Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cleveland - Day Two

The Wyndham more than suited our needs for a nice quiet night.  Friday had been really warm and the A/C in the room really cooled things down well.  I heard no noise overnight, either from the street or from other guests.  The room was large, the beds were comfortable and the bathroom was big and clean.

Included breakfast was buffet style with a made to order chef.  Initially I took french toast and scrambled eggs from the buffet but honestly they were awful, as if they'd been out for hours (and it was only 8 a.m. at this point!).  So I asked the chef to make me an omelet and it was wonderful.  After a Starbucks iced coffee and a large glass of OJ, we were on our way to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

It was about a mile walk from the hotel, which would have been fine as Saturday dawned cooler and lower in humidity, but we knew we'd be on our feet for the entire time at the Hall so we opted for a taxi.  Again, everywhere we rode through, we saw next to no one.  Granted it was Saturday morning, but this was a large city.  It wasn't until we reached the Hall that we saw other people, but still not the throngs we expected, and even at mid-day and late afternoon at the Hall, it never got uncomfortably or annoyingly crowded.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is built alongside Lake Erie.  It's entrance and main foyer is a glass pyramid, similar to that at the Louvre, and indeed IM Pei, the artist who designed the pyramid at the Louvre also designed the Rock Hall.  From the outside, I could already see the trabants that were part of the stage design for U2's Zoo TV tour.  As a U2 fan who believes Zoo TV were their best years, I was already getting nostalgic and chomping at the bit to get inside.  I took a ridiculous number of pictures of the trabants (German cars that were retrofitted to be stage lighting for that tour) and the Zoo TV sign itself. 

Beyond the lobby, visitors are not allowed to take photographs, which is probably a good thing because if I'd photographed everything that interested me, I never would have gotten out of there.  The short story is this:  even if I didn't necessarily care for an inductee's music or style, I at least respected their accomplishments and was simply blown away at some of the iconic memorabilia I saw there.  The list is endless, really, because we spent nearly 5 hours being completely consumed by the exhibits.  There were handwritten lyrics (The Beatles, Billy Joel, Sex Pistols), rejection letters, stage costumes, photographs, playbills, handwritten setlists from concerts, original albums, and just about anything that would count as paraphernalia that one can imagine.  Michael Jackson's sequined glove, dresses from The Supremes, BB King's guitar, Angus Young's shorts, James Brown's stage was just all entirely overwhelming for one day.  I keep thinking back to things I saw that all of a sudden pop back into my head.  Overwhelming is all I can come up with.

One part of the exhibit pays tribute to "Legends of Rock" and has entire displays for individual artists or bands.  U2 had it's own gallery here and even I was impressed by what was there, and I'd seen quite a lot in Dublin years ago.  As there are so many inductees though, not every inductee has anything at all on display, and my sister and I were disappointed to have been visiting when REM was not represented at all in any display.

It so happened that my sister and I are true children of the music video era.  We were 11 and 7 when MTV went on the air and grew up in the musical age of MTV.  The Rock Hall had a fabulous 11 minute video documenting the birth and life of MTV, how its viewership grew and attributed the development of music video to four artists:  Madonna, Michael Jackson, Peter Gabriel and Tom Petty.  Initially we both balked at that premise, but soon came to agree with it, when we thought back to all of the landmark videos they all did and how with each one, the envelope was pushed a little further.  It was fun too to relive our past seemingly before our eyes as they flashed bits of videos from hundreds of artists in quick fashion.  It was scary how quickly names of artists, songs and lyric all came back after being hidden away in the corners of our minds for so long.

The Rock Hall has a cafe (I use that term loosely; it was two cash registers and a movie theater type offering) where we grabbed a drink and a cookie for a snack, which we enjoyed out on the balcony overlooking Lake Erie.  The Rock Shop was good sized and had plenty of interesting souvenirs for sale.  We did our best to boost the economy there, believe me.

By the time we were done with the Rock Hall, we only had about 2 hours before we had to leave for the airport, so we made our way back toward our hotel and had a late lunch at, you guessed it, Bricco.  This time we each got a sandwich and the nachos, along with a martini or two.  And again, the entire bill was less than $50.  A bargain.

Our hotel summoned a car for us and we made the quick trip to the airport (about 20 minutes, no traffic of course!).  Check in was quick and we had time for a quick gelato and shopping in the Rock Hall shop at the airport (which had more, different merchandise) before our flight home.  Our 6:00 flight landed in Boston at 7:25 and we were home by 8:45.

