El-Tanein Diet #10 and #11

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I’ve decided that bunching the ETD posts into 2-week bits is better while I’m in Barcelona. Main reason being that I don’t have a lot of activity to report other than walking all over the whole city. I do plan on changing that up but I don’t want to get too repetitive and only be discussing what I’m eating. Although they come hand in hand when focusing on fitness, this is supposed to be a series about movement rather than a tribute to food.

Workout Tally

Walking my ass off for 14 days

Still can’t get myself to give up my morning walks to the office and I don’t think the rain will stop me either. It’s a 15-20 minute warm-up before I sit behind a screen for 9 hours. I’m really happy that I have this to wake me up prior and then after the day is over as well. Sedentary life at a desk can be so damaging so it’s become the highlight of my weekdays. I try to change up the route every once in a while so I can discover a new neighborhood, find another farmacia, or fit in some extra steps.

With that said, I’m still hoping to get some weekend jogs in. Since weekends are the days I get to really be Bambi the Explorer, I can’t help but deplete my energy wandering the streets looking for hidden gems. I’m trying to use the resistance tube regularly but that’s been as effective as my Duolingo Spanish lessons – meaning I’m doing it twice a week max. Catalan bread is still stalking me and now I’m crushing on its friend: bizcocho de limon (lemon cake) from Dia supermarket.

Outdoor Activity

See above or below.

Fitbit Flex

Taken from the Apple Health app because I forgot to charge my Fitbit again

Best Day. Taken from the Apple Health app because I forgot to charge my Fitbit again.

I’m doing an average of 10.5km/day when not in the office so week 10 was ~78K and week 11 was ~75K steps. Even though this is higher than my Beirut weekly stats, the totals have gone down since weeks 8 & 9 so I should get back to my old weekend numbers.

Best Meals of the Weeks

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Week 10: Bresaola with cava from El Jardi in Raval. It’s a charming tapas bar located in the gardens of old Hospital Santa Creu, around the corner from the famous La Boqueria. It was one of my first solo lunches and I didn’t mind one bit.

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Week 11: Media Pinta BrewBurger with a 1/2 pint of 5am Red Ale beer at Brewdog on Carrer de Casanova. After nachos, a burger, and brownies, my new colleagues and I played two rounds of Jenga. We defied the laws of physics and digestion.

Other Highlights

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Found Peanut Butter: I found the much smaller equivalent to Wesley’s in Barcelona: Taste of America. Got myself a jar of Jif. I prefer Skippy but it’ll do. The cashier began to explain, in Spanish, that I was buying the extra chunky variation. I blurted out a “…sorry?” even though I figured out what he was saying and he laughed,“You’re American! Never mind!” It seems I blend right in here.

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Trip up to Mount Tibidabo: We didn’t get to ride the old Tramvia Blau (blue tram) since it was a Friday. It’s only operational on weekends. That’s what I get for going to Tibidabo on my day off. BUT Tibidabo has a spectacular view of the city and you get to ride a funicular after having some gin & tonic at Mirablau bar halfway up the mountain. There’s a church and some rides at the top but the view is enough for the trip. Avoid the churros – not worth it.

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Attended my first Barca game at Camp Nou:
I’m more of a World-Cup-only football fan but it seemed wrong to not attend a game while staying in the home of FC Barcelona. With great seats thanks to friends at Fly-Foot, we got to see Barca’s win against Las Palmas with Messi’s injury in the first 10 minutes, Suarez’s two goals, and Neymar’s bad haircut. The energy in a stadium is so much better than watching behind a screen.

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Faborit for Light Lunches: So far, this is my favorite lunch spot away from the office. They’ve got a healthy salad bar, fresh juices, pastries, loyalty cards, and a green-walled terrace. I got the swing chair last time I was there! I am a child. The interior is just as warm and inviting. Did I mention it’s at the ground level of Cadafalch’s Casa Amatller? #designerd

Went Flexitarian Two Sundays in a Row: Read more about this here.

Workout Track(s) of the Weeks

Fun, hip track to trot to. Not hardcore workout material but it’s a cheerful, summery tune. And the video was shot in Barcelona.

