Месечни архиви: February 2017

Where to Stay in Barcelona — Best Neighborhoods and Accommodation

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Where’s the best place to stay in Barcelona? I called in the experts! After writing my Where to Stay in Paris post, I was inundated with requests to do one for Barcelona, too. At the time, I grumbled, “I’m only one woman — I’m not an expert on every city in the world!”

But you know what? You really want to know. And while I’ve been to Barcelona several times, I don’t know it like I know Paris (and I can’t stand when travel bloggers write ultimate guides to places they barely know). So I hired two Barcelona experts to write the best, most detailed Barcelona accommodation guide possible: Ashley and Alex from the blog In Pursuit of Adventure.

And for the record — my personal favorite Barcelona neighborhood to stay in is Gràcia!

Take it away, guys!

Kate

The enchanting city of Barcelona is our favorite city in Europe to explore, and we love indulging in its unique culture. We’re not alone — tourists around the globe flock to this coastal Mediterranean city year-round, seeking out beautiful beaches, a vibrant culinary scene, and lively nightlife.

Barcelona is part of the region of Catalonia in northeast Spain, and the independence flag hanging off balconies reminds us that they are Catalan, not Spanish. The Catalan residents are proud of their city, their culture, their heritage, and of course their fútbol team, FC Barcelona! Their spirit of independence is contagious and gives the city so much character.

But choosing where to stay in Barcelona can be overwhelming, as it’s a large city broken into many different neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has its own distinct feel, charm, and loyal locals. So what do you do? That’s where we come in!

We know each of these Barcelona neighborhoods like we know the stamps in our passports. So here are our favorite neighborhoods to make your trip memorable. Just remember, no matter where you end up staying in Barcelona, be sure to venture out and sample the charms of each neighborhood from the touristy yet hipster neighborhood of El Born to the gritty and diverse El Raval.

Best Neighborhood Overall: El Born

El Born is the neighborhood to stay in if you are looking to be in the heart of the old city with fantastic artisan shops and hip restaurants. While it can be touristy, El Born is one of our favorite neighborhoods.

El Born is also perfect for anyone looking to be in the heart of Barcelona, as it’s walking distance to Barceloneta, the beach, the Gothic Quarter, and several metro stops that can connect you to all the different major sites in the city.

This neighborhood is perfect for exploring little local shops full of amazing products from handmade ceramics to custom leather aprons (which every trendy restaurant seems to have their waiters wear!) to art galleries. The alleyways are filled with street art, especially la bomba (the bomb), which represents Barcelona’s anarchist spirit, and flags and buntings for the perfect photo opportunities.

Be sure to pop into the Picasso Museum, which showcases the artist’s work from an early age to some of his most famous paintings. Try to visit on the first Sunday of the month when it’s free! Then grab a coffee or a vermouth at one of the many outdoor patios and soak in the relaxed lifestyle here.

Lower El Born is the more touristy side of the neighborhood with the church of Santa Maria Del Mar dominating the area and a large pedestrian area lined with hip restaurants, cocktails bars that go all night and boutique shops.

Upper El Born is quieter, filled with more residential apartments, local bar, and the famous Mercat Santa Caterina where you can go for the best local menú del día, or lunch special, at Bar Joan, which we think is the best lunch deal in town.

Check out hotels in El Born here.

Best Neighborhood for Beach Lovers: Barceloneta

Barceloneta is probably the proudest Catalan neighborhood in Barcelona and you’re never further than five minutes from the beach. The independence flag of Catalonia flies proudly from almost every balcony here.

Barceloneta is also the neighborhood where you will see the most backlash on tourism. Residents want to keep the neighborhood local and have fought ardently to keep it that way.

That doesn’t mean you should stay away, though. Thoughtful tourists who respect the locals are welcome. That means that when you leave the beach, put on some clothes before you pop into a shop or grab a bite to eat. If you are out until the early hours of the morning (which happens easily here), keep your voices down to avoid disturbing people who are asleep.

