Monday, July 12, 2010

Pittsburgh Day 5

Okay, last day of our trip. My morning consisted of packing up our bags and finishing the leftovers in the fridge. Then off we went for one last drive downtown. After returning the laptop cable, we stopped for lunch at Au Bon Pain (my favourite bakery!), took a few more pictures, and headed towards the Grove City Prime Outlets an hour away (on the way home).

Nearing the end of the day, both my mom and I could agree - we had had more than enough shopping. Continuing down the road, we stopped at Ponderosa for dinner, then drove (well...I slept) the rest of the way home. We got back SOOOO late, and I had to teach soon after. Yet astonishingly, my energy was restored when I visited the Canadian Open as a spectator later that night. Usually I get drained from playing games, but watching them is another story. I felt kind of guilty because everyone around was under so much pressure! Good work and good luck to all participants.

View near the hotel pool.

Another exterior view of the hotel.

Picture before leaving.

Note: I'm wearing a bag, which is actually dark blue, but somehow blended in with my black shirt colour to make it look like all the U.S. food built up in my stomach area :(

Downtown PPG building (Au Bon Pain inside).

Fountain in the middle of Market Square, with surrounding PPG buildings.

Dinosaur in Market Square.

Another dino in Market Square.

Downtown trolley.

As I said before, Pittsburgh loves sports. This is the Heinz stadium.

PNC Park Stadium

Yet another bridge. Hard to see, but if you look at the sign down the road, it says Hazlett Street (Exit 3).

Not sure if I would want to go to "Slippery Rock University". Also notice the rain. We were fortunate to miss the rain/storms in Pittsburgh.

The outlets looked like paradise around every turn.

Lots of vending machines in the U.S.

Banana Republic is awesome!

Cakes look like hamburgers.

Candy galore! This is within Giant Eagle, a grocery store, but giant bags of candy could be found in Staples, OfficeMax, and many many other stores. Too bad for them, because I'm not really much of a sweet tooth anymore.

Note: Back to school sales are starting up. If anyone is visiting the U.S., they have ridiculously low prices for school supplies later in July and August.

A whole row of freezers was devoted to ice cream and novelties.

Leaving the grocery store, we passed by a wall which was painted with fun graphics. I quickly grabbed my camera, turned it on, and without realizing it was still on flash, took a picture. The flash illuminated the wall! Surprised, I tried again, but ended up with an ugly white picture, and deleted it.

That's all for my Pittsburgh trip. Thanks for reading - hope you enjoyed these posts! If you have time, I would recommend visiting Pennsylvania. In my opinion, it's much lovelier and more spacious than many other areas. Despite that, there's always a place in my heart for Toronto :)

Pittsburgh Day 4

Day 4 consisted mainly of exploring the local area, and more shopping. As you can tell, there were TONS of cool shops everywhere. I was so glad we didn't pack a lot of luggage.

Out of all the days, this was probably the most relaxing. We didn't have many fixed plans, and kind of came up with things along the way.


I just realized, this photo was actually from Day 3. It's a downtown statue made up of model bridges.


The best bookstore ever! Great selection at low prices. Chess books generally cost $5 to $10, although one was on clearance for $2! Since they buy used books (as well as sell new books), some of the chess readings were older versions with popular authors, although the non-algebraic notation was a bit of a turn-off. I can read older notation, at a slower pace, but definitely prefer the newer versions.

My mom found this sign. It reads: "b(eco)me bagless. Decline a plastic bag, and we'll set aside 5 cents for environmental initiatives. For every bagless transaction, Half Price Books will set aside 5 cents to environmental initiatives which benefit programs designed to educate the public on environmentally related topics including conservation, recycling and preservation. Find out more at"

As you can see, businesses actually pay for the initiatives, rather than the customers. Pittsburgh in particular is transforming its dirty, steel mill image into a more sustainable one.

Blueberry crepes at Bob Evans restaurant. Filled with lots of whipped cream cheese inside. Yum!

Annual shoe sale at Macy's - 50 to 65% off!

Love this license plate.

I couldn't resist. These cheese balls were everywhere!

HUGE danishes at Costco. Never see these in Toronto. In general, portion sizes are much larger in the States.

Another sunset.


Me and my new hat.

Me and my new hat again.

And again...

Without the hat.

Day 5 coming soon...

Pittsburgh Day 3

Using the remaining memory on my camera's digital card, I managed to take some more pictures downtown. First stop - IBM mobile center. After numerous phone calls, and a fortunate coincidence, my mom managed to borrow a charger for her laptop. Luckily for us, parking on the street was relatively cheap for short time intervals (less than 1 hour). Only 25 cents per 7.5 minutes.

Next stop - the National Aviary, a bird museum which supports the conservation of numerous species and their habitats. We donated some money for parking, but when we went to pay, they charged me as a child (age 2 - 12)! Do I really look that young?

In the museum, I swerved around, trying to capture images while dodging all sorts of bird poop and one bird which had the habit of flying into people! It struck me in a sneak attack from the back. Smart bird. Struck us all like dominoes.

On the plus side, there were many beautiful and rare species, some of which you will see below. We also got to see a variety of bird food cooked up for the feathered animals, and a bird hospital. Overall, it was worth the trip.

