Guest Blog: Weather, Transportation, and My Overall Impressions of Pittsburgh

A few weeks ago, our Houston friend Alesha came to visit us in Pittsburgh. Here’s the second of two posts she wrote about her trip. (Read part 1 here.)

As a native Houstonian, the whole concept of snow is magical and romantic to me. At home, our snow falls are few and many years between. While it does happen occasionally, snow rarely accumulates, quickly turns into ice, and shuts the city down.

I’m so unfamiliar with life in snow that I can’t hardly imagine places that I’ve seen in the summer converted into a winter wonderland. Case in point: Braden and Janna’s wedding was at Braden’s parents’ home overlooking Lake Michigan this past June. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful evening with clear blue skies and mild temperatures. According to Braden, it was a perfect Pure Michigan day.  In my mind, I know that winter will come and completely transform the landscape. The house will have snow on it, as will the trees and landscaping. But I can’t actually picture what that might look like. I even requested that Braden’s mom, Marlene, send me a picture of their home covered in snow so I could wrap my mind around it.

So being in a place where, less than twelve hours after arriving, I walk out of my Airbnb to a dusting of snow on all of the cars and plants, was nearly enough to make my trip. For the first day or so of my weekend trip, the snow stuck to the plants and cars and made the city so pretty.  While I did have to be more careful with where I stepped, lest I catch an icy patch and fall, it was more than worth any inconvenience that it may have caused me.

Even though the snow didn’t last for the whole weekend, the dreary overcast weather endured. Temperatures hung out in the 30’s and it wasn’t until Sunday morning that we had blue skies and sunshine. Joseph, the very friendly Uber driver that took me to the airport at the end of my trip, let me know that the weather I experienced is pretty typical of a Pittsburgh winter and that it’s not uncommon to go a week at a time without true sunshine.

Overall, Pittsburgh was relatively easy to get around. The Bloomfield neighborhood, in which we were staying, has frequent bus stops and round trip fares are about $3.50. However, the busses didn’t seem to run with the same type of regularity that I got used to when we utilized the subway system in Montreal.  They were often early or late and several times we reverted to Uber (almost a financial break even once you have three people traveling together) to get where we were going.

One significant difference in my trip to Pittsburgh when compared to when we visited Montreal in August was the ability to still have access to and use a personal car. While storing their car has been a bit of an issue in each of the cities Braden and Janna have visited over the last couple months, Pittsburgh seems to be the best situation. There is inexpensive parking close to their Airbnb and reasonably priced parking in several of the neighborhoods that we visited. They’re able to get to their car without a 60 min round trip trek to a far off parking lot and can use it when required. Between the bus, Ubers and their personal car- getting around the city was relatively easy and traffic-free (a rare experience for this Houston girl).

Overall Impressions
I enjoyed my trip to Pittsburgh. Even though the sun only came out for a total of about 5 hours, the weather really wasn’t unmanageable. Like my trip to Montreal, I enjoyed staying in a walkable neighborhood with coffee shops and local restaurants close by.

My initial Uber trip from the airport was in the midst of a wintery mix storm. So I wasn’t able to really get a feel for what the city looked like. However, once the weather cleared I realized that the landscape is very hilly.  Even the Allegheny Cemetery by my Airbnb was full of hills (and Canada Geese). The varied topography gave the city dimension that you just don’t get living on the Gulf Coast. Another overall feeling that I had was that Pittsburgh is old- but not in a bad way. The outside of the buildings have charm and character. Neighborhoods like Bloomfield have been around since the 1800’s and they just have a different feel than most of Houston.

One of the themes and goals of this trip that Braden and Janna are on is to meet up with  people. Whether it’s new people Janna meets while volunteering at a local event, fellow pickle ball enthusiasts Braden meets on the court, or connecting with people they know from their past. This weekend was no different. Braden’s friend from high school, Kate, met up with us for the Pittsburgh Shorts Festival. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her husband while she attends graduate school.

As I sit here on the plane back from Pittsburgh, I’m reflecting on weekend. This trip to Pittsburgh reminded me that I too live in a vibrant, dynamic and interesting city. We have world class museums, theaters, and restaurants. I think we all get caught up in our day to day lives and forget to stop and explore the places we choose to call home. We should all be so lucky to live as tourists in our own city.

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