Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Best Vacation Yet! (Part 3- Cruise!)

After Barcelona, Cody and I embarked on our first cruise together! It had been years since either of us had been on a cruise, and neither of us had been on a Norwegian Cruise Ship--we didn't know what to expect, but we were hoping for the best!

Once we embarked, we were happy to find our room and start to check out the ship. The ship was beautiful, and we were stunned by the size and comfort of our room, with a balcony to boot! The last time I went on a cruise, the room literally had bunk beds that folded out from the walls and a tiny port-hole; not this time! This room was all luxury. That first day we just explored the ship, tried to figure out where all the restaurants were, played some ping-pong on the pool deck, and even took a tour of the biggest (and probably most expensive- whew!) spa on the sea. We chose to eat at one of the included, and more casual, restaurants for dinner, called Taste. We were both happily surprised with the quality of food, too. There are a ton of restaurants to choose from that have a cover charge, so we were shocked that the included restaurants left nothing to be desired! We ended up going to see The Blue Man Group that night, because, how could we skip it?! It was a lot of fun and tons of laughs, but at some point the ship started rockin' and Cody and I both decided it was time to get out of the dark theatre and get to our balcony before we felt sick. The bed, oh that glorious bed, was appreciated after spending three nights choking on cigarette smoke in the apartment we had rented in Barcelona.

I felt like I was on the cleanest, softest cloud in heaven, so Cody and I slept-in super late, knowing that our first full day on the ship was a day at sea. Once we finally woke up, we had missed breakfast in the restaurants and instead went up to the pool buffet for some lunch. Then it was time to lay out and relax some more- there is always great people watching at a crowded pool, and the adorable plastic-surgery couple dancing all around the deck to every song didn't disappoint! Everybody seemed relaxed and happy, and there were barely any kids around causing a ruckus (I found out later that there was all-day care for kids on the ship, which explained the happy adults!).  We didn't spend too long at the pool before we decided that we wanted to entertain ourselves with something else, so we went down to the Irish Pub, Sheehan's, for a pitcher of beer. We ended up watching tennis, playing Deer Hunter (flashback to Morehead BW3s), and other video games, as well as air-hockey! Before we knew it, we were two orders of buffalo wings and fries and two pitchers of beer down. We went to the casino to keep the fun flowing and managed to break even after a couple hours of blackjack. Relaxing in the room sounded just right, so we lounged around until we got hungry again, and then went to get ribs from Sheehan's and watch a Beatle's tribute band. The ribs were shockingly tender and tasty- totally unheard of! It ended up being red carpet night and a dance party on the upper deck club, Spice H20, so after a wardrobe change, we went upstairs and danced with the rest of the party people. Everybody moved inside while we were downstairs changing and fixing a drink, so we wandered into the ship's club and were disappointed to see everybody from upstairs just sitting around looking antsy. We decided to get the dancing going again; within a minute of us getting out there, everybody was up and moving again! We danced as long as our feet could handle, and then headed back to our room.

Day three of the cruise was our stop at Naples, so we pulled each other out of bed in the morning to disembark and catch a ferry to Capri.  I originally went to the Island of Capri during my Sophomore year of high school when I went on a school trip to Europe. Ever since, I had been dying to go back, hopefully one day with a significant-other because it was such a beautiful and romantic place! My wish came true, and my wonderful hubby obligingly made this second trip even better than the last by renting us a private boat tour for two! We spent two hours boating around, dipping into caves and coves, and being told the stories of the island. Our tour-guide Christian was a character; just a lively, Italian boy of nineteen, full of fun stories of his own (I'm sure you can imagine). By the time we got back to shore, we felt we had seen what we came to see, so we picked up some pizza and ferried to Naples. I think our night before caught up with us, and we decided to go back to Taste for dinner and then spend the evening playing Scrabble at the Martini Lounge. Then we settled in for one last sleep in ultimate comfort and I was reaffirmed that I don't need much space to live happily; I just need that space to be a Norwegian Epic Balcony Suite and for Cody to share it with me ;)

Friday, June 20, 2014

"Ugh, but YOU Don't NEED to Diet or Workout." (and other ways women put "fit" women down)

We all know that women are often mean-spirited towards other women. The list of reasons could go on for days, and has been written about by a wide array of studied (and not so studied) individuals.
Basically, it comes down to the fact that women are bitches. All of us. Come on, you know it….we all have it in us to be a bit terrible to each other; just some of us are more terrible than others.

 It really is unfortunate and a problem to be overcome.

I bring this up because something has me a bit ruffled:

Just because my body type is naturally thin, I not only get ZERO credit whatsoever for the hard work I put into being fit, healthy, and strong, but I generally get negativity instead.

Yes. You are right, other women who have pointed this out to me; I have never been what could be considered "overweight." Therefore, I do not necessarily understand the struggle of women who are trying to loose 20, 30, or 100 pounds. Although I may not personally have had the same experience, I do heartily applaud anybody, woman or man, who takes charge of their health and is working towards weight loss goals by changing their diet and exercise habits.

