Changing Your Perspective for a Positive Mindset

And just like that, it's been 13 days without alcohol. Honestly, the first 2 weeks have flown by and there have only been a fewwww times I've been tempted to cheat. But I'm feeling very determined and know that I'll make it to the finish line

Today I wanted to talk (write) a little bit about perspective. It's crazy how big of an impact a small shift in perspective can make in your happiness. I'm groaning at how preachy that sounded - but stick with me.

Changing Your Perspective

Wednesday was a long day. I was out the door by 5:00 a.m., on a flight to Pittsburgh by 7:00 a.m., at a coffee shop working by 9:00 a.m., in a meeting by noon, back at the airport by 3:30 p.m. and not back through my apartment doors until 8:00 p.m. 

But as my plane descended into New York City, I looked out my window and below me, the entire city was sprawled out. A city inhabited by 1.6 million people - including little old me. It might take me an hour and multiple subway transfers and plenty of frustration to get from the Upper East Side to Chelsea on a Sunday - but from 30,000 feet up, the island of Manhattan looked so much simpler. 

Changing Your Perspective

I could see the Freedom Tower and Central Park all at once. I spotted the Empire State Building and the reservoir, and I thought to myself, "WOW Central Park is beautiful and kind of massive, I can't believe I run around that whole thing on the regs!" (Yes, I even use embarrassing abbreviations in my head, obvs). 

Then, as I sometimes do, I started to get a little teary-eyed thinking about the fact that I live in THE New York City. THE Central Park is my backyard. I could look down and point out where Harlem Hill is and Cat Hill and my favorite trees that arch over the reservoir loop. And I could point at MY apartment - or at least the general vicinity of my apartment. 

changing Your perspective

Something about being that high up, and looking down at my entire life/world from such a distance had me feeling really emotional. 

When I landed, and waited in the taxi line, and waited in traffic, and finally got back to my apartment (because NYC isn't EVER actually simple when you're in it...) I dropped my bags and bolted to the park for a walk around the reservoir at sunset. From looking at Central Park from 30,000 feet up one hour to being smack dab in the middle of it the next hour - I had a really ridiculous feeling of contentment. 

How to Have a Positive Perspective

But the thing to remember about changing your perspective, is that it doesn't always mean going up 30,000 feet and literally changing your perspective. It's often a conscious and active decision that you need to make to view things in a different way.  

It's like an Instagram filter, for your life. 

Every day you have the choice to choose between Clarendon (a personal fave), Hudson, Valencia or Nashville (but let's be honest, no one chooses Nashville unless they're IN Nashville and trying to be clever). And every day you have the choice to filter your life to focus on the positives or the negatives. The "LIFE IS GOOD" filter or the "EVERYTHING SUCKS" filter.

Shall we go over some examples from my week? 

  • I could have chosen to focus on the fact that I lost my passport and need to pay $200 to replace it in time for my trip to Canada. 

    I'm not suggesting that I choose to view this as a positive thing - it's not. But instead, I focused my attention on the fact that I luckily found a copy of my passport that will make filling out the application for a new one easier. Instead of harping on the pain in the butt that it's going to be to get it replaced, I gave myself a little pep talk that sounded like this: "Lauren, you're going to get it replaced because you have to. So why are you going to freak out? It's going to get done."
     
  • I could have chosen to focus on the fact that the Billy Joel concert I was supposed to go to was cancelled last minute.

    Instead, I invited Callie over and we cooked a delicious dinner and caught up and then I laid in bed and lip-synced to my favorite Billy Joel songs and sent the videos to my friends so that they weren't sad we missed out on the concert. Because my rendition of Piano Man is essentially the same thing as Billy's. 

    Instead, I appreciated the fact that I got to bed earlier that night ahead of my 4:45 a.m. alarm for my flight. 
     
  • I could have chosen to focus on the fact that my Cuisinart wouldn't start and Callie and I couldn't blend the almonds into the sauce we were making.

    Instead, Callie acted as a human food-processor and chopped the almonds really finely and we improvised and shrugged our shoulders and laughed and guess what? Our dinner still tasted delicious (we cooked these Curried Cauliflower and Chickpea Buddha Bowls from Hummusapien!)  
Staying Positive
  • I could have chosen to focus on the fact that my entire day was taken up by my work trip on Wednesday - leaving me super tired and not giving me the chance to exercise. 

    Instead, I used that spectacular landing as inspiration to get into the park for a 2+ mile walk on a gorgeous night!
     
  • Wednesday was Global Running Day and at the moment, I can't run. I could have easily spent the day upset about my injury, bitter at all of the running posts flooding my social media channels, and angry at my legs. 

    Instead, I liked every running picture that I saw, went for a walk in the park, and thought about how running and the NYC running community has changed my life. Showing up to a Jack Rabbit group run 5 years ago is the #1 reason this place feels like home. 
Changing Your Perspective

So basically what I'm saying is that choosing to view your day from a positive perspective is just like choosing your Instagram filter. Make the right choice.

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Month Of Me! 28 Days Alcohol Free.

It's been a minute since I've posted,, and in that time, "THE MONTH OF ME" has begun. 

THE MONTH OF ME 

28 Days Boys & Booze Free 

And did I mention I can't run, either? 

Let's back up - I'll explain the reasoning behind a dating & drinking detox! 

Why I'm Not Running

May 17 I went to see a new doctor about my shin splints/IT band/everything hurts when I run problems that escalated by the end of my 3 Ragnar Relay legs. That started my 4 weeks of strict no running, jumping, boxing, boot-camping, cross-fitting, etc. as I was diagnosed with grade 3 stress reactions in both legs. Just short of becoming full on stress fractures - eek. 

The hope is that insurance will cover a bone stimulator, which sounds slightly terrifying, but has been shown to strengthen bones in people who are susceptible to stress reactions and stress fractures. Apparently I am one of those people. 

My 2013 stress fracture led to a TOTAL obsession with eating healthy and not gaining weight while I couldn't work out. It also meant commuting 2 hours each way into Manhattan with crutches. No bueno.  

My 2013 stress fracture led to a TOTAL obsession with eating healthy and not gaining weight while I couldn't work out. It also meant commuting 2 hours each way into Manhattan with crutches. No bueno.  

I walked into the appointment and straight up said, "Don't tell me to go to PT. I already know what exercises I need to do to strengthen my glutes, hips and core." And my doctor didn't flinch - he seems to be trying to take preventative measures instead of just telling me to rest, recover, and re-injure myself as soon as I start running again- which I greatly appreciate. 

In the meantime, I'm allowed to bike and swim, thankfully. And I've been focusing on doing lots of arms and abs at the gym. 

And I finally brought my bike in for a tune-up so I'm ready to go on that front - brand new turquoise handlebar tape is FIRE. 

I'm using these 4 weeks to remind myself that yes I am a runner, but running isn't what defines me. 2 years ago, 4 weeks off of running would have resulted in crying and anger and quite frankly, a not-so-cute temper tantrum (coupled with an extreme obsession on counting calories). 

Now, after on and off injuries and being unable to train for a year +, the four weeks "off" sound kind of nice. No frustrating runs that end in pain. No feeling "slow." I miss training and racing SO much. But it's been forever since I've truly been in a good running groove and if 4 weeks completely off gives me the chance to come back stronger and possibly train for another marathon - it is SO so worth it. 

I would like to run 26.2 miles again, please! 

I would like to run 26.2 miles again, please! 

The fact that I can still swim and bike and get jacked arms is GREAT and making it much easier, but I'm also trying to put fitness and exercising on the back burner for these 28 days and focus on all of my other interests and passions and hobbies that I sometimes neglect.

Why I'm Not Drinking 

There have been many times I've proclaimed, "I'm going a month without drinking!" and then realized, "Oh but it's so and so's birthday party,I need to drink at that," or, "Shit I need to try the IPA on this menu" or I quit because let's face it, some social situations are just better with  a beer in your hand.

But since February, I have been going out every weekend. And drinking during the week. And doing boozy brunches. And oh, yeah, living it UP in Barcelona. It's not that I regret any of it - I've been having a LOT of fun these past few months. But I think my body needs a little break - hangovers aren't nearly as fun when you have real life responsibilities and can't just lay in bed all day with your only trip outside being a 5 minute walk to the cafeteria for a bacon egg and cheese. 

Plus, it's always a good reminder that alcohol is NOT a pre-requisite for a good time! I didn't drink until my JUNIOR YEAR OF COLLEGE, PEOPLE. And I had plenty of fun. 

So, my break from drinking is a challenge to find alternate activities to happy hour and bar hopping and boozy brunch (all things I love) and to also realize that I can still do all of those things with my friends and have a great time even if I'm the sober one. 

No more excuses. There will never be a convenient or "easy" time to go a month without drinking. I'll be going to a wedding with my college roommates this weekend and is it going to be a bit of a bummer to not be imbibing at the open bar? Probably. Am I still going to laugh and dance and take ridiculous pictures and roar like a Bobcat? You betchya. 

Why I'm Not Dating 

This is certainly a loaded topic, and not one that I usually talk about on my food & fitness blog, but - I'm a single 27 year old living in NYC in the age of dating apps and ghosting and it is NOT EASY. And guys and relationships and confusion re: men recently seems to consume way more of my mental energy than I'd care to admit. 

And it's not really OK with me.

Because my brain power could be used for a lot better things. And my emotional energy could be used for my friends and family who deserve it. And my free time could be spent doing things I want to do.

So boys, bye!

Why 28 Days? 

This challenge won't last a full 30 days because Kayla is moving home to Boston and we have one last boozy brunch at La Pulperia to conquer on June 25. Featuring a specialty cocktail made by the bartender in her honor. So we're pretending this "month of me" is taking place in February and going with 28 days. 

The Plan

So a month of ME! No drinking, no running, no dates - what's a gal to do? Fill that calendar up with lots of things, that's what! Not all of these things will happen within the 28 days, but they are all a product of the Month of Me mentality!

Billy Joel Concert: When you're listening to Billy Joel sing and you're with your best friends, you don't need alcohol to belt out Piano Man or prove to everyone in your section that you know every word to We Didn't Start the Fire. 
*This was CANCELLED and I am so sad :( 

Yankee/Red Sox Game: I've never seen this decades old rivalry in person and even though I'm not a huge baseball fan, I'm going with the HUGEST baseball fan and I know her excitement will rub off on me. 

Sushi Making Class: I've been meaning to do this FOREVER and I'm so excited to finally make it happen. Plus, I hate sake, so - no temptation there! 

Wedding: 6 college roommates reunited for the first time since graduation!

Cooking With Kay: We've made some pretty fancy things together - handmade ravioli and pesto, seared sea scallops and zoodles, fresh squeezed watermelon cocktails - excited for a night in the kitchen with my friend! 

me8.jpg

Waitress on Broadway:  I miss being a musical theater nerd who knows all the latest buzz on Broadway but it's TONY SEASON so I gotta get my fix. 

Mani/Pedi: I've found that a mani/pedi with friends is a great way to catch up when you don't want to do the typical dinner/drinks. Plus, you can't be using your phone so you're sure to have each other's undivided attention! 

Intro to HTML & CSS: This is something that's been on my To Do list forEVER. I think it's a great skill to have and I'm weirdly excited about sitting in class for 3 hours. I miss being a student and learning! 

NYC Tri: I'm signed up for my first Olympic Distance Triathlon! I'm really scared! But also really excited! And doing it with my two favorites! It's technically outside of my 28 days, but those 28 days will definitely include a lot of biking and swimming to prepare. 

Rock Climbing: I'm going to check out either Chelsea Piers' climbing wall of Steep Rock Bouldering for my first rock-climbing adventure since 2009!  

Rock climbing on a CRUISE SHIP. 

Rock climbing on a CRUISE SHIP. 

Slam Poetry - I absolutely love slam poetry, ever since I saw The Asia Project perform at the NACA Conference and at my college. Maybe one day I'll have the nerve to get up and perform my own poem, but until then I'm excited to check out Nuyorican Poets Cafe slam poetry night. 

Write-In: I signed up for my first Write In with Gotham Writer's! Because a Friday night spent writing and receiving feedback sounds both terrifying and awesome! 

I'm excited, and I'm a little nervous that as these things come up, I'm going to wish my calendar wasn't QUITE so jam packed. But these are all things I really want to do, and are very "me." 

So, 9 days down, 19 to go! 

 

Tips for Your First Ragnar Relay Race

I've always been a little intimidated by the idea of creating a "Bucket List" that's life-long and experience-based. A NYC Restaurant Bucket List? Sure. A Margarita Happy Hour bucket list? Yep, I've got one of those. Doughnut Bucket List? Going strong.

But putting pen to paper and coming up with a list of the things I want to experience in a lifetime is overwhelming to me. I fear it would get vastly out of control and end up being pages long and then I would feel like I'd failed when I looked back and saw the things I hadn't checked off. 

I tend to take my experiences as they come. Opportunity to go to Barcelona? Leggo! Random idea to walk the Brooklyn Bridge at 2:00 AM? Sure! Is there such thing as a reverse bucket-list? Where I make a list of the top experiences of my life after the fact? Cause that's something I could do! 

This is a really long way of getting to the point of this post, which is something that I HAVE actively been wanting to do and check off my list for about three years now - running a Ragnar Relay Race.

Running a Ragnar Relay

HOW WE GOT HERE

My friends and I even made a Facebook group in May of 2015 where we would bounce dates and races off of each other. The page eventually began to look like this:
"OH, this one looks awesome! Down?"
Me: "Damn, I have a work trip then."
"What about this one?" 
Me: "Traveling then too." 

Cape Cod Ragnar Relay

Then, months ago, my friend Kayla and I were sitting in a coffee shop attempting to do homework/blog work when we got on the topic of Ragnar. It went from a conversation, to some serious procrastination as we started to look at dates and details and eventually escalated into us entering the lottery for the 2017 Cape Cod Ragnar Relay. We had absolutely no idea how competitive the lottery was or what our odds of getting in were. We didn't have commitments from anyone about joining our team. We kind of shrugged our shoulders and said, "We know lots of runners and we really want to do this so, let's give it a try!"