Before heading back to the area around our hotel, we took a short drive around the Cultural District (Market Square) and Strip District (Convention Center). Had to be careful navigating the streets, but we got through in good time.

We then had a very late lunch at Cracker Barrel. Amazing corn bread and biscuits. Afterward, more shopping, making sure to get a new digital card, and late dinner at Steak and Shake, a diner serving, you guessed it, steak (burgers) and all sorts of milkshakes (strawberry, peach, oreo, mint, dark chocolate, peanut butter, and more...). We didn't go until much later, but between 2 pm and 4 pm, they charge half price for milkshakes, which are already relatively cheap ($3.49).

Again, very tired by the time we got back to the hotel.


Downtown buildings :)

Inside one of the buildings, looking up.

Nice view of PPG Place, a collection of stunning business buildings in the heart of the city.

I forget what this bird is called, but it's the first one you see when entering the aviary.

100% American!

African Penguin swimming underwater. Another penguin was standing on a rock, but ran away when I tried to take a picture. Another smart bird.

A colourful (and hungry) toucan.

From the group of flamingoes. It looks like it would be a pro at ballet. I was very pleased with this photo because, as you can see from the bottom of the image, most of the flamingoes spent a lot of time scratching/grooming themselves rather than "posing".

A blue parrot!

This colourful parrot inched its way along a tree branch, settled in place (right near my view), and turned its back to me as if it wanted to show off its feathers for the camera!

Who knew birds enjoy their food so much?

This bird wins the prize for best eating technique and most photogenic.

Walked right up to me!

My mom's favourite. Flies very quickly, and seems the most friendly (you often see these in pairs).

More to come....days 4, 5...

Pittsburgh Day 2

After a good night's rest, my mom and I got up early for breakfast. Cereal, bagels, sausage, and more...the hotel had generous servings of both hot and cold food, as well as a waffle maker. I decided on something pretty plain - some yogurt and toast. I tend to go for the basics when I'm really hungry. We didn't get much food the night before.

After washing up and getting ready for the day, we headed downtown to visit the Carnegie Science Museum. Pittsburgh has three main colleges/universities, with Carnegie specializing in various forms of science and technology. While we didn't actually visit the universities themselves, the museum gave a good indication of the hands-on approach used in education in the States.

We arrived around noon, and finished at 4:45 pm. A fairly small museum, so we easily navigated through all the exhibits, and picked up some souvenirs from the gift shop. One huge difference between this museum and museums in Canada - the food is reasonably priced! Pizza slices for $2.10, hot dogs and hamburgers for a little more, and specialty meals for $5 or $6. In fact, the servings are so large in the U.S. that my mom and I shared chicken fingers and fries (a lot of people were ordering them, so we figured we should try) for $5.99.

By the time we got back to our car, it was extremely hot outside. Our rental car's interior felt like an oven. Thank god for air conditioning!

We finished the night with some shopping around town and dinner at Boston Market (they have really cute mini sandwiches). Not coincidentally, I had to purchase another digital card for my camera. However, Best Buy was closed and I had to wait until Day 3.

Finally back at the hotel, I was so tired, I fell asleep almost right away. Here are my favourite pics:

The exterior of the science museum.

View from inside the museum. Pittsburgh has many districts, with the museum in the North. Districts are connected by lovely yellow bridges. Such nice architecture.

One of the museum's features - the model train exhibit. Partially Canadian, because it's sponsored by Bombardier! The lights in the exhibit kept turning on and off to display day and night views of the miniature town. I was so amazed by the details and little people - so much that I entered and exited the exhibit from the wrong side...oops...

A night view of one of the miniature houses. Some houses had things/people inside.

A little parade down the miniature street.

No surprise - Pittsburgh loves its sports!

"Andy" greeted people at the robot exhibit, which was largely sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University ( Andy answered pre-made questions about robots, and could be programmed to change eye design and cheek colour.

Definitely the most eye-catching robot within the exhibit. Without any human help, this bot could pick up basketballs and throw them at the net (from close up or far away) with an accuracy of about 93%. This figure constantly changed with each shot made, and was compared next to a human score. Although some good shooters attempted to improve the human score, it always hovered around 13%.

This robot picked up and distributed little beads to create designs chosen by visitors. Extremely quick, it could pick up each bead in less than 1 second. Bob - were you there?

Poor fish got lost between two tanks.

Another view outside. The little "boat" at the bottom is actually a Just Ducky tour, which can move on land and water (

Sponsored by IBM, this device attempted to mimic human facial expressions. Maybe it was "tired" because it didn't work very well.

Have you ever played air hockey against a robot? Numerous attempts were made, but this stubborn machine never let in one goal.

My mom took a picture of me in front of the heat sensor. Finally proof that my hands are a lot colder than hers! Like my shades (glasses)?

By far my favourite! "Keepon" is a simple robot with sensors in its eyes and a flexible, bouncy body. It is used to examine social interactions with children and adults, especially those with developmental disabilities.

Note: The museum showed videos of many other robots, but I didn't have the energy to take so many pictures.

Cute headpiece!

Inside the submarine exhibit - S.S. Requin

I wouldn't survive on these beds.

We had to squeeze through these to get around the exhibit.

These controls are beyond me.

Care to play?

Remember the yellow bridge? Now we're under it.

More to come...days 3, 4, 5...