BUT, just because I am not overweight, doesn't mean that I wouldn't be overweight if I didn't live the way that I do. The reason that I am not overweight is not JUST because I was born thin. Although I was genetically lucky enough to not need to fight off weight as a child or adolescent, I, like any other human, have seen the effects of growing older on my metabolism and body shape.

 And so….

I work my ass off!  Doing workouts that a few years ago I never dreamed would be possible (or enjoyable) for me to accomplish. I put myself through mental and physical strain four to five (sometimes six) days a week, because I love feeling strong and being comfortable in my own body. And heck, I would love to look sexy-as-hell naked, so instead of wishing for it, I work for it! I won't claim to have a perfect diet (I know many people more dedicated than myself at following even stricter diets than my own) but I will say that I pay attention to what I eat in a daily, conscientious effort to stay healthy and happy.

When I go into a normal gym, there is the occasional woman who is excited for me and wants to know "What are you training for!? You look great!" and I can't explain how wonderful that feels.
Okay. Let me be honest- there has been ONE woman who has said that to me outside of the Crossfit box. But it did actually happen, so I can't leave it out!
I don't feel like I deserve a cheerleading squad every time I lift a heavy weight, gain an inch in my booty, or lean out in my midsection (although I often have one at Crossfit Ansbach- thanks guys!), but I would appreciate if all my hard work wasn't often negated by other women.
Generally, when I go into a normal gym and do a workout, I get sideways glances and sometimes outright glares. How dare I, a woman who is already considered somewhat fit and "skinny", go bust my ass in the gym!
Ironically, these same women would hate me even more if I was one of the few who naturally stays around a size two without going to the gym a day in their lives.

When I workout at my box, there is nothing but encouragement all around. We have women of every shape who sweat, struggle, and sometimes cry, together; all of us working towards being the best version of ourselves that we can be. No woman in the box looks disparagingly at any other (or at all like one another). When I see a woman who has that six-pack I would love, I am in awe of them, and cheer them on. This is the magic of community at Crossfit Ansbach. This is a magic that sadly goes "poof" as soon as I walk outside the doors of the box.

I guess what I'm saying is, don't forget to give fit women credit where credit is due! If I started out 50 pounds heavier than where I am now, I would get praise up and down the block for my hard work (and well-earned praise!). But just because I didn't have to loose weight to get where I am, doesn't mean I have muscles on accident. And it doesn't mean that if I sat at home, worked out once a week, and ate Ho-Hos and Cheetos all day that I wouldn't be overweight. Because, believe me, I would!

I pushed (and pulled) to get every single one of my muscles. I have figured out how to eat to keep my body at the weight I want and like. I have goals to be fitter, stronger, and more lean, too!

Just as we are all bitches, we are all guilty of getting pangs of jealousy or anger when we see a woman with a perfectly toned stomach, or long lean legs, or whatever attribute we would love to have for ourselves. But, we shouldn't let this initial reaction get the best of us (or our mouths)!

Don't hate that girl that looks great in a bikini, or who is tall and lean and jogging circles around your block.  That woman most-likely works at looking and feeling a certain way- it doesn't matter her reasons or where she came from. All that matters is that she puts effort into looking how she wants. REAL effort. AND Every women can do the same thing if they truly want. It is hard and it takes time. But maybe, instead of glaring at and disregarding these women for looking fit, you could ask them what work they did to get that way, give them the pat-on-the-back they could be needing, tuck their advice away, and start working towards whatever goals you have for yourself!

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Best Vacation Yet! (Part 2- Barcelona)

The second destination during our two-week-hop was beautiful Barcelona!

 Cody and I had already experienced Spain, and were excited to spend some time in one of it's most popular cities.

We ended up finding an apartment in Barceloneta, which is a small area between the harbor and the far end of the beach. I wouldn't have wanted to stay anywhere else in the city! It felt very local and friendly, like we were just a part of the residents' everyday lives. There aren't any hotels in the area, so any other tourists were renting apartments, like us. As soon as we got in we went to a little cafe attached to the market at the end of our block to get some lunch. We guessed what to try and hit a homerun! The local speciality, bravas, couldn't have been more delicious; imagine fried potato chunks covered in a "spicy" tangy, sauce and a cheesy, cream sauce. We had small sausages on the side with some bread to dip in all the yummy juices.  You better bet we ate at that cafe every day- with Cody adding fried eggs on top of his bravas! From there we wandered to the beach, where I was surprised to find cute beach restaurants, playgrounds, volleyball nets, and a long, clean, stretch of lovely sand.
Eventually we had to walk back to meet our friend Jacky at the apartment, and we basically repeated the same exact adventure for a second time! After cleaning up, we found a local tapas bar to hang out in for a bit before wandering around the city in the dark. We eventually found Las Ramblas and followed the lively entertaining street all the way to the pier, where we continued to explore until we finally made our tired way back to the apartment.

