Friday, July 30, 2010

Body Image

I regularly follow a healthy living blog called Healthy Tipping Point.  The creator, Caitlin, is an inspiring woman who changed her unhealthy lifestyle into a healthy one by improving her eating and exercise habits.

I've never discussed the topic of body image on this blog before, but this post will change that.

Caitlin is coming out with a new book about self-affirmation called Operation Beautiful.  And with the debut of her book, she has asked all her fellow bloggers to share their thoughts on the topic of body image.

So here's what's up.  Over the past year, my fitness level has dropped.  Yes, I go cycling and do crazy rides with my boyfriend, but I don't exercise as much as I used to.  And as a result, I got a little more voluptuous.

I always thought my body was flawless.

Here I am at my brother's wedding two years ago:

Here I am last year during beach volleyball season:

Here I am July 11, 2010 at Le Tour de France.  You can see I'm a little bit chubbier.

Since last year, my curves have become, shall we say, more "developed."  And while I still want to get my old physique back, I don't think it's healthy to look at myself and hate what I see.   I'm NOT going to obsessively weigh myself or count calories or points or any of that bullshit.  That's just not me.  I thought it was me for a little while, but stupid stuff like freaking out over a few pounds is so not worth the time, energy or stress.

What I WILL do is eat a balanced vegan diet and challenge myself with hard workouts.

Recently, instead of despising my hips, my thighs, my butt, I've decided to rock the curves.  Hell, I can still be fit and sexy while being curvaceous.

I may not have always been so strong about my weight gain but people change their minds, and I have changed my mind for the better.


Last Hurrah

Today is our last night in Florence.  We leave tomorrow morning for a month-long road trip through Italy and France.  There will be lots of camping, cycling and hiking.

Ged and I just came back from our last ride to Fiesole.  I can honestly say that I'm going to miss Florence because of the sweet rides that surround the city, Fiesole being one of them.

I haven't ridden in about two and a half weeks, so I was a bit worried about how I would feel during the climb.  I kept thinking my legs would be shaky, but Ged said it would be my lungs that would feel it.

Boy, was he right.  Lots of heaving and coughing, which probably also had something to do with the fact that I'm still getting over a cold.

A good ride nonetheless.

Ged took some pics of the views:

He's still learning how to use the "panoramic function" on the camera.  A work in progress.

Post-ride food included some curry potatoes and sauteed green beans with red pepper.

You can see the AG2R water bottle I caught from Nicolas Roche when he rode by me at stage eight of this year's Le Tour.  :)

I'm off to write a piece for The Florentine then head out for drinks with some peeps.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away.

The schizophrenic Florentine weather is really showing its colors today.

Yesterday could not have been more clear and beautiful.  It's a tragedy that Ged and I spent ALL of Wednesday shopping for camping supplies and electronics instead of riding.

Today, neither one of us has left the flat.  The single window in our apartment has been shut most of the day to prevent water from dripping in.  And Ged has been cursing himself for not riding yesterday when the weather was good.

On another note, Ged bought a new Sony digital camera, which will replace the one he lost at The Prodigy concert a few weeks ago in Spain.

We're both sitting around tapping away on our computers.  He's still in his dressing gown and I'm wrapped in a bath towel.  Simple comforts.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Final Countdown

I woke up today wanting to ride.

I finally felt like my awful cold was dissipating.  After I kitted up and set my playlist on the iPod for my first ride in about two weeks, I headed to the garage to find that not only were my tires flat but my front brake was loose.

I marched back to the apartment in search of a tire pump and Allen key and suddenly my head fogged up and the faucet-like leakiness returned to my nose.  And with the reinstatement of my cold symptoms came a loss of motivation.

I sat on the couch and looked around me.  I saw something I'd been neglecting:  my camera.  Yea, I've been taking pictures but I haven't been really trying.  What I mean by that is I haven't been thinking about the principles of shapes, lighting and patterns; the things that make good photographs.

With this in mind, I thought about how I only have four days left in Florence.  Ged's last day of work is tomorrow and we leave for Cinque Terre on Saturday.  And almost ALL of August will be spent in a tent. Oh gosh.

I snatched my camera and skipped out the door.  I needed to pay tribute to Florence by way of camera, so here are some shots I took today.

Florence as I see it.  (No touristy shots here--just overlooked details.)

Feel the Texture.


City's Mascot.


Street Poetry.


Focus 1.

Focus 2.

Tribal Dance.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Today Belongs to Le Tour

What am I doing today?  Absolutely nothing except watching the riders finish the final stage of this year's Tour de France.

Life is good.

Until tomorrow,

Friday, July 23, 2010

Learning How To Travel

I never thought I'd say this, but I'm so glad to be back in Florence.  Barcelona was cool and all, but I learned a few things about myself while I was there, one of them being I'm pretty terrible at traveling alone.

I've gone on trips by myself for a couple of days but nothing longer than that.  My time in Barcelona was intended to last eight days, but I ended up cutting it short because I just wasn't having a good time.

You see, I've realized that maybe I'm not the type of person who can travel alone without feeling lonely and unmotivated.  In Barcelona, I felt exactly those two things:  isolated and discouraged.

It's sad, really, because I'm sure the city has much more to offer than the small bit I explored.  But if I'm not having a good time and I know it won't get better, then I'm gettin' the heck out.  So I did.

What Kind of Traveler Are You?
I think I'm the type that needs some sort of support network around her, even if it is just a single friend, because that single person can support me and inspire me to be braver and more adventurous than if I were by myself.  Also, there's the element of safety--I don't particularly like going out as a single female. Might as well stick a big bull's eye on me for predators to attack.

