Category Archives: Pennsylvania2
We did a lot in Pittsburgh but not everything our Pittsburgh enthusiast friends recommended so including here for the next trip! (Some places were also closed due to the pandemic.)
North Side – there is a homey German restaurant that’s been there forever. Max’s Allegheny Tavern at 537 Suisman Street. They have pretty good schnitzel on the menu.
Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh campus – the nationality rooms. We walked around on our own. Would be much better with a tour. They are just amazing and are used as classrooms and study rooms.
Heinz History museum – if you love/d Mister Rogers, you have to see the display from the show.
Primanti Brothers is famous in the Strip – where you get french fries on your sandwich along with coleslaw.
Phipps Conservatory – our indoor botanical garden in Schenley Park close to the Pitt campus.
In the strip district— the original Pirmanti brothers location is there, home to the famous cheesesteak sandwichtopped with French fries
Penn Avenue Fish company fir great seafood in a casual atmosphere. Your order from counter with all selections on a big chalkboard
And you need to have some polish food of course. The S&D deli fits the bill nicely. Traditional cheap polish delights that your Bubba used to make.
The best periogies are made by the parishioners at St. Stanislaus kostka church tucked away on a side street in the strip. Probably not selling them now due to pandemic. But the church is worth visiting anyway
Closer to downtown also on penn avenue in the cultural district there are a number of places where you can eat outside on the street. One of our favorites is Emporio: A Meatball Place. They also have rooftop seating. You order one or more meatballs of different persuasions
Other places: The Pleasure Bar in the Bloomfield neighborhood has great Italian food but is best known for its French bread pizza. Its less than a mile from Lawrenceville
You have to ride one of the inclines-up mount Washington. The Duquesne Incline’s entrance is right near Station Square an old train station that’s been gentrified and is full of sho ps and restaurants. The mon incline is usually less busy. Both feature great views of downtown. The night view is spectacular
I assume you already know about the Warhol museum on the north side. The senator john Heinz History Center on smallman street in the cultural center is a terrific place.
About 1.5 hours south of Pittsburgh, we stopped at the site of the flight that crashed into farm land on 9/11/01, averting even more devastation in Washington D.C. (The terrorists were likely targeting the U.S. Capitol, or maybe the White House.)
The weather was fittingly gloomy, cold and rainy. The hardest part of the visit was listening to telephone messages that three passengers made to their families from the plane when they knew they would likely die. The plane had been hijacked by suicide terrorists, other planes had already crashed into the world trade Center Towers and the crew and passengers of flight 93 decided to thwart the hijackers plan to crash into the U.S. Capitol …which is a stone’s throw from where we are sleeping tonight, in an Airbnb carriage house in the Capitol East neighborhood, around the block from our son’s apartment. Flight 93 crashed in the tiny rural hamlet of Shanksville, killing all 40 passengers and crew aboard.
Very full and fun day seeing a variety of provoking art on a cool sunny Thursday. We began at a Croatian Catholic Church (St. Nicholas) in Millvale for a docent-led tour of the amazing murals inside painted between the world wars (1938, 1941) by Maxo Vanka, an Austrian painter with ties to Croatia. We were early so we drove up an impossibly steep one-lane road to a handful of houses clinging to the hillside, with spectacular views of the old brick mill, modest homes and river tucked in the valley.
The Vanka Murals are strikingly contemporary, with scenes of modern war, proud socialism and uncharacteristically (for churches we are told) strong females. The murals cover all the walls and high-domed ceiling and are in the process of being restored. Tours are offered on Saturday. We lucked into a Thursday tour, thanks to a bigger group that had booked and came 1/2 hour late.
Next stop, a fresh fried fish sandwich at the Original Oyster House downtown on Market Square which gave us a chance to admire the interesting architecture, old and new, downtown. The fish tasted very fresh and fun to eat inside (yes, inside…post-vaccines) an old tavern with vintage photos of Miss America pageants and Pirates baseball.
The Mattress Factory is in the lovely Mexican War Streets neighborhood, with gorgeous restored homes lining the streets. Fancier than Lawrenceville, not as fancy as Squirrel Hill. The museum specializes in “immersive” art and that it was, which was a bit challenging to navigate at times with my broken foot because we were sometimes plunged into complete darkness and had to navigate tricky steps and dark narrow passageways. Some artists we recognized – James Turrell and Yayoi Kusama.
Beyond the four floors of the factory building are two neighborhood houses nearby, also with immersive installations. One installation takes up the entire three floors of the house, with holes cut in the floors so you can look up or down at the adjacent floor. Another had a Small piano hoisted awkwardly in the air on ropes and a song composed for the piece you could play on your phone.
