Half a Day in Barcelona

Whoever came up with the cruise itinerary is genius. I was excited to finally visit Spain and Barcelona was the perfect first destination.

First, we took a ride through the city on a tour bus scheduled by the cruise line. For a tour bus ride, it was a nice (scenic) drive through the city. We saw tons of architecture in less than an hour. During the ride, we saw Casa Batllo, one of Antoni Gaudí’s buildings. When I was in elementary school, my mom brought me a book (Gaudí: The Complete Buildings) about his work from one of her business trips to Barcelona. I had been intrigued by Gaudí’s architecture ever since then. The tour bus stopped right in front of the Sagrada Familia, the famous Basilica of the Sacred Family. Whether or not you are religious, you should see this basilica. The size is stunning (it was still under construction back in 2009), but even more impressive are the intricacies you take note of just by looking at the exterior. There is also a nice gift shop on the left side of the church where we bought some decor for our house. If you happen to be in Barcelona and are pressed for time or have extra time, a tour bus ride is not a bad idea.

Next, we went on the Montjuïc Cable Car. This was something we did on our own, since my mom had already been to Barcelona. Therefore, the lift was quiet and empty, and definitely less touristic. The ride was relaxing and the views from above were better than expected. We could see all of the Spanish architecture that fills Barcelona. At the top, we walked through the Castle of Montjuïc. It had nice views over a port (where the cruise was stationed) and a big canon. The castle was quiet, too. I feel that while you’re in Barcelona, the places you will see the most tourists are the buildings famous for their architecture (and I see why).

Finally, we dropped in to an ice cream parlor to meet one of my mom’s friends. They had not seen each other in 20+ years! It was a great end to our visit.

I know there are more places to see and things to do in Barcelona, but I loved what I saw in the time that I had. So we made our way back to the cruise for paella, dance lessons, and a good night’s sleep in our little room.

14 Days in the Mediterranean

In 2009, my family and I took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Mediterranean. We figured traveling by cruise would be the easiest way to see the most countries by the sea. I am not a fan of cruises (or the mass of people or short amount of time spent in each destination), but this cruise was unlike any other. After saving up money over a period of time, my parents booked a two-week trip with Norwegian Cruise Line for the four of us. The Norwegian Jade seemed to fit our style best.

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The trip was four years ago and long before I started this blog, so I may not remember the name of every single place we visited, but I’ll include the names that I remember. After this post, I will write a series of posts: one post for each destination visited on the cruise trip.

Even though this trip was expensive, it was so worth it. We never had a problem on the cruise or in places we went to and we always felt safe (safety may have changed in Egypt or Greece since our visit). We met different people on the cruise and it was nice to have a different experience. The cruise itself was huge, so we never felt crowded. There were quiet areas and areas where people gathered to talk, lounges and game rooms, a library, a basketball court, shuffleboard areas, a pool, a teen club, a buffet-style cafeteria with ice cream, and a couple of pretty good restaurants.

We began this journey with a nine-hour flight to Barcelona, Spain. There we spent half a day in the city and then, at night, we boarded the cruise. Next were Rome, Sorrento, and Pompeii. From there we sailed to Athens and Crete. Then we stayed overnight in Alexandria and Cairo. Finally, we sailed to Izmir (Turkey, my favorite) and back to Barcelona. Stay tuned for photos and my favorite experiences in each of those destinations!

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Marine Biology in Denver and (Hopefully) Belize

Since I was little, I’ve liked the ocean and the animals that live in it. Because of this, I’ve always had an interest in marine biology. However, as my career, I (thought) I wanted to be a lawyer. A couple of weeks ago, I interned at a law firm for three days and it wasn’t for me. So back to biology: Besides going to the beach and visiting aquariums, I’ve never done much about my interest in marine biology. Once I saw that Sea World Orlando’s marine biology camp was more than $1000/week, I gave up looking for places to further my biology knowledge.

