Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Tourist in My Own City: The Double-Dutch Bus

When I go to a city for the first time, I love taking a Double Decker bus tour. Seated high above the hustle and bustle, the wind in your hair, eye to eye with the street signs, you get a bird's eye view of the city, seeing it from a different perspective. On the Double Decker, you are a tourist in the truest sense of the word, moving on an entirely different plane from the denizens who live there every day, usually with their eyes trained on either the sidewalk or the road in front of them.

About two months ago, I discovered that Pittsburgh now offers bus tours on vintage Double Deckers from London. And I found it rather funny that the first thing that I typically do when I visit a new city to get the lay of the land, I had never done in my own environs. Here's a little sampling of our trip:

Pre-boarding: No, the two older girls are not twins. They're not even related. Just really good friends who are starting to look like each other LOL. 
On the bus. One word of advice: Sit in the back. Better sight lines, warmer seats (the kids were also fascinated by how close we were to the traffic lights and underpasses). Also, our tour guide Alyssa was wonderful. We were the only ones on the entire bus during much of the tour that morning (one adult, two eight-year-olds, and a two-year-old), and she gave us the full shebang just as if there had been a large crowd.  Thank you, Alyssa!!
Icons of Pittsburgh: Coal barges and the fountain at the Point, which was just turned on last Friday for the first time in FOUR YEARS!! (And a little corner of Heinz field)
Flying across the West End Bridge, with beautiful unobstructed views of DownTown (and a close-up of the paint specially designed for Pittsburgh's bridges). 
The Warhol Museum. Another thing I love about the bus tour is that it also puts you on a different plane in terms of the architecture. You see elements of the buildings (gargoyles, filigree, dates of origin, names of former occupants, etc.) that you never notice when tooling along in your car during morning rush hour. 
Another lovely view of the city entering from the North Shore. According to our guide, the city has 446 bridges. I have a feeling they are counting foot bridges, etc., but that's still an impressive number. 
The Alcoa Building (I think). The design reminded me of an ocean liner. 
Another piece of advice: your hair will be an absolute mess after the ride.
Just save yourself some trouble and wear a do-rag. 
The most interesting thing I learned all day is that there is a fourth river that runs underneath of the city. Oh, and Mr. Rogers' middle name was McFeely. If you live in a city that offers Double Decker tours (especially in the general Pittsburgh area), be a tourist for the day. You have my official permission to wear a fanny pack. Until tomorrow! ~Alice (aka jess)

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