A Travellerspoint blog

Madrid, Toledo and highway robbery...

By a 5 year old

overcast 14 °C

Que tal? It has been a while since I last wrote, so as usual I hope that everyone is doing well and has recovered from the hurricane/election/nor'easter combination. Although I am sure you are interested in my history-filled trip to Madrid and Toledo, the most humorous thing to have happened to me the past week was my encounter with an intrepid young'n. This Monday after work, I came out of the paneria (bread store) near my house and mishandled 10 cents as I was stuffing the coins back into my pocket. The coin tumbled out and of course rolled away. I suddenly found myself in a footrace with a tiny kid (parents (s) went unidentified through the whole encounter). He beat me to it and picked up the coin. I held out my hand, expecting him to return it, but instead he looked directly at me and then at the coin, and then turned and ran away, giggling. Apparently my speed did not impress him and he figured he was safe. And after realizing I had no idea what to say if I did catch him, I decided he was right and I turned away and headed home. I hope he spent it on something amazing.

Whew, now that I got that off my back, I did, in fact, have an awesome time in Madrid. I went to visit a fellow Whitaker Fellow who is doing stem-cell research there before med school next year. Even though we didn't know each other well beforehand, he and his roommates were extremely accommodating and we all had a great weekend. First, some general thoughts about Madrid. It is a huge city, sprawling across the plateau in central Spain. It is a relatively new city in comparison to the rest of Europe, having been moved from Toledo only several hundreds of years ago (1500s). There are some historical landmarks, but it comes across as a modern city. That said, it is completely different from Barcelona. First, let me say how nice it was to be able to read all of the signs around the city! In Barca, all of the signs are in Catalan primarily, so unless the words are similar in Catalan and Spanish, I am sunk. It was a huge breath of fresh air in Madrid. Also, it is an extremely regal city. Due to the independent leaning in Catalonia, you won't see any reference to the throne. In Madrid, meanwhile, reminders are everywhere; from lines of statues in Park Retiro to the massive statue in the pond, to the ever massive-er Palacio Real. Here is the lake in Park Retiro with the monument of Alfonso XIII (most likely built by himself).


In wandering around the city, I also got to see the Ayuntamiento (City Hall), the huge arch Puerta de Alcala, and of course the Palacio Real, among other things. Time for a bit of Spanish history, and I will highlight what I found to be the two most interesting parts. First, the time immediately surrounding the 'discovery' of the new world was fascinating for Spain, because wealth and status exploded. And by wealth, I mostly mean the wealth of the kings. The rulers during this time were the Habsburg kings, starting in about 1500. At the beginning, the kings had great work-ethic and were largely responsible for the huge cultural boom in Spain. However as the sons got more entitled, the work ethic decreased and the empire fell apart. Let me introduce them to you. In order, the six Habsburgs were: Filipe, Carlos, Felipe, Felipe, Felipe, Carlos. Clever men they were. So clever, that they prescribed to the habit of marrying only trusted bloodlines. And by that, I mean they married their cousins. Of course at this time, the genome had not yet been mapped and people didn't understand the dangers of in-breeding, so when Carlos II was born impotent and forever drooling, the Habsburg dynasty came to an end. One of the results, though of their efforts was the Palacio Real in Madrid. A truly unbelievable building.


I promised one more tidbit-- Spain was in a state of civil war very recently. The dictatorship of Franco began in 1945 after he successfully led troops to victory in the brutal Spanish civil war and continued until his death in 1975. It is hard to believe such an open and welcoming group of people were so recently being oppressed by a dictator. And although Franco identified with fascism, he refused to become involved with World War II. This, however, proved to also distance Spain from the rest of the world in terms of the economic internationalism that sprang forth among the victorious countries after the world war ended. As such, Franco's reign was marked by a stagnancy in economy and culture, that only his death repaired. The current King of Spain, Juan Carlos, was appointed only after promising to Franco to continue his idealogy. King Juan Carlos had other ideas, however, and the first ever democratic elections were held in Spain just months after Franco's death. Predictably, King Juan Carlos, by popular vote, remains Spain's most influential figure ever.
So there's your history lesson-- not so bad, right?

I also had the pleasure of visiting El Museo Reina Sofia, which is one of the plethora of world-class art museums in Madrid. The main reason for visiting was a first-hand look at Picasso's 'Guernica'. Unfortunately pictures are not allowed, but a quick google search can enlighten you-- the painting was commissioned by the Spanish Republican government in response to the German and Italian (who supported Franco) bombing of the Basque town of the same name during the Spanish Civil War in 1937. In real life, the painting is absolutely gigantic, and the agony portrayed so brilliantly by Picasso is almost palpable in the room. The entire museum was excellent, with haunting works by Dali in the surrealist style as well.

