Our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.
Who: Nicole Burton (the author) and Jim Landry of Riverdale Park, Md.
Where, when, why: Four days in Pittsburgh to celebrate my birthday in July.
Highlights and high points: When I told a friend that we were going to Pittsburgh to celebrate my birthday, she paused and said, “And Pittsburgh was your first choice?” Like many people, she didn’t know that Pittsburgh is an arts-and-culture jewel. We first visited the city almost 20 years ago, and I yearned to return and visit the historic Kennywood Amusement Park, a Pittsburgh institution that opened in 1898.
During our three-night stay, we appreciated our home base at the Caribbean-themed Parador Inn, a restored 1870s mansion. We could park our car and walk in one direction to the Mattress Factory, a renowned installation-art museum in the Mexican War Streets neighborhood, and wander in another direction to the magnificent Andy Warhol Museum.
Cultural connection or disconnect: The people we encountered on the streets and in restaurants and parks were very friendly, and the age and racial diversity was pleasing and unexpected. We were surprised that almost all the guests at the inn were from nearby communities — locals who had come in to Pittsburgh “to play” and who enjoyed the inn’s walking proximity to the city’s two sports stadiums.
Biggest laugh or cry: Although updated with modern upside-down roller coasters, Kennywood boasts many unique flat rides, such as the Kangaroo and the Paratrooper. By the end of our visit, we found the courage to ride one of the two wooden roller coasters. My husband and I — plus the four other men in our car — screamed our lungs out on the Jack Rabbit. I was sad only that we didn’t have time to explore the National Aviary, the international outdoor food market in the Strip District; the Nationality Rooms at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning; and the Hill District, the setting for many of playwright August Wilson’s dramas. Next trip.
How unexpected: Ed, our host at the Parador Inn, told us to check out the public art displays at Randyland, near the Mattress Factory. As we walked up, Randy Gilson, an eccentric artist, was perched on a ladder outside his whimsically painted rowhouse. He invited us to explore his courtyard, where metal lawn chairs hung from a fire escape and brightly painted gliders welcomed weary visitors and pink flamingos alike.
Fondest memento or memory: One evening, Jim and I strolled along the river walk in search of dinner when he looked across to the Duquesne Incline, a funicular railway that climbs to the lofty Mount Washington neighborhood. He asked me whether we could walk there and eat at the top; he didn’t have to ask this inveterate walker twice. We hiked the Three Rivers Heritage Trail across the Fort Duquesne Bridge, around the 150-foot fountain in Point State Park, over the Fort Pitt Bridge and up the incline. At the top, we lucked into a table on the Grandview Saloon patio with a view of Pittsburgh that was priceless.
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