Saturday, December 11, 2010

our sister-only weekend

Soon, very soon after I had recently bowed out of traveling to my sister's for our bi-annual - (desiring annual instead) "sister only" visit during the USA Thanksgiving week at her place, she called me one evening, and she offered something else to me;

** "Renee, you need to come to Cleveland next weekend ".

~~ "Of all places, why do I want to travel to Cleveland?"

** "Because I'm staying over this weekend, and I'm in between my work weeks here to train clients. I have the hotel and rental car already. All you have to do is get here and we can have our sister-only weekend instead of the Thanksgiving visit we had hoped for this year."

I still thought - why would I want to go to Cleveland, but as she continued selling me on the whole notion, soon it began to unfold and make me all butterfly like inside.

All was beginning to sound "do-able", that is all UNTIL she mentioned we would be going to have the experience of taking in an NFL football game! I'll admit right here and now, THAT was almost a deal breaker!

Later that evening, I shared her invitation with my hubby, laughing in amazement to get his unexpected feedback at the whole idea of his wife taking in an NFL football game (ice hockey for sure, but football?), to which he just replied;

** "GO! You need the break, and you're not getting your Thanksgiving visit this year, so yes - you should go, football game and all. Go for it!"

Gee, for the first time I wondered if I was actually hearing him right? Ever felt like someone was trying to get rid of you? LOL

I have to admit, I was taken aback by his insistence that I take this opportunity and run with it. In the conversation he'd also added he would man the fort, and cook all the meals.

Well now, that was that then wasn't it?

As it was last minute, I was able to find a one way ticket using my airmiles, for the return I had to purchase that flight as it allowed me to travel back later in the evening on Sunday night, AFTER the football game.

(At first, I just sneakily thought, oh good, airmiles won't let me go to that football game after all....snicker, but then I could envision my sister's disappointment over my attitude and decided to smarten up.)

Very shortly I was at the airport with my carry on luggage all ready to fly toward her. Once through security, I was thrilled to obtain my favorite preboarding treat of "red cup" Starbucks Cinnamon Dolce Skinny Latte, and once I had walked what felt like two miles through the lower floor corridors to reach my gate, I promptly placed it down on the seat next to me while taking my handbag off my shoulder, then sitting and nestling in for my wait.


The cup teetered and fell off the chair (??), and I reacted swiftly, but not swiftly enough not to have one soaking wet shoe, and splashes up my left pant leg! Ugh! Forget the shoe, I really, I began silently and briefly mourning a bit for I really wanted to savor the flavor of THAT DRINK!

Quickly scanning my surroundings, I could see nothing nearby by way of assisting me in cleaning up the mess. As angels abound, right there at that very (exact !) moment, a uniformed woman carrying a large tray just happened to be walking by through the narrow sitting area I just attempted to nestle in to.

Stopping abruptly after noting the whole splash, she was offering a sympathetic smile with a gracious and oh so friendly face, motioning she was on her way back to her bagel counter (there was a bagel shop there?) nearby.

She told me she would send someone up straight away to mop up the mess. She didn't have to but this lovely lady continued speaking to me, going way above and beyond the call of duty by noticing I had a Starbucks cup, saying though she couldn't match it, she would offer me a free coffee as she was the manager of the store. Wow, I think my chin hit the floor. What a lovely offer!

Shortly before having to board the little bitty plane (DASH-8) by walking out on the tarmac, I noticed I had one very shiny shoe compared to the other. Flashes of those shoe shine men hit me and I laughed when reaching Cleveland for there was a stand on my way towards the exit doors, only no employees were there to hire for shining up my other shoe to match.

Talk about getting the giggles...I did.

This is not a good thing, to be walking alone through an airport, giggling to oneself. I did however try hard to avoid drawing attention to myself.

A beautiful day to fly!

Note the propeller blades caught by the camera?

The flight was only 35 minutes from Toronto (50 minutes door to door) where my trip originated, a really great flight I might add due to sunny blue skies and clear visibility for following along the southern banks of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie towards Ohio.

Cleveland, Ohio that is.

This became our continuous little questioning mantra this weekend, she and I;

"What were the odds we as sisters would travel to Cleveland for a visit in our lifetimes?"

From carry on luggage, proceeding straight through airport corridors, out the door towards the sidewalk, I was able to hop into her awaiting rental car she was driving. It was only a short trek to the hotel, with a splendid view over Lake Erie and the Cleveland Browns football stadium!

