My husband and I began our trip to Pittsburgh snuggling in front of an old Bessemer furnace.
Admiring a blast furnace doesn't typically rank on a list of things to do on a romantic getaway. But this old Bessemer sits in the heart of Station Square, a dining and nightlife hot spot near downtown. The furnace has been transformed into an art piece, a backdrop for a dancing fountain that shoots multicolored jets in time to songs by The Beatles and Carlos Santana. We ordered wine on The Grand Concourse's patio and soaked up the evening watching the water, admiring the lights and, yes, gazing at an attractive blast furnace.
It used to be that Pittsburgh conjured images of belching chimneys and smog-choked skies. That Steel City has long since been replaced by a metropolis of trendy wine bars, edgy public art and downtown walks along the banks of three great rivers.
We found a charming piece of old Pittsburgh at the Renaissance Hotel, a landmark structure built to turn heads in 1906. A granite grande dame that overlooks the Allegheny River, the place still drips with elegance, leaving visitors to crane their necks looking at intricate ceiling mosaics, marble and brass balconies and a 30-foot glass dome overarching it all.
Saturday morning found us wandering the Strip District. Its core, a 15-block stretch along Penn Avenue, once Pittsburgh's warehouse district, brims with life on the weekends. We picked up strawberries grown just beyond the steep riverbanks, indulged in biscotti before lunch and then headed for a sandwich at a Pittsburgh classic, Primanti's.
The Primanti Brothers' kitchen assembles sandwiches 24 hours a day, stuffing the fries and coleslaw between the bread alongside the meat and cheese. It's a mess, I'll admit it, but a tasty mess made all the more fun with someone to laugh with.
Later, we walked to Heinz Hall to hear the symphony. Inside a hall adorned with creamy Italian marble and gold leaf, we settled in our red velvet seats, scarcely able to focus on the opening strains of a Beethoven symphony thanks to the distraction of glittering crystal chandeliers overhead.
After, it was back to the Renaissance. We could still see Heinz Hall from our room, and there wasn't a single smokestack to cloud the view.