I hate to admit it, but I squandered my time in Barcelona.  I didn't like the people in my hostel because they all seemed to want to get wasted and party (which is not my style), so that meant I had to seek friends elsewhere, which left me with feelings of fear and doubt of the unknown.  I mean, really, how easy is it for people to make friends in a foreign city?  Maybe I'm just a coward, but it's not that easy for me.

I was thinking about this, and Florence has kind of been my home in Europe.  In my three months over here, I've spent most of that time with Ged in our apartment in Florence.  I'm realizing now that this is the longest period of time I've been away from my home in the U.S. and been away from friends and family, which can make a person very vulnerable, as it has done to me.

Ged (my boyfriend, for those of you who don't know), however, is not like this at all.  He can pack up his stuff, grab a map and jet to the destination of his desire.  And all of this seems so easy when he does it.  I think one thing I'm neglecting is the fact that he has tons of experience doing this kind of stuff whereas I'm an amateur.

Maybe I can learn to be like Ged and become comfortable traveling by myself, but honestly, I'm not sure I want to.  It's so much more fun when you have someone to share the experience with and someone who can suggest other creative things he or she wants to do.

Will I go back to Barcelona?  I would like to.  But next time I'd like to bring some peeps with me.

Signing off from Florence,

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Playa is Packed

My hostel is a 15-minute walk from Barceloneta beach.  Pretty awesome, right?

I thought so too until I got to the beach.  I had to hunt for an open spot for about five minutes because there were so many people.

The sand wasn't as dirty as I thought it would be, though.  No cigarette butts or miscellaneous trash.

The soliciting, however, was intense.  "Hola, massage?"  "Cold beer, cola, agua"  "Henna tattoo"

A nonstop chorus of advertising disrupted any chance of me having a nap.

When I got back to hostel and chatted to one of the staff about the beach, he told me it was a good thing I didn't go into the water because it's polluted with all the waste from the city.

While I did get a stellar tan, I'm not sure I'll be going back to this beach.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hi, Barcelona.

Greetings from Barcelona.  Yesterday was my first day of exploration of the city.

I did touristy things like visiting a park and walking down famous streets.

I'm staying at a hostel run by hippies.  It's pretty cool--reggae music is always playing, decorations on the wall are psychedelic and colorful.

Off to the metro I went!

Straight to Guell Park.

I remember studying Gaudi in Art History class when I was 16.  The book's description of Gaudi included words like "undulating" and "organic."

While I did get a sense of these things when I looked at the architecture, I also felt so much more.

I felt like I was in a real-life version of Candy Land, a game I played for hours as a child.  And some of the buildings looked like the gingerbread houses I used to paste together during the holidays as a kid.  Thank you, Gaudi, for taking me back to a time of simplicity and sweetness.

As I was walking down a shady path, I saw a cute inscription on a tree.

I decided to add my own...

I came across a playground shortly after, and you better believe I jumped on a swing while in my childlike mindset.  This was the best pic I could get without dropping my camera.

Lots of dreads in Barcelona.

Then came the famous shopping and people-watching street, La Rambla.

What better way to end the day than watching Le Tour...

Off to the beach for me.


Monday, July 19, 2010

What a Weekend

Just got to Barcelona a few minutes ago.  First impressions:  busy, big, heavy traffic.  

I just spent four days in Benicassim, Spain at the Festival Internacional de Benicassim, a huge music festival by the beach.

The conditions weren't too savage-like; cold showers and portable toilets were right next to our tent.

As for the music, Calvin Harris and The Prodigy were by far the most fun.

I thought it would be a good idea to be right at the front of the Prodigy show, but little did I know how freaking intense it would be.  I was surrounded by large shirtless English guys who wanted to get as rowdy as possible.  I was up for that.  

After 40 minutes of throbbing bass and nonstop jumping (I felt like an aerobics instructor), I had to get outta there.  I ended up getting a hard elbow to the nose, the scab on my elbow ripped off and groped several times.  I still had fun though.

Other great performances were Mumford & Sons, Vampire Weekend and Ray Davies.

I don't have any pictures to share because I locked up my camera to prevent it from getting stolen.  My wallet, however, did get stolen.  $200 in the red.  Ouch.  And Ged lost his camera at the Prodigy show.

Pretty tired because I've been staying up until 4 a.m. the last few days.  I need to find my hostel and crash for a few hours.



Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Load of Bull?

Ged and I just spent two days in Pamplona, Spain for the San Fermin Festival, which includes the famous Running of the Bulls.  There's also live music in almost every plaza, people of all ages dancing their booties off and beautiful fireworks.

Some people don't get a lot of sleep...

The actual "run" occurs at 8 a.m. every day for a week.  Hundreds of men run half of a mile while six to 12 bulls chase after them and either pass them, hit them or the guys outrun the animals.  Traditionally, the men are supposed to let the bulls pass them in order to become men, because then they can say that they've truly "run with the bulls."

We woke up early Tuesday to watch that morning's run.

Honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect.  What I left feeling, however, was a feeling of shame mixed with disgust.

I don't like to see animals exploited, and that's exactly what I saw Tuesday morning.

I understand that cultures all over the world have their different traditions and rites of passage and that I don't need to like them but respect them, however, what I didn't appreciate was what happened after the running.

Once all the men were in the bull ring and the aggressive bulls were put away, the wranglers let out a baby bull.  All of the men were provoking the animal by pushing it, prodding it and smacking it.  They wanted the animal to chase after them and ram them with its tiny bull horns because they knew it wouldn't hurt.

What was I thinking the entire time I watched this?  I wanted that bull to beat the shit out of those boys.  They may have run with the bulls, but to me they still weren't men.

And thank you, Simon, for posting my pictures on your blog.