Marine Biologist for a Day program, Denver Downtown Aquarium, Colorado

While planning our 10 day stay in Colorado, I stumbled upon this program geared specifically towards high school students. I signed up for the Marine Biologist for a Day program at the Downtown Aquarium. It lasts from 9am to 2pm and costs only $55. I was surprised by how much the program included for the price.

Here is the schedule of the day:
• meet and greet (there were about 6 others attending the program)
• food prep: combining a mix of different fish for the stingrays’ diets. At this point, we learned about sanitation and foreign substances.
• stingray pool time: pet and feed the stingrays. Here we learned about different ways fish are fed and why they are fed in certain ways.
• private tour of the aquarium: (the aquarium opens at 10, so we had a whole hour to ourselves) We saw a variety of fish (though no dolphins or penguins) birds, a tiger, turtles, and even a flash flood simulator. As we walked through the aquarium, we completed a short worksheet on tools used by aquarists and marine biologists.
• career investigation: look through real job listings related to marine biology and present them to our ‘classmates’
• lunch (included): At lunch we all got to know each other a little better
• main event: (behind the scenes) feed the sea turtles and watch a mermaid dive show about conservation
• quarantine: a staff-only part of the aquarium where baby/rescued animals live until they are more fit to be with other animals. Here, the aquarium breeds seahorses and jelly fish.
• engineering discussion: learn about the engineering behind the aquarium, (interesting stuff, I must say). I learned about foam filtration, negative ion filtration, and the nitrogen cycle.
• squid dissection: we got to dissect a squid. It was awesome. Our instructor and her comprehensive presentation on squids and invertebrates taught us how to dissect it step by step. We removed the eyes, the beak (I didn’t know squids had a beak), the stomach, the esophagus and the ink sac. We also determined if each squid a male or female. Then, we wrote our names with the squid’s ink.
• while waiting for our rides home, my classmates and I got to spray water in the classroom frogs’ habitat

If you have a teenager somewhat interested in marine biology or ocean conservation, definitely consider this program.

Marine Biology in Belize (Hopefully)

After realizing that I don’t want to be a lawyer and participating in Denver’s Marine Biologist for a Day program, I started thinking more and more about marine biology. My brother and I are in the process of building an underwater remotely operated vehicle so we can attach a camera to it and use it for ocean exploration. I also found a website called 70 Degrees West, which has inspired me to research how to reduce the level of trash that enters the ocean at my local beaches.

For years, I have wanted to go on a National Geographic Student Expedition for one of their community service trips or their photography lessons in Costa Rica. But they were just too much money (not expensive for what’s included, but I didn’t have $5,600 handy). Instead, I would bookmark the brochures I got in the mail and later forget about them. I still get the brochure of yearly expeditions in the mail.

This time, though, National Geographic added a new expedition. Brand new this summer is their expedition of 12 days in Belize. The focus area? Oceans and Underwater Exploration.

My jaw dropped wide open when I saw the pictures and soon after read the itinerary. The Belize expedition includes snorkeling in the world’s second largest barrier reef, working alongside marine biologists to survey marine species, exploring the world-famous Blue Hole, learning underwater photography, collecting data and monitoring coral reef health, working alongside researchers during a sea turtle census, participating in ongoing initiatives to protect dolphins and turtles, examining threats to coral reefs, and designing a project to raise awareness of marine conservation. It even includes a community service project (my other passion).

