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Published: July 26th 2010
Rivers and Bridges
Scenes from the Steel City.......
It is quite hard to fathom sometimes that it has been more than two years since our sabbatical around the world ended and we settled in Pittsburgh, PA.
One minute you’re heading to Singapore to start an adventure then end in London, then Maine, then Seattle all while in the company of fine friends, then trekking across the country as you have accepted a position with a university based health system. All this in less than two months!
After living on the Allegheny River in a loft apartment for two months, we found a cute home in the Point Breeze section of town and unloaded all our “stuff” in a home built in the late ‘30s. It was time for experiencing life living in a city neighborhood.
In these two years we’ve had the opportunity to experience the charms and diversity of a city whose air was once choked by steel plant plume, but now is better known as a city that has changed its image to reflect the immense investment in health care and education.
Welcome to a city that has more bridges than Venice Italy, incredibly rabid sports fans,
in Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh, PA
fine museums, delightful cuisine, quality entertainment, and a bike trail that goes all the way to our nation’s capital, some 250 miles away.
While it hasn’t lost its history and charm. This city is alive and vibrant. Even in these economic times, Pittsburgh is fairing very well. Pittsburgh has done a marvelous job re-inventing itself. Historically it was know for the steel industry but today thrives because healthcare and research, education, technology and robotics. The city has emerged as city that has done what few others could, transition from a steel producing industrial town to a newer one that mines intellectual capital.
Pittsburgh is a melting pot of ethnic backgrounds, among them Italian, Polish and a large Jewish community. Each neighborhood has a flavor and feel of it’s own. One of our favorite parts of town is the “Strip District”, this area of town is not far from the banks of the Allegheny River on the edge of the warehouse district. The Strip District offers smells from street vendors to delight the senses. Multiple seafood, cheese and butcher shops abound. The aroma of outdoor cooking creates an appetite. The delight of fish tacos or Italian sausage along the
Tower of Learning
University of Pittsburgh
sidewalk or spending an afternoon in a variety of pizza parlors or other mom and pop establishments can help wile away an afternoon. One of our favorites is Roland’s Seafood Grill. Dave loves the burger and MJ always gets the bowl of mussels!! The Strip District offers a variety of shops selling, chocolate, glass ornaments, a variety of clothes and yes - paraphanelia for their addicted sports fans.
The fans are quite rabid and vocal. The recent successes of the football and hockey teams make them even more vociferous. You can buy a t-shirt that says, “Pittsburgh: a drinking town with a football problem.” After living here for two years we realize it is NOT a joke. ☺ They do love their sports teams. We have lived in many, many cities across this country and we have not lived in a city that is this obsessed with their team. The folks of Pittsburgh are so used to winning teams that they pout when their teams are not winning.
The Pittsburgh Steelers won the Superbowl- 1975, 1976, 1979, 1980, 2006 & 2009.
The Pittsburgh Penguin’s won the Stanley Cup 1992, 1993 & 2009.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have just celebrated their
..life is about sitting and watching beauty go by
place in sports infamy by establishing the Major League record of 17 straight losing seasons—with their sites firmly set on number 18!
Travelers of the world look for something interesting and unique in each city to understand what makes the people or this location different from others. What would a first time visitor to the city notice?
Hardy food and portions- At The Primanti Brothers Bar and Grill you would find a local sandwich that has garnered some national acclaim on the food network. Since 1933 this establishment has become "almost famous" for its piled high sandwiches cooked on the grill. We've lived here for two years and decided we needed to give it a try. Fresh italian bread sliced one inch thick, meat of choice- we went with the roast beef grilled and topped with melted cheese and then they add sliced tomato, sweet and sour cole slaw and french fries. Yes, french fries. We are not sure why or how this got started. Years ago we saw them discussing this restaurant on the food channel and laughed. Pittsburgh is famous for this sandwich but personally we didn't find it very good. Fortunatley the bread was really
fresh but the sandwich had so much piled on it that there was not much flavor. The cole slaw did stand out and it was good.
