Justin and I have officially been moved in to our new apartment for a week now! We’re finally unpacked and settled in, and Justin has been working at his new job since Monday! He seems to like his new (HUGE) office, after working in an engineering firm with less than ten employees in Tallahassee. But he’s not sure if he’s going to find his new BFF in his new office any time soon. I think as some sort of a social rule, engineers tend to be serious fuddy-duddies (Justin excluded, of course!). But who knows, maybe Justin will be able to liven the place up! Here’s to hoping he can bring back Hawaiian shirt Fridays! (And yes, Justin actually started a “Hawaiian shirt Friday” trend at his office in Tallahassee. I was alternately proud and mortified.)
Speaking of Fridays, last Friday was Justin’s birthday, and we celebrated by leaving the apartment for a day and resolutely ignoring our need to unpack in favor of exploring downtown Pittsburgh. We’ve both decided that we really like the grunge, warehouse-y look of many of the streets downtown, but we’re definitely only going to walk them by day…not night.
As suggested by a friend, we took a trip up the historical Monogahela Incline, which is a little railroad car used for quickly getting up and down Mount Washington. Many people riding the car were using it as an actual part of their daily commute, but there were also other tourists there with us, taking pictures of the view during the ride to the top.
The view of downtown Pittsburgh from the top of Mount Washington is definitely impressive–one that I’m sure is even more beautiful by night (but like I said, we’re not brave enough to venture out at night quite yet…I’ve seen too many scary stories on the evening news already).
Pittsburgh in general is a lot more picturesque than I originally imagined it would be. All anyone could really tell me about Pittsburgh before we moved there was that it used to be the home of the steel industry, and the winters there are brutal (Gee, thanks for the optimism, people!). While we have seen some parts of town that are a little abaondoned and dishevled due to the closed steel mills and the worsening economy, we’ve also seen a lot of people revitalizing old warehouses into new stores and restaurants. The heart of the downtown area seems to be growing and thriving lately, and something must be going right for engineering companies here to be so overrun with new projects that they need to hire more engineers, right?
Pittsburgh is much more hilly and mountainous than I realized, and the rivers that run through it (and their many bridges) make it even more scenic. Apparently, when the steel mills were still going strong, the smog in Pittsburgh was really unbearable; however, now that they’re gone, the air is fresh and clean, and there are a bunch of parks and walking trails located all over town to help people better enjoy the lovely outdoors. Many of the shops and buildings around here are very quirky, too. Maybe it’s native Andy Warhol’s influence on the place, but we’ve seen beautiful Victorian homes painted in all sorts of wild, neon colors, and the other day we drove past a giant cathedral church that has been turned into a bar/night club! (On the one hand, I feel that it would be almost sacreligious to drink and party in what used to be a sacred building, but on the other hand, I’m intensely curious to go see what it looks like on the inside…)
Our neighborhood is situated about twenty minutes from downtown Pittsburgh. We live among cozy tree-lined streets and historical-looking two story Tudors, with little, family-owned pizza shops and “hoagie” shops adorning every corner. There is a beautiful Catholic cathedral-style church just a few blocks away from our apartment building, and when I leave the windows open to let in the nice fall breeze, I can hear the church bells ringing out every hour. There seem to be a lot of families that live here. On any given afternoon, I can around the neighborhood and see little children playing in their front yards, people out walking their dogs down the sidewalks, and moms pushing strollers. Thankfully, all of the scary stories that I’ve been seeing on the local news have been happening on the other side of town, so I think we picked a really nice place to live.
I’m not sure why I had this pre-conceived notion that people in Pittsburgh (or just up north in general) are very rude and impatient, but it definitely doesn’t seem to be true! I joked with Justin about whether or not we would get some sort of welcome gift from the neighbors (because my parents had just moved to Knoxville, Tennessee and received all sort of homemade jams and pies from their new neighbors). Justin was all, “Don’t hold your breath!” and we had a good laugh about it. But then, we came home from church on Sunday and wouldn’t you know, there was a little gift bag sitting outside of our door! We opened it to find a nice travel guide book to Pittsburgh, and a card from our downstairs neighbor, Jennifer, welcoming us to the city. We immediately went downstairs and thanked her for it, and talked to her for about twenty minutes, and she was so friendly! It surprised me, but I suppose it shouldn’t have. Who am I to assume that people are friendly or unfriendly based on their zip code?
Also, as a side note, when we’re out driving in our car and about to turn onto a new street, people in Pittsburgh are constantly stopping, holding up traffic, and waving us through. People never do that in Florida! But they’re doing it here all the time, so much so that Justin and I have both started waving people through as well, trying to return the favor.
We’ve gotten the chance to meet a handful of people here (including our neighbor Jennifer), and without fail, when they find out that we just moved here from Florida, they ask, “Why Pittsburgh?” They’re not asking in an “Are you crazy?” kind of way–they just genuinely want to know how an “outsider” perceives their city. Most of the people that we’ve met here remind me of the people I knew in Blountstown; they were all born and raised in Pittsburgh, and their parents lived here their whole lives, and their grandparents before that. The people we’ve met all love this town and wouldn’t consider living any place else. Despite the closing of the steel mills and the economic harships that Pittsburgh has been through, they feel like they’re a part of this town, and they’re binding together and sticking with it, nomatter what! I’ve never seen people so loyal to their birthplace. I was born in Orlando, and once I left for college, I never had any desire to go back! And many people who I’ve met living in Tallahassee could either take it or leave it–our friends are really what kept us living in Tallahassee for so many years. We never felt any particular affinity for the location itself. But the people here are really passionate about their city, and they’re always ready with suggestions for places that we “must see.” And when we visit the must-see places, people can always tell that we’re tourists, and they offer to take our picture without us even having to ask.
So far, I have a very favorable impression of Pittsburgh. It’s really not “the pits” like some people had me expecting. And now that I have a new travel guide, I can’t wait to get out there and visit all of the cool places around town (and blog about them, of course!).