Cheese(s) of the Weeks

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I’m in love with burrata anything. I’ve had burrata back home but I don’t know what it is about this español cheesperience. Maybe it’s the arugula or the sun-dried/seared tomatoes but I can’t get enough.

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Bambi Recommends: Flax & Kale

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After being in Spain for exactly a month, I’ve realized just how much jamon and chorizo I’ve been ingesting. It’s really hard to find turkey around here and with such exquisite cold cuts, why would you want to?

Well, because my stomach can’t handle all that meat all the time. It’s heavy on the digestive system and, about a week ago, I was looking for a light clean meal somewhere. I ended up at Flax & Kale. I’ll admit that I had sent a photo of the restaurant’s storefront to my vegan sister a few days before followed by “I’m not going to go to a ‘flexitarian’ restaurant while I’m in Barcelona!” after she pleaded with me to give it a try.

Pancakes!

F&K’s Healthy Pancakes: red quinoa, soy milk, free range eggs, vanilla, olive oil, blueberry soy yogurt, blueberries, maple syrup

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The food is not only delicious but it’s also satisfying without that stuffed feeling. The fruits have been more flavorful than other restaurants that I’ve been to here possibly because of their organic produce. Their “flexitarian” menu means they’ve got 80% plant-based options but they also have oily fish and eggs on there too. There’s also a juicery.

With my love for burgers, I never thought I’d endorse a vegan restaurant regardless of my being labeled as a hipster thanks to my graphic-designer-badge. Teresa Carles, the lady behind the menu, knows how to make healthy tasty food though. I’ve had Sunday brunch there twice and I know I’ll be back again. After all, I still have to try the rhubarb and strawberry tart on their outdoor terrace.

On Defacing Downtown Beirut

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I understand that people are pissed. I understand that Solidere’s Downtown Beirut has become a blocked off part of the city that seems to cater to the fortunate and wealthy, void of the majority of typical Lebanese citizens and taxpayers. I understand that the #YouStink movement has given people an outlet to release all their pent up grievances. But the resentment toward this place is because it is supposed to be for all the people, not just the ones who can afford the strip of shops on Foch.

That is why I can’t understand why it seems okay to vandalize the properties there. Defacing the statues and buildings isn’t going to serve anyone. It is still our central district and we should ask for rights by proving that we are respectful of the historical significance of the squares, open public access, and the collective heritage of the area. Doing the opposite will only prove their claim that we are a people undeserving of our own metropolis.

Please don’t deface our face to the world. We should reclaim it, bring it back to what it is supposed to represent – a hub for commerce, tourism, and history. We can take it back or we can let it continue to be a beacon of inequality. Once again, it’s up to the people to decide.

“Dressing the Body” at Museu del Disseny de Barcelona

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“Dressing the Body” is a permanent exhibition at the Museu del Disseny de Barcelona (Design Museum of Barcelona). It’s about how people have manipulated their appearance via accessories, hairstyles, and clothing.

As someone who worked in advertising for luxury brands and hair care, a lot of our research went into desire, beauty, and self-image. Perhaps this is partially why I found this exhibition so fascinating. However, the other part of me, the science nerd, found it fascinating because it addressed how human behavior has shifted with fashion: how we react to arbitrary definitions of beauty and how our perception keeps changing over time. Our behavior has shaped how we view those around us, including ourselves. We are constantly modifying our bodies, whether it’s through padding, feathery hats, or tattoos.

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The exhibition is divided by the decades and the dominating trend of each era starting from the 16th century. It’s an eye-opener because you usually don’t think about how your clothes are also a device that you use to change your silhouette. There are 5 ways what you wear can affect your overall appearance:

  1. Increasing: adding volume to your body by inflating your lower body via structures like wooden hoop skirts or layered petticoats.
  2. Reducing: corsets and belts, anything that reduces or squeezes you into a certain mold.
  3. Elongating: adding height through heels, large hats/hairstyles, or long trains.
  4. Profiling: contouring the outline of your body through stockings or tight body hugging fabrics.
  5. Revealing: Self-explanatory. That skin tho.

    “If you alter the way the body comes across in the space around it then the body alters everything in the space that affects it.” – Hussein Chalayan, 2002

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Check out a sneak peek here. An appropriate part two of this would be an extensive cosmetic surgery exhibition over the decades. If you’re in Barcelona, visit the museum. This exhibition alone is worth the 5 Euro entrance or you can wait until Sundays when it’s free!