I think we both kind of forgot we had even entered until Kayla's credit card was charged over $1,000 and she got the "You've Been Accepted" email. 

A small part of me had a moment of panic, but mainly we were excited and confident that we could recruit 10 people to join us pretty easily. 

Turns out, even if you're part of the running community in a giant city, getting together 12 people excited to run 190 miles while being crammed in a van with no personal space and even less sleep is not an easy task. 

Not to mention the weekend of Ragnar happened to be a pretty big weekend race-wise. Our two friends who we'd figured would join us would be off completing their first HALF IRONMAN (CONGRATS ABBY AND CALLIE) and it was also the same weekend as the Bear Mountain North Face Endurance Challenge - a favorite of November Project teammates. Plus, it was the weekend before the Brooklyn Half Marathon - the largest half marathon in the country that tons of people were training for and making their top priority for the spring. Oh, and it was mother's day weekend. 

Our strategy became, fill one van, give one away. Meaning we'd fill and captain one van and then pass the reins for a second van over to someone else who would be free to ask whoever they wanted to join their crew of 6. We contacted Ragnar to see if there was any way of reaching out to the "lotto losers" but they weren't very helpful. 

Fast forward to days before the race and we were legitimately still scrambling  - people were dropping out left and right due to injuries and we were prepared to compete as a team of just 11 runners. Miraculously, we pulled it together. 11 female runners, 1 brave boyfriend of a teammate, and 1 driver converged on Kayla's house in Boston and the adventure began.

THE NIGHT BEFORE

I flew from a work trip in Pennsylvania into Boston on Thursday night and was picked up in our rental mini-van by Melissa, Kaitlin, and Mr. Monks who had all gone to Enterprise to swap out the van they had driven from NYC --> Boston - the tires were low. Joy. 

TIP: We had found out days before we left that we wouldn't be able to rent our reserved 12 person van from Enterprise because none of us were insured owners of a vehicle. We were able to get a mini-van for the same cost after some negotiating, but make sure to ask questions when you initially reserve your van! 

New van + me made it back to Kayla's house where I bee-lined it to the fridge for some leftovers. Kayla's mom makes the most incredible couscous salad, which went wonderfully with dijon salmon. 

My van-mates had already done so much work to get us ready to Ragnar - a shopping trip to Costco, splitting up all the food between boxes for Van 1 and Van 2, slicing, dicing, car packing, float-blowing (I'll explain later...), and they had even brought my duffel bag from NY for me! 

TIP: Pre-purchasing all of our food saved a lot of mental energy. We didn't have to think about stopping to eat or grocery shop once during the trip. I honestly don't know how teams manage to go for sit down meals during a Ragnar Race! Here's what our food situation looked like: 
  • Apples - PRE SLICED (thanks, Rebecca) which made them so much more enjoyable to snack on
  • Bananas, duh, runners here! 
  • Peanut Butter - also duh 
  • Trail Mix
  • Couscous Salad 
  • Bagels
  • Bread (the most amazing bread, from When Pigs Fly Bakery! Get the Blueberry Granola) 
  • Rice Cakes 
  • Carrots
  • Hummus
  • Hard Boiled Eggs - Michelle made these for us and it ended up being a GREAT addition to our food spread) 
  • Peanut Butter filled Pretzels 
  • Dried Fruit 
  • Bark Thins
  • Chocolate Covered Cashews 
  • A variety of our own gels, gus, chews, energy bars, etc. 
  • Yogurts 
  • Gallons of water!
  • And post-race snacks like kettle corn, tortilla chips, champagne, and an aggressively large bottle of vodka 

Soon, the folks from the other van arrived and although not everyone knew each other, it was all hands on deck unloading their things from the van, getting it parked down the street in a family-friend-neighbors driveway (they had a 12-passenger monster), and talking about our plans for the morning. We were scared that our start time wasn't going to leave us enough time to finish, so Van 1 planned to head out early and try to get a head-start. 

Kayla and I headed to bed fairly early, hidden away in the attic and with the help of a melatonin I got a decent amount of sleep! 

THE MORNING OF

In the morning, we helped Van 1 pack their van, their cooler, cleaned up the various air mattresses and blankets, and Kayla's mom cooked a delicious breakfast for Van 1. By 8:30 AM they were ready to roll out. We took a team picture ("Big Apple Cod Squad"), wished them luck, and off they went. We heard from them around 10:15/10:30 that they were being allowed to start early and the race was on! 

Tips for a Successful Ragnar Relay

While Van 1 started their 6 legs, Van 2 continued to prepare at Kayla's house. That preparation included our own delicious breakfast made by Enid - a fritatta, toasted baguette, avocado and fruit salad. 

Then we set out to get bread at When Pigs Fly (Blueberry Granola & Baby Spinach + Onion + Garlic Ciabata) and plenty of cold brew coffee from CVS. 

TIP: You're not going to have a coffee maker in your car, you're not going to want to make extra stops or go out of your way to find coffee,  but you are definitely going to need coffee. Having cold brews in the cooler was a God send (even though I really couldn't have used a HOT cuppa joe) for energy, and, uhm, #2. 

 I showered, got dressed, packed up all my things and then it was time for DECORATING! 

Cape Cod Ragnar Race Recap

We had pre-purchased car markers and were ready to beautify our van. This is also where the floats came in play- we had bought a giant avocado pool float and an even bigger chocolate covered pretzel pool float in the hopes that we could attach them to our van as decoration. Sadly, we didn't have anything strong enough to feel confident that our float was fully secured to the roof - next time, we'll buy bungee cords or rope. There were plenty of vans that used floats to decorate. We just needed a better game plan. 

TIP: Another thing a lot of teams do aside from decorating their vans is creating team magnets that they put on other teams' vans throughout the race! We loved seeing the different magnets that got left on our van - and next time would love to make our own!

Either way, they provided a lot of fun pictures before we left Boston. I had also insisted on ordering 4 mini doughnut floats that were the most awkward size and color. But they got me featured on Ragnar's blog. 

Cape Cod Ragnar Review

The car markers worked GREAT (we ordered these) and I loved the way our van looked by the end. 

TIP: During Ragnar races, people track their "kills" during each leg - these the people that you pass as you run! Every van tracks their kills somewhere on the van. Isn't my skull and crossbones stellar?
Tips for Ragnar Relay

After much contemplation, we had named our van the "Big Apple Cod Squad" - which got us named to the Top 30 Team Names list!

After our decorating was done we headed inside for a quick lunch - a delicious open-faced sandwich on the spinach, onion and garlic ciabatta bread with arugula, hummus and cheeeeese.

ON THE ROAD

Once we were all packed and our last teammate arrived, we rolled out in our mini-van ready to meet Van 1 at the first "Major Exchange." 

But first, Kayla thought she had left her phone behind at the house. As Kaitlin navigated down a dead-end to turn around, we were boxed in by a giant UPS truck, only to realize that Kayla was sitting on her phone. This was a theme of the weekend - Kayla couldn't find something, we'd ask if she was sure she wasn't sitting on it, she usually was sitting on it... 

Cell-phone found, we were on the open road. 45 minutes later, the GPS told us we had arrived at our destination. 

But there were no fellow Ragnar vans to be found. Errr? 

Turns out we had driven 45 miles in the wrong direction. All we could do was laugh. Our mini-van was more like a struggle-bus leading up to that first run (but, things definitely improved once the race started!) 

Luckily, we had plenty of time to get to the right place and eventually we spotted other vans and knew we were in the right spot. As we drove up to the exchange we rolled the windows down and started cheering for runners, which got us all pumped up. 

TIP: Something that would have helped in pumping us up was an aux cord to play the music on our phones through the van's speakers. We were left listening to the radio or our phones placed in cup holders in an attempt to make it loud enough. During the actual race, we didn't listen to music much because we were all talking and the driver/navigator didn't need any more distractions - but for the longer driving portions, it's definitely something I'd add to our "next time" list. 
How to Run a Successful Ragnar Relay

Registration was easy and the "safety orientation" was a big of a joke - we listened to about 2 minutes worth of a video and were on our way to getting bibs, t-shirts and free samples of KIND bars and HIGH BREW COFFEE. I was so excited. I love that stuff. 

I was frozen, and would remain frozen for the entire 28 hours it seemed. Kayla had packed her NYC Marathon poncho with her and I didn't realize it was amazingly fuzzy and warm inside - it was a lifesaver and I broke my vow to never wear anything NYC Marathon branded until I actually run the NYC Marathon - it seemed necessary as I shivered. 

Ragnar Relay Secrets

We used the porta-potties (by the end of 28 hours, I was so excited to use a real bathroom! Also, porta-pottying in the middle of the night is NOT easy - those things don't have lights) and gathered at the Ragnar inflatable to await our teammates from Van 1. Soon, all of us were gathered together waiting for Joey to come through the finish of his leg - we cheered, he handed off the slap bracelet to Kayla, and Kayla was off - signifying the start of Van 2's Leg #1. 

TIP: I never ran into TP-less porta-potties but it's definitely a possibility. Doesn't hurt to pack your own roll to keep in the van! Also - hand sanitizer! 

We talked to Van 1 for awhile before heading back to our van. I didn't realize how "on" we were going to have to be for the periods of time that our van was running. It was a whirlwind. We drove and navigated to the next exchange - passing Kayla and cheering for his as we drove by - parked, and got right to helping the next runner prepare. 

Since we didn't have a ton of trunk space, there was constant reshuffling of bags, constant "hold the box of food so it doesn't fall when I open the trunk!" and constant, "do you see my...?" "can you get me a..." 

TIP: It might sound like an "easy" job, but the navigator's gotta be ready to wear a lot of different hats. The Ragnar directions can be somewhat mediocre - so paying attention is important. You can't just use your iPhone to get to the next exchange because there's a specific route you're supposed to take. People are also going to be asking the navigator a million things like, "Can you put the AC on?" "The windshield is fogging up, help!" "OMG I cannot handle that air freshener please take it down." "Can you plug my phone in?" "Can I have my phone back?" (ORDER THIS!) Definitely set up a rotation and don't take your navigator for granted!

Before we knew it, Kayla was finishing her first leg and Zoe was off for hers! Then, the process shifted to helping Kayla get settled, changed, fed, re-hydrated, etc. while simultaneously helping runner #3 (me) get ready, while simultaneously helping the driver navigate to the next exchange, while simultaneously looking out for the current runner to give a shout (and capture it on Snapchat, duh), while simultaneously needing to get an update from Kayla about how her run went. 

Ragnar Relay How To

Like i said, whirlwind. 

And it didn't stop until all 6 Van 2 runner's had run their first leg! 

LEG ONE 

Leg one for our van went really well. Like, really really well. Kayla kicked things off with a wonderful 6+ miles and her excitement and energy when she got back to the van really got us off on the right foot. 

She marked off her kills on the back window and checked off the first of three boxes next to her name to signify the completion of her first leg. She was the guinea pig for changing in the car and using a "shower pill" to clean off - a process that was hysterical and not one of us managed to do very gracefully. 

TIP: We bought a big pack of these wipes to use after each leg and thought that they worked really well! 

Zoe absolutely CRUSHED her first leg of 10 miles. After Kayla got changed, we set out to the next exchange and kept expecting to see Zoe but by mile 3 we were scratching our heads, "Could we have missed her?" "Could she really be this far along alright?" "HOW FAST IS SHE GOING?" 

Turns out, she was absolutely killing her 10 miles at a 7:30 pace! 

We got to the exchange and I started getting ready, knowing that Zoe was speeding right along. I was totally dreading my run, to be honest. But I knew that once I started, I'd be happy to be moving. 

Zoe passed off the bracelet and off I went. 

Way. Too. Quickly. 

When my watch buzzed at the first mile split, I looked down to see a 7:30.

Logical thought process: "Lauren, this is only your first leg - if you want to be able to run all 12 miles in the next day, pump the damn breaks." 

Actual thought process: "Lauren you haven't run this fast in so long, NEGATIVE SPLIT, I DARE YA!" 

Factor in the motivation of earning "kills" along the route, and I recklessly ran my first leg of 3.9 miles at a dumb dumb dumb 7:27 pace. For awhile it felt OK, but by the end my lower legs were tightening up and I was feeling shin pain with every step. My thought process had switched to, "Well, this might be the only leg you're running - KEEP GOING FAST." Oy. 

I handed off my bracelet to Melissa totally spent. It felt good to have pushed myself that hard for the first time in a long time, but I was also disappointed that I had jeopardized being able to run the rest of my legs in any sort of comfort - I was hurting, and it was the kind of hurting I knew was just going to get worse when I sat down in the car and tightened up - an unavoidable reality during a Ragnar Relay. 

TIP: Look for the Lindt Chocolate van! 

Regardless, I tried to embrace the burn in my lungs, that metallic taste of blood that signals you gave it 100%. My splits had been 7:31, 7:26, 7:16 and 7:34. 

Melissa and Rebecca both had 4ish mile legs next and they both got back in the car grinning from ear to ear after crushing them! 

Kaitlin was the last of our van to set out on Leg 1 and she had a not-so-easy 9 miles that would end in the dark. As we navigated to the exchange we realized she was going to get to run over the Bourne Bridge at sunset! 

Ragnar Relay Review

We got to the Major Exchange and parked next to Van 2 - I made myself a gourmet meal, practically (cous cous salad, rice cake with hummus + hard-boiled egg and baby carrots) and we put on our safety vests as darkness fell. 

TIP: The Ragnar staff were actually very strict about people walking around the exchanges without their vests on - so make sure you have enough for every member of your van! 

We waited for Kaitlin to emerge, literally, from out of the woods. Her leg had taken her over the bridge onto the Cape and then along the water on a paved path. She would end by leaping over some railroad tracks and charging up a narrow dirt path. 

Not to brag, but I'm pretty sure the combined cheers of Van 1 and Van 2 to welcome Kaitlin back and send Monique off were louder than any other teams! 