Covid is also inspiring some strange art, this museum suggests.
We did a little browsing at sweet independent shops along Butler street. (Pastries at la gourmandine, buttercream) Quite a few have limited hours, perhaps due to the pandemic. People are good about wearing masks and/or reminding you to put yours on if you forget. (Mine hangs on a chord around my neck for easy in and off.)
We met old (younger) friends Dan and Elizabeth for dinner in a tented space outside Spirit, a performance space in Lawrenceville located in a former Moose Lodge.
With steep narrow streets lined with narrow row houses and so many iron bridges, hills and valleys, Pittsburgh struck me at first as a giant Easton, as in the river town on the other side of Pennsylvania, where my mother grew up.
We went first to ride the atmospheric funicular that climbs Mount Washington at a steep incline (hence the name, the Duquesne Incline), traveling inside an old wooden cable car. As promised, the view of the city fanning out across the valley below and up the opposite hillsides, at the convergence of three rivers, is spectacular. We returned at night to Grandview Avenue, which is lined with viewing platforms to see the city adorned with lights. Dazzling.
We finally found the concentration of old warehouses and ethnic food purveyors along Penn Avenue in the Strip District and I hobbled along (my foot is broken) to window shop. (We stopped at a huge candy store, grandpa Joes to pick up some hard-to-find Royal Crown Sours.) Next stop, Squirrel hill, the fancy and yes, hilly, area with non-attached big brick houses and past the various Carnegie Museums.
Our Airbnb is one of those narrow row houses in Lawrenceville with long caramel-colored wood plank floors and an old red brick fireplace. The street reminds me of my grandmother’s street in Easton (except it has hipster shops and restaurants a block a way on Butler Street). We entered through a little gate on the side of the white wooden row house and walked down a narrow alleyway to the back door. Dinner was good takeout pizza (pandemic style) from Driftwood Oven and then off to church for a beer. No joke. There’s a place called The Church Brew Works in a lovely old high ceilinged Romanesque church in Lawrenceville. Dirck’s brother figured it counts as mass attendance.
Bethlehem has two interesting and very different attractions – the lovely old campus of Moravian College, with fieldstone and red brick buildings and gravestones dating back to the mid 1700’s and Steel Stacks, the former Bethlehem Steel factory — a massive hulking pile of rusted steel stacks and crumbling brick buildings that has been transformed into a destination with a hotel/casino, movie theaters, event space, tours, a local PBS station headquarters. I’d love to return and take the steel tour.
The skies gradually cleared and we had a glorious drive through the Pennsylvania countryside, past PA Dutch stone houses and barns, small towns with row houses lining the street, Amish buggies pulled by trotting shiny horses, rolling fields of corn,and soybeans.
First stop was Grim’s Apple Orchard just south of Allentown in Breinigsville, PA where I just missed the Mutsu/crispin harvest (oct. 14) but got some excellent honeycrisps. On to Manheim , a small Lancaster County town where we visited my aunt’s college friend Mary, who lives in an old farm house where she grew up, now surrounded, oddly, by a used car dealership.
She and her daughter Beth took us to see the family cottage in nearby Mt. Gretna (Lebanon county) which turned out to be in the Pennsylvania Chautauqua, a summer colony of charming old cottages with wrap around porches tucked into the woods near a small lake, with a few educational/cultural buildings including a theater and a “hall of philosophy.”
It reminded me a bit of the Chautauqua we stayed at in Boulder. Mary’s cottage was lovely, very rustic and old-fashioned, sort of stuck in time. It has been in her family for 75 years and someone else’s before that. The whole community is 126 years old. My aunt used to hang out with Mary and other friends there in the 1950s and she was delighted to be back. We sat in old rocking chairs on the porch in the shade and enjoyed the peace, quiet and each other’s company. Isn’t that what porches are for?
Onto the small charming Lancaster County town of Lititz, where we sat in a small shady park by a river and watched the ducks and young Amish couples (some in surprisingly contemporary duds) strolling by. We had a delicious late lunch at the Tomato Pie Cafe. (We ate spinach and artichoke tomato pie – sort of akin to quiche, minus the egg custard but with baked cheese.) We didn’t get to see much of the town, but it looked lovely. I’d like to return. We also picked up some locally made Wilbur chocolates to give as gifts.
MAT and I took backroads all the way to Emmaus, where we had another lovely dinner with my cousin Ed, his wife Elizabeth and daughter Sarah plus two friends driving through in their enormous motorhome. We drove through towns with names including Brickerville, Reamstown, kutztown and East Texas. I’d love to come back and check out Lancaster, which has been likened to Brooklyn of late, and old PA Amish towns like Intercourse, Paradise and Blue Ball.
