Monday, January 23, 2017

Europe: Switzerland

Disclaimer: I wrote this over 6 months ago, so pretend we are still in Europe as you are reading this post.

At this point, our European adventure is well underway. We are currently on the train on the way from Zürich to Salzburg, and rather than fall asleep on the train (which I just did for 15 minutes), I thought a better use of my time was writing about our last two days before I forgot. 

On Friday, I worked a half day at work, making sure that everything would go smoothly while I was out, and was able to leave the office around 1:30. The last few weeks have been pretty stressful, putting in about 60 hour a week, getting everything finalized before our trip so that I didn't have to think about anything once we were in Europe. 

Margie picked us up at our house and we left the house plenty early since traffic was horrendous. Turns out we got to the airport just fine almost 3 hours early. While checking in, the check-in people gasped and asked us if they could snag us for the exit rows on both flights. Maybe we looked young and helpful, I don't know. All I know is we scored some primo leg room on our way to Europe. Since we were leaving from Terminal 2, it took us even less time to get through security and find our gate. So we played cards for two hours and had some snacks before loading the plane.

We were the last people to board the first flight, since the airport people told us to go on towards the end. Turns out we were in the seats right inside the door and had about 6 feet of leg room.  We watched The Revenant (meh) before catching some shut-eye. We arrived in Iceland around 6:30 am local time, had a short layover for about 50 minutes before boarding our second flight to Zürich. We had to go through a quick customs check in Iceland, where they stamped our passports (my first stamp in my new passport!).  After boarding the second plane, Zach and I triiiiiied to sleep but it was so bright. Landed in Zürich at 1:20 pm local time. 

They didn't give our passports stamps once we arrived in Switzerland, we literally just walked out.  Anyone know why?

We found our way to the trains from the airport gate pretty easily, but were unsure of what train to get on and what gate to go to. We knew where we wanted to end up and what stop to get off, so we ended up going to a kiosk and just clicking some random buttons (okay they weren't completely random) and hoping that we got ourselves the right ticket.

There was a nice Italian lady on the train who assured us that we were on the right train (even though we still weren't sure that we purchased the right tickets). We exited the train at Hardbrüke station and walked towards our street, Josefstrasse, about 8 blocks away. After checking in, we went to go and find some food since it was now about 3 pm and I was starving.
We decided to start walking all the way down to Old Town Zürich (about 3 km away, but felt like more walking) and wandered around trying to find 1) an ATM (a "bankomat") and 2) a place we could afford to eat. Most places were between 30-60 CHF per entree ($1 = 0.96 CHF).

Beautiful city views
We ended up going to Helvti Diner, where I had a bagel BLT with fries and a salad, and Zach ordered a hot dog (see below) with fries and a salad.  We got sparking water (thanks Whole30 for getting me used to drinking that!), which ended up costing us 6 CHF apiece, so from now on, we might as well get alcohol with our meals, as it is usually cheaper.

At this point, my feet were hurting, so we walked all the way back to the hotel and took a 2 hour nap, then booked our Interlaken/Grindelwald tour for the next day, and went out for "eine bier" at Frau Gerald Garten, where there were tons of people, locals and tourists, watching England play Russia in the Euro Cup.

After the game ended in a tie (around 10:30), we went back to our hotel and crashed for the next morning - the tour bus was leaving the train station at 8 am!

Total Steps: 22,828 (for context, my "normal" day back home is 4-5,000)

The next morning, I woke up at 6 am (actually, I had woken up at 4 am and was unable to return to sleep). We got ready for the day and went downstairs to a lovely breakfast buffet. It was very European with meats, cheeses, breads, and jams, but also had yogurt, cereal, juices, and even scrambled eggs.

At 7, we left the hotel and walked down to the train station where the tour bus was departing for Interlaken and Grindelwald. Most of the people on the bus were going up to Jungfrau (the tallest outpost in Europe), but that tour was a little too expensive for us, so we chose to stay behind in Interlaken and Grindelwald.  We rode the bus to Interlaken (these Europeans sure like their tunnels), and had a QUICK half hour stop there before going on to Grindelwald. Once in Grindelwald, there were only two other people on the tour who did not go up Jungfrau, but we didn't see them again until we met back up with the tour.

Little hotel in Lucerne where we picked up a few more people.

View out the bus on the way to Interlaken
While I was in the wash closet (bathroom), Zach found a tourist station and found out that we could go alpine sledding (tobogganing)! This was one of the things I was looking forward to the most on this trip, but we didn't have planned beforehand.

Paragliding down to Interlaken
Cows in Grindelwald!

After walking over to the cable car hut, we purchased our tickets to the top (but not ones for the return trip), rode the gondola to the top, did the alpine sled (rodelbahn), and then spent the next hour or so walking back down the mountain in the on again, off again rain, and taking in the beautiful views.
Little sheepies filling their tummies

I would like to live here pleaseandthankyou.

Here. Proof that Zach was with me on this trip. We love this view!

We stopped at a restaurant and had some bier and schnitzel, then got on the train back to Interlaken.

