Posts Tagged With: Pittsburgh

Entering Amish country – Welcome to Pennsylvania

Friday 23rd May

I would not have chosen Pennsylvania as a holiday destination if it hadn’t been for my friend’s wedding. I met the groom when he was a work placement had my old company. These were the days, we all still remember them with nostalgia. The company was a sociable one and we made friends forever in there. Hence a group of us decided to make the trip to Pennsylvania to celebrate his nuptials with him. And boy, am I glad I went!

Jane and I drove from Washington DC to Pittsburgh. It felt like a mini-road trip, even though it’s only a 3 and bit hours drive. Although it took us closer to 4 and a bit thanks to an epic GPS fail. I say Jane and I drove, but Jane did all the driving as although I do have a driver’s license and they do drive the right side of the road, I have never been a great driver, especially when I don’t know where I am going. What am I, however, is a great co-pilot and despite the issues with the GPS, I kept us going in the right direction (sans maps, if you please!) until we got the bugger fixed.

We arrive in Pittsburgh greeted by a setting sun over a scintillating river dressed with beautiful bridges…poetic, innit? Well it was a gorgeous sight and one I really didn’t expect. I had images of an industrial city, blackened by years of the steel factories black smoke…nuh uh! The steel factories have long been closed and Pittsburgh regeneration programme has done a fantastic job! See for yourself, if you don’t believe me…

We were due to meet at 6pm for drinks and to gather up the crew of guests who were going to see Pittsburgh’s Pirates play the Washington Nationals at baseball. Now what a nice way to start a wedding weekend. I had seen a baseball game the last time I was in the US and I had very much enjoyed it, even though there hadn’t been much action and the hosting team, San Francisco Giants had lost. This time, I was in luck. The game was quite lively and the Pirates actually won and we got given a T-shirt on arrival. Some company sponsoring the team were handing them out for free. We were quite late arriving so I got an XXL sized one. Can’t wear it outside, but makes a perfect nightie! Yaaargh…

 

We left a few minutes before the end of the game – which lasts 4h if you didn’t know – so we could be the crowd. We were all going back to the lodge we had been booked in by the mother of the bride near where the wedding was happening (on Sunday). It’s about 1h30 drive south-east of Pittsburgh and the GPS got us turned around again. Thankfully, we had the bride in the car so she got us out of the mess and on track in no time but it meant that it took us 2 hours of small, not brightly lit road to get to our destination: Henrietta Lodge in Ohiopyle, PA.

Now if you have never heard of Ohiopyle, don’t feel bad, neither did I. It’s a little river town (emphasis on the little) in the middle of National Park. There isn’t much here to do if you are not into outdoorsey stuff or if you don’t have a car!

The cottage though is lovely, even though I felt like I was in an episode of Full House, with the number of people sharing it!!

NB: I didn’t actually see any Amish as they are much further down within Pennsylvania.

 

 

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East Coast USA * The planning

It has been a long time since I have been on a proper holiday (June 2012 to be precise) as I don’t count the time I spend in my home town as “proper holiday”.

This year I was meant to be the year of being cancer free and back to my meanderings. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be so…Having suffered a major blow in the “remission road”, I fortunately still get to travel.

I had had plans a couple years to make Costa Rica my next holiday but again, I have had to change the plans. Not due to my health, mind you but because some of my lovely friends have decided to get married this year and as the bride-to-be is from Pennsylvania, the wedding will be held there…Yay…

My first time to the US was only a couple years ago, a mere few months before I got diagnosed actually and was the last time I had a proper holiday, so I think it is only fitting that my first holiday since I am able to travel again is to go there again…this time to the East Coast.

NYC Skyline, courtesy of Google Images

NYC Skyline, courtesy of Google Images

Since being invited, I have struggled and toyed with many itineraries in order to make the most of my time there whilst trying to keep the cost to a reasonable budget. I am not doing it on a shoestring but I don’t want to be chucking pounds out either.

After a lot of research (and as many itinerary advice as people asked) and a little worry that I wouldn’t get my passport renewed in time, I have finally settled for the following travel plans:

Sunday 18th May (pm) to Thursday 22nd May (am) – NYC – can I get a “hell yeah!”?

 

Thursday 22nd (pm) to Friday 23rd May (am) – Washington DC – Sir, yes, sir!

(Courtesy: Google images)

(Courtesy: Google images)

Friday 23rd (pm) to Monday 26th May (pm) – Pittsburgh/Mill Run – Dumdumdada Dumdumdada…

Action packed schedule. I fly in NYC and fly back out from Pittsburgh to avoid having to waste half a day transferring back there. And I am taking a bus between NYC and DC where I am going to meet up with another of the wedding guests and we are going to share a car to drive up to Pittsburgh.

