a london arrival

This summer I spent a good bit of time in London.  I went abroad from June 10th to July 24th and spent time in London, Malaga, and various parts of Italy.  At just over six weeks, this was my longest trip yet (outside of my time spent studying abroad).

I used London as my launching point. I started there, and spent almost two weeks there before going on a vacation-within-a-vacation to Malaga, Spain. I returned to London, and met up with my sister, Melody, for a sisterly adventure in Italy. We returned one more time to London to spend a few more days before flying home at the end of July.

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A typically cloudy London day in June, by the Thames.

I also used London as my Hemmingway-esque retreat.  I sequestered myself away in the anonymity of travel with the hopes of finishing the first draft of my first full length novel.  I was successful, and Book One of Katerina Fairy’s story is officially underway.

But despite the lofty writing goal, I managed to find time to explore London a bit. I won’t say I’d be comfortable calling it home yet, there’s far too much to see and explore in a few short weeks, but I’m confident I was able to scratch the surface and taste a hint of everything that incredible city has to offer.

I thought about writing one mega-post about my time there, but quickly decided that that route would neither do justice to the city, nor be entertaining and manageable for you, dear readers. So instead, I’ve broken it down into a series of posts.  This week I’ll talk about arrival at Heathrow Airport, the public transportation system, and general getting around and getting settled tips and tricks. In the following weeks I’ll explore the different neighborhoods and parks I frequented; the museums, marketplaces, and entertainment I enjoyed; my favorite bars (tough choice I know!); and my favorite eateries. If you’re considering a trip to London, or you’ve already been and just want to compare notes, please read on! I’d love to hear your favorite places too, so I can start my list of places to see for the next time I’m in The City.

So, arrival. I have found that whether I am coming from across the ocean, or just one country away, getting through Passport Control at Heathrow Airport can be atrocious. I have never gotten through in under an hour and most times it has been closer to a three hour process.  It’s not that the process itself takes that long; a couple of questions, some proof of intention, and a stamp in your passport and you’re on your way. But the line has always been demoralizingly long. So, of these settling in tips, Tip #1 is pee before you get in line.  Get off that plane and find a restroom near your gate. Don’t think you can make it to baggage and be happy about it. Tip #2 is add three hours to your travel time before making any plans for the evening of your arrival.  If you land at noon, don’t think you’ll meet your mates at the pub for a pint, or collect your key from your AirBNB host by 2:00 or even 3:00 pm. Maybe 4:00 pm if you’re lucky.

Once you’ve passed Passport Control, congratulations! You’re officially in London! Your next step is to get to your lodging and drop your bags.  If you are traveling with too much to travel comfortably by yourself, make your way to the taxi pick up station, hop into a famous Black Taxi, and be on your way.

If you travel light, like I often do, taking London’s incredible public transportation system is a convenient and far less expensive option.  There’s a tube station right in the airport.  At the station, pick up an Oyster card.

Oyster cards are a refillable payment card useable on all public transportation options in London. We’re talking the Tube, the Overground, busses, trams, and most National Rail Services.  The card costs something like £10 to buy, but it’s a deposit you can get back at the end of your trip if you return your Oyster card.  Put enough money on it for it to be convenient, but don’t go loading your whole trip’s public transportation budget on there all at once.  If you loose that card, its like cash- i’s gone and lost.  If you register the card there is a little more account security, and balances can be transferred to an new card. But if you aren’t there long, and don’t bother registering it, you’ll feel the sting when a £10 card with £30 in travel funds on it falls out of your pocket in the middle of the street. So Tip #3 is Get an Oyster card, but don’t keep more than £15 on it at a time. Thats more than enough for a day or two of public transport travel. Especially since the city has this great capping system where after a certain point, any future journeys in a given day are free. Learn more at the Oyster Card Website. You can top off the cards at any tube station.  You can’t add more funds on a bus, but if you get on a bus with insufficient funds they give you one courtesy security ride, putting you in the negative, which will be repaid when you next top off funds.

So, Oyster card in hand, you climb into the next Tube car that arrives, grab a seat, and make your way to your new temporary home. This time I stayed in AirBNBs and CouchSurfed, but we’ll talk more about lodging and London neighborhoods next week.

Once you’ve checked in and dropped your bags, its time to begin exploring! A great way to explore the city is by riding the infamous red double decker busses.  Each ride is only £1.50, and the network of busses canvasses much of the city above ground; giving you a better chance to learn the layout of your new neighborhood than you might get if you only ever ride the Tube underground. That’s why Tip #4 is Tour the City from the Top of the Double Decker Busses! If you have the time and the patience, hop on a bus and just see where it goes. You might find your new favorite restaurant, park, shops, or bar that way.

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How will you find awesome street art like this happy octopus in a bowler hat drinking a pint if you don’t ride random red busses around the city?

From here, get to call the shots. What do you want to see? Do? Explore? Discover?

From history and the classics, to modern art, to art so modern its still underground, you’ll find it in London.  Which is why my Tip #5 is See the Big Sights, but Don’t Stop There.  London is so much more than Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. There are museums, and marketplaces, gardens and theatre, concerts, bars, restaurants, clubs, and more.

So, go explore!

And check back in next week for some of my favorites in art, culture, cuisine, and architecture shrouded by the London Fog and waiting to be discovered.

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306545_10100339996775636_297841040_nHave you ever had the urge to just drop what you were doing, pack a bag, and set out on an adventure? Seven years and over two dozen countries later, Aeri Rose is proof that excitement, independence, and discovery await those who are bold enough to say “yes” to life’s craziest choices. When not exploring the world with her little grey backpack, Aeri Rose an be found living a nomadic lifestyle traveling the United States as a writer and entrepreneur.  To follow Aeri on all her adventures, check her out online at travelingwithaeri.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aerirose, and on Instagram @travelingwithaeri.