Once we returned to Interlaken, we walked around the shops, hoping maybe to find something to buy as a souvenir- a Swiss watch, perhaps? After walking into the first shop, we quickly found out that we could not afford them, most ranging from 500-5000 CHF. Every other store seemed to be a watch shop, so really once you went into one, you saw them all.

We did end up going into a Swiss chocolatier shop and purchased a small piece of milk chocolate for 3.50 CHF, which was very tasty, even if it was expensive. I am glad that we got some of that before we left the country.
Next to the Aare in Interlaken. I can't even begin to describe the color of the water, but this photo isn't too bad.
Glad we brought along an umbrella!
Once 6 pm rolled around, the group from Jungfrau returned to Interlaken, and we found out from the other two ladies in Grindelwald that our train tickets SHOULDN'T have worked, but our conductor must not have checked hard enough. They had to purchase their own tickets (which the tour company reimbursed them for) - the train tickets had a sentence on them that said "only valid with a group ticket" (but of course not in English, otherwise we would have noticed it, too).

On the bus ride back to Zürich, Zach and I both fell asleep, the weather had turned and it was raining, otherwise I would have stayed awake to look at the amazing views. On the way back, I decided I wanted pizza and that Zach would have to eat it with me because that is what we were going to get. While walking back to the hotel, we found Die Tomate, a pizzeria. We couldn't read the menu very well, the owner didn't speak any English, but we made it work.

After supper, we walked back to the hotel, put on the soccer game, posted some photos of our day, and went to bed. On to Austria!

Total Steps: 25,368

My first train ride! On to Austria.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Whole30: A Retrospective

I was originally going to write a weekly update for my time on the Whole30 program, and then life got in the way (see title of blog), so it's now more than a week after day 30 and I have time to write.

 What is Whole30? It's a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you put to an end unhealthy cravings, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system. From the Whole30 website:

"Certain food groups (like sugar, grains, dairy and legumes) could be having a negative impact on your health and fitness without you even realizing it. Are your energy levels inconsistent or non-existent? Do you have aches and pains that can’t be explained by over-use or injury? Are you having a hard time losing weight no matter how hard you try? Do you have some sort of condition (like skin issues, digestive ailments, seasonal allergies or fertility issues) that medication hasn’t helped? These symptoms may be directly related to the foods you eat—even the “healthy” stuff."

Here are the rules: 
  • Yes: eat real food
  • No: added sugar of any kind (read your labels!); alcohol in any form, not even for cooking; grains; legumes (beans, peas, peanuts, soy, etc.); dairy; carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites; recreations of baked goods, junk food, or treats with "approved" ingredients (a pancake is a pancake)
I had a number of friends who I knew had tried the program, and was beginning to see it mentioned more and more on Pinterest and Facebook, so I decided to give it a try. At its core, Whole30 is not a weight loss program, although many of the finishers do see a decrease in weight. What follows is my experience on the program. 

Zach and I eat pretty healthily. We both like fruits and vegetables, and I make them at every meal. We don't go out to eat often because I plan our meals each week and go grocery shopping on Sunday. The problem is, we both like unhealthy foods as well. For me, it's sugar. Baked goods, candy, chocolate.  For Zach, it's something more along the lines of chips and salsa. For us, these are foods with no "brakes." Once we start eating them, it is hard to stop and we just continue the cycle of overeating. 

I started this journey at 205 pounds. Wow. That was hard to type. The rules of the program say that you can weigh yourself at the beginning of the month, but then not again until the end. Again, it is not about weight loss. It is about the food. 

Here are some of the foods I ate this month:

Fried eggs, sweet potato hash browns, Italian chicken sausage, and a clementine

Lime La Croix with fruit
Water got incredibly boring on the program so I was trying to find ways to mix it up. I now really enjoy the La Croix (sparkling water with natural flavors) and it helps curb my craving for carbonated beverages. 

Quiche with a Sweet Potato Crust

Monkey Salad (banana, coconut, cashew) + Blueberries 

Oven roasted vegetables - Zach and I can polish off an entire pan of these by ourselves

Before I started, I made myself a calendar to put up at work as a constant reminder to me that I made a commitment this month to better myself. It is much easier to say no to bagels and chocolates and Thin Mints when you have this calendar hanging over your head.

I also have started to receive food from Bountiful Baskets every other week. $15 for what you see below. This has been great to use while on the program since I can eat everything in it! 50% fruit, 50% vegetables, 100% compliant! 

That honeydew was the BOMB.COM

Zach started the program a week after I did, so technically I did a Whole37. We are now in the reintroduction phase, where we start introducing the foods we had cut out at the beginning of the month. So far, so good.

Findings: I am falling asleep faster at night and staying asleep better. I no longer wake up 2-4 times in the middle of the night.  My skin has really cleared up. My nails are growing faster and thicker. And here's the silver lining for me: I lost 13 pounds. By only changing the food I was eating.  I think the "no added sugar" rule really did it. 

Do I feel better? No, not really. But I didn't feel badly to begin with. I feel good, so there's that.

