Tuesday, April 22, 2014

#Travel // I Didn't Hate Cleveland

I didn't hate Cleveland.

 In fact I was actually really surprised how mildly entertaining it ended up being. We only dedicated a day of our month-long road trip around the Great Lakes to this city, thinking we'd just stop by and stretch our legs for a few hours. This was still only a couple days after leaving Niagara Fall and Toronto, we weren't expecting to see much until we hit Detroit.

 A lot of our trip ended up being like that, considering we didn't have much idea of what was in store when we rerouted from a trip out west to around the great lakes. Trading National Parks and Monument for ... uhm, a lot of woods and random, low-profile cities. Props to the National Shutdown. 

The best lesson of traveling our new route, was that places can really surprise you. We never once had to deal with inflated prices or obnoxious crowds of tourists and a lot of stops really surprised us with how visitor friendly they were. Cleveland is probably one of the best examples. I was expecting only to see an nausa-inducing amount of the horrible color scheme of brown and orange. Fortunately the city isn't as crazy with Browns pride and I was spared!

For most of the road trip, all we really spent money on was food and gas. The Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame was pricey, we knew that going in. We had no intention to pay the entrance fee, but decided at least a peek in the lobby would be worth checking-out. As you can see, we caved and forked over the $40 to marvel at all it's impressive innards.

This was definitely one attraction both Torsten and I were glad we splurged on. As I mentioned, we weren't planning on actually seeing the full museum, but once we were in, we stayed in... for hours. What was meant to be a quick stop ended up taking up the whole day as we watched old music videos and admired memorabilia of legends. 

We wandered the downtown a bit before stumbling into a food court, starrrrrving. We pretty much made a meal out of all the free samples on offer, but still dug into some good ole gooey, food-court "Chinese". We also soaked up as much of the WiFi as our phones could handle. 

On the way out of Tower City, we walked along the Cuyahoga River, counting the bridges along the way. The old steel and stone buildings lining the path along the river was strangely beautiful in an industrial way. The perks of having an engineer boyfriend is being able to see rusty eyesores in a positive light. 

As the sun started setting, we started making our way back to the van, passing through a massive hunk of inner-city green space, read: glorified lawn with fancy sculptures. 

We rolled out of town with a sky-full of colorful clouds and better impression of Cleveland than we'd ever expected. We continued the drive along Lake Erie, heading North to the one and only Motor City; Detroit!


Sunday, April 20, 2014

#Travel // Easter Weekend in the Blue Mountains

I hope everyone had a nice Easter Weekend. This year I didn't get up to much, so instead I've decided to share the first trip Torsten and I took together back in 2012. We had only been together for a little over a month when he suggested we take advantage of the long holiday weekend by taking a train a couple hours away to the Blue Mountains. He didn't have a hard time convincing me to say yes! 

Select photos from this post can be bought in my Society6 shop, click here to get yous! 

For anyone who doesn't know, Torsten and I met at a University in Sydney. He had just started his classes and was still actually being as studious as he was in Germany (he later would discover how unnecessary that was in Australia), so during the two hours there I napped while he tentatively highlighted things. 

Upon arriving at Katoomba Station, he sifted through the piles of papers for our reservation at the hostel. We checked-in and got cozy in our dorm room. Yes, dorm room. Our first getaway and we were sharing a room with 8 other people. One who threw my things off my bed while we were out and kept me up half the night with his sleep-shouting, threatening whoever he was dreaming about that he would be shoving a pipe through their throat. It clearly was a very romantic first night away together. 

After checking-in, we had taken a looooong nap before waking up and realizing we probably shouldn't waste the whole first day lounging alone in our room, though it was nice to have it to ourselves for at least a few hours! As the sun was setting as we headed out for dinner where we shared a large plate of nachos and burned it off with a walk down to the legendary Three Sisters. 

To get from Katoomba down to the Three Sisters is a pretty long walk, as I'd discover. It was dark, and I was skeptical as I followed Torsten. This was before I knew better, and was constantly doubting most of his ideas. But about 30-45 minutes later, we were there.

 When we arrived, the Three Sisters were illuminated and we were their only spectators. Being a holiday weekend, we were sure this would be the only time we had the space to ourselves. We played with our camera settings, teetering our cameras on ledges of railing with long, dark drops on the other side. We ventured around the platforms before heading back to our single beds. 

The few hours of sleep I had the night before were made up with delicious coffee and morning treats. Both mornings had begun with caffeine and buttery, chocolate overloads. The sun was shining and people were lazily strolling the town center. It was a refreshing change from busy Sydney and were beautiful beginnings to our adventures into the mountains! 

We stared our first hike somewhere random, where I was constantly doubting Torsten (as usual). We ventured for ages down a random side road to the trail, I'm sure I was constantly complaining while he was pretending not to understand me. To this day I don't always know how Torsten finds some of the routes he does, he insists he just looks at maps, but the results always prove to be amazing. This first trail had refreshing waterfalls we couldn't resist not taking our shoes off for. 

A few hours into our hike we found a nice spot to sit and enjoy the view of a passing cable car going over the mountains. We were shortly joined by a few colorful parrots. It was a perfect  time to hydrate with our discount beers we had found in the liquor store neighboring our hostel. We know how to hike. With warm beers. (Don'worry, we took our rubbish with us.)

Our trail was surprisingly quiet, passing only a few other people along the way. We thought the area would be much busier being a holiday weekend. We quickly learned where the crowds of people were; Scenic World. The one and only attracting with a fee. We were suckered in with the promise of amazing views and various rides to enjoy them in. 

We went all-out, getting the multiple cable rides, the railway drop and the boardwalk. It was neat, but kind of anticlimactic. Then again, I was probably annoyed with having to share everything with the large crowds of rambunctious families. 

On our way back to have a few beers back the hostel, we swung past the sun setting amongst the sisters. The view of them never gets old. 

The next day we kept busy with a longer hike, with even more waterfalls and sketchy stairs. We kept the beer at the hostel this time and headed out at least a little more prepared for a full day of hiking. 

This trail was amazing. We totally had the wrong footwear and clothing, but somehow survived all the mud and splash of the falls. At one point I had even underestimated a slippery rock and nearly fallen into the rushing falls. I left only with a wet foot, but to this day I still get overly cautious about climbing rocks near falls!

The last  leg of our hike was to be rewarded with the views of echo point and back to the Three Sisters. But before we got there, we climbed a never-ending series of stairs back up the Mountain from the valley we'd been hiking in. The stairs kicked our butts, making us sore for days. But the views were worth it, especially as we made the climb during golden hour. 

We enjoyed one last view of the sisters and the mountains before heading back into town, where we gathered our bags from the hostel and waited for the train to bring us back to Sydney. The train-ride back we were exhausted. We even went straight back to our own flats, passing up drinks with the gang at "our" bar. It was an amazing weekend even with unfavorable accommodation. 

It wasn't a traditional way to spend Easter, but then again, next year I probably will be with Torsten, in Germany, joining the crowds gathering around a large fire. As strange as it sounds, you'll have to wait until next year to see what that's all about! 

In case you have been wondering why there hasn't been a single photo of me in this post, here's why...

Remember Torsten and I had only been together for a month at this point. I'm pretty sure this was the first time he'd touched my fully manual camera with fixed lens. I gave the guy a break on this trip, but fortunately he's gotten better. And not only with my camera, but also with giving in to my demand of always having our own room on all our trips from then on!

Have a happy Easter!

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