Whew, it is getting late here, so perhaps I will leave Toledo for another post. This weekend should be more relaxed, so keep an eye out then. Also, I promise to get some more pictures uploaded to flickr... manana... so have a look at some point.

Hasta pronto!!

Posted by dclift 23:11 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Tarragona and more Barcelona adventures

sunny 14 °C

First, let me wish the best to those reading this and dealing with Sandy this week. Best of luck and stay safe.

Onward! It has been a while since I blogged last, and much has happened, but I'll try to keep it short and concise. First, I have finally become a legal resident in Spain. After jumping through all of the required hoops to get my visa and get here, and then to get a place to live and my empadronamiento (letter of residency), and then to apply for my N/TIE (Numero/Tarjeta de Identificacion de Extrajero) I picked up my tarjeta (card) today. Check it out! I have blanked out some important information like my DNI which is basically my SSN here, as well as the street that I live on. This is the internet after all.


In other news from Barcelona, having become comfortable enough walking around the city, I decided to add biking to my possible transport methods. The city sponsors a fabulous program called 'Bicing', which has racks of bicycles around the city. When a subscriber would like to use one, they only have to hold their card up to the machine and are given a bicycle. Upon reaching their destination, the user finds the nearest rack and returns the bike. With a 45 euro annual fee I get a half hour free anytime I need a bike. This is particularly handy for getting to places that are inconvenient by metro. Many of the roads have bike lanes here, and I have felt quite safe while traversing the city. The only problems with the program are that sometimes there are no bikes available, and other times the rack you want to deposit your bike to is full. For only 4 Euros a month, though, I can handle some inconvenience. In fact, the city has realized that this is too good of a deal, and will double the membership fee next year. Luckily I will be grandfathered in, but many of my colleagues have been grumbling about that change. Here is an example of the rack I was talking about.


This weekend, I decided to get out of Barcelona for a while, and took a day trip to Tarragona, which is an hour and a half train ride south of Barcelona, on the coast. Afterwards I was asked by several Barcelonins (and heard from others wondering too) why I would go there; since there really isn't anything to see. Au contraire, I had a fabulous day. This facade was one of the first I saw upon disembarking from the train.


As one tour book I read put it: 'If you are wondering what the Romans did for Spain, go to Tarragona'. Over the course of the day, I got to see well-preserved Roman ruins, including their amphitheater, circus, forum, city walls, and aqueduct, as well as two of the other old historical buildings (though not Roman-era type old). I will post some photos here, but as always, check out www.flickr.com/photos/douglasclift for the whole set. As a 'student' (I put that in quotes since I'm not technically a student, but my ID card for work says Institute for Bioengineering of Catalunya, so I think that impresses people enough to give me a discount), I was able to buy a day pass to all of the sites for 5 Euros. The first thing I saw was the Amphitheater. This amphitheater, home of duels between men and animal alike, is the best preserved Roman ruin in Spain, and it was an incredible feeling to imagine the drama unfolding on the same ground thousands of years ago.


Next on the ancient tour was the Roman Circus, originally a monstrous open space in the center of the city dedicated to horse and chariot races. All that remains now is a section of wall, which includes some stalls for housing horses, but I failed to get a photo spectacular enough to make the cut for the blog. There will be some on Flickr shortly.

After the circus, I went to the other largest attraction in Tarragona. And I mean largest literally, since Tarragona is home to the largest Catholic cathedral in Catalunya. Cleverly named 'La Catedral', this is a massive church perched on the top of the hill. It is stunning from the outside, and if possible, even more so from inside. I purchased an audio tour, which took me around the cloister and sanctuary, saturating me with facts.


After the Catedral, I headed to the Roman Muralles (walls). At one point, these stretched around the perimeter of the city, shielding it from the wrath of potential foes, but now only a section of wall behind the city remains. This was the only site at which I wasn't given an information pamphlet, so I don't have too much to say about it. Check out Flickr for more!

