Monday, June 11, 2012

Finally Barcelona

Gaudi Park.

  Of all the big cities in Europe, Barcelona was the one that had always managed to escape my travel itineraries. It wasn't on purpose however. So it was only a matter of time before I got there. After four flawless days on Sardegna, I was finally on my way to Barcelona.

  That Friday morning was the epitome of breakfast on the go. We had, at the last minute, decided that the best way to get our bearings in the city and see a few major sites, was to join a bike tour. But in order to make the bike tour, Linda and I needed to be in the city center by 10 am.

  We grabbed a few things at the market below our hotel, and made our way to the subway.

  Little did we know, however, that we needed to make a reservation for the bike tour. So when we got to the meeting point, there was no one from the tour company to be found! The bike tour was supposed to last for four hours, so we had planned for our morning and afternoon to be occupied riding bikes and learning the lay of the land in Barcelona.

Beautiful boat in the harbor.
  Guess we had to go with Plan B. Plan B that we didn't have! Talk about putting all your eggs in one basket.

  We had to adjust on the fly, and come up with something to do without really knowing where we were, or where we were going. So we started walking, to see what we would come across.

  We ended up at the Port (I guess we couldn't get enough of the beach, after all), and made our way through Barceloneta.

  There was a lot of action in Barceloneta. Hoards of guys working out on bars on the beach, roller-bladers, runners, fishermen, boats coming in and out of port, and of course, tourists. But we had just spent four days on the beaches of Sardegna, so it was time to see something different.

  Linda and I planned to go back before our time in Barcelona was up though. Because both of us needed one more relax day at the beach before our vacation was over.

  We decided La Sagrada Familia would be our first stop.

  We must have taken the wrong exit out of the subway, because when we set foot onto the street, there was nothing in sight that resembled anything as breathtaking as La Sagrada Familia was supposed to be.

  OR, we were just facing the wrong direction. After looking at our map, and trying to figure out which way we were supposed to go, Linda looked up behind us, and said 'whoa, what is THAT?'

  There was La Sagrada Familia!
La Sagrada Familia.

  You can call that our American tourist moment. Not knowing where we were, what we were supposed to be looking for, or what it even looked like.

  The temple was crawling with sight-seers and tourists. And with good reason. The cathedral, designed by Antoni Gaudi in the late 1800s and early 1900s, is incomparable to any other church I've ever seen. A very spectacular sight.

  La Sagrada Famlia actually, remains unfinished. It was less than a quarter complete when Gaudi died in 1926. Then, construction was interrupted during the Spanish Civil War. Now it's progressing slowly towards completion, and the year 2026 is the target date -- the centennial of Gaudi's death.

  Don't get mad, but we didn't go inside the church. Too many people, and too long of a line for my liking. But it certainly was amazing to see.

  After a quick bite to eat, our attempt at being tourists continued. So we walked, and walked, and walked. First to the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, and then on up the hill to Gaudi Park (Parc Güell).

Kids playing hoops in the Gràcia district. 
  Since there didn't seem to be a subway stop that was very close to the park's entrance, we decided to walk the entire way. About two miles (mostly up a steep hill) and an hour later, Linda and I finally arrived at the entrance of the famous park, sweaty, hot, and tired.

  Through our walk, we did get to see a different side to Barcelona. We were definitely off the beaten tourist path. It was where locals lived, and where kids were walking home from school. They probably wondered what we were doing walking through their streets. It was a long and tiring walk. Both Linda and I were hoping the park would be worth it.

  Gaudi Park was worth that long, tiring walk...and then some.

  What a spectacular place! Another design by Antoni Gaudi, the 42-acre park is made up of gardens, unique structures, fountains, and since it sits atop the hills of the Gràcia district, incredible views of Barcelona.

Gaudi Park.
  We walked through the grounds of Gaudi Park, though we hardly covered it all. It's the kind of place that you could go to every day for a month, and still see something new every time you visited. Something unique and beautiful at every turn.

  After exploring the park, Linda and I were in desperate need of a little rest before heading back out for some famous Spanish tapas. So we made our way back to our hotel in the Sant Martí district.