 

 

 

 

 

(Courtesy: Google images)

(Courtesy: Google images)

The wedding venue is about 1h30 south east of Pittsburgh but we are going all the way up as a large portion of the wedding party (including yours truly) will be attending a baseball game on the Friday evening.

The wedding will be held on the Sunday but again, some serious action plans for the Saturday: white water rafting and a motorcycle ride on the back of CousinJeff’s Harley…I can already feel my inner biker chick nodding her head, tongue out and fingers making the devil’s horn gesture! Rock on baby, rock on!

Anyway, back to the planning…most of it concerning NYC to be honest as it is where I am staying the longest and by myself.
Now, I have never been to New York and like many, I have grown up with 70s, 80s movies where the city is the backdrop so I have an image of a gritty city where the Bronx and Brooklyn are not places you want to hang out…I was never a huge fan of SATC, unlike my friends. However, I was pleased to discover that the city is much safer than it used to be and thanks to a friend’s recommendation, I found accommodation using Airbnb.
If you don’t know this service, you have to check it out…it’s pretty awesome. People all over the world, who have spare rooms or even whole apartments can rent them out like a B&B. Although, you have to send a few enquiries before you get a successful booking, it allowed me to get 4 nights in a brown stone in Brooklyn (apparently it’s Hipster central there now) for a third less than if I had booked a hotel. And I get to experience NYC like a New Yorker. I hate hotels when I am on my own, they always feel soulless and it’s always very noisy.

Here is a list of the things I am planning to go see, visit, check out:

The Top of the Rock Deck – this one I have pre-booked for Monday 19th via Viator as it appeared to be cheaper and saved the queuing. I am told if you have to do an observation deck, this is the best as you can see the Empire States building and the Chrysler building from it (whereas you’d miss seeing those if you were on top of them…doh!).

Walk along the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset – I am going to try to do that on the day I arrive as I don’t think after a 6 hours flight in cattle class I’ll have much more energy for more…but you never know. The plan is to walk across it all the way to One Police Plaza (1PP). It might not be a huge touristy place but I am a huge fan of cop shows and that’s my little homage – as a side bar, I still have to go and check out Scotland Yard in London and I live there!

Circle Line Cruise – Night lights: that is another tour that I have already pre-booked with Viator. Again it appeared to be cheaper and you can hop the queues…I am still too French to enjoy queuing the way Brits seem to.

On my last day (Wednesday) it’s the start of Fleet Week and apparently the ships are pulling in the harbour that morning and from what I gather, the streets are filled with sailors (weyhey!) and you can go check out the boats…Sir, yes, sir!! 🙂

Other things on my list are: the American National History Museum, Central Park, the High Line, a bit of shopping (can’t really miss that opportunity), Time Square and Broadway – hopefully get cheap on the day ticket for a show, the cafe where Harry Met Sally did “that” scene, apparently Magnolia Bakery is a must too…everyone I talk to about this trip comes back with their “must do” or favourite and I’ll try to cram as much as I can without missing out on enjoying where I am at. One thing I won’t do is art galleries and art museums even though The Met and MoMa are well recommended…I can’t stand that type of museums…history, architecture and anthropology: big YES! Art: not so much…

I have very little plans for the evenings apart from the twilight cruise on Tuesday. I am not a big night person and my clubbing days are well behind me (if they ever were in front) but I don’t mind.

On Thursday morning, I take a Megabus (apparently the Greyhound buses aren’t that reliable) to Washington DC. I found a hotel near Capital Hill without breaking the bank thanks to Trivago. There I will meet with J and see the most obvious sights: Capital Hill, the White House etc. I don’t think I will get time for the Smithsonian which is a shame but that’s what you get for a half day.

Friday we drive to Pittsburgh – we are supposed to catch up with another friend of mine, Mr C, who is coming via Baltimore but we haven’t agreed yet where we are meeting. Now Mr C is a funny one as he intends to cycle back from the wedding to Baltimore…Yes, peeps, cycle as in push bike! So we have to make sure the hire car can take the bike.

As you can imagine, I am well excited about this trip! Of course updates and photos will follow once I am there.

To complete my prep, I also got myself a US sim card which I bought on Ebay for £10 (and it came with $10 credit). I am not planning on spending loads of time on the phone but in areas where there is no wifi, being able to get a bit of data should be nice. I have also made sure I snapped pictures of all the maps I needed and even printed some…Did I hear some snigger “OCD”? Yes, I know but I feel happier when I have a bit of control, thank you very much!

5 more sleeps….

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Categories: North America, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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