August 20th, 2010

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Greetings from Pittsburgh

We got up Thursday morning and went to Penn State's campus, which isn't nearly as pretty as Cornell or even Maryland -- Adam thought it looked like an industrial park, and that's certainly true of the science buildings, though the art gallery and theaters looked nicer and I liked the rounded ends on many of the buildings -- but I like that it feels like a small, self-contained town with lots of trees and flowers, with the stadiums and farm on one end and mountains on the other. We visited the creamery again for excellent cheddar and pepper jack cheese. Then we drove to Pittsburgh, where we first had a late lunch at the National Aviary, then went to visit all the birds...starting of course with the penguins! There are many more than the last time we visited and the aviary is about to hatch their first egg, so they've built a big enclosure with large windows so the penguins can be seen both above and below the waterline. It's one of the nicest African penguin exhibits we've seen.

The aviary had a parrot show in the afternoon and I got to hold out a dollar for one of the birds to come retrieve and put in a donation box. That was just the first of several birds to stand on me, though -- we went to the lorikeet feeding station and although only younger son paid for food for the birds, I had two on my arms trying to bite the beads off my bracelets. We went to see the staff feeding the rainforest birds and penguins, and visited the birds of prey and grasslands and wetlands birds. When we left late in the afternoon, we drove across the river to the Duquesne Incline, the funicular railway that goes up a mountain to the city's highest elevations. I had wanted to ride it the last time we were here but the kids were much younger and nervous about it. Now they ride roller coasters, so they were perfectly willing, so we got spectacular views of the skyline, stadiums, three rivers, and outline of Fort Duquesne jutting out from the city center.

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We had ravioli in our big hotel room with kitchen and the kids went swimming in the evening. On Friday we are taking Daniel to see Carnegie Mellon, then home!