My hometown, the city that I love, combined with one of the most interesting places in the world, the City of Lights, AND I'M TALKING ABOUT FOOD HERE, PEOPLE. Pittsburgh has an up-and-coming food scene, and some of the best treats in town have a sweet Parisian flair.
Check out my top choices for finding a little bit of Paris in Pittsburgh:
Paris 66 - In the heart of the East End, Paris 66 offers "Everyday French Cuisine" that has won countless awards and high praises from even the toughest critics. The cozy atmosphere is complete with accents that really do make you feel like you're in Paris. My favorite was a faux metro sign affixed to the wall above our table. It transported me back to memories of looking at those real metro signs when I was in Paris a few years ago, perplexed at their complexity and reminiscent of the sights and sounds of Paris.
When my fiancé and I recently dined at Paris 66, we selected the Bouchées a la Reine (pictured right) as an hors d'oeuvre, which was gone in a matter of seconds. The chicken was tender and there was just the right amount of bechamel sauce to cover the pastry and soak into the chicken. For dinner I chose the La Bordelaise crepe (pictured left), which I didn't love but didn't hate. If you've never tried bordelaise sauce, this would be your chance! My fiancé selected the Crevettes Provençales - you could say I had a few bites, too. In the back of the restaurant, there is a patio area with whimsical lights hanging casually above guests as they enjoy dinner and/or dessert. Paris 66 provides the perfect atmosphere and menu to make you feel right at home - especially if your home is Paris, France.
Gaby et Jules - The second brainchild of Fred and Lori Rongier to Paris 66 is Gaby et Jules, a patisserie nestled on the bustling Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill. At Gaby et Jules, chef David Piquard creates the most delicious macarons in every flavor you could imagine. While I completed an internship in Squirrel Hill a few years ago I slowly watched Gaby et Jules develop. Now the shiny red exterior can be seen from either end of the street, and the patisserie has expanded to a downtown Pittsburgh location in Market Square. And, Gaby et Jules is more than just my favorite destination for my macaron fix - a variety of breads, pastries, and other treats are also available.
Gaby et Jules is certainly worth a stop if you're passing through Squirrel Hill or downtown, especially if you're just visiting. A box of macarons could also be the perfect gift for a holiday, birthday, or housewarming gift. A large box is $26 and a small box is $13. Individual macarons typically cost $3 each. I can tell you that they are worth every penny!
Cafe Moulin - Above all, I would have to say that my favorite piece of Paris in Pittsburgh is Cafe Moulin, located in Pittsburgh's Shadyside neighborhood. Cafe Moulin is more of a best-kept secret among the larger Pittsburgh crowd, but those who know it can't get enough of it. Situated off of the main Walnut Street, a small set of stairs will lead you down to the cafe, which is small but cozy and the staff are always extremely friendly and accommodating.
Cafe Moulin's specialty is crepes - both savory and sweet. My favorite savory crepe is the Bristol with the avocado on the side, and my favorite sweet crepe is a toss up. Anything with fruit and nutella is a win-win in my book. You know what I'm saying. Another one of my favorite things about Cafe Moulin is the chai tea latte. I'm a huge fan of chai tea, and I like to try a cup at every cafe that I visit. The chai at Cafe Moulin tastes authentic, unique, and full, not diluted or generic. They offer a variety of other beverages as well, including sparkling sodas and Turkish tea.
Though nothing will compare to the one and only capital of France, Pittsburgh packs a punch when it comes to food with Parisian influences. There is a substantial French community in Pittsburgh as well. The Pittsburgh Francophone Centre provides an opportunity for French citizens living in the city of bridges to connect and celebrate their nationality. Writer Brian O'Neill has referred to Pittsburgh as "The Paris of Appalachia." No matter the connection, I frequently enjoy getting a little taste of Paris while in Pittsburgh. If you're a resident of the area or just passing through, I encourage you to do the same.
Imagine stepping back into time. Picture the sweet, bustling main street that you can see from end to end, the friendly neighbor who knows your name and gives you a wave or head nod with each passing, and the kind of summers that just drift by because you don't have a care in the world. That's kind of what you'll find if you visit Geneva-on-the-Lake.