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lake anna, virginia

 

For the past few years, each spring I have found myself making my way towards beautiful Lake Anna in central Virginia.  I spend five weeks there in May and June for the annual Virginia Renaissance Festival.  Though I’m called to Virginia for work, I really look forward to the time I get to spend there each year.

Lake Anna is one of the largest lakes in Virginia, spanning more than 20 square miles in Louisa, Orange, and Spotsylvania counties. Lake Anna is an ideal vacationer’s lake. It is clean and well maintained by Lake Anna State Park, several campgrounds and marinas along it’s edges, and plenty of homes with private water access.

Come out for a weekend and a chance to relax and get back to nature.  The best times to visit are spring and summer, but I’ve heard winters can be beautiful as well.  Soft white snowfall covers rolling hills, and dark brown barren winter trees line a still grey lake making for a quiet nearly mono-chromatic beauty that is incredibly peaceful and restful.

I’ve yet to visit in the winter, but in the summer there is plenty to see and do around Lake Anna.

Consider camping inside Lake Anna State Park, where you will find your standard state park campground amenities: well maintained roads, wide level camp pads, fire pits, and rustic bath houses. For those disinclined to stay in a tent, there are several cabins of various sizes available for rent.  Lake Anna State Park has over 15 miles of trails to hike and access to a sandy beach perfect for families to spend the day at the lake. Sunbathe in the sand while the kids swim in the lake shallows. There is also a public boat launch point from within the state park.

Also available for camping is nearby Christopher Run Campground. It too has a small beach and boat launch available for campers.

While on vacation, consider spending some time at the nearby Lake Anna Winery.  The Winery is open Wednesday – Sunday each week. Tours of the winery are available upon request. If you sit down to a tasting, definitely ask to try the Lake Side Sunset, charmingly peachy/rose-colored, fruity, semi-dry wine. Sweet, refreshing, and incredibly easy to drink chilled on a hot summer evening, the Lake Side Sunset is my personal favorite of the Lake Anna Winery wines.

Lake Anna Winery is part of the Virginia Wine Trail, which provides a leisurely self-driven tour of six of central Virginia’s wineries. They also host many events throughout the year including fireworks, concerts, and more. Check their website to find out if there is anything exciting happening during your visit.

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Swim in the Lake (left), or visit the Lake Anna Winery for a summertime concert (right)

And of course, I should mention the Virginia Renaissance Festival.  Come out to the Lake Anna Winery in May and early-June and travel back in time with us! Visit their website to learn more about this year’s dates and times. Come dressed like a princess or pirate and browse the high quality artists and craftsmen selling their wares at the Renaissance faire. See incredible live performances of musicians, actors, and entertainers. Drinks some wine and ale and have yourself a day of merriment and fun. Look for me at The Silk Road Traders, custom blend perfume oils booth! I’ll make you smell real nice.

Whatever time of year you decide to visit, Lake Anna is sure to delight you with its beauty and tranquility. This year I was doubly happy to arrive, exhausted after my three-week long tour of the United States. I left Santa Barbara, California and made stops in Las Vegas, Zion National Park, Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Colorado, and Pittsburgh before finally landing at Lake Anna in time for the faire.  You can read all about those adventures in the previous weeks’ blogs.

I took every opportunity to relax in Virginia. We had lazy lake days, cook outs, plenty of leisurely evening walks and spent a nice overnight trip in Washington D.C (see next week’s blog post).

It was good to relax, because coming up next is a six week adventure in Europe!  Stay tuned for stories from London, England; Malaga, Spain; and various parts of Italy including Rome, Assisi, Florence, Naples, and Cefalu`, Sicily.

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306545_10100339996775636_297841040_nHave you ever had the urge to just drop what you were doing, pack a bag, and set out on an adventure? Seven years and over two dozen countries later, Aeri Rose is proof that excitement, independence, and discovery await those who are bold enough to say “yes” to life’s craziest choices. When not exploring the world with her little grey backpack, Aeri Rose an be found living a nomadic lifestyle traveling the United States as an artist and entrepreneur.  To follow Aeri on all her adventures, check her out online at travelingwithaeri.com; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aerirose.

arches national park

Today lets talk about Arches National Park, in Utah, on the Colorado Plateau and relatively close to the Colorado state border.

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Though the sandstone cliffs and formations of the park can seem harsh and barren, plenty of life still finds a way to thrive.

Arches National Park is beautiful in a stark and formidable sort of way.  It is a land filled with sweeping vistas built of solid red rock. It seems you can look in any direction and find stunning natural stone formations in the shapes of arches, pinnacles, standing columns, precariously balanced boulders and more.

The park is best known for Delicate Arch, a 65 foot tall naturally formed sandstone arch. But there is plenty more to see and explore in Arches National Park.

The park road entrance is just outside of Moab, the tiny outdoorsy little town I talked about last week. Just past the entrance the road climbs steeply with a number of sharp switchbacks marking the rapid rise in elevation. Though the park is filled with hiking trails and perfect spots for rock climbing of all sorts, if you only have a couple hours to spend then just taking a long and winding drive through the park. The views available along the main road are sure to satisfy.

The first sights on your way in are a group of incredibly tall, long narrow columns called the Courthouse Towers.  Just past these monoliths find the Petrified Dunes. These dunes formed 200 million years ago.  Back then they were part of a massive sandy desert area. Over time other stones and sand settled on top of the dunes, compressing and hardening them. Only after the other stones were again carried away by erosion were the original sand dunes, now petrified, revealed once again. With stones and stone formations I think we often have this sense of timeless beauty, but even stones are constantly changing with the passage of time.

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The Courthouse Towers

Past the Petrified Dunes are many stunning formations including a grouping of rock pinnacles, and a collection of smaller stone arches in The Window Section of the park. These arches include Pothole Arch, Double Arch, North Window and South Window. Don’t overlook the balanced rock, a massive boulder perched on top the point of an unbelievably narrow pinnacle.

