The Grand Concourse

Preparing an omelette for last night’s dinner summoned a memory of brunch with my Pittsburgh pal last year. She understands that I often select restaurants based on atmosphere rather than the promise of a good meal. Luckily, Pittsburgh’s Grand Concourse lives at the happy intersection of amazing atmosphere and delicious food.

This Pittsburgh landmark is located in a 1901 railroad station built by the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad. Friends, this is now one of my favorite restaurants anywhere.

The 80,000 square foot building was brilliantly transformed into a restaurant in 1978. The stained glass vaulted ceilings are magnificent. Marble columns look substantial. A grand staircase is, well, grand.

Even the hallways and restrooms are lovely with mosaic tile floors and exquisite woodwork. It’s no wonder this building, with its Victorian and Edwardian styles, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

We sat in a space that I believe is an enclosed porch, giving a terrific view of the outside world. There was some kind of fitness expo happening in town that weekend so we saw plenty of fit people walk by and even engage in some kind of bizarre bridal shoot for an extremely sculpted couple.

Meanwhile, I thoroughly enjoyed my brunch buffet and had a selection of small desserts. Fitness modeling is not in my future.

They have lunch and dinner menus, offer takeout, and host Sunday buffets as well as special buffets for holidays like Easter and Mother’s Day. Reservations are recommended even for a regular day. The prices are higher than a lot of restaurants near me but the food is better quality than your typical sit down restaurant and I was pleased with the value.

We saw people in all manner of attire but it feels like such a special place I was glad we dressed up a bit. I hated to look like too much of a hillbilly tourist in such a nice place so I made just a few photos. Besides, pictures really don’t do this building justice.

There’s something about this place, about the light and air and that makes it feel different. It feels timeless yet old, fancy but comfortable.

It’s a study in contradictions.

At one point, I found a settee near the buffet and simply sat down to absorb my surroundings. The late morning sun illuminated the stained glass and the air was filled with the murmur of conversation and clink of silverware. Servers scurried by with purpose while guests wandered about, making impossible choices from the buffet.

I swore if I turned quickly enough I might glimpse a Victorian couple or a traveling salesman with a trunk full of samples in tow.

This was a delightful experience and one that I would repeat if given the opportunity. Want to learn more and perhaps admire the menu? Click here to visit their website.

St. Joseph Church

Everyone should have friends who are willing to derail their plans to slam on the brakes whenever you gasp the words “look at that!”

My Pittsburgh pal is a champ in this category. When we spotted this Catholic church atop a hill in a tiny western Pennsylvania village, she didn’t hesitate to look for the entrance.

The door was open so we were able to let ourselves in. My friend prayed while I admired the quiet and the light of this beautiful sanctuary.

It really is gorgeous.

It was built in 1893 and, while it feels historic, it also feels fresh and well cared for.

The stained glass is magnificent.

The cemetery contains numerous old graves with interesting, finely crafted headstones.

Lovely, eh?

Just before we left, we met a woman who is a longtime congregant. We had a quick chat with her and she confirmed that the church has an active congregation and she seemed positively thrilled that we showed an interest.

It made my heart happy to think there are still people out there so devoted to their church and faith and that they would make strangers feel so welcome.

The View From Down Here

We exited Grand Central Station and started down the street when I turned and looked back. I have a habit of turning to look behind me for a variety of reasons.

One is a bit of paranoia, simply wanting to know what’s happening around me. It’s also a hiking habit. It’s always good to know what the trail looks like from the other direction in case you need to turn back. This habit also comes in handy when exploring new places because the coolest view is often behind you.

This was the view when I turned around at that moment – the building on the left is Grand Central. The tall one is the glorious Art Deco wonder called the Chrysler Building. Completed in 1930, it was briefly the tallest building in the world at 1,046 feet.

This early skyscraper is easy to pick out in the New York skyline. I have never been inside but hope to visit their new observation deck someday. It’s under construction but I’m hopeful for the future.

Have you been inside? Tell me what it’s like!

Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Station is one of those New York landmarks that everyone should experience at least once.

Built between 1903 and 1913, it’s a National Historic Landmark located in midtown Manhattan. We have Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to thank for that landmark status as she was influential in the declaration and in saving this incredible building from the wrecking ball in the seventies.

You’ve likely seen it featured on tv shows and movies.

Grand Central covers 48 acres with platforms that serve 43 tracks for passenger train service. There are also a variety of stores, restaurants and event spaces.

Step inside the main concourse and you’ll find a sea of humanity zig zagging every which way. In fact, a staggering 250,000 people commute through this station every single day.

There’s an iconic information booth in the center with a four sided brass clock that I completely forgot to photograph up close.

This space is cavernous and seems even more so when you look up at the fabulous ceiling which features a highly stylized star map.

The experience was even more special this time because it was all decked out for the holiday!

It’s a sight to behold even if you just want to step inside for a minute and look around. We were there to visit Summit One, an observation tower attached to Grand Central. We also had a quick breakfast here and shopped a pop up Christmas market. Stay tuned for more on our trip through Summit.

Here’s one more picture – one of many soldiers we saw.

It was a gentle reminder that not everyone makes it home for the holidays and to be grateful for those who serve our nation.

Randolph County Courthouse

This is the Randolph County Courthouse in Elkins, West Virginia. That tower is 150 feet high and is an impressive sight to behold.

Here’s another view.

This building and an adjacent county jail were built between 1902 and 1904. It is a prominent anchor in the town and one of my favorite courthouses that I’ve seen in person. It’s also just down the street from that gorgeous church I told you about yesterday. Click here if you missed it!


Of all the places we visited in Colorado this summer, Durango is the one I truly hated to leave.

The climate was pleasant and the town is the rare combination of charming AND prepared for guests. There’s a ton of opportunity to get outside and plenty of places to be entertained and engaged.

This southwest Colorado town was founded in 1880. It has a rich railroad history and is near Mesa Verde National Park which I enjoyed immensely (aside from the snake).

The Animas River cuts through town and there’s a River Walk that gives you a beautiful place to view the water while getting some exercise.

The historic downtown district has a host of restaurants and cute shops including some great used bookstores. We had a few delicious meals here too.

My friend was especially thrilled to find that the local humane society runs a thrift store. It was a nice one too, arranged more like a boutique than a traditional thrift store which always seem a little too messy.

This area is blessed with charm, beauty and so much opportunity for exploration I regretted not scheduling more time to enjoy it.

I’m already plotting a return trip next year. This time, I’ll be with two friends and I’m hoping to find a good Airbnb in Durango to use as home base while we adventure.

Isn’t it wonderful having a place to look forward to exploring?