Pittsburgh and Mill Run, PA
|Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater
We really wanted to get away, but we were nervous about holiday crowds at any of the popular weekend destinations close to the city. Add to this that we had been wanting to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Fallingwater, arguably his most famous work, for quite some time. And now, as luck would have it, we were finally situated in a part of the country convenient enough to do so!
It was to be our very first driving trip in the US without owning a car and the planning of the trip proved to be somewhat logistically challenging. It is easy to rent a car in Manhattan. However, like most other things in the city, it is also exorbitantly expensive. After a bit of research, we decided it made the most financial sense to take an airport express bus to Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey and rent a car from there. On Friday morning we boarded the bus at Grand Central Terminal, which is an easy walk from our apartment, even with roller bags in tow. After a comfortable, hour-long ride, the bus arrived at airport, where we quickly picked up our bright yellow Kia Soul. While we never would have chosen this obnoxious color ourselves, it came with the added bonus of giving us the opportunity to make fun of ourselves for appearing to be driving around in a small, yellow school bus all weekend. Rental car jokes aside, while it was a rather time-consuming process, it was smooth sailing so far, with both the bus trip and the renting of the car going according to plan.
With Scott at the wheel, we made good time on the smooth and easily navigable roads of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. At around 3:30 that afternoon, we arrived in downtown Pittsburgh and checked into the Hotel Monaco. Yet another of our great Priceline scores, the hotel seemed quite new (or at least newly renovated) and was decorated in jewel-tone blues, greens and yellows (to go with our car, perhaps, which is also Priceline Yellow...), with black and white accents in addition to an, um, eye-catching houndstooth check.
|Room 224 at the Hotel Monaco
|I admit it. I fell a little bit in love with the bright yellow birdcage chandelier...
Fallingwater, the primary reason for our trip, is located a good 70 miles outside of Pittsburgh and we could have stayed somewhere closer. In fact, basing ourselves in Morgantown, WV would have cut our trip to Mill Run and back almost in half. But we had both been to Morgantown before in our travels together (believe it or not), although admittedly mostly just passing through on our way to somewhere else. (In addition, I was there as a teenager on a Christmas holiday visit to my Aunt Mary, who was living there in the mid-80s.) And so we decided that we'd use the opportunity to see what was going on in this former steel and railway town located on the eastern edge of the Midwest that seemed to be successfully reinventing itself.
|Interesting architecture in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh
|Pittsburgh's Strip District was quiet late on Friday afternoon. And yes, we loved the giant rooster above DeLuca's...
|Wigle Whiskey's fun, colorful tasting room
|Of course, we decided to take a selfie to pass the time while we waited for a server to become available
|Our tasting flight. Our thoughtful server even gave us each a free sample of her favorite whiskey since we had to wait for bit for her attention.
|Scott considers his tasting notes...
|Sometimes cheap beer served at the wrong temperature still hits the spot.
which adjoined our hotel. The Hotel Monaco reception lobby overlooks the bar and dining room of the restaurant, which has a very warm and inviting atmosphere, along with a pleasant din and an intriguing menu of updated pub classics. Unfortunately we were seated at the very end of the bar all the way in the back corner of the restaurant and the food and cocktails were hit or miss. Scott's gin and tonic, prepared with their house-made elderflower tonic, was very tasty and refreshing and I really enjoyed the salad we shared of grilled radicchio, kale, shaved Brussels sprouts, pine nuts, and avocado in a lemon vinaigrette. The steak and ale pie was good, although perhaps not worth the way I feel after eating too much enriched white flour and I found the wood oven charred cauliflower with walnut pesto to be a fail, being undercooked and lacking in any real flavor. All in all, though, it was an enjoyable meal. And of course, the best part was being able to stumble right upstairs into our bed!
As the weatherman had predicted, Saturday morning was cold - in the low 30s - and a bit misty but at least the forecasted rain appeared to be holding off. After a quick stop for coffee and a light bite in the car, we arrived at Fallingwater in plenty of time for our scheduled 10:30 tour.
|The entrance at Fallingwater
|Living room at Fallingwater
|The house has access, through a retractable glass panel, to the stream that forms the famous falls just beyond and over which the house is cantilevered.
|Iconic view of Fallingwater
|The "O" in all it's splendor
|There's nothing like being "on vacation" to justify eating a hot dog with all the fixin's!
|Two of Pittsburgh's many steel (of course!) bridges
|Meeting up with Mr. Rogers on Pittsburgh's North Shore
|Fred Rogers has pride of place on Pittsburgh's waterfront
|View from Mount Washington of the picturesque Golden Triangle that is downtown Pittsburgh
would welcome a reason to return, if only to properly visit the Andy Warhol Museum (we had time only for the lobby photo op) and the Mattress Factory modern art museum, which sounds like a unique experience we would have liked to see for ourselves.
|Having a little fun at the Andy Warhol Museum
|Our bathroom at the Hotel Monaco had 'Priceline Yellow' houndstooth check wallpaper. How apropos!
|I noticed that the building across the street from our room at the Monaco with the funky windows was featured in a Pittsburgh architecture book for sale in the Fallingwater gift shop!
|Pittsburgh's Strip District
|Tasting at Wigle Distillery
|Pittsburgh really seems to love its hot dogs!
|Pittsburgh: home of Heinz ketchup. Maybe that's what all the hot dogs are for?
|The view of Fallingwater as you approach is relatively unassuming
|The piece that looks like the top level is actually set back from the main house and contains the one-bedroom guest house
|Head-on view of Fallingwater
|Happiness is...the anticipation of eating a hot dog at the O!
|The old-school, no-frills interior - order counter at the O. I like it!
|The view of Pittsburgh from the Duquesne Incline overlook
|Creepy Mr. Rogers statue. Creepier Scott.
|Pittsburgh's North Shore walking/cycling path
|We waited in line and exchanged taking photos on the couch with all the other silly visitors at the Andy Warhol Museum
|Andy Warhol Bridge
|We enjoyed a complimentary happy hour in the pleasant Mezzanine level lobby at the Hotel Monaco before heading out for dinner
|The exterior of the Church Brew Works remains largely unchanged from its church days
|Let's go inside and check it out!
|Interior of the Church Brew Works. Note the distilling tanks occupying the former alter.
|The food was rumored to not be very good but we had to check it out for the interior. This is the view from the bar area into the dining room.
|We sat in the bar area and enjoyed the spinach and cheese dip and an order of pierogies - a Pittsburgh specialty. I am not typically a fan but they were the best pierogies I've ever had!