USA: CITY BREAK; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Our Quick Trip Around Town with Andy, Fred & Randy

Updated: Jul 29

Intrigued by the return of British Airway's direct flight London to Pittsburgh, USA, I planned our annual 'Sister's Week' as an excuse to try out the flight. The plane for my flight was new and clean, the staff friendly the flight was easy. And not have to take a connecting flight is always a positive!


My sisters and I have an annual get together, we call ‘sister week’. We live far apart, so we try to meet somewhere convenient for us all, requirements being that this place must have a hike or a walk, and a spa. Most importantly, the spa. The new BA direct flight encouraged me to plan the week in our home town of Pittsburgh, and set about discovering the joys of Western Pennsylvania.


The Steel City ( have they called it that since the 1970s?) has a lot going on. If you are a sports lover, food lover, art lover, culture lover or architect aficionado, then pull on your walking shoes because you will not have time to waste. You'll have the best bratwurst and pirogies you've had, and chase that down with an ice-cold Iron City Beer.


The Fountain at Point Park


Pittsburgh is a lovely mid-sized city in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Formerly a steel town, this city has regenerated itself more times than one can count. Two rivers converge, form the third, and shape the Y cornerstone of this city at Point State Park.



The mountains of Pittsburgh's outlying townships were rich in coal. This coal fed the ovens of the steel industry, fuelling the American Industrial Revolution.

Proprietors of this industry; Andrew Mellon, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, James H. Laughlin, Charles M. Swab, and George Westinghouse, made their money in Pittsburgh, then moved off for philanthropy and fame in New York City. When the steel industry died in the 1970s, the city diversified its economy and began to boom. Today, the city is home to many corporate headquarters, including, Heinz Ketchup.


Pittsburgh is also rich in culture and education.The University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University are premier avenues of higher learning. The Civic Light Opera provides the city with the best theatre this side of NYC, and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra always attracts the best talent. Renown conductor Andre Previn ran the PSO for many years.



Mr. Rodgers, the children's television presenter who produced programming far ahead of its time, was filmed in Pittsburgh. There are several local museums dedicated to him, and the show's famous set features at the Heinz History Center.



My sisters and I scheduled just one day during our sister week trip to discover the new and the old of our home town. We started the day on the North Side at the Andy Warhol Museum. This museum tells the story of Andy Warhola with it's 7+ floors crammed with some of the artist most important works. Most interesting is the archive room, which displays his thought process, concept of work and interests in collection.



The Archives Room



Close by is the Mattress Factory; a contemporary art collection and lab that features site- specific installations from artists-in-residence from all over the world. Enjoy 2 permanent displays by Yayoi Kusama and her dots.


In 1995, Outsider artist Randy Gilson bought a house in the Mexican War Streets neighbourhood with his credit card. He has spent every day since turning this house into Randyland, the happiest bright yellow art gallery on Earth. Randy himself was once voted one of the happiest people alive.



The art is all repurposed rubbish and my sisters were having a hard time finding the happiness in all that stuff. I myself enjoyed the fun of the place, and applaud repurposing in all of its forms, but agree that if I lived opposite, I might not want to be that happy all the time. I discovered a collection of steel alphabet letters that I am desperate to own. I also enjoyed a quick exchange with Happy Randy himself. Had I more courage and didn't fear my sisters leaving without me, I would have enjoyed a longer conversation. I also might have stolen the letters.


outsider art: noun, art produced by untrained artists by themselves for themselves

We moved on to Lawrenceville, the birthplace of composer Stephen Foster and named after Captain James Lawrence, who famously 'don't give up the ship!', as the ship in question was sinking. Lawrenceville is now a gentrified neighbourhood filled with refurbished town homes and yummy hipster eateries. Here we found Franktuary, for designer hot dogs and fried pickles. This much-discussed place is small and cosy, with a church, firehouse and antique tile decoration combination. Here you can order anything on your dog, including pierogi and ice cream.



Over our dogs, my sisters and I had a heated disagreement over the location of St. John the Baptist Cemetery, the resting place of Andy Warhol. Only serious sleuthing would solve this family feud, so we resolved to head over to Castle Shannon/ Bethel Park and solve the big mystery-directly after a visit to Grandpa Joe's Candy Shop in the Strip District.


Not far from Lawrenceville, is the Strip District. In the early 19th Century, this small strip of land between the river and hill made great use of it's waterway for ease in shipping and transport. Here was the home of many mills and factories, including Heinz and the Fort Pitt Foundry, which produced large cannons used in the American Civil War. The Strip is once again being revitalised. Proposed refurbishment of the docks and buildings should have concluded in 2020. While there, visit the St. Stanislaus Kostka Church and try an 'Almost Famous' sandwich from Primanti Brothers, where the fries and coleslaw are ON and not next to the sandwich.



A small, albeit, argument irrupted over the location of St. John the Baptist Cemetery, the resting place of artist Andy Warhol. This cemetery is close to the house that our mother grew up in Castle Shannon, and each of us thought we knew more than the other as to its location. I am not certain why I thew in my two cents- I hadn’t been there since I was a small child. Only serious sleuthing would solve this family feud, so we added Castle Shannon to our itinerary, and set off to solve the big mystery, directly after a visit to Grandpa Joe's Candy Shop in the Strip District.


Also in Castle Shannon is the 'The Linden Grove'. The Grove has been an under-aged drinking spot for over 140 years. This place was our mother's under-aged drinking spot as it was ours. It is doubtful that the Grove maintains this reputation because instead of an underaged disco, it is now a pizza shop.


St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery is located on a hillside on the southwest corner of an intersection between Connor Road and Route 88. It is odd to find someone so flamboyant buried in such an understated place. But, we are still talking about Andy Warhol, and he has managed to make his death into art. This installation is 'Figment'. Cameras focus on his headstone and record every action near his grave for live 24-hour streaming.




'Figment' at night

I found 'Figment' on my phone, then we walked to the grave in attempts to get on live-streamed TV. There is a slight delay and only after we had left the site did we came up on my phone.


I watched in horror that, drunk with our live-art participation excitement, we had done some moves for the cameras. It turned out that we had danced on Andy Warhol's grave. Such shame.


There is still much more to do in downtown (pronounced: 'dan-tan') Pittsburgh. The Duquesne Incline is a must for all visitors. This funicular, built in 1877, takes riders up and down to the viewing platform on Mt. Washington. Phipps Conservatory is a historic landmark in the Oakland neighborhood. Not far is 'Clayton', the home of Industrialist Henry Clay Frick House. The house is a meticulously restored 22 room mansion that houses the Frick family's art collection. 93% of the home's artefacts are original.


When I next visit, I will schedule more time for museums, galleries, restaurants, and strolls through the bustling small neighbourhoods of my hometown.


#BritishAirways has selected daily direct flights from #LondonHeathrow, T5 to #Pittsburgh International, with a flight time of 8 hours 10 minutes.

 

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