I just returned from a 2 week vacation to Italy, Switzerland and France, as in, I’m still experiencing jet-lag and don’t know if I’ll make it through this post without falling asleep a few times. My husband and I took off without our little Maximizer (our almost 2 year old son) and spent an amazing time touring museums, relaxing at lakes and exploring the best of what Europe has to offer. Jealous yet? If you have the time, money and babysitting available, which probably requires nothing short of a miracle, then you should take a vacation like this at least once in your life. It was awesome.
Aside from all the touristy, fun stuff, we of course sampled all the delicious food in each of the respective countries. And it was delicious — think of the best Italian (or French) restaurant you’ve ever been to and multiple that by 10. Not every place we went to was spectacular, but thanks to tripadvisor.com, more often than not we were able to find some really good places to eat. As we ate our way through the various countries, I came to the realization that Americans do not know how to eat! I mean, physically of course they do, but Americans (myself included) have got it all wrong when it comes to preparing, eating and enjoying food.
In every country we went to, we had to make sure we ate at the right time, otherwise we might end up being hungry until the next meal. One time we showed up at restaurant at 2:30 pm and they turned us away because they were closed for lunch. We showed up at another restaurant at 7pm and we were the only ones there. The restaurant didn’t start getting full until we were about to leave at 8:15pm! We went to another restaurant at 6pm, waited around until about 7pm (we were tired and needed to give our feet a rest!) and ending up leaving because we had no idea when it was supposed to open. I realize a lot of restaurants in America are like this too, (except for maybe the later dinner time) but usually if I need to eat something at an odd time I can just go find the nearest McDonalds/Wendy’s/In-n-Out and satisfy my hunger. In some of the places we stayed the nearest McDonalds was the next town over (shocking, I know) and on top of that, we weren’t going to waste a precious European meal on the same junk food we can get in America. And honestly, if I was Italian, Swiss or French I don’t think I’d want to waste my money on such junky food anyway!
In every restaurant we went to, free refills were non-existent. If we wanted more to drink, we had to pay for another can of soda or a bottle of water. I found myself choosing to drink more water , mostly because it was the cheaper option. You could get a liter of mineral water for the same price as a 200 or 300ml can of soda. I’d rather have enough water to last me the whole meal than only enough soda to get me through the appetizers!
Another thing I loved about the restaurants we went to was that the waiter/waitress didn’t bring the bill unless we asked for it. We could sit and digest our meal for as long as we wanted without being shoved out the door or feeling rushed to leave. Instead of shoveling food into our mouths and rushing onto the next thing, we found ourselves lingering a little longer at the table and finishing our conversation or just people watching. I felt more relaxed (I’m sure part of that was due to the fact that I didn’t have our little guy making demands every five minutes!).
In Paris, they have bike stations all over the city. For 1,70€ you could get a 24-hour pass and have access to any one of the hundreds of bikes in these stations across the city. You couldn’t go a few blocks without finding one of these bike stations. On our last day in Paris, we bought a couple of the passes and had a blast weaving our way through the traffic and getting an amazing view of the city that you couldn’t get in a car or on the metro.
So what does this have to do with obesity in America? Well, Italy, Switzerland and France have an obesity rate of 10.3%, 8.1% and 11.2% respectively. The obesity rate in America is a whopping 33.8%. I think we have a lot to learn from how the Italians, Swiss and French eat.
For one, eating meals at regular times helps keep your metabolism stable, which prevents overeating. Based on my experience in Europe, to prevent being starving at 3 in the afternoon we had to make sure we ate at regular times.
Drinking soda is bad for you. The fact that we had to pay for every can of soda limited the amount of soda we consumed. Free refills is probably one of the worst inventions in the restaurant industry.
Exercise is good for you. The day we decided to use the bikes in Paris instead of the metro was so much fun! We rode our bikes to the Louvre first thing in the morning and after our bike ride I felt energized and excited to see all the amazing artwork, instead of groggy and still sleepy (our bed wasn’t that great in Paris). I love that the city of Paris has found a simple and great way to promote exercise!
Our trip was amazing. If you’ve never been to Europe before, GO! You will not regret it.
Paella in Paris