CaixaForum: From Cotton to Culture

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Like all major touristic cities, Barcelona’s got plenty of main attractions. The musts being Sagrada Familia, Guell, and a handful of cathedrals. I’m trying to get through the list while still attempting to discover the less commonly visited beauties.

Facing Mies van de Rohe’s German Pavilion in Montjuic is a medieval brick castle with two towers. This is CaixaForum, the cultural center of Barcelona. Although it houses exhibitions and an excellent bookshop, it used to be a textile factory in the early 1900s. Built in two years thanks to repetitive architectural patterns, the factory was dedicated to cotton production. The large windows, high ceilings, and separated pavilions helped with ventilation and created a large open workspace so workers didn’t feel trapped underground. Because it’s only made of brick and iron, there was also very little risk of fire. The flower bed skylights enabled fire brigades to reach any part of the factory but also doubled as a source of air and natural light. Besides light and space, it was the first factory to use electricity so there were no chimneys and, thus, no risk of respiratory diseases from coal and steam that previously powered looms.

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Casimir Casaramona, owner of the factory, commissioned Josep Puig i Cadafalch (pooji cadafalk), the same architect behind Casa Batllo’s overlooked neighbor, Casa-Museu Amatller. Batllo is by Gaudi who is to Catalan modernism what Beyonce was to Destiny’s Child. Imagine being in that kind of shadow posthumously.

Casa Amatller & Casa Batllo

Casa Amatller & Casa Batllo

Anyway, Cadafalch incorporated multiple elements of Catalan craftsmanship: glass-making, brick-laying, metalwork. The overall goal was to strengthen Catalan institutions and identity while adding a medieval twist and Gaudi’s trencadis technique (using broken glass). And one of Cadafalch’s signatures is the use of dragons, an emblem of the Kingdom of Aragon. You can find one over the door at the base of the Casaramona tower. Take that, Dany.

The factory closed in 1919 and was a police station for about half a century after that. As of today, it is an amalgam of Art Nouveau and industrial architecture because of the expansion on the existing structure. La Caixa Foundation, the charitable leg of La Caixa bank, stepped in to refurbish and create CaixaForum in 1997. Due to UNESCO Heritage Site rules, they were forced to expand the only way possible: by going underneath the building.

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Arata Isozaki, a Japanese architect, designed the white limestone entrance and the tree glass sculpture over the escalators that take you to the front door. The limestone allows for light to be reflected into the underbelly of the space. There’s also an abstract “garden” which is an empty rectangular room with water running under it so there’s a trickling water sound effect in a white box. It’s supposed to give the illusion that you’re in a garden. I’m not a fan of this kind of rationale when it comes to art – it makes me think Isozaki smoked all the grass that should’ve been in that garden.

Repurposing old buildings of architectural significance seems to be a theme in this city. They’ve managed to give a meaningful second life to many structures that are survivors of their historic past. There are some case where the same is happening back home but let’s hope for more past in the future.

BONUS FUN FACT: CaixaForum is located at the base of Montjuic between the trade fair precinct and the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. Both of which were designed by Cadafalch too. BOOM. Mic drop.

El-Tanein Diet Week #8 and #9

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Botero’s Gato, Rambla del Raval

It’s too late to apologize for having to bunch the past two weeks into one post but getting settled, working full-time, and having some visitors has been keeping me quite busy. I’m still finding my rhythm here and I’ve got a few posts lined up about what I’ve been doing in Barcelona – I just have to sit and write them out in a comprehensive manner. It’s all on its way, promise!

Workout Tally

Walking my ass off for 14 days

I’ve been on my feet a lot. I walk pretty much everywhere and my Fitbit now loves me. I’m afraid of the size of my calves but I guess it’s good that this is happening since I refuse to forfeit my morning stroll for rushed gym classes. Hopefully, I will still appreciate them when the winter season takes over.

As for fitness plans and resistance training: I want to do weekend jogs in the park by the National Museum in Montjuic. I decided against getting a set of free weights and got a resistance tube from Decathlon since I need something temporary that’ll do the job. Along with some daily pushups and some Nike Training Club downloadable workouts, I should be able to stay on the track to getting toned if I avoid all the Catalan bread that keeps following me everywhere.