A great, relaxing long weekend in a surprisingly sleepy town!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Cleveland - Day One

Our quick trip to Cleveland started early and as usual we parked at Park Shuttle and Fly in East Boston.  Our flight was at 9:40 and we arrived at the airport handily, as there was not much traffic at all on this Friday before a holiday weekend.  The shuttle dropped us at Terminal A and after we breezed through security, I immediately noticed that our flight was posted absolutely no where.  It was as if it didn't exist, except that I knew that it did, as it was still appearing on the Massport webpage and my United app on my iPhone.  United flights to Cleveland before it and after it were posted on all the airport monitors, just not ours.

So to gate A9 we went, and we found a few other like-minded travelers who were also wondering where our flight was.  I took matters into my own hands and found the soul United employee in the terminal who pointed me back to the gate and told me to wait there.  Eventually the flight appeared on the monitors and all was well.

Our plane was small, only 19 rows total and with overhead bins so small that my normally legal-sized carry-on did not fit in it.  It was the first time I gate checked a bag, but all turned out well with that.  After a slightly delayed departure, we arrived in Cleveland just about on-time.  We summoned a cab at the cab concierge window and it was a flat $34 into the city.

We stayed at the Wyndham Playhouse Square, which is in the theater district.  What was most noticeable was the utter post-apocalypse desolation everywhere we went.  The area, and indeed most of the rest of the city we traveled through, was completely lacking of people as if it was 4 a.m. on a Sunday morning.  Where on earth was everyone?  It was mid-day Friday and we couldn't bump into anyone else if we tried.  Very strange feeling.

We dropped our bags at the hotel, which I'd found on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website.  The Rock Hall offers several packages through nearby hotels which include room, breakfast, parking and admission to the Hall.  With taxes, our room was $168, which is a steal if you consider the admission to the Hall alone is $22 a person.

Just up from our hotel, on the still-deserted street, was a Starbucks and a few restaurants, which were open, but seemed not to be serving guests, they were so empty.  We ate at Bricco, an Italian restaurant.  Appetizers of fried pickles, a shared pizza and a martini each came to $50 including tip.  Already we were appreciating how cheap it is to eat and drink in this city.

Back at our hotel, we grabbed a cab to the Cleveland Museum of Art.  This is where we befriended Bob the cab driver.  Bob was surprised that we came all this way to see the museum and Rock Hall, and he gave us a slow paced (both in speech and miles covered) tour of the area.  "This used to be a steel mill..." seemed to be a familiar line.  But even up near Case Western Reserve and the Cleveland Clinic, two non-museum draws to the city, we were hard pressed to find traffic or pedestrians.  Is this a big city or what?  It seemed near impossible to prove.

The Cleveland Museum of Art is in the midst of expansion and renovation, however, it is still an impressive setting with a formidable collection.  There were very few "big names" we couldn't find here, including Goya, El Greco, Velazquez, Caravaggio, Monet, Degas, Renoir...the list goes on.  This museum rates miles above Atlanta and Philly, both of which I've visited in the last 8 months and was less than impressed with.

The draw for us here was the Rembrandt in America exhibition, which showcased 50 paintings, 30 of which have been officially attributed to Rembrandt.  The other 30 are either confirmed to have been painted by his school, workshop, followers or the like.  It is always a learning experience to see a lot of paintings by one artist in one place at a time, because it allows me to see what makes a Rembrandt a Rembrandt, for example.  This exhibition made me realize the detail that Rembrandt would work the muscular structure around the eyes.  By the end of the exhibit, I could practically call out a Rembrandt from 30 paces away, just by looking at the eyes.  The museum also explained fairly well the difference between attributions, such as "follower of" (someone painted it after the artist is dead) and "workshop of" (done in the same location as where the artist painted, and he may or may not have had a hand in the work).  So I learned a lot from this one...worth the trip alone.  In addition, we saw the exhibit of Rembrandt drawings that had come from the Morgan Library in New York, as well as a wonderful video documentary on how this exhibition came together.  We were blissfully OD'ing on Rembrandt!

Bob the cabbie had given us his cell phone number because he said cabs are hard to come by in this city and is he ever right.  Skeptically we called Bob and he answered.  Within 10 minutes he was back to pick us up and drive us to dinner.  Otherwise, I'm not sure how we'd have gotten back to the hotel or to dinner, as public transportation seemed quite limited.

We opted to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe, for lack of planning and being able to find anything better.  My pre-trip research didn't reveal anything that really called out to me and we were going to the Hard Rock anyway for our souvenir buying.  Economically, this was a huge deal...the prices here were lower than home as well, and a meal that would have probably cost $130 at home was $90 including a tip (this included buying the wait staff we had befriended a round of drinks, too!)  But even the Hard Rock, which normally has a crowd, if not a line to get in, was practically empty.  I was baffled.

Pouring rain greeted us as we left the restaurant, so we ran to a nearby hotel and jumped in a cab.  Early to bed as we were both beat.