Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Last Stop: Stage AE

Counting Crows at Stage AE
We wrapped up our Northside staycation last night with a concert at Stage AE, a small indoor/outdoor venue located in between the two stadiums on the North Shore.  Stage AE is an AWESOME place to see a show and is truly unlike any other venue in the city.  Though I've never been to an indoor concert there, every outdoor show I've attended has been extremely enjoyable and a large part of that enjoyment is credited to the venue itself. Stage AE is small enough to give you that intimate feeling no matter how far from the stage you are, but big enough that it never feels overcrowded or you feel squished into the venue's typically general admission areas.

Huge concert goers and fans of Stage AE, Brian and I excitedly headed down to the North Shore early, where we sat on the outdoor deck of Bettis Grille 36 enjoying several cold ones while waiting for the opening acts to finish up before heading in. The Counting Crows 90-minute set did not disappoint the packed crowd at Stage AE,and while we were still buzzing from the show afterwards, an overloaded weekend of staycation fun was telling us to go home and get some rest...and so we did.

The concert wrapped up what was a great birthday staycation weekend on Pittsburgh's Northside.  Several times during the experience, Brian told me he really did feel like he was on vacation, which for me, meant the trip was successful, because everyone wants to feel like they're on vacation, right?  When I had initially created my itinerary, it seemed like we would breeze right through it in no time. Now, looking back, I feel like we were constantly on the go and there were still places I didn't even get too! Looks like next time I will consider an extended staycation weekend!

It really goes to show though just how much there actually is to do on the Northside, from cultural attractions, to sporting events, concerts and casinos to the unbelievable amount of restaurants and bars, the Northside is a place you could spend a few days and really have a pretty cool VACATION...even if you do live just up the street!

Thanks for following along with me during my little getaway!  I hope you come over to my neighborhood and try a Northside staycation for yourself soon...you won't regret it...especially if you stay at The Priory (shameless plug, I know!)!

- Stephanie

Monday, July 23, 2012

We've Got a Long Drive Home...

Loving our Priory Hotel room!
Even though we had to go back to work today and our stay at The Priory Hotel had come to an end, our Northside staycation still technically had one evening left.  After Brian jokingly gave me the "we've got a long drive home" spiel, we sadly packed up our things this morning and departed The Priory, by far one of the nicest hotels I had ever stayed at.  Everything from the beautiful, clean room packed with the smallest, but most thoughtful amenities to the extraordinary staff who so kindly entertained us at the Monks' bar and happily shuttled us around the Northside all weekend long.  Another staycation at The Priory would definitely be in our NEAR future!

It was an absolutely beautiful day today, so when we both got home from work I made sure to get a few more Northside activities checked off the itinerary before heading down to Stage AE for the Counting Crows concert.  Brian and I, along with our Welsh Corgi who had been in the care of our neighbor all weekend, walked down to Allegheny Commons Park for a quick stroll and a stop at a Northside staple ...the Ice Ball Man.

Brian and Geno at Lake Elizabeth
Allegheny Common's Park is a picturesque greenspace that you quite honestly would never expect to find in the heart of the Northside.  In my opinion, it's one of the best parts about the Northside and one of the best parks in the entire city.  Very clean, attractive and well-lit with cute little, modern light posts outlining much of the park, Allegheny Commons Park is a great place to picnic, sunbathe or just relax and read a book.  Located in the center of Allegheny Commons Park is Lake Elizabeth, which cant be anymore than a few feet deep, that is typically inundated with ducks and/or dogs trying to eat the ducks.

The Ice Ball Man himself!
Today was a great day to stroll through the park  and enjoy some shaved ice from Gus and Yia's Yai's, a small, orange-colored shaved ice cart that sits on the outskirts of Allegheny Commons Park directly next to the tennis courts every single summer.   The "Ice Ball Man," as I often refer to him as, has been in business since 1934 - though it was Father Ice Ball Man serving up shaved ice back then - and is a favorite amongst locals and those just in town for a ballgame.  I'm not sure what I like more about the Ice Ball Man, the large cup of rainbow colored ice he provides, or the his sweet grandfather-ish type charm that emerges while he talks it up with each and every customer.

After letting Geno, that's our Welsh Corgi, bark at some ducks and get his paws wet in Lake Elizabeth's lukewarm waters, we headed back to the house where we now get ready to walk down to the Counting Crows concert at Stage AE for the last stop of our Northside staycation!