Ragnar Cape Cod

Once Kaitlin was settled we all breathed a sigh of relief - we'd made it through Leg 1 and now had a few hours off to rest as Van 1's six runners cycled through their nighttime runs. 

We were also slightly nervous for running in the middle of the night, and after fast first legs, all a little scared about how our bodies would feel when we told it to run again. 

The next exchange was a school where we were able to pay $3 to sleep on the gym floor. Luckily, I had come straight from a work trip so I had my travel pillow with me. I unrolled my yoga mat, popped a melatonin, and fell asleep wearing about 8 layers and still shivering. 

TIP: Bring comfy shoes for in between your runs - you're not going to want to be wearing your sneakers the whole time! 

I slept for about an hour, woke up, checked the time, and fell back asleep for mayyyybe another hour. 

Ragnar Relay Review

Then, it was time to get moving again. I took a little bit of hot coffee which was the most glorious 3 sips of my life, we used the porto-potty, repacked the van and again, waited to cheer Joey in and send Kayla off! 

TIP: Ragnar is a cup-free race meaning when there are water jugs, you'll need your own water bottle or cup to fill up! 

LEG TWO 

Leg two was the over-night run. Ragnar runners are required to wear a vest, taillight and headlamp for this portion of the race (they set specific hours where all runners need this gear). We looked pretty bad-ass, just sayin'. 

Cape Cod Ragnar Relay

When Kayla got back, she told me I should take the small flashlight we had packed with me on my run and THANK GOD she did. It was really dark, and the headlamp along didn't provide a ton of light. Plus, it created tunnel vision that made me feel a little off-balance. 

My night run (which started at 2:37 am) could have gone worse considering the pounding I had put on my legs previously in the day, but I certainly didn't feel good on these 4.7 miles. Still - it was just shin pain, nothing I'm not used to running through already. I was still picking off a good amount of runners as the course started to get more crowded during this part. But towards the end, it was more than shin pain as my IT band tightened and I started to get that all familiar pain in the side of my knee.  I finished with an 8:55 pace and a grimace on my face instead of a smile. But leg two was done and I had just 3 more miles to push through later in the day. For now, I could rest. 

TIP: Pack the clothes and gear you'll need for each run in a separate zip-lock bag. Then, when you're done, use that bag to seal up your sweaty, wet clothes. 
What to Pack for a Ragnar Relay

I am not a very confident driver - and luckily, my teammates picked up my slack in this area. The exchanges that we had to go to during the middle of the night seemed to be much more crowded, confusing and tight than the ones during the day, which wasn't a great feeling in the dark. We did our best to navigate them safely and stress-free. 

When we were done with our night runs and again handed the slap bracelet off to Van 1, we again went to a school with a gym where you could sleep. The only problem was, the gym was open, and it was COLD. I slept maybe 30 minutes before I had to go back to the van. 

5 of us attempted sleep and while I may have dozed off for a few minutes at a time, it wasn't quality sleep. One more leg! We told ourselves. 

TIP: Buy some good smelling air fresheners! And keep the plastic on half of it so it's not totally overwhelming! We had also packed Febreeze but honestly, we never ended up using it. We stayed pretty clean-smelling all things considered. 

The wait to start up again felt looooong and slow. This is also when we realized we could have easily been sleeping at Kayla's house during this break...d'ohhh. Looking back, it probably would have just made it harder to start back up again if we had gotten super comfortable and really fallen asleep in beds. 

THE FINAL LEG

As the sun rose and the birds started chirping, it warmed up and we got ready for the final 6 runs. We obviously check out the photo booth, and again cheered for Joey as he finished strong and signaled the end of Van 1's race! 

Tips for Ragnar

Kayla comically ran in the wrong direction for a few feet before we got her attention by shouting, "WRONG WAY!" She henceforth became known as Wrong Way K. 

Up until this point, we had been driving straight to each exchange, but on these last legs we got into the habit of pulling over on the side of the road and waiting for our runners to pass by for pictures, high fives and the added bonus of cheering for other runners.

It was odd - during my run I passed a few other teams pulled over on the side of the road and they just watched me go by without a "woo" or anything! RUDE. We overcompensated for these people by going absolutely nuts for every runner that went by. 

It made them all smile, and it also got US more pumped for our last runs.  

I think one of my favorite parts of the race was seeing Kayla run by on her last leg - she was SO emotional and happy and shouted, "I LEARNED TO RUN HERE!" It was the coolest. 

Ragnar Relay Race Tips

We had decided that I was going to switch last legs with Zoe - so that I only had to run 2.3 miles. But even those 2.3 miles were too much. I came ridiculously close to crying during the 24 minutes and 20 seconds and I took a lot of walking breaks. I was full on limping at this point and although every "YOU GOT THIS" "SO CLOSE TO THE FINISH" was meant to be encouraging, I just wanted to shout at everyone who passed me, "I'm only walking because I physically CANNOT run. I don't walk!" It was frustrating and painful and disappointing but I finished at a jog/hobble and Kayla had the announcer use her megaphone to yell "LOWO" which made me really happy (Tina, I'm trying to make the nickname spread). 

Everyone was so encouraging and positive and no one made me feel like I had just gone 2.3 miles at an 11+ minute pace, but I limped to the car and immediately started crying. 

It was a complete moment of feeling sorry for myself, feeling betrayed by my body that never seems to want to keep up with all the athletic endeavors I have planned, the slipping away of the NYC Marathon in the fall, and the realization that this wasn't just a bad run, I was seriously hurt and would probably not be running again for awhile. 

Tips for Ragnar

But I had to snap myself out of it. Because my teammates were crushing it, and we were having a great time, and I was seriously SO happy and proud of all of them. Kayla ran 20 freaking miles after the LONGEST fight with injuries. I knew she knew exactly what I was feeling as I cried in the back of the van but at the end of the day, I wanted to celebrate with my friends because we were so close to finishing this thing and I didn't need to be bringing the mood down. 

Everyone finished their final  miles strong and happy and we even got to meet Kayla's aunts in a parking lot on the Cape. 

Ragnar Relay Tips

With Kaitlin out on her final 9 mile leg (she was the champ who ran 22 MILES TOTAL) we parked the van, took the shuttle to the finish line (after holding the bus while Kayla SPRINTED to get the safety flag we needed to return) and met up with our Van 1 teammates to wrap this thang up!

The finish line was straight up a massive hill (rude). We gathered at the base of it and watching team after team jump in with their final runner and push them up that final stretch. Finish lines are so emotional and fun and amazing. We spotted Kaitlin, formed a tunnel, and followed her up to the finish line. Afterwards, she wondered why we were so far behind her - she was movin' and it took all of our tired legs a hot sec to start up again!

TIP: Next time, I think we would definitely try to coordinate our outfits for this final part of the race! So many teams had matching t-shirts and costumes and it was so fun to see! 

The finish area was great - we got our medals, more free samples - there were free massages available if you wanted to wait in line - and took lots of pictures. 

Ragnar Relay Tips

POST RACE

We said goodbye to Van 1 and enjoyed our free sandwich and soup (there was beer and cider available too for $5 each - but our stomachs weren't ready for that yet) before taking the shuttle back to the van and getting back to Kayla's house. 

Showering never felt so good - and somehow, napping didn't happen. We powered through the night, which included pizza, Ben & Jerry's, kettle corn, cards, flip cup (team vodka vs. team water), 4 bottles of champagne, vodka and so. much. laughing. 

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod Race Recap

In the morning we all woke up and had a leisurely breakfast while doing laundry and cleaning up the house. We stopped by the beach on our way home, and for croissants, and I even got a hug from Allison when we stopped for food at the Hartford Whole Foods. 

THE MUSHY, SENTIMENTAL CONCLUSION

Honestly, I was expecting the journey home to be miserable - full of tired, cranky, sore girls. But somehow, for 10 hours, we all laughed pretty much non-stop. My stomach seriously hurt. 

Saying goodbye as we all got into separate Ubers from the car rental place was WEIRD. We had just spent 48 hours straight together in extremely close quarters and yet still weren't ready to say goodbye.

A week + later, I think we all feel that Ragnar was an incredible bonding experience. As a team we conquered 190 miles. Through the logistics, the planning, the constant "doing," the running - we had gone through something together that we really couldn't explain or describe to anyone that hadn't been in that mini-van with us. The endless inside jokes, the laughter, the crying, the cheering, the farting (I said it), the support - it was all such an amazing experience. 

Most of my teammates had great runs, loved their runs, felt happy with their runs. Me - not so much. But Ragnar was like some alternate reality where that was literally the least important or impactful part of the weekend. I ran a race for 28 hours and looking back, I didn't give a damn about the actual running...

Do I want to do another Ragnar and negative split my legs (GO KAYLA) and do more than 11 miles and smile at the end of every exchange? Yes. But did I have THE time of my life even though I walked? Sure did. 

There are experiences you go through with people that form a bond you really can't put into words. Maybe it's your cabin from summer camp when you were 13. Maybe it's the cast of a musical you were in. Maybe it's your sorority sisters that you went through rush with. Ragnar is one of those experiences that transcends words and I can't wait to do it again. 

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Restaurant Review: Trattoria Dell'Arte

In May, my family and I went to see HAMILTON on Broadway. And while I had been a little nervous that the hype was going to be unwarranted - I'm here to tell you that it is as close to musical theater perfection as I will probably ever experience. Lin-Manuel Miranda's talent is mind blowing, truly. 

After the matinee performance, we went out for an early dinner at Trattoria Dell'Arte - whose website uses the phrase "VEGETARIAN EXTRAVAGANZA." While I'm not actually a vegetarian, I absolutely love vegetable-focused menus. (Abby, I said vegetable-focused instead of veggie-heavy JUST FOR YOU, you're welcome).

Trattoria Dell'Arte Restaurant Review

Trattoria Dell'Arte

Pick 6 - Antipasto Bar

Trattoria Dell'Arte Antipasto Bar

Tattoria Dell'Arte has a MASSIVE antipasto bar with 32 VEGETABLES. My sister and I quickly got down to business - fighting it out over which 6 would continue on in the hopes of becoming America's Next Top Vegetable (who writes this shit?)

After much debate, we landed on:

  • Roasted Heirloom Carrots (against the moans of everyone at the table, I bravely defended my all time favorite vegetable)
  • Sauteed Broccoli Rabe (our waiter gave us this as an extra bonus)
  • Roasted Seasonal Mushrooms
  • Eggplant Caponata 
  • Zucchini Parmigiana 
  • Roasted Cauliflower 
  • Spaghetti Squash

My two favorites were definitely the Zucchini Parmigiana and Eggplant Caponata! 

We also chose to add the burrata for an extra $6 and, unpopular opinion over here, I'm not all-in on the burrata craze! I gave my portion away. 

Braised Octopus & Calamari

Trattoria Dell'Arte NYC Review

OH WOW. I've been lucky enough to have some damn good octopus dishes in my lifetime, and this was right up there with some of the most tender, flavorful, octopus. 

Thin Crust Pizza 

Trattoria Dell'Arte Thin Crust Pizza

Again, this created some debate - with so many amazing sounding options, it was difficult to decide what we wanted. When our waiter informed us we could do half and half, we were overjoyed. OK, maybe that was just me. 

Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese & Fried Artichoke, Seasonal greens

This was everyone else's favorite - and I loved it too, don't get me wrong! It's just that the other half was...

Pesto & Broccoli Rabe

I rarely crave pizza, but I was so excited for this thin-crust 'za. And I ate every crumb that the rest of my family was "too full" to finish. The pesto was made with almonds, pine nuts and basil and it was delicious!

Though I'm not usually one to get excited over Italian restaurants, Trattoria Dell'Arte is worth getting excited over. There are tons of options, and not all of them will leave you feeling like you're stuffed silly. Not to mention the location is ideal for those times when you're stuck in Midtown and not sure where to go for decent food! 

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Restaurant Review: Jean-George's ABC Cocina

Long at the top of my Restaurant Bucket List, Jean-Georges Vongerichten's fancy, fresh Latin American restaurant was a "treat yo self" meal with friends from work. My "birthday week" and a friend visiting from Denver meant that money wasn't as big of a concern as it typically would be.

As soon as I walked into ABC Cocina, I was delighted by the decor. It's a place much like Tao in the sense that the furnishings add to the fancy feel - my friends even sat next to Betsy Johnson the last time they went for lunch!

Imagine our delight when we were seated at a table in a little window nook - our own private spot with plenty of natural light for picture taking ;)

ABC Cocina Restaurant Review

ABC Cocina

Spring Pea Guacamole

Pea Guacamole

Apparently, this guacamole was the guac heard round the world when it ignited rage on the internet in an event known as "Peagate." This is not a drill, folks.   

Personally, I was very PEASed with this guac - I thought one of us might start licking the bowl to make sure we got every last bite.

Also, please note the beautifully orange homemade habanero hot sauce in the cute little glass bottle. We joked about slipping it into a purse on the way out until it became quite obvious there wouldn't be any left by the end of our meal.  

Tuna Tartare

ABC Cocina Review

Typically, tuna tartare is a hit with me - give me fresh, raw tuna and I'll probably be happy. Somehow, ABC Cocina got this wrong - the texture and look aside (not exactly appetizing) it seemed like our tartare was loaded with some relish-tasting-addition. Likely, these were the chilies but they must have been pickled or something. Anyway - no bueno on the tartare. 

Ham & Cheese Fritters 

The menu describes them as gooey and spicy, but to me they were a little bland and boring. Half of the table loved them while the other half weren't thrilled. The flavor was fine (the ham was my favorite part) but overall, these weren't anything that WOWed me.

Ground Beef & Celery Root Empanadas

I'm sad to say that these didn't blow me away either - they were tasty, sure, but no different than any other empanada I've eaten in my lifetime (which is admittedly not a very high number). 

Grilled Asparagus, Jamon Iberico & Lemon 

ABC Cocina NYC Review

Our meal was back on track with this fresh, veggie-centric dish. Ok, veggie with a healthy side of meat. I felt so fancy reading the menu and knowing all about Jamon Iberico thanks to my cooking class in Barcelona! 

