As is quite common, my parent’s home has always been a respite for me. It’s a place where I recharge, sit back and let someone else (who doesn’t mind) take care of me.
Visiting them never meant going back to my childhood apartment in New York City because they relocated to LA when I left for college, but maybe that has made staying at their house even less fraught—I was never returning, with complex emotions, to the place where I grew up.
Still, when my parents told me that they were relocating to Pittsburgh five years ago, I was a little nonplussed. I had never actually visited. And, for me, a smaller city on the cusp of the Midwest might as well have been the moon.
Once I actually saw the place for myself, though, I kind of fell in love. It’s as industrial as one might imagine for a onetime steel capital, but it’s also beautiful: bridges arch over flowing rivers; the architecture is striking and unexpected. Artisanal street food abounds. Plus, people are friendly but without agendas, which can seem a bit novel coming from both coasts.
All that said, Pittsburgh is not necessarily a place I’d associate with wellness. Most salads are topped with French fries, as is the city’s most famous Primanti Bros. sandwich. The heavy Italian food is not to be missed. Would I be able to properly decompress?
First step: Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Just before my last trip to visit my parent’s house, I started to have visions of massages and pampering. After all, I have a small child and can’t shirk my responsibilities the way I might have before, sleeping in and taking it easy. I needed some kind of structured escape.
I was in luck: After very little research, I found yoga studios, holistic wellness destinations and pressed juice companies everywhere. (The sound of Pittsburgh Juice Company’s Cacao Blast smoothie made me want to run, not walk.) I also starting hearing fantastic things about the Fairmont Hotel Pittsburgh’s spa. I had to investigate for myself.
I had to choose one experience. (I only had so much free time.) I chose the Fairmont. Turns out that the reports were accurate: I sipped cucumber water, eucalyptus steamed, took a cedar sauna, then luxuriated in a topnotch hot stone massage. (Seriously, the masseuse had magic hands.) And, by the end, I was relaxed and renewed.
And craving a salad with French fries.
It just goes to show you: there’s wellness to be found in the most unlikely places.