mapping it out

Get your vacation personalized via Pittsburgh startup ViaHero

From Tribune-Review: Lynne Bangsund and her daughter Krista wanted to go to Cuba, but they didn't want to go with the standard guided tour.

"We both speak a little Spanish, and we didn't really want to go with 30 other people," Bangsund said.

So, when they found travel site ViaHero online, they decided to give it a try. They got a personalized itinerary prepared by a bona fide Cuban guide for a fraction of the cost of a travel agent, Lynne said.

"It was amazing, we had the entire trip planned," she said. Not only did they get to see sights they wouldn't otherwise have known about, Bangsund said the pair felt like they had an edge over other travelers. As they made their way around Havana, they encountered other tourists at restaurants. "They would be waiting but we had all our reservations planned ahead of time."

When it launches in Japan in May, East Liberty-based travel startup ViaHero will add a third island country to its small but growing portfolio.


An AlphaLab alumni company, ViaHero creates customized travel guides that allow travelers to experience their destination like a local. Rather than compensating the hotel or airline trying to sell the most expensive trip, ViaHero relies on the person providing the expert advice (the "heroes," if you will) to create the best possible travel experience.

"People really value the local insight they wouldn't have access to otherwise," said ViaHero CEO Greg Buzulencia. "You'd have to go through thousands of reviews on a site like TripAdvisor to get this depth of information."


ViaHero has started small, launching in Cuba and Iceland as its first markets. The company uses a blend of Airbnb hosts, freelance tour guides and local travel writers, many of whom come with their own audiences, to help plan the trips for customers.

With Cuba a relatively new destination for American travelers and Iceland becoming a more popular destination due to low-cost airfares, ViaHero has found a niche within the very crowded online travel space.

Buzulencia says the typical customer for ViaHero is an experienced international traveler, who might have visited a place with a tour guide in the past but wants a more authentic and independent experience.

Read about how ViaHero works at the Tribune-Review.

β€” Tribune-Review

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Hometown hero

James Conner's Steelers jerseys are gonna be gold

We already know that someone somewhere is printing T-shirts this late.

All because this happened tonight:

And Steeler Nation rejoiced!

Read about more about Conner from Jerry Dipaola at the Tribune-Review.

Let's never forget:

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they got burned

WTF happened at Fyre Fest in the Bahamas?

It was supposed to be a weekend of bliss, booze and bops. Instead, it was chaos.

Organizers of the much-hyped Fyre music festival in the Bahamas canceled the weekend event at the last minute Friday after many people had already arrived and spent thousands of dollars on tickets and travel, the Associated Press reports.

Fyre Festival organizers announced the cancellation of what they previously billed as a "once-in-a-lifetime" concert along the lines of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Southern California.

The scene didn't look so good:

People had already begun arriving in the Exuma islands for the first of two weekends that was to include performances by Blink-182 and others.

The event's website put it differently: "Due to circumstances out of our control, the physical infrastructure was not in place on time and we are unable to fulfill on that vision safely and enjoyably for our guests."

They said they were working to arrange charter flights to Miami for people who had already arrived in Exuma and said inbound flights had been canceled.

Fyre Festival, produced by a partnership that includes rapper Ja Rule, had promised "culinary delights and luxury" over this weekend and the second one in May. Organizers had relied on models and other minor celebrities to heavily promote the festival as a glitzy destination event. It was unclear from the website if the second weekend would also be canceled.

William N. Finley IV was live tweeting the entire bungle:

The Bahamas tourism ministry had expected it to be one of the largest such events ever held in the island chain east of Florida.

But attendees complained bitterly about disorganization, a lack of accommodations and inadequate food in social media posts.

And they were furious (and some furiously funny).

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cultural recognition

Some dude has named plants after Ahnuld & Danny

So, "Twins" might not be the height of sophisticated culture.

Right? Even with lines like, "Thank you for the cookies. I look forward to tossing them."

But now an Australian scientist has given the film a bit of a cultural boost by naming a genus of Australian pea flowers, Daviesia schwarzenegger and devito, after the two leading actors in the film.

(That would be Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito, of course.)

The 1988 comedy follows the laugh-filled notion that Schwarzenegger and DeVito were part of an embryo split to craft the perfect child. However, Ahnuld's character ended up with all the good stuff (strength, intelligence) and DeVito got the scraps.

And that's basically the idea with these plants: The Daviesia schwarzenegger is larger and more robust, and the Daviesia devito is smaller and weaker.

Australian National University Professor Mike Crisp has identified 131 sub-species of plants in the Davesia genus β€” these are but two of them. They're found in southeast Australia, and they are in trouble.

"Both species are at risk of extinction, because they appear to be confined to tiny remnant patches of bushland in a region that is largely cleared for wheat farming," Crisp said in a statement.