After the wall, I went to see arguably the most awe-inspiring site of the day. Not specifically part of the history tour, the Pont de Diables Aqueduct was also built by the Romans and is still in such good shape that the public can walk across it. How much of this is due to the modern engineering marvel called cement is unknown, but the aqueduct was one of the highlights of the day. Unfortunately, the juicy story concerns transportation to and from the site. The aqueduct is that is is located 4 km outside of the city. As I was trying to see as much as possible that day, I decided to take the city bus there. I knew beforehand which bus to take and that there was a stop at the site and after a quick miscommunication with the bus driver I found myself here:


Absolutely spectacular. Although the engineer in me was disappointed to see puddles in the middle of the aqueduct, I spent 20 minutes dragging my jaw in the dirt behind me while contemplating how a group of people with only the simplest of machines accomplished getting huge blocks not just up 75 feet in the air, but also from wherever they were harvested to the aqueduct site. Incredible. Now, I had to get back to the city. Unfortunately, there was only a bus stop on one side of the road since it is a divided highway there. Upon disembarking the first time, the driver had told me to get back on there. But again, my logic was screaming that getting on the bus going the wrong direction made no sense. Physically incapable of accepting the inevitable and just going through with the inefficient bus transport, I decided to hike back. There was a well-marked trail, and I was confident at the beginning that I would be fine. However, it had rained recently in the area, so as the path dipped down to follow along a stream nearby I saw this:


NOOOOO! No more path; no more walking. As I was about ten minutes away from the bus stop, I had to backtrack to the bus stop, my logical brain smarting from the TKO. As the buses were only running about 1 per hour, I also thought for sure I was going to be stuck for a long time. Luckily, I only had to wait ten minutes for the next bus... And then a half an hour as we went wayyy away from the city before returning back. A minor hiccup in an otherwise stellar day. Upon getting back to the city, I had a little while to check out the final Roman ruin: the forum, or marketplace. Although perhaps not as well-preserved as the other relics, I still found it intriguing. Also, other tourists that day were few and far between, which improved my experience immensely.

Finally, exhausted, I boarded the train back to Barcelona. And as this post has become a monster, I will quit there. No, actually, two more things: this Thursday is a holiday for All-Saints day, and I am going to Madrid to visit a fellow Whitaker Fellow. We will explore Madrid some and go to Toledo as well. I am looking forward to it. Also, the fall tradition in Barcelona and Catalunya (and maybe the whole of Spain) is that street vendors spring up all over the place selling freshly roasted chestnuts and sweet potatoes. I have not had a chance to try them yet, but hopefully my next post will include a little review.

As always, hope all is well with everyone, and stay safe with this storm. Hasta Luego!!

Posted by dclift 22:52 Archived in Spain Tagged roman_ruins tarragona Comments (2)


overcast 22 °C

Hello again everyone! Thanks for coming back. So this past week was pretty tame compared to the usual. I did very little touring and new things, instead working towards hanging out with friends here in Barcelona-- including lots of beach volleyball, some soccer matches and planning for the next couple of weeks. So this week, I don't have any pictures, instead opting for some thoughts about the life, food, more food and people I have been interacting with in Spain.

Let me start with talking a little bit about food here. Barcelona is lucky because it sits in between Madrid and the classic Mediterranean coast in Italy. As such, I have found many crossover cuisine. Tapas bars are the places to be on Friday and Saturday night, which is a uniquely Spanish thing, while olives and seafood abound as well. One of the Barcelonin girls I work with has fish for lunch so often it has become a joke between us. I have not yet ventured forth to buy fish, but I have walked through several of the huge markets they have around the city. In them, the norm is to walk up to a booth displaying the recent catches on ice, eyes, scales, fins and all. The often elderly lady behind the counter (who generally wields a knife as big or bigger than herself) will prepare your order for you right there. I have not yet had the guts to approach such a stand, since I would have to flex my (as yet weak) Spanish muscle in a big way, ie. "Can you recommend one to me that someone who has never ventured outside of salmon and cod might like? And how would a person go about cooking a piece of meat like this?" At some point I would really like to get into cooking some fish, but baby steps.

I have had the chance to eat out several times, and another immensely popular dish here is paella. It is a rice dish usually cooked with an array of seafood, and served in a piping hot skillet. It is excellent. Another dish popular here is called Fideua, which is essentially paella with fine noodles substituted for the rice. These both are usually served with a thick garlic mayonnaise sauce on the side which sets off the seafood perfectly.