Now for the nitty-gritty details:
• The trip costs $5,390 not including airfare. But, since I’m so motivated this time, my dad has agreed to cover the
rest of the funds if I raise $2000. I got my first job (hostess) several weeks ago and I am working every Sunday. I make good money, but I need to work more days, even if those extra days have to be for a second employer.
• I still need to pay off gas money I owe my brother. I’m getting there, though.
• With that being said, I need to start fundraising (any ideas?). Some of my current plans include buying a domain through WordPress and setting up WordAds to a few bucks on the side. This won’t be enough, but it’s a start. I’m also asking for money for my upcoming birthday and Christmas. Other than that, I need to think of something. $2000 is a lot of money for a high school student to raise in one year. It wouldn’t be so hard if I were raising money for local homeless teens, but for this, I’m nervous. At least I’m determined.
• Why I want to go on this trip so badly: I want to see if the field of biology is a field I could see myself working in for a living, I want to further my knowledge of marine conservation so I can come back to improve Florida’s beaches, I think it could be a life changing experience, I can write about it in my college acceptance essay, and a community service day is included in the trip. I also think going on the trip would be a good way for me to gain independence: I’ll be flying to a country I’ve never been to and I’ll spend 2 weeks with people I don’t know very well (at all).

Overall, despite the money issue, I think this would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Sunset and Silhouettes in Santa Monica

My trip to California in spring of 2012 provided me copious opportunities for great photos, but this was by far one of my favorites.

This may seem exaggerated, but I will remember this day forever.

My family and I were walking on the Santa Monica Pier, when, all of a sudden, the sky turned orange. We ran from the pier to the center of this beach to watch the nicest sunset I have seen so far. Birds were flying around and a woman was walking towards the water. As a result, I left California with a photo of a great memory. :)

Snapshots: La Jolla, California

La Jolla, California is a great place to walk by the sea, kayak by a small cave, watch wildlife, and sit on the beach. During our stay in the spring of 2012, a pregnant seal walked up on the beach where we were sitting. We also paid a few dollars each to walk down inside a cave, thinking “yeah, what the heck,” but the views were stunning. On the rocks by the sea, there are plenty of birds and seals basking in the sun. I will definitely be back to kayak by the cave my brother and I refer to as ‘the Peter Pan cave.’

Welcome to Vail (and the 2013 GoPro Mountain Games)

Vail

I almost would have overlooked this destination had it not been for the 2013 GoPro Mountain Games. My brother and I love rock climbing, so as soon as I saw that there would be a Bouldering World Cup in Vail, we went crazy. The Games were the weekend after our stay in Denver, so my parents booked a hotel in Vail.

Known primarily for its ski slopes, Vail is a very small, Austrian-looking town. In the center of Vail are two shopping villages, plenty of restaurants, and beautiful hotels. Surrounding the center are ski lifts, snowy mountains, a gold mine, a bike trail, and a river. That’s skiing, snowboarding, rafting, tubing, shopping, dining, a gold mine and the great GoPro Mountain Games all in place.
Just keep in mind that this was in summer, and winter in Vail is completely different. With that being said, I probably would not return to Vail other than for the Games, since I’d rather learn to ski in a place I haven’t been to, like Lake Tahoe, CA.

Hotel: Vail Marriott Mountain Resort

We stayed at the Vail Marriott because of its discounted nights for GoPro Games athletes and spectators. It was around $120/night and it was worth every penny. From the minute we arrived, the staff was friendly and the service was top-notch. The valet men parked our car off site and then took our luggage inside. The woman who checked us in welcomed us and answered all of our questions about the games. She gave us a typed page of all the restaurants in Vail that offer discounts (50% off a meal, for example) during summer and we definitely took advantage of those discounts. Not that regular menu items were expensive, but there were great deals.

Getting Around

In addition to the restaurant deals, we took advantage of Vail’s free, intown bus. It was clean, safe, and convenient (there’s a stop right in front of the hotel entrance!). The bus picks up every 10 minutes and stops at both of Vail’s shopping villages: Vail Village and Lionshead Village. In Vail Village, we ate at Pepi’s Restaurant and Bar. The menu had a selection of Austrian dishes, but the four of us had the veggie burgers. That burger bursts with flavor. After lunch, we walked through the Lionshead Village. I loved the selection of stores; the North Face, Lululemon, Roxy/Quicksilver, Oakley, and Marmot were my favorites.

If the Mountain Games are in Vail again next year, I would go back to the Marriott and also make time to bike Gore Valley Trail or watch a movie at the CinéBistro, a fancy dinner theater that plays box office movies (Despicable Me 2, Fast and Furious 6, etc).

