Friday, April 25, 2008

A Visit To Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

This month I attended the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This annual conference has an attendance of between 1,000 and 2,000 booklovers (mostly women, mostly romance readers). It's a great conference for authors to connect with readers, booksellers, and reviewers. That's just a little background information for you before I talk about the city itself. :)

From the airplane looking down, the landscape was very pretty with rolling hills. Spring was just coming to the area (they'd had a hard winter). Daffodils lined the freeway. Tulips were blooming along some of the walkways as well. By the time I left a week later, more things were also starting to leaf and bud. Unfortunately, I was very poor at getting pictures.

There were many things I wanted to see in Pittsburgh, but I only had a part of one day. So, the Duquesne Incline I lusted after, the Carnegie Science Museum, and the Andy Warhol Museum all went unvisited by me. One day. I have to laugh because I can take one day and then some to go through a museum. :)

I've been to many cities in my life and I have to say that with perhaps one or two minor exceptions, everyone I interacted with in Pittsburgh was very, very nice, polite, and accommodating. This was especially pleasant considering the fact that ninety percent of the downtown area where I was is under renovation, including our hotel, Hilton-Pittsburgh. Though most of the staff was pleasant, I can't say they were very proficient or efficient. The rooms were small but nice, however, they were extremely laden with dust from the construction. Construction was occurring on all the floors and there was no getting away from it. The maids came by everyday, but the room was only semi-cleaned twice during my week-long stay. I looked under the bed once because I misplaced something, then wished I hadn't...looked under the bed, that is.

The hotel restaurant was overwhelmed by the number of guests. After the first night, the waitstaff begged guests to please go through the breakfast buffet because the kitchen couldn't handle the orders. Management was kind enough to give guests a coupon for $10 off food purchased there and also lowered the price on the breakfast from $17.50 to $13.50. They changed the regular lunch and dinner menu to a limited menu and again asked people to order from the buffet. The breakfast buffet was great, the dinner buffet not so much.

The minor exceptions to the very-nice-people comment were a custodian cursing in the bathroom that she'd be glad when we all left. And, honestly, I can't blame her for feeling the stress of 1,000+ guests at once. And the other exception was a staff member who also felt she should be given the conference giveaways the attendees were receiving. Very minor.

I have to say as well that wherever I went to eat in Pittsburgh, the food servings were HUGE! I also felt the prices weren't that bad either considering the portions. Here's a quick breakdown:

Cafe Promenade (Hilton Pittsburgh): Generally speaking, the food was great with large portions. In this case, however, it was a little high priced. They do have a cook who makes the best omelets I've ever had!

Primanti Brothers Restaurant: Their claim to fame is a sandwich piled with coleslaw and french fries, and it became a must-do for my friends. The place was packed and it was impossible for the seven of us to sit together (plus if you are not a smoker, there are no no-smoking areas). There were only two people working that night and they were overwhelmed with orders. Since I don't (and won't) eat french fries, I thought I'd be fairly safe with a salad. Wrong. They put french fries on the salad too. Price is good. Food is plentiful.

Costanza's: We were looking for someplace to eat mid-Saturday afternoon. After walking a couple of blocks and finding nothing, we happened upon a place called Costanza's. It looked like a restaurant/sports bar. Very nice staff. Food plentiful. Reasonable prices. I ordered a hot roast beef sandwich, but didn't care for it. In fact, I only managed a small bite before I asked the waiter to please take it away. I was willing to pay for it, but the waiter wouldn't hear of it. He definitely deserved a tip for his kindness and customer service and I gave him one. It's located on Market Square, but I couldn't find a website link for it.

Palomino: This was our last night in Pittsburgh. The hotel restaurant was again bogged down and we'd heard about this place so decided to give it a chance. Very nice staff. Nice restaurant. Good food. Nice portions. Perhaps a little high for a family of four, but great for one person or a couple. I'd definitely recommend this one. I understand this is a chain restaurant.

The airport also wasn't prepared for the mass of incoming and outgoing visitors. In addition to the Romantic Times Convention, Hiliary Clinton and Barrack Obama were there to campaign. Cabs were impossible to find. I ordered one for myself with the bell captain at the Hilton the night before my departure and had no problems.

All in all, my biggest doggone-it is the fact I didn't have time to see the sites I wanted to. If you are planning to visit Pittsburgh, give yourself a couple of days.


No comments: