Friday, August 14, 2009

Pittsburgh!

Early on Friday afternoon Craig's whole family packed up and headed to Pittsburgh--all 11 of us. The plan revolved around baseball, the zoo, and a couple other activities. The car ride there was a tough one. Jacob slept for a little while, but not nearly long enough for the 3-1/2 hour drive. I sat in the back the whole way to try to keep him entertained, but even that wasn't enough. He was pretty miserable for at least the last hour of the drive. When we got there, we had quite the walk to the hotel from the parking ramp, and with all of Jacob's stuff, it was quite the task. Babies involve so much stuff!

Once we checked in (beautiful hotel, by the way--great beds, interesting bathroom with a pocket door and bowl sink), the three men and our nephew Walt headed out to the Pirates-Cardinals game. The women, our niece Maddy and the three young boys all headed out to Macy's to do a little shopping, then dinner and finally a stop at a park near the hotel. Macy's was cool because it was a really big store. We didn't have the time (or enough patience from the boys) to explore much, but it was definitely a throwback to the days when major department stores had huge downtown locations. We shopped until all three boys had melted down at one point or another and conceded defeat. We stopped to eat dinner at Moe's (yum!) on the way back (mostly because it was the the quickest and safest option to avoid potential problems with our nephew Grant's allergies). The coolest thing about it was that there was an outdoor patio, and across the way was a Primanti Brothers location. You may have seen Primanti Brothers on the Food Network, famous for their gigantic sandwich that includes a handful of french fries--on the sandwich!

After dinner we headed back past the hotel and onward to Point State Park. It is located right at the convergence of the three rivers in Pittsburgh. The park is on the site of a couple forts that date back to the French-Indian War, and it has a famous fountain that I had previously only seen from above, when I'd taken a ride on the incline railway. In fact, the last time I saw it was the trip I took to Pittsburgh right before I found out I was pregnant. Of course, usually the fountain has a gigantic stream of water shooting from it, and for some reason it was off when we were there. I actually feel lucky we saw what we did (see picture below) because later in the weekend it was off completely. Anyway, the kids ran around the fountain area quite a bit. We saw a guy doing wheelies on the edge of the fountain, checked out the river, and looked upstream at PNC Park, where the guys were watching the baseball game. It doesn't look very nice in the picture, but it really was a nice evening!

The next morning we got up and saw a beautiful day out the window:



Off to the right you can see the fountain, and off in the distance where you see the big buildings on the top of the hill is where the incline railway is (one of them, anyway). The design you see in the grass leading up to the fountain is an outline of one of the forts that used to be there. The plan for Saturday was the zoo, hopefully a stop at the Heinz Museum, and then a boat ride. In the end we only got to the zoo. We got a late start due to a minor medical issue, and once we did the zoo and grabbed some dinner, it was too late for the boat ride. The museum would have been a long shot either way, I think. I told Craig that it was good motivation to go back there someday...we still have things to see! Not to mention that Craig and I have a friend who works for the Penguins and we'd like to check out their arena someday. Anyway, the zoo was pretty cool. It was a good size and was really nestled into nature. Lots of hills, trees, etc. Some of the exhibits weren't the most stroller-friendly, particularly on such a busy day, but a lot of zoos aren't, ironically! It was pretty hot that day so the animals were a bit on the lazy side, but we still saw plenty. There were lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes, zebras, and a whole host of monkeys. I think the best part of the whole zoo was the PPG Aquarium. It was pretty impressive, even if their crawl-through stingray exhibit was under renovation. Arg. Here's Craig and Jacob in front of the cool fish tank/waterfall/fountain in front of it. Notice the otters...



Oh, and Jacob loved shaking that cup when there was ice in it. Kept him smiling...and that's all that's important! We saw penguins, jellyfish, creepy seahorse-type creatures that looked like seaweed, and a giant two-story aquarium. The aquarium had a giant atrium with another waterfall like the one out front. It was really pretty. I wish everything didn't have to be behind glass, because it makes picture taking difficult! After the aquarium we saw polar bears, sea otters, and a giant walk-through shark tank. About that time we were ready to head out. As you can see, Jacob was spent!



He's holding his souvenir from the aquarium, an otter. We've since figured out that he thinks the otter is a dog, because he's usually doing his little bark when he's holding it. Oh well...so, we have an otter named "Doggie" now...we'll clear it up with Jacob in another year or so :)

After the zoo we headed out to dinner at Joe's Crab Shack at Station Square, an entertainment area across the river from downtown. I ate there on my last trip to Pittsburgh, when I had my one accidental alcoholic beverage before I knew I was pregnant. Oops. We originally had planned on stopping back at the hotel before dinner, but due to time constraints we didn't. So, we had to find something for Jacob to eat there. I settled on the kids' meal of mac & cheese and applesauce. And seriously, I have never seen Jacob eat that well. Granted, I was feeding him the whole time, but he ate a huge portion of the mac & cheese and more than half of the applesauce cup. He probably would have eaten more, but I was afraid he'd get sick since he's not used to that much food, let alone something that rich. It was awesome, though. After dinner we headed out to the courtyard outside the restaurant, which has a fountain that performs to music, ala the Bellagio fountains in Vegas, only way smaller. The kids had a great time playing in the puddles created by the spray, though Jacob wasn't so sure...



By the time we got back to the hotel, it was getting late but we could tell that that night's Pirates game was almost over. There were supposed to be postgame fireworks, so we decided to push back bedtime a bit and walk across the street from the parking ramp to an area that overlooks the river and ballpark. We waited an eternity, and then they ended up doing the postgame concert before the fireworks! Ugh. However, they did blow off a few after one of the songs. Jacob was sitting in his stroller and Craig said he felt Jacob jump! But it was short-lived and Jacob's first real fireworks display will have wait, yet again.

On Sunday we were off to the ballpark. It was a beautiful, sunny day, but HOT. We were quite concerned about sitting in the sun all day, but fortunately it turned out that our seats were JUST in the shade. Still, even in the shade we just sat there in a pool of our own sweat...so you can imagine how it felt to hold Jacob through all that! He was pretty fidgety and despite his obsession with balls (and lately, an interest in baseball on TV), he just couldn't wrap his head around what was going on. Consequently, we spent a lot of time wandering around the stadium. The highlight was the pierogy race, where four people dressed as various pierogies (Oliver Onion, Cheese Chester, Jalapeno Hannah, and Sauerkraut Saul...and once upon a time, Potato Pete) run around the outfield track. It's really funny. The first time we were there we bought a beanie Sauerkraut Saul magnet for our fridge. Jacob loves it. When Craig was there last year, he brought back a non-magnet beanie Potato Pete, which Jacob also enjoyed, and this time we added Oliver Onion to our collection. They're cute and perfect for a Polish kid ;-) We spent a lot of time in the (air conditioned) team store, and Jacob had plenty of fodder for his ball obsession. We took this picture in the team store near this gigantic baseball, which of course Jacob liked!


It was a long, hot day and it was a bit of a relief to get back in the car to start heading home. The five hour trip was daunting, but we had to do it! We stopped about 45 minutes in for dinner, then again an hour and a half later for a bathroom break. At that point I got Jacob into his PJs in hopes he'd go to sleep. Sure enough, he did. He slept for a good two hours or so, right through the loud pelting of rain on the car. We hit those crazy thunderstorms that flooded out the southtowns, with more lightning than I think I've ever seen. Craig did fantastic driving, considering the weather, the exhausting weekend, and the distance. Jacob woke up somewhere around Batavia and was miserable for the rest of the trip. Once we were home I fed him to get him relaxed again, and he slept fine. We were really happy to be home, even though we had a great time and would have loved to stay longer and check out more of the sights.

The trip was definitely an experience. I'll hopefully take some time to post some of my thoughts on traveling with a one year old sometime soon. But at least now you're finally caught up on the trip!

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