Last night I had the best hamburger at Bolete, in a lovely old stone house that used to be a stagecoach stop, outside Bethlehem. This has been such a great trip, in so many ways.
We drove through grey skies and drizzle north thru the Poconos to Scranton so my aunt could visit an old friend from college. The drive was pretty, weather notwithstanding, and the leaves are starting to change. (I am told they are late this year.)
I did a little exploring on my own, driving through downtown Scranton which I know little about except that it was the fictional location of the classic TV comedy, The Office. There are some great old hulking stone and brick buildings but didn’t see much reason to stop so I went to nearby Nay Aug (that’s not a typo) park, which has a waterfall and gorge. I met a nice young woman who was hiking around and she led me along the muddy trail to the falls, which were impressive, especially since there has been so much rain in the area. It wasn’t quite Ithaca quality but not bad. Ithaca was only 2 hours north (so near and yet so far….)
I also stopped at the lackawanna coal mine museum which has a rustic tour down into a mine that one website described as a good way to learn about how terrible coal miners lives were. No thank you. Too claustrophobia- inducing but did look like a cool attraction and is a biggie here.
Easton is looking pretty good. Always a little ragged around the edges even though I love it dearly, (this is, after all, my mother’s hometown and where I spent summers with my grandma at her red brick row house), Easton seems to be remaking itself as a funky arts and culinary destination. So much so that we won’t be going to the farmers market around the circle downtown tomorrow because the annual garlic fest is on tap and draws some 20,000 people. Too many for us.
Aunt MAT and I dropped by the family touchstones – 101 N. 8th Street (Grama Betty’s house which still isn’t looking so good), my Great-Grandfather Louis’s house (and later my Great Aunt Sylvia’s house) on 2nd Street, which still looks lovely.
We finally found my grandparents’ gravestones, along with many great aunts and uncles (Sylvia, Nathan, Jeanette, Libby…) in a remote corner of the Easton cemetery. We could see cars whizzing by on RT. 22). We spotted the new Easton Public Market on Northampton Street, which looks pretty cool, and some vintage clothing shops and boutiques. The Caramel Corn Shop is still on the circle.
We drove along the river road, RT 611, that curves along the Delaware, past the occasional lovely stone house and barn. Also drove along an interior country road trying to find remnants of the summer camp I went to as a kids — Camptown. I love the countryside here. Very rolling, winding and green, with the leaves starting to change.
We had a delicious lunch at an Italian import store run by one of my aunt’s former 3rd grade students, now age 68, called Pastaceria, which has a chef recently arrived from Rome who made delicious fresh pasta — Ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach, with a butter sage sauce.
Tonight we went to an old club, The Pomfret in downtown Easton with 5 of my aunts former students and some spouses. They came from Kansas , Oregon, Florida. Alabama and made a big fuss over my aunt, which was really sweet. My aunt was really touched. Special night for us all.
I walked along Main Street in Bethlehem, which has some interesting shops including The Steel Beam, with industrial chic artwork. The city is wisely marketing its faded industrial era, with lots of odes to Bethlehem Steel. Then there are the charming 18th. Century stone buildings, many part of Moravian College.
Amazing to be back in this corner of the world where my mom, my Aunt Mary Ann and Uncle Tom grew up and where I spent many summers as a child visiting my beloved Grama Betty in Easton. Aunt Mary Ann and I haven’t been to Easton yet. We landed at ABE ((Allentown, Bethlehem Easton) airport in eastern Pennsylvania after a quick trip from Chicago (an hour 20 min.) and drove pretty winding backroads lined with tall trees and the occasional beautiful old Carmel-colored stone house to My cousin Ed’s House in Emmaus. We had a lovely dinner with his great family (wife Elizabeth, daughter Sarah, brothers Joseph and James) and then drove a very roundabout way to Bethlehem and this historic hotel Bethlehem which oozes character. I rarely stay at hotels anymore (no more business trips) so this a treat, with valet parking and bellhops and a friendly woman at the desk and chocolates on the pillow of the enormous bed, next to the waffle cotton robe. I think I am going to like it here. Can’t wait to explore Bethlehem and to visit Easton again, especially with my aunt who is full of old family stories that I am trying to jot down soon after she tells them.
At O’Hare, I should mention that we had excellent (if overpriced) poke at seafood sushi place in the terminal. I could get used to aunt MAT’s style of travel (if I had the budget…)