The asparagus + ham combo was light and wonderful with the perfect balance of salty, citrus-y and savory. 

Sauteed Mushroom Tacos 

ABC Cocina NYC

So much yes! Cashews, mole, kale, lime and sauteed mushrooms were a thrillingly wonderful combination. No cheese necessary. And corn tortillas thank GOD because serving tacos on flour tortillas is a SIN and I'm stickin' with that statement. 

Griddled Fish Tacos 

ABC Cocina Jean-Georges

Deece. (I think that's the first time I've used that...) But to be frank - fish tacos for me are ruined unless they are of the Tako variety

Beef Tenderloin "Burnt Ends" with Chimichurri 

ABC Cocina Restaurant Review

The best thing about eating out with friends in a group is ending up with things on the table that you wouldn't have necessarily ordered on your own. Such was the case with this beef tenderloin. Silly me for skipping over this - probably because the menu didn't read "THE MOST TENDER, BUTTERY MEAT IN THE WORLD" and "DROWNED IN CHIMICHURRI SAUCE WHICH, IF YOU DIDN'T KNOW, IS CRACK." Chimichurri - you're my new culinary obsession (welcome to club, which also includes dukkah and pesto). 

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Sundae 

Best NYC Desserts

I'm not the type of person to skip dessert. I have a sweet tooth, and I'm not afraid to use it. When I heard peanut butter & chocolate sundae, I was sold. But I couldn't have been prepared for what would follow. 

I declare, here, on the world wide web, that this was the most phenomenal dessert I have ever stuffed my face with. 

At first, I was a little confused about the strawberry sorbet and strawberry compote. But as I ate, there was no doubt in my mind that these flavors WORKED together like the damn Schuyler Sisters (had to...). 

A moist, fudgey, gooey brownie piled with chocolate ice cream and strawberry sorbet. Drizzled with sweet, tangy strawberry compote and ringed with massive chunks of homemade peanut butter cups that put Reese's and Justin's to shame on the PB to Chocolate ratio. 

(Sorry, I just really wanted to use moist, drizzled and chunks all in one sentence - how gross can you get?)

Our waiter, when he saw us loving on this sundae, made the remark, "It's great right? Just like a a peanut butter and jelly sandwich."

I SHRIEKED as it all made sense - why the strawberry, peanut butter and chocolate were blended in perfect harmony. Why I was almost moved to tears by the empty bowl now sitting in front of us.

From what I can tell, ABC Cocina changes it's ice cream sundae regularly - and when this PB/Choco/Strawberry miracle is no longer on the menu, it will be a sad do for New York City and the world.

Please, just scroll back up for a second and look at the amount of peanut butter. 

OK, I'm done. I promise. 

After a conversation revolving around NYC celebrity spottings, I apparently somehow missed Jake Gyllenhaal sitting at an outside sidewalk table on our way out. COOL. 

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Overthrow Boxing Club Review

My tour de boxing studios continued recently with a trip to the "dive bar" of boxing studios - Overthrow Boxing Club on Bleecker Street. Overthrow is housed in the previous home of the Youth International Party, or "Yippies," a "radically youth-oriented and countercultural revolutionary offshoot of the free speech and anti-war movements of the 1960s," according to Wikipedia. 

The space stays true to its roots - despite becoming a fitness studio, it is far from "boutique" looking - with much of the original architecture remaining. Overthrow takes its own political stances and jabs, with graffiti like Donald Trump being knocked out and the quote, "When they go low, we go high." 

It's a fitting way of connecting the building's history with our present political reality and the building's new use as a boxing club. 

Overthrow Boxing Class Review

The Studio

The interior is cramped, dark, and quite frankly, it seems like it might collapse! Up the stairs is a small locker room with two showers and two bathroom stalls - along with lockers that have seen better days.  Bent metal, missing locker doors, wobbly benches - it's hard to tell if many aspects of the studio are part of the aesthetic or actual .instances of disrepair

There are actually two spaces where classes at Overthrow take place. The main level has around 6 bags along with a boxing ring while the downstairs studio has about 12 bags - covered in duct tape, these bags are a far cry from the water-filled tear-drop-shaped beauties at Rumble. Then again, they're only purpose is punching them. There are numbered spaces along the floor, though in my class we didn't really use them for anything. 

Overthrow Boxing Club NYC

The Class 

The first class I took was in "The Underground" (which makes me thing of the upside down, which makes me excited for another season of Stranger Things). 

We all lined up in side by side rows for the warm-up which consisted of lots of cardio drills like high knees, air jabs, jumping jacks, etc.

To me, the warm up seemed to last for a long time. It may have had to do with the fact that I wasn't wearing my usual sneakers and my feet were really bothering me every time I jumped - but I also think the warm up dragged on and on with not much to it. 

Eventually, the endless warmup indeed ended and we were told to pair up with a partner for the next part of class. 

Overthrow Boxing Review

We lined up in two rows down the length of the room, with partners facing each other and being told different combinations - we were technically "boxing" with each other, but obviously not full out punching our partners. Some of the combinations included more than just throwing punches - we were told to "jab, jab, cross, burpee," and various other exercises. To me, this part wasn't very challenging - the pace was pretty slow, which I guess depends on who you get as a partner. 

The line was continuously filtering towards the front of the class - when you and your partner were up in front of the instructor, you did a few punches with her before re-joining the line. 

When this was over, I was still only sweating due to the temperature of the room. 

The next portion of class it was time to bring out the bags - and this is where I sweat buckets and my heart rate rocketed. We were given a ton of different combinations and I pushed myself to keep moving throughout the 15 or so minutes of straight bag work. 

With three of us on a bag and the bags sliding around the pole they were attached to, we did have to stop every so often to adjust the bag and stop it from moving into the group next to and behind us. I didn't have much space and by the end I was getting pretty frustrated. 

Then, before I knew it, class was over. I will say that the time flew by, and by the end I was pretty exhausted - but I left a little "meh" about the class overall. 

Overthrow Boxing NYC Review

The second class I went to at Overthrow I took in the upstairs section - it was a similar set up with half of the class taking place on the bag and half taking place "in the ring" with a partner. But I liked this better because it seemed less crowded and the warm-up wasn't as long. We also finished up class with an ab series that was pretty solid. 

I found myself partner-less and got to work with a staff member that wasn't teaching class at the time which was great! The combination was really tricky and I only got it right about 75% of the time, but I still felt pretty accomplished. At the end, I told him that I was hungry because the mitts looked like they had avocados drawn on them. I think I found the comment funnier than he did. 

WHAT I LIKED: 

Classes at Overthrow fly by. The grunge-y atmosphere is super fitting for a boxing class. Both instructors that I've had were good at explaining things, though at this point I can't really consider myself a "beginner" so I might take some things for granted when it comes to instruction. 

I also really like that Overthrow is located off of the 6 line. 

Overthrow Boxing Review

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: 

Overthrow is definitely not as organized as Rumble or Shadowbox. Those two studios' classes run like well-oiled machines whereas my second class at Overthrow was more like, "Alright, what should we do next?" "Okay, let me run downstairs and get some gloves for everyone 10 minutes into class." That sort of thing. Rumble and Shadowbox have their shit together a little more in terms of flow and focus - but Overthrow has them beat on the boxing ~vibes. 

THE STUDIO – 7

Nuts and bolts in terms of amenities - but there are lockers (bring your own lock, and beware that half of them are missing doors as part of the aesthetic), bathrooms and showers and it's pretty impressive that they make the space work as two separate studios/class spaces. 

The history of the building is an added bonus - if you're there, see if you can spot the old Youth International Party manifesto on the walls! 

Overthrow Boxing Fitness Class Review

CLASS SIZE - 5

The classes are a decent size considering the small space - and I definitely felt like I was super crowded and couldn't fully enjoy the class because of it. Perhaps the morning classes are less crowded - but I've only been in the evening and each time it was jam-packed. 

SWEAT SCALE – 6

The first half of classes at Overthrow usually are more focused on shadowboxing, form, and a warm up - it's helpful for actually learning boxing, which I appreciate, but doesn't leave me with an elevated heart rate. But the second half is usually much harder - once you start using the bag. In my most recent class, Queen had us finish with 5 Push-Ups, 5 Burpees, 5 Mountain Climbers, 5 Squats, 10 Push-Ups, 10 Burpees, 10 Mountain Climbers, 10 Squats, 15 Push-Ups, 15 Burpees, 15 Mountain Climbers, 15 Squats. It was brutal in the best way. 

FUN FACTOR – 7

If you like boxing, it's a good time. 

AMENITIES – 6

Everything you need but nothing overly fancy. 

COST - $$$

Standard for NYC, a class at Overthrow costs $34 for a single class. Unfortunately, they don't have any deals for first time students. I attended for free in exchange for a review on my blog! 

Overthrow Boxing Review

BOTTOM LINE: 

I like the vibe at Overthrow a lot and I've learned more here than I think I would learn from taking consistent classes at Rumble and Shadowbox. That being said, if you're looking for a boxing class that doubles as a hard workout (you know, since you're paying $34) I might suggest getting your ass kicked at a different studio. These classes are certainly a challenge - but they aren't 45-minutes-worth-of-non-stop-challenge. 

I'll continue taking classes at Overthrow because I actually want to improve my boxing skills and I think the instructors here have that same goal in mind. Also, keep in mind that Overthrow offers two different classes - one in the "Underground" - more of a boxing bootcamp/high cardio class and one in the "Ring" which is more focused on form and technique. 

Gloves are included in the class and wraps are available for purchase.

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SHADOWBOX: NYC Fitness Class Review

A lean, mean boxing machine! That's what I am not...yet. 

But I have been trying to incorporate boxing into my weekly routine - it's cardio, strength, total-body, HIIT, and low impact on my legs. Did I mention it's FUN and the (good) classes tend to fly by? Half the time I'm concentrating so hard on what the punch sequence is that before I know it, class it over!

My mission to become the next Ali (who is his female counterpart?) has led me to NYSC, Tapout Fitness, Kickbox Haus, Rumble Boxing and Work Train Fight. The latest stop was Shadowbox in the Flatiron District. 

Shadowbox NYC Fitness Review

THE STUDIO 

Shadowbox Review

The inside of Shadowbox is SO pretty. Which is a little disconcerting for a place where you're supposed to be learning about boxing - a sport with a not so dainty reputation. 

But now that boxing has become a trendy fitness fad, some of the studios are big, bright and downright beautiful spaces that attract Lulu-clad ladies. I'm sure the boxing purists out there have their issues with places like Rumble and Shadowbox, but at the end of the day, it's raising awareness about the sport and I think that's a good thing! 

A recent conversation centered around the most overall athletic athletes - and we landed on boxers. That never would have been my pick before boutique-boxing became a thing! 

I digress. 

Shadowbox is a gorgeous studio with a cafe in the lobby serving turmeric lattes and coffee with MCT oil. Trendy AF. 

Shadowbox Fitness Review

There's an actual boxing ring where private sessions take place (why are boxing rings square?), both men's and women's locker rooms, and a black-lit, mirrored studio with 40 floor to ceiling punching bags ready for you to beat the crap out of. 

Shadowbox Boxing Review

The studio itself feels slightly cramped when you walk in, but once the class was underway, it wasn't so bad. 

There's a pouch at the bottom of each bag with 1 pound weights - it's also where you should store your water bottle so it's not on the floor and in your way! (And pro-tip from the nowhere-near-a-pro...your gloves go up on the top of the bag for the first part of class!) 

THE CLASS 

Shadowboxing Review

WARM UP 

The warm-up included some simple body-weight/cardio exercises like jumping jacks, butt kicks and high knees. 

SHADOWBOX 

During this portion of the class, we boxed without gloves and without the bag - like we were boxing a shadow! Get it? There was also the option to use 1 pound hand weights for this part. 

We went through the different movements - jab, cross, hooks and uppercuts and did a few different combinations adding in some bobbing and weaving (defensive moves). 

I had sucked it up and bought myself wraps ($4) when I arrived, so I was feeling pretty legit and ready to get to business. 

BOXING - 7 ROUNDS 

The majority of the class was spent going through 7 different rounds of boxing with the heavy bag - gloves on.  

Each round is between 3-5 minutes followed by ACTIVE recovery. There isn't a minute of class that you're resting. If you aren't throwing punches, you're doing burpees, lunges, mountain climbers, or some other form of sweet sweet torture. The hardest active recovery that we did, in my opinion, were the MAYWEATHER SITUPS. Good God. You're supposed to go right from a sit up to a stand-up, and even as I clung to the bag to try to heave myself up, I struggled HARD. 

How the heck does he make this look easy?? It is not, I assure you. 

WHAT I LIKED:

+Non-stop! Between ab work, cardio drills and bag-work, you're constantly moving during a class at Shadowbox. It's a total body workout for sure. 

+Compared to Rumble, Shadowbox relies entirely on body weight exercises for the "strength" component of the class. While I really liked the fact that you used weights at Rumble and it felt like real strength training, the way that Shadowbox is set up makes the transition from strength to boxing a lot smoother and quicker which keeps you on your toes. 

+I did really miss the combinations being projected on the wall like they were during class at Rumble, but our instructor did a great job of reminding us during each round of what punches we were supposed to be throwin'.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE:

-The fact that the heavy-bags are floor to ceiling makes it very hard to see the instructor during class. I was constantly moving around to try to get a look at the moves she was demonstrating.  (When you sign up online, the website will show you which bags have better views and recommends them for beginners). 

-I didn't like that I'm dumb and kept one of my rings on and cut my hand open. 

THE RUNDOWN

Shadowbox NYC Review

THE STUDIO – 7

Another gorgeous studio - with lockers, locker rooms, convenient extras like hair-ties and nice products, and even a coffee shop with juices and other goodies. 

I was shocked at how few people stayed after class to shower. While the line wasn't long, the space itself was still pretty cramped as people tried to get changed and do their hair and makeup. 

CLASS SIZE - 7

The classes are pretty big - much like Rumble, if you're really looking to learn about boxing and get some one on one training, this probably isn't the best place to come (unless you're doing a one on one session in the ring!) There are 40 bags, and though it looks and feels a little cramped when you first walk in, you have plenty of room to do everything required of you in the class. 