   For tapas that night, we took a friend's suggestion and went to Princessa 23 in Barri Gotic. While we were there a little earlier than the Spaniards usually eat dinner, the atmosphere was still fun, and the food was good.

  I tried salmon (smoked) for the very first time (and was surprised when I actually liked it). Of course, Linda and I tested out the sangria as well. One fun thing to note: though there is music playing, old cartoons are shown on the TVs throughout the restaurant.

  Though we were unprepared, day numero uno in Barcelona turned out to be a pretty good one, thanks to the brilliance of architect Gaudi! La Sagrada Familia and Gaudi Park can make any day a productive one as a tourist.

  Stay tuned for the rest of our trip to Barcelona! Enjoy more pictures from day one below!

Hanging at Barceloneta.
Linda at Barceloneta.
Me at La Sagrada Familia.
Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau.
Gaudi Park.
Barcelona from Gaudi Park.
Barcelona from Gaudi Park.
Me in Gaudi Park.
Barcelona from Gaudi Park.
Barcelona from Gaudi Park.

Looking the backside of Gaudi Park.
Looking into Gaudi Park, with Barcelona behind.
Gaudi Park.
Gaudi Park.
Gaudi Park.
Gaudi Park.
Gaudi Park.
Entrance of Gaudi Park.
No, I'm not in Paris.
Arc de Triomf.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Workout, and a Recipe

Out for a run.

  Today, I'm trying something new, a little bit different than my blog norm. Even though I'm fully into the off-season, my day-to-day routine isn't much different than what it is when I'm in-season, in Europe.

  Yes, I'm back home in the US, and I have my family and friends in closer proximity. But my job hasn't changed. I still play professional hoops. So for me, the summertime, the off-season, is a time to get better.

  And contrary to what you might think, basketball isn't just about shooting and dribbling. There are countless ways you can improve yourself: athletically, endurance/overall fitness, nutritionally, mentally. What the off-season allows me to do is be a little bit more daring, a little bit more experimental. I don't have games to prepare for, so it gives me the opportunity to spice things up and try new things.

  I don't have my own trainer. I'm on my own a lot, and I'm motivating myself. So I'm constantly looking for new things to do, new workouts, new techniques, a wacky recipe that I think would be fun to try.

  And that's what I want to share with you today: a workout I recently did, and a recipe I tinkered with this past week.

  Early in the summer, I run a lot. I've made no secret that I actually enjoy running a great deal. As the off-season goes on, I taper down on distance running, and do more basketball-specific running (sprints, intervals, etc...) so I'm in 'basketball shape' for the season. But even when I'm just running, I think it's a mental boost to vary the things you do.

  So here's a 'speed' workout I did last week from Runner's World:
THE WORKOUT: Half-mile repeats at your goal 5-K pace with a quarter-mile jog recovery. "The recovery is long enough to clear most of the lactic acid from your muscles, but short enough to keep the workout challenging," says Kastor. Beginners should do three or four repeats; more advanced runners can run up to 10 repeats. Measure the distance with a GPS or, or run by time (for example, if your 5-K pace is 8:00, run four minutes hard and recover with two to three minutes of jogging).
  I wanted to work to increase my pace. So here's what I did (does this link actually work for those of you not signed in as me??? If it does, isn't Nike+ awesome!?!): I tried to run 1/2 mile under a 7:45 mile pace, recover for three minutes at an easy pace, and then repeated it five times. I liked it. It was a tough workout, and I think it'll help me improve my natural pace. I'll do it again, maybe once a week, or every other week for a while.
Great for a quick snack on the go!

THE RECIPE: Power Muffins (a hybrid recipe I did, using aspects of three different recipes: Clean Eating Cranberry Muffins, Flax Power Muffins, Protein Power Muffins)


  • 1 cup whole wheat flour 
  • 1 cup oat (Quaker quick oats work fine) 
  • 2 tsp. baking powder 
  • 1 egg 
  • 1/2 cup honey (for sweeter muffins) or 1/4 cup (for not-so-sweet muffins) 
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk 
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce 
  • 2 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed 
  • 1/4 cup chopped pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)

  • (you can add a ripened mashed banana in place of the apple sauce, I've also added a handful of chocolate chips to the mix on occasion!)