2013 GoPro Mountain Games

The GoPro games this year were from June 6-9, 2013. My brother and I began this perfect weekend by taking the intown bus to Golden Peak East for the Bouldering World Cup qualifiers. We were there for about four hours, while our parents fell asleep at the hotel. The next few days we did as much as possible at the GoPro Games.

Gear Town: An area full of tents offering demos, expos, and free swag from companies like GoPro, Thule, Vibram, Subaru, Eukanuba, Eddie Bauer, GoalZero, PrincetonTec, Garmin, Gerber, and Bear Naked granola).

Mountains of Music: Free concerts sponsored by Bud Light

Adventure Village: DockDogs competition, portable climbing wall for kids, mountain biking, mud run

Gibbon Slackline World Championships: We had a great time watching pro slackliners flip forwards and backwards, side to side. I recently bought a slackline and I love it, but man, it’s difficult.

FOMO Sonar App: This app updated you any time there was a chance to win a free kayak, a free SUP, or a free GoPro camera.

Other: Great non-profit organizations (my favorites were Mountain Child Adventure Travel and peopleforbikes.org), Mount Click photo competitions, citizen climbing, paraclimbing, an Eddie Bauer zip line, kayak pool, and a stand up paddleboard pool

Tips:

• I recommend the intown bus for transportation around Vail for anyone 8 or older. It’s a great way for kids to go do their own thing.

• As I said, the GoPro Mountain Games are free, but it looks like it would be TONS of fun registering (usually $20) to participate in the mud run or citizen climbing.

• The only thing I don’t recommend you do in Vail (at least in summer) is ride Gondola One. $20 for one day ticket per person for the four of us meant $80 wasted, I hate to say. During the ride, you get an overhead view of Vail, but there is nothing open at the top.

Denver and Colorado Springs

Denver

We drove to Ali Baba Grill straight from the airport. It was 5 minutes away from our hotel. After fully satisfying our hunger, we drove to the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center, where we stayed for my mom’s four days of conferences. I imagined the hotel as the type of hotel with a small lobby, a couple of floors, and big conference rooms. Nope. The Hyatt was a pleasant surprise. The staff checked us in quickly and gave us some general information. To the right of the hotel doors is Perks, a small café with Starbucks drinks, grab-and-go food (egg/cheese/bacon bagel sandwiches, club sandwiches, cookies), and small gifts. Towards the back of the lobby are the elevators, a lounge area with TVs, an indoor pool, and a little fitness center. Our room was nice and had a large window that let in good light during the day*.

* One thing I noticed while in Denver is that the sun is out at 5am. If you are not a morning person, be prepared for this. I usually wake up whenever the sun comes out, which is around 7:00am here in Florida. Despite this, the extra hours of daylight were great because we used that time to drive to places more than an hour away and, when we arrived to those places, it was still early.

Denver seemed mostly residential and had a few nice restaurants. I loved seeing bunnies everywhere. As for downtown Denver, I was not impressed by anything in particular. The Downtown Aquarium was average, but its Marine Biologist for a Day program is so useful and lots of fun. If I’m ever back in Denver, I would like to have an ice cream at Little Man ice cream.

Colorado Springs: Long Time No See

Since Colorado Springs is only a 50 minute drive from Denver, it was on our itinerary for this trip to Colorado. My family and I had not been to Colorado Springs in 15 years!

On the highway from Denver to Colorado Springs, we stopped at the Castle Rock outlets. What a great experience compared to the outlets here in Florida. These outlets were not packed– we saw about 10 people in total– and had lots of popular stores (Nike, Gap, the North Face, Columbia, Nine West, Guess, etc.). The outlets are small, so it doesn’t take long to walk by all the stores there. Later on in the drive to Colorado Springs, you can see the Air Force base’s football stadiums and drones. There is an exit where you can get off for a closer look, but we kept driving. The Olympic Training Center is in the same area. According to a friend of ours who lives in Denver, the center has great tours for free and cool Team USA t-shirts. If you don’t want a tour, at least drive by it (maybe on the way back to Denver).

