Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Pirate Flags and Pierogies at PNC Park

The rain continued as we entered PNC Park.

The field remained covered right up to the time the game started. We wandered around, trying to stay dry, as we searched for some food.

Forget your hot dogs. Forget peanuts and Cracker Jack. PNC Park has pierogies.  

Now pierogies rank as one of my favorite foods, so I pretty much had to get them.

They weren’t mind blowing pierogies. They were the same Mrs. T’s pierogies that are currently sitting in my freezer. They were however better than your average undercooked, sorta mushy on the inside, dollar dog night hot dog.  If PNC Park was my local ball park, I’d get the pierogies again.

Usually we like to try the ice cream at every park, but the wet, chilly weather dampened our ice cream craving, so we skipped our dose of dairy.

PNC Park has an eye pleasing view.  The river, the city skyline, the bridges, the occasional boats chugging by, are all very cool.  

We made sure we got seats that made the most of the view. 

The city’s buildings are a lot closer than they are at many other parks and one or two would display special lighting effects for home runs and such.  Our favorite building was one that resembled the Eye of Sauron.

Now our view overall is most likely skewed. We still have fresh memories of our visit to Petco Park in San Diego. Though we didn’t like Petco’s obstructed views, the interior design of Petco was beautiful and impressive.  The interior of PNC Park by comparison seemed kind of bland. Maybe it does fit in more with Pittsburgh’s no frills vibe.  I’m not sure what I was expecting, I wouldn’t want it to cross over into cheesiness,  but I thought that the stadium would be more pirate-y. You would barely know that the team had anything to do with pirates, except for the flags. The flags were awesome.  

Whenever the team got a run, spectators would unfurl and wave their full size pirate flags.  As much I love rally towels, pirate flags are way cooler. For a brief glimmer of a moment, I considered trading my team allegiance for the flags. 

The game turned out to be exciting.  The Pirates stomped all over the Nationals, and since at the time the Pirates were in the running for the playoffs, the crowd’s energy was high. 

We were grateful that we had seats under cover as the rain too unfurled during the game. 

We stayed nice and dry.

The rain gratefully let up just in time for the fireworks display.  

We got to see the fireworks set up as we walked over the bridge on the way to the ball park.

It turned out to be an impressive display. Watching the the fireworks being set off on the bridge, with the city behind it, and the water below, was neat.

I especially liked that they departed from the usual cliché songs that most displays use, in favor of some cool tunes.  I thought that the Bohemian Rhapsody fireworks choreography was pretty sweet.

We were happy to cross another baseball stadium off of our list, and felt that PNC Park was worth the visit for the pierogies, pirate flags and the view.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Rainy Day in Pittsburgh

Where does the time go? It seems like yesterday that I was nervously sipping coffee in the student center at Rutgers University with my twenty- something- year- old, Intellectual Heritage classmate/friend/crush. Now that classmate is forty- years- old.

A birthday dinner didn’t seem enough to celebrate such a milestone, so after thinking a moment, Shannon decided that he wanted to celebrate 40 with a road-trip to Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh? You might be asking. Some people hunt deer, we hunt experiences/activities.  We have a list, an actual list. I recently posted the list on here so you can now view it and follow along. 

Pittsburgh offered a chance to cross two things off the list. 
1) PNC PARK (baseball stadium)
 2) Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater

I’m not saying that we’re starting to get a complex…but we’re starting to get a complex.  Once again rain followed us on a trip. Once again we were grateful for our quality rain jackets.  

We started out walking around Pittsburgh's Strip District.  

We really liked the vibe in Pittsburgh, though we couldn’t quite put our finger on exactly what the vibe was.  It was lightly gritty, with a twist of hipster, and an uber amount of sports fandom. Every shop, and I mean every shop, was hawking some sort of team paraphernalia.

 If you’re an avid watcher of the Travel Channel or Food Network, you may have seen Primanti Bros.. It’s a food icon.

 There’s no frippery here, just sandwiches and fries, actually the fries go on the sandwiches.  

You know a place is fry-centric when you witness a line of men ascend the basement stairs, each with a sack of potatoes flung over his shoulder; it was a potato procession. 

We sat at the counter and watched as the ladies putting the sandwiches together hustled big time.There was constant movement. The regulars/locals and the staff engaged in some good natured ribbing.

I ordered the kielbasa and cheese sandwich, and Shannon got the pastrami. 

The sandwiches are  simple. Meat, a generous amount of fries, lettuce, tomato, on soft, freshly baked, white bread.

They were tasty, but a warning, due to the high level of grease consumed, it takes a pretty iron gut to digest one without regret.

While we were walking around, there was a delightful scent floating through the air.  We found that the sweet smell was wafting from Peace, Love, and Little Donuts.  

This was a great concept. Donuts in mini form. This way you don’t feel like a fat heifer eating a humongo dounut.  I got a Samoa and Shannon got the maple bacon dounut.  They were the perfect, cute, little bite of sweet.

Next, we had to figure out what we could do in the drizzling weather, with the limited time we had. We decided to go to the Duquesne Incline.

Yes, the incline is touristy, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not a good time.

There’s not much to it. You go up, 

and you go down, in an old time-y tram car. 

It’s a nice little piece of Pittsburgh history.

At the top, there is an observation deck, that has an eye pleasing view of the city.  

I bet it’s even better on a clear day.

After the incline, it was time to head to PNC Park to knock another baseball stadium off of the list (will report on the stadium in a separate post). 

When the game was over, we made our way to the Double Tree-Green Tree Hotel, booked using our trusty friend Priceline. 

Have you been to a Double Tree lately?  When you check in, they give you a warm, fresh baked, chocolate chip cookie. It is an absolutely heavenly, fresh baked chocolate chip cookie, where the chips are gooey-melty. 

