All posts by daniahabib

Live, let live. Experience.

What to eat/drink in Northern Spain

Pintxos
The Northern version of traditional tapas. These are actually double or triple the size than the ones I remember having in Andalusia. You can get wide varieties, from fish or seafood to cured ham. In San Sebastian, most restaurants offer pintxos, it is their way to have dinner.

Txakoli
This slightly sparkling, dry white wine is from the Basque region. Traditionally, this wine is served before meals, in a regular glass, and you only pour half an inch of it in everyone’s glass.

Jamón ibérico de bellota
The absolute finest cured ham available on the market. It is made from free range pigs that are on an acorn diet. This type of cured ham has been prized for its smoothness and rich, savoury flavour. 

Traditional sheep cheese
Known as Idiazabal, this pressed cheese is made from unpasteurised sheep milk. The cheese is aged for several months and you can try the smoked and un-smoked versions. It has a nut/buttery flavour and is typically served with quince jam.

Spain: 3 Must-See Basque Villages

If, during your Eurotrip, you are planning to go to San Sebastian, do not make the city your only stop in the Basque country. Of course, the coast is great and the beaches are nice, but make sure you also go inland and visit the country side.

The lush green valleys, the small villages, the cows and their bells in the fields are all part of a unique experience in Northern Spain.

We visited these 3 small towns/villages, and did not see ONE tourist. The people were nice, the food was great and I highly recommend them!

Zegama 

In the center of the town, the church dates back from the 15th-16th century. Today, Zegama is known for his cultural and sports events and festivals. Internationally, the town is renown for its world-class marathon that offers spectacular views and its challenging route. Local horse, cattle, and honey contests are organised during the year as well.

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Zegura

This town is so charming and has kept its medieval vibes. There are 5 main gates to enter the city and you can walk the cobble stone streets and admire every building on the way.  There are many hiking trails in the area. One that I would highly recommend is the Txindoki mountain (1346m): a great hike if you are in the area with the best views!

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Zerain
The view on the valley and the other small villages from here is really nice, especially on a sunny day like the one we had. We ate at a restaurant Ostatua. In 1711, this building was a municipal jail and it is the only one that has been preserved. This fact aside, the food was delicious.

In Zerain, there is a small museum that shows the small village and its people throughout in time. The museum disposes of many antiques of what people used in their every day life. Everyone here has their own farm, bee hives, and many are carpenters.

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Feeling the Difference: 40 days of meditation.

“Our emotions, moods, and bad character traits are just temporary and circumstantial elements of our nature” (Matthieu Ricard “The Art of Meditation”, p.13).

My story with Meditation

It took me quite a while to get my meditation practice going. When I did my yoga teacher training in 2016, we had meditation every day and I found it so challenging. Sometimes, I would leave early, I felt uncomfortable seated for so long, I was bored, etc. After the training, I was not motivated to maintain this practice and I left it aside for several months.

So then, in February, after organising my first yoga retreat (to read more about it, click here), one of the girls was using Headspace. Every day she took 20 minutes aside, she had brought her own meditation pillow, and would put her big headphones on. I admired her for being so determined and dedicated to her practice. She seemed so blissful and mentioned how she absolutely loves it.

Thinking back, I realised that meditation had been surrounding me for years. So I started to wonder: why haven’t I been able to really practice it?

My trip to Nepal and Bhutan was coming up, where I would learn more about Buddha and his teachings, visit monasteries and temples, and be surrounded by a culture completely different from my own. I used this as my excuse, or maybe my motivation, to really try meditating.

I re-downloaded Headspace (I had done it before, so I tried it again) and did the free 10-day trial. Although 10 days is a nice way to initiate yourself to meditation, I knew that having the membership would help keep me going. Having a tool like this one makes it easier to keep the practice constant, especially when it is not a habit yet.

Now, I can say that I am on my meditation journey, and every day I learn something new.

Small meditation facts

First of all, meditation is NOT trying to blank out your thoughts. Let’s face it, that is impossible.

As athletes train the body and muscles, every single one of us can train our brains. Meditation is a practice that teaches you how to “re-program and re-wire your mind”. It is scientifically proven that different parts of our brains (like the hippocampus, the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex for instance) are al positively affected by a regular meditation practice. Repeated thoughts and actions create circuits in our brain that allow for the brain’s function and structure to change.

With only 20 minutes a day, you can feel benefits like reduced stress and anxiety, reduced tendency towards anger, and increased attention, emotional balance, and inner peace.

Differences I have noticed after 40 days of daily meditation

  • I am more relaxed, calm
  • I am not so easily affected by situations, people, or things around me.
  • Perspective
  • A more positive attitude towards everything.

If after only 40 days I can already observe these little changes…. what will it be like in another 40 days? or in a year? I will keep you posted!

Have you meditated before? Share your experiences in the comments below 🙂

Check out my instagram account @lacholaahabibii for a contest to win a 1 month voucher for Headspace.

Healthy Hot Chocolate

I usually don’t drink anything other than coffee, tea, and water. But once in a while I get these cravings for chocolate, or something sweet. Being the health nut that I am, I adapted a recipe I found online and made this healthy hot chocolate to warm up on this grey, Lima afternoon.