- Stephanie

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Scientific and BUCN Birthday

It's been a long day of birthday fun on the Northside...so I am going to quickly recap Brian's official birthday celebration today and then undoubtedly pass out once last time in the Priory's over sized, comfy King bed.

Potato  Pancake Happiness.
We were fairly short on time, but I wanted to stick to the itinerary as much as possible, so we quickly got ready and headed over to Max's Allegheny Tavern for a German brunch that makes my mouth water just thinking about it.  Every time I go to Max's, I immediately feel like I am no where near the city of Pittsburgh. It's something about the cozy dining area paired with with the dim lighting and old, rustic decor that gives you this feeling that you are far, far away from any city. It's really quite incredible, and paired with Max's authentic German cuisine, it's a true dining "experience."

The brunch is a perfect mix of Max's classic German menu items and typical breakfast options, like made to order omelets.  I had a hard time steering away from the warm, semi-sweet German potato salad and schnitzel, while Brian stayed with the more traditional options.  We both, however, indulged in the dessert table, which was littered with cookies and pastries reminiscent of the desserts your sweet old grandma would make especially for you.  Absolutely YUM!

We had no problem quickly shoveling down brunch which was good, since we were limited on time and still needed to stop at the Carnegie Science Center before heading to the baseball game.

World's Largest Playable Guitar...BOOM.
The Priory's shuttle gave us a lift to the Science Center, thank goodness (walking + German food = ouch), and we began walking through the Science Center's four floors of robots, weird - but definitely fascinating - science experiments and the newest exhibit "GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked The World," the touring exhibition of The National GUITAR Museum.

It had been a long time since I actually walked through the Science Center (midnight Pink Floyd laser shows don't count), and as we began making our way through each exhibit, the worst sense of nostalgia washed over me taking me back to the dozens of times we had visited the Science Center while in middle and high school. I still remember the excitement of getting to spend the night there, running through the facilities floors in pajamas with your besties and getting yelled at by security guard after security guard. Now, walking through those same floors, it felt like I was 15 all over again!

After taking a trip down memory lane, I stopped thinking about the good ol' days and started enjoying the Science Center all over again.  The guitar exhibit completely surpassed all expectations,  featuring dozens of awesome guitars and in typical Science Center fashion, several stations that showed you how guitars work, how they are made, how they are played and so forth and so forth. The highlight was of the exhibit was seeing the world's largest playable guitar which I quickly climbed on top for a photo.

The rest of the Science Center's floors though were all very entertaining, featuring everything from the most elaborate miniature railroad and village I had ever seen to an entire floor of hands-on science experiments allowing you to get in touch with your inner-scientist.  I had one last request of Brian before leaving though, and that was to satisfy my need to keep going down memory lane and eat in the Science Center's cafeteria where I could so vividly remembering sharing Cheetos and Little Debbies with my girlfriends during every visit.

Birthday boy has Buc Fever!
After lunch, we headed over to America's most beautiful ballpark, PNC Park, to watch the battling Buccos take on the Miami Marlins.  With the Pirates having an incredible season thus far, the stadium was absolutely packed with fans screaming and cheering over every little play and fully getting into every aspect of the game. Brian was of course in his element ,rambling my ear off with stat after stat which, since it WAS his birthday, I pretended to listen to.  We each enjoyed an ice cream and Pirates victory before heading out and making way back to the hotel, for a free birthday drink at Monks' Bar courtesy of the fine people of the Priory Hotel.

Pretty warn out by the day, Brian didn't need much encouragement going back to the room where we decided to just enjoy some quiet time and relax. As much as I wanted to keep to our weekend itinerary, our lack of motivation to get ready again kept us right where we were at, eventually getting some takeout from Frank's Pizza and Chicken on Troy Hill (that's technically still Northside for the record!) and now just enjoying some Sunday night television!

While it's our last night at the Priory and back to work for both of us tomorrow, our staycation will continue after work with a few more stops at some of my favorite Northside spots and a Counting Crows concert tomorrow night at Stage AE.

See you tomorrow!

- Stephanie

Sometimes You Want to Go Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Today is Brian's official birthday, but last night was a pretty solid birthday eve celebration.  Capped off with a firework display from PNC Park, it was the perfect night out on the Northside.  But let's start from the beginning...

