Destination: Cleveland! Pt. 3 – Museum of Art, Lake Erie, West Side Market

2 Aug

On our last full day, we went to the Cleveland Museum of Art, a cultural gem in the University Circle neighborhood, housing significant works from ancient Minoan statuary to Picasso’s famed La Vie (among my favorites).  To get there we drove through Wade Park, lovely and inviting grounds begging for a summer’s walk.  Next time.  This area of town also features the Museum of Natural History and the rumored-to-be-awesome botanical gardens, so I’m sure we’ll be back.  The art museum is an impressive neoclassical building, beautiful, as museums like to be.  Navigation can get tricky, as some areas are off limits or in the process of renovation.  Going from section to section is not totally intuitive, so grab a map.  The rooms themselves are well designed, the works spaced far apart to facilitate extended viewing and prevent traffic jams.  The walls are painted in unobtrusive colors and each room feels airy and relaxing – small details which can really enhance a museum experience.

Detail from “La Vie” by Pablo Picasso

Jean Leon Gerome – “Woman with a Veil”

It was a treat was to come upon a sculpture by my favorite orientalist, Jean-Leon Gerome.  Gerome had his hand at sculpture only later in life, and I had never seen one in person.  This was a bronze entitled “Woman with a Veil”.  With my outdated camera, it was difficult to get a good shot.  But I really love this piece, the mystery it invokes.

Another large room housed five classically-themed paintings by Charles Meynier.  The paintings tower over the viewer, larger than life, and depict Apollo (god of poetry) with Urania (astronomy) in the center, and four Muses on the left and right: Polyhymnia (eloquence), Erato (lyric poetry), Clio (history), and Calliope (epic poetry).  I could have spent an hour in this room alone, beneath their beckoning eyes.

From left to right: Polyhymnia, Erato, Apollo and Urania, Clio, and Calliope

Viewing platform at Lakefront Nature Preserve

I really loved this museum.  They have an impressive and diverse collection of art and artifacts, and I think our trip to Cleveland would have been worth it for the museum alone.  Once we got our fill of Gothic etchings, medieval armory and ancient Assyrian reliefs, we bid farewell to this splendid house of beauty to get back into some nature.  We had yet to get a good look at Lake Erie, so we thought about where to go for that.  We were just leaving University Circle and considering some of the lakefront parks near downtown, when the lady friend spotted a small sign saying “waterfront”, pointing down an unassuming road.  What the hell, right?  We followed this road to a lakefront nature preserve only recently opened to the public, which included a trail that looped out to an overlook of Lake Erie.  Serendipity!  The trail was a bit claustrophobic with vegetation, thriving under the summer sun to create a hall of green.  We heard a lot of signs of wildlife, but couldn’t see much of it.  It was… vibrant.  Particularly after the ruminative peace of the museum, the trail felt like a visceral overload of life.  Expect bugs, especially inland.  A short hike brought us to a corner jutting out into the lake, with a metal viewing platform one accessed by ladder (careful climbing up, there are a few rungs missing).  And there it was, Lake Erie.  Cleveland in the near distance, and nothing but water in the other direction.  We spent a while enjoying the vastness (possibly prolonging our return through the heavy brush).  It was a fun, unplanned way to experience the lake.

Cleveland and Lake Erie

West Side Market

The next day was our departure.  We woke up extra early to hit the famed West Side Market before getting on the road.  This brought us back to the Ohio City neighborhood, where the market serves as an obvious focal point.  Designed by the same architects who designed the art museum, the market consists of a striking neoclassical main concourse, encircled by an arcade.  Within, one finds upwards to a hundred vendors, selling local meats, dairy, confections, and much more.  The surrounding arcade has all of the produce vendors, stalls overflowing with seasonal treasures.  It’s a wonderful market, though perhaps more useful to residents than visitors (unless your accommodations include a full kitchen).  What I mean is, the bulk of this market’s appeal is its trove of fresh ingredients, begging to be cooked with.  Alas, we could not fulfill their wish.  We settled for some fresh fruit, cups of delicious noodles from the Noodle Cat stand (a Cleveland staple), and bagels and hummus for the car ride.  We ate our breakfast of Japanese noodles at a table outside in Market Square, historic grounds for the 19th and early 20th century community, and where the market first began.  It seemed an appropriate last meal, connecting Cleveland’s past with its present, a city with deep history and an eye on the future.  A city I definitely look forward to seeing again.

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