Cathedral of Learning

we’re ending this series from pittsburgh with the best bit (in my opinion). the cathedral of learning is the main attraction at the university of pittburgh’s oakland neighborhood campus, and is listed in the national register of historic places. this is the second tallest university building in the world, and was designed in the late gothic revival style. the “lobby” takes up 3 floors and has an impressive commons room which made me feel like i was at hogwarts! i pictured myself setting up camp in one of the many nooks, while studying art history.

this friend of mine had recommended visiting here and pointed out that the tour of the nationality rooms is a must! since i didnt really know what to expect, i was blown away.

the nationality rooms is a collection of 27 classrooms donated by the different ethnic groups that help build pittsburgh. located on the 1st and 3rd floors, each classroom is uniquely different. an audiotape-guided tour is available for $3/adult, and takes you around the 1st floor classrooms, which are locked to the public. the 3rd floor rooms can be toured for free (there are speakers in each room that broadcasts the tour). all rooms, except for two, are used as regular classrooms during the fall and spring terms.

here are some of my favorites rooms:

(above: swedish)

(above: yugoslav)

(above: norwegian)

(above: polish)

(above: irish)

(above: lithuanian)

(above: ukranian)

there have been “room reservation requests” made for additional nationality rooms and are in various stages of funding and design. i am curious to see how those turn out (especially looking forward to the philippine room).

i was more impressed with the 1st floor rooms (the earliest rooms being the german, russian, scottish and swedish, all dedicated on july 8, 1938). they were definitely more impressive (materials were even shipped in from the countries of origin). i guess it all depends on how much funding each room received. all in all, this is definitely a must while in pittsburgh.

you can view the rest of the photo set here.


Duquesne Incline

we could not visit pittsburgh, “the city of bridges”, without getting a bird’s eye view of the city. on the southside, scaling mount washington, is duquesne incline. i will have to say that the views on the observation deck, and by the “point of view” scultpure (a few steps away on the western end), are way more spectacular, but at $4.50 per round trip (per adult), it’s  a cheap ride for a fun experience.

(above: guyasuta and george washington in the “point of view” sculpture)

this incline was used to carry cargo back in the day, and eventually, the residents of mount washington. when more roads were built around “coal hill”, the incline eventually closed in 1962. it reopened again on july 1, 1963, as a result of a fund-raiser organized by the residents to help the incline.

because this is a tourist spot, and in a residential area, parking is very limited. i would suggest you park at the bottom of the incline, at the incline’s free parking lot. that would save you some time. i got lost navigating and driving us to the southside that i refused to drive anywhere else once we got up the hill. but parking down below is the way to go.

P & G Pamela’s Diner

if you ever visit pittsburgh, please please please stop by p and g pamela’s diner for brunch! i’m telling you (and i’m sure your friends who’ve been), you will be in heaven!

first of all, expect a long wait so go with a small group (or go by yourself if you have to!). but as soon as you get a table, the service is quick and you’re out the door before you’re even sure you want to leave.

the diner is just too cute: a collection of memorabilia is tucked away, and organized so nicely, in a built-in shelf; vintage prints and photos posted all over the walls; pink and turquoise are the colors here at the strip district location. the tables and chairs all fit with the retro look they were going for. they even used fiesta ware for their food!

and the food…mmm…mymouth is watering as i write this: their crepe hotcakes were just as i would like my hotcakes (thin, airy and with a crunch at the edges); chorizo and eggs called my name as well. i decided to be impartial. i savored that brunch as long as i could. and yes, all that food was just for me (we had a full day of sightseeing ahead).

(above L: their famous crepe hotcakes; above R: chorizo and eggs)

the other memorable part about eating at this location was the gentleman who bused the tables. he pushed his cart of dirty dishes with a skip in his step, and every movement he made was a performance. he danced around the table, turned in place, and deposited each used plate, glass and silverware like it was part of his choreography. it was a reminder to enjoy, whatever it is, in the moment that you’re doing; to make the most out of everything, how ever mundane.

once again my plea, please go eat brunch at a pamela’s diner (choose any of their 6 locations). you won’t be sorry.

Primanti Bros

if you are looking for a truly local pittsburgh treat, one that’s part of the steel city’s history, you have to stop by Primanti Bros. they are famous for adding french fries in their sandwiches!

their history goes: “back in the 1930’s, joe primanti opened a cart in the strip district selling sandwiches to truckers on the go … his brothers, dick and dtanley, joined him along with nephew john depriter who was the cook. according to john, ‘one winter, a fella drove in with a load of potatoes. he brought a few of ’em over to the restaurant to see if they were frozen. i fried the potatoes on our grill and they looked pretty good. a few of our customers asked for them, so i put the potatoes on their sandwiches.’ and the rest is history. the Primanti Sandwich: a true taste of pittsburgh.”

(above: the “colossal” fish sandwich)

we stopped by for a quick bite at the strip district location. it was as casual as it could be: we picked a table, the server (and cook) came to take our order and returned with our food on parchment paper (no plates or utensils). and the fries on the sandwich? how could you go wrong? fries are usually served on the side of sandwiches anyway, why not ON it?

go check out one of their 17 restaurants in the pittsburgh area (or the 3 in florida, yes, florida!)


over the 4th of july weekend, i took my mom and younger brother out of cincinnati to explore pittsburgh. i was looking for a destination within driving distance, preferably somewhere we’d never been, and pittsburgh fit our specifications perfectly! our friends from the steel city were very excited about our plan.

here are some snapshots of the city:

(above L + R: andy warhol bridge)

(above 3: downtown pittsburgh)

(above 4: just ducky tours; on the river)

pittsburgh reminded me of cincinnati but a few years ahead in terms of their downtown development. their riverfront is definitely more developed than ours here: restaurants, bars, cafes bring locals and tourists over. i’m not sure how i would feel if i saw duck tours being offered here (i heard there is already one?); however, after seeing a group of people tailing a Prohibition Resistant Tour guide across liberty avenue over the weekend, i felt … proud. and i am just as excited about the development of our own riverfront area: The Banks.

anyway … this post is not for me to discuss the mixed feelings i have with all the changes …

here is a list of what we saw while we were there:

andy warhol museum


strip district

cathedral of learning

p&g pamela’s diner

primanti bros.

duquesne incline

the next few posts on our backyard will be about some of these sights. if you are planning a visit to pgh, i highly recommend the pittsburgh city guide from design sponge. it was very very helpful!