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The Balanced Rock

Continue on and take in the sweeping panoramas and stunning sandstone cliffs that make up the bulk of the park.  If you only have time for one hike, I recommend taking one of the three trails to check out Delicate Arch.  The first trail is a short ten-minute hike up to the Lower Delicate Arch View Point.  This hike is good for all athletic abilities and is wheelchair accessible. The second option is a hike to the Upper Delicate Arch View Point. This is an easy to moderate hike of about 30-minutes (.5 miles). From the this view point the arch is plainly visible across a canyon. The third option is to hike directly out to Delicate Arch.  This is a difficult three-hour (3 mile) hike over open slick rock in full sun. Bring plenty of water and be prepared for a narrow rock ledge crossing before reaching Delicate Arch.

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Delicate Arch as seen from the Upper Level Delicate Arch View Point

I opted for hike number two, out of respect for my short time frame and hopes to be back on the highway before too late in the day. You can see from my picture of Delicate Arch what kind of view you can expect from the Upper Delicate Arch View Point.  It is a nice view, but if I’m ever near Arches National Park again I definitely want to do the more difficult Delicate Arch hike.  I also hope to spend more time exploring the Devil’s Garden.  This area of the park is at the most northern tip of the park and includes a campground and an extensive collection of trails and dozens of arches.

But unfortunately the sun was working its way lower in the sky and I knew it was time to hit the road again.  So with a last appreciative sigh at the beautiful vistas before me, I climbed back into my Jeep and made the slow trek back out of Arches National Park.

Next up on my journey? A few days and nights visiting friends along the way towards my final destination, the fine state of Virginia and the beautiful Lake Anna.  Check in next week for some exciting East-Coast adventures!

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306545_10100339996775636_297841040_nHave you ever had the urge to just drop what you were doing, pack a bag, and set out on an adventure? Seven years and over two dozen countries later, Aeri Rose is proof that excitement, independence, and discovery await those who are bold enough to say “yes” to life’s craziest choices. When not exploring the world with her little grey backpack, Aeri Rose an be found living a nomadic lifestyle traveling the United States as a writer and entrepreneur.  To follow Aeri on all her adventures, check her out online at travelingwithaeri.com; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aerirose.

moab, utah

Welcome back to the multi-part series on my Road Trip from California to Virginia taken this spring.  I guess I should have made that clearer in the beginning. I struck out from Santa Barbara, California, and spent a good two weeks working my way east. I made stops in lovely places like Las Vegas, Zion National Park, Arches National Park, Pittsburgh, Lake Anna, Washington D.C. and more. The past few weeks and the next several weeks will be filled with instillations of those exciting stops along the way.

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It is hard to pay attention to the road with views like this.

Anyway, welcome back and onward we go!

When we last talked travel, I was as far as the Coral Pink Sand Dunes in Utah.  Leaving the sand dunes, I again struck out east.  Moab, Utah, was my next destination.

Moab is a tiny, sporty, artsy little town in eastern Utah on top of the Colorado Plateau.  Its most famous features include Arches National Park, and Canyonlands National Park. Though small, it is visited by many tourists on the hunt for outdoor adventures each year. Off road Jeep treks, mountain biking, hiking, climbing, white water rafting, 4x4s, base jumping, slack lining, and more are offered to intrepid adventurers near Moab.  Want to know more? Visit Moab’s Tourism Website.

The best time to visit is late-spring to early-summer, or in the fall. Though there is something to do there any time of year, high summer and deep winter can experience extreme temperatures. My mid-to-late-April arrival was perfect. The weather couldn’t have been better; warm and sunny during the day, and cool at night.

When I arrived the sun was just setting.  I knew that by the time I got to the condo I would be too tired to venture back out.  So I stopped at a little grocery store for supplies. Some pasta and veggies for dinner, and a six-pack of a local brew, HooDoo, a Kolsch style ale by Unita Brewing Company.

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A great beer and a good view make for a happy Aeri!

Once at the condo I dropped my bags cracked open a beer to relax and enjoy the last of the settling twilight from the back porch.  The views were astounding. Snow capped mountains on one side and red orange sandstone plateaus on the other.

The next morning, feeling refreshed, I ventured towards downtown Moab.  It is a cute little town.  There are plenty of coffee shops, restaurants, artisan boutiques and outdoor equipment general stores.

I spent time admiring the local artists’ work, and bought a few small prints by Serena Supplee. She was my favorite of the local scenery artists displaying work throughout the town.  Her use of color and bold shapes made for work that felt almost surrealist if the subject matter wasn’t sitting on the horizon for easy comparison.

Feeling hungry, I made my way to The Moab Brewery, a restaurant and brewery at the top of the hill, just outside the edge of downtown.  They had a bunch of great beers on tap. It made it hard to choose just what to try! Since it was lunch time I settled on the Dead Horse Amber, a mild beer, good cold and at 4% a reasonable choice for a midday meal.  It complimented my gigantic  burger and fresh cut thick fries well. The Moab Brewery was good. They had good food, good atmosphere, and great beers.

And the best part is that since it’s a brewery too, you can buy cans and bottles to take home with you. I picked out the Over the Top Hefeweizen, Black Raven Oatmeal Stout, and Squeaky Bike Nut Brown Ale to try later.

I just wish I had had more time to spend in Moab.  I would have explored the more adventurous options around the town. A jeep safari deep into the beautiful canyons and ridges around the Colorado Plateau, and definitely some more hikes.

As it was the day passed quicker than I would have thought. The next day I had plans to visit Arches National Park for the day and get on the road by the late afternoon.

Check back next week for stories from Arches National Park.

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306545_10100339996775636_297841040_nHave you ever had the urge to just drop what you were doing, pack a bag, and set out on an adventure? Seven years and over two dozen countries later, Aeri Rose is proof that excitement, independence, and discovery await those who are bold enough to say “yes” to life’s craziest choices. When not exploring the world with her little grey backpack, Aeri Rose an be found living a nomadic lifestyle traveling the United States as a writer and entrepreneur.  To follow Aeri on all her adventures, check her out online at travelingwithaeri.com; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aerirose.

wiggle your toes in coral pink sand dunes

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Imagine pale pink sand rolling in massive hills as tall as buildings, nestled in a great bowl of red Navajo Sandstone walls. Imagine walking out onto the dunes, a wavering line of your footprints strung out behind you as you walk, barefoot, along the tallest ridge.  Warm, incredibly soft, pink sand working its way between your toes as you walk along, steadily warming beneath the bright afternoon sunlight.