Also, make an effort to support local businesses here. Head to small, family-run restaurants like La Cova Fumada, where la bomba (not the street art — in this case, a glorious ball of fried mashed potatoes stuffed with minced meat and topped with aioli and bravas sauce) was first invented back during the Civil War. Or head to Vaso del Oro, where they have been brewing their own beer and serving it up in flautas, or beer flutes, for over fifty years.

Take a stroll along the sand and notice all the locals out walking, rollerblading, biking, and soaking up the Mediterranean sun. Barceloneta will treat you well if you treat it well.

Check out hotels in Barceloneta here.

Best Neighborhood for a Cultural Mix: El Raval

El Raval is the infamous neighborhood once known for drinking establishments, cabaret shows, prostitution, crime and Hemingway — and that’s exactly why you should stay there.  This neighborhood embraces its gritty past while looking to a modern future. Centrally located near the main port in the historical district of Barcelona commonly known as Ciutat Vella, today El Raval is far more charming than seedy.

The neighborhood is known for its diversity and often referred to as Barri Xinès, or Chinatown, by the locals. Today Chinese, Pakistanis, Filipinos, South Americans, Eastern Europeans and Middle Easterners inhabit the neighborhood, creating a unique melting pot of cultures.

Here you will also find one of Gaudi’s earlier works, the Palau Güell, and the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, more affectionately called MACBA. Here you will find locals of El Raval on the steps drinking wine and watching the skateboarders do tricks in the streets.

Today El Raval has become a treat for young foodies and boozehounds. The neighborhood is filled with restaurants and bars like Bar Marsella (pictured above), an old absinthe bar stuck in the time of Hemingway (the writer himself used to drink here quite often), or Bar Cañete, a modern player in the Barcelona culinary scene using classic Catalan ingredients to make innovative, modern dishes. 

Check out hotels in El Raval here.

Best Neighborhood for Foodies: Poble Sec

Poble Sec is the perfect neighborhood to stay in if you are looking for a some peace and quiet but also want to eat like a local. The neighborhood is quiet during the day but really comes to life at night when all the tiny tapas bars along the pedestrian-only Carrer de Blai open up shop and fill with hungry locals. This is the neighborhood to drink vermouth, grab some cheap eats, and revel in being Catalan if only for the duration of your stay.

While there are no major tourist sites in Poble Sec, this neighborhood is well connected by metro and it’s just a hike up the hill to see the castle of Montjuic, the gardens, and to take the funicular down to the beach.

This is also the neighborhood to visit Quimet & Quimet, one of the most famous tapas bars in the city. Here they focus on high quality conservas, or canned food, and montaditos, small open-faced sandwiches.

Squeeze in here, order some cava, a couple montaditos and throw your napkins on the floor like a local — that’s what you do in Poble Sec!

Check out hotels in Poble Sec here.

Best Neighborhood for a Small Town Feel: Gràcia

Gràcia is the neighborhood to stay in if you are looking for that small town charm while still in the big city. One of the more unique neighborhoods, Gràcia was its own village until Barcelona’s expansion absorbed it into the city itself. The locals, however, still very much consider themselves separate to Barcelona and it’s noticeable as soon as you exit the metro. It feels like you’ve stepped into another world here in Gràcia.

We personally love Gràcia as it is lesser-known to tourists but has a wonderful bar and restaurant scene, especially for classic Catalan dishes. Cal Boter is one of those restaurants that features traditional dishes like snails and pig trotter. If that’s a little too old-fashioned for your taste, head over to Bar Bodega Quimet for tapas in their small, bustling, and decidedly local bodega. Don’t forget to grab a drink at La Festival, a modern wine shop focusing exclusively on organic and biodynamic wines.

During the late afternoon, head to Plaça del Sol, the main square, where everyone in Gràcia congregates to gossip, people-watch, and just enjoy their daily life. Grab a beer and join in!

Gràcia exemplifies what Barcelona is all about: individuality and independence against larger outside forces.  It’s quiet and quaint with traditional shops but leaves room for modern roots to be established. Gràcia comes as a highly recommended neighborhood to stay in especially if you enjoy that local vibe and you are visiting Barcelona for the second or third time, as it is not located in the old city.

