A Travellerspoint blog

November 2009

I got on the wrong stupid plane

OK, so the flight to Dulles airport was just fine this time.

Going through security was kind of lame, because United charges $20 for EACH checked bag. What most people do, is chuck the liquids and then check their bag at the ticket checker lady. This ends up being more convenient, aside from the longer security line, because you can just grab your bag as soon as you get out of the plane at your destination. No more lost bags!

Anyway... my flight to Ottawa was boarding on time in gate A5. Remember that, because it's important. I had about an hour to kill before it got there, so I sauntered on over to the Duty Free for some shopping. This is also important.

I purchased a couple of bottles of liquor for super cheap and the lady at the counter asked if I wanted it delivered to my gate. Would I?! I sure would...

So, I'm killing time, using my free Boingo wireless card that I got in Chicago in the summer, totally not paying attention to any announcements that would inform me that my plane was leaving from a different gate.

Finally, it's time for me to line up at gate A5. There is a line of people going through the ticket counter. Everything is normal. I give the guy my ticket and ask him if he has my duty free stuff.

"Oh no, you get that on the plane." OK cool, no problem, I follow this line of people, with my "sky-checked" bag and check it onto the plane with everyone else. Still no problems.

I get onto the plane and ask the flight attendant where my duty free stuff is and she has no idea! OK... weird... she says she'll go look for it, and so I sit down in my seat. The one that matches the letters on my ticket.

The flight attendant comes back onto the plane and says...

"Excuse me, where are you going today?"

"Ottawa."

"Oh there must be some mistake, this is the plane to Newark."

"What?!" I jump up from my seat and run down the stairs. One problem, my bags are already checked on the plane to Newark! A tall, skinny black man with those giant orange plastic ear muffs on sees me freaking out and he helps me find my bag. Meanwhile, a big black lady with massive cornrows and hardcore sunglasses is frantically gesturing at me to get out from behind the wing of the aircraft. The short Asian guy that checked my ticket at the ticket counter is waving at me to tell me to get onto the plane to Ottawa. The first man grabs me and MAKES me run behind a bunch of planes, I can feel the heat emanating from the engines. They're all about ready to take off. I imagine my head getting completely vaporized because some pilot pushed the wrong button at precisely the wrong moment, and I run screaming, behind him, terrified.

Meanwhile, the other people are yelling and screaming at me like I'm going to accidentally set off a nuclear holocaust out there.

So I just... freeze... and scream some more... not a cool, sophisticated scream like agghhhh! or something, no... a high pitched, little girl, temper tantrum, idon'tknowwhatyouwantmetodorightnowi'msoconfusedandscared scream. You had to be there, really.

Eventually they figure out what is wrong with me, and they nicely usher me onto the right plane. Phew. I sit beside a nice blonde lady and we flip through the sky mall catalogue and talk about boys the whole way home.

The customs agent tries to charge me for my second bottle of vodka. I had no idea it actually was vodka. I thought it was some kind of fruit mix drink thing. It was going to be $30, but I talked him out of it by batting my eyes and smiling sweetly. OK, so that's a lie, but whatever, he was just nice and I learned not to try and buy too much vodka at the duty free. And now, I am warning you dear readers.

Yes, buy things at the duty free, because that stuff will save you from being accidentally sent to Newark. But for god's sake do NOT buy two of them.

Dulles Airport

Dulles Airport

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The Andy Warhol Museum

Today we had only a half day scheduled, and then I had to get on the plane and go back home. We ate at Square Cafe, which was polar opposite to Pamela's. I got the squash crepes and pumpkin chai latte...

Kevin, of course, found this whole thing detestable. He made fun of the vegetarian options loudly bellowing "BLECH" when he read that there were soy sausages on the menu. I find it funny that Dave quietly ordered them right after Kevin criticized that particular item.

If I had to spend one more day longer with this guy, there is definitely no way I could've kept my mouth shut next time he said something so ignorant and ridiculous.

The crepes were artfully done, but a world away from the crepes I ordered last time. Definitely not sugar overload, and tasting decidedly "more healthy" than yesterday. If that is indeed possible with crepes in the first place.

The Andy Warhol Museum was just as I expected it would be. A big giant loft space, full of pop art. It was like heaven on earth. My favourite art, all in one place. All from Mr. Warhol, but to top it off, the temporary exhibit was Shepard Fairey, the guy who made that famous Obama stencil, and also the guy who did the Obey Andre the Giant stencil and designed some White Stripes album covers and Smashing Pumpkin's Zeitgeist. Awwwwesome. I could've easily spent a few hours just there.

However, it was not to be.

Steph, Lee and I left the exhibit at exactly at the time we were scheduled to leave. Kevin, predictably, was sitting waiting for us, presumably bored with the outing for the day.

Back on the bus, and before I knew it, the taxi was waiting and we were on our way to the airport. We quickly said goodbye and I snapped a couple of RIDICULOUS ads for the PGH Sky Mall in the terminal shuttle "Forget the news! Go Shopping!"... It never fails to amaze me, how retarded people are.

Read the rest, to find out just how retarded I am in the next entry....

Square Cafe

Square Cafe


Square Cafe

Square Cafe


Andy Warhol Museum

Andy Warhol Museum


A bridge in Pittsburgh

A bridge in Pittsburgh


A bridge in Pittsburgh

A bridge in Pittsburgh


A bridge in Pittsburgh

A bridge in Pittsburgh


More posters

More posters


Steph and Lee on the shuttle bus

Steph and Lee on the shuttle bus


WTF is wrong with people?

WTF is wrong with people?


And again... at the Pittsburgh airport

And again... at the Pittsburgh airport

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The Strip District and BBT with Ray and Arunan

We woke up quite a bit earlier today and made our way down to Pamela's for breakfast. This is a chain in Pittsburgh, of insane greasy breakfasts.

I ordered what was their specialty. Crepes with fruit and whip cream, covered in brown sugar. It was like, insane sugar overload. The blueberries had a funny texture, they were really granuley and not like blueberries used to taste. I wonder if they were not ripe enough or something... but anyway, total sugar rush for breakfast.

The waitress kept bringing out plate after plate of more and more food. I had no idea where the hell people were putting it, but they kept eating it. I was crazy full with my giant crepe already. Lee chatted the waitress up, who had been working at the establishment for over 20 years.

I was done early, so I went upstairs to a strange Peruvian craft store, and then walked around Shadyside. I gotta say, Shadyside is definitely pretty gross. From what I saw, it was full of chain stores, American Apparels and Banana Republics, more than you could ever ask for.

I quickly became bored and went to take a nap in the back of the bus. This caused some confusion, because Kristin was looking for me for a few minutes. However, I don't think I made anyone wait because Lee was buying some sort of Peruvian blanket.

Next stop was the Frick mansion and the art gallery of the same name. I was pretty interested in this, and I wanted to spend as much time as possible on the grounds of the estate. However, Kevin took it upon himself to argue with the public relations guy about the merits of allowing him to videotape footage while touring the mansion. The PR guy would not give in. It was really embarrassing how pushy Kevin was.

"Well there's no point in me going on the tour then," he said with a huff....

OK, weirdo, let's just go before we run out of time.

Always on these tours, you are constantly rushed. It's not a bad thing for writers, because it gives you a LOT of unique content and you can create lots of different stories if you're writing for a mass audience.

I certainly enjoy the fast pace, and it makes me irritable when someone takes it upon themselves to cut into my very short period of time by greedily trying to get more footage than is really necessary.

Anyway, whatever.

The house was marvelous. Built in the late 19th century, it had a children's playhouse just as big many regular houses are today. There was a stable (which now houses a museum of automobiles), a greenhouse and lots of fancy stuff inside the house.

Most of it was kept as it originally appeared when Henry Clay Frick lived in it back in the day. So he had all the latest trends in convenient living. Electricity, one of the first "paging" systems for his staff, flushing toilets, aluminum on the ceilings, you know.. all that awesome stuff.