You pause for a sip of water and hear the happy laughter of children up ahead.  Suddenly two curly little heads go whizzing down the side of the dune, holding tightly to a cheap plastic disk, a snow sled repurposed for these perfect desert dunes. A third child, too impatient to wait for the disk to return, launches himself head first down the hill and rolls to the bottom in a pink dust cloud of arms and legs.  He is chased by the family dog, who is mostly confused, though happy because his tiny humans are happy.

Welcome to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes of southern Utah.

The dunes are a protected State Park of Utah.  Here, visitors can walk, sled, ski, snow sand-board, and take ATVs out onto the dunes for a day of adventure.  With a backdrop of red sandstone cliffs all around, its the perfect setting for a Mad Max photoshoot or a Mars Landing sci-fi film.

The Coral Pink Sand Dunes got their beautiful pink hue from the Navajo Sandstone cliffs surrounding them. Over time, high winds passing through the mountains caused the cliffs to erode. The winds deposited the pink dust past the mountains and created the beautiful coral colored sand dunes we see today.

I like thinking about the sandstone cliffs and the dunes and the wind. I feel like there are lessons to be learned there. Maybe the lesson is that only with the constant adversity of the wind, are the mountains able to create the beautiful dunes.  Or maybe the lesson is that despite the constant adversity of the winds the mountains remain strong and permanent through time.  Or, the dunes and the mountains are made of the same stuff. But where the mountains are rigid and unchanging, the dunes are flexible and shifting.

Its ok to be a mountain, strong in the face of adversity. But its also ok to be a dune, created from adversity, and beautiful in its constant shifting and changing. Be a mountain if you want to be a mountain. Or be a dune if you want to be a dune.  The dunes don’t loose their essence, their mountain dust, no matter how many new shapes they take.

You be you! And while you’re being you…go be you at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, a beautiful pale pink treasure in the middle of the mid-western deserts that’s just waiting for you to wiggle your toes in the sands.

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306545_10100339996775636_297841040_nHave you ever had the urge to just drop what you were doing, pack a bag, and set out on an adventure? Seven years and over two dozen countries later, Aeri Rose is proof that excitement, independence, and discovery await those who are bold enough to say “yes” to life’s craziest choices. When not exploring the world with her little grey backpack, Aeri Rose an be found living a nomadic lifestyle traveling the United States as a writer and entrepreneur.  To follow Aeri on all her adventures, check her out online at travelingwithaeri.com; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aerirose.

angel’s landing and zion national park

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A panoramic view of Angel’s Landing

Zion National Park is an incredibly beautiful national natural landmark that deserves far more pomp and attention than it receives.  Located in Utah, Zion has been a protected National Park since 1919, though today it is unfortunately occasionally overlooked in favor of the more famous National Parks in the area including the Grand Canyon, Painted Desert and Petrified Forest.

Indians have lived in Zion for thousands of years, but it received the name it holds now after Mormon settlers arrived in the early 1860’s.  The story goes that after crossing the harsh midwest, the settlers arrived at the stunning, sheltered, green and lush canyon area and deemed it a truly heavenly site. The central feature of Zion National Park is Zion Canyon, though the varied landscape of the 229 square mile park includes desert, woodland, mountains, canyons, buttes, rivers, arches, and more.

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Beginning my hike to Angel’s Landing. It starts with a gentle trail along the Virgin River.

Visiting Zion National Park was high on my bucket list for at least a decade before I was finally able to make my way there this spring. The reason? Angel’s Landing.

Angel’s Landing is the name given to a 1,500 foot tall rock formation artfully positioned at the intersection of three canyons. A short but rigorous 2.5 mile trail leads from a base in the Grotto, up through a series of switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggles, and past Scout Lookout. Scout Lookout is the final destination for many, because past that the trail narrows drastically. Often only two feet wide, the trail has been forcefully carved into cliff sides anchored with chains for balance and support. At other times a mere three feet separates travelers from plummeting cliffs on either side. But the view from the summit is worth every terrifying step.  Stand at the point of Angel’s Landing and feel the vast windy emptiness of open canyons surrounding you on three sides. No matter how long you sit taking in the view, you will always wish you had sat just a little bit longer.

I had two days to spend in Zion, but after my first glance at the stunning canyons and sandstone cliffs I knew I could have spent a week there and still not been satisfied.

So what did I do? Where did I stay? What did I see?

Camping in the park is hard to get. The reserve sites fill up quickly and the rest is first-come, first-served. So instead of camping in the park itself, I reserved a spot at the privately owned Zion Canyon Campground in Springdale.

Springdale is a tiny mountain resort town situated just outside the gates of Zion National Park. It has camping, bed & breakfasts, and motel lodging; several great restaurants and bars; and a general store or two stocked with postcards, tourist souvenirs, and any last minute camping gear an intrepid adventurer may have forgotten. A free shuttle makes frequent laps between points in the town and the entrance to the park, so staying in the town is a convenient and easy choice.

If you’ll remember from last week’s adventure, I left Las Vegas in the late afternoon after dropping my friend off at the airport.  I made a bee-line for Zion, and arrived just before dusk.  I quickly checked in and set up camp in the dwindling daylight. All set for the night, I went for a walk.  Springdale in the evening has a welcoming and friendly feel. Warm glowing lights and the jingle of laugher pours from the restaurants and bars in the evening. Pass other vacationers on the street and you’ll get a friendly wave and a smile, and occasionally a bit of conversation.