Situated along the Lake Erie, Geneva-on-the-Lake boasts itself as being "Ohio's First Summer Resort!" I had the chance to visit Geneva-on-the-Lake with my fiancé and his family over Labor Day weekend, a time when families try to squeeze in that last trip before the weather changes, and one of those last weekends spent in paradise by those who rent homes in the town or along the lake each summer.
Just inside the East entrance to Geneva-on-the-Lake, Indian Creek RV Resort is just that - a campground fully equipped with multiple pools, a tennis court, laundry facilities, multiple bathroom buildings, a general store, mini golf, restaurant, and more. A pop-up camper was more than modest compared to the luxury RVs and outfitted permanent sites.
So what did we do at the lake? We fished, of course. A 1-day fishing license cost $11 and we were fully stocked with every type of rod, line, bait, and tool you could want or need. After becoming licensed to fish, we made our way through the marina and kind of worked our way through a less-than-perfect path in the trees to find a quiet spot on the beach. The sand was full of rocks and shells, but the water was perfect. We made our way into the water and cast our lines. No one caught anything (except for my fiancé who caught a tiny little guy), but the experience was fun and relaxing.
When it came to the town itself, cute, quaint shops could be found on either side of the main street, nestled amongst bars and restaurants, donut shops, walk-up food vendors, and arcades – a lot of arcades. We wandered the street in the evenings, taking in every bit of nostalgia and charm. The only “major” food chain I could find was a vintage Dairy Queen. Summer was ending but every shop owner was gearing up for Thunder On The Strip, the annual bike rally to be held in a few weeks – one of their biggest events of the year.
Another attraction at Geneva-on-the-Lake is the wineries. We chose to visit Old Firehouse Winery right in the heart of Geneva. The signage display and large red truck are inviting, leading you back from the main street and closer to the lake (which you can get a unique view of by riding the ferris wheel, made in 1956 and still fully-functional). The outside deck spans for much larger than the winery appears to be, offering a variety of seating options in a seat-yourself style. A band played and we decided to try the wine samplers – one sweet and one dry – while snacking on some very tasty appetizers.
While walking around the main strip late at night, after the daytime activities have ended and as many of the shop owners close up after another long summer day, there is a sense of calm and preservation that takes place. Neon lights go out. Arcades pull shut their heavy wooden doors. Busy water slides become silent, eerie places (no pun intended). You might feel like you stepped back in time into an abandoned town. But there’s beauty in the fact that all of those things come back to life the very next day.
Overall my experience at Geneva-on-the-Lake was not a new one – I had been there before many years ago with my family, but it’s truly all a blur. I vaguely remember a main street and a restaurant, but that’s about it. That being said, I’m confident not much has changed, and there’s that beauty and that nostalgia that makes it such a special place.
For a list of the countless other things to do at Geneva-on-the-Lake, check out www.visitgenevaonthelake.com
wan / der / lust - (n) a strong desire to travel.
Through all the ups and downs of life, I've always known one thing - I have a bad case of wanderlust. I have a strong desire to travel and explore this world and make connections with as many people as I can who live in it.
And I've been pretty lucky. In high school I traveled abroad for the first time and visited Spain with a few other students and teachers. We spent about 10 days exploring Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Barcelona, and Cadaques. By the time I was a freshman in college I had also visited several different states in the U.S. and islands in the Caribbean. While in college at Robert Morris University I traveled to San Francisco for the PRSSA national conference, Nicaragua for a mission/research trip, and I studied abroad for a month in Europe with Forum-Nexus Study Abroad, visiting cities in Spain, France, Switzerland, Italy, and Greece.
During my travels I've experienced a lot of emotions, but nothing can compare to that raw sense of being present in the moment, wherever I was. For some reason I just can't seem to get that feeling at home. And that's what has led me here. I've developed skills in communication but what I want to communicate is my love for travel and my incessant feeling of wanderlust - to share my passions with others and equip them with the tools and confidence to get out there and experience the world for themselves. I want to expose the kind and wonderful people of this world and the beautiful and inspiring places that are out there waiting to be discovered.
So welcome! Come explore the world with me.