the blog, here's the answer.  There's a pretty stellar bookcase in the house I'm staying in.  Two, actually.  If you want to be technical.  Anyhow, there you have it.