On a lighter note to what makes Pittsburg stand out ------- the answer is bad drivers and the inability of the local inhabitants to provide clear and accurate directions! You laugh, but we are not joking. We have never lived in a city where so many people run red lights and make illegal turns. If the city posted cameras at intersections they could earn millions of additional revenue. This city is well known for the infamous “Pittsburgh Left”. When stopped at a traffic light and the light turns green---- please do not pull out too quickly as the person across from you is about to pull out in front of you and make an illegal turn. This is accepted practice in this city but for a newby it can be very dangerous and puzzling.
A recent study presented data that if every person in Pittsburgh had to re-take the driver’s examination that 25% would not pass the test. That is one in four! Yowza! Be careful when driving in Pittsburgh. And
as for the locals attempting to give directions. You are better off taking your chances with mapquest, which is a sad commentary. Locals will tell you to drive 3 miles and turn left at the church. They don’t know street names, they don’t know the name of the church and they neglect to mention that the church was burned down 30 years ago and you are looking for the shell of a church. Each person who moves here should receive a GPS free of charge so that they can better navigate this hilly, pothole infested, poorly marked grid.
We have also decided to rename this city “Pothole City” or “Tank-trap city”. Unbelievably bad streets. The department of transportation does an incredibly poor job of street repair. This is probably due to budget restrictions. It is rather amazing and you would have to be here to believe it. After research we learned that in geology a pothole, is a cylindrical pit formed in the rocky channel of a turbulent stream. That pretty much describes our city streets. Or you can believe they are called potholes because a pot (cookware) has a big dent in it used for filling much like
potholes in out roads. We have no clue what they are doing with the tax money but we can assure you it is not being spent on the roads.
It is definitely a city of bridges. At the risk of sounding like Forrest Gump, there are arch bridges, beam bridges, suspension bridges, a coral bridge, an aluminum bridge, a bridge inside the Steel Tower skyscraper, and even a bridge that was buried when the city filled a ravine and created a new park near the Carnegie Library.
Did you know Pittsburgh is full of bike paths? Did you know you can ride your bike on a path from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC? Only 320 miles from Duquesne to Washington, DC , it is called the Great Allegheny Passage.
We have talked about making that ride. We really have not riden our bikes much in the past decade, not since we left Florida. At Christmas time we bought each other new bikes for Christmas and have them sitting in the basement looking at us. We thought it would be a nice way to spend the summer outside and get back in shape. As of yet we’ve only ridden
Behind Kentuck Knob-- Frank Lloyd Wright
them twice. But—good news we’ve just added a bike rack to our car so now we will be able to get to many great paths in town rather than riding in our neighborhood dodging potholes!
We live in an urban neighborhood called Point Breeze. Lovely homes from the 1930’s and the ability to walk to restaurants, dry cleaners, market, beauty salon and barber shop. Point Breeze is between two other very popular neighborhoods, Shadyside and Squirrel Hill.
High atop one of the many hills that encase the Pittsburgh area you can visualize the triangular point of land that jets out in front of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, which forms the mighty Ohio River. The Pittsburgh skyline is lovely and offers a variety of architecture. You can ascend one of the hills by using two of the few remaining funicular railways in the country. Built in the 1870’s, these cable cars have become museums. The Monogahela and the Duquesne inclines provide panoramic view of the city from Mt. Washington. These used to take the steel workers from their homes at the top of Mt. Washington to the steel mills down along the river. Both are still used by
some commuters in the city.
The city boasts some fine eateries. We have been to many and can recommend the following:
1. The Point Brugge- Belgium food and beer located in Point Breeze
2. La Casa- Spanish & Morroccan Tapas in Shadyside
3. Legume- Contemporary cuisine in the Regency Park district.
4. Bistro 19- Mt. Lebannon
5. Le Pommiere - A French restaurant on Carson Street
6. Roland’s Seafood Grill - A variety of foods in the Strip District
7. Church Brew Works - A brewery and eatery in Bloomfield that has good beer and surprisingly good food.
Like most major cities, Pittsburgh has produced some famous people. Andy Warhol grew up here, as did Michael Keaton and Jeff Goldblum among others.