Colorado Springs is home to several of Colorado’s main attractions, so expect to see tourists in some places. With that in mind, here is a list of places to visit when you’re in the Springs:

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo: It takes a whole day to see everything at this zoo. For my family, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was well worth the time we spent there. I may have been a year old the last time I visited this zoo, but I still remember my experience with the orangutans and giraffes. Because of this, the first animals I wanted to see at the zoo were the giraffes. Pay $2 to feed them crackers; it’s awesome. The reason why it’s so worth it is that the zoo has a great selection of animals: emu, elephants, lemurs, rhinos, a moose, orangutans, and even a grizzly bear. And how many people can say they’ve pet a newborn wallaby? Not many. The zoo is great for young children, too: ice cream and popcorn are sold throughout the park and kids have a blast on the merry-go-round/at the playground.
To give you a better idea of the quality of the zoo: When we arrived, there was a longer line to buy memberships than there was to buy one day tickets.
Anyway, if you get the chance, ask a zoo employee about the Will Rogers Shrine. Last month we saw it, but we somehow got lost trying to get there.

Red Rock Canyon: This is a nice and quiet place to go for a walk. Right behind Garden of the Gods, Red Rock Canyon is considered Garden of the Gods for locals. We had a fun time rock climbing here and also saw a deer and a fox family. If you go, try catching a show at the Red Rock Amphitheater.

Cave of the Winds: The cave itself is kind of small but Denver locals frequent it because of the great tours. Yes, I am recommending a tour. We took the Discovery Tour with a young man named Joshua. He took a great family photo of us that we ended up purchasing, and he explained the history of the cave/each of its formations in-depth. There were stalagmites and stalactites as well as ‘cave bacon’ and rocks in the shape of people praying. A couple of things you should know before deciding to visit the cave: if you’re tall, be prepared to duck; if you’re not somewhat fit, be prepared to suck it in– there are one or two tight passageways in the cave; if your child has a severe fear of the dark, consider taking them on the Cave of the Winds Bat-a-pult ride or outdoor obstacle course (at one point, Joshua turned off all of the lights in the cave so we could experience the darkness encountered by the cave’s founder– it was really neat, though). This way, no one will feel left out.

CityROCK: CityRock is a 3-story indoor climbing gym. It’s great for anyone wanting to do something fun indoors. Downstairs is where you go to top-rope and climb tall walls. A great exercise. On the main floor, there are two areas for bouldering. Bouldering is rock climbing closer to the floor, so it’s good for people who are afraid of heights. The cool thing about the bouldering areas is that when you get to the top, the only way to get down is by a slide. Yes, adults, too. Also on the main floor are two slacklines and some pull-up bars. The third floor is mainly for climbers to train. Overall, CityROCK is a fun way to get some exercise. I love that it is air conditioned and doesn’t smell like chalk or sweaty feet!

Crystal Park Cantina: I found this Mexican restaurant on Yelp after a morning of climbing outdoors. My stomach was empty and I saw that it was rated four stars, so my family and I made our way there. Hidden in a neighborhood, this family owned restaurant is wonderful. The Mexican was food was authentic but unique from others due to the high quality of the ingredients used–fresh onions and real yellow rice makes a big difference in Mexican dishes. If you have the chance to eat here, don’t leave without ordering the Bollito, homemade vanilla ice cream topped with toasted coconut. I’m not a fan of coconut, but I feel like it was yesterday that we shared this dessert, I remember it so clearly.

Commercialized Attractions of Colorado: By including the world commercialized in this section, I don’t mean to give the following attractions a negative connotation. I just want to advise you that each of the places listed below is a popular tourist destination, so it probably doesn’t look the same as it did when it first opened.