Though a long nap wasn't in my staycation itinerary for Saturday, it pretty much was a must after a full day of sightseeing on the Northside. So after a wonderful siesta inside our quiet room at the Priory, we headed back out for Brian's birthday dinner.  There are a TON of great eats on the Northside...from the delicious German cuisine at Max's Allegheny Tavern and Penn Brewery to the divine homemade Italian delicacies at Legends...and I was anxious to hear where Brian wanted to go.  Needless to say when I found out his decision was to go to the Rivers Casino for the Grand View Buffet,  I couldn't help but feel a tad bit disappointed.  However, it was his birthday and therefore, his choice.

We headed towards the North Shore and caught the T at the new Northside station and rode it over to the just as new Allegheny station located conveniently right next to the Casino.  Probably could have walked there just as quickly, but we thought taking the T would help give us that touristy feel...we are on vacation afterall!

The happy birthday boy...
the way to man's heart
is truly through his stomach!
Even though I wasn't initially excited about our Casino dinner, there's no denying that the Casino's Grand View Buffet is out of this world good. On Saturday nights at the buffet it's Smokehouse night, which means an overload of smoked meats and food slathered in barbeque sauce.  Brian was in all of his glory as his plates quickly stacked up beside him and for me, well, I was in carb heaven, loading up on the buffet's creamy mac 'n cheese, mouth-watering mashed potatoes and pretty much one of everything from the Italian station.

I feel like the Casino's Grand View Buffet is a little treat you have to give yourself every once in awhile.  As soon as we walked into the buffet's giant dining room, my beach diet went right out the window and I found myself quickly fighting off people in the cupcake line.  The food options are endless there and if you ask me, the dessert station alone is worth the 22 dollars!

After going into a brief food coma, we hung out at the Casino for a bit and played some slots, quickly blowing $30 in my favorite Ghostbusters machine before heading back towards the stadium to once again take in some Northside nightlife.

Perfection at the Fred Rogers statue.
We decided to walk along the North Shore riverwalk instead of catching a ride in the Priory's shuttle, a little because we wanted to take in the beautiful evening and a lot because we needed to work off the mini-buffet now situated in our stomachs.  The riverwalk was nice and peaceful and we enjoyed boat watching and the many photo ops we had along the way in front of the Carnegie Science Center, Heinz Field and of course, the Fred Rogers statue.

I needed to make it up to Brian for basically wanting to go home before 11PM the previous night, so I put on my game face and we began a long evening of North Shore bar hopping beginning at Finnegan's Wake.  The North Shore bar scene when the Pirates are in town is the best in the city. It's not like the South Side or Oakland, where if you're over the age of 22 you often feel out of place, but it's rather a hodgepodge of people of all-ages and from all over the area, since many are in town for the game.  It's a great time to get out and meet some new people or chat it up with fellow Bucco fans celebrating a win, or maybe trying to forget a loss.

Fireworks outside of PNC Park.
We stayed at Finnegan's Wake for a few, were we engaged in a serious Facebook convo with some people at the bar and then continued to visit the plethora of bars all along the North Shore including McFadden's, Rivertowne, Dominic's, Atria's and yes, even a brief stop at the Tilted Kilt.  After lingering outside of the stadium for a fireworks show, we closed out the night at our favorite bar, SoHo, where the drinks are strong and whether it's good or bad, everyone knows our name.

The Pirates win had everyone in a good mood and we spent hours at the bars, talking to the happy PNC Park patrons leaving the stadium and the bartenders who were all obviously overcome with Buc Fever.

A little after 1AM, much better than my previous 10:30 exit, we headed back to the Priory to get some shuteye and get ready to get for tomorrow, which is now today, for the Pirates final game against the Marlins and Brian's official birthday.

Before the game today though, we're making a stop at the Carnegie Science to check out the world's largest playable guitar...can't wait to share the pics!

Happy Sunday!

- Stephanie

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Northside Culture Shock

Psychedelic cows...dig it?
We just returned back to the Priory Hotel after a long afternoon of getting "cultured" at three well-known Northside attractions: The National Aviary, the Warhol Museum and the Mattress Factory. Before I completely pass out from an art-overload though, here's a recap of our afternoon on the Northside.

After I finally dragged Brian away from the British Open, we hit up The Priory's breakfast buffet one more time (there was a fruity pebble donut there that would be absolutely sinful to pass up) and then made our way to the National Aviary, located right smack dab in the middle of Pittsburgh's oldest park, Allegheny Commons.

Rose and some roses at the Aviary.
It had been quite a few years since I had been to the Aviary, so I was looking forward to revisiting the Pittsburgh landmark and of course seeing those darling little penguins again.  Walking into the Aviary, there is a beautiful rose garden that stretches down a long brick wall built to frame in a stretch of grass and patio area where events are often held.  After several photo ops there, Brian's last name is ROSE after all so it was only appropriate, we headed in to check out the nation's largest aviary, housing over 600 birds of more than 200 different species.