SWEAT SCALE – 7

This class kicked my booty and I was definitely sore the next day! 

FUN FACTOR – 8

Dark room, great jams, releasing some pent up anxiety and stress by punching something. Definitely a good time!

AMENITIES – 8

There's really everything you could ask for in the locker room and studio - you can buy water bottles, wraps and rent gloves. 

COST - $$$

Standard for NYC, a class at Shadowbox costs $34 for a single class. Unfortunately, they don't have any deals for first time students. I attended for free in exchange for a review on my blog! 

BOTTOM LINE: 

Shadowbox NYC Review

My love of boxing classes continues. Shadowbox is definitely like Rumble in many ways, and doesn't provide any one on one time with the instructor. In fact, you can barely see the instructor during class. While it doesn't have some of the bells and whistles that Rumble has, I liked the fact that the second you finished on the bag, you went straight into another exercise. Despite not having weights for strength training, Shadowbox incorporates moves like lunges, push-ups and burpees that challenge you and keep your heart rate elevated the entire time. 

I also liked that Shadowbox threw in some defensive maneuvers as well. 

If you're looking for a group fitness boxing class as opposed to actual one on one boxing, I definitely recommend giving Shadowbox a try. It might now be as new and shiny as Rumble, but it's a great workout, a beautiful studio, and there's a shorter line for the shower after class ;) 

(And I've found that for one-on-one time with an instructor, regular old NYSC "Non-Contact Boxing" classes are great! WTF also included a LOT of time with the instructor!)

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Barcelona: Day Six

My last day in Barcelona I managed to again lace up my sneakers and head out the door for a run. I had high hopes of doing another deck of cards workout too– maybe some push-ups, burpees – an intense workout to close out the trip!

Buttttt instead I moseyed my way around the harbor and eventually found my way to Barceloneta Beach where I plopped myself down and looked out at the water.

That’s when the need for a day at the beach hit me. I texted Jon and Emily, “Hey guys – out on my run and it’s GORGEOUS out. We should go to La Boqueria and buy food then spend the day at the beach!”

Barcelona Travel Guide

Then I got up and made my way back towards the hostel, with a quick stop in a little dirt patch area for an easy deck of cards workouts – jumping jacks, high knees, butt kicks, etc.

Once my endorphins got everyone moving, we headed to La Boqueria. Jon and Emily let me do my thing – following me as I loaded up on tons of stuff (I somehow managed to spend like $60!)

Here’s what I got:

Fresh Mango – They sell SO MUCH fresh fruit – precut and ready to eat with a little plastic fork. We also got a mixed fruit cup and Emily got papaya.

Barcelona Travel Guide

Vegetable Chips – OMG veggie chips. But not just any veggie chips. The most amazing veggie chips with carrots and sweet potato and taro and green beans – so crispy, so perfectly salty – so amazing. The last time I got a bag of these was from the market in Toronto and I really can’t be trusted – the entire bag was demolished by the end of the day.

Hummus – Because nothing goes better with veggie chips and baguette than hummus!

Dried Fruit Kabob – I remembered Brynn telling me that the dried fruit was delicious so I got a skewer with assorted dried fruits on it. The mango was my favorite!

Baguette – For only 1 euro, an entire fresh baked, still warm baguette can be yours at La Boqueria!

Cheese – MANCHEGO, to be exact. I have a newfound obsession with this cheese and it just so happens to be a Spanish cheese! (Made in La Mancha, to be precise).

Meat – We got a variety pack of sliced meats.

Barnacles – Yes, you read that correctly. During our tour before the cooking class, Angel had told us all about barnacles being a delicacy in Barcelona – they are only found in a few places around the world, and difficult to harvest. They’re called percebes (Goose barnacles) and are pretty expensive! When we were walking around La Boqueria, I came across a stand that was selling already steamed percebes for 5 euro and knew I had to try them!

Barcelona Travel Guide

When I finished taking a million years at the market putting together the perfect picnic, we wove our way through the streets of the Gothic Quarter and made our way to the beach. I feel like we were pretty distracted the entire way – stopping for sunglasses for Jon, into a souvenir store for me, another store to find a towel, a pharmacy for water bottles, and to haggle with a street vendor for tapestries (my round one is going to be great for picnic’s in Central Park). We finally made it to the beach and I had us plop down in the first patch of open sand that I saw.

Barceloneta is a very crowded, very touristy beach and we were pestered by vendors the entire time we were there. If you’re looking to soak up the sun while you’re in Barcelona, there are beautiful beaches a quick 30 minute train ride away – but we just wanted nearby and easy. That meant constantly hearing vendors hawking mojitos, massages, and even DONUTS up and down the beach.

A word of advice – don’t leave anything unattended on these beach! It WILL go walking.

A dug into my barnacles and eventually got the hang of eating them – it’s definitely not attractive and they definitely look a little phallic- I would not recommend barnacles as a first date meal. Every time I twisted them open, I got a nice face full of salt water. But they were surprisingly meaty and tasted great with a lemon spritz. Angel had described them as tasting like oysters with the consistency of crab meat – and I’d say that was pretty accurate!

Jon went to play some beach volleyball while Emily and I snacked and eventually fell asleep in the sun. Is there any better feeling than dozing off in the sand? Nope. Pretty sure there’s not.

When we woke up and Jon got back, Emily and I went down by the water to feel how cold it was – it was pretty chilly, yet there were a few brave souls swimming around!

I instantly spotted some seaglass by the water’s edge and got really excited and nostalgic. When I was growing up, my dad and I would walk at my beach collecting seaglass – finding a blue piece was like hitting the jackpot! I associate the rocky North Shore beaches of Long Island with seaglass, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that Barcelona’s beaches were very similar! I spend awhile sifting through the sand and even found some blue pieces which I hope my dad will make into jewelry for me.

Barcelona Travel Guide

Eventually, I roused everyone from their peaceful lounging because it was time to check two more things off my checklist.

The first thing being – EAT GELATO.

We walked along the main road by the beach scouting out gelato shops until we found one we agreed look legit. How does a gelato place look legit? Not sure, but this one did. We ended up stopping at Dino Gelato Italiano and within a minute of us getting in line…about 20 other people queued up behind us. Such trendsetters.

I got a small with Catalan Cream and a flavor with peanut butter in the description – the first time I had seen mention of my favorite food in all of Barcelona!

Barcelona Travel Guide

We sat on a bench and enjoyed our gelato despite the busy street and cars zooming past. While Jon said, “This is going to take me forever to eat,” I looked down at my empty cup and said, “This was the tiniest thing of ice cream I’ve ever eaten. It was like 2 spoonfuls.” Story of my life!

The last place I was dragging everyone was a bar that my friend Kaitlin, who studied abroad in Barcelona in college, said we needed to check out. After reading the reviews online – I knew she was right. Everything I read about La_Xampanyeria made it seem like it was more than just a bar - it was an experience. And the way people talked about everyone making friends and no one being sad made me think of the Boardy Barn (the happiest place on earth).

La Xampanyeria was founded in 1969 (the real name is Can Paixano but everyone calls it La Xampanyeria – The Champaneria)– so it’s got history! When you walk in you’ll notice that there are no tables or chairs. You find a spot and you stand – which means mingling and bumping into people and, hopefully, making friends!

Barcelona Travel Guide Champaneria

We managed to snag a spot right up at the bar and tried to figure out, “What next?” Luckily, I had read up on how things worked at La Xampanyeria so I wasn’t completely thrown off by the fact that almost everything was written in Catalan only.

You can buy either glasses of champagne or, until 5 pm, entire bottles (for like 6 euro!) If you buy an entire bottle, you’re required to buy two tapas – this is how they prevent people from getting hammered (I mean, people still get hammered!)

We got a bottle + MORE cheese and ham – cause we hadn’t eaten enough of that on the beach earlier…

The bartender seemed so over everyone at the bar – yet in a way that we thought was entertaining, not obnoxious.  He looked SO irritated at a customer who kept waving his hand I his face to get his attention.

Before we knew it we had finished our bottle and were feeling nice and giggly. It was like Emily at the cooking class all over again! La Xampanyeria is CASH ONLY so we literally scrounged in our bags and wallets enough money for another bottle and two more tapas and were so excited that we had enough!

This time around we got the same bottle but croquettes (still not sure what was in them) and the most delicious chorizo because that’s what the bartender recommended. 

Somehow, the woman standing behind us caught sight of Emily and I using the dog filter on Snapchat and LOST HER SHIT. She was HOWLING with laughter – and before I knew it the cava + the atmosphere + the mission of making a friend at La Xampanyeria had me swiping through all of the Snapchat filters with this woman who spoke not a word of English and was absolutely hammered. It was one of those times that you laugh so hard your stomach hurts and you feel like you just did 1000 crunches.

Barcelona Travel Guide

It was the hardest I had laughed in AWHILE (probably since seeing this video). 

When we finished our second bottle we sadly departed because we were out of cash entirely. (Our new friend tried buying us more, but she was having some issues communicating with the bartender so we said thank you and left!)

We left this place in the best mood – as evidenced by these pictures of Emily and I. I highly recommend a stop to La Xampanyeria if you’re in Barcelona!

Barcelona Travel Guide

We started heading back to the hostel but didn’t quite want to stop drinking…so we hopped into Abirra Dero where we had a good conversation with the bartender about craft beers in Barcelona. They had a ton of different beers to choose from, and while I didn’t end up loving my IPA, it was a cool spot for beer lovers (I meant to buy a glass but forgot on my way out!)

Barcelona Travel Guide

Finally, we went back to the hostel and got finished packing before getting dressed and ready to go out for the night. We had been warned that Monday nights were a little crazy – we were headed back to City Hall where the Hostel One group got a free hour of beer and later, time in a VIP area with free bottles of champagne.

When we first got into City Hall, I saw posters for a beer pong tournament and low-key freaked out. Or, not so low-key freaked out. I HAD to enter. Emily was with me – this absolutely had to happen. No questions asked.

The guys running the tournament for City Hall were slightly creepy (very, creepy) but we managed to figure out that we needed to pay in cash in order to enter (though they seemed to be demanding kisses as well). We headed back upstairs to find out where we could find an ATM – the one next door wasn’t working so we walked across the street and I paid $30 to take out 20 more euros that I definitely wasn’t going to end up using. Whatever. If it cost me $30 to play beer pong at a club in Barcelona on my last night, so be it.

Back in City Hall we signed up and had a #14 sticker put on our shirts. We left the beer pong area to dance for a little while – the music started off as Latin and I pretended I could move my hips like Shakira while dancing to Gasolina, belted some Enrique and FREAKED out when a random song I had put on my Barcelona playlist came on – Picky by Joey Montana – go listen, it’s great.

Eventually we noticed people playing beer pong and wandered over to figure out how we would know when it was our turn. It was confusing and frustrating and not very well organized at all – I mean, it was in the middle of a night club with the event, “FUCKING MONDAY” going on. So…we decided to take a tequila shot. That made the waiting more bearable. I was just about ready to concede that I had wasted my money and beer pong wasn’t going to happen when WE WERE UP.

Barcelona Travel Guide

And turns out, we were really filling the cups with beer. Gross, beer. Estrella. Beer pong beer through and through. Not particularly cold beer either.

But it was happening! We were two American girls playing beer pong in a Barcelona night club and we were gunna SHOW THEM WHO WAS BOSS. Plus, the music had switched over from Latin to American 90’s and early 2000’s hits. If I was ever in my element, it was now.

First game – solid. Emily got the last cup, and we both played pretty well!

Second game – another win. Emily got the last cup again and we started feeling in the zone. The music was killing it, and a crowd was starting to gather around the remaining games.

Third game – Semi Finals. The pressure was ON. I thrive on beer pong pressure. We won AGAIN. Emily made the last cup, again. My shero.

Fourth game – FINALS. There was no chance we were losing. Absolutely not. ‘Merica. There was a whole big misunderstanding when I tried explaining that I was heating up – but once we got past that, WE WON. I sunk the last cup and Emily screamed really loud and picked me up and it was perfection.

They introduced us to the manager who asked what shot we wanted to do and then we took a Patron shot with the him. We eventually found out that we had won a booze cruise on April 22 but when we said we were leaving the next morning (in like, 4 hours at that point…) they asked what they could get us from the bar. We got a bottle of champagne and danced a little bit more before handing off the bottle to the team we had played in the finals and heading back to the hostel.

Once at the hostel, we sat in the lobby/kitchen and had a heart to heart. I think we didn’t want to go to bed because then our trip would officially be over. So we ate more bread, meat and cheese and talked until it was 5:30 a.m…we had agreed to leave at 7 a.m. and my alarm was set for 6:30 a.m.

I fell asleep for an hour nap and woke up to Jon yelling, “GUYS! TIME TO GO IT’S 8!”

UHM, what?!

I flew out of bed. Jumped down. Zipped my suitcase, prayed everything was in it, ran to the guy at the front desk and tried to convey the urgency of “OVERSLEPT, Need to pay NOW, late for flight!” While simultaneously trying to book a taxi with the MyTaxi app.

The typical European laid-back demeanor meant my sense of urgency was not exactly met – but soon enough we were stepping into the street and into a waiting taxi – thank God for technology.

When we got to the check-in counter they let Jon and I go ahead – along with another woman who was running behind schedule for the flight to NYC.

In reality, we made it through security and to our gate in plenty of time – we even got water bottles, chocolate milk (CACAOLAT ❤), and some souvenirs from the Duty Free shop.

Despite being so so exhausted, I didn’t sleep a ton on the flight – I did watch Moana though (loved it) and another movie that I can’t remember now.

When we landed, Jon and I split an Uber back to the Upper East Side and I somehow managed to do laundry and completely unpack that night before collapsing into bed at a ridiculously early hour. To think that I had at one point contemplated going straight to the office after landing…

Honestly, this trip was 100% more amazing than I could have ever imaged it would be.

