Showing posts with label Pittsburgh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pittsburgh. Show all posts

Thursday, July 18, 2024

Exploring Pittsburgh

Located in Western Pennsylvania and situated at the confluence of the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio Rivers, the scenic city of Pittsburgh is a must see in the Northeast.

My husband and I visited the area again just last week during the dog days of summer and there was no dearth of things to do. Unfortunately, we were only staying three days, so we had to pick and choose accordingly.

The Phipps

Because I've loved the Phipps Conservatory in the past, this was one of our first stops.

A beautiful Chihuly sculpture hangs from the dome. 

The Phipps dates back to 1893 and was a gift to the city from Philanthropist Henry Phipps. It is described as one of Pittsburgh's "crown jewels." Visitors are often in awe of the striking botanical displays, many of which change throughout the year. 

The theme for the exhibit when we visited was "Under the Sea."

                         I found this blooming Bromeliad particularly striking.

If you allocate 90 minutes for your visit, you'll likely have plenty of time to see everything and perhaps even grab a bite at Cafe Phipps, which was featured by Food & Wine as one of the "Best Museum Restaurants in the United States."

Insider tip: To avoid the crowds, visit on a Monday or Tuesday.

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History, founded by Andrew Carnegie, a wealthy industrialist/philanthropist and proud Pittsburgher, touts an astounding collection of 22 million specimens, 10,000 of which are on view at any given time.

A family favorite, the destination features an array of dinosaurs and mammals, fossils, mummies and more, which are sure to intrigue guests of all ages. The Carnegie Museum of History is noted for housing one of the world's best dinosaur collections and introducing the first ever Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton known as "Dippy" to the public.

The Hall of Gems is particularly fascinating for its dizzying array of rocks and minerals from volcanic rocks to radioactive rocks and those that glow under ultraviolet light. 

I loved this amber collection.

The Carnegie Museum of Art
A piece painted by famous artist Jackson Pollock

The Carnegie Museum of Art, located in the same building as the Museum of Natural History, has 30,000 works of art in its collection, so if this is at the top of your list to see, you may want to get an early start when doors open at 10 a.m.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir: "The Garden in the Rue Cortot, Montmartre

Here you'll find paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings, photographs, film and video. Artists run the gamut from Van Gogh, to Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, Warhol and more.

Claude Monet: The Sea at La Havre, 1868

Approximately 140 plaster casts can be found in the Hall of Architecture and date back to 1907. They represent art all around the world and were in keeping with Carnegie's philosophy of opening up art to the masses who couldn't afford to travel to see the real items.

Detail of a cast of the Pulpit in the Cathedral at Siena, by Niccolo Pisano, 1266 A.D.

Also interesting is the Hall of Sculpture that is modeled after the Parthenon. It features a collection of European and American sculpture from artists like Donatello and Michelangelo. 

Francois Joseph Bosio, Henri IV as a Child, 1822-1845

The Carnegie Museum of Art features approximately 15 exhibitions annually, ensuring that return visitors can usually discover something new.

Insider Tip: The price of admission for the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History is half price on weekdays after 3 p.m.

The Frick 
The Frick Pittsburgh Museums and Gardens is located on 5.5 acres of land in the Point Breeze neighborhood. Here you'll find the house owned by the family. Due to the time factor, we didn't have the opportunity to tour the house known as Clayton, but it sounds like a worthwhile visit if you're interested in original furnishings, collections and artifacts owned by the Carnegie family. 

Also on the grounds is a separate building that houses the antique car collection of the Carnegie family. One of my favorites was the Bantam Roadster made in Butler, Pa. Famous Bantam Roadster owners include Buster Keaton, Al Jolson and Ernest Hemingway. The little car was lauded for being able to travel 60 miles on a gallon of gas.

The Bantam Roadster, circa 1939

The white-and-red number is also very attractive. This 1908 Model 10 dates is named "The Runabout." 