Tapas in Barcelona are everywhere. Common tapas include home-fried potatoes, Spanish tortillas (more on these later), sauteed peppers, small salads, cold meat platters, olive dishes, etc. Think about them as appetizers to share: each portion is smaller than a full meal, but I have gone out several times in which we got three Tapas to share between two of us and it is perfect. There is a well-regarded tapas bar just a five minute walk from my house, which I have yet to dine at, but apparently it is stupendous. On the theme of tapas, no proper outing is acceptable without a couple glasses of beer. In the US, I always feel a little conflicted when ordering a beer: is this one too classy for this establishment? Or not enough? Why did I just spend that much on a drink? In Spain, just order a beer. Here they don't ask what kind, and will bring you Estrella Damm unless directed otherwise. It is by no means artisan beer, but everyone drinks it unless they're trying to impress someone. It is also ridiculously cheap-- around 1 Euro per beer. Also, all of the supermarkets here have their own brand of beer. This is much different than in the US: can you imagine 'Price Chopper Beer' taking off? Me either. I haven't actually tried these yet, but saw a special today for 12 beers for E 4.58. Yikes I wonder what it tastes like...

I have been cooking the majority of the time for myself. I am lucky that I have a bread store, meat market, vegetable stand and supermarket all on my way home from the metro (I know, impressive for only a three-block walk). For breakfast, most people here only have a pastry and a coffee, but I would actually starve if I ate that and then had to wait 'til one for lunch. As such, I usually do a big bowl of cereal in the morning and an apple for snack midmorning. Another thought: people here don't drink milk straight. My roommate was horrified when I bought a bottle and took a swig after arriving home. I love my milk, though.

For lunch, I have been finding things to make en mass to take to work, as a good sized lunch there costs about E 7. So my cous-cous salad prowess is at a lifetime best, and I made up a stir-fry last night. I also have been trying out different fruits as dessert for lunch. They have yellow kiwis here which are slightly larger and much more sweet than their green brethren. Also, after seeing a coworker with them, I purchased a few figs one day. YOU MEAN FIGS DON'T GROW INSIDE THE NEWTONS??? For those like me who don't know, figs are smallish fruits shaped like a water droplet, with tough skin and a pulpy, seedy, squishy inside (all technical terms, thanks). It is also quite sweet, but I like them very much.

I have found that people here are very health-conscious (at least the ones I work and live with). I have not, however, met a single vegetarian. It is a concept that they just don't even understand. I guess when you grow up looking at leg of ham hanging in the supermarket it is kind of desensitizing.

Oh and tortillas in Spain are almost nothing like tortillas from Mexico (besides being round). The ones over here can constitute a dinner on their own, as they are made of potatoes and often cheese, egg, and a leafy vegetable. Think quiche with the majority being potato instead of egg! Delicioso!!

Heyo, so remember how I said it never rains here? Well I angered the rain gods, who now deem it necessary to up the rain ante to twice a week. Unfortunately the two chosen days were Friday and Saturday last weekend and look to be Saturday and Sunday this weekend. Look out for a 'Things to do inside in Barca' blog next week.

So remember how I talked a bit about the political situation here next week? My Aunt and Uncle happened upon an NPR program that highlighted some of the same things I talked about. It's short and enlightening, so have a listen.


(For the record, I haven't heard that the government in Madrid is even close to sending troops here. They have their own problems with the protests surrounding the austerity measures right now. Also, I (and most people who are looking from the outside in) concur with the expert that talks about people needing to act with thought instead of emotion)

Whew, sorry I still managed to make quite the long blog post without pictures! Thanks for sticking around, and as always, hope everyone back home is doing well.

Hasta Luego!!

Posted by dclift 22:13 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

History museums and el clasico

semi-overcast 25 °C

Hello again! Hope all is well with you, let's dive in again in my adventures of the past week!

Last Friday night I decided to check out the much-heralded magic fountains that come alive every Friday and Saturday nights in the front of the Palau Nacional. Again, I misunderestimated (not to get political, but thanks for that stellar addition to the English language Pres. Bush) the amount of tourists I would find. Apparently as winter gets closer (no sign of that yet either) the crowds will thin. We'll see. I finally managed to climb up on the foundation of one of the pillars above the fountain to get some nice shots of the music-coordinated fountain show. For all of my griping, it was actually a very cool thing which I would recommend to visitors (free too!). They culminated the show with a huge eruption of water at the end of the song 'Viva Barcelona'. Cool.



Saturday was spent dreaming up all the cool adventures I can have over the next few weeks. We actually have a three day weekend again this weekend, and I was slow on planning for it so I will not be able to do any heavy-duty traveling. Which is a shame, since that is what three day weekends are for in Europe. Anyway, I will do some day trips outside of Barcelona and play some volleyball undoubtedly and it will be magnificent.

