Sunday, March 16, 2014

#Travel // Buffalo

While admiring Niagara Falls, we crossed the bridge back into the U.S., where the rest of our road trip around the Great Lakes continued into Buffalo, New York. Like majority of the pit-stops on this trip, I had zero expectations for this city. I really had no idea what we were going to find here other than offerings of wings, which we surprisingly didn't even try! Also to our surprise, we ended up lingering a little longer than expected in this city! 

We rolled into town around lunch time, meaning we were hungry. I had read Buffalo was a cheap foodie's paradise and had restaurants-a-plenty on Allen street.  By the time we parked and started walking, we were basically starving, taking up the first local restaurant on radar. I don't have any photos, but I scarfed down a philly and I don't remember when Torsten got, but it was inferior and he somehow managed to haggle that we split and share our meals. He's sneaky like that. 

Our biggest impression of Buffalo was the...erm, unique architecture. The only city that has rivaled it so far for the most, we'll say, "interesting" city's architecture we've seen so far has been Rotterdam, and that's a whole other level of strange! I'll get to that in a few weeks if you keep up on the Euro road trip I just started posting about ;)  

We started off by checking out the City Hall and surrounding area. The City Hall itself was something. Torsten nor myself could decide if we liked it's strange combination of Art Deco with native accents. It was awkward, but not nearly awkward as it's neighboring City Court Building. One look walking into that building and you already feel like you're going to a penitentiary. The only sign of natural light possibly shining into the large, intimidating building were slivers of windows down the side. 

This building I was actually quite fond of, no idea it's purpose as we were just wandering around the vacant downtown at this time. I couldn't stop staring at the mirrored windows or intricate details covering the entire exterior! 

In typical Great Lakes road trip fashion, the day would not have been complete without a beautiful sunset over the water. We came just in time to watch the rowers return from the lake while their form was silhouetted by the last rays of sun. 

Before we got cozy in the van for the night, we had one last anticipated sight to see; The Peace Bridge. Best known for travel between the U.S and Canada... and of course it's color changing lights! We parked the van and walked along a sidewalk that goes under the bridge, admiring the transitions of colors and it's reflection of the rushing, and litter-infested, water. 

The next day we decided to check out the old war ships and submarine at The Buffalo Naval Park. Between it's museum and the ships, we spent houuuurrrs longer here than expected! One of my favorite parts was in the museum, where there were posters of old vets and their personal WWI and WWII stories. The ships and sub have a self-led tour that was more than we were expecting to see. They're even pretty generous about letting you climb around and get some interesting perspectives. As you can see, Torsten definitely had some fun with it! 

We'd only planned to spend a couple hours at the Naval Park, though it was already late afternoon by the time we left. It gave us just enough time to hit the road and enjoy the last few hours of daylight in this gorgeous Pennsylvanian State Park!

Up Next on the Great Lakes Road Trip;

Cleveland, Ohio


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

#Travel // Introducing Europe, Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord

I know, I'm still in the never-ending process of posting about my other two road trips taken in 2013 (Tasmania and around the Great Lakes), but I just had to start posting about the trip I took this time last year! It was the first time Torsten and I had been reunited after he left Sydney 8 months earlier. 

After seeing flight deal I couldn't resist, I decided to book a two-and-a-half week trip to be with my favorite German. I arrived in Dusseldorf on March 1st, and from there Torsten chauffeured me around Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. In all honesty, I always mention how I went to Germany last year, but I really saw much more of the other two countries than Deutschland!

I'm still searching for any photos I have of Dusseldorf, which is how we spent the day, but towards the evening we headed to Duisburg, where a true hidden gem of Germany is located! 

Landschaftspark in Duisburg is an old, abandoned steel and coal production plant that has since become a public park in efforts to understand it's industrial past rather than rejecting it. At least that's what Wikipedia told me. When I went there I just knew it was a giant industrial ground that is know for being lit up at night. Sounded cool enough and I was totally in!