Garden of the Gods, the park of orange rock formations often seen in commercials, is nice to drive through. It is best to go early in the morning. At the Garden, you can see rock formations shaped like Giant Footprints, Kissing Camels, Siamese Twins, and more. To me, the Garden is a place packed with tourists drenched in sunscreen… which reminds me of Disney World here in Orlando. Some pros: It’s fun watching the courageous rock climbers get to the top of a rock and it is a pretty short drive. Also, you can pull over in one of the 10+ parking lots and take a short walk on a clearly marked trail.

At Pikes Peak, there are both tourists and locals. For a similar experience with better scenery, I recommend you visit Mount Evans in Idaho Springs. If you must go to Pikes Peak, though, these are my tips:

It’s not always like I’m describing it. This past June when my family was there, Europeans were filming a Range Rover commercial on the mountain and we got to see the some of the filming process. At the summit, brace yourself for the cold, step out of your car, take in the view and run inside the visitor center for donuts. On your way down, you may have to stop due to burnt out brakes. If so, use the 10 minute stop required by park rangers (for your own safety) to walk behind the visitor center and play in the snow.

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Can you tell which zoo animal was my favorite?

On a sad note: The day I left Colorado was the first day of Colorado’s Black Forest Fire, the worst fire in Colorado’s history. The fire is now contained, but help is still needed. If you would like to contribute, visit http://www.helpcoloradonow.org/ or http://www.ppcf.org/products/emergency-relief. If you would like to help animals hurt in the fire, visit https://www.hsppr.org/disasterdonation.

Detour: Denver to Vail

Start location: Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center, Denver, Colorado

Destination: Vail Village, Vail, Colorado

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Detour: Mount Evans Road

It takes a little under two hours to drive from Denver to Vail, Colorado. However, there’s a stop along the way to Vail that is worth the detour.

I liked Mount Evans Road in Idaho Springs better than Colorado’s most recognized attraction, Pikes Peak Road. At Mount Evans there are fewer people/cars present, two lakes, and more wildlife. In my opinion, the end of Mount Evans Road was nicer than the summit at Pikes Peak, too.

On the drive up Mount Evans, there are great views of trees, huge rocks, lots of snow, and marmots. You will pass Echo Lake and reach Summit Lake. From the parking lot, we saw a man snowshoeing and a couple of snowboarders getting out of their car. We got out of the car to walk around and take pictures in the snowy scenery. If you have time, you can take the trail from the parking lot to wherever it is that it leads to.

At the summit, a staff member welcomed us and continued shoveling ice so that visitors would not slip. On the top of Mount Evans lies the “Castle in the Sky,” the ruins of a castle-like house. Walk in, read the history, and have fun taking cool photos. Stick around for a couple of minutes and you are bound to see a mountain goat :).
Then, get back on the highway to Vail.
Once there, eat at a restaurant in Vail Village or, if you booked a hotel, take a nap.

Summary: Mount Evans was a great stop, you may want to switch drivers halfway through the road trip, and the small town of Vail was a nice change from Denver city

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Travel Tip #2: Sometimes, it’s worth stopping along the way.

St. Armand’s Circle, Sarasota, Florida

St. Armand’s Circle is basically an outdoor mall of stores and restaurants. Each time I visit Sarasota, I stop by the circle to eat or shop. There are always new places popping up, but these are my favorite so far:

1) Shore and Shore Diner: On the first floor, Shore has plenty of clothes for men and women, a few skateboards, backpacks, shoes, and jewelry. Don’t be surprised if the first thing you see is a sky blue tank top worth $98. I would never pay so much for a tank top, but if you continue walking throughout the store, you will find something you like at a more reasonable price. The quality of the items sold at Shore is great. Most recently, I bought a cobalt blue Hershel and Company backpack that I know nobody at school will have :). Upstairs is Shore’s modern restaurant. The decor is unique, the selection of low background music makes for a great vibe, and the service is good. I recommend the Shore burger and truffle fries. Delicious.