If you are having trouble and wrestling with yourself every time you eat, I'd encourage you to at least give this program a try. If I had one piece of advice to give: Make sure you have a support system. Zach did the program with me, so it was much easier for me to plan meals that the both of us would eat, rather than one for me, one for him. I'm not saying that isn't doable- I've seen people do the program with their kids- but it definitely makes it easier. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Paradise and Sunshine

I'm trying to get in the habit of writing more often. Step one: catch up.

Most people know that Zach and I went to the Bahamas for our honeymoon, but that's about it.

Zach planned out our whole honeymoon almost a year before the wedding. It was a complete surprise to me, which was great because I love surprises. At least, I love good surprises. It wasn't hard for Zach to keep it a secret for me because I didn't want to know. I wasn't snooping around for clues or trying to pry things out of him. My office even made it a thing where they pinned up a map on my cubicle and my coworkers put pins where they thought we would go:

Ryan was right and won $40
Flashback to the Monday after our wedding. Zach and I woke up, finished packing the rest of our stuff, and headed to his parent's house in Edina. His mom drove us to the airport so that we wouldn't have to pay for parking the whole week or take a taxi to the airport. All I knew is that we were flying Delta, and our first flight was landing in Atlanta. Those two clues together told me absolutely nothing.

We got to the kiosks in the airport and Zach checked us both in, and we headed over to the sky priority lines. I said, "Zach....those are Sky Priority lines," and he said, "we are Sky Priority."

First Class! Although, with the flight being an early Monday morning, Sky Priority was just as busy with businesspeople traveling as the regular lines. The regular security lines might have even been faster!

We boarded the plane and were served drinks and breakfast! On real dishes, with real silverware!

There were even little bitty salt and pepper shakers!
I don't have any more photos until we landed at our final destination, but we landed in Atlanta, and Zach brought us to the correct terminal, and then had us walk around to all of the gates and guess where our destination would be. At the time, I actually guessed Nassau...and then asked Zach where Nassau was. It's a good thing I guessed right, because he said we would only get on the airplane if I was correct!

We landed in the Bahamas and it took us about an hour and a half to get all the way through customs. Once through, we went to the Sandals office and waited until they brought around the car. And BOY was the car nice. I was kind of disappointed the airport was so close to the resort, because the trip in the car was so short. You should have seen the looks we got from the people at the door when we were getting into this Mercedes.

Once at the resort, we went to go and check in, but apparently we weren't in the right area as someone came up to us and said that we weren't supposed to check in at the main desk (like it was for peasants), but that we should be at the Butler's office. So fancy.

They served us champagne!
So we had to take pictures
And then our butler came in and asked if we wanted a picture - so we did...but it was blurry, darn.
Our butler then took us on a mini-tour of the place and informed us that they had upgraded our room to more of a suite, and then handed us a cell phone so that we could get ahold of him, or our other two butlers, at any time. Pretty cool. The made reservations for us each night at one of the restaurants on the resort, but we were able to change any of them if we wanted. I believe we just changed the Italian reservation to the Japanese restaurant instead. All were very good!

We walked around the resort and got sand between our toes. The island you see in the distance is the Sandals island that a ferry goes to each hour.

Our first night there we went to the piano bar! This guy would have someone call out a song (from the songbooks we had in front of us), and then just play and sing along! It was great fun.
This is how we spent most of our days. Lounging outside and reading. We both brought a book, finished reading them, and then switched and finished those as well.

Dinner on the smaller island

Supper at The Crystal Room

It only rained a couple times while we were there, and only for about 10 minutes each time. Then the rain stopped and the sun came back out right away.

When we got back to our room each night after supper, there was a different towel animal or design on our bed. Very cute!

 Day on the beach:

This night we went to the Japanese restaurant. I had never eaten at a Hibachi-style restaurant before, so it was quite fun. This was our chef, Travis. We had 4 other couples at the table with us, and we were by far the youngest.

Snorkeling! This was one of our favorite parts of the trip! Except for those horrid life jackets. Ouch.

The back side of the smaller Sandals island was probably our favorite place to go. Very quiet and secluded, with a calm little alcove perfect for swimming. Every single day we were in the Bahamas was beautiful.
This was supper at the French Restaurant. Every restaurant at the resort had their own signature drink, and we, of course, had to try them all! We think that this restaurant was our favorite.

Our last day on the smaller island, we drew in the sand and it was beautiful until a group of Italians came and messed it up (dishonor on you, dishonor on your cow, dishonor on your whole family!).

More reading
Our last night on the resort, we ate at Gordon's on the Pier, which was a very small seafood restaurant where? On the pier. Was very lovely and calm. They had lights in the water that attracted the fish, so it was fun to see them all swimming around. We even saw a barracuda!

We had a very lovely time just lounging and trying new things (we went paddle-boarding!) on our honeymoon. It was nice to get away and relax after the stress of planning a wedding and from work. A week was definitely not long enough to be in paradise.

Additional photo tax:
Who is making my ears fly!
Who is making my ears fly?
Sick cat wanting a hot bath