Outdoor Activity

See above or below.

Fitbit Flex

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I haven’t seen numbers like this on a consistent streak since I got the device. Walking to and from the office is making a big difference when it comes to my movement during working hours and my exploration of the city during the weekend makes up for the rest. I’m doing an average of 15km/day when not in the office so week 8 was ~85K and week 9 was ~103K steps!

Best Meal of the Week(s)

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Tapas and sangria at Numero Nueve in Born. This place can win the title for both weeks since I’ve been back twice since my first visit. I don’t even like red wine sangria. Yes, it’s that good.

Other Highlights

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New Instagram Series: For some reason, I kept on noticing the various storefronts of the pharmacies in and around town on my treks. I’ve turned it into a series on my Instagram account. Follow me or the series via #Farrahfindsfarmacias

Look Ma, tourists!

Look Ma, tourists!

Being a BCN tour guide after 2 weeks: I’ve had a few visitors and it’s been challenging to show them around while still being a tourist myself. However, it’s a blessing to have good company when you’re in a new place learning about Gaudi and tasting tapas. Going to museums, Pedrera, Güell, and Sagrada. It’s been an intense couple of weekends.

Workout Track of the Week

The track I’ve been walking all over Barcelona with. How Spanish, I know. Also, the Straight Outta Compton OST but I can’t seem to find a link for that anywhere.

Cheese of the Week

I’m going to go with sentimental cheese for my first two weeks away from home. I was warned about feeling homesick and lonely. Thankfully, I haven’t had much of a chance to dwell on the solo part of my solo expedition since my visitors list keeps growing. Who would’ve thought you’d get to have a little bit of home along for the ride. Now, where in Barcelona can I find some peanut butter?

Back Home: On the Outside, Looking in

Courtesy of Tom Eversley

Courtesy of Tom Eversly

It’s odd having to think about cooking my dinners, doing my laundry & dishes, and what streets to walk through in the morning. It’s been odd not thinking about electricity, road rage, and garbage. It’s been odd putting all my energy into myself. It’s been odd being able to think about the bigger things. Like where I want my life to be in the next few months, what I need to improve on when it comes to my career and personal development, and even what books I want to read.

I can hardly see you underneath all that guck. Right now, I’m removed enough that I do not incessantly worry about you and where you’re heading but still within the same hemisphere so I’m not that far behind. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about you Lebanon; it’s the distance between us. This LDR is going to take work and you’re going to have to make an effort so I have something to come home to.

But hey, let’s not get melodramatic here, it’s been 9 days since I left.

Guys, there are 4 main happenings back home that I need y’all to take part in. I would like to live vicariously through my peoples because, for once, I understand what it’s like to be living far away from my beloved Beirut and seeing it from the outside. It’s a mix of FOMO and WTF.

Horsh Beirut on Saturdays
It’ll be open every Saturday for Phase 1 of the park’s opening to the public. Phase 2 is all weekend, Phase 3 is daily. If we prove that we can take care of it and we are in need of public green spaces, it may encourage municipalities to fund more spaces/renovation of existing ones. It’s wishful thinking but let’s make sure we show them how much we want and RESPECT public space.

Wickerpark Festival – Sept 13, 2015
Great fun in Batroun with Lebanese bands performing outdoors at sunset. It’s chilled vibes with local Colonel beer. Bring a blanket or cushion to sit on if you go early.

Sursock Museum – Oct 9, 2015
Opening on a Friday, the perfect new activity to start off the weekend with. What were you going to do? Movies? Mar Mikhael? Stay home to catch up on [insert Netflix series here] and order ZwZ? Haven’t you always wanted to go inside the beautiful palace anyway? Now you can. Entrance is for free, just saying.

And while these are all happy events, this is the one that needs the most attention:

#Youstink Protest Tomorrow Afternoon
We need a solution to the garbage crisis before the rain hits. Forget about all other concerns and demands. This crisis affects our health (and that of future generations) and living environment. Even if you don’t support the movement or the ousting of the MPs, we need to be down there asking for a PLAN OF ACTION before more damage is done.

Yalla!