That said, Gràcia is located just beneath Gaudi’s famous park, Parc Güell, and is close to lesser-known Gaudi architecture and Tibidabo, an amusement park from the early 1900s that is still operational.

Check out hotels in Gràcia here.

Best Neighborhood for Hipsters: Sant Antoni

Sant Antoni is the hipster neighborhood and is the perfect place to stay for those looking for a modern vibe in the old city. While still very residential, it is quickly becoming host to a number of hip establishments like Cafe Cometa and La Donutería (yes, you can even find fancy donuts in Barcelona!). You will also find locals of Sant Antoni congregating around the Carrer del Parlament which is host to several very chic restaurants, bodegas and bars.

Sant Antoni hasn’t totally abandoned its roots, however, and here you will also find the much loved old school La Bodega d’en Rafel. They’re also renovating the heart of the neighborhood, Mercat Sant Antoni, which has been around since 1882.

Sant Antoni is a neighborhood that is focused on residential life, making it a great neighborhood to live like a local. However, it is not as well-connected to the city for first time visitors and does not have any tourist attractions. It also doesn’t have any major hotels, so apartment rentals may be the way to go here.

However, with the expansion of restaurants and nightlife, this may change in the future; Sant Antoni is, after all, the chic neighborhood. 

Check out hotels in Sant Antoni here.

Best Barcelona Hotels

You can compare rates on hotels throughout Barcelona here. Here are some of our top recommendations:

Best Luxury Hotel: W Barcelona

The W is an icon and the place to stay for luxury in Barcelona. Located on the beach in Barceloneta, across the street from the Desigual headquarters, the W Hotel invites sunbathers with its glass sail-like facade, reflecting the city and the beach below. 

There is a pool with a bar located on the 26th floor, so you can soak in views of both the city and the Mediterranean. Plus, during the summer they host a series of parties with local and international DJs on their pool deck. The W is the epitome of Barcelona cool.

Rates from 230 EUR ($242) per night.

Best Mid-Range Hotel: Barceló Raval

Dominating the skyline at Rambla del Raval is the Barceló Raval. This imposing circular hotel offers the perfect place to stay in the heart of the city with 180-degree views. Prices are very reasonable for the quality you receive. Plus, there is a swimming pool and a 360-degree rooftop bar that is the perfect place to catch every gorgeous Barcelona sunset. (That photo above is from the roof!)

Rates from 90 EUR ($95) per night.

Best Hostel: Generator Barcelona

Located in Gràcia, Generator Barcelona is a fantastic hostel to stay in while visiting the city, especially if you’re not a hostel person. The design of this hostel alone makes it less like a hostel and more like a boutique hotel. They also have a range of rooms starting from dorm shares to privates with twin beds to even a penthouse with a terrace!

This hostel has it all — free wifi, a lounge, even a bar, and is the perfect place to decompress after a day of sightseeing or a wild night out. You can meet lots of fellow travelers if you wish or just relax and enjoy your solitude.

Dorm beds from 11 EUR ($12) per night, private rooms from 45 EUR ($47) per night.

Barcelona Travel Tips

Barcelona can be overwhelming at times, so here are some travel tips to ensure you have the best trip possible:

Don’t stay too far outside the city. Barcelona has a very large metropolitan area, which is more than just the downtown and tourist sites, and the easiest way to ruin your trip is to stay too far outside.

Instead, stay within the old city limits of Barcelona, or right outside like in Gràcia, because when you are out in the boonies it can be difficult to find transportation back and forth to downtown. Keep in mind that the metro closes around midnight — you don’t want to take expensive taxis or tear yourself away like Cinderella!

Avoid La Rambla. La Rambla, or Las Ramblas as it is more often called, is the most famous street in Barcelona and at one time would have been a wonderful place to stay. Over the years, however, its popularity has become its downfall with overpriced souvenir shops and tourist traps.

We suggest taking a walk down to see La Rambla for yourself, but avoid spending too much of your precious time there. Barcelona has a lot of amazing things to offer you, but La Rambla is not one of them. Go see it and then hightail it to El Raval or El Born.