Our tour guide was pretty amazing. It wasn't that she was in "period" character, she just really talked like somebody from the early 19th century. You could tell she just lived and breathed this house. I WISH I had a video, just of her. I should have asked her to talk to me outside....

After a tour of the rest of the grounds on our own, and a visit to the art gallery, (which had a really great photography exhibit on an old children's hospital) we were off to the strip district for a kind of walking lunch tour.

Our first stop was Wholey's Fish Market, something that Allison recommended I visit. We had some vegetarian sushi,... go figure, and then some deep fried smelts. If you go, make sure you check out the live fish in the back, it's almost as good as going to a real aquarium... almost.

Next up, Mancini's, a very popular place to buy these things called pepperoni rolls. They are baked fresh in this bakery. It's almost like a pizza, without the sauce, but in the shape of a roll... I thought it was delicious.

We stopped in at Labad's for some hummus, then onto Primanti Bros. to try their famous sandwich with the french fries in it. This time, it was moderately delicious, the coleslaw was a lot more vinagery. I wonder if going to the actual original restaurant made the difference?

Then, we tried a bunch of CRAZY cheese at the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company. There were at least 200 different types of cheese there, and the manager knew everything about every single one.

There were three more stops on our tour and I was already starting to fall asleep after eating all this delicious food.

Kristin was ushering us along quickly now, so we were briskly taken to eat some pumpkin biscotti and taste some homemade wine at Enrico Biscotti.

After that, one more tasting of "mele" at Colangelo's. An amazingly flaky pastry stuffed with almond pudding type stuff. The original mele has custard in it, which contains raw eggs. However raw eggs can't be sold in American restaurants like that.

Phew... so we all just rolled ourselves back onto the bus. Sadly, there was no time for me to purchase a Steelers touque. It had already started getting cold and I only brought a spring jacket, because someone advised me that it was sooooo warm south of the 49th parallel. (Mom!)

I probably would have regretted that touque later on anyway...

We had a couple of hours to go through the Carnegie Museum, which I was pretty excited for. We saw some dinosaurs and Steph and I made a new 5 year old friend while hanging out inside a giant plastic Blue Whale heart. We asked him where his parents were, he simply said, "I don't have any parents."

Oh boy...

So I sort of kept an eye on him until the people who actually were his parents showed up.

So the whale exhibit was good, even if it was a bit smelling of fish. After that, we went to the art part of the museum, which was also good. I especially liked this piece (found at the bottom), where children's books were made to look like a flock of birds taking off into the sky.

We went back to the Duquesne Incline, but this time we actually went up the hill. I didn't understand how the apparatus actually worked, but I took a video of the machine part for my dad, because I'm sure he'll be interested in that.

After learning all about the history of the incline, it was about time for dinner. DINNER!? Just the fact of THINKING about food physically hurt my stomach.

There WAS still room for some pumpkin beer, however. So, I watched everyone chow down... (I don't know HOW) while sipping on my beer and waiting for Ray to show up.

I noticed all of a sudden he was 15 minutes late! Oh no, the place was busy, so I assumed he hadn't seen us all the way at the back. I got up and there he was, just getting in. Good!

He sat down and there magically appeared in front of me a pierogie. I was informed that I couldn't leave Pennsylvania without trying an authentic pierogie, so there I went again, eating some more carbohydrates and saturated fats.

Ray is a funny guy, always bursting into laughter and telling lots of funny stories about his travels over the years. You can find some of them here: http://www.travelpod.com/members/rcys

Everyone else at the table was ready for bed, but I still wanted to go out! Arunan had just gotten there, and he said that the famous "BBT" I was told about was right down the street. PLUS it was drum n bass night. How could I possibly resist?

So we all carpooled there in Arunan's car, and then when we got there, the place was a little sedated. That's too bad. I was the only one dancing, except sometimes Arunan would join me.