A huge lover of all animals, I enjoyed every second of our trip to the aviary and I think aside from having to avoid a few bird droppings here and there, Brian enjoyed it as well. As we made our way through the facility's several themed areas squeezing in and out of the heavy traffic of people, we often stopped and stared in amazement at some of the aviary's exotic birds and took photo after photo of our favorites (I now have an entire album dedicated to the penguins!).  Speaking of penguins, if you are female that loves cute and cuddly animals, the Penguins Point exhibit alone is worth the price of admission!

After a good hour at the aviary and some 40 pictures later, we are on our way to the Warhol Museum, just a few short blocks away from the aviary.  Halfway between the two attractions, we stopped at one of our favorite Northside bars, SoHo, for a quick drink in order to enhance our museum experience.

Best part of the entire staycation.
I've never been a huge art person, but the Warhol Museum was just plain awesome.  Unfortunately, much of my time at the Warhol was spent stalking Joe Manganiello of True Blood fame, who I spotted immediately in front of me when we first walked in.  At one point, Brian instructed me to go onto a different floor of the museum because I could not seem to stop giggling while in his presence.

Even with my bad case of giggles, half of my focus on "wolf lookout," and a ridiculous amount of True Blood related jokes courtesy of Brian, I was still able to appreciate all six floors of the Warhol.  The museum is bright and colorful, showcasing beautiful, intriguing art, videos and structures created by the Pittsburgh artist.  We moved fairly quickly through the museum, however, due to the beautiful piece of art know as Joe Mangianello that seemed to be lurking around every corner.

The polka dot room at Mattress Factory
is quite the crowd-pleaser.
After running out of the museum and probably totally embarrassing Brian, we made a quick stop at my FAVORITE Northside spot, Taco Bell, before heading to the Mattress Factory.  Never having been to the Mattress Factory and because it's name isn't as obvious as "the Warhol,"  I had no idea what to expect walking into the museum that was discreetly tucked in between the houses of the Mexican War Streets.  The Mattress Factory turned out to be a very unique experience, featured three floors of contemporary art that you can physically walk into and explore.  We slowly made our way through each floor to check out these room-sized exhibits and many times stopped to ponder the meaning of these somewhat bizarre "installations."  Though some completely baffled me, my simple mind was utterly entertained and pleased with Greer Lankton's "It's All about ME, Not You" exhibit, a double mirrored, polka dot plastered room that you could step in to.  Something about the room instantly gives you the desire to dance around like an idiot....just saying.

Now, it's time to rest up, so we can keep conquering the Northside later this evening!  See you tomorrow!

- Stephanie

Birds and Campbell soup cans

Finally making our way out and about on the Northside. Enjoyed the sights, not so much the smells, of the National Aviary first and as we were leaving I got the "I'm ready to see some Campbell soup cans!" from Brian, so looks like the Warhol Museum is next! Right after a quick cold one at SoHo first :)

- Stephanie

A Night on the Northside

Good morning from the Priory Hotel's Business Center!  My original plan to write my new post in the company of my donut from the Refrectory room was quickly scrapped by the large amount of people enjoying breakfast there right now. So I found a much quieter spot on The Priory's ground floor which offers a few computers, printer, free Wi-Fi and is very private. The Business Center was a new addition with the extra rooms the Priory added on to its property about a year and a half ago, and I must say, I am very impressed. You can even three-hole punch down here if you need to...good stuff!

Anyway...I digress.  After returning to the hotel yesterday after work, Brian and I were really starting to feel the overwhelming uniqueness of this whole experience.  The first night didn't really feel like we were on this "getaway" since we spent the majority of our time in the Grand Hall drinking wine and arguing about the Godfather, but now, as we sat there looking around our enormous and elegant hotel room, it was finally sinking in.  After a few "this is really weird" comments from Brian, and yes, at one point, I even said it out loud, the really weird was starting to turn into really...cool.

Brian's signature in the Priory's guestbook.
I knew Brian was starting to get in to it, when half way to our hotel room, he stopped in the hall and signed the guestbook.

Taking a better look around the room, I could see the excitement in Brian start to grow.  As much as I love our home, there's just something so wonderful and exciting about staying in a nice, big, clean hotel room.  Chocolates by the bed and two robes waiting for us in the closet, I was ready to get this trip underway.

