The Insta-Home Challenge: Pittsburgh, PA

by Mike on September 24, 2013 · 0 comments

Homecoming, sweet homecoming!

I point out the Pittsburgh skyline to Max from our rooftop deck in Mount Washington.

It’s September, and we are now a family of four on tour! It’s pretty perfect that Ang, Max and Eva’s first city back with The Lion King after a summer off would be a place that’s a homecoming for me. My mother’s side of the family is from Pittsburgh, and my father’s side hails from Latrobe and Ligonier, which is one hour east of the Burgh. I grew up visiting this area for holidays a few times a year, and have so many fond childhood memories. This includes playing with my cousins at my Grandma Marge’s home in Bellevue and my Aunt Maureen’s in Ross Township, as well as enjoying the Fort Ligonier Days Festival with my Grandma Edie, and playing Boggle with her in her trailer just down the street from the center of town.

And not only did I spend much of my childhood in Steel City and the surrounding area, but I also studied Musical Theatre for four intensive years at Carnegie Mellon University, making lifelong friends with guys who are truly like brothers to me.

I’m also a lifelong, die-hard Steelers fan. I bleed black and gold.

Needless to say, Pittsburgh is very special to me, and I’m so happy to be able to share it with my family.

As for our housing, Ang (ever the early bird) found us a 2 bed/2.5 bath on VRBO months ago. We’re on the south side of Pittsburgh in a quaint and well-kept neighborhood with plenty of local flavor called Mount Washington, up on a steep hill that overlooks the Pittsburgh city skyline. It’s truly breathtaking — in fact, USA Weekend rated our very view at #2 of the most beautiful vistas in America, ahead of the Na’Pali Coastline in Hawaii and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco! I’m so proud.

Here’s the view literally across the street from our Grandview Avenue pad.

I would say it’s probably the most romantic spot in all of Pittsburgh, as couples of all ages can be seen strolling down Grandview on clear days and nights, taking in the city.

The many overlooks are perfect backdrops for high school couples headed to school dances, as well as for weddings portraits. In fact, a small wedding ceremony was held at our little overlook one weekend, which we could witness from our living room window. From up on the mountain, we can see the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers flow into the Ohio River, and at night about 15 bridges light up the night sky.

We are 1.5 blocks away from the top of the Monongahela Incline, which brings people down to the base of the Smithfield Street Bridge and the Station Square shops. It’s the oldest operational funicular in the United States. I love saying the word “funicular.” This Incline, as well as the Duquesne Incline (1 mile away from us) are the only two surviving out of the original 17 that were built in Pittsburgh at the end of the 1800’s.

From our building we can take in the Pirates post-game fireworks, set off over PNC Park on the weekends.

As for our actual apartment, it’s quite nice! It’s the lower unit of a rowhouse along Grand Avenue.  The upper unit was rented by my colleagues Tony Freeman (Pumbaa/Timon/Zazu/Scar understudy) and Kevin Higley (head sound engineer) with his wife Melissa and toddler Milo. Can you spot Max and I on our little stoop?

The living room is tight. I had to roll the glass coffee table out to make room for Max to play. The decor is very hotel-y, much like our Albuquerque townhouse, but it’s pleasant enough. In the before-and-after photos below, you can see that once Max’s toys are in the space, it feels homier anyway.

(Above, my 14-year-old cousin Natalie plays with Max one night to help out Ang while I was at work.)

The eat-in kitchen is quite spacious. Whenever we first move into a vacation rental, I inspect (with Max’s help) the supply of cooking equipment — do we have appropriate pots, pans, utensils? Spices and cooking oils? If not, we dip into the stash we store in the trunk that the company carries for us. Fortunately, this kitchen was very well-stocked and the property manager even brought us a brand-new 10-piece cookware set during the first week because the Higleys upstairs requested a new set for their unit, and the owners threw one in for us.

Beyond the kitchen leading into the back laundry area is a hallway with a simple desk area, and the door to the powder room. Ang unloaded all our work files and bills, hoping to tackle some organizational tasks. She says it’s as unpalatable as it looks.

The two bedrooms are located one level down, in what’s essentially the basement. There’s very little light, but we don’t mind, since it’s primarily for sleeping. Both rooms are pretty cozy. Best of all, it’s super quiet down here. Below is where Ang and I (and Eva in a portable crib) sleep. Thanks Max for testing the bed out!

How many three-year-olds do you know sleep in a queen bed? Max gets his own room, and we got inflatable bed rails for him so he doesn’t hit the ground.

We are happy that we’ve got two full bathrooms downstairs. One can be dedicated solely to Max’s baths, and the other to our showers. It cuts down on the scrubbing that has to be done before each of Max’s baths if we were to share.

Hero occasionally comes by to play with Max and help Ang out with bath and bedtime while I’m at work.

Lastly, a spiral staircase outside leads us to a rooftop that we share with Tony and the Higleys, that offers an even more expansive view of the city. Below, Max and I take in an afternoon up there.

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