Our second day was set to be our "touristy time" when we could go see the sights I had researched. There were only a few that I HAD to see, so instead of spending a ton of money on a hop-on/hop-off tour, we decided to buy a day pass for the metro and figure it out ourselves. The first stop was Camp Nou, FC Barcelona's home stadium, where Cody and Jacky stocked up on all-things-soccer. From there we went to the famous Sagrada Familia, where we snapped a few pictures, but skipped going inside. The amount of people there was basically unbearable, and none of us wanted to stand in line all day. Instead, we went back to the apartment and decided to laze on the beach for a couple hours; you can't beat having it right there and the 10euro massages in the sand. After the beach, we got all fancy and got ourselves to the Spanish Village to see a Flamenco Show! We ate before-hand because we weren't sure how big the tapas meal would be at the show; that was a mistake. The food was wonderful and bountiful! And the performers were spectacular. Although Jacky slept through the first half, Cody and I totally enjoyed ourselves (and Jacky's portion of the Sangria!). On our walk home we got to watch the Magic Fountain Show and then go to the top of the 360* arena, before collapsing into a cab to take our sore feet home.

Day three was a total beach bum day, and it was fabulous. We got mojitos, Cody got a massage, and we all just generally lumped on the beach until we got restless. After a walk up and down the beach to find a place for lunch, the boys got into a pick-up volleyball match (very TopGun, minus the jean-shorts) and I got to talk to a lovely girl who lived in Paris. We found the perfect place to have our last dinner, where we spent hours enjoying house-made vermouth, Hendrick's gin and tonics, and seafood paella. The sun, food, and alcohol had finally caught up with us and it was time to call it a night; ending our Barcelona trip on just as great a note as it had started.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Best Vacation Yet! (Part 1- Porto)

Cody and I had the most wonderful time hoping around Europe!

We started our trip in Porto, Portugal… 

What a gem! 

We spent our first day wandering around and trying the local cuisine. First on the menu was a Francesinha and local beer from a diner near our B&B. The name Francesinha is way prettier than the sandwich itself, but the layers of toasted bread, assorted meats, cheese, and beer sauce make for a dish unlike any I've ever tried. I'm actually shocked it wasn't invented in America! With advice from our endlessly-helpful host, we managed to see a ton of sights in our first afternoon, including the main square, the beautiful tile-filled train station, a few ornate large cathedrals, and even one church completely gilded in gold. We were constantly shocked by beautiful architecture and views around every turn. We made our way up and down the hills of the city until we made it to the Douro River; luckily, there was a wonderful wine bar and restaurant for us to rest our legs and fill our bellies. On our way home we stopped in a small bar to grab a drink and watch some soccer, only to join in with the four Irish cyclists at the next table for hours of drinks and food. Not only were they a ton of fun, but they wouldn't let us pay for barely a thing! We were so spoiled- and so drunk! I couldn't have planned a better first day if I tried!

The next day in Porto was a bit more relaxing, as our legs were sore from all the trekking around the city, and we were still hungover from our partying the night before. We managed to catch a bus to the Foz (the area where ocean meets river) and check out the beach before heading to the other side of the river for our tour of Graham's. The history of port wine is truly remarkable, and I felt privileged to see behind-the-scenes where the famous port is aged- not to mention the fact that we each tasted four ports and enjoyed the tour for a total of 15 euro! After checking out the Vila Nova de Gaia side of the river, and eating a surprisingly delicious Italian meal, we headed back into the city, only to crash before 7pm. Thats what we get for going non-stop the day before and staying out all night!

 We had one last day to see anything we had missed, and so we started our third day by searching out the Majestic Cafe- a beautiful place with a long history, including being one of the favorite writing places of J.K. Rowling. We may have walked in 4 circles to get there, but the delicious cappuccino and lovely setting truly was worth it. We decided to carry-on with our mini-Harry Potter-tour and visit a bookstore, Livario Lello, that supposedly inspired sections of the famous novels. Across from the bookstore is the famous Clerigos Tower, where for a small fee, you can take one hundred steps up for a never-ending view of Porto and beyond. Once we had been to the highest point in town (and tackled 200 steps on sore-legs) we went back to the river where we enjoyed a somewhat-boring boat tour; but at least we got off our feet! We struggled to find the perfect place to eat, as the restaurants along the river seemed to all be the same and cost a bit too much (which in this city, is still not very much at all) and so we pushed our hangry selves up the hills once again before landing at a small Cafeteria.  The food looked incredible, the outdoor tables were filled with locals eating comfort-food, and the location was perfect for people watching. We ended up spending the rest of our afternoon sipping beer (mine was pink?) and enjoying yummy meals for three euros a pop!

Porto was a complete mystery for both of us when we decided to visit, and while it falls behind Lisbon on most tourists' lists of places to go in Portugal, we couldn't recommend it more! You wouldn't regret taking the time to check-out this beautiful and friendly European city!