Our original plan of a Pirates game was pushed back til Sunday.  Apparently a free visor is much more appealing than a free shirt.  Since it wasn't the most weather-friendly evening, we decided to take in some of the Northside's nightlife down by PNC Park, so we could we still enjoy the atmosphere after a sold out Pirates game.

But first, we had to make a stop at The Priory's Monks' Bar.  The quaint, somewhat romantic, cozy room was lit by a dim bar light and four tea light candles perfectly placed on each bar table. Immediately outside of the bar, was a sitting room, where a couple was enjoying Martinis by the fireplace and quietly talking amongst themselves.  As we took a seat at the bar and ordered our usual Captains, I didn't think it would be long before Brian would want to head out and explore the Northside.

So it was to my surprise when I found ourselves still there an hour later, watching the Pirates game from our bar stools and talking to everyone who stopped in...from the bartender to hotel guests who had just started returning to their rooms for the evening.  But perhaps the one factor, person I should say, that kept us there so long was a hotel employee named Henry.

Brian & Henry in front of The Priory's shuttle.
Henry, maybe the nicest man you'll ever meet in this world, was the hotel's shuttle driver.  As he was making his rounds for the evening, he would quickly pop in the bar and give a quick hello to the bartender and now, to us, who had been enjoying several Captians and making small talk with some of the hotel guests.

During one particular pop in, Henry started talking Buccoball, and I knew it was going to be bad from the way Brian's eyes immediately lit up as he turned to start talking to Henry like he had known him for years. I wish I could elaborate on what the two were actually talking about, but after so many minutes of baseball talk, I found myself more amused by the computer the bartender so kindly let me use behind the bar.

Before I knew it, it was the 8th inning of the game and time to head down to some local establishments to celebrate what looked to be a Pirates win with fellow Bucco fans.  So we hopped into the shuttle, where Brian and Henry continued to talk Pirates, and we headed down to Bettis Grille 36, located right smack in between PNC Park and Heinz Field.  When the bar opened in 2007, I originally had thought it was too, okay I'll say it - "high-brow" for someone like me, who's favorite bars almost always get dubbed a "dive."  But over the years, the sports bar has really turned into a pretty chill place.  The walls are plastered with televisions, all with sports on of course, and paintings, photographs and memorabilia recognizing all of the great sports and sports legends that that Pittsburgh produces.

The servers are all friendly, and after only a few times visiting there this summer, some of them even recognize us and know us by name.  We watched the rest of the game from the bar area, where Brian was in typical fashion, chatting with everyone about anything sports.  Thank goodness for iPhones, because there's not much for me to contribute during a 45-minute Tiger Woods discussion.

Of course, we had to try out the food and though I was leaning towards some fancy dip and chips, it was Brian's birthday weekend and we ordered his favorite instead: chicken quesadillas.  I enjoy Mexican food, but usually when we get a quesadilla from a non-Mexican restaurant, they are pretty blah, typically featuring some under-seasoned chicken slabbed into as chewy tortilla and siding it with some salsa to help drown out the bland taste.

Nom nom nom
I must say though, they were excellent at Bettis'.  Folded into a sun dried tomato crispy tortilla, the lime cilantro infused chicken was moist and tangy.  Topped off by a dollop of guacamole and salsa, they did not disappoint.  They did, however, make me feel suddenly tired, and though I had planned on bar-hopping all the way back to the hotel with Brian, I could feel the sleepiness start to overtake me.

And so, as I promised Brian we would do so much more tomorrow, which is today, he reluctantly agreed and we returned to our hotel room, where he was so excited to try out the enormous shower (we have a very tiny bathroom at home!), he quickly forgot that I totally crapped out on him.

As the morning turns to early afternoon now, it's time to go explore the Northside further today at the Warhol, Aviary, Science Center and many other attractions, hopefully paired with some good eats and drinks at some of my favorite Northside restaurants.

Look forward to recapping with you later!

- Stephanie

Friday, July 20, 2012

Northside Staycation Begins with Wine and Song

Yesterday evening when I told my boyfriend to pack a bag and basically pushed him out the door within minutes of him getting home from work, there was a tad bit of confusion, alarming looks, questions and maybe even a small “tiff” amongst the two of us.  Just a little one though.
My plan for Brian’s birthday “staycation” on the Northside was about to get underway, and due to my lack of planning, I was in a bit of a hurry.  If you don’t know what I am referring to, click here to read my first blog post about my plans to spend the weekend on the Northside at The Priory Hotel for the ultimate weekend birthday getaway (that actually turns out to be in walking distance from our home!).

