Pittsburgh: Wednesday 25 March 2015

27 03 2015

I didn’t do much today, except relaxing and catching up with Char, wandering out to a local Rite Aid, having a light lunch (small soup and 1/2 sandwich) at Au Bon Pain at a downtown food court, and publishing some of my long-overdue blog posts and some photos! This evening there was a welcome reception for the freelance conference attendees upstairs at the Sharp Edge Bistro on Penn Ave, about 10 easy blocks from the hotel. We met a few people there. Everyone seems nice and welcoming, and Pittsburgh locals are equally nice and welcoming. Tomorrow the conference starts. I won’t post conference notes here — instead you can find them on my business website (http://cybertext.wordpress.com), though I may not add them for a few days. My flights back home to Australia begin again on Sunday, and this, I think my 23rd trip to the US, will be over.

Miami to Pittsburgh: Tuesday 24 March 2015

27 03 2015

My flight out of Miami was delayed 2.5 hours. I spent the time in the Admirals Club at MIA, arriving in Pittsburgh much later than expected. It’s about 45-minute cab ride to hotel downtown, and near the end you go through a tunnel that opens out to show the expanse of downtown Pittsburgh. A ‘wow!’ moment.

I met up with my great friend Char again – my room buddy for this conference, as she has been for many prior conferences. It was great to see her again (after three years). She’s looking terrific (she had a kidney transplant last June and this is her first foray back into travelling and conferences).

We went out to dinner with Alan and Nicky (two people we both know from past STC and WritersUA conferences) to a great downtown restaurant called ‘Meat and Potatoes’. Terrific food! Great company, lots of laughs.

34 oz rib eye steak (we did NOT have this dish -- I took the photo at another group's table)

34 oz rib eye steak (we did NOT have this dish — I took the photo at another group’s table)

'Pub' burger at Meat and Potatoes

‘Pub’ burger at Meat and Potatoes

After dinner they took us up to the top of Mt Washington (via the Duquesne Incline – an old funicular railway that I was glad I didn’t see in the daytime as it was very steep). The view from the top of Pittsburgh at night was just spectacular. Thanks Alan and Nicky!

Pittsburgh at night from Mt Washington. The red lights light the Duquesne Incline

Pittsburgh at night from Mt Washington. The red lights light the Duquesne Incline


Miami: Monday 23 March 2015

27 03 2015

We were up early this morning (as we have been every morning… even when we didn’t have to be) and on the road to the place where we were meeting the River of Grass representative for our Everglades airboat tour. Their advice was to do an earlier tour before the animals hide away from the airboats and/or it gets too hot for them to be out.

Bob was our very knowledgeable and competent driver who showed us some fantastic sights in the 90 exhilarating minutes we were on the airboat. We saw HEAPS of alligators and birds, and lots of various vegetation.

Wall to wall alligators

Wall to wall alligators

"Hello, breakfast!"

“Hello, breakfast!”This tour and the kayaking in the mangroves in Key West were the best nature-based highlights of this trip, and I would highly recommend both.

After the airboat tour, we drove further down Highway 41 to the Miccosukee Indian lands. We had a nice lunch at their restaurant (Indian tacos for me, and we split a Florida Orange Sunshine Cake), then wandered around in their gift shop where I saw some of their patchwork designs. The Miccosukee are part of the Seminole nation, thus many of their patchwork designs are what I would call ‘Seminole’ patterns.


This evening we caught a cab to South Beach (which was much further than it looked on the map!), meeting the organiser (Marie, originally from Denmark) and the six others on the South Beach Culinary Tour.

Our first stop was Bolivar (on Washington Ave) to sample some Colombian cuisine (empanadas and a fish ceviche of some sort; the two vegetarians had suitable versions of these). By the way, Bolivar also does a very nice mojito!


Next was Manolo, where we tasted Argentine-style churros filled with a caramel made from condensed milk. Yummy!


At Larios on the Beach (Emilio Estevan’s restaurant on Ocean Drive), we were all taken with the clean and crisp interior design. There we were served a Cuban dish (can’t remember what it was called, but it translates as ‘old clothes’) of a slow-cooked beef mixture, with fried plantain strips. NOTE: All the dishes served were fairly small – the aim was to get a taste of the various cuisines available in South Beach.


After looking at some different architectural styles along Ocean Drive, our next stop was The Tides, a classic Art Deco building that is now a luxury hotel. There we had a lovely delicate Moroccan-style chicken curry dish on a bed of Israeli couscous.


Next we turned away a little from the beachfront (we never did see the actual beach!), and stopped at Blocks Pizza Deli to sample one of their vegetarian pocket pizzas (sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, VERY salty feta, basil, etc.) made with their own sourdough crust. The crust was delicious as would the pocket pizza have been had the feta not been so salty.


Our last stop was Milani Gelateria, where we had Italian gelato. I had the vanilla and it was lovely. My only concern was that the server did not wear food handling gloves or something over his hair as he reached in and scooped the gelato.


Overall, I think this walking tour gave us a good taste of the various cuisines in South Beach, which is what it intended to do. As an Australian, almost all these cuisines were unfamiliar to me, so I got quite a bit out of it, as well as some delicious-tasting food! The company—Miami Culinary Tours—has several tours, including one for Little Havana, which would also be interesting.