Emily is the best travel buddy and potentially the only human on this planet who can keep up with and accept my obsessive itineraries – while still managing to push ME to party harder and stay up later.

Throughout the trip we kept turning to each other and saying, “We’re in SPAIN!” I am absolutely determined to take a trip outside of the country every spring from here on out. There is so much to see and experience!

The language barrier and cultural differences of being in another country helped me relinquish some of the control I usually insist on having – I often couldn’t communicate exactly what I wanted at a restaurant, I drank my coffee with cream instead of almond or skim milk, the culture didn’t include boutique fitness studios on every corner so I went a week without working out – and now that I’m back, some of these things have stuck. I’ve spent about $100 on cappuccinos in the past two weeks – and I haven’t been nearly as motivated for kick ass workouts. Instead, I’ve been walking to and from work as much as I can (3 miles) and that’s feeling great.

I haven’t stopped following travel blogs and accounts on Instagram – I’m throwing around ideas like Munich, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgium, Amsterdam – so if you have any suggestions for a 7 day trip in Europe for April(ish), LET ME KNOW PLEASE!

Thanks for reading these ridiculously long daily recaps – there will be a short(er) and sweet travel guide to Barcelona coming one of these days!

READ ABOUT MY OTHER DAYS IN BARCELONA:

Barcelona: Day Five

Emily and I woke up on Sunday morning and headed to a cute café for breakfast. It was called Café Cometa and had a definite NYC vibe with its succulents on every table and cute interior. The menu featured everything I love in a brunch spot – avocado toast, yogurt, smoked salmon – all the essentials. We also appreciated the English version of the menu – though I’m sure this wasn’t our most authentic Spanish meal of the trip. 

Barcelona Travel Guide Monjuic

We grabbed a seat outside, because who doesn’t love al fresco dining? – and I ordered yogurt with granola and a slice of avocado and tomato toast. PLUS a mocha latte which was definitely unnecessary but, delicious nonetheless.

We tried to watch a Youtube video to figure out the proper way Emily was supposed to eat her egg – but we definitely did not succeed.

Barcelona Travel Guide

After our meal we walked around the corner for my donut stop of the trip – La Donuteria! I’ve been following them on Instagram since I booked my flight to Barcelona and I love that they’re constantly changing their flavor offerings. It was very quiet when we arrived, and I conducted a full-on photo shoot with Emily, the soon-to-be-full-time-artistic director of Peanut Butter Is My Boyfriend.

Barcelona Travel Guide Doughnuts

I got a chocolate apricot donut and a Crème de chocolate con leche con praline – they were pretty pricey, and though beautiful, definitely didn’t compare to other doughnuts I’ve had!

Next we hopped in a taxi and made our way to the Gothic Quarter for two stores that we wanted to get souvenirs from – the FCB Barcelona Team Store and Toni Pons.

I had read that Barcelona, and particularly Toni Pons, were the spot to buy espadrilles – a type of shoe that was first created in the Pyrenees region of Catalonia. I love espadrilles – they’re always super comfortable for the summer with the perfect laid back but classy look.

Apparently, the name for espadrilles comes from the Catalan word for espardenya – the bottoms of the shoes are made of espart which is a tough grass that’s also used to make rope.

I was amazed at how many different styles the Toni Pons store had. And since I’m horrible with decisions, I was also overwhelmed. I tried on about 5 different pairs (after one of the men working there helped me figure out what European size I was!) and then I was stumped between two pairs. One a more traditional canvas espadrille in tan/beige and the other an espadrille with a navy blue leather upper. I was so stumped, that the man helping me and the cashier made a bet about which I would buy! They both told me to go with the traditional canvas ones, but I ended up going with the leather because I thought they were more unique!

They are SO comfortable and now I wish I had bought about 5 more pairs while I was there! They’re available online, but I don’t really feel like paying the hefty international shipping fees.

We ambled our way back to the hostel and even found ourselves in the middle of a Palm Sunday procession. With more foresight, I would have been really cool to go to mass in one of the beautiful and historic churches, but we enjoyed the nuns singing in the streets. It felt a little weird that so many tourists were just stopping and taking pictures. I put my phone away and tried to be respectful (after snapping one picture for the memory…)

Barcelona Travel Guide

When we got back we took a very necessary hour + nap and then it was time to wake up and get ready to explore Montjuic, a massive hill overlooking the water that was basically in the backyard of our hostel.

There’s a castle at the top of Montjuic and it is also the location of many Olympic sites – the Olympic Ring, Olympic Stadium, Olympic swimming facility, and the stadium where we would be seeing Ed Sheeran in concert later that night! (Palau Sant Jordi).

We started by walking up, and up and up and taking in the views of the city. We spotted a lot of smoke on the horizon, and while my mind immediately went to a terror attack, Google let us know that it was a yacht that had been burning for hours!

Barcelona Travel Guide

We wound our way up towards the Hotel Miramar, a gorgeous hotel on Montjuic. We walked around a bit before realized we were off-course for our destination – Montjuic Castle.

Backtracking, we realized we had much more to climb – so up we went. It was no joke – I was dripping in sweat, Emily’s Achilles was killing her, yet the gondola to the top was way over-priced for the distance it would have carried us.

We powered through and eventually made it to the castle – which was free on Sunday’s after 3 pm (it’s like I planned that or something…oh right, I did!)

I attempted to read along with the brochure and learn something, but it was kind of dry material. Instead, we entered the center of the castle and found tons of the wooden games I had seen at the Farmer’s Market! They were probably meant for kids, but Emily quickly came up with a rough translation of the instructions and we started trying to balance weird wooden pieces on top of each other.

Barcelona Travel Guide Montjuic

Who knows if we were playing right – but it was a ton of fun! I would love to make some of these games for my backyard. (With the tools and handy skills that I don’t have, for the backyard that I don’t have…)

After we got bored of the games, we sat down on a bench and reevaluated our plan – it was a long time until the concert, and there aren’t really any bars or restaurants on top of Montjuic where we could spend our time pregaming. So we headed back down on foot and walked to El Sortidor – the restaurant that both our cab driver and cooking instructor had recommended to us.

It was bizarre – the hostess told us they weren’t seating people – even though there were tons of people at the tables outside and even someone inside the restaurant eating…

I was bummed, but we headed to Carrer Blai, a street right near our hostel that is filled with tapas and pinchos restaurants. It seems that every restaurant on the block is named “Blai 9” or “Blai 11.” There’s no cars down the street – just restaurants and tables.

So let’s take a quick pause to talk about pinchos (or pinxtos). I didn’t really know what they were before I arrived – but essentially they’re little bite-sized bar snacks, almost like tapas, but with wooden skewers through them. They line the bars, and when you’re done at the bar, they charge you based on how many skewers you have on your plate! Different skewers may cost slightly different amounts, but for the most part, pinchos on Carrer Blai cost just 1 euro each! Other parts of the city they’ll cost between 2 and 2.50 euro.

We had our first true pinchos experience before the Ed Sheeran concert on Carrer Blai and to be honest, I barely know what I ate. I wasn’t blown away by any of it -  I mean, it sits out on the bar all day – but some of the bites were tasty and I wasn’t really the biggest critic once I started sipping Cava. There were cod fritters and some cheese and stuff piled on a mini pancake – if anything, they made for pretty pictures!

Barcelona Travel Guide

After eating and drinking our fair share (and having our first chocolate filled CHURROS of the trip) we scurried back up the street to our hostel for a quick phone charge and champagne chug. What I didn’t finish of the bottle, I poured into one of Jon’s empty beer cans – ROADIE!

Barcelona Travel Guide

Soon we were in a taxi (they don’t have Uber in Barcelona, but they do have MyTaxi which is essentially the same thing) and on our way to Palau Sant Jordi.

When we got out of the cab, the light of the setting sun combined with the sight of the Olympic ring – plus the anticipation of seeing Ed Sheeran and the copious amounts of cava – had me smiling from ear to ear. We sat in the grass and finished our drinks while I serenaded Jon and Emily with Ed Sheeran songs.

Barcelona Travel Guide

For some reason I pictured the venue being outside, but we soon discovered that Palau Sant Jordi was an indoor arena (that holds 18,000) that was created as part of the Olympic complex. Jon and Emily stood in line for beers while I rushed to my seat – scared that I was going to miss even a second of Ed singing.

I shouldn’t have worried – because there were two openers. One of which was Anne-Marie who sings Alarm – I got reallll into it.

When Ed Sheeran started, I was in my own world. I am 99% sure I was the only person in our entire section that stood up the entire show and sang along to every word. Jon and Emily were good sports, only knowing a handful of songs.

ED SHEERAN’S CONCERTS ARE MAGIC. I said it about 2348932 times over the course of the trip, and Emily and Jon kept making fun of me, but I’ll say it again anyway: It’s nuts that it’s JUST HIM up on the stage with his guitar and loop pedal. SO MUCH BEAUTIFUL MUSIC. I died. And I decided that no matter the cost, I simply need to see him again when he’s at Barclay’s in the fall.

Ugh. I still can’t get over how perfect it was – hearing him perform Barcelona IN BARCELONA.

After the concert, we walked alllll the way back because – why not? Also, because we couldn’t get a taxi.

When we arrived back in our hostel’s neighborhood, we all agreed it was a good night to take off from clubbing – so we set out in search of some good drunk food.

Jon wandered into various establishments asking, “Hamburguesa con queso?” But we kept striking out. For a city that stays up drinking all night – there are very few dining establishments whose kitchens stay open. There were plenty of pinchos available – but we were looking for something a little more, well, American. We ended up in a halal restaurant, feasting on naan and dosa and curry. It was almost like we were in New York shoving our faces with lamb over rice.

The man working at Tabaq late on a Sunday night was like our knight in shining armor. He was so nice too – we couldn’t have been happier. Also, it turns out that the folks on TripAdvisor think Tabaq is the best Pakistani/Indian food in Barcelona! SCORE. 

After that, we crawled contentedly into our beds. (Not sure how I haven’t yet mentioned that I was on the top bunk and every time I climbed up, I had visions of the handrail coming out of the wall and me plummeting to my death).

Hard to believe we had only one day left in Barcelona, but it wouldn’t disappoint!

READ ABOUT MY OTHER DAYS IN BARCELONA:

Barcelona: Day Four

Before leaving for the club on Friday night, I had set out my running clothes to provide a small glimmer of hope that I might actually achieve more physical exertion than simply walking at least once during the trip. It wasn’t because I felt guilty about not working out, or about eating and drinking non-stop- which was surprising to me. The motivation was purely the fact that I knew even an easy 3 mile run along the water could potentially be one of the best parts of my trip – that’s how happy running makes me. And if I could do it relatively pain free, I’d be even happier the rest of the day.

Barcelona Travel Guide

Since we had actually left at a “normal” hour Friday night (Saturday morning…) I shocked myself by waking up, throwing on my sneakers, and heading outside for a run.

Barcelona Travel Guide

Our location was really convenient for a run down to the beach and along the water and as I went I passed a few fellow runners and a farmers market – I instantly felt wonderful. My legs were a little achy from all the walking we were doing every day, but at that same time, they felt refreshed because I hadn’t done any strength training or real cardio all week.

I ran along the water and it was pretty, but I was on the Port Vell side so it’s mainly just a lot of boats. When I started, it was still not very crowded out but by the end of my run the streets and waterfront were starting to fill up.

I stopped at a park with benches and used my phone to do a deck of cards workout with squats, dips, sit ups, etc. I got a few weird looks but it was a very quiet area so I didn’t feel too weird.

On my run back to the hostel, I had to stop at the farmer’s market! There were a handful of booths with cheese, vegetables, jams, chocolate, and bread. There were also a ton of games set up – they were made out of wood and kind of reminded me of Nok-Hockey, but I didn’t recognize any of them. Later in the week, I’d find them at Montjuic Castle and Emily’s Spanish would help us play a few of them!

Barcelona Travel Guide

When I got back to the hostel (after running back and forth on our street a few times to end at an even number on my Garmin - #RunnerProblems) I turned on the lights, opened the window and said “GOOD MORNING, RISE AND SHINE.” Much to the chagrin of Emily and Jon, I was ridin’ high on endorphins and ready to get the day going.

Brunch & Cake

Eventually, I got everyone up and motivated – we showered and got ready for our planned brunch at Brunch and Cake – a restaurant that my friend Brynn had told me to follow on Instagram FOREVER ago. It’s one of the most aesthetically pleasing Instagram accounts in the world – the food is so damn colorful, plated beautifully, and HEALTHY!

Brunch and Cake Barcelona

I got a café con leche for the walk to Brunch and Cake as I tried to mentally prepare Emily and Jon for the wait that we were sure to encounter when we arrived. Brunch and Cake is located near the college, and you can tell you were in the college neighborhood – the places just seemed hipper. Sure enough, Brunch and Cake was packed and we were told there would be an hour and ten minute wait.

Jon stood on the sidewalk to people watch while Emily and I walked down the block and found a cute café where I got a green juice. The inside of Cosmo was SO so cute and I felt like I was in Brooklyn.

Barcelona Travel Guide

Jon texted in seemingly no time that we were up next – it ended up not even taking an hour until we were seated and handed menus (in English!) at Brunch and Cake.

As usual, Emily and I decided on two things that we wanted to split. The first was a salad that had sweet potatoes, arugula, guacamole, salsa, and a vegetarian taco “meat” that was absolutely ridiculous in a good way. We also split a banana/oat pancake that was legitimately the size of the entire dish, with the banana layered underneath and covered in granola, seeds, nuts and fruit. Plus, all of the syrup that was poured on top.

The pancake was a little dry, but that salad was phenomenal!

Parc de la Ciutadella

After brunch we took our time wandering over to the Parc de la Ciutadella, where we passed the Arc de Triomf. As we passed under the arc I naturally compared the park to Washington Square Park.

There’s a pedestrian street that leads from the Arc de Triomf to Parc de la Ciutadella and we took our time taking in the band that was playing, the people selling massive balloons, blowing bubbles and sat on a bench to watch insanely talented kids perform soccer tricks. Eventually we continued into the park and I was instantly in love. It was Central Park-esque in the sense that people were lounging out on the various lawns with full on picnics and towels set up – you could tell they planned on spending many hours there.