In Barcelona, the first Sunday of every month features free admission to many of the big sights in the city. I decided to take advantage and made my way over to the Barcelona History Museum to get all learned up. The cool part of this museum is that it actually sits on top of an archaeological ruin from the ancient Roman city Barcino (named this right around the end of the reign of Caesar Augustus~ 15 AD). While the upper floor is small and only has some small artifacts (described only in Spanish and Catalan: surprising since the rest of the museum had descriptions in English too), the downstairs portion was a real treat. In over 4000 square feet of space, the museum has erected walkways to traverse remains of an ancient laundromat, fish market and wine processing plant. In good detail, the signs indicated what exactly was happening in these areas during their heyday. Side note: I gained much respect for archaeologists who really really know what they're doing, or are really good at fooling the general public into believing incredibly detailed stories about how exactly wine was made, which parts of the fish were stored where, and how laundry was fabricated and cared for. For example, I was informed exactly which of the dozen vessels arrayed around the room held the honey and salt for seasoning the wine. More likely the former explanation, I realize, but respect either way. Definitely a really impressive museum. (As always, check out www.flickr.com/photos/douglasclift for more photos!)


Then, Sunday evening I got to enjoy one of the most important evenings of the year in Barcelona: El Clasico. Minimally, FC Barcelona plays Real Madrid twice a year in their respective La Liga campaigns, and it is one of the fiercest rivalries in sports. So tense is it that during the last Euro championship, journalists were wondering how the Spanish team would cooperate internally with so many players on the team representing opposite sides int he league. The Euro championship had a happy ending for Spain, but Sunday it was back to business in la Liga. Furthermore, as a result of recent political events in Spain (austerity measures being imposed nationwide from the central government, the huge groundswell of pro-succession feelings in Catalonia) the game had huge political overtones. I am never a proponent of mixing sport and politics, but from an outsider's point of view it is fascinating. And interestingly, having talked to several Catalonians, the majority of FC Barcelona originates from Catalonia. So maybe there is something there. The organizers only made the innuendos more obvious by assigning every person a colored placard when they walked into the stadium. As the Spanish national anthem played, people held up their placards, which gave the image of a Catalonian flag draped around the entire stadium.

Anyway, life stops in Barca to watch the game, and I went to a bar across the city to watch with a friend from the US who is studying here. The bar itself, called 'La Ovella Negra' (The Black Sheep) in the Poble Nou district, is built for events like this, and appears like a typical bierhaus in Germany: Huge tables span the width of the floor, and the rock ceilings are high and arching. All in all, I would say that about 300 people were crammed into the bar to take in the spectacle on a huge projector screen over the center of it all. I did not see a single Real Madrid Jersey.


Luckily, even for all of the political overtones, the night was won by some terrific football. The match pitted (arguably) the two best players in the world against each other: Lionel Messi (FC Barca) vs. Christiano Ronaldo (Madrid). Both have been playing superb football of late and both contributed 2 goals for their side in a 2-2 draw. Aside from Barcelona winning, I could not have had a better night. These guys are ridiculously good. And people here recognize that, which is cool- after Messi's second goal, everyone in the bar chanted his name while making bowing motions. And rightfully so: this guy is a king, and (again, arguably) the best footballer who ever lived.


Whew. What a weekend. For those keeping track at home, I am still working, and it continues to improve while I learn the ropes around the lab. These people use a ridiculously diverse array of instruments and it takes me a while to feel competent enough to use all of them without help. Here is a photo of one of my first experimental setups. I took it to save for future reports, but I can share it with you too. In the glass bottle is the precursor solution with titanium, calcium, phosphate and sodium. It has a magnetic stir-bar to keep the mixture homogeneous and is on ice since the addition of phosphate is quite exothermic (ie, explosive). The balloon on the right contains argon, which is fed into the balloon to keep the atmosphere in there inert, which is important to minimize atmospheric moisture from affecting the solution. After everything is mixed, I add a carefully measured amount of water to hydrolyze the titanium, and let it stir for several days to let it turn into a gel. Once gelled, I cook it and voila! Glass ceramic!


That's all I have for you this week! As always, hope everyone is well back home, and I miss you all!

Hasta Luego!

Posted by dclift 12:16 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

I hate tourists... oh wait.

sunny 23 °C

Hi everyone! Hope all is well. It has been another adventurous week, so hang on!