The first event of this long birthday weekend was a wine tasting that happened to be at the same place where we would be spending the next four nights: The Priory Hotel.   And again, since we live a few blocks away, the short drive to the hotel’s private parking lot only gave me a few minutes to explain my birthday “surprise” to Brian.  And after an expedited cliff notes version of the entire plan, Brian seemed a bit blurry on the whole situation, but at the same time was intrigued and maybe even slightly excited.
So he gave me the nod that he trusted me and, in hopes that his birthday weekend wouldn’t be a total bust, followed me through the doors of the Priory Hotel. 
James Egidio Faiella (Mandolinista), Me & Milko MIladinov
Every third Thursday of the month, the Priory hosts these special wine tastings, (alfresco style in the summer in their beautiful courtyard, and bistro style in their exquisite Grand Hall in the winter) and though I’ve been to a handful of these tastings, Brian has never gotten to experience what has to be one of the best, if not the best, wine tasting in town.
Typically, the summer tastings are held in the Priory’s beautiful courtyard, but due to the weather it was moved indoors to the Priory’s even more incredible Grand Hall.  There are not a lot of words you can say that justify how you feel when you walk into the Grand Hall for the first time.  You may be able to catch my drift by skimming through this photo gallery, but do yourself a favor and just stop by for a quick drop-in.  You’ll be dreaming up your pretend wedding there in no time.
I knew what Brian was thinking when we walked in.   A lot of “high-brows,” as he likes to call people that can keep more than 10 dollars in their bank account at any given time, sipping wine and eating some ridiculous food that no one can even pronounce. 
His skeptical outlook was quickly overturned though by what Brian soon found out was actually a down-to-earth, engaging group of people drinking (as opposed to sipping) wine and enjoying simple, yet delicious and elegant hors d'oeuvres.  Within no time, he was into the spirit of the event, washing down prime rib with Venetian wines and getting caught up in conversations all throughout the Grand Hall’s exquisite four walls.
Boyfriend/birthday weekend boy Brian Rose, Priory Co-owner John Graf and me
The wine tastings are always themed, and last night, the theme spoke heavily to my Italian heart.  Milko Miladinov from Winebow presented four wines from Allegrini Estates, a winery located in Italy that has been producing wines since the 16th Century. 
Milko alone was a show in himself, speaking so lovingly of the wines, as if each were his first born child, through a thick, yet charming, Bulgarian accent while working his way through the crowd of some 50 plus people.   
To further set the mood, the group was serenaded by the romantic sounds of a Mandolin played by Aliquippa’s Egidio ‘Jimmy’ Faiella, accredited for his music on the Sopranos.   Probably the best line of the night comes from Jimmy, who, when asked when his music was featured in the Sopranos, proudly exclaimed “You remember the episode where Adriana gets whacked, that’s my song they’re playing!”
And, it was a good thing we were spending the night, because even though the Priory is a short drive back home, they do not mess around with their “tastings.”  The Priory’s philosophy of the three-finger pour and what seems to be unlimited refills, usually has everyone feeling rather chatty and unusually joyful by the end of the evening.  After several glasses of wine, a daunting amount of hors d'oeuvres and a 30-minute discussion over the Godfather, Brian and I made the short walk to our hotel room, where we quickly crashed. 
In the morning, we briefly paused our staycation to take on our daily work grind, and now we prepare for an uninterrupted weekend of activities, starting tonight, checking out the Northside’s night scene and celebrating the start of Brian’s birthday weekend.
Check out our adventures right here tomorrow!
We're off to see the Pirates game at PNC Park tonight!

Having fun and making new memories on the Northside - Stephanie!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Priory Hotel Summer Package Specials

Your two favorite packages just got better! From July 29 - August 17, reserve your "Rivers Casino" and "Romance, Romance" Summer Packages and get an automatic upgrade to a King Room and more! Please see details below.

Rivers Casino Package: Win big this month by taking advantage of our "Rivers Casino" Summer Package Special! Sign up for this package which includes an upgraded overnight stay in a Priory Hotel King guest room, two $10 vouchers for slots play at the Rivers Casino, a $50 food and beverage gift card for use in the River Casino's many restaurants and bars, and in your room upon check in, a gift basket containing a bottle of champagne, and two scratch-off PA lottery tickets. Also, enjoy breakfast served the following morning by our staff.  

