New Year resolution check-in part one

At the beginning of the year, I stated that I intended to spend all my earnings on travel this year. So far, the spending all my earnings part is right on track, but while much of it has been on travel, much of it has also been on dentistry and dog surgery and tedious (and expensive) travel to the US for said things above, plus fun tasks like renewing passports and collecting tax documents.

But the trips for enjoyment and improvement have been numerous and yes, enjoyable and improving. So far this year, outside of two trips to the US for the above listed reasons, I’ve made some trips. Let’s start with…

Madrid, where I essentially ate my way through the city until the final day when we rented bikes from our hotel and rode through the fabulous and giant park that goes along the Manzanares river. This is the first thing we should have done, and I will return with a proper mountain bike and spend at least two full days exploring the awesome expanse that is the Casa del Campo on a bike that does not weigh 75 pounds.

Fried octopus and calamari in Mercado Sant Miguel. Where I ate a lot of food.

Fried octopus and calamari in Mercado Sant Miguel. Where I ate a lot of food.

My favorite dish: Tapa of tiny, pickled green eggplant.

My favorite dish: Tapa of tiny, pickled green eggplant. Discovered in a 150 year old bar.

GP offroading the hotel bike.

GP taking the hotel bike on an excursion.

Barolo, Rivarolo Canavese, Agliè and Oropa (Italy) to see various stages of the Giro d’Italia. Impressive and I’ll do it again next year. We saw the time trial stage between Baresco and Barolo, the end of stage 13 in Rivarolo Canavese, and the start AND finish of stage 14 which was from Agliè to Oropa. We rode our bikes between the towns via a ‘shortcut’ that took us 5 hours through the backyards of tiny hillside farms, roads so steep that deep cuts in the pavement were needed for vehicle traction, and up hills where even the triathletes of the group (there were three of them) had to push their bikes.

Somewhere in Northern Italy

This is steeper than it looks. And full of holes.

Riders cheering on the real racers at stage 12. It had hailed–hard–40 minutes before the stage passed through.

We also spent a day spectating an off road team endurance race–for scooters. I have some video of this here. This was not quite as spectacular as the Giro, but it was possibly more entertaining.

Offroad scooter endurance racing.

Off road scooter endurance racing.

France: Paris and Cannes (Disclaimer: Cannes was not my idea). I met up with a dear friend for a repeat trip we did last year. She flew from California to Paris and I from Barcelona. We planned to meet in the CDG airport as I would be arriving 20 minutes after her. Of course, phones did not work so we spent 2 hours trying to find each other until I got smart and bought 15 minutes of internet and called her through Skype. We stayed in a tiny (what else?) hotel in the 10th arrondissement and had a fabulous time, as always. I love that city and would live there if it were near the sea. Forget about the old reputation of rude Parisians – people are lovely there: friendly, helpful, playful and engaging. Quite the opposite of how the locals treat non-locals where I live…that’s another topic though. We went to a classical concert the first night in a beautiful cathedral. It was fabulous- except for the dang nuns blocking my view. We crashed a fancy party next door afterwards. I have no idea what it was for.IMG_0588We used the awesome shared bike program Velib and road all the way to and through the Bois de Boulogne where we saw hookers on their lunch break. Then we rode through “Little Africa” and along the river and damn near everywhere in Paris.


Velib steed in the park. Shh, don’t disturb the hookers.

We ate good food our few days there, spent a lot of time walking around Le Marais and then went South to Nice and over to Cannes where it was really boring. I did find us some bikes and we rode up to the old town which was the only cool thing about Cannes other than some great food and spending time with my friend. Oh and all the old men smiling at us, I guess.


Old village on the hill above Cannes. The bikes were partially electric so really, we cheated on the climb part.

Riding to the top of the old town hill, a workman flirted with up asking if we were training for the Tour de France.I answered that yes, in fact, I was (in a sense).

Next up: A weekend riding motos in Aragon and our Tour de France bike adventure.



How to Cure a Cold and Find Meaning in Suffering

I’ve been back in Barcelona for a week and a half after 6 weeks in the US. I immediately started intensive Spanish courses again, then caught a heinous cold. The kind that puts you to bed way before your bedtime. Pairing that with a California schedule (read: early dinner,bedtime and rising hours) and it’s as though I am not even here as far as my social life goes. It was also the type of cold that by around the third day, your body is deficient of some uncommon vitamin so you end up eating constantly to try satisfy whatever rare mineral you are depleted of, but only succeed in stuffing your face with crap all day, and in my case, mostly chocolate.

Which is where I was yesterday. Which also happened to be the middle of the first week of my “put the brakes on the winter chub and ramp up the fitness before spring” program. Some of my more interesting indulgences were handfuls of the boyfriend’s cereal called “Choco Pillows”, which are chocolate flavored cereal squares with a nutella-esque oozy middle, sugar free chocolate bars served atop crackers, all of the remaining carob chips I brought from the US, chocolate covered flakes picked out of the cereal dubiously named “Fitness”,  several bites of various chocolate covered energy bars, and white chocolate covered flakes picked out of another cereal that consists of cocoa flakes and white chocolate covered corn flakes the size of Fritos (Note: European breakfast cereal is something to simultaneously love and hate).

So today, determined to get out of the house, off my ass and around some people, I willed my hacking, sniffling body to carry my mountain bike down my building’s three flights of stairs, ride through the Sunday city crowds to the metro, carry the bike down and up several more flights of stairs to meet up with a weekly group of mountain bikers at the bottom of Tibidabo for a ride (note: link is to my first visit up there via scooter – two years ago! Can’t believe it’s been that long). I promised myself if I wasn’t able to breathe I would turn around after the first hill and ride home (it’s downhill all the way).

I am happy to report that not only did I stick it out for the entire 4+ hour ride, I also conquered a couple of single track downhill paths that 2 months ago I would have been walking down. So yay me. Also, near the end of the ride, there was a big hill climb that had a couple people seriously toasted. I was fretting in my own head, thinking I was also too done to make it, when I decided to just set a pace and make the climb no matter how much I was suffering. And surprisingly, it wasn’t that bad. It seems it only took the decision to finish, then my body stopped protesting and just did it’s job.

Which made me think about applying this theme elsewhere in my life. I have been struggling (kicking and screaming is more accurate) to make a certain situation involving a job happen for me, and it occurs to me that maybe what I need to do is just decide that it is going to work out, then let my everyday actions and decision take care of the details. Of course, it’s a complicated situation, but there really is only so much I can do. But maybe I can just calm down a little and keep pedaling from here on out.

Meanwhile, today’s ride seems to have nearly cured my cold. I don’t have the body aches and the stuffy face I’ve had for the last four days. It also has set my fitness program back on track,  as my heart rate monitor says that I burned over 2000(!) calories on today’s ride. Which, for me, atones for yesterday completely and gives me freedom tonight to indulge a little.

You better believe I’ve been eating GP’s Choco Pillows straight out of the box this evening. By the handful.