Barcelona Travel Guide

Everyone you looked there were different performances going on and we sat down to watch a group of hippies slacklining. I so wish I had gotten up the nerve to ask them to try it, but the Riekorderling Raspberry cider I was drinking, while delicious, wasn’t quite strong enough to give me that extra push ;)

There were however small children whose parents were nowhere to be found that were giving tight-rope walking their best attempt, with the help of the random men who lifted them up. Europeans man – so much more laid back!

I even saw people with these awesome blow up bean bag type things and now I definitely need to get one for days and nights in Central Park.

We all could have spent much more time exploring this park – there’s even a zoo inside – but sadly we had to be on our way to walk over to our cooking class!

Weaving in and out of the maze-like streets of the Gothic Quarter, I was happy I had decided to pay the $10 a day to use my phone data. There were a few days when I didn’t turn it on, but for the most part we would probably have spent the entire week lost had we not been able to use Google maps. Yes, we had physical maps, but the streets are so winding and confusing that we didn’t stand a chance! It wasn’t until day 3 or 4 that we finally felt confident getting ourselves back to the hostel.

Foodie Experience Barcelona

We arrived at our cooking class and waited outside the door for a few minutes, making small talk with some of the other people who would be in our class (there were 11 of us total). When Angel opened the door and let us into the space, I knew it was going to be a good night. It was bright, spacious and absolutely spotless.

Barcelona Cooking Class

Angel went through the menu that we would be cooking that evening, and then led us outside for a tour of La Boqueria.

I hung on her every word as we wound our way through one of the oldest food markets in Europe – we stopped at a few different booths and learned about ham (jamon), seafood, saffron, paprika and more. I’ll be writing an entire post that goes into more detail on the Foodie Experience – because it was incredible and anyone going to Barcelona should absolutely do it!

I wrote notes on my phone the entire time and learned SO much about food that I had never known. The difference between Serrano and Iberico ham, the salt content in Atlantic seafood vs. Mediterranean seafood, the different between anchovies vs. boquerones, and the fact that in Barcelona, barnacles are considered a delicacy.

Barcelona Cooking Class

Angel explained that the front of the market tends to be really packed with tourists, but as you make your way further back its more local. She also mentioned that a lot people are starting to get upset that vendors are essentially selling out and selling smoothies and ice cream because that’s what the tourists are buying. 

After our tour of La Boqueria, we headed back to the kitchen and Angel went around the big island explaining what the different steps of the recipe would be. We each got assigned a task for the meal prep – I was on veggie chopping duties.

The knives were extremely sharp, and I had already managed to slice my finger with a bread knife cutting baguettes in bed at 5 a.m. during the trip – so I was a little wary. I managed to make it through the peppers, carrots and green beans without amputating a finger or hand.

We each raised a glass of sangria and said cheers the way the Catalonians do – Salud y Buena Vida!

The rest of the evening included lots of wine, lots of laughs from Emily who couldn’t keep it together for some reason, and lots of interesting information and stories from Angel as she used our prepared ingredients to make tortilla and paella.

Barcelona Foodie Experience

The tomato bread, a very traditional Catalan dish, blew me away with its simplicity and flavor. Sourdough toast, three streaks of a garlic clove, and half of a tomato rubbed all over the bread. A hefty drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle of sea salt and VOILA – one of the freshest appetizers ever! I’m so sad that the specific tomatoes they use in Barcelona can’t be bought in the US – but I’m going to have to give it a try anyway.

The tortilla is also very traditional – and it’s not a tortilla like you picture when you think of Mexican food. It’s actually more like a frittata and the only ingredients are eggs, potatoes, tomatoes and olive oil! I was fascinated by the fact that the onions and potatoes were cooked by boiling them in olive oil. The sound of it all sizzling away was music to my ears.

Angel also showed us a Youtube video of someone flipping the most massive tortilla – before showing us the easier way of doing it using a flat surface and a spatula. 

Watching Angel make the paella was like watching an artist – simply following a recipe would never yield the same results and what she made for us. Filled with vegetables, chicken thighs, sausage, mussels and prawns – it was incredible!

Another great moment during the class was waving across the roof to Angel’s 100+ year old neighbor – so adorable!

The last hands on portion of the class was getting to blow torch our own Catalan Cream for dessert – turning a layer of sugar into a crispy, crunchy, caramelized creation.

We all hung out around the table eating, drinking, talking, and enjoying the experience before saying thank you and goodnight to Angel. I also purchased some saffron (it’s very expensive, and I got a very small container of it) and smoky paprika for if I ever attempt to make my own paella!

Barcelona Foodie Experience Cooking Class

 

We got back to the hostel and began to get ready for another night out on the town. When I heard that we would be going to a craft beer hall, I was PUMPED. Pumped enough to ignore the fact that the club we’d be going to was going to be techno music.

CocoVail was AWESOME and had so many beer options. There was live music when we arrived and we were given wristbands that meant every beer was $5! I had two IPAs (shocking, I know) and enjoyed the laid back, picnic table vibe of the beer hall. I also enjoyed a conversation about Sunday Funday on Rainey Street with an expat from Austin, Texas! 

Barcelona Travel Guide

Eventually it was time to head over to City Hall – a short walk away from CocoVail. This was the first club we went to that wasn’t on the beach – it was located in the middle of the city and used to be a theater in its heyday. Redesigned, it now features different types of DJs and themes every night of the week. We happened to be there for techno night – which is so not my scene. I lasted for one song in the basement because of Emily’s pleas to give it a chance – but I couldn’t hang with the ravers.

We ventured upstairs to the ground floor where there was a much smaller dance floor and DJ playing non-stop 90’s and 2000’s hits. I was in heaven. I mean, Miley Cyrus and Avril Lavigne? Jackpot.

I got a water bottle from the bar, which Jon proceeded to squeeze and spray all over my face. I was not a happy camper. As he recounted later, “Lauren didn’t talk to me for like 5 whole minutes – that’s a really long time for her to stay mad!” Accurate! But then I ordered a tequila and orange juice and my spirits improved. I love that a lot of times when you order a drink at a bar or club in Barcelona you get a cute little glass bottle with your mixer and pour it into your glass yourself.

We ended up being the last three people on the dance floor at City Hall as we requested that the DJ play Ke$ha. We took the subway home that night because the metro station was right outside of City Hall and our walk back we were hysterical about I don’t even know what. Ke$ha and raucous laughter in the streets - perfect way to end the night! (More baguette, meat and cheese too, of course!)

READ ABOUT MY OTHER DAYS IN SPAIN: 

Barcelona: Day Three

After our quick "nap," it was time to head out for our journey to Girona and Figueres – a 12 hour day of touring.

Barcelona Travel Guide

We decided to walk from our hostel to the tour office (we booked through Julia Travel) and along the way we stopped at a market for some apples and a café for café con leche, a sandwich and a chocolate croissant to split.

1)     The café con leche from Barcelona has ruined my life because it was SO PHENOMENAL and now I find myself paying $5 for cappuccinos and other delicious espresso drinks with frothy milk and cream. I can no longer bear the thought of sad drip coffee with skim milk and a Splenda.

2)     I swear that all ANYWAY eats in Barcelona are sandwiches of ham (jamon) and cheese on the most amazing baguettes (except they probably aren’t called baguettes there because that’s a French phrase). I believe they’re called bocadillos. Anyway, they’re so simple, but they really are delicious.

3)     The chocolate croissant blew my freaking mind. As usual, I served as the human garbage can throughout the trip – finishing anything that Emily and Jon were too full to eat. When Emily didn’t want any of this croissant, I gladly finished every crumb.

Barcelona travel Guide

Walking Tour of Girona

After some trial and error we figured out where we needed to be for the bus tour and signed in. Eventually we were led outside to the buses which were very spacious (no bathrooms though – which always stresses me out!) Emily and I sat next to each other and for the beginning of the trip our tour guide talked a lot about what to expect out of the day. Everything throughout the day was repeated in English and Spanish which made things a little more time consuming.

The bus ride from Barcelona to Girona was about an hour, and despite the espresso, I fell asleep HARD after eating my sandwich.

When I woke up, we were approaching Girona, driving through beautiful green fields close to the border between Spain and France – with the Pyrenees in the background.

Everyone was given a little radio with headphones which would make it easier to hear the tour guide as we walked around the historic city of Girona.

We had a few minutes to grab a coffee or use the restroom before meeting up with our tour guide. She was extremely sweet – and it was so adorable hearing her English portion of the tour. It was totally understandable, but with little mishaps like “print foot” instead of footprint.

The city of Girona is sooo picturesque. You really feel like you’re stepping back into medieval time as you wander through the cobblestone streets and alleyways. The cypress trees look otherworldly set against the massive cathedral and stone walls that still surround the city.

Girona Travel Guide

There are 4 rivers in Girona, meaning you can amble along a river (the view from one reminded me of Mykonos) and I don’t know about you, but I’m always happiest when I’m near water.

We came to a statue and our tour guide explained to us that the tradition is to “Kiss the Lioness’ Bottom” if you wish to return to Girona. Emily and I had a good laugh taking Boomerangs of us “kissing the butt” a la Finding Nemo.

Another interesting fact our tour guide told us was the legend of St. Narcis’ foot print (“print foot”) – apparently there are tons of legends surrounding him. One says that an army was attacked Girona and St. Narcis ran out of the city walls in one direction, but his footprint pointed in the other – causing the attacking army to go the wrong direction. Or…something that like. There’s a statue, and touching the footprint is supposed to bring you good luck.

Girona Travel Guide

To be honest, the rest of the information I kind of half paid attention to – it wasn’t super interesting to me and the fact that half the time I was hearing Spanish made it hard to keep me listening. But for an hour I was content to take pictures and look around. Emily is a big Game of Thrones fan and apparently they’ve filmed multiple scenes in Girona, including one on the massive stairs of the Cathedral.

Towards the end of the tour we headed into the Jewish Quarters – where Girona’s Jewish population used to live. Apparently it’s one of the most well-preserved in the world – and it was really awesome to navigate through the narrow streets thinking about how much history you were surrounded by.

Girona Travel Guide

By the time we were standing outside of the Jewish Museum and our tour guide was rambling on and on about what we would see if we went into the museum – Emily and I had had enough – we knew which areas we wanted to go explore on our own, and as the clock ticked down we knew our free time was dwindling. We peeled off from the group and scurried down an alley way where I had seen the elusive garlic mincing dish I have been hunting for forever. I picked out a ceramic garlic grater in a pretty pattern and for 5 euro I had successfully found one of the souvenirs on my list.

We started to make our way up to the main city wall, which you can walk along, and I was in heaven. It was absolutely gorgeous – perfect weather, greenery everywhere, the smell of fresh flowers, views of the Pyrenees, and not crowded with tour groups like the streets had been.

We found a secluded area and had a full on photo shoot in the fields – how amazing is the portrait mode on the new iPhone? I spent the rest of the trip making Emily take glamour shots of me. Not vain at all.

I think we both could have stayed on top of that hill all day long, but we wanted to make sure we had time to eat something before we got back on the bus so we wound or way down and back into the streets and ended up eating at the most adorable café. Turns out that Federal Café is a chain of Australian Café’s with 6 locations in Spain (Girona, Barcelona, Valencia, and Madrid).

Those Australians man. They sure do know how to do brekkie.

I felt like I was in Soho except surrounded by 100X more history and charm as I sipped my turmeric latte (!!) and ate my Greek yogurt with granola, composing the perfect Instagram shot of Emily’s avocado toast with MACADAMIA NUT DUST.

Girona Travel Guide

Even though it may not have been a traditional Spanish meal, it was one of our favorites of the trip. I think it was a combination of being exhausted and finally sitting down, the gorgeous setting, the fact that we were outside and the weather was beautiful, plus the food being so so aesthetically pleasing – not the mention the waiter was very easy on the eyes.

As we sat there, I realized there were SO MANY cyclists. With BEAUTIFUL, expensive bikes. They were no joke cyclists – and Girona is no joke hilly. I also saw tons of people running…maybe that’s why I felt so at ease and relaxed in Girona. I was amongst my people! I had found the bike riding, hill running, turmeric latte sipping Catalonians!

We wrapped up lunch with the perfect amount of time to go to the bathroom and re-board our tour bus. I was sad to leave Girona – it felt so homey and comfortable there – but I kissed the Lioness’ Bottom so that means I’ll be back one day, right?

Salvador Dali Theater & Museum

As soon as we were back on the bus, our other tour guide started talking again – and he was talking a lot. I just wanted to sleep. Eventually I tuned him out and dozed on and off for the hour and 45 minute drive to the Salvador Dali Museum.

At this point, I didn’t really feel like wandering a museum for the 5 hours we would be in Figueres. But as we stopped outside the museum and our tour guide started speaking – I was captivated. Not only by the interesting information, but by our tour guides passion for Dali and his work.

The outside of the Dali Museum looks very strange – but when we found out that all of the little yellow things stuck to the building are supposed to be BREAD – I was like, “Wow, even stranger than I thought.” Oprah might love bread, but I think Salvador Dali loved bread even more.

It’s not just any bread on the outside of the museum (which Dali fully designed himself) – it’s bread that was historically made for funerals, giving the museum a bit of an eerie feel. But the giant eggs on top (yes, eggs) are full and uncracked, representing life and ideas. Dali has a quote that I love – “Beauty should be edible, or not at all.”

It was really cool going to a museum of an artist that was a lot more contemporary than a lot of the artists you typically study – his references seemed a lot easier to grasp and understand, despite the fact that he was a surrealist and a lot of his work is very “out there.”

Our tour guide took us into the museum and you first come to a giant courtyard that has a LOT going on. He talked us through a lot of it, and I found myself hanging on his every word. I also had an epiphany that one of the tattoos on his arm was Dali’s famous mustache – which is when I realized this guy really knew his Dali.