It was incentive enough to look forward to my next Double Tree stay (take note other hotels, cookies).

It turned out to be a really nice hotel, what we saw of it anyway. 

We weren’t there very long, but the room was clean and spacious, and the bed was snugly. It was the perfect place to rest up after our exciting day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Stay Classy San Diego- Our Farewell Meal

Not counting my chilaquiles, we realized we hadn't consumed any Mexican cuisine during our time in San Diego.  Being this close to the Mexico border, we knew this was something we had to rectify before our all too soon departure. Thus we chose La Puerta for our farewell to San Diego meal.

La Puerta is a popular eatery.

Since we had a flight to catch, we opted to sit outside at the patio counter to avoid the long wait for an indoor table.  It was completely cool with us. The outdoor seating offered one of our favorite activities, people watching. 

When you think California, you think wine, but The Golden State also has an ever growing craft beer scene. Since this was the last hurrah, I figured I couldn't go without trying a San Diego brew.

La Puerta has an interesting french fry menu that we had to take advantage of.  Making a decision was tough, but we figured we couldn't go wrong with the carnitas fries.

The fries were like nachos, but instead of tortilla chips, the toppings were piled on top of fries. The carnitas fries included slow roasted pork, cheese, grilled onion & poblano, crema, guacamole, and pico de gallo. They were the type of fries that required a fork. They were delicious. The portion size was huge.  We could have made a meal of just the fries. I was most impressed that the fries were able to keep their texture and didn't get super soggy under all of those toppings.  

Not knowing that the fries would be so substantial, we also each ordered the mix-and-match tacos.  

I had a carnitas (slow roasted pork) taco, a pastor (adobo pork and pineapple) taco, and a ranchero shrimp (shrimp, grilled onions & adobo with creama) taco.  They were all tasty, but my favorite was the pastor. Pork and pineapple create a magical combination.  

We were running short on time, and space in our stomachs, so we skipped dessert. We paid our bill, took one last spin in our rental car, and waited to board the red eye home.

California was amazing. Everyone was so friendly and laid back. The scenery was beautiful. I was ready to find a place, send for the cats, and settle into being a Californian. Alas we had to return home and endure the post-trip blues.

Fortunately, nothing cures the post-trip blues better than planning the next adventure. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Day at The San Diego Zoo

In order to stave off the last day blues, we decided to make the most of our red eye flight home and sop up as much of San Diego as we could in our remaining hours. It seemed like almost a law that we couldn't leave the city without experiencing the much acclaimed San Diego Zoo.

I have a lot of respect for the San Diego Zoo. They have a strong commitment to conservation. The majority of animals there are not there simply to be gawked at by humans. Some have suffered injuries or have health issues that make them unable to survive in the wild. Some are endangered species that the zoo is trying desperately to breed and keep alive.  With that being said, and as much as it is revered, I can't say that the San Diego Zoo was my favorite zoo.  That distinction still goes to the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans.  

It may not have been the zoo's fault. Perhaps it is the drought, or that they just use their money towards conservation, but the thing I like most about zoos is the grounds and  landscaping. I found San Diego's a bit dry and lack luster.  

There were some lovely touches here and there, but I longed for more.

I'm sure you've heard it. The San Diego Zoo is huge. There is a tremendous amount of walking involved if you choose to visit.  

Though we did spend a significant amount of time on our feet, it didn't exceed the amount of time we spent walking at Balboa Park, La Jolla, or Disneyland.  The zoo also helps out in the walking department.

If you don't want to walk the whole zoo, you can see it all from one of their sightseeing buses.

Instead of killing your calves walking uphill, they installed nifty moving uphill walkways.

If you want to get from one end of the zoo to the other, you can take the Skyfari.  

This was a highlight for me. With so many zoos, parks, and theme parks doing away with their sky rides, it was a treat gliding through the air.

The ride offered great views of the zoo, and of surrounding Balboa Park.

The only problem with the ride, it's too short.

I'm unsure if it is even possible to see the entire zoo in a single day.  We did not make the attempt. We chose to make a few things a priority, bears being among them.

First the Kolas. 

I read that the kola section can get super crowded, so we hit it first thing. The bears were happily sitting in their trees munching their breakfast.  

I know, I know, kolas are notoriously grumpy animals, but I'd still love to at least attempt to cuddle with one.  

The San Diego Zoo is one of the few zoos in the United States that has Giant Pandas.  They have a dedicated breeding program, doing their best to save the dwindling  panda population.This is another area to get to early. Everyone wants to come and see the panda bears.  The entire section is set up more like a theme park queue.  You may have to wait 15 minutes, maybe even up to an hour just to get a glimpse of the black and white bundles of fur. 

For the most part the pandas at the zoo either have issues that make them unable to live in the wild, or they are still young pandas born at the zoo. 

Of course it isn't all about the bears. We saw other animals too.

I was pretty excited about getting a chance to pet mini-goats.

Since some animals, though thankfully none at the zoo, are delicious, we took a break from zoo exploration to get lunch at the Hua Mei Cafe in the Panda Canyon section of the zoo.

I didn't have high expectations for zoo cafe food, but my orange chicken was darn tasty. One of the zoo employees recommended the orange chicken when we got a little turned around in the aviary.

"It's so big, I can never finish it all," she said.

I had no such problem. 

I don't know what the rest of the food is like at the San Diego Zoo, but I can recommend the Hua Mei Cafe. 

The San Diego Zoo was a good final activity for our trip. It provided enough physical exertion to make us nice and worn out for our red eye flight home, and  we were so busy roaming around, there wasn't time to lament about leaving California. Okay, we might have lamented a little, California is pretty amazing.