Ray was not into it, unfortunately. "Yeah I have not danced to this in like... 10 years"

"I know it's great!" I yelled back. He made a slightly amused face right back at me.

This crazy guy with a huuuuuuuuuge drugged out smile wearing tie dye and everything else to make him look like a typical rave-kid, drug dealer was talking to me and I tried to get him to dance with me. I figured if ANYONE in this place would dance it was this guy. He did, but I think he really was too crazy to concentrate... I dunno.

OK, so we dance dance dance and then a few $1 beers later, we were all pooped and went home.

Pamela's Restaurant, Shadyside

Pamela's Restaurant, Shadyside


Pamela's Restaurant, Shadyside

Pamela's Restaurant, Shadyside


Me vs. whip cream, blueberries and crepe

Me vs. whip cream, blueberries and crepe


Me vs. whip cream, blueberries and crepe

Me vs. whip cream, blueberries and crepe


The Frick greenhouse

The Frick greenhouse


The Frick Museum

The Frick Museum


The Frick Museum

The Frick Museum


St. Patrick's Church, Strip District

St. Patrick's Church, Strip District


Sylvia, our Strip District Tour Guide

Sylvia, our Strip District Tour Guide


Wholey's fish market

Wholey's fish market


The fish at Wholey's

The fish at Wholey's


Me vs. fried smelt at Wholey's

Me vs. fried smelt at Wholey's


Pizza rolls

Pizza rolls


The original Primanti Bros.

The original Primanti Bros.


The cheese counter

The cheese counter


The cheese counter

The cheese counter


The cheese lady

The cheese lady


Me vs. really really good cheese

Me vs. really really good cheese


Biscotti

Biscotti


Biscotti

Biscotti


Me vs. biscotti

Me vs. biscotti


Me vs. almond mele

Me vs. almond mele


Merle going interviewing paleontologists

Merle going interviewing paleontologists


At the Museum of Natural History

At the Museum of Natural History


At the Carnegie Museum of Art

At the Carnegie Museum of Art


Out the window of the Duquesne Incline

Out the window of the Duquesne Incline


The tracks at the Duquesne Incline

The tracks at the Duquesne Incline


The history of the Duquesne Incline

The history of the Duquesne Incline


The gears and stuff, Duquesne Incline

The gears and stuff, Duquesne Incline


The gang in the Duquesne Incline

The gang in the Duquesne Incline


The bar at Fat Head's

The bar at Fat Head's


TravelPod at Fat Head's

TravelPod at Fat Head's


Ray vs. TravelPod water bottle

Ray vs. TravelPod water bottle


Me vs. pierogie

Me vs. pierogie


Drum n Bass DJ at BBT

Drum n Bass DJ at BBT


Arunan and Ray at BBT

Arunan and Ray at BBT


The crowd at BBT

The crowd at BBT

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Tour of Lawrenceville and SUSHI SUSHI SUSHI!

Today was the day for me to go on my incredible tour of Pittsburgh, organized by VisitPittsburgh.

Arunan was nice enough to offer to drive me to the bus stop, which was a short walk away. There was wayyyyyy too much traffic though, so I just walked by myself, gave Arunan a big hug and went on my merry way. Walking faster than traffic.

Before I knew it, I was getting on the big shiny bus to downtown. I met a guy who was commuting to Philadelphia because when US Airways closed their hub in Pittsburgh, he lost his job, but the company found him another one on the other side of the state. That sucks for him.

It was SO easy to get to Shadyside from Arunan's place, which was all the way across town, but it was only one bus transfer. I had to walk through some CRAZY construction, and I got on the wrong bus once, but the bus drivers were all very helpful and they got me to my destination without any hitches.

I checked into my room, tried to get the internet working, but it wouldn't go. So then I used the lobby computer which sucked the big one. TravelPod was launching the redesign today, so I wanted to see it.

While I was doing that, everyone started to show up. Steph Butler from Fodor's, Dave Thompson, Merle Meyerowitz, Kevin and Sue McCarthy, Phyllis Steinberg and Lee Dunlap.

