After a 4 1/2-hour drive from Toronto, we arrived in Pittsburgh. Our first stop was Randyland which is an art project located in the north side of the city. Randyland is essentially a folk-art museum based on up cycling, which is the creative reuse of waste materials or unwanted products into new materials. Randy Gilson has dedicated over 23 years to this project and has benefited from the support of his community as well as some local charities.
I was impressed when I found out Randy has never taken vacation in the last 30 years, as he wanted to focus in building his project.
The Gothic Revival skyscraper
To my amazement, my youngest had a blast at the Cathedral of Learning which is a true gem located at the University of Pittsburgh campus.
This gothic-style building awes visitors with its four amazing common rooms, majestic arches, as well as hand-carved stone work including poems and flowers.
Notably, this building features over a dozen classrooms each of them dedicated to a different country. I really enjoyed seeing my son running through the halls and stopping at each classroom door to read the corresponding name: “The English Room”, “The Korean Room”, etc. The decoration and architecture of each room would be inspired in the cultures that had an influence on Pittsburgh’s growth. When we entered the French room, my little one pretended he was a professor giving a lecture and was able to say a few words in French! Being inside of this true great gothic building I felt I was transported to the early twentieth century.
The Cathedral of Learning is the second-tallest educational building in the world after the University of Moscow’s main building.
On Saturday evening we strolled around the heart of Pittsburgh’s downtown as we were craving for an ice cream. We were lucky to find Millie’s, a place serving the most delicious stuff. I treated myself with a lemon coconut sorbet while my travel mates went with their chocolate shakes. Also, we had the chance to explore “Market Square”, a vivid spot in the heart of downtown. Adding to the fun, we came across a cool festival with live music, food and shop tents. In that same area, we were able to discover the PPG Place Plaza, a perfect spot to take break. With a fountain with over 140 water jets plus plenty of chairs, this lovely area is surrounded by the PPG buildings, which feature little glass towers on top making them look like 21st century castles.
Around 7:30 pm we headed to the Duquesne Incline which is an inclined plan railroad that climbs up Mt. Washington and where people enjoy the most stunning views of the city. My youngest was really excited to hop in the incline car as it was his first time riding this type of vehicle.
When we reached the top, we explored the station which featured a small museum with interesting exhibits and photographs of the city. Then we walked to the observation deck where we enjoyed most beautiful views of the city. The steel bridges along with the many boats sailing on each of the tree rivers looked impressive and were greatly complemented by the lights coming from the downtown building and nearby venues, including the PNC ballpark. Luckily, as we were getting ready to take the car back down we were told about a fireworks show taking place that night and so in the last minute we decided to stay a bit longer. This turned out to be a great decision as the show was stunning and added a bit more fun to our Pittsburgh experience.
Sunday morning, we decided to explore Point State Park – such beautiful view of the city! This lovely spot is entrenched between three rivers (Ohio, Allegheny, Monongahela) and is crowned by a majestic fountain that refreshed visitors in what was a hot day. A huge green field is also a key element of this park and usually hosts cultural events and summer festivals.
After spending our morning at Point State Park, we headed to PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Our seats on the upper deck behind home plate offered amazing views of the Pittsburgh skyline as well as the surrounding rivers with many boats sailing around. It was really a fun experience, especially because it was the first baseball game my mother in law was attending. Truth is baseball is not a popular sport in her hometown (Bogota) as it is in other cities in Colombia such as Barranquilla, hometown of a few celebrities, including Shakira, Sofia Vergara, and Edgar Renteria aka “The Barranquilla baby”.
Our last minutes in Pittsburgh were spent exploring the former factory of the H. J. Heinz Company, home of the world-famous Heinz ketchup. Interestingly, the factory buildings – which encompass at least four blocks – have been transformed into residential spaces, now called Heinz Lofts. Strolling around this historic site was a nice way to put a finishing touch to our visit to the steel city.
“The Forest City”
Back in the highway we were now bound to Cleveland. After a two-hour drive we were already entering the city outskirts, but before venturing further into the city we made a quick stop at Brandywine falls, which make part of the Cuyahoga National Park.
Less than an hour later we were driving around downtown looking for place to grab a bite. We ended up at 4th street East, a small alley famous for its world-class dining options. http://www.east4thstreet.com/shop-dine-experience
Our choice for that evening was Lola Restaurant, which turned out to be fabulous. As I prepared to write this post, I found out Lola is home to Iron Chef’s Michael Symon’. Good to know! I think that explains the details on each table, the fancy decorations and of course the amazing food.
Right after Lola, we went to Playhouse Square, the second-largest theater complex in the US (after Lincoln Center) and home of the world’ largest outdoor chandelier. This magnificent piece was created in the 1920s.
Playhouse Square was set to be demolished 40 years ago and now it’s witnessing a renaissance that includes theatres and residences. Definitely worth a visit!
I love those glittering lights.
On the last day of our road trip we decided to further explore Cleveland landmarks, including downtown’s Pubic Square where we visited the neighboring Tower City Center, Renaissance Hotel, and Old Stone church.
At the heart of Cleveland’s Public Square lies the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, a marvelous piece of work commemorating the American Civil War. One thing that wrapped our attention was the small museum located inside the monument and its surrounding walls listing the names of the thousands of people who fought the war. I have to confess I was surprised with my little son’s knowledge of history my as he quickly identified Abraham Lincoln in one of the monuments.
Soon it was lunch time for which my husband took us to the West Side Market, home of the Parisian-style Crepes de Luxe. Truly recommended!
For dessert we walked a couple of blocks from the market to Mitchell’s Ice Cream (mitchellshomemade.com), a true oasis in the middle of a hot summer day. Not only we enjoyed our treats but also the views of their factory where you can see the elaboration process. Mitchell’s is located in a former theatre, then nightclub from the early 1900s, and has been home to this famous ice cream shop for over 65 years.
While It was about time to drive back to Toronto, we stretched our time in Cleveland for a quick visit to the Rock and Roll hall of Fame building where we took some cool pics of its front sign – LONG LIVE ROCK.
It was then time to say our goodbyes to Cleveland, with a “full belly and a happy heart” as Colombians would say. After all, your perspective changes when all your basic needs are met, especially when body and mind have been nourished.