Learn a little Catalan. Barcelona’s official language is Catalan, not Spanish. Locals will not expect you to know Catalan, but they will appreciate it. Say bon dia for hello, adéu for goodbye, and mercès for thank you. Learn these three simple phrases and the Catalans will be so appreciative of your respect of their language!

Barcelona is best seen on foot. Despite its large size, Barcelona is a walking city at heart. Most of Barcelona’s tourist sites are clustered around Ciutat Vella, the old city. The little windy streets are like treasures — and you’ll miss them when underground on the metro!

Soak up all the wonderful vibrant energy this city has by taking daily strolls in different neighborhoods. You never know what you may encounter. As a bonus, you will work off all that wonderful food you’ve been eating. Speaking of which…

Eat when the locals eat (yes, they eat late). To truly understand the Barcelona lifestyle, you have to eat when the locals eat, otherwise you’ll be sitting in empty restaurants that are only for tourists. Get up in the morning but not too early, as the Catalans are not early risers, and have a cafe con leche (coffee with milk) with some pan con tomate (bread rubbed with tomato and garlic).

And then between 12:30 and 3:00 PM, enjoy the menú del dia, daily cheap lunch specials that often get you three courses with wine for around 10-15 EUR ($11-16). Locals love the menú del dia!

Drinking and eating is crucial to Catalan life, so grab drinks and tapas between 6:00 and 9:00 PM. Hop from one tapas bar to the next while enjoy a drink and just grab a few tapas at each place. Stand up at the bar or outside as you enjoy the bustling atmosphere.

Next, head to dinner around 10:00 PM and take your time eating. There is no rush in Catalonia, especially when you stay centrally and don’t have to worry about the metro closing! This is what the locals do, so you might as well enjoy it while you’re there.

Don’t Visit Barcelona Without Travel Insurance

A lot of people think travel insurance is an unnecessary expense — that’s far from the truth. Travel insurance is vital. It’s saved Kate hundreds of dollars and for one of her friends, who slipped and broke his back while traveling, his travel insurance saved him literally hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If you get pickpocketed on Barcelona’s metro, travel insurance will refund you what you lost.

If you slip on the stairs at the Parc Güell and break your ankle, travel insurance will refund your medical costs and get you home for free.

If you get appendicitis while in Barcelona, travel insurance will cover your medical costs.

If an immediate family member dies while you’re in Spain, travel insurance will help you get home immediately.

These are unpleasant things to think about, but it’s so important to be prepared for the worst.

AdventurousKate.com uses and recommends World Nomads Travel Insurance. They’re a great fit for almost every traveler. Take a look at their policies before you buy to make sure they’re right for you.

Barcelona is waiting for you!

So there you have it — everything you need to know in order to set yourself up for the best trip to Barcelona.  Once you are settled in a neighborhood, just let the infectious energy of the city carry you away and we promise you will love Barcelona as much as we do!

Meet the Barcelona Experts

Ashley and Alex are two travelers from California who are addicted to living local. They run the travel blog In Pursuit of Adventure and focus on eating, drinking, and living locally across the globe. They are currently exploring the cuisine and drinks of Cuba before turning their sights to Peru. They also are the authors of Eat Local in Barcelona: A Guide to Catalan Cuisine, which will be published in March.  

Have you been to Barcelona? Where’s you favorite place to stay? Share away!

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AK Monthly Recap: January 2017

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Once again, I went a full month without leaving New York! I barely even left Manhattan, venturing to Brooklyn a total of twice.

The first time I did that, in April of last year, I was shocked and horrified at myself. This time, I welcomed it! The past few months were much busier than I anticipated (a six-week trip to Europe and Australia, a nine-day trip to Germany, plus three trips home to Massachusetts), so I needed some time to recuperate.

And that was a smart decision. I spent this month working hard on my fitness regime, spending time with friends, and gearing up for a busy year.

