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Pittsburgh Travel Blog

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I was expected at Kate and Jim’s at 5:45 so I left home around 4:15, giving myself an extra twenty minutes.  I made a stop at McDonald’s to grab a quick meal to go before getting on the northern end of the free part of 376 aka the Beltway.  As I snacked on fries, I noticed the snow-like precipitation picking up.  Traffic slowed the closer I got to Pittsburgh.  Even though I was only about five miles from their exit, I gave Kate a call anyway and found an alternate route that got me off the Beltway.  With her giving me directions, I made it to their apartment just a minute or two late (parking took a few minutes, I have never been good at maneuverability).

  Bob arrived a few minutes later and we headed out to the SUV Jim was renting (he got T-boned the previous morning).  We were buckled up in the car when I asked Kate if we had our vouchers for the one concert.  Oops.  Jim went back inside to grab the printed sheets from where they were still hanging on the inside of their door.

Jim drove up into the hills outside Pittsburgh.  His route avoided the Fort Pitt tunnels, my usual entryway to the city.  We parked about a mile away from downtown and took the T to the cultural district.  This was my first time traveling underground in Pittsburgh, an odd fact considering this is the first big city I visited growing up.  I guess we just always parked close enough to walk to our destination.

  We only had to ride the T for two stops, barely long enough for me to realize we had gone underground.

Aboveground we walked through the somewhat icy weather to the Byham Theater to watch the River City Brass Band.  We climbed up to the balcony and found four seats together in the middle part.  We only had a few minutes before the show started and when the conductor walked out in a kilt, I knew we were in for a treat.  His commentary provided a humorous backdrop for the band’s excellent playing especially the coronet soloist.  They played a variety of music: a jazzy tune, an medley of Americana, and my highlight of the evening Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker suite.  This song is not complete without a Sugar Plum Fairy which was played by one of the low brass musicians who donned a tutu and feathery headdress for the role.

  A bagpiper also performed both with his instrument and his voice.  The audience had a great time participating in "(I Would Walk) 500 Miles."

After the concert we wandered back outside where I was pleased to notice the weather was still cold but drier.  We saw the parade, one of the odder ones I've witnessed.

However, we were soon indoors again, this time to eat.  Jim led us to a narrow pizzeria close to the theater.  We got one pizza with pepperoni for the group to share.  It wasn’t cut perfectly even but that worked out; Kate and I weren’t as hungry as the boys so they got the bigger slices and more to eat.

Filled, we ventured out into the night again and found the fire artists.  They were awesome performers with a variety of tricks set to music.

  Kate and I climbed up onto a packed snowbank for a better view.  Eventually the guys would join us near the end of the performance.  The flame breather—I don’t know what else to call him, he used alcohol to spew flames ten feet from his face—was fascinating.

We followed this fiery show up with a more sedate performance called Cello Fury.  Maybe sedate is not the right word since I’ve never seen a strings player head-banging before but that is definitely what these musicians appeared to be doing in their first number.  Their music was modern and at times raw but I really enjoyed it.  We walked down one flight of steps to an art gallery for a little bit afterwards.

By now Jim was craving a peppermint hot chocolate so we hit up a local place near the Benedum.  My raspberry hot chocolate was excellent (and it kept my hands warm!).

Midnight nearing, we made our way to the main street for the countdown.  We did not have a good view of the ball drop but the fireworks made sure we all knew when the year changed from 2012 to 2013!

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photo by: diisha392