Kevin and Sue were delayed for some reason, so as soon as we got there, we went for lunch at Point Brugge Cafe. After having a delicious shrimp stir fry and a Hop Devil beer, we got back on the bus to Lawrenceville, an up and coming neighbourhood in Pittsburgh, just recently gentrifying into something artsy and brand new.

Our first stop was Dozen, for some melt-in-your-mouth cinnamon buns and vegan cookies. We met the owner and then checked out some of the old architecture and the "doughboy" statue.

You can find these types statues all over the USA, commemorating the deaths of soldiers in WWI. Why is it called a doughboy? There are many explanations... Our tour guide says that it refers to men who wiped their hands free of chalky-white soil on their pants while training in the southwest USA.

Wikipedia says: It arose during the Mexican–American War, after observers noticed U.S. infantry forces were constantly covered with chalky dust from marching through the dry terrain of northern Mexico, giving the men the appearance of unbaked dough.

Next stop, Frankies for some homemade sausages. These ones really tasted homemade, just like my Grandpa used to make.

Then we stopped in a couple of art galleries, where a lady showed us how they make Japanese woodcut printings, with hundreds of colours, each painting requires a separate wood cut for each colour used in the design.

I was reprimanded for taking a photo (of people not of paintings) in this gallery. After that, I didn't take any questionable photos anymore. You'll see why later...

We checked out the Grey Box Theater, a brand new place for people to stage independent performances. Then, a fair trade/organic/environmentally friendly store, a weird retro house decorating store, we had some coffee samples (which were delicious), checked out a renovation type place, where they use jeans to insulate their building, then a Persian rug place, then a few other retro type stylish places before stopping for a drink at Brillobox.

Someone had recommended that I visit this place before I left, so I was happy to go there. It's decorated all in red and vinyl and there is a Hammerhead shark on the wall!

The highlight of the day however, was the sushi at Tamari.

It was soooooooo incredible. I ordered a "Sexy Dragon" but also some quails eggs wrapped in bacon and got to taste the various hors d'ouvres that everyone ordered... including some lobster and a special tuna piece that the chef made just for us. It melted in my mouth. Oh my god amazing. I have never been to Japan, but if I did, I would expect that the sushi would taste just like this there.

When we got back to the hotel, I was really looking forward to another hot jacuzzi. The one in the hotel looked promising, but alas, it was colder than the pool. I asked at the front desk what was going on, they said they didn't know, and that they would fix it tomorrow. Drat!

Me vs. the Pennsylvania Port Authority

Me vs. the Pennsylvania Port Authority


PPG Centre, a magical wonderland!

PPG Centre, a magical wonderland!


Construction!

Construction!


Courtyard Marriott in Shadyside

Courtyard Marriott in Shadyside


Courtyard Marriott in Shadyside

Courtyard Marriott in Shadyside


My view of the parking lot

My view of the parking lot


Giant and wondrous bed

Giant and wondrous bed


The desk, also my temporary office

The desk, also my temporary office


The couch

The couch


The bathroom (very small)

The bathroom (very small)


Me vs. our shuttlebus

Me vs. our shuttlebus


Hop Devil, eastern Pennsylvania brew

Hop Devil, eastern Pennsylvania brew


Brugge Cafe

Brugge Cafe


Dozen a cupcake bakery

Dozen a cupcake bakery


Me vs. cinnamon bun

Me vs. cinnamon bun


The owner of Dozen

The owner of Dozen


Dozen cupcake bakery

Dozen cupcake bakery


The Lawrenceville Doughboy statue

The Lawrenceville Doughboy statue


Posters everywhere by Shepard Fairey

Posters everywhere by Shepard Fairey


Old bank is now an architecture firm

Old bank is now an architecture firm


Amazing architecture

Amazing architecture


Old stable is now an art gallery

Old stable is now an art gallery


Frankies, awesome homemade sausages

Frankies, awesome homemade sausages


Me vs. Frankies Hot Dog

Me vs. Frankies Hot Dog


Our guide, Sherrill (sp?) Sole City Tours

Our guide, Sherrill (sp?) Sole City Tours


Art Gallery, Phyllis is freezing

Art Gallery, Phyllis is freezing


I was reprimanded after taking this photo

I was reprimanded after taking this photo


Owner of Grey Box Theatre

Owner of Grey Box Theatre


Fair trade shop

Fair trade shop


Retro decoration shop

Retro decoration shop


Coffee Shop

Coffee Shop


They use jeans as insulation!