Destinations Visited

New York, NY

Highlights

Taking part in the Women’s March! Millions of people marched all over the world to stand up for the rights of women, black people, immigrants, Muslims, LGBT people, and the environment. I didn’t go to DC but I was thrilled to march with my sister and our two close friends from home in New York City.

I couldn’t get over how huge the march was. It took us an hour to even get to the point where we could march, period! Everyone was friendly and in great spirits. And most importantly, when my kids and grandkids ask me how I stood up to Trump, I’ll be able to show them photographic proof. This is only the beginning.

The NO PANTS SUBWAY RIDE! On the coldest Sunday of the year, my friend Anna from Crazy in the Rain and I joined a group of strangers, got on the subway, and took our pants off, acting nonchalant about it when asked. We lucked out and ended up with a cool group of new friends and we finished our subway ride with a dance party in Union Square!

The No Pants Subway Ride takes place in lots of cities each year, but it originated in New York. Definitely join next year! It’s so much fun, even in the cold!

Image: @roamtheamericas on Twitter

Speaking at the New York Times Travel Show. This was my second time speaking and first time speaking at Industry Day. I was on a panel called “The Future of Travel Media” and I was the modern blogger paired with three more traditional travel writers, so I was a bit of a foil to the rest of them! We had a great talk and it seems like the audience really enjoyed it.

And because the show is such a big event, lots of my blogger friends were in town. The good times most definitely rolled.

Hosting my friend Amanda for a few days. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a houseguest, so I was happy to have Amanda from A Dangerous Business come stay with me during the show! We hung out, explored the city, took tons of pictures (including Times Square at night, which I hadn’t yet done), and made a visit to the Oculus, which I recommend seeing if you’re in Lower Manhattan.

A visit from a special puppy. Christine from C’est Christine brought her pug puppy Gertie to Harlem for a visit! She is the cutest, funniest thing and her fur is SO soft. You can see more of her at cestgertie on Instagram.

Seeing Maria Abramovic speak about her work. I’ve been fascinated by her performance art — she did the project at the MoMA where people would sit across from her and receive uninterrupted eye contact — so it was interesting to see her talk about art. I was surprised at how funny she was, in spite of her often-serious work, and now I’m eager to read her new memoir.

Finally getting framed art on the walls. After living in my apartment for almost a year, I finally have stuff on the walls! Should have done that a long time ago. I used Framebridge to frame everything, they were fabulous, and they gave me a discount code to share with you: adventurouskate15.

Challenges

This new presidency. I wasn’t going to watch the inauguration, but I was at the gym and it was on all the TVs. I thought that would be my low point of the week, but no. It kept getting worse and worse.

As Dan Rather said, “For many Americans, in the two weeks since the inauguration, we have whipsawed from tragedy, to farce, to the theater of the absurd.” I’m deeply worried by what we’ve seen so far. I’m standing up for the most vulnerable, I’m preparing to lose my healthcare (because we all know there’s no Obamacare replacement waiting in the wings), and I’m looking to continue my political activism and action here in New York and beyond.

Seeing a bike messenger almost get run over by a car. Not only that, the driver got out of the car and they almost had a fistfight. So scary, especially since lots of bike messengers don’t have health insurance — or at least they didn’t in the pre-Obamacare days, and they’re about to lose it again.

Most Popular Post

My Plan for 2017: A Commitment to Fitness — The big post about how I’m changing my life.

Other Posts

Where to Go in 2017: Kate’s Top Picks — 12 locations for 12 months of the year.

For the Love of God, Don’t Sew a Canadian Flag On Your Backpack — On traveling in the age of Trump.

This is the Islamic World — A photographic journey across 10 very different Muslim countries.

Most Popular Instagram Photo

I wasn’t sure how this photo of me at the Women’s March would do on Instagram, but it turned into my most popular photo of all time!

I’m closing in on 100k followers — I’ll probably hit that milestone by the spring. For real-time updates from my travels you can follow me on Instagram and Snapchat at adventurouskate.