Though the bar sounded inviting, I decided to turn in for the evening. I was still working off the last of my Vegas hangover and I wanted to be able to hit the trail early the next morning. So, with a contented sigh I returned to my quiet camp and settled in for the night.

The next morning I packed a daypack, strapped on my boots, and took the shuttle to Zion National Park. At the front gate hikers disembark from the town shuttle, pay the entrance fee, and enter the park. There are hiking trails of every length and for every athletic level available in Zion.  Locating the trail head for Angel’s Landing, I hopped on another free shuttle bus, this one designed for inside the park, and made my way to the Grotto.

True to it’s description, the trail to Angel’s Landing isn’t long, though it is steep and strenuous at times. I took my time, enjoying the sweeping vistas and stunning canyons all along the way. At Scouts Landing I took a break before conquering the final half mile to the summit. That last bit is really tough! Parts are down right scary. Especially hiking alone. Luckily I went on a busy enough day and met several friendly hikers that let me hike with them for a spell and encouraged me to continue the few times I almost froze.

Of course I passed, or rather was passed by, the stereotypical “Colorado Boys.” You know the type. Far to fit, laughing and joking as they devour strenuous trails in Rainbow flip-flops and hemp t-shirts. I tried not to be too disgusted with them or with myself as they skipped past me in sandals while I struggled to swallow my fear and take one more step forward.

Eventually I made it to the top. It was just as incredible as I hoped it would be.  I sat with my packed lunch and enjoyed the view. I sat until I got cold and stiff, trying to record every stunning detail to memory. The way the canyons faded from a bright orange sandstone to a darker grey rock. The hints of bright yellow and white stone that laced its way in layers throughout each wall. The way the river wound along the canyon floor. The way the lush green vegetation grew up from the river along the the walls of the canyons, eventually petering out to bare sheer rock. The way the crisp spring afternoon sunlight cast one side of the canyons in sharp bright relief and kept the other side in dark cool shadow. The way the wind was just strong enough to be a little bit frightening when I stood at the edge of the cliffs. The warmth of the stone when I laid down and stretched out to get a closer look at the edge. The vast empty space you feel sitting at the edge of a point a only few feet wide surrounded by plunging cliffs and deep canyons.  I snapped a few photos but I knew nothing could ever capture the incredible view before me.

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The view of one canyon from Angel’s Landing.

Finally, with a sigh, I began the climb down. Back in the Grotto, I spent the rest of the day exploring Kayenta Trail and the Lower Emerald Pools.

The next day I went back to the park and rode the shuttle on the full loop to get a simple tour of Zion Canyon. I was just as happy to see the hawks and deer the driver pointed out as I was to see long skinny ropes hanging from cliff faces, dancing lightly as rock-climbers made their way up and then repelled back down.  I got off the shuttle at The Temple of Sinawava and walked into The Narrows. The Narrows is a slot canyon hike in which hikers can venture deep into Zion Canyon along the Virgin River. Unfortunately the day I went The Narrows were closed because of the risk of flash flooding.  I have heard great things about the hike though and highly recommend trying it. If I ever find myself back in the area I know where I’ll be spending the day.

After that I wandered the park for a bit longer before deciding to head south for a spontaneous addition to my road trip.  That morning I had learned about the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, and felt that I just couldn’t pass up a chance to go walking in pink sand dunes. Yes, PINK SAND! Awesome!

Check back next week to hear about my adventures in another little celebrated park, the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park of Utah.

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306545_10100339996775636_297841040_nHave you ever had the urge to just drop what you were doing, pack a bag, and set out on an adventure? Seven years and over two dozen countries later, Aeri Rose is proof that excitement, independence, and discovery await those who are bold enough to say “yes” to life’s craziest choices. When not exploring the world with her little grey backpack, Aeri Rose an be found living a nomadic lifestyle traveling the United States as an artist and entrepreneur.  To follow Aeri on all her adventures, check her out online at travelingwithaeri.com; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aerirose.

 

aeri rose’s guide on how to have a rockin’ vegas weekend

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The view of Las Vegas Boulevard from The VooDoo Club

Step 1) Drop in on a high school girlfriend, now a professional actress living in Las Angeles, and kidnap her from work Friday evening. Drive straight to Las Vegas. Get lost only sort of and spend far too long driving through tiny desert towns on your way to Sin City.

Step 2) Roar into your hotel parking lot by 10:00 pm, check in, drop your bags, put on lipstick and high heels, and hit the casino floor for some free drinks and fun with the slot machines.

Step 3) Sufficiently buzzed, head to The Strip and take in the lights, sounds, and sights of Vegas at street level.

Step 4) Grudgingly, like kids at a sleepover, agree you should get some sleep. Crash into unnaturally soft and luxurious beds in a pitch black room and sleep far too late.

Step 5) If this is your first time in Las Vegas, as it was mine, pull yourself out of that bed at a somewhat reasonable hour for a chance to check out some of the most famous casinos.

Some Highlights?

– Walk the sidewalks and raised bridges of The Strip and snap a selfie in the center of Las Vegas Boulevard (from the elevated safety of a bridge of course).

– Watch the Fountains of Bellagio water show. Several times daily the outdoor fountains of The Bellagio Casino put on a beautifully orchestrated show incorporating music, lights, and dancing jets of water. Free and fantastic! A must see.

– Admire the grandeur of The Venetian. Eat some gelato on a bench beside the canals and watch the gondoliers ferry other guests around the opulent casino. Admit that you almost feel like you really are in a dreamy Italian city.

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Yes this is really a picture of inside the casino

– Back outside, visit White Castle for some burgers and fries and remind your palate that you’re really still in America. Let the setting sun is encourage you to run back to your hotel to get dressed for another night on the town.

Step 6) If you’re only here for the weekend, this is your only full night of debauchery. Make the most of it! Start your evening at a concert or show. Whatever kind of entertainment you’re looking for, Vegas can deliver.

We went for a rock show, like any good punk rock princesses would.  Since high school I had been trying to catch The Darkness live, and I was over the moon to find out they would be playing at the House of Blues that night. So, hair properly teased and full of enough hairspray to blast a new hole in the Ozone layer, we made our way to Mandalay Bay.

