From PIT: 5 Easy Destinations for International Travelers
This year, the city’s vacation horizons are wider than ever, thanks to an array of easy new flights from Pittsburgh International Airport.
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PHOTO COURTESY ALLEGHENY COUNTY AVIATION AUTHORITY
With direct service to Canada, France, Iceland and Germany, you can spend more time exploring and less time sitting in crowded hub airports (we’re pointing at you, New York).
WOW Air continues its year-round service to Reykjavik, putting dozens of European cities within striking distance. Dublin? Milan? Go for it. Flights to Paris and Frankfurt resume next month after a winter hiatus. New direct service to Montreal (merci, Air Canada!) debuts in May, in time for festival season in that most French of North American cities.
A stronger dollar keeps spots in North America and Europe affordable. Favorable exchange rates translate to a 25 percent discount on Canadian adventures, and the dollar buys a bigger share of the Euro. Budget-friendly options for public transit and reliable online marketplaces such as Airbnb and VRBO help, too. Take a look at the must-do offerings in foreign capitals and start mapping your getaway.
Flight time from PIT to Pearson International: 60 minutes daily
Getting downtown: The Union Pearson Express train departs from the airport every 15 minutes for the 25- minute trip, $12
New for 2018: A cool new home for the Museum of Contemporary Art
Pittsburgh’s nearest international neighbor, with direct flights on Air Canada, is one of the world’s most multicultural cities. An astounding 51 percent of its 2.8 million residents were born in another country, and they’ve brought all of their cultures and cuisine to the flat shores of Lake Ontario. Speaking of the lake, its downtown edge has become a buffed waterfront, with bike lanes, bike shares, boardwalks and even a spit of sand called Sugar Beach. Blocks away, the Distillery Historic District, its brick courtyards filled with cafes, shops and arts destinations, offers free music and a popular outdoor market each weekend.
Toronto’s citywide International Film Festival (Sept. 7-16 this year) is a perennially hot ticket. If documentaries are your thing, consider Hot Docs. The event screens about 200 local and international films from April 26 to May 6.
The city’s dining options are diverse and seemingly endless. Brothers Food + Wine, a newcomer rocketing up the list of best Canadian restaurants, serves a mean crispy steelhead trout above the Bay Street subway station. Near the University of Toronto, The Annex and Little Italy offer menus ranging from tapas at Bar Raval and Mexican treats at El Rey in the funky Kensington Market to Joons for Korean favorites.
The nearby Junction Triangle, the city’s next hot neighborhood, welcomes the long-awaited new home of the Museum of Contemporary Art with a splashy exhibit called “Believe.” The show debuts May 26 in a former industrial tower with works by Canadian stars Jeremy Shaw, Tim Whiten and Carl Beam and international newcomers.
Downtown’s newest resort complex is Hotel X Toronto. The lakefront campus include about 400 guest rooms, lavish skybar, and a rooftop “pond” on its 28th floor.
Flight time from PIT: 90 minutes daily beginning May 17
Getting Downtown: Express bus from Pierre Trudeau Airport to Lionel-Groulx Metro station, 35 minutes; $10
New for 2018: When at Mile Ex, dubbed “the coolest place on the planet” by Vogue, visit Jiep Jiep, which gets five stars for its hip East Asian menu.
Due north of Burlington, Vt., Montreal doesn’t just feel French: this island on the rushing St. Lawrence River has had a French soul for nearly four centuries. Vieux Montreal, the old city, is a study in stone, dominated by the grand Notre Dame Basilica and City Hall. But stuffy? Mais non. With free outdoor festivals, from jazz to circus to comedy to the end-of-winter Montreal en Lumiere, the city rivals New Orleans for its non-stop party spirit. Most natives are bilingual, and though they’d prefer that you were, too, Anglophones are welcome.
Montreal’s burgeoning tech industry has created dazzling public displays. Notre-Dame’s astonishing AURA, a light and sound show, illuminates the interior of the cathedral (buy tickets in advance). To celebrate the city’s 375th birthday last year, the city lit the Jacques Cartier Bridge with modulating streams of light reflecting the social media buzz: when the lights are racing bright blue, there’s a good chance the Canadiens have just scored a goal.
The bridge crosses Parc Jean Drapeau, where July brings Week-Ends du Monde, a world music festival. For a two-wheel tour of the city, cycle the 8-mile path along the Lachine Canal. Pack a picnic from nearby Atwater Market.
About 3 miles north of downtown, Mile Ex plays Bushwick to Mile End’s Brooklyn vibe. The edgy industrial district has sprouted street murals, pop-up bars and music clubs in anonymous garages and empty lots. To find the bar Alexandraplatz, don’t look for signs; just look for crowds. Head to Little Burgundy, a gentrifying southwestern neighborhood, for top-notch dining choices such as Joe Beef, Le Vin Papillon and Foxy.
photo by richard cook
Flight time from PIT: 8 hours
Getting downtown: RER train (40 minutes, $12.50)
New for 2018: Galeries Lafayette, the French fashion institution, opens a vast new location on the Champs-Elysées later this year. Buzz about Brasserie du Lutetia, a new effort by chef Gérald Passedat, is mounting as the restaurant opens at the revamped Lutetia Hotel this spring.
As Audrey Hepburn observed in “Sabrina,” Paris is always a good idea. Especially when Delta resumes its daily direct flights from Pittsburgh, this year on a bigger and better plane, on May 24.
Among this season’s cultural highlights are the opening of L’Atelier des Lumieres, the city’s first digital museum of fine art, with classic and contemporary works projected throughout a restored iron foundry in the 11th arrondisment.
Also on tap: a display of Dutch masterworks at the Petit Palais through mid-May; Delacroix at the Louvre, Mary Cassatt at the Musée Jacquemart-André, and “Guernica,” on loan to the Picasso Museum.
Since moving to the City of Light in 2016 after a career at the University of Pittsburgh, Timothy Thompson has discovered the city’s small museums — and a new favorite haunt.
“Most Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, and a few other days as well, find me at Hôtel Drouot, the main auction house of Paris. It’s possible to find almost anything at Drouot, and there are frequently four or five sales going on at the same time. While I have successfully bid on small items, the real enjoyment is seeing what comes up for sale and observing the people.”
If heading to the 11th arrondissement, Thompson recommends finding your way to Rue Paul Bert, a trove of elegant small bistros.
Physical culture more your thing? Sports are close to the top of the city events calendar this year, with the quadrennial Gay Games arriving Aug. 4-12. The Ryder Cup follows at Le Golf National, near Versailles, in September.