The carriage below, sporting the fringe, was said to be used at resorts in the summer.

I quite liked the bobsled too. It reminds me of the old paintings of families enjoying the winter weather and I am pretty sure it was pressed into service for our frigid Pennsylvania winters.

The Frick Art Collection

Another building on the grounds is The Frick Art Museum, which includes paintings, sculptures and decorative arts from the Renaissance through the 19th century.  The collection includes a number works by artists Peter Paul Rubens and Jean-Francois Millet, among others. Temporary exhibitions cover a wider range of styles.

A bust of Henry Clay Frick, 1922, by Malvina Hoffman

When I visit museums like these, triptychs always catch my eye. Triptychs are carvings on three panels and used as altarpieces.
Bernardo Daddi 1280-1348

This painting, titled "Madonna and Child with Saint Francis and a Saint Bishop; Saints Peter and Paul, the crucifixion, the annunciation." Wow, that's a mouthful! Helen Frick's interest in triptychs like this were influenced by her trips to Europe and The Louvre. This differed from Henry Clay Frick's tastes, which trended more towards landscapes and portraits.

Madonna and Child with Saints, Scenes from the Life of Christ and the Life of the Virgin

Helen, with her mother, Adelaide, purchased this altarpiece in 1922. Helen later reimbursed her mother for the work to acquire it outright. This piece was among some of the first she purchased.

The public can tour the house, the car collection, the art collection and the gardens for free. 

Good Eats

If you want an overall flavor of the 'Burgh, sign up for 'Burgh Bits & Bites, operated by Sylvia McCoy. Sylvia offers tours in Brookline, Lawrenceville, South Side and the Butler County locations of Harmony and Saxonburg. Customized tours are available on request.

Connie Stamoolis hands out samples of the Greek specialties sold in the shop.

One of the small local businesses McCoy highlights on the strip district tour is Stamoolis Brothers Co., which has been in business since 1909 and was started by five brothers who hailed from Greece and made their way to Pittsburgh via New York City. Loyal customers continue to flock to the place with the old-world charm for Greek fare, including imported canned goods, Greek dinners, feta cheese and Kalamata olives. Connie and Catina, who inherited the store from their father Gus, typically greet tour goers with a Greek sampler plate.

The group also makes a stop at Sunseri’s, a bakery and Italian specialty store, where they can indulge in one of the businesses most popular items. “Sunseri’s is known for its monster pepperoni roll, which is cheesy and very delicious,” said McCoy.

Labad’s Mediterranean CafĂ© and Grocery is another tour stop and has been with McCoy since the tour’s inception. “It’s a family business that has been making hummus and pita bread for 30 years,” said McCoy.

McCoy advises group members to bring their appetite to indulge in additional fare from salami at Parma Sausage, cinnamon bread at Mancini’s, Biscotti at Enrico Biscotti, donuts at Peace, Love and Little Donuts and chips and salsa at Reyna’s.

If you're in the mood for something a little novel, you also might want to check out Church Brew Works in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. 

The former St. John the Baptist church was built in 1902 and closed in 1993. In 1996, the Church Brew Works opened and has been operating as a brewery and restaurant ever since.

Scenes inside the church-turned eatery.

Menu items include fish, steak, meatloaf, pasta, salads, soups sandwiches and desserts. 

One last suggestion for foodies is a visit to Spork. Everything was excellent from their creative cocktails, to the amuse-bouches, (yes, there was more than one), to the entrees. My elk Bolognese was excellent, as was my husband's lamb saddle. I can't recommend this place enough. 
Elk bolognese

Lamb saddle

When my husband popped the bubble on his cocktail, a rush of smoke came out. I've seen smoked drinks before, but the smoke is usually trapped by a cloche, so the bubble was definitely unique. The drink, which he recommends, was made with burnt honey, lemon, ginger, turmeric, Laphroaig and Johnny Walker scotch and culinary smoke.
Gold Finger cocktail

