July 2015


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(C) 2015 Kathryn Pharr

While just last week the New York Times provided a hipster version of how to enjoy Pittsburgh about the same time the Washington Post offered a journey to arrive there, it is no surprise that our trip was superior. First off, we did not limit ourselves to eating to enjoy the trip. (I am not downplaying the great cocktail and culinary options in Pittsburgh, but it does, as you will see, have more to offer.) We were lucky to have two local guides, Sunny & Drew, who put together an amazing, if intense, agenda. Sunni’s mom fed our crew an amazing feast when we rolled into the suburb of White Oaks about midnight Friday night.

Saturday morning the fun began. We started the day with a grand view of the city of Pittsburgh by going up the Duquesne Incline, which sets you out at the Point of View Park with a statue of George Washington and Seneca leader Guyasuta. The view of the Golden Triangle, where the Allegheny River and Monongahela River join to form the Ohio River.

(c) 2015 Kathryn Pharr

(c) 2015 Kathryn Pharr

A quick visit to the Strip District was a nice way to get breakfast on a Saturday morning with options that included fresh doughnuts and many amazing baked goods. We also stepped into an Irish/Polish church, St. Patrick-St. Stanislaus, to get a bit of Pittsburgh’s heritage.

Drew insisted on driving through the many different neighborhoods including Polish Hill with the lovely Immaculate Heart of Mary church.

(c) 2015 Kathryn Pharr

(c) 2015 Kathryn Pharr

One of our favorite stops was the National Aviary. The African penguins were delightful. I loved how for most of the birds (not the condors or the eagle) you walked into rooms that had birds roaming freely.

We enjoyed afternoon tea at the Frick cafe and truly enjoyed the docent-led tour of Clayton, the Fricks’ home in Pittsburgh. While the home was an excellent example of the style of mansions that used to litter Millionaire’s Row, we particularly enjoyed the orchestrion, an upgrade from a player piano because it makes nine instrumental sounds like an orchestra.

Believe it or not, we continued onto Kennywood, where I rode my first wooden roller coaster, the Jack Rabbit from 1920. In 1899, Kennywood opened as a “trolley park” and has been a place for fun ever since.

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(c) 2015 Kathryn Pharr

The next day after a lovely service at St. Andrew’s in Highland Park and a visit with friends and their newborn, we took JJ to what we promised would be a fabulous experience: University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning. I think the Welsh room was his favorite. If you go, check in with the information desk where for $4 you can borrow a key that will get you into the Nationality Rooms on Floors 1 and 3. As you leave, don’t forget to stop into Heinz Chapel next door, which looks like a mini-Notre Dame with such American “saints” as Emily Dickinson and Clara Barton. It was truly a magical weekend in Pittsburgh.

For those who either miss the mountains or who actually want to own a home before 40, the Atlantic ponders if you should consider moving to Pittsburgh, which offers upwards mobility and affordable housing.

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(c) 2015 Kathryn Pharr

Landing in Stockholm was a bit like landing in any other European city (there is something about European airports that separates them from others, I just can’t name it). It was early May, and the weather was what I’d been told to anticipate: cool enough for a trench-coat and grey enough to wish you had an umbrella in hand. I’d tried to obtain Swedish krona at the Dulles airport, but it was easy to purchase my Arlanda train ticket to the City Centre with my credit card (with pin number-required for most travel outside the US now).

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(c) 2015 Kathryn Pharr

Whether experienced in typical spring rain or a pocket of sunshine, Stockholm is breathtaking and begs to be explored. It is built across fourteen islands on Lake Malaren, which connects to the Baltic Sea. The result is a delightful number of bridges to cross and infinite photographing possibilities. The Old Town section of the city, also known as Gamla Stan, dates from the mid-1200s. I walked past the Royal Palace, one of the largest in Europe containing over 600 rooms. I particularly enjoyed exploring the cobblestone streets and ducking into tourist shops with trinkets of Pippi Longstockings, trolls, nisse or tomtes (a house nome), Dalecarlian horses, and St. Lucia. As evening fell, I wandered around the neighboring island of Skeppsholmen, which is particularly peaceful after dark and the museums are closed.

I stayed at the Art Nouveau styled  Diplomat Hotel, in Norrmalm (City Centre)  next to the Nybroviken harbor and a short walk to Old Town. The breakfast buffet was particularly impressive. I enjoyed several wonderful meals nearby, including dinner at Broms. I loved Eriks Bakficka in Östermalm near the Djurgården bridge to the “museum island,” which served a fabulous version of a local dish Kalpudding, a cabbage and meat casserole with lingonberry jam. It was amazing. I also enjoyed the traditional cod and potatoes with butter and fresh dill dishes.

I hope to return to Stockholm and see more of the city during Stockholm World Water Week. I would love to explore the Vasa museum and go on a boat ride although I’m likely to skip the ABBA museum.

One extra delight for me on this work trip was to have dinner with my dear friends who live in the suburb, Hasselby, which is easily accessible on the city’s metro (tunnelbana), which is clean and easy to use. It was wonderful to see their lively daughter and meet their new son.

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(c) 2015 Kathryn Pharr