2) Kilwin’s: Kilwin’s has locations all over the U.S., but I can never resist walking by without entering the shop. It’s one of those places where you go in and order what you desire, then sit outside and watch sweets being made in front of you. Whether you are craving peanut brittle, fudge, or ice cream, Kilwin’s will definitely satisfy your sweet tooth.

3) Key West Hammock Company: We found this little store a while ago and went in to sit in the appealing variety of hammocks. We ended up buying a classic hammock. We really needed one since ours broke. The hammock is of top quality and we all love it and use it often. If you’re not looking to buy a hammock, at least walk in a take a seat or lay down in one.

4) Sarasota Yogurt Company: This is a new business I stumbled upon on one of my recent visits to Sarasota. My brother likes donuts and we first bought the bucket of 20 mini donuts. He chose the glazed donuts (out of many other types), which were hot and freshly made. Last weekend, we were in the circle and a friend of ours was in the mood for a hot dog. Sarasota Yogurt Co. has a regular size hot dog and a quarter pounder. The hot dogs were delicious. Pick your toppings and eat up. Another friend of ours liked the donuts and recommended they sell “donut sundaes,” donuts with ice cream scoops on top (kind of like a banana split). Guess what? One of the workers there told our friend that they sell donut sundaes and proceeded to give our friend a donut sundae on the house. What great service! It was pouring rain, so we stayed inside and chatted with the employees for a while. I had the cake batter frozen yogurt which was sweet, like I wanted. I just weighed and paid. Peanut butter, watermelon, and raspberry frozen yogurt, among others, are also available. Side note: the owner (a middle-aged woman) of this place visibly loves her business. Last time I was at the shop, her friends were there to give her their ideas. This yogurt company is great for a pit stop– grab a snack, lounge on the neon orange couches, and continue your walk through the circle.

5) Tango Steakhouse and Sushi Bar: I found this restaurant on our most recent trip to St. Armand’s. We went with two of our friends and their 8 month old son. It was July 4th weekend so the circle was packed and we couldn’t find a restaurant. Tango’s hostess sat us quickly at one of the several tables available and we were immediately approached by the manager. He welcomed us and our introduced us to our (terrific) server, Reynaldo. The menu is not just steak and sushi, there are other options. I had the chicken penne pasta and it was delicious. Reynaldo chatted with us throughout our dinner. When the food arrived, Reynaldo asked nicely if he could hold the baby. Reynaldo gave him a tour of the restaurant and even played music for him– the baby was loving it. It was nice act because it was perfect for the baby’s mom to eat without being interrupted. Overall, Tango was quiet and relaxing. We will be back, for sure.

Photo from ticketsarasota.com

Photo from ticketsarasota.com

Other places of note in St. Armand’s include Wyland Art Gallery (known for its glass sculptures of ocean waves and beach-themed paintings) and Columbia (classic Latin restaurant with plates such as paella or empanadas).

Climbing in Colorado

Both regulars at our local rock climbing gym, my brother and I were not going to leave Colorado without rock climbing. We love climbing and had never climbed outdoors. I figured Colorado would be the best place to start. At the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center in Colorado Springs, we asked about climbing outdoors and found Front Range Climbing Company. The staff were noticeably professional, so my parents booked a half day of climbing for the my brother and I. We chose to climb at Red Rock Canyon, AKA “Garden of the Gods for locals”. It’s the same type of rock as the rocks in the Garden, only less touched. Also, Red Rock Canyon is much less crowded than the Garden of the Gods. Our guide, Lee, gave us helmets, harnesses, and a rope. After teaching us about safety, we started climbing. The whole time, my brother and I felt very confident and in control. Thanks to Lee, who encouraged us without being too pushy, we finished several routes. This experience left both my brother and I a major sense of accomplishment.

On a sad note: The day I left Colorado was the first day of the Black Forest Fire, the worst fire in Colorado’s history. The fire is now contained, but help is still needed. If you would like to contribute, please visit http://www.helpcoloradonow.org/.