They use jeans as insulation!


Persian rug shop

Persian rug shop


Crazy squirrels

Crazy squirrels


Retro accessory shop

Retro accessory shop


Brillobox!

Brillobox!


The gang at Brillobox

The gang at Brillobox


Me vs. Brillobox beer

Me vs. Brillobox beer


Hammerhead shark at Brillobox

Hammerhead shark at Brillobox


Our sushi chef

Our sushi chef


Me vs. some kind of sushi

Me vs. some kind of sushi


Me vs. quails eggs wrapped in bacon

Me vs. quails eggs wrapped in bacon


Me vs. "Sexy Dragon" sushi

Me vs. "Sexy Dragon" sushi


Our table on the second floor at Tamari

Our table on the second floor at Tamari


Tamari front lounge area

Tamari front lounge area


Tamari in Lawrencville

Tamari in Lawrencville


The pool with freezing jacuzzi

The pool with freezing jacuzzi

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Meeting up with Erwin and Allison

Arunan went to work today really early and then I slept in.

I worked all day and Justin from the Halloween party on Saturday dropped in unexpectedly. Well, it was kind of expected by Arunan told me he liked me when he met me. Frankly, I didn't remember him.

He invited me over to his place later on tonight before heading over to dinner. Justin has a jacuzzi... yeah don't eyeroll me... I know....

We then headed over to the Grand View Saloon. I went there to get a sneak peek of the magnificent view of the city over dinner, and of course, to meet up with Allison and Erwin, who are TravelPod bloggers as well.

It was a shame not everyone could meet up on the same day, at the same time, but that was how the cookie crumbled.

For some reason, I accidentally told Erwin that we would be meeting at 6 p.m., rather than 6:30. So, he was there waiting for us when we got there. Allison, of course, was there at 6:30, the actual time that I told her we would meet.

I ordered a Pittsburgh salad, complete with French fries, steak and cheese... weird but good I guess. I don't understand why they couldn't just serve it all on one plate.

We chatted away, and Erwin and his friend Samantha had to go very soon. Allison and Arunan got on remarkably well, so well, that I teased him mercilessly about it later.

Allison took us to the Duquesne outlook, and then she went home. Justin, Arunan and I went to the Church Brew Works.

This place is awesome. When we got out of the car, Arunan was like, "Oh yeah, this place... it's OK"... and then he opened the door to a completely breathtaking scene! The church has an incredibly high ceiling and people were everywhere enjoying the beer that was fittingly brewed on the altar of the church. Pittsburgh has a "thing" for putting old churches to new use like this.

Arunan didn't seem too into the hot tub party, which was also a shame (!!!) because there I am going alone in a strange boy's house in a hot tub.

Justin's car actually has GroundFX on it, and you can change the colours and patterns on it for 150 different styles of lighting underneath your car. Yep, it sure does.

So anyway, hot tub and nice evening in the backyard at Justin's house. I was too tired to go back to Arunan's place, so I slept over there. (In the guest room people... don't get all gossipy scandalous on me, OK?...)

My temporary office

My temporary office


At the Grandview Saloon

At the Grandview Saloon


Me vs. Pittsburgh salad

Me vs. Pittsburgh salad


Justin, Alison and me at the Duquesne Incline

Justin, Alison and me at the Duquesne Incline


Church Brew Works

Church Brew Works


Church Brew Works

Church Brew Works


Me vs. Church Brew Works Microbrew

Me vs. Church Brew Works Microbrew

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)