Salvador Dali Museum

Next we walked into the “theater” where there is a giant painting that will play tricks with your eyes – I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but it’s cool! Then, we were told that we were standing above Dali – and he was actually buried right below us!

Dali was such an interesting person and I can’t wait to get my hands on a book to learn more about him. He was apparently super narcissistic, but clearly a genius in many ways.

I was sad when our tour guide was done speaking and sent us off to explore the rest of the museum on our own – but we really did enjoy a lot of the different rooms even though I’m not a huge art person.

The tour also included entry into the jewel exhibit – and while some of them were cool to look at, at this point I was dragging a little bit and didn’t spend much time there. The best part was potentially when we walking through the revolving doors into a pitch black room to a massive security guard standing there that literally made us JUMP and shriek. It was terrifying yet hysterical.

We exited and then realized we probably should have found a bathroom while we were inside before our two hour journey back to Barcelona. The security guard let us back into the jewel exhibit but we could not find a bathroom for our lives so we talked our way back into the main museum.

Then we sat outside at our meeting place and waited for the bus.

On the ride back we had WiFi and chargers - #BLESSED! Emily and I fell asleep listening to Ed Sheeran and other random tunes and the nap time was CLUTCH.

We got dropped off in Barcelona and started walking our way back to the hostel – I had survived the entire tour on two hours of sleep + random bus naps throughout the day! This newfound ability to function on almost no sleep set my “NO SLEEP TILL TUESDAY” tone for the remainder of the week. Eek.

Night Out

When we got back to the hostel we quickly showered so we could make it downstairs for 8:30 group dinner. When we got down there, we were the only ones, since the group activity for the day had been watching the sunset from “Bunkers” which is up above Park Guell. We sat around for awhile, I journaled and an Englishman made me a cup of tea! I was getting reallllly hungry but we held out and waited for the group to return – including Jon. They had all been drinking wine for the past few hours, so the mood instantly livened up.

Dinner was lasagna made by Simone – a young girl from Italy with the most magnetic personality in the world. It wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever eaten, but it was free and fun to eat with the group – while drinking pitchers of sangria and getting ready for the night ahead.

I decided I couldn’t handle heels again, so I dressed down significantly for the second night. We got to the bar and everyone from the hostel was given a delicious shot (the sugary, mixed kind) and then we all went in on splitting liters of sangria that came out in little personal kegs with sparklers on top.

Barcelona Travel Guide

Around 1:30 we started the walk from the first bar to the club – a walk that I usually took to Instagram Live – WHY?! Someone needed to stop me. The club that night was Shoko, and like Opium the previous night it was down on Barceloneta Beach. You can leave the clubs and walk out onto the beach, which is pretty cool. We didn’t like Shoko as much as we liked Opium and we couldn’t exactly place what the reason was. I think this was the only night that we stuck to our 3:30 a.m. curfew because we weren’t having an absolute blast.

While waiting in the taxi line to go back to the hostel, men walk around selling bocaditos – so tempting, but Emily and I passed because we wanted to buy our own bread, meat and cheese to eat at the hostel.

Another day down, and we were starting to get into a groove!

READ ABOUT MY OTHER DAYS IN SPAIN:

Barcelona: Day Two

Day two was our big sightseeing day – I had scheduled and pre-booked a bunch of tickets to hit all of the big tourist attractions. By the end of the day, Emily and I both agreed that we liked doing all of these in one day because a lot of the time, the tourist attractions ended up being a little underwhelming, though we are glad we could say we saw all of these main sights.

barcelona travel guide

La Sagrada Familia

We headed to the subway which was pretty easy to navigate as long as you knew which station you needed to get off at! Our hostel was verrrry close to one of the main subway lines and a bus stop too, which was really convenient throughout the week.

As soon as we got off the subway, there was the Sagrada Familia, looming over us in all of its incomplete glory. It was definitely a “WOW” moment, to just see it there in the middle of the city. I guess it’s how some people feel when they find themselves standing at the base of the Empire State Building for the first time.

La Sagrada Familia

I was absolutely starving, since we had never really eaten dinner the night before, and we stopped into a café down the block and sat down for a quick breakfast. I ordered a ham and cheese with a coffee. When my sandwich came out, I was instantly transported back to my childhood, eating a grilled cheese sandwich with ham on perfectly buttered and grilled toast. It wasn’t anything fancy – but it was perfect.

Barcelona Travel Guide

We were a few minutes behind schedule after paying, so we scurried over to the entrance of La Sagrada Familia, which we had pre-purchased tickets for. They sell tickets in time slots and I highlyyyy recommend booking in advance of your trip.

We were told we needed to enter on the other side of the church so we walked around, only to be told that I had printed my ticket confirmation, not the actual ticket, and we needed to go back to the other side to have my ticket printed. We did that, then went back to the other side and finally, entered the church.

The inside was impressive for sure – and because we were there at 9:00 a.m., it wasn’t yet completely packed with tourists. The sunlight was streaming through one particular stained glass window and was casting pretty lights and colors on some of the columns.

La Sagrada Familia

The concrete inside of the church looked so soft – almost like putty. When we touched them, we realized they were SO SMOOTH.

After looking around for a little while, we did the Nativity Tower tour– it’s an additional fee and you can choose to go up either the Nativity façade or the Passion façade. I had done some research, and settled on the Nativity façade because it offers better views and has less construction happening on it.

The views were nice, but not breathtaking. The most impressive part was the walk down the spiral staircase (you go up in an elevator) and looking all the way down down down. I think the reason we didn't love the view from the top is because La Sagrada Familia is the most iconic part of the Barcelona skyline, and it was missing since we were at the top of it!

La Sagrada Familia

Our general consensus was that the outside of the church was definitely the most impressive part – it’s so massive and so so detailed. It wasn’t until I was running around trying to find a bathroom that I realized there was an entire museum underneath – I wish I would have taken some time going through it and learning a bit more.

At the end of the day, I wouldn’t say that the interior of Sagrada Familia is an absolute must-see if you aren’t really interested in churches – but absolutely go to marvel at the exterior. If you do pay to enter the church, I recommend going up one of the towers to make it more worthwhile.

Parc Guell - Monumental Zone

After Sagrada Familia, we took our time walking from the church to Parc Guell. We bought some of the classic giant water bottles I remember from my trip to Greece (1 Litre for $1) and stopped in some stores along the way. I found the CUTEST store that had all healthy foods, juices and KOMBUCHA. I wished I was hungry so that I could have eaten there! They also had veggie shaped pillows that I was really tempted to buy.

Barcelona Travel Guide

We had perfect weather the entire trip (minus the soccer game) – warm in the sun, cool in the shade.  But man was the walk to Parc Guell hilly! After getting a little lost, we eventually made it to the park, but the signage made it difficult to figure out where exactly we needed to go to get to the “Monumental Zone” that we had purchased tickets for. Eventually, after asking a few people, we found our way to the queue.

From the line, we could see the classic Parc Guell benches that everyone takes their pictures at (including the Cheetah Girls).  We were really underwhelmed at first because they were just in the middle of a big dirt patch. We thought that was all our ticket was going to get us – and we were pretty disappointed as we stood in line for 20 minutes waiting for our 12:30 entrance time. Eventually, we realized there was an entire area of the park we were going to get to walk around. PHEW.

Barcelona travel guide parc guell

We had our photo shoot on the benches and I must say, for such an iconic photo, the benches really aren’t the best part of the park by any means. Our favorite were the Monument Stairs, where we took tons of pictures and enjoyed looking at all of the beautiful tile work that the park is known for.

Barcelona Travel Guide Parc Guell Monumental Stairs

We stopped at the café inside the park and I had a delicious mango coconut juice.

Barcelona Travel Guide

We finished walking through the Monumental Zone and one of my favorite parts was how amazing the flowers smelled. We stopped on a bench to listen to some music and it was so beautiful.

Gaudi House Museum

Next stop was the Gaudi House Museum, which is located inside the park. It was the cheapest tour we did at just around $6 and while it wasn’t very visually impressive, I really liked reading and learning more about Gaudi since he is such a huge part of the history and culture of Barcelona. Did you know he was a vegetarian?!

After the museum, which didn’t take long to go through, we made our way down from Parc Guell to find the subway. We somehow managed to pass it and had to backtrack.

Casa Batllo

We got off at our stop which was right outside of Casa Batllo, our final tour of the day. We had some time to kill, so I wandered in and out of some stores, including the TIGER department store which I absolutely loved! It’s a chain throughout Europe that started in Copenhagen. http://www.apartime.com/barcelona-guide/shops-&-markets/tiger-store-in-barcelona

At 5:00 we started our Casa Batllo tour and it was hands down the coolest museum/tour I’ve ever been to. You are given a mini iPad and headset and using augmented reality, you walk through the house, garden and roof while hearing tons of interesting information. On the screen, you can see how the space used to look – as you turn in the room itself, the screen reacts and shows you the area that you’re looking at. Not sure if that made any sense – but take my word for it – it was very unique and very much worth it!

Jon met up with us when we were in the fourth room – his hangover from the night before finally cured. We took our time going through Casa Batllo and it was nice to take a last look at it from the street on our way out, once we had learned more about it.

Casa Batllo Barcelona Travel Guide

Las Ramblas

Then, we started to make our way back, stopping in Zara before taking some pictures at Placa de Catlunya (I compared it to Columbus Circle). Then, we walked down the busy main street of Las Ramblas – essentially the Times Square (NYC) or 16th Street Mall (Denver) of Barcelona. Street vendors, chains, stores and tons and tons of tourists.  We definitely saw someone get pickpocketed as we made our way down Las Ramblas, and while I’m glad I got to see it, it definitely wasn’t my favorite place to be.

Arume Dinner

We got back to the hostel around 8:15 that night and had about an hour to shower and get ready for our dinner reservations. Callie had told me about a restaurant she loved so much she ate it twice during her trip to Barcelona last year, so I had booked us a table in advance.

We all decided to dress up since it was our one planned dinner out – and also Jon was excited to wear the dress pants he had bought at Zara.

Arume was a quick 15 minute walk from our hostel, which was good because I was wearing heels. Jon and Emily took beers for the road – which I’m still not sure is legal or illegal – but either way, everyone does it.

The restaurant was in the El Raval neighborhood, which I had read was a little seedy. Sure enough, it was the only time the three of us felt even remotely unsafe during the trip. And that’s dramatic – it just was clearly a little sketchier than most other areas.

When we got to the restaurant it was packed – and the spaces are just as small as many places in NYC. I told them I had made a reservation, but we still waited about 15 minutes to be shown to our table. The wait staff were extremely friendly and the restaurant was adorable.

We ordered drinks (Emily loved her Blackberry Mojito and I was in heaven with a Jalapeno Grapefruit Margarita) and were given a bread basket with olives and olive oil. I swear the olive oil is 100X better in Barcelona than it is here.

Our appetizers were the highlight of the meal:

“Uncle Walter’s Ceviche” with Almond Milk:

SO FRESH with little crispy corn cornels and watermelon – it was different, but so tasty, light and refreshing. Even Jon tried it and took seconds!

Spanish Betanzos Tortilla with Iberian Chorizo:

“Tortilla” in Barcelona is a very traditional dish – and it isn’t necessarily what you would expect. It’s potatoes, onions and eggs – almost like a frittata! The waitress explained that the traditional way of serving it is a little liquidy in the middle – and asked if we were ok with that. YES, traditional way please! Later in the week, our cooking class instructor also explained that a good tortilla should be moist in the middle.

The tortilla at Arume was cheesy and chorizo-y and very very good.

For our entrees, Emily and I decided to split two different dishes, while I convinced Jon that he should get the pork cheeks!

Arume Barcelona Review

Monk Fish:
Wok Cooked Udon Noodles in Red Curry and Langoustine Bisque

The monkfish itself was delicious, but even to me, the langoustines were super fishy. The udon noodles were very short, not typical udon noodles, and I didn’t get much of a red curry flavor. I didn’t love this dish.

Milk lamb “Raval Style:”
Sweet potato, cumin yogurt and Arabian Salad

I personally loved this – the lamb wasn’t the most tender I’ve ever had but I devoured the sweet potato puree and love cumin. It’s not for everyone though, and Emily thought that the dish was over-seasoned.

Iberian Pork Cheeks:
Iberian pork with orange, aniseed chestnut puree and apples.

Ever since trying my coworkers beef cheeks in St. Louis, I swore I would always order cheeks whenever they were on the menu. Instead, I convince Jon to order them. I tried a bite, and the meat was just as tender as I remembered. The chestnut puree was very interesting!

Opium Night Club

By the time we finished dinner it was pretty late, and we figured we had missed the group leaving for the bar. So Jon and Emily bought beers at the market next door and I bought myself a cheap bottle of Cava and we set out for the hostel.

When we approached the bus stop at the end of our street, we saw the entire group from Hostel One standing and waiting and decided, OK, guess we’re going out! I popped the bottle of champagne and passed it around before hiding it in my jacket and getting on the bus.

We walked a ways to the bar, I ditched the bottle of cava, and we entered the super packed space. Emily and I got margaritas which ended up being straight tequila. By the time I finished mine and Emily’s, the original plan was “just going to the bar, not the club” was out the window. I chugged a water bottle and said I would go to the club.

The group was going to Opium, a club that everyone had suggested. “We’ll just go to see it and then head home,” Emily and I said…….

Let’s just say, Opium was too amazing to leave at a normal hour. Instead, we stayed until about 4 a.m. and by the time we got a taxi and crawled into bed at the hostel, we had only 2 hours to sleep before our bus tour to Girona and Figueres.  

I had spent the entire night telling Emily, “you don’t want to see me on 5 hours of sleep,” “you don’t want to see me on 4 hours of sleep…” etc. but we were having such a blast! Opium was great – it was on the water, it wasn’t overly packed, we got a drink fairly quickly, and the music was PERFECT. I was a little overwhelmed by all the strobe lights, but once I embraced them, I was in heaven.

Moral of the story? The following day, Emily got to see me on 2 hours of sleep.

READ ABOUT MY OTHER DAYS IN SPAIN: