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24 August 2010

Cincinnati - Part II

We drove into Cincinnati from the north after 7pm, going right downtown and driving around the block a few times, trying to find The Cincinnatian at 601 Vine.  Downtown Cincinnati is truly on the grid system, but we were thrown off by the address.  The hotel's main entrance is on Sixth.  This used to be The Palace Hotel. It has been modernized to the point of no recognition to its 1882 French Second Empire roots, at least in the interior.

We took a walk to the Fountain Square, just a block away, drawn by the outdoor stage upon which a local group was playing jazz and jazzy pop (for example, the keyboardist introduced a "Beatles medley" which was mainly improvisational riffs on "Yesterday," because the sax player likes The Beatles). There is live music almost nightly during the summer right downtown. There are beer and Skyline chili for sale. It was fun to see people from all walks of life sitting and enjoying the music while the children enjoyed the fountain --the Tyler Davidson Fountain, a truly magnificent yet accessible public work.  In Chicago, Buckingham Fountain may be more magnificent, but this would be slightly more akin to the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park, which is the most accessible I've ever seen, and enjoyed by so many children of all ages.  And, there is a giant screen on the building across the street which streamed camera shots of the stage live (as if the audience stretched hundreds of yards away).  Speaking of "yards," at the time we were there, the live camera action ended and the projections changed to showing a Bengal-Jets game (pre-season, maybe?) which the soundman seemed to enjoy, pulling his chair out from under the tent covering all his equipment to get a better view.  We left at 9pm to get a bite to eat, deciding to try the hotel's own restaurant.

The main restaurant at The Cincinnatian is still called The Palace Restaurant.  It is a fine-dining establishment, which the receptionist had called a "four-star," but I find no press to support that.  There is a three-course prix fixe offered for "two savouries and one sweet."  Pricewise, that usually worked out to saving $1 on an appetizer and entree (there were some supplemental charges for the lamb, steak and seafood) while getting a dessert for free.  I wonder though whether I could have argued "two savouries" could have been two entrees.  I wasn't that hungry.  I had lamb done medium rare to perfection and Larry had a pork entree, both wonderful.  The moment that stood out most during this evening's meal was a negative one:  in a place with white tablecloths where they changed your silverware with each course, when Larry asked for the local beer (Christian Moerlein Over-The-Rhine Ale),a waiter came bearing bottle in hand and asked if Larry wanted a glass. Jeez!

The paintings on the wall were vaguely familiar.  The waiter told us they were done by Impressionist Camille Pissarro's grandson.  While they were all signed with a "Pissarro," I couldn't figure out the first name and can't find a grandson who painted, although Pissarro's entry in wikipedia says all of his children and most of his grandchildren were/are artists or somehow related to the arts.  I also discovered on wikipedia that, while he is known as being French, Camille Pissarro was born in the US Virgin Islands and returned there from boarding school in Paris.  (I am really enjoying wikipedia, even as I remain skeptical of the reliability of an encyclopedia that invites interactive contributions to entries.  If one definition of a book is "passive involvement" vs active participation, wikipedia would not be defined as a book, while a plain old electronic encyclopedia (like Encarta -- remember that?) might be.


The artwork throughout the public areas of The Cincinnatian is most impressive.  I wonder that the management does not somehow promote it.  Perhaps there is a security issue involved.  Larry and I walked up and down the stairs when we were not too tired or laden with luggage, and freely stopped to view paintings, prints, multi-media pieces and photographs displayed on each floor.  They were fantastic.

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