What I Read This Month

This month I started the Popsugar 2017 Reading Challenge! I’m enjoying sinking my teeth back into a challenge and reading some genres I wouldn’t pursue ordinarily. I’m also making an effort to read both fiction and nonfiction titles, books by authors of color, and books published in 2017 each month.

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond — If there’s any one book I think every American should read, Evicted is at the top of my list. (I seem to say that often, don’t I? Well, forget everything I said before, because this is the real deal.) This is the most important book about poverty I’ve ever read. The book takes place in Milwaukee, one of the most racially segregated cities in America, and follows a black landlord in a black neighborhood, a white landlord at a white trailer park, and several of the tenants of both landlords. The stories that follow are rich, nuanced, and full of character — much more than I expected. It read like a novel.

I am shocked at how little I knew about how eviction affects poverty — evictions make it harder to get housing, and circumstances of poverty make it easier to get evicted, so the cycle gets worse and worse. Did you know that benefits haven’t risen, but private rents have, and so many people spend upwards of 80% of their income on rent alone? Did you know that having the police called to your house can get you evicted? So many domestic violence victims have to choose between their safety and their housing. That’s just the beginning of the horrors of housing in America. We have so much work to do. Category: A bestseller from 2016.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri — I’ve been meaning to read Jhumpa Lahiri’s books forever, but this is only the first. A collection of short stories that won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Interpreter of Maladies tells stories of Indians, Indian-Americans, their relationships, and how their two cultures spill over into each other.

I don’t read collections of short stories very often, but I should — because when they’re as good as Lahiri’s, they’ll make you ache inside. I’m still thinking about some of the characters! That’s the mark of a brilliant writer, and I look forward to delving into Lahiri’s other works. Category: A book involving travel.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman — This crazy novel was my book club’s pick this month. The premise? The ancient gods all over the world, from Norse gods to African gods to Hindu gods, have migrated to America over centuries and are now living among us. They’re gearing up for war against new gods, like media and technology, and one man finds himself caught in the middle of it.

A lot of people are crazy about American Gods, but I honestly wasn’t a fan. I appreciated the concept and Gaiman’s ambition, but this book annoyed me so much. The main character, Shadow, had no personality. The female characters were either whores, children, or unfuckable. The big climax was a buildup to nothing and reminded me of the end of the Twilight series. In my opinion, an interesting concept does not make up for a complete lack of character development. Category: A book based on mythology.

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide — When I had to read “a book with a cat on the cover,” I dreaded it, thinking my only options would be schmaltzy crazy cat lady stories. Instead I found this lovely wisp of a Japanese book. A couple living in Tokyo are living an ordinary life until their neighbors get a cat — and the cat starts spending all her time at their apartment. Soon, the cat is practically theirs and they discover a new love and affection for her that brings richness to their lives.

This book reminded me of how much I love Japan. This book is simple, calm, and focuses on feelings in the moment. Not a word is wasted. It’s also a quick read if you’re looking for something easily digestible. Category: A book with a cat on the cover.

A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea by Melissa Fleming — This is the story of a Doaa al-Zamel, a Syrian refugee who survived against all odds, from war in her city to a shipwreck at sea. Everyone needs to read this book to understand the Syrian refugee crisis (then again, the people who need to the most will probably refuse to read it). Doaa fought in the resistance before her family escaped to Egypt. After life in Egypt became hellish for Syrians, she and her fiancé decided to escape via boat to Europe — and their boat wrecked in the water. It is a devastating story, made all the more horrifying that so many people are continuing to go through this.

That being said — I wish Doaa’s story had been in the hands of another author. Melissa Fleming is Chief Spokesperson for the UNHCR, and she has done excellent work — but I don’t think she should have taken this assignment on. I found her writing to be distractingly bad, redundant and full of cliches. That said, Fleming’s writing style is accessible enough for high schoolers and even mature middle schoolers to read, so if you know a smart and compassionate kid, I recommend giving them the book. I still think you should read it, though. Ignore the bad writing and concentrate on the story. Category: A book about an immigrant or refugee.

What I Listened To This Month

“Time” by The Knocks. Spotify knows what I love most — that intersection of hip-hop, R&B, dance, and ambient music, sometimes with a little jazz or disco or gospel thrown in. This song is that genre in a nutshell.