That's it for now and I haven't even scratched the surface of the many things there are to do in Pittsburgh. Hopefully these few suggestions will pique your interest. Happy travels!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Trip to Pittsburgh's North Shore

When it was time to hit the road after a successful Erie trip last week, my husband, who had graciously agreed to be my driver, suggested a pit stop in Pittsburgh to shorten the boredom of the six-hour ride home. Of course, he didn’t have to twist my arm.
He had spent some time earlier in the day researching unique places to stay in the Pittsburgh area and found just the right place, rich in both history and character. 
Within three hours, we were popping the trunk on Pressley Street in front of The Priory Hotel in a little area in Pittsburgh called Deutschtown. The building, which dates back to 1888, is now home to travelers, but once served as a monastery.

Our first impression was that parking was a bit tight in the little lot reserved for visitors, which was located across the street from the 42-room inn.  The neighborhood, too, had seen better days and didn’t feel all that conducive to strolling around, at least not out front. Out back was a different story altogether (I know, weird, but more on that later). 

The History of The Priory

In 1848, the area around The Priory was home to many German immigrants. Oompah bands performed outside of taverns, shops sold German specialties and breweries dotted the neighborhood. When the residents of Deutschtown decided it was time to build a church, they banded together in 1848 to construct St. Mary’s Parish, which still exists next door to The Priory Hotel.
Stained glass windows, which were installed in 1912, are described as “Priceless examples of the Munich School of Art Glass,” crafted by the Tyrolean Art Glass Company of Innsbruck, Austria. Today, the church serves as an event place called “The Grand Hall” and is a popular wedding venue.
In 1888, a Priory, (or monastery), was added to the church property as a home for Benedictine priests and brothers who ministered to the congregation. It also served as a temporary retreat for Monk’s traveling to the St. Vincent’s arch abbey in Latrobe, which was the seat for the Benedictine order in the United States.

Our Visit

Our first plan was to unload the bags and head to the Andy Warhol Museum located not far away from the hotel.  We were happy to learn that the shuttle at the Priory was complimentary and available to whisk us there once we settled in so we didn’t have to bother moving the car.

When we learned our room was on the third floor, we were ready to climb the stairs, but instead were directed to an elevator, which was a pleasant surprise for such a small hotel.  Our room overlooked the street and was elegantly decorated in warm shades of tan, orange and brown and it turns out the bed was quite comfortable.

After our visit to the Andy Warhol Museum (the topic of a future post), we returned to the hotel, picked up the car and it was on to Carson Street where we dined at a small Italian restaurant called the Stagioni where my husband Mike enjoyed a pork chop and I dined one of my favorite dishes--lamb Ragu with pappardelle.  I have to say I was glad I didn’t order the pork chop that tasted overwhelmingly of lemon, which didn’t match well with pork—just my humble opinion.

Lamb Ragu with Papperdalle at stagioni and Pork Chop eau du Lemon

When we returned to our hotel, we spotted a small, but adorable bar near the sitting room where I was offered a tasty vodka soda with fresh blackberries. The bartender offered my husband a martini before mentioning the courtyard out back. Because the bar was so cute and cozy, we hesitated for a moment before agreeing to check it out and ended up being glad we did.

Courtyard at The Priory

The comfy chairs on the spacious, brick porch overlooking the courtyard were perfect for relaxing on during that warm fall evening. The scene was about as serene as you can expect a former monastery to be and we had a view of the beautiful historic church which shares the property.

The following morning we dined on the complimentary breakfast of coffee, tea, yogurt, fruit and pastries.

Breakfast at The Priory

Before we departed, we spotted a verdant garden located across the street from the backyard courtyard called Laura’s Blumengarten. A sign explained that it was planted as a tribute to the German-speaking immigrants of Deutschtown and discovering the hidden little treasure was a lovely ending to a wonderful visit.