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For the City of Bridges: Pittsburgh Part I- Nearby Attractions

I love packing and recently I have found I can be ready for a trip in a matter of hours if I put my mind to it, no matter if it’s just for the night or for a week. Once I start I just put my mind on autopilot and my body races to pack all of the things running through my head. The excitement of my trip is pumping through my veins making me feel the highs of the adrenaline rush. At this point I just can’t wait to throw my bags into the car and get out of dodge. My destination this time is a road trip to a part of Pennsylvania I have never been to; Pittsburgh. 

When I told my family and friends I was going to Pittsburgh and that it is a place I’ve always wanted to visit, I got a lot of mixed reactions. Mostly I got “What is there to see/do in Pittsburgh?” Like it was this mysterious island no one had ever visited before, well at least anyone I knew. Just like any major city I knew there would probably great restaurants and many tourists driven attractions. Actually, for the most part (about ninety percent), I knew what I would do there. I had it all in the back of my mind and of course in a folder waiting for the time I would get to make this trip.

The other popular question was “Are you taking a plane?” My answer was no I was driving. That always got an excited reaction as “they” told me how incredibly far it was away. It is as if no one ever heard the words “road trip” before. Again probably just those I spoke to, in my circles I am usually the most traveled and I don’t say that lightly.

Despite the long drive I continued to plan my trip. For me this was an easy task. I have always wanted to see Pittsburgh for three reasons: there was a statute dedicated to Fred Rodgers, I wanted to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s house, Fallingwater, and lastly to have a Primanti Brothers sandwich. As you will come to see over the course of my three Pittsburgh blogs is that I got to do all of those things and lots more. It was the perfect time of year for such a trip, Columbus Day weekend, this past October. The trip went even better than I planned! Love when that happens.

On the morning we were to leave, I set out about five a.m. I get made fun of for this, but my itinerary tells me to get coffee, bagels, gas, and hit up the ATM. I know it will be a long drive and thus I will be all prepared and can avoid any unnecessary stops especially before rush hour. I do not heart traffic when I am on my way to someplace great.

After these items were crossed off my list, I was out of there! See ya Brooklyn! The overall drive was about five and a half hours, give or take. But I already knew where I would be stopping that day and I was so looking forward to it. I wouldn’t have to wait until Pittsburgh to begin having fun.

First up, we (my mother and I) were going to the Flight 93 Memorial. As a New Yorker being around the World Trade Center and its new museum (which I still have to go too, only saw the waterfalls I felt a kinship that drove me to come here.

We had done a few hours of driving so far so we were ready for a break when we arrived. Thank God for GPS because there are some places I don’t think I would ever reach without it. This is one of them. There are signs but you have to drive around and up this hill that looks like a completely empty or abandoned farmland. But I was determined and sure enough we found it.

The site has no visitor center that sells food or drinks, there are only restrooms, but even that is risky. I warn you they were worse than porter potties and more for a real emergency in my opinion.

About a mile or so from the parking lot you walk towards the wall of names of those who gave their lives that day in order to save others.  There was more than just one tragedy on September 11, 2001.

This memorial was dedicated on September 10, 2011 and is still under construction to this day. The majority is already complete but on the hilltop overlooking the wall there will be a visitor education center.

There were some signs up depicting what happened and telling the story as you approach the wall. As you walked towards it you could feel the serious, sorrowful mood. It was so quiet there. There were a bunch of other tourists but there was really no noise. That made it feel peaceful.

It is so hard to imagine what those victims and their families went through. As I stood there looking around it seemed that these last thirteen years went by in a flash leaving the area untouched.

By far the most moving part of the memorial was these giant squares with holes in them inside the stonewall that leads you to the actual memorial. Upon closer inspection I noticed all of these personal memorabilia from those who wanted to honor loved ones. There were signs of 9/11, a firefighter toy, notes to their beloveds, crosses, and other sentimental objects. After looking at that stuff you just felt sick to your stomach. It was a gut reaction just thinking about who left them and who they were for.

The whole visit took about thirty or so minutes. I was so glad I made it there. I feel like my September 11th journey is complete.

From there, we got back in the car and were on our way to Frank’s.

Oh Fallingwater you are a vision in my dreams! I can’t believe someone actually lived here. Actually I find it harder to believe that someone (the architect) could envision this and bring it to life. That is a whole other level of creativity and genius working together.