 

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I believe in a thing called love. Just listen to the rhythm of your heart.

It. Was. Awesome! Worth the wait and just the kind of energy we needed to get our night started.  In the crowd we met a group of English guys in the RAF (thats the Royal Air Force) stationed in Vegas for the summer. Which leads me to step 7.

Step 7) Make Friends!

Following the concert the British Guys recommended we check out this other club. “The best view in Vegas” they promised. With no further plans, and open to whatever the night might throw at us, we agreed. So we made our way to The VooDoo Nightclub at the top of Rio Las Vegas.

They were right about the amazing view. Situated slightly off The Strip, from the top of the Rio you can see all of Las Vegas laid out below you, fanning out in straight golden lines of light across the desert.  It’s incredible.

Look closely and see the massive High Roller Ferris Wheel. At 550 feet tall, it currently stands as the world’s largest ferris wheel. And with an open bar “happy half-hour” ticket option, that’s one Las Vegas sight that I still need to conquer.

With hints of blue starting to thread their way into the star filled night sky, we knew it was time to call this night a success and head back to our hotel for some zzz’s. Though the next day would be the last day of our wild weekend retreat, we had plans to go out with a bang.

As a happy coincidence, the weekend we went to Vegas also happened to be Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend, a massive Pin-Up and Rockabilly conference held at The Orleans Hotel every year in April.

Which is why Step 8 is…

Step 8) Make the most of every minute

Sure we stayed out until past 4:00 am the night before. And sure my girlfriend’s flight back to L.A. left the airport at 3:30 pm.  But that is no reason not to pull out our peep-toe heels, don our cutest leopard print vintage ’20’s dresses, and twirl our hair into a Victory Roll or two for day of Rockabilly, classic cars, greasers, and pin-up girls.

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So we made the most of every minute. We woke up. We chased our Advil with multivitamins and Smart Water. And we had a blast at Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend. The cars were incredible. The shopping prolific. The other attendees inspiring.

But all too soon it was time to take my partner in crime to the airport.  With happy hugs and promises to see each other again soon, we closed the curtain on our Rockin’ Vegas Weekend.

After dropping her off I pointed my Jeep eastward and on towards Zion National Park; the next stop on my road road trip east, and an adventure of an entirely different sort.

Tune in next week for stories from Angel’s Landing Trail and Zion National Park in Utah.

See you down the road!

~ Aeri

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306545_10100339996775636_297841040_nHave you ever had the urge to just drop what you were doing, pack a bag, and set out on an adventure? Seven years and over two dozen countries later, Aeri Rose is proof that excitement, independence, and discovery await those who are bold enough to say “yes” to life’s craziest choices. When not exploring the world with her little grey backpack, Aeri Rose an be found living a nomadic lifestyle traveling the United States as an artist and entrepreneur.  To follow Aeri on all her adventures, check her out online at travelingwithaeri.com; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aerirose.

travel destination oktoberfest; FLiP W Magazine october 2016

This article is being re-posted from FLiP Magazine October 2016.  FLiP Magazine is a great publication with insight into pop-culture for both men and women! Aeri Rose is a regular contributor to FLiP W, the female focused half of the magazine.  You should definitely check it out, and subscribe for the free digital editions! Even if I’m quiet here…I’ll always find something to say there!

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Travel Destination: Oktoberfest

By: Aeri Rose

“O’zapft! Prost!”

“The barrel is tapped! Cheers!” two men in lederhosen and white shirts shout as they clank their massive glass beer-filled tankards together. Others around them are singing traditional German drinking songs, tankards sloshing in one hand, legs of roasted chicken waving in the other.

Welcome to Oktoberfest.  Where each year in late-September and early-October millions flock to Munich, Germany to celebrate beer and Bavarian life.

Beer is a lot of what Oktoberfest is about.  There are over 30 beer tents at Oktoberfest, though the term “tent” doesn’t do justice to  the massive wooden structures temporarily erected at the Thereseinwiese Fairgrounds. Each tent has a different theme and different beer served, hinted at by the elaborate decorations at the entrance. Inside, traditional German music plays, while festival-goers sit at long wooden tables with long wooden benches, drinking German beer, specially brewed by German beer companies for the festival.  Barmaids in dirndls walk the halls balancing heavy trays of full masses (what the full liter glass tankards are called) rapidly bought up by drinkers with empty or nearly empty cups. Traditional Munich brewers that adhere to strict Bavarian Purity Requirements are the only beers served at Oktoberfest. There are only six brewers that serve beers at the festival, the youngest of which was founded in 1634.  These are old giants of the German beer industry.  They are Augustiner (the oldest Munich brewery, founded in 1328), Hacker Pschorr, Hofbrau, Lowenbrau, Paulaner, and Spaten.

But beer is not all that Oktoberfest is about. Its also about the food, the clothes, the song, the shopping, the games, and the rides. Some beer tents sell hot food inside. Try foods like roast chicken, pork, sauerkraut, and specialty German white sausages.  Or take a break from the hall and wander outside where a carnival atmosphere fills the air with excited energy.  Vendor stalls sell traditional foods like pretzels, bratwurst, and fried potatoes; and sweets like fried cakes, ice cream and pastries. Try a carnival game or two and win your beau a stuffed bear as a prize. Decide that you too need to look the part and outfit yourself in a completely new Bavarian look: leather breeches (lederhosen), suspenders, and a white shirt for him; a below-knee length skirt with blouse, bodice, and apron (dirndl) for her.  Or maybe a traditional alpine hat is enough for you.  These hats are made of a thick wool felt with a small brim and a decorative braided band, sometimes enhanced with a spray of feathers.

Properly attired, return to the beer tents for another round.  Before 6:00 pm the music is quieter, with traditional German folk bands playing on center stage. In the evenings things get kicked up a notch, with modern electronic music replacing the polka bands.