What I Cooked This Month

I cook so much, might as well share some recipes with you!

Seriously the easiest snack ever: put 1 cup dried unsweetened coconut flakes, 1.5 cups almonds, and 2 cups dates (pits removed!) in a food processor. Blend it. If it’s having trouble sticking together, add in a TINY bit of water — think a few drops.

Spread it into a pan, refrigerate at least an hour, and cut into bars. Amazing deliciousness.

Coconut-almond-date bars. Vegan, gluten-free, paleo, Whole 30-approved, and good for just about anyone…who doesn’t have a nut allergy. Just don’t go crazy on them, because while healthy, they do pack a lot of calories.

Fitness Update

Since I wrote about my new journey toward fitness, I decided to do some brief monthly updates on how I’m doing.

I’m amazed at how well I’ve been keeping up the paleo diet, even when eating out. I did have a few slip-ups, all of them when out with friends (most notably, a few bites of my friend’s chocolate cake…and the Catholic in me confessed to my trainer the moment I went in the next day…), but for the most part, no-bread-no-dairy-no-sugar has become second nature. I estimate I’m eating paleo 90% of the time.

Working out has been going well. I see my trainer twice a week and add in classes three to four more times per week. Having my own washing machine makes it so much easier because I SWEAT. A LOT.

I resolved to finally try spinning, despite being terrified of it — and I have no idea why I was afraid for so long. It’s not scary at all! Tough, and sweaty, but I’ve never felt remotely uncomfortable! I’ve even taken spin classes at three places: Equinox, Flywheel, and Harlem Cycle. That’s in addition to my Equinox classes: Zumba, True Barre, Cardio Core Ball and Powerstrike.

I also joined ClassPass, which allows you to try fitness classes all over the city. I got a five-classes-per-month pack and I’m already looking forward to underwater spinning, hip-hop candlelit yoga, and a variety of dance classes! (Interested in ClassPass? Join and we’ll both get $30 off!)

And I decided to start a “workout buddies” series with my friends — instead of going to a bar or coffeeshop, we go to a fitness class together! That pic is me with my friend Elissa after a spin class at Flywheel.

I lost about 7 pounds in January. My BMI went from “overweight” to “normal.” My jeans and bras went from too tight to just right to maybe a bit too big (damn, why do your boobs always go first?). I don’t expect to lose that much per month again, as you always lose a ton of water weight at the beginning, but now I’m losing a pound a week and hope to keep that up.

That said, even if I don’t lose 25 pounds by Memorial Day, that’s okay. This is a long-term process and it might not go as quickly as I hope. But when I get to my goal weight, I’m going to look much healthier than I did when I weighed that much in Southeast Asia because this time I’m not starving myself.

My big worry, however, is keeping up my diet and exercise when I’m on the road. I don’t care about staying on my diet — I just don’t want to make my friends uncomfortable. Would you feel comfortable if you really wanted some chocolate cheesecake but were with a friend who ate nothing but salads with chicken on them? I just want them to know that they can do whatever they want!

Image: Ed Schipul

Coming Up in February 2017

I’ve got two big trips planned and they’re not my usual fare, which is why they’re exciting!

First, in early February, I’m going to Florida with my friend Cailin! We’re starting off with four days at Universal Studios, where she has a partnership, and then we’re driving down to the Florida Keys before finishing up in Miami. Both the Keys and Miami are new to me and I’m especially eager to check out both the prettier and the grittier sides of the Keys (and the Bloodline locations).

And in late February, I’ll be going on my first cruise ever with my friend Jeremy! We’ll be on the brand new Carnival Vista for a week. The cruise leaves from Miami and stops in Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Kitts (new country for me!) and St. Maarten. I have no idea how I’ll feel about cruising but I’m eager to finally try it!

I’ll be doing more of my usual solo, independent, international travel style later in the year. For now, these are some comfort trips, and I hope you enjoy the upcoming coverage.

What are your plans for February? Share away!

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