"These plants are ecologically important members of the communities of plants in which they grow. They're nitrogen fixers, playing an important role in the Mallee region where the top soil is very denuded and the nutrients are depleted. It's essential to have nitrogen fixers to replace those nutrients."

Here's hoping they'll be back.

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Gonna be a while

Well, your morning commute could be worse

You thought the Route 28 backup was awful. Imagine encountering something like this on your way in ...

Q13 Fox out of Seattle reports a large tree fell on two cars Wednesday in Fife, Wash.

The Washington State Patrol said one driver was taken to the hospital with serious head injuries. She's was listed in serious condition.

Her red Toyota Prius was totaled.

The driver of the second car hit was uninjured, police said.

Three lanes of traffic were blocked for about an hour, leading to a 10-mile backup.

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open mouths, open hearts

New nosh spots boost downtown ’Burgh's vibe

The surge in new restaurants Downtown has been a good recipe for drawing more people to the Golden Triangle, according to a report released Thursday.

"Food drives foot traffic," the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership wrote in its annual State of Downtown report, which looks at a number of key economic factors related to life and business in Western Pennsylvania's most bustling central business district.

The Downtown Partnership said 30 restaurants opened in the Greater Downtown area in 2016 β€” and 10 more in just the first four months of this year. The organization defines Greater Downtown as the Golden Triangle, North Shore, South Shore, Uptown, the Bluff, the Lower Hill District and the Strip District to 31st Street.

The three biggest spots for new eateries: the North Shore (with nine), Mellon Square (with six) and Market Square (with five).

Revel + Roost is among the new downtown Pittsburgh spots. (Revel + Roost via Instagram)

And even more new restaurants and bars are on the horizon. Made in Pgh reports upcoming spots include Or, the Whale in the new Distrikt Hotel on Boulevard of the Allies; Millie's ice cream is expanding with another spot downtown next to Revel + Roost; Yuzu Kitchen's ramen plates and tapas-style apps are headed for Wood Street; and Burn by Rocky Patel, a Naples, Fla., cigar bar is opening on the North Shore.

Burn by Rocky Patel is headed to the North Shore (Burn)

In a pedestrian traffic study conducted last year, the Downtown Partnership found that foot traffic was up 108 percent in the 900 block of Penn Avenue compared with 2012 and up 30 percent in Market Square in the same span. In the four-year period, eight new restaurants opened in the Penn Avenue corridor and 12 did in or near Market Square.

The increased number of people living Downtown also contributed to the extra foot traffic. The report said that 14,764 people called Greater Downtown home in 2016, up 2.6 percent from the year before and 22 percent from 2010.

β€” Tribune-Review

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Coyne's fountain of youth

What did YOU do when you turned 99?

Even if you aren't a Pirates fan. Even if you aren't a baseball fan. You need to appreciate how amazing Phil Coyne is.

He's the incredible man who turns 99 years young Thursday night. He's also marking his 81st year as an usher with the Pirates.

Yep. Same job for 81 years. Now don't you feel like a do-nothing?

Before Wednesday night's game, Pirates president Frank Coonelly presented Coyne with a special No. 99 jersey.

Coyne talked with Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Matt Freed, imparting his secret nightly ritual:

Pittsburgh fans certainly love the man.

This idea is pure genius:

And you know you are class when the enemy acknowledges you.

Leave it to Christopher Horner to snag the best image of a great man:

Read more about Coyne and his memories over the years in this piece from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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Napercise, MF'ers

Sleep workout is what we've been looking for

Finally, a class that if you sleep through it, you'll pass.

A fitness outfit in England, David Lloyd Clubs, is launching Napercise, a 45-minute workout that consists of nothing but climbing into a bed and going to sleep.

And just like that, we're gym members.

The 40 Winks Workout is "designed to help reinvigorate the mind, body, and even burn the odd calorie."

Instead of spin bikes, guests will walk into a room full of single beds (yeah, we know ... but we're here to sleep, remember?).

(David Lloyd Clubs)

The uptempo beats are swapped out with atmospheric sounds. They're also dropping the room temp to a level that "promotes calorie burning during sleep" (whatever the hell that would be).

The program is being tested for the first time this weekend. If all goes well, the club will roll it out to its other clubs around the UK.

It was developed with sleep expert Kathryn Pinkham.

"Sleep is a lot more important than people realize," she says. "We tend to focus on the short-term effects such as being tired or lacking concentration, but it is also essential for our long-term physical and mental well-being, too."

(David Lloyd Clubs)

David Lloyd Clubs polled its members and found that, among parents, 86% admitted to suffering from fatigue, with 26% regularly getting less than five hours of sleep a night.

"When we are sleep-deprived, we lack the energy to exercise regularly," Pinkham says, "and also the mental clarity to make good decisions about the food we eat, which could negatively impact our physical health in the long-run."

Wanna fly across the pond and try it out? Then

Check it:

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