The rusted steel and old brick alone was pretty cool, but being a legit attraction is has it's own gift shop, information center and restaurant. We didn't really bother with any of those, especially since we arrived

My absolute favorite part was climbing the old structures and admiring the view from above! It was sooo freakin' cool I really don't have words to express how amazing it was climbing up the old, rusty staircases and weaving through old structures to view the park and the neighboring villages. You'll have to do with these photos! 

Being the beginning of March, it was cooold. As cool as climbing all of this was, I shiver whenever i see these photos as I remember how my hand was going numb on the rails and how insufficiently I had packed. Aside from being home for a week, this was the first bite of cold weather I was experiencing in years. I had just left summer in Australia where I also ventured around New Zeland and Hawaii before taking this trip. I really wasn't prepared in many ways for hours of wandering outside in late, European winter. Fortunately there was enough to distract me! 

Again, these views! I'm getting to the night scenes that the park is known best for, but I really can't stop starring at the image directly above this text. I just find it fascinating in so many ways. Fortunately I'm with an engineer who wouldn't object to having a giant print of this hanging in our apartment one day!

This post wouldn't be complete without these photos. We held out until was saw the park lit up, even with chilly winds! Being the off-season, the park was only partially lit, but it was still gorgeous! The anticipation of darkness spreading over the park and waiting for the first light was excruciating! There was probably a solid ten minutes I thought nothing was going to happen. Eventually they started to flicker on!

The park is still pretty dark with only some of the structures getting lit up, we stumbled around, covering some ground we hadn't seen before heading back to a warm car. The park is pretty large, becoming a maze at times. At one point we found a playground with a slide, this was when it was nearly pitch black, and went down a slide that ended up being way faster and more thrilling that either of us were anticipating!

Both Torsten and I loved this park and would definitely take any opportunity to see it again, especially in warmer weather! While I don't want to give away too much, with nothing be definite, there is a good chance we'll both be brought back to this park at the end of summer! *Fingers Tightly Crossed*

Thursday, March 6, 2014

#BookReview & #Giveaway // The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

Book Review // The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

In almost perfect timing last week, two of my most anticipated packages arrived on my doorstep; The Weight of Blood and a mini mountain of Girl Scout Cookies. I had the intention of pacing myself with both, though ended up consuming countless hours and calories, indulging in both the first couple of nights of possessing them. Just as addicting as those infamous girl scout cookies, The Weight of Blood was impossible to set down.

Here is where I swap comparing the book to cookies and switch to something less sweet; American Horror Story. For fans of the incredibly addicting TV series, you know how dark and disturbing the series is, though has a way of keeping you constantly craving more. With both the series and The Weight of Blood, there are characters you quickly become attached to where you have to see how their story unfolds. There are also characters so disturbing, you wonder how anybody could possible be capable of performing their dark acts, eventually hearing their back story to gain some understanding, and sometimes even a smidge of sympathy.

I found myself having similar emotional reactions to The Weight of Blood as I did with American Horror Story. Mouth wide-open, eyes going dry from not being able to look away and my heart literally racing! Each chapter ends with so much suspense I found myself binging, as I did with American Horror Story, finishing the book in the first few days! 

About the book and the author

The Weight of Blood introduces you to a small town in the Ozark mountains of Missouri. Like any small town there are strong loyalties between its long-term inhabitants, but in this town, they are so strong that is is nearly impossible for Lila, an outsider brought in to work, to be accepted by anyone but a few empathetic folks. Lila ends up mysteriously disappearing, leaving behind her young daughter, who grows curious about her mother as she comes of age and ends up discovering the dark secrets of the town she grew up in. 

This is Laura McHugh's debut novel. I was shocked. Reading her bio, she sounds like a pretty normal human, with a family and hobbies typical to most people I know. What's not so normal about her is the sheer talent of her writing abilities. I'm not a 100% sure I would have picked up this novel reading only the description, honestly I don't really care what happens in the Ozarks, but I'm glad Random House gave me the opportunity to read this book! Laura is an incredible storyteller and I truly hope this is only the start of a long, successful literary career for her! 

The Weight of Blood makes it's big debut on March 11th!
Grab your hardcover copy here!

Random House provided the amazing opportunity for me to read and review this book
  and(!) they are also giving away a copy to one of you lucky readers!
(Available to U.S. residents only)

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