King Room 'Rivers Casino Package' Special Rate: $239 per guest room per night
Priced per double occupancy; excluding state and county sales and hotel occupancy taxes.

Romance, Romance Package Special: Fall in love all over again with our "Romance, Romance" Summer Package Special, which includes an upgraded one or two night stay in a Priory Hotel King Room, and - all in your room upon check-in - a bottle of champagne, chocolate snack plate, fresh fruit and treats from Priory Fine Pastries, and a dozen roses. Also, enjoy breakfast served the following morning by the Priory Hotel staff. We hope to see you here!

King Room 'Romance, Romance Package' Special Rate: $200 per guest room per night
Priced per double occupancy; excluding state and county sales and hotel occupancy taxes. 

"Take Me Out to the Ball Game" Promo

Mention the phrase "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" when booking through our front desk this August and be automatically upgraded to a King Room!

Also, upon check-in, show us your game day ticket and receive an additional 10% discount off of the price of your room. We hope to see you here - and don't forget, "take me out to the ball game!"

Priory Hospitality Group Receives Bike Friendly Employer Award

We were proud to be among the honorees at the Bike Friendly Employer Awards hosted by Bike Pittsburgh, an organization devoted to promoting bicycling for recreation and transportation in the Pittsburgh region.  Bike Pittsburgh was kind enough to bestow a Bike Friendly Employer award on Priory Hospitality Group due to our commitment to making our hotel and banquet facility in particular friendly to both employees and guests who bicycle.  This was accomplished by a variety of means, including the construction of an on-premise bike shelter, as well as investing in bicycle repair tools and other means of making bicycling easy for our employees and guests.

Pictured above is our Facilities Manager Tim McGlothlin, both with other honorees and with Lou Fineberg, Program Director, Bike Pittsburgh.  (Lou was instrumental in leading us through the process of becoming more bike friendly, and is a tireless and enthusiastic advocate for bicycling and a heck of a nice guy).

Monday, July 16, 2012

There's No Place Like Home

What do you get a Pittsburgh man turning 32-years old?

Brian’s birthday last year enjoying my birthday specialty:
Ice Cream and a Pirates game

This was the question that had been boggling my mind for the past two weeks, as my 31-year old boyfriend’s birthday slowly creeped closer and closer. 
There had been mentions of a Playstation, a whole-home sound system, and a few other electronics, but none of them were really striking a cord with me. 
After all, we’d been dating now for five years, and I had yet to really WOW him on his birthday. 

Every year on July 22, my bank account always seems, well - unstable may be a good word - and I fall into almost the exact same gift year after year: two Pirates tickets and a Dairy Queen ice cream cake.

But this year, I wanted to do something special and after pondering a few days over what the “special” would be, it occurred to me that we could use a little time away.  Our beach vacation is still weeks away, but I thought a weekend getaway could just the perfect birthday present.  
A few random places crossed my mind….Presque Isle, Atlantic City, Washington D.C…but there was one underlying factor that was keeping me from leaving our Northside home…my 31-year old boyfriend, Brian, did not want to leave the Northside the weekend of his birthday.  With the Pirates playing the Marlins literally less than a mile from our home, it looked like a bad case of Bucco fever was going to prevent this trip from happening.

And there it was. 
The. Best. Idea. Ever.  Brian and I had been living on the Northside for almost as long as we had been dating and just last May, he made it quite clear he wasn’t leaving the Northside any time soon with the purchase of a house located right in the heart and center of the neighborhood.  

We’ve sporadically been to many of the Northside’s local establishments and attractions, obviously PNC Park WAY too many times, but we’ve never actually been able to fully embrace all that Pittsburgh’s Northside has to offer.  And, with Brian being an avid supporter of all things Northside, a birthday weekend with nothing but Northside activities could be the absolute perfect gift for the soon to be 32-year old man.

So as I started building an itinerary for the weekend, I felt something was still missing...and it wasn’t a DQ ice cream cake.  This wouldn’t really be a ‘getaway’ unless we actually ‘got away’ from our home that is.  In fact, I had a sneaky suspicion that if we didn’t physically leave our home for the entire weekend, the itinerary would probably lose out to MLB Extra Innings. Luckily, I knew just the place to stay for our Northside “staycation” The Priory Hotel.