    Step 1 – In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, ground flax seed, and chopped pepitas.
    Step 2 – In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, honey, almond milk and apple sauce.
    Step 3 – Whisk the flour mixture in to the wet mixture and blend well.
    Step 4 – Spoon batter in to standard sized cupcake papers until the batter is approximately 1/4 inch from the top of the papers.
    Step 5 – Bake at 350F. for approximately 20 minutes or until they just start to turn golden brown. Step 6 – Allow to cool and serve. Eat and Enjoy!
    (Makes 12 small muffins)

            Nutritional Information: (estimated at
    Serving Size: 1 muffin, 97 calories, 3 grams of healthy fat, 3 grams fiber, 4 grams of protein, 16 grams of carbohydrate

      Try it if you're looking for a relatively healthy snack recipe! Pretty good with a little peanut butter on it. :) You can freeze them, if you're not going to eat 'em all up right away!

      Let me know if you try either the workout (that you can do at your own pace, of course!), or the recipe. AND if you have one of your own that you'd like to share with me, send 'em my way. Like I said before, I'm always on the lookout for something new to try!

      So what do you think? Keep posting workouts and recipes (don't worry, they won't always be weird recipes. But hopefully, somewhat healthy and tasty!)???

    Tuesday, June 5, 2012

    Sugary Ban: Right Intentions, Wrong Execution

    Mayor Bloomberg announcing extreme ban of sugary drinks.

      Today is going to be a quick interruption to my vacation blogs. As much as I like to write about traveling, I needed a change up. Lucky for me, something popped up in recent days that gave me the perfect distraction.

      We've all heard about Mayor Michael Bloomberg's intention to ban the sale of large sugary drinks in New York City.

      I have to admit when I first heard about his proposal, I thought it was the right thing to do, and a great start to hopefully reversing our nation's obesity problem.

      Nationwide: 68.8% of adults are overweight or obese (35.7% are obese), and 31.8% of children and adolescents are overweight or obese (16.9% are obese). In New York City, more than half of the adults are overweight (34%) or obese (22%).

      So it is clearly just that: a PROBLEM. And something needs to be done.

      Regardless of what is causing Americans to become more and more obese with each passing year, I initially felt this extreme ban could potentially catapult us into working towards a solution. I mean really, when do you ever need a pop (soda, whatever you want to call it. OR juice -- which is just as dangerous to our waistlines/health as pop is) larger than 16 ounces???

      NYC and Bloomberg have been trendsetters in the past when it comes to health and adopting aggressive regulations. They were among the first to place bans on smoking in restaurants and parks, to prohibit artificial trans-fat in restaurant food, and require health inspection grades to be posted in restaurant windows.

      At first people complained and argued that those restrictions infringed on our personal rights and freedoms. But after a short time, similar restrictions have been adopted throughout the country. And throughout the world.

      Placing the health of our people and public safety ahead of personal freedoms.

    Anything larger than 16 oz would be banned under Bloomberg's proposal.
      But I knew this 'sugary' drinks ban would cause an uproar. I could hear the arguments against it start before I even finished reading about Bloomberg's proposal:

      This is not America! What is happening to our freedom? This is not the business of the government! What will be next?

      After thinking about it for a few days, and thinking about the slippery slope we'd be stepping onto, I realize a widespread ban of sugary drinks would not be a good thing. Both politically and nutritionally.

      Politically, we'd be opening up a whole new can of worms. Dangerous, new precedents would be set, and there would be no turning back.

      And nutritionally, though I think at times we need a nudge in the right direction in this department, we need to learn personal responsibility on our own. Instead of banning, educate. What is it about sugary drinks that is harmful to our health? What is it about sugar that leads to obesity?

      If anything, now I hope Bloomberg's sugary drink ban re-opens the discussion, and makes people realize this is serious business. We DO have a problem, and we need to start searching for solutions.