I several used Peruvian ingredients such as maca powder that has many health benefits like regulating hormones for example. The organic cocoa and the coconut oil are from the Amazon. Coconut oil is a natural lubricant for your body, especially joints and muscles, while cocoa powder is a great antioxidant.

Turmeric is originally from India and is a great detoxifier for the liver and anti inflammatory.

So there really is not reason to not have a cup of this delicious hot chocolate!

For one cup, you will need:

1 cup almond milk
1.5-2 tbsp organic cocoa powder
1tbsp maple syrup (to taste)
1/2 tbsp coconut oil
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp maca powder
A pinch of which ever you prefer (or all): ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg

Heat the milk, coconut oil and maple syrup (in a saucepan or in the microwave). Remove it from the heat before it starts to boil. Whisk the other ingredients in and enjoy!

Top with grated chocolate.

YUMMM ❤

4 Restorative Yoga Poses

I have selected 4 restorative yoga postures that can be done on a yoga mat or on your bed. They are a great to calm the nervous system down, and also to help your muscles and tissues recuperate.

The sequence lasts about 25 minutes and will relax your body and your mind. It is perfect do to right before going to sleep, or after running (or any other physical activity!)

What you need: bolsters or pillows (make you as comfortable as possible so use many!), soothing music, any incense or essential oils to burn while you relax (optional).

What you do NOT need: your cell phone. Put it on airplane mode or turn it off.

Balasana (Supported child pose)

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–> Bring your toes together, open you knees mat width apart. Place a bolster or a few pillows so you can lay on them (like in the picture). Place another pillow between your heels and your gluteal muscles. You can bring your arms along each side of the bolster, or towards the back like in the photo, whatever is more comfortable. Stay 2 minutes and then turn your head to the other side. 

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined goddess pose)

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–> Bring the soles of your feet together. Fold both pillows in two and place one under each knee for support. Lay down on your back and place your left hand on your heart, and your right hand on your belly. Stay here for 3-4 minutes. Make your exhales twice as long as your inhales.

Supta Matsyendrasana (Supine Spinal Twist)

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–> Hug your knees to your chest and slightly bring them to one side. If needed, you can place a pillow between your legs. Stretch out the opposite arm. You can turn your neck towards the stretched arm, or keep it straight. Hold this posture for about 3-4 minutes on each side. 

Viparita Karani (Legs up the wall)

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–> Place a pillow under your lower back and bring your feet up the wall. You can place your hands on your belly, or on the side of your body. This posture is ideal especially after a marathon: it will help your blood flow, and eliminate the lactic acid from your muscles. Keep your legs up the wall for 8-10 minutes.

Good night! ZzzZZzzZZzzz

Yoga and Travel

This is a hard one. I wish there was a secret formula I could share with you and then everyone could just practice anywhere and every day.

Even when I am back home, it can sometimes be tricky to maintain a constant, regular, daily yoga practice. Sometimes 2 hours go by so quickly, it feels like i have been practicing for only 20 minutes. Other days, those first 20 minutes feel like two hours. Having a daily yoga practice just has to become part of your day, like brushing your teeth. But that is always easier said than done.

When traveling, it can be even harder to maintain a constant yoga practice. There are many factors that can affect this: Early flights, late nights, jet lag, lack of a space (for example, super small hotel rooms, no outdoor spaces, too visible/public space).

During this trip, I tried to find tricks that would help me maintain a daily yoga practice. Here, I have decided to share the ones that helped me the most:

  • When you arrive at your hotel, ask where the common areas/terraces are. You can also just go explore and search for an area yourself that would be good for your practice. For instance, this space might have a view, or be free of people, it could also be indoors or outdoors. This all really depends on what you want.
  • Make a small daily objective. For this trip, this was mine: 5 sun salutations a day. That way, if I was short on time, it was very feasible. And some days, I would do a longer practice.
  • Choose a time of the day that you know will not be too occupied. Mornings are probably the best since you have the whole day to explore afterwards. But if you are taking a tour and know you will be back at your hotel around 4pm, this could also be a good time.

The idea here is to move your body, keep stretching and not letting that extra fascia set into your body. It is also great for your mind, and to keep the connection between both.

Since I travel so much, I need a yoga mat that I can fold up and carry along with me anywhere I go. Mine comes from Halfmoon Yoga, and it is thin, light and perfect to fit in a suitcase or backpack. I even hesitated to bring it on a few hikes, and regretted not having it when I got there. So really, there is NO reason to NOT bring this one along!

What are your yoga and travel tips? Please share any you may have!

24hs in Bhaktapur

One night and two days is the time we spent in Bhaktapur: approximately 24hs in the city, which is enough to enjoy everything and relax.

Since we were there for New Year’s Eve, there were many festivities happening and therefore, our experience may have been quite different than any other visit to the city.

However, the whole historical center is great to walk around in. Locals will offer you guided tours upon your arrival, but they are not necessary.

It was a little shocking the amount of visible damage that has been done to the city since the 2015 earthquake.

Squares to visit: 

  • Durban square
  • Taumadhi Tole
  • Potters’ square
  • Tachupal Tole

Eating 

  • King curd
  • Good coffee at: beans coffee shop
  • Shiva’s café corner

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