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“Making Ohio Great Lakes Again” May 27-29, 2017
As soon as we selected Cuyahoga County as our next Ohio destination, we knew our biggest problem would be deciding what sights and activities with which to fill our itinerary. The area is large and the “big city” of Cleveland offered more activities than could be squeezed into a weekend. Even with the bonus day of a holiday weekend, we were aware we could run ourselves ragged if we allowed it. In an effort to make it more enjoyable, we cherry-picked from the plethora of tourist destinations.
We also got a jump on our trip, leaving Columbus soon after the sun was above the horizon, and arriving in the county early in the 9:00 am hour. If we were having trouble rubbing the sleep out of our eyes, the oft-dented and pockmarked Ohio State Route 8 was surely keeping us awake. As we rumbled through the communities of Bedford and Warrensville Heights, I wasn’t sure what was annoying me more, the road condition or the snail’s pace of the 25 m.p.h. speed limit. Perhaps the latter is necessary to keep one’s vehicle from rattling apart by the former.
Fortunately, road conditions improved as we traversed the posh neighborhood of Shaker Heights and the tree-lined boulevards of Cleveland Heights. My mood had so improved that I barely registered the uneven nature of the quaint red bricks of Murray Hill Road as we came upon Little Italy.
The neighborhood earned its name in the mid 1800s when Italian sculptor Joseph Carrabelli set up shop here and other Italian immigrants followed. Italian restaurants still abound, sustaining its ethnic identity. The vicinity has also gained an arty reputation due to its array of galleries.
We parked our car and crossed Mayfield Road to Presti’s Bakery & Café, a neighborhood mainstay for over a century, ever since Rose and Charles Presti, Sr. opened a bakery in 1903, specializing in freshly baked bread. We took a number and joined the throng of waiting customers. There appeared to be a mix of local regulars and out-of-town newbies, like us. The wait allowed us more time to peruse the display cases of delectable baked goods, so once it was our turn, we were ready. I opted for cannoli, while Michele selected an assortment of items that included a butter biscotti, an S-biscotti, and an apricot thumbprint cookie. We added coffees to our order, then found a table near the front window. After a couple customers left with large boxes of pizza, we found our hunger growing. For “dessert,” we split a slice of pepperoni and sausage pizza and a cappuccino brownie. Even though the morning rush kept the staff hopping, they remained friendly and treated each customer with respect rather than as just another rushed transaction.
Just a half mile away from Little Italy, on the north side of Euclid Avenue, is Cleveland’s museum central. Officially known as University Circle, named for the surrounding Case Western Reserve University campus, the neighborhood is full of educational opportunities. The lots around the beautifully landscaped Wade Oval include the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Cleveland Museum of Art and many others. An entire weekend easily could be spent chasing brainy pursuits here, but that wasn’t our intention, so we selected an institution we’d never visited: the Cleveland Botanical Garden.