Oktoberfest can be enjoyed fully in one day, or make it a weekend adventure. If you are traveling far, consider adding a couple extra days to spend exploring Munich itself as well. It is a beautiful town full of history, culture, and ambiance. Always bustling, you’ll catch it at its most excited and energetic when filled with other curious travelers like yourself, trying to experience all this lovely city has to offer.

Start your day at the Altstadt (old city), at Marienplatz, the main square in the center of the city. From here wander towards the Viktualienmarkt, and graze your way through your favorite food vendors for lunch. Sample fresh produce, cheeses, and traditional German foods. Car buffs should visit the BMW headquarters with their famous BMW museum where visitors can see classics, race cars, prototypes, and many others in the BMW family. For dinner check out the Hofbräuhaus, a traditional beer hall and Bavarian restaurant.

Whatever you decide to do on your trip, be prepared to eat, drink, and be merry in Munich.

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306545_10100339996775636_297841040_nHave you ever had the urge to just drop what you were doing, pack a bag, and set out on an adventure? Seven years and over two dozen countries later, Aeri Rose is proof that excitement, independence, and discovery await those who are bold enough to say “yes” to life’s craziest choices. When not exploring the world with her little grey backpack, Aeri Rose an be found living a nomadic lifestyle traveling the United States as a writer and entrepreneur.  To follow Aeri on all her adventures, check her out online at travelingwithaeri.com; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aerirose.

spas around the world; FLiP W Magazine july 2016

This article is being re-posted from FLiP Magazine July 2016.  FLiP Magazine is a great publication with insight into pop-culture for both men and women! Aeri Rose is a regular contributor to FLiP W, the female focused half of the magazine.  You should definitely check it out, and subscribe for the free digital editions! Even if I’m quiet here…I’ll always find something to say there!

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Spas Around the World

By: Aeri Rose

We had been at a bar in Copenhagen the night before; talking with some fellow travelers, swapping stories and sharing recommendations.  They had been at a spa on a coast in Sweden that day and were encouraging us to go.  We had been traveling hard for a good week and a half at that point and the thought of a peaceful spa day with practically no museums or statues to gawk at sounded pretty refreshing.  Maybe they glazed over the details. Maybe we were so intrigued by the thought of a traditional Swedish Spa that we only heard what we wanted to hear.  They did say that the spa used the salty sea water in its treatment.

They neglected to mention the fact that they didn’t bring the sea water to the spa…they brought the spa-goers to the sea water. In the form of an ice cold dip in the frozen Baltic sea, with one small ladder going down into a sizable hole hacked through the frozen surface.

Not quite what we were expecting, but those travelers had looked pretty relaxed, and we were already at the spa, so we might as well embrace the local traditions and dive right in. Literally.

In many of the Nordic/Baltic countries their version of a relaxing spa day involves lounging around naked in large dry heat rooms until you’re sweating out of every pore and can’t stand a moment longer. Then you dash outside, across the snowy deck, and jump into an icy hole. The theory is that alternating dry heat with cold salt water is good for the circulation system, helps you sweat out toxins, and then cold shock your pores closed, keeping them out.

It is definitely invigorating. And after a couple of rotations we got used to both the hot sweaty nakedness of the saunas and the shocking coldness of the sea. We could even be found lounging on the still snowy deck between rounds, or walking to the very edge of the pier, barefoot, wrapped only in what was little bigger than a hand towel, relishing the invigorating yet calm energy we felt coursing through our veins.

Our spa day was an immense success. In part because we let it be. We could have turned away at the first snowy pier, or the first old naked sweaty man we passed, or the first sight of that hole hacked in the ice. But we didn’t. We embraced the newness of the experience and just went with it.

I highly recommend just going with the flow. Try out things you’ve never tried before and learn something new while learning about yourself.

Spas are usually a pretty good way to try something new. Every culture has a way to relax, and most of the are quite unique and area specific.  I mean, it would be pretty hard to make the Nordic spa day work in muggy Florida, where the water is often lukewarm at best.  Not nearly as refreshing as a cold dip in the Baltic Sea.

Some of my favorite spa days have included Turkish Baths, Korean Spas, soaking in Hot Springs, and exploring Chinese Medicine treatments.

In Turkish Baths you enter a big heated room with a giant heated marble slab in the center and small wash stations all around. You wash off, then lounge and relax on the marble slab for as long as you like. You can return to the wash stations at any time and can use extreme exfoliating soaps and sponges to really scrape off every dead cell.

Alternatively, Koreans use their spa experience as a mini-vacation.  Whole families go, and are allowed to stay for up to 24-hours. The spa house is open all night long.  There is a wet area, segregated by gender, with baths, hot soaking pools, and steam saunas.  Then, clad in little cotton uniforms, families can reunite in the dry area. The dry area is a collection of hot rooms of various temperatures and different energies. There are pine rooms, and amethyst rooms, and gold rooms, and more. Each room is designed to tap into a different healing practice. There are often comfortable chairs to lounge in in the common areas, and delicious cafes where you can get snacks and meals.

Hot springs can be found all over the world.  Small or large, these bubbling pools are often mineral filled and very healthy. Some are just holes in the ground at the end of a trail. Some have been tapped into and plumbed into large well-maintained swim centers.

In China it is easy to find a spa house specializing in massage, ear candling, cupping, acupuncture and more. Ear candling uses a lit candle to suction the ear wax and dirt out of your ear canals. Chinese Cupping Therapy uses small cups and heat to suck to the skin and to create a vacuum. This is thought to promote healing and blood flow.

I could go on endlessly about the many different spa traditions of cultures around the world.  But I think you get the point.  The next time you take a trip, look into the local spa traditions. It could be a fun way to immerse yourself in the local culture. You might find yourself relaxing in ways you never thought possible! You might even get home and install a steam sauna in your garage you love it so much!