This house was commissioned by the Kaufmann family as a weekend house and it was from the time it was completed until the death of their son, Edgar Jr. in 1963. At that time the house was turned over to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Their mission is “to preserve, maintain, and make available for public education and appreciation Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece… demonstrate by the example …the powerful result that can be achieved through the harmonious union of man’s work with nature”. That is an awful lot of pressure for one house, but if any house holds up to that high standard it is certainly Fallingwater.

I have been enamored with this house for as long as I have known about it. It is hard for me to pinpoint that timeframe down so I am assuming it’s been as long as I have loved with all things built by Frank Lloyd Wright. It has been some time, around eight or so years at least that I have been actively traveling across the country including his architecture into any vacation I can.

My original path to Frank, Frank Lloyd Wright that is, began in Chicago. Actually that is not true. I suppose it really began in New York City.

As a resident of New York City I have been to the Guggenheim Museum. This is probably my least favorite of the Wright work I have experienced. But at the same time I think the design is brilliant. This museum and the work in it are layered out in a circular motion. There are no stairs so you start at the top and walk/work your way down. All of the time you are focused on the art until you are done and lead to the front door. There is nothing like it in the world. The only problem is that I felt dizzy the entire time I was there. From the outside you can see it is a special building. I love how it looks in just the right time of day, as the sun is setting in New York City.

From there I would next travel to Chicago in 2007 and 2011 ( and between those two trips I would visit his home and studio, Unity Temple, as well as his Oak Park neighborhood that have many of Wright’s homes. They are all so different but magnificent. I wish they weren’t all private homes, as I would have loved to see the interiors.

On this day by the time I reached Fallingwater I could literally not wait any longer to lay my eyes upon this beauty. I didn’t know what to expect because the only houses I have seen of his where in a city. Here we were in the country; actually it looked more like untamed woods.

The visitor center looked like a giant tree house that would have existed in Jurassic Park. It was open aired but completely covered. It made the mild weather we were having feel cold; needless to say I loved it. After making a beeline to the gift shop I waited as patiently as I could for our tour to be called.

Once it was we walked down a slightly elevated gravel path towards the house. Then all of a sudden it was in view. Wow! Fallingwater is infamous for the waterfall it was built INTO. That’s right. The Kaufmann’s originally envisioned the house facing the waterfall but Wright had other ideas. He loved nature and wanted to immerse his homes within its environment using materials found in the area.

Since this house has existed that is the shot you always see, the picture taken with the waterfall in front view. But that is not how we came upon it. We were more on the side with the waterfall not in view. It is still overwhelming. I noticed the third floor outdoor pool that a stream followed through down to the waterfall. I noticed the house and rocks seemed to be one. It seemed larger than life. 

I can hardly believe the Kaufmanns lived here. I tried to picture them driving right up to the house and into the carport they had that held eight cars. Sadly that was remodeled into office space for tour groups with the consent of Edgar Jr.  

The rooms are all preserved as if the Kaufmann’s still lived there. There are books, artwork, and furniture all original to the house. The bedrooms each had their own bathroom and balcony, and from the bed you can look at the view without getting up. All of which was done on purpose by Wright.

Fallingwater was completed in 1937, after an extensive two-year process. Several years later there was a guesthouse added on the cliff above. As you ascend from the house to the workers quarters there are several large, fairly short steps. Wright did that so that they would be easier to climb. He also had awning put over them so that you could walk from one to the other as if in the same building. This was by far my favorite feature. I could use steps like this everywhere I go.

Looking down from the master bedroom balcony you can look over and see the waterfall. It is an incredibly steep drop that creates such an intense feeling. You can hear the water rushing all throughout the house. But in order to see it you have to walk back towards the visitor’s center and then out a bit farther. Actually the place to stand to take “that” photo is the site where the Kaufmann’s wanted the house. I never made that walk because it looked a little too deserted for me.

All together this masterpiece may be appear to be comprised of simple ideals and objects, which is the true genius at work here. It appears to have effortlessly been born out of the rocks within the woods and that anyone from anytime will walk in at any moment and continue living their lives. Just like Taylor Swift, Frank Lloyd Wright never goes out of style.

This day, though exhausting was amazing. I got to cross something off my bucket list and that is always a good feeling. Besides that, my trip was going well and I was spending quality time with my mother.

Now the only thing left to do on this day was drive about an hour further and hit our final destination, Pittsburgh.

For More Information:

Up next is; For the City of Bridges: Pittsburgh
Part II- Pittsburgh Activities


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