Thursday, April 29, 2010

Applying the European Vacation Paradox to My Life in Spain...

So what is the European Vacation Paradox, you ask??? Well...I recently read a book by Mark Fenton and David R Bassett Jr called Pedometer Walking-Stepping Your Way to Health, Weight Loss, and Fitness. In the book they write about "The French Vacation Paradox." Here's how they describe it...

"A friend comes back from a two-week vacation in Europe-say Paris-and raves about the great trip and the amazing food. She goes on to describe how she ate whatever she wanted whenever she wanted, and never passed up a dessert. And yet, she is stunned-shocked-to have lost two, four, or we've even heard seven pounds while over there. It's a paradox-how can it be?

So we ask-Where did you stay? Right in the city, of course. And what did you do? Saw every museum, historical site, great cathedral...We did it all. And what kind of car did you rent? Oh, we didn't rent a car, we walked everywhere...took the subway or train everywhere. You get the picture.

Undoubtedly, less between-meal snacking, saner portions, and longer days may have contributed to the weight loss. but given the typical vacation diet, it's fairly certain that the increased activity level was critical to the change. it's also a key reason why French women purportedly don't get fat (and might explain why the recent book of the same title is a best seller). Here's the big "secret"-our friend probably walked 15,000 to 20,000 steps a day on that vacation, easily two to five times the activity she got back home in the United States. In fact, research suggests Europeans walk about 250 miles per person per year (this is just what researchers call functional walking to destinations, rather than fitness walking) compared with 90 miles per person per year in the US. In the NEtherlands and Denmark, people bicycle an additional 550 miles per person per year! this compares with our 25 miles of average bicycling in America.

All of this adds up to Europeans burning 60 to 120 calories per person per day through physically active transportation, compared to only 20 calories in the US. It's reasonable to suspect this is an important contributing factor in explaining why obesity rates are much higher in the United States than in Europe."

So how does all of this apply to me? I'm living it...well, sort of. Because my husband's hooptie (see 1992 Audi below) has crapped out, we are now a one car family. We planned on trying to get the car fixed, but when we found out how much it would probably cost, we figured it was likely more than the car was worth. So what to do? Most of the cars we saw for sale cost more than we were willing to spend. It was November, so we didn't really want to drop a bunch of cash right before Christmas. Then we didn't want to drop a bunch right after Christmas either. And then there was our travel budget to consider. At first we relied on friends who Husband was able to carpool with to work. Tiff and I are together so much of the time, we could share rides too. Plus, in a pinch, Husband could use the light rail to get back and forth to work until we figured out what we wanted to do. The more time that passed, the more we realized we could make it work.

In January, I made the New Year's resolution to dedicate more time and effort to my fitness, along with millions of other people. I ordered a pedometer and a book about pedometer walking from amazon.com. The book outlined a six-week program to get you up to walking 10,000 steps a day and beyond. Along with the program, the book offers tips and anecdotes about the benefits of walking and how to find ways to increase your daily step average. Soon, I was following the books advice about walking to the supermercado for fresh bread and milk, walking the dog to the ATM in our neighborhood, walking to Tiff's house when Husband had the car, and finally driving the car to Spanish class, leaving it at Husband's work, and taking the light rail back myself. It's a 3.5 mile walk from the light rail stop to home. That's a good "physically active transportation." I've also started do a 2 hour fast paced fitness walk with my friend, Nic, once a week. The result, I'm down over 15 pounds since January, and I don't even have to go to the gym. I'm just following the lead of the Spaniards around me. I hope to be like the little old ladies I see walking in my neighborhood with their bags of fresh bread, fruits and vegetables, only I'll still be wearing sneakers instead of heels.

Here's the light rail stop near Husband's work...
Here's comes my ride...
Nice and clean inside...
It's the end of the line. Time to get off... On the road, and heading home...
I love walking home now that all the trees are getting their leaves. it's getting so pretty now...
Our neighborhood is full of great houses I would love to see, but they love their gates here in Madrid. Don't know if that's the case in all of Spain, but it is here. I guess some of it is about security, but I think it's about privacy as well. Maybe we just like showing off more in the States. If we Americans have a fabulous house, we want people to be able to see the fruits of our labor, not here. I am able to see inside the fences a little better when walking on foot. It also helps that all the hedges and old dead vines have been clipped, but as the foliage begins to fill in, my views will soon be completely obscured once again. Oh well, I'll enjoy the views while they last. Below, I've included some of the sites along my walk home...