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306545_10100339996775636_297841040_nHave you ever had the urge to just drop what you were doing, pack a bag, and set out on an adventure? Seven years and over two dozen countries later, Aeri Rose is proof that excitement, independence, and discovery await those who are bold enough to say “yes” to life’s craziest choices. When not exploring the world with her little grey backpack, Aeri Rose an be found living a nomadic lifestyle traveling the United States as a writer and entrepreneur.  To follow Aeri on all her adventures, check her out online at travelingwithaeri.com; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aerirose.

 

slow travel: be in the journey; FLiP W Magazine February 2016

This article is being re-posted from FLiP Magazine February 2016.  FLiP Magazine is a great publication with insight into pop-culture for both men and women! Aeri Rose is a regular contributor to FLiP W, the female focused half of the magazine.  You should definitely check it out, and subscribe for the free digital editions! Even if I’m quiet here…I’ll always find something to say there!

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“Slow Travel: Be In The Journey”

Did you know that the average airplane travels approximately 550 miles per hour at a cruising altitude of 36,000 feet above sea level?  Thats pretty high and pretty fast. But here’s a question: on your next trip, while traveling 550 mph, 36,000 feet above sea level, how many new experiences will you have? If you are an avid traveler and a frequent flyer probably not many. How many new people will you meet? Maybe two if you’re the type to strike up a conversation with your seat mates.  Put that way, the fast and efficient travel by air doesn’t seem very great at expanding your life experiences does it?  Not particularly.  Thats why this month’s article is all about slow travel, and enjoying the act of traveling as much as the destinations themselves.  Don’t believe me? Here are five reasons why you should try to incorporate slow travel into your next adventure.

Delighting the Senses

First off, what IS slow travel? Slow travel is seeing more by seeing less. It does away with the tours that offer a mad dash overview of a place; of stopping just long enough at each site to snap a photo in front of this famous building or that ancient sculpture before rushing off to the next attraction. No, slow travel moves at a relaxed pace.  It is walking or biking in a city, it is taking the train or the boat to the next destination, and it is quietly observing and absorbing the beauty that surrounds you. How often have you traveled the same routes at home, barely registering the changing scenery on your daily routine? With fast travel it is easy to pack that ambivalence and take it along with you. With slow travel, you can leave those blinders at home.  Open your senses to your surroundings.  Explore the plants on your trip. What colors are they? How do they smell? Listen. Is this city full of street performers? Are the bird songs different from park to park? Has the enticing scent of a corner bakery attracted your nose? Go in and have a snack.  Taste something new and decadent.  With slow travel, your trip will be a delight for all your senses.

Meeting New Friends and Travel Angels

As mentioned above, slow travel is about exploring all modes of transportation, and taking roads less taken.  Sometimes that means you’ll get lost. It does. Trust me.  But thats OK! Because with slow travel you don’t have to have a schedule. So you’re never lost, you’re never running late, you’re just taking a different route.  And despite what language or alphabet you’re trying to decipher, the expression for “bemused confusion” is pretty universal.  So if you’re feeling uncertain, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Ask for directions. Ask for advice when ordering a meal or planning a day trip.  The kindness of strangers is a real and wonderful thing, and often locals will happily offer advice, directions, or recommendations.  I have lost count of the number of times travel angels have come to my assistance when alone and lost. They have hailed me cabs, driven me across town to catch ferries, helped me order, and protected my luggage.  Some I met only once, and some I’m friends with to this day.

Immersing Yourself in New Cultures

Did you know that in China some travelers pay for a train ticket with no seat. They stand in the isles, or sit on a stool they bring along with them. Often travelers with seats will take turns in the isle, offering their seats to these other travelers.

Did you know that on the days long train journey across the Russian Siberia you can always find someone in the meal car willing to play cards. Or that at every stop there are old ladies selling delicious fresh piroshki and smoked fish?

Did you know that in Morocco it is common to share a cab with strangers if you are both going in the same general direction?

Travel is an important part of any culture. So to truly immerse yourself in a new country, you should make every attempt to try to travel like the locals do.  You are really denying yourself a gratifying and enlightening experience if your only travel experience is the flight in and the cab to your resort.

Bolstering Your Self-Confidence 

While living in Hangzhou, China, I discovered that the most difficult thing to master was the public  bus system.  Bus stops had giant maps with complex bus routes smeared with Chinese characters. Even the numbers were written in Hanzi, rather than Arabic numbers. It took weeks of riding busses just to see where they led, getting unbelievably lost, and eventually hailing a cab home in exasperation, until I finally got a halfway reasonable understanding of the system.  It was an incredible victory the day that I finally rode the bus from my apartment across town to the imports grocery store without getting lost.  That french cheese was victory cheese. I was powerful, clever, and self-reliant. I had conquered that bus!  Never mind that I got lost again the next day. Because I knew that I could figure it out eventually.  And that is a great feeling.

Finding Hidden Gems and Surprise Discoveries 

I know it is tempting to chase after each ancient tourist site, infamous restaurant, and trendy bar recommended by Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor, and WikiTravel.  But do you know why those trendy places got discovered in the first place? Because some travel writer out there knows that the real secret to exploration is to wander the less beaten paths looking for the hidden gems. Be your own trip advisor! You go find those surprise discoveries, and then you can be the clever traveler that impresses all your friends with little known wonderful recommendations.

I hope I’ve convinced you. Slow travel is wonderful travel. It is delightful, relaxing, enlightening, and inspiring.  But don’t take my word for it. On your next trip, try to slow it down a bit, and be amazed by all the incredible experiences you’ll have.  I guarantee it.

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306545_10100339996775636_297841040_nHave you ever had the urge to just drop what you were doing, pack a bag, and set out on an adventure? Seven years and over two dozen countries later, Aeri Rose is proof that excitement, independence, and discovery await those who are bold enough to say “yes” to life’s craziest choices. When not exploring the world with her little grey backpack, Aeri Rose an be found living a nomadic lifestyle traveling the United States as an artist and entrepreneur.  To follow Aeri on all her adventures, check her out online at travelingwithaeri.com; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aerirose.