Football? Oh sheesh, shaking my head and smiling.... :)

Several of my sister's work colleagues were also staying over the weekend in Cleveland, so we were able to meet up with a few throughout our time together. (It was their idea too to head to that football game...and tailgate the afternoon beforehand. LOL)

After throwing my suitcase into her hotel room, we were eager to begin our time together with our usual tradition of a celebratory glass of wine before heading out for dinner.

One colleague joined us in a sister-only toast and dinner that night, a lovely lady to share conversation and business shop talk with.

Friday fish night beckoned us toward a joint beloved sushi feast, and feast it was!

This was a little taste of things to come for us, mostly as we moved nonstop through the rest of the weekend, walking everywhere and braving the winter chills!

The day following my arrival, it had snowed a bit during the night, then all became bitter cold as the rain began to fall on us, all, day, long!

Good thing I had my favorite little umbrella with me.

Good thing for a store with a replacement as the wind blew in such a blustery way, it took my umbrella by surprise and turned it inside out until it broke.

And good thing for warm clothing, layer upon layer of clothing that is!

But the reality came FAST. That of, finding out the football game was to be OUTDOORS and snow was in the forecast, and COLD!

Cleveland proved to be an amazing city, with friendly folks on every street and around every corner, eager and willing to offer a hand to any tourist, even to we - "Canadian girls" (as city folks referred to us by).

Playing tourist that weekend, we headed for the "Playstreet Theaters" for the free tour, spending much time there in complete admiration for all five theaters we were able to tour and walk through.

Amazing architecture reigns high in the city, many buildings with pillared and statuesque grandeur were incredible to note.

The interior of these theaters, all connected now, were no exception to that well earned reputation of great architecture.

Wow, there was much incredible history here in these buildings! From the year 1810 when one of the theaters had its inaugural opening, through to the 21 century, these walls had many stories to tell. It was riveting to listen to our narrator, and being inside was incredibly awesome!

And we both sure enjoyed every little bit of our narrated and guided tour, learning much, though I wasn't really able to get one good photograph through it all!

On our way into the theater, we realized we were lucky participants as we'd caught the last tour of the morning due to (freezing on our morning journey heading there), having to stop for a coffee and little breaky along the way (think THAW!).

We had noticed a table in the lobby with a few woman selling a book on these "Playstreet theaters".

Once our tour was over, all was vanished and locked away again until a month from then, when the next set of free tours would recommence. Darn.

By this time, my sister and I greatly desired to purchase our own copies for continued appreciation of this spectacular place.

As we headed toward the front doors toward the street, I caught the attention of another tour guide, the manager over all. I sweetly pleaded with her (yes, I did) that I had to return to Canada the following day, I wondered if she might be able to find us each a copy.

She could not.

She then suggested if we wanted to leave her the hotel information where my sister stayed on for another week, she would personally deliver two books in care of her name there.

And she did!

If this isn't the very best service, I'm not entirely sure what is!

AND, she even sent a follow up email to my sister, inviting both or any one of us to seek her out when in town next as she does city tours and would love to offer us complimentary ones to participate in with her as our guide.

And so is only one of many stories we encountered with such lovely Cleveland people!

Thank you Cleveland!

All the walking we were doing felt so good!

We walked and huffed our way around the city on foot, and even with the wind, umbrella replacement, and lousy weather, we toured from morning to night time, loving the crispy fresh air and camaraderie.

(showing off my new red umbrella)

One little gated walkway was so cute, we both stopped to read and take in the scene. Remember the children's story and movie "Watership Down"?

This little garden was a tribute to it...

Many assorted shop venues, restaurants and businesses were of interest along our walking routes.

When the rain poured like buckets tossed about in the heavens thrust upon us suddenly, we ducked into and cut through the oldest Nickelodeon building left standing, now home to the Hyatt hotel.

This was SOME place! Wow!

Much to our surprise and thrill was a wedding photography session in progress.

We stood for a few moments watching the photographer snap photos of the bride and her girls on the stairwell, caught them in several other locations and then I was happy to snap a few photos myself.

Back to the streets again, and noticeable throughout the city were guitars displayed on stands, all embellished in some artistic way.

Most we encountered would not have photographed well with the rain and gray skies upon us, but I was determined to catch, at least one and this was it.

I suppose some of these highways should be familiar to me, especially Hwy. 90 as we have traveled over it before en-route to Chicago, and/or to Boston at one time or another.