Many of the homes have names. I love that...
What a treat to have an open gate. I got a great view of this property. Of course, the house is still too far back to discern anything except that the house is big!
Besides the traditional red roof tiles, there are also lots of house with slate roof tiles as well...
When I get to the pharmacy, I know I only have about 20 minutes left to my house...
A rare gate you can actually see through...
This is the kind of gate you are usually treated to when you walk through the neighborhood. My father-in-law loves to take picutres of doors and it drove hime nuts when he was here...
The tree lined streets. The shade will be nice as the temperatures begin to rise...
Look at this amazing hedge! Most houses have these hedges for privacy and their decorative appeal...
A long view of the hedge enhanced fence...
The Spaniards love their fountains and so do I. We have several beautiful fountains in our neighborhood...
I love all the beautiful walls around the properties. This slate one is one of my favorites...
Amazing woodwork! I would love to see the whole house that hides behind this wall!
Another beauty, I can only assume...
We don't get to see many beautiful doors, but there are some gorgeous gates along the way...
Another one covered with ivy...So beautiful...
Ahhh, home sweet rental...because my house is set up on a hill, it is one of the most visible in the neighborhood. I don't care. I love to see it as I walk up! Hasta luego...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wordless Wednesday #9


Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Sheraton Golf and Beach Resort in Fuerteventura...

Part of the reason we went to Fuerteventura was because there was a Starwood property there. Starwood properties include Sheraton, Westin, Le Meridien, St Regis, W hotels, Four Points, element, and aloft. We have a credit card that helps us earn points that we can use towards free and/or deeply discounted stays. I like to be assured of a certain level of quality if I am going to shell out some hard earned money, and staying at Starwood property makes me feel like I know what I'm going to get. Call me an "accommodations fraidy cat," but I don't care. We looked at the Starwood website and found three resorts in the Canary Islands, one of Tenerife, one on Grand Canary, and one on Fuerteventura. The resort on Tenerife was already booked, and the one on Grand Canary would require us getting two rooms rather than just one. Couple that with the fact that I really wanted some down time on the beach, and the Sheraton Golf & Beach Resort was the place for us. Not only was it situated on the beach, every room had an oceanview, and a view of the pool area which was stunning. With three pools, some heated, plus a hot tub area and children's pool for the toddler set, it was amazing! When we checked in, we were lucky enough to get upgraded to a junior suite. We are Starwood Preferred Guests, so we were also able to check-in at 9am since the room was available. We ended up staying in this amazing 330 Euro a night room for 45 US Dollars a night. We took advantage of Starwood's cash and points option. Starwood works for us because we use our credit card for purchases we would make anyway, only we get extra benefits just for putting our purchases on that specific card. Here is Husband and Twelve chillin' out on the couch. Husband is checking out the hotel directory... Eight is checking to see what kids' channels are available...Every room had a balcony...Ours also had two chaise lounges...I've never stayed in a room with a walk-in closet before...The bathroom was really cool. It was like having your own private spa...As soon as we brought in our luggage and had some breakfast at the buffet, we went to check out the beach...Two of the pools were separated by a wall. The kids had a great time rolling and jumping off it, as well as walking along it... Just like this little girl was doing. I thought this was such a funny pic. I was trying to to get one of Husband who was in the process of ducking down just as this little girl walked by on the wall. The only way it would have been better is if she looked like she was using Husband's head as a stepping stone... Chillin' on the balcony after some pool time...Chillin' was indeed the theme of the trip...Hasta luego...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Out of Africa...Sahara Sand at Corralejo in Fuerteventura, Carnary Islands...

Taking full advantage of our rental car, we explored each side of Fuerteventura...north, south, east and west. These pics come from our visit to el Parque Natural de Corralejo. From the Lonely Planet's travel guide to the Carnary Islands describes the park as follows:
"The beach dunes of this protected nature park stretch alon the east coast for about 10km from Corralejo. It can get breezy here, hence the popularity with windsurfers and kite boarders. The locals have applied their ingenuity to the sand-sticking-to-the-suntan-lotion problem by erecting little fortresses of loose stones atop the shrub-covered sandy knolls to protect sun-worshippers from the wind."
Add ImageIt is said that these white sand dunes are formed from the fine sand of the Sahara Desert. I don't know if this is true, but the wind does seem to blow directly from the the east much of the time. Fuerteventura is the closest of the Carnaries to the Dark Continent which is only 100km to the east.Here are some of those rocky windshelters mentioned in the Lonely Planet blurb.The ocean is beautiful here and the waves just kept on rolling in...The kite boarders were loving it. It was really windy and this guy went airbornes several times! It was a lot of fun to watch...Hasta luego...




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