The Puget Sound book club in Seattle might be interested in knowing that Pulitizer Prize winner Willa Cather lived in Pittsburgh for 10 years as an adult. She worked as an editiorial staff member for Home Monthly and telegraph editor and theatre critic for the Daily Leader. From 1897 to 1901 she was a Latin and English teacher at Central High School and Allegheny High School.
There are many elegant homes and parks
A city full of beautiful architecture.
that we have enjoyed visiting in our time here.
The Frick House is a lovely old Victorian Mansion, the home of a nineteenth century businessman who made his fortune selling coke. No, not the drug, but a very important part of the steel manufacturing process. Each summer on the lawn of the Frick house they offer a wonderful concert series called First Friday at the Frick. For a five dollar donation you can bring your lawn chairs, wine, picnic and sit among the stars to enjoy and evening of music. Turnout is usually between 1,000 to 2,000 guests. The Frick Café offers food for purchase if you don’t want to picnic.
Mellon Park offers a summer concert series from mid- June to mid-August called Bach, Beethoven and Brunch. Again you can bring your chairs and breakfast or you can purchase coffee, bagels and donuts on the premises. It is a great way to start Sunday morning- relaxing and listening to some marvelous music. Both parks are within a half mile of our house.
The Phipps Conservatory contains beautiful botanical gardens. Not only is it a lovely building but they have done a very nice job inside creating
many rooms. As you can tell by our photographs the butterfly room is one of our favorites.
Pittsburgh has all of the four seasons as you can see in the photos. Both of us grew up about five hours from here in Ohio. We are always surprised by the amount of sunshine they get in Pittsburgh. It is sunnier than both Toledo and Dayton, Ohio. Our recommendation is that you do not visit Pittsburgh in January or February unless you love the cold and snow. The average snowfall in this area is 40 inches spread out over the season. You will find a few photos of last winter where it exceeded 80 inches of snow for the season. In one 24 hour period we had 21 inches of snow. It just kept snowing. Many years have passed since this city has seen that much snow in one season. The city of Pittsburgh failed miserably at clearing our streets. After living in places like South Lake Tahoe, Nevada where they really understand snow removal we were shocked at what we saw. Considering the fact that this is a city where snowfall is not uncommon you would think they would have
it figured out by now but sadly that is not the case.
The people who grow up in Pittsburgh rarely leave. They love this city. Many of the ones who have left have returned. Pittsburgh creates loyalty.
Pittsburgh still has the reputation as a city of steel mills, but that is no longer the case. The city of bridges spans so much more.......
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Great post, there is nothing more to say. I have been there a couple of times and i will return!
Hi MJ....it was fun to read this blog since I lived in Pittsburgh for a short while in the 60's. Besides your comments on sports mania it doesn't sound like the same city....they cleaned it up after I had moved away. I'll have to revisit Pittsburgh some day soon...but I won't bring my car to be eaten up by the potholes...we have enough of our own right here.
Always fun to read you travel blogs and dream about traveling! We miss you! Glad you got to take Lillie-bugs with you!
Hi, I stumbled across this entry in the featured section. A native Cincinnatian, I briefly visited Pittsburgh for the first time last year for the G-20. I was very impressed, and moreover, I think your entry captures the essence of Pittsburgh (at least, based on my 4-day experience, most of which was under highly unusual circumstances). I seriously considered setting down roots. Also, I like Miss Lillie. A close friend of our family has a dog with this name, but the one in your picture looks a lot like our own dog, Tetris.
Always Somewhere New
I love your blogs - I feel I travel the world with you. Thank you for putting together another fantastic location. Ian and Olaf xxx
D MJ Binkley
Dave and Merry Jo Binkley
I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on our blog. It is great to know people are reading it. The G-20 was an interesting time in Pittsburgh. We work at hospitals so that made it even more so. The people who grow up in Pittsburgh really seem to love it. We are going to relocate soon but our time here has been good. We are gypsies at heart. Are you enjoying teaching in China?