Here it was, highway traffic flowing underneath of us on this little overpass.

Two blocks from our hotel, we decided "why not?", and there we were, on the shores of Lake Erie about to take on another type of history.

A type of music history that is.

This was Cleveland's "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame"!

It had to win the strangest building award, and was designed with the most unique glass interior with an abundance of stairs in the circular part shown above, without elevators that is, for those who are wanting to know this wee aspect of the museum.

Just as we had lucked out on attending the final theater tour of the day, so too (after a long blustery and rainy walk with umbrellas turning inside out, my new umbrella I might add!) did we both enter the "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame" in the final day's entry lineups.

What was here we wondered?

Both my sister and I have music appreciation abilities for almost any type of music (um, not a fan though of rap, punk or metal), grew up with soft elevator sixties type music and some classical in the home, the "Monkees" were big in our family (my grandfather brought over a few trading cards and my sister about fainted over them, LOL), and we must not forget all those we watched on the Ed Sullivan's (... Sunday r-e-a-l-l-y BIG Sheeoowwww) introduction of now historical musicians aplenty.

With similar musical appreciation tastes all across the board of genres, and even though her favorite loves are still found in "standard types of music", re: Frank Sinatra style a la "Martini in the morning" internet radio station, and mine tend to hover around those of Michael Buble and Chris Botti,
both she and I could attend a place like this for the experience of it all, and why not we figured, for what was the likelihood we'd ever get here again?

(The view of it from our hotel room)

After tickets were purchased, we noticed there were signs everywhere (!) that photography was completely forbidden! I was a tad bit annoyed. Annoyed as I wasn't able to snap any photos, and nothing we saw that we found interesting (just a fraction of what they owned for sure was on display at any given time) was noted in any book or print item offered for sale to take home.

Also, the initial movie everyone enters for an overall introduction to the music of this past century was the ONE THING I thought would make a great purchase to share with my hubby, also not available.

As a spectator, we found ourselves drawn to the glass costume frames the most, marveling over how teeny tiny some of the legendary musicians really were! Wow, some of those waist sizes were worthy of Barbie doll measuring tape stats!

The main feature in the upper round room floors was "Bruce Springsteen", recently inducted to the hall of fame. He was actually one interesting man. And as we watched the documentary overhead on one floor, and listened to him singing on another, all of his private memorabilia on display came to life. His personal scrapbooks with newspaper articles, and even his music awards were there for all to see.

His music really takes us back, way back in time to when his debut album "Born in the USA" took radio waves by storm, and most folks don't know, his contract was going to be canceled completely if it didn't. The pressure was on. And as history notes, that album did indeed fare very well.

It takes me back, when we were in Whistler, B.C., skiing the slopes with our three older children, and watching the aerial competitors gearing up for the world competitions there the following weekend. Speakers were blaring with this album for their practice sessions. It could be heard all the way to our hotel when we swam in the outdoor heated pool by night.

I had an almost three year old singing "Born in the USA", and that's about all he knew.

Damage control had to be performed when we in turn sang; "No, BORN in Canada"! and we all laughed afterward.

Okay, so remember when I wrote about the football game almost being a deal breaker? Well now....

Back to our hotel this very night, guess what we encountered?

It was true.

The text from my sister's colleagues informing of rumors heard, were true!

The New England Patriot football players were staying at our hotel!

Did that matter to me? - NO

Was it a big deal? To me? - NO
To the crowds gathered round? - YES

The brown and orange colors were out in true form.

The blue and white fans were also standing tandem with them, shoulder to shoulder either cheering or booing their favorite players outside the front doors.

The lobby was full of football revelers!

At first I wondered if there might be a clash, a scene, gasp, a mini brawl?

But, we were most impressed with the courtesy and respect offered to every hotel guest, football fan, and thrill seekers, both on the hotel grounds outside the door when the players arrived car by car, or in the lobby when gathered round for more hopeful autograph seekers.

This little trip had to be the fastest 48 hours of my entire life thus far.

The more folks began to ask what brought us to Cleveland, and what we were doing in such a city, the more my sister just answered back with her cheeky standard line;

"It's a bucket list thing" ... LOL

So, unbeknown to me, I guess I can place a "check", now that I've been to Cleveland! Even without a bucket list in general, it's funny how things become on our lists of life's unexpected experiences. :)

Thank you Cleveland!

I'll post more on my first (adult) NFL football experience in another writing.