Heritage makes vacations | Local


My job was to stay there and keep dark-eyed Susan. It was the last Rudbeckia available for sale at the annual Pick-A-Dilly herb fair in Dilltown, but my wife still had stalls to visit, so she planted us both aside and said to remain there until his return.

Thousands of people come each year to this charming little festival on the grounds of the Dillweed Bed and Breakfast, where dozens of vendors sell annuals, perennials, crafts and treats – and herbs of course – offering what which might be the largest assortment of cultivars available at one place and time in the region.

Plants – especially perennial flowers and herbs – bring great joy to my wife. Natural and cultural heritage does the same for me. Finding connections between our passions makes for a good time.

Herbs, for example, have been used for medicinal and culinary purposes for thousands of years. The fact that my wife grows herbs and that we use them to flavor foods and teas connects us to this ancient world heritage.

My companion, the Black-Eyed Susan, is a plant native to North America that had medicinal properties for Native Americans. They used parts of the plant as a poultice to treat snakebites, sores and swellings.

However, loading the car with my wife’s new plants was only the start of our day, as there was more on the agenda. In truth, this day was special for my wife, because in addition to hanging out at her favorite party, we were heading to Pittsburgh for her favorite dance form.

Although Japanese, my wife has long been a fan of Latin culture and dance. His favorite form is flamenco, which is not commonly found in the Alleghenies.

So when we heard about an inexpensive introductory lesson, offered by an organization called Flamenco Pittsburgh, she enthusiastically signed up. And so we went from herbs in Dilltown to flamenco at Allegheny Landing, a public park across the Allegheny River from downtown Pittsburgh.

Flamenco was born among the Gitano or Roma of southern Spain, then migrated throughout Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America. It is recognized on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list for its artistic fusion of song, dance and musicality.

My wife is no beginner, having practiced flamenco for years in Japan, but she happily embraced the lesson, which took place outside in a brick and concrete plaza. An instructor on a small stage explained and demonstrated the components then quite quickly and impressively got about two dozen people dancing a short sequence.

Figuring that no one wanted to see an overweight septuagenarian with two left feet attempt anything graceful, I took my seat. Which gave me the opportunity to walk through this lovely city park with its sculptures interpreting Pittsburgh’s industrial heritage.

After the lesson, we went to Lawrenceville for dinner in an old church that has been converted into a brewery called “Church Brew Works”. Although beautifully and impressively done, this adaptive reuse project is somewhat controversial in Roman Catholic circles for its placement of mash vats in the former sanctuary.

Involved myself in two adaptive reuse projects involving former church buildings, it was an opportunity to observe how certain aspects of the project were handled. Because this building and one of mine were designed by the same architect, I also enjoyed the similarities and differences between the two structures – while dining on a Cajun-inspired chicken jambalaya.

How heritage permeates our lives! Simply by following our interests, my wife and I spent an entire day discovering a natural heritage that spans thousands of years, an ethnic heritage that crosses continents, and a cultural heritage that creates a unique dining experience.

However, we must be open to heritage experiences. Well, at least most of them. I draw the line at the flamenco dance.

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