Pennsylvania + Niagara Falls

Officially on our second half of the trip, we arrived in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania (state 26) on September 13, 2017, just before the sunset. We checked into our Airbnb which was a studio unit attached to a single-story home. It was so nice to have our own space for such a great price! However, while we were physically close to downtown, because we were across the point where the Ohio, Allegheny, and fascinated rivers meet, it was a bothersome commute – so many bridges!

When we were finished getting settled in our space, we drove to visit the Grandview neighborhood. The area is aptly named – the view is grand!

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We took in the grand view at the Thomas J. Gallaher Overlook and then we walked along Shiloh Street. Our first stop was the Grandview Bakery. The store was large and had an impressive variety of pastries. We picked out a couple of muffins for the next day’s breakfast. Then dinner time came around, and we walked down the street to find Redbird’s Bar & Grill playing the Dodger game. We ordered some wings and Niner got the beer she craves when she is on the East Coast, Yuengling, brewed in Pennsylvania at the oldest brewery in the USA.

Once our meal was finished, we headed back to our room to get some much-needed sleep after our long day that started in Cleveland.

The next day we started things off with a tour of PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Unfortunately, while we were in town the Pirates were on a road trip, so instead of seeing a game at the amazing stadium, we had to settle for the tour, if you want to call it settling.

Up to this point in our lives, we had watched baseball games at Petco Park in San Diego, Chase Field in Phoenix, Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City, Target Field in Minneapolis, and of course, “blue heaven on Earth,” Dodger Stadium. PNC park, nestled in the heart of Pittsburgh is simply amazing.  As much as we are both true blue Dodger fans, we have to admit, that PNC park has incredible city views, aesthetics, and design.

The Pirates are a team full of history and our tour was guided by a spunky Pittsburgh native and lifelong Pirates fan that just happened to have her friends from high school on the tour with us. It was so much fun to hear them talk about their love of baseball and the Pirates while walking around the Park.

When our tour was done, we asked the group of ladies what we needed to eat while visiting the Steel City. They all looked at each other, smiled and said in unison, “Primanti Brothers!” During our travels thus far, this was the first time there was resounding agreement amongst the locals when we posed that question. It was perfect, because we already had that famous sandwich shop on our radar because of a recommendation from DB’s former coworker, a former Pittsburgher.

After the tour, we walked around the outside of the stadium to see and stand on the iconic Roberto Clemente Bridge which is always showcased so nicely on TV during games at PNC Park.

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We then made our way to Market Square to get ourselves some lunch at Primanti Brothers. When we were seated, we saw some titanic sandwiches get delivered to the table next to us. At our first glance at the menu, we were impressed by the low prices considering the huge portions. We briefly discussed sharing, but DB wanted to get the most popular sandwich, the pastrami and Niner does not do pastrami (no, not even at the world famous Katz Deli in NYC – during our 2015 visit, she ordered a bagel). Niner ordered the cajun chicken and we were both super pleased with our impossibly large sandwiches.

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Right before we finished our meal, an unexpected downpour trapped us in the sandwich shop for a few minutes. It seemingly caught everyone in the square unaware – nearly everyone was without an umbrella and scrambling for shelter. Once there was a break in the deluge, we scurried to Becky and drove back to our room. We relaxed there for a while until the rain cleared up.

Our next stop was a colorful place called Randyland. A painter named Randy has transformed his house into a super funky work of art. The gate to the house is kept open during the day and the public is invited to walk the property to see all of his creations. Randy enthusiastically greeted us and the other visitors and he introduced us to his cat.

Then we drove to the Strip District, only to find that most of the shops were already closed for the day, even though the sun had not set yet.

Looking for somewhere to hang out with free parking or even reasonably priced parking that could accommodate Becky’s height was not possible. So, we ended up back at Market Square and hit up a joint called the Yard Gastropub.  We were not all that hungry due to our large lunch, so we shared a side salad and the shrimp lettuce wraps. Our meal was flavorful and it was perfectly portioned for a light dinner.

The next morning we left our room pretty early and hit the road for Niagara Falls. However, this does not conclude our time in PA – our trip will take us to the other side of the state later on to visit Philadelphia, the “city of brotherly love.”

We arrived on the US side of the epic falls before noon. Equipped with our rain jackets we walked along the trails that hugged the falls around the park. Then we paid a very small entrance fee to the Observation Tower. Very hesitantly, we admitted to each other that the falls were not as impressive as we expected them to be.

Our next move was to pull out our passports and take this road trip north of the boarder to Canada. We decided to splurge and we booked a room at the Raddison Hotel & Suites Fallsview. As we drove to the hotel, we saw the majestic views we had been anticipating. Wow, wow, and more wow! The view of the falls from Canada is outstanding and the US view pales in comparison!

Opening the door to our room we were treated to a view of the falls right from our window! While it was not a completely unobstructed view, it was very special and we both agree that springing for the room was a good use of our funds.

After taking in the view from our room for a while, we headed to the waterfront area to get closer to the night time views. We took the falls Incline Railway down to the fenced pathway right along the waterfront.

Hunger then set in and we headed to a place just across the street from our hotel for a burger and of course some poutine. The Big Sizzle Burger is a small place that serves big burgers with options for unique toppings. We shared a spicy goat cheese burger and a poutine. It was a lot of food! The food is prepared fresh to order so it took longer than you would expect for “fast food.” While the meal was tasty, everything was greasy and left our tummies a bit achy afterwards.

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We then went back to our room to enjoy the views and get some rest.

The next morning we packed up our stuff and put it in Becky and took advantage of the hotel parking we had. We walked down to the riverfront and took some more pictures.

Next we kept walking and arrived at the dock for the Hornblower cruise. This boat ride gets you up close and personal with the powerful falls! Thank goodness for those ponchos, or else we would have been soaked.

After the cruise, we walked back to the car and then decided to stop at the duty free to check out ice wine. A friend of ours (who you will be introduced to when we visit Texas) recommended we try some ice wine while in Canada.  DB opted for a complementary ice wine tasting and bought a small bottle.

It was then time to return to the USA. When we got to the customs booth the agent asked us to open our trunk. Her gaze changed once she laid eyes on all our gear and she asked us how long we had been traveling and we told her over three months. She was impressed, yet maintained her professionalism and kept our conversation brief and before we knew it we were back in the state of New York!

Our next blog post will be all about our adventures in western New York and Vermont.

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