I’ve known the wonderful staff at The Priory Hotel for quite a few years now, mostly through work functions, but really never had a reason to stay there, since, well, it’s located on the Northside just a few blocks away from our home. I’ve walked through its beautiful corridors though – from the newly added bedrooms, to the quaint Refrectory room where breakfast is served every morning.  A recently added full-service bar - the Monks’ Bar - and an outdoor courtyard that makes you feel like your miles away from any city, always gave me the desire to want to stay there to experience the total package and fully enjoy The Priory’s undeniable uniqueness and charm that no other hotel can provide.

And just like that, I was booking our weekend birthday stay that kicks-off tonight - Thursday night, July 19 at the Priory Hotel’s monthly wine tasting – 3rd Thursday of most every month. Now all I have to do is get Brian there.  Luckily for him the weekend still includes Pirates tickets, since PNC Park is on my list of Northside attractions.  

Courtesy of my friends at the Priory Hotel, I’ll be blogging my Northside journey all weekend long right here, so I hope you stay tuned for the ride.

- Stephanie

Priory Hotel Guest Blogger Stephanie Spezialetti

I'm happy to announce that over the next few days through the weekend, The Priory Hotel's Blog will be graced by guest blogger Stephanie Spezialetti who will be staying with us along with her boyfriend Brian Rose who will soon be 32 years old!

Stephanie and Brian are fellow Northsiders - and proud of it - and will be celebrating his birthday by experiencing all of the great things the Northside has to offer.  Yes, they plan to never even cross one of Pittsburgh's famous three rivers to enjoy a fun and memorable Staycation!

Check back to read Steph's entertaining and informative posts throughout the week/weekend.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Tech Event at Grand Hall at the Priory

We were pleased to host recently the Design Art Technology Awards (DATA Awards) sponsored by the Pittsburgh Technology Council.  The Awards event was a first for us in the futuristic design that the PTC envisioned for our space.  The installation, lights and sound was by Hughies Audio Visual.  

Here's a link to the Techburgher Blog describing the festivities.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Exploring the Reuse of the Westinghouse Electric Plant

I had occasion to visit an office/ manufacturing complex in East Pittsburgh called Keystone Commons.  What I was very pleasantly surprised to find, during my visit, is that Keystone Commons is the former Westinghouse Electric plant.  In its heyday, this plant was a behemoth, making massive turbines for electric generators.  The plant closed in the 1980's, and was resurrected by the Regional Industrial Development Corporation (RIDC) as a small manufacturing and office center.  The Commons is made up of multiple buildings.  In this one, you can look down on what had been the manufacturing floor.  On either side are offices now, and you can drive right up and park your car in front of it.  Above, you can see the huge gantry cranes used in moving the turbines about the floor.  This is one of Pittsburgh's many hidden gems -- a reflection of its manufacturing past in the garb of a modern day use.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Priory July Wine Tasting - Wines from Veneto

Join us for our July Al Fresco Wine Tasting on  July 19!:
“Veni, Vidi, Vici”…Veneto Vino!  - "I came, I saw, I conquered"...Venetian Wines!

Our next courtyard Wine Tasting will be held Thursday, July 19th from 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. We will feature wines from Allegrini Estates in Italy, located in Fumane di Valpolicella, who have been making wine since the 16th Century. 

Our Special Host Milko Miladinov of Winebow will present four delicious selections served with our famous 3-finger pour!

Palazzo della Torre IGT Veronese '08
Deep ruby red in color, this wine is brimming with notes of dark, dried cherries, blackberries and hints of dates and mocha.
Pinot Grigio delle Venezie IGT '11
 Bright straw-yellow in color, with delicate aromas of lemon citrus and acacia flowers. Fresh and well-balanced with good depth and a long, attractive finish.
Valpolicella Classico DOC '10
Vibrant ruby red in color with fresh cherry and plum aromas.
Soave DOC '10
Bright straw-yellow in color with aromas of wildflowers, white peach, and grapefruit.
The mouthfeel is supple and elegant with a touch of minerality on the palate.

Wines will be paired with light hors d'oeuvres from Priory 
Executive Chefs Mike Henney and Pete Phillipy.

And, you'll enjoy Italian American music performed by 
Egidio 'Jimmy' Faiella on his Mandolino (http://tinyurl.com/7mkpl7o) whose performances include TV/Film credits on the Sopranos (http://tinyurl.com/74qbzq2). 

Tickets are $55. To purchase, email Gene Lucente (mailto:gene@thepriory.com) or call 412.224.6302. Also, keep in mind our elegant Wine Tastings Overnight Package (http://tinyurl.com/6mh4nly) - includes two tickets to the Wine Tasting and a stay in one of our fabulous guest rooms!

We hope to see you here July 19!