Breakfast at Bakn

The Pittsburgh neighborhood of Carnegie boasts the cutest local restaurant called Bakn.

Their logo is a little carton pig. It’s used in the wall art, menu and all through the restaurant. Nichola laughed as we discussed what an unorthodox choice this place was for a plant based eater. While they don’t have much on the menu for a vegan eater, there were a few vegetarian choices. This worked great because I’m not super strict, especially when I travel.

I was perfectly happy with my hot cakes, a real treat that I like to indulge in while traveling.

They are Food Network endorsed with good reason. My breakfast was tasty and there was plenty of it. even the menu is fun to read here.

In the neighborhood? Hungry? Just enjoy dreaming over a good restaurant menu? Here you go!

Tomorrow we leave Pittsburgh and move on to other topics. Hope to see you back then!

Life In Miniature: Railroad and Village at Carnegie Science Center

Model train 2

My Pittsburgh pal Nichola knows her city inside and out. She also knows my tastes and put together a fabulous weekend of surprises at every turn – none more delightful than the Miniature Railroad and Village at the Carnegie Science Center.

This exhibit portrays the Pittsburgh area through the years from the 1880s through the 1930s. There are horse drawn vehicles, automobiles, airplanes and trains. There are thousands of fans in the stands at Forbes Field, thousands of trees, countless houses and buildings and even an amusement park complete with animated rides. In fact, the animations here are unbelievable.

The above picture shows their depiction of Frank Lloyd Wright’s landmark Falling Water. The photo below shows some of the biplanes found at a miniature airfield. The light in this picture is a little odd because the lighting in the room changes every few minutes, simulating sunrise to sunset to nightime and back to daylight allowing visitors to appreciate the stunning details in the daylight but also the magnificent glow of the night lighting as well.

model train planes

I loved the scene depicted below. It shows downtown Pittsburgh, the Monongahela Incline, some of the city’s famed bridges and numerous landmarks important to the city’s story.

model train

Incidentally, all of this started as a holiday display in the home of a Brookville, PA man named Charles Bowdish. That was in 1919. The display has moved a couple of times since then but the public is lucky that it has been at the Carnegie since 1992.

If you find yourself in Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Science Center is a really special place to pass some time. Earlier this week I told you about a Cold War era submarine that is docked here but the museum also has gemstones, robots and countless other fascinating things to look at besides this model railroad and village.

Want to learn more? Click here to read about the model railroad and explore their site further for more great information including how your kids can have a hands-on experience to learn while having fun! 





Pamela’s Diner

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you are aware that I appreciate a good diner. And when I say a good diner, I don’t mean a place that’s shiny and pretty with a menu of locally sourced organic vegetables.

When I say good diner, I’m talking about the kind of place with a counter, a lunch special and waitresses who know how their regulars like their burgers. I’m talking about the kind of place where retirees gather to swap stories over pancakes and where teenagers can grab a quick bite on their way home from school.

With that said, you’re sometimes able to find that magical intersection of polished atmosphere and local hangout with great food. The folks in Pittsburgh are fortunate to have six diners that fit this description. They’re part of a chain called Pamela’s that’s been serving up breakfast since 1980. Each location has it’s own theme and menu so it doesn’t feel at all like a chain and, as I’m typing this, I’m dying to go try another location. But I digress.

My friend Nichola took me to the Mt. Lebanon location during our marathon weekend last fall.

We tried the Hotcakes, Lyonnaise Potatoes and Gail’s Favorite Eggs which are lightly scrambled with cream cheese and scallions. Holy cow – it was good. Yeah – I’ll never make it as a food critic. “Holy cow, it was good” is probably the best I can do. It all was simply delicious and there was a lot of it.

But just as important as the fabulous food is the fabulous atmosphere. I’m not even going to try to describe it. Just have a look here.


Like I said, each location has a different theme. There’s one near the Strip I’d like to visit for its fifties diner motif.

Want to drool over the menus or maybe plan a visit your next time in Pittsburgh? Check out their website! A couple of things to remember though – they only do breakfast and lunch AND they are a cash only operation. Hit the ATM before you go!

Visiting The Phipps

phipps 5.JPGLast fall, my friend Nichola hosted me for a long weekend in her adopted hometown – Pittsburgh. We spent an action packed weekend visiting all of her favorite Pittsburgh spots and I had an amazing time learning about the city from a local.

I didn’t write much about it at the time because I wanted to revisit the memories during the cold, dark days of winter.

It’s cold and dark so I think it’s a great time to start doing that with a visit to the Phipps.

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is Nichola’s happy place and I can see why. It encompasses fifteen acres and features a large glass house with fourteen distinct rooms. It feels like an oasis in the middle of the city. In fact, you wouldn’t know you’re in the city at all.

In addition to acres of gorgeous flowers, including impressive collections of orchids and desert plants, the Phipps boasts a spectacular collection of glass art and historic art. You’ll find several pieces by renowned glass artists Dale Chihuly and Hans Godo Fräbel,

Rather than blather more about it, I’m just going to show you some pictures.

If you like flowers and plants or if you crave a place of solitude, I suggest you make time to visit the Phipps. It’s an amazing space and feels like a vacation without ever leaving town.


Moments Like This

walking around b (6)

Once in a while, life presents moments so extraordinary they feel magical. I had one of those moments last fall while visiting my friend Nichola in Pittsburgh. It was inside this church, Saint Mary of the Mount, that we encountered a man singing “Danny Boy.” The church was empty save for me, Nichola and the lone singer.

Part of me felt like we were intruding. Part of me wished to pull up a seat and listen longer.  All of me hopes that I never forget this moment as long as I live.

Flight 93 Memorial


Earlier this week I told you that we’d talk about my recent visit to the Flight 93 Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Truth is, I’ve been putting off telling this story.

I visited the crash site not long after September 11th. At the time, it was just a makeshift memorial –  a chainlink fenced covered in tributes and a guard shack turned temporary visitors’ center that was manned by a volunteer. The day I visited, the elderly man who greeted us was a farmer who saw the plane go over his barn just before it crashed.

Since I was going to be in the area this month, road tripping with a good friend, it made sense to stop by and pay our respects.

This memorial is very well done. You can tell that the loved ones of the forty people aboard that plane have been involved every step of the way. You actually follow the flight path to reach the concrete and glass visitors’ center. It sits on a hill overlooking the crash site as well as a white marble Wall of Names.

It’s a sobering experience.

IMG_5315They have done a nice job telling the story of this tragedy and its place in the history of that day. They don’t romanticize anything. They don’t exaggerate. They don’t commercialize. There’s no need. They just tell the story using photos, videos and memorabilia. The last piece is a wall of names that includes all September 11th victims.

There are phones where you can hear last calls placed to loved ones.We both chose to skip that. It sounded a little more intense than either of us were prepared for that day.

You can drive to the Wall of Names but you can also walk a winding, tree-lined path. That’s the route we chose and I was glad. It was peaceful, serene and beautiful. When those young trees mature, the grounds will be absolutely gorgeous.

The newest addition to the memorial is the Tower of Voices, a 93 foot tall tower with a chime that represents each of the forty people aboard that plane. It isn’t quite done but it will be a complicated system of chimes that I’m certain will sound beautiful someday.

There were a lot of people there that day but everyone was respectful and quiet. Somber. I appreciated that. The actual crash site is sacred ground and inaccessible to the public.

I’ve been to the site twice – both spring and fall – and it was windy and cool both times. If you go, I recommend dressing in layers and allow yourself at least an hour to do everything, longer if you wish to walk the path rather than drive.

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