Last Saturday was the first time it really rained since I got to Barcelona. This turned out to be ok, since I was battling a bit of a cough and a day spent inside sipping tea wasn't the worst thing that could happen. It flew by, however, since on Friday night my roommate Matteo invited me to go out for a sail on Sunday. He works for the company Beyer (of Aspirin fame) as an accountant, and the company sets aside money for their employees to do fun things during their time off. His group rents a yacht periodically, and he had an extra spot so he invited me along. No way could I pass that up, so I ended up spending last Sunday on a 37' yacht cruising around Barcelona for the day. Unfortunately the wind was sub-par, but there was an air show over the beach that we watched while lounging. I could do that again anytime (minus getting quite sunburned... I forgot the sunscreen at home). We left from Badalona, a suburb just north of the city, and were on the water for about 6 hours. Sweet.


Yesterday, I decided to head to Parc Guell right after work. Parc Guell is one of the biggest attractions in Barcelona, as it was designed originally to be a settlement for the extra-affluent of Barcelona. Antoni Gaudi was tapped to do the architecture, so his whimsical style is everywhere. After around 12 years of development (from 1900 to 1912) the cause was abandoned, and the park was bought by the city and opened to the public. I went on a weekday evening hoping to catch it at a less-crowded time, but as I was headed there on the metro I read a stat that the park sees 4 million visitors a year. Roughly divided by 365... is over 10,000 visitors a day. So while it wasn't crawling like an anthill as I imagine it is sometimes, I managed to get few photos without a posing international. Such is life. Maybe I'll go back sometime at midnight.

Before I describe the park itself, let me say that the city has not helped alleviate the overcrowding problem. It is located on quite a hill just outside the city, which might have thinned the field by natural selection... except they have installed outdoor escalators up the back side of the park. It was such a strange sight to see escalators to seemingly nowhere, although there is a sizable part of me that was glad they were there.


So the escalators allow you to enter from the back of the park, but for ease, I will describe the entrance first (except for the benches, which I will describe, everything was designed by Gaudi, so I won't keep repeating myself). Also, I would recommend opening my Flickr page as you read through. Uploading photos here is a pain, but all of the things I talk about are also on Flickr, so check it out! http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglasclift

The gatehouses looked to me like gingerbread houses- albeit much more ably constructed gingerbread houses than I usually manage. One has been turned into a gift shop (of course) and I read that the other is open sometimes, but I need to investigate that more. Immediately after the gatehouses is the most recognizable image in Barcelona: the staircase guarded by Gaudi's 'Drac'. This mosaic lizard appears everywhere in Barcelona, except ironically in my photo collection because I couldn't snap a decent picture through the people posing/petting/napping on the lizard. Gah. Still an incredible sight to see and worth the frustration. At the top of the stair case is the 'Sala Hipostila', or Doric Temple-- A garden of 88 huge stone pillars, which were originally intended to be a marketplace for the Parc Guellers. Directly above the Sala is a wide open space which is actually porous and allows water rushing off the hill to percolate through the layer of stone and sand and through the market and into an underground cistern. What they were planning to do with it next I have no idea! Around the outside of this wide open space is another easily recognizable piece, actually designed by Gaudi's friend Josep Maria Jujol. His mosaic and highly curvaceous benches fit perfectly with Gaudi's style as they wind around the perimeter of this area. Also located in Parc Guell is the Casa-Museu Gaudi, which is the house in which Gaudi spent the last years of his life. It is expensive to visit, and unspectacular I have heard, so I didn't go in. Finally, all around the park are walkways and palisades built in the Gaudi style. Stones looked pieced together, but often there is something hidden in plain sight. Really an outstanding place.


So other than that, I am still going to work every day. I am learning how frustrating the Spanish sense of time can be, as I am still very dependent on my supervisor, and he is flighty to say the least. I hung around all day waiting for him to come in. Finally at 3:30 I wrote an e-mail asking where he might be, and when I didn't get a response left at four. Later, I checked the my e-mail and he responded at 5 saying he'd be in at 5:30. Huh? The work will be outstanding I think, once I have some freedom to run my own experiments and think for myself, but this dependency on other people's schedule is frustrating.

Today I went for a run. Which normally is an unremarkable occurrence, except for several observations I made. I am constantly amazed at how compact this city is. I spend 20 minutes on the Metro each morning getting to work, and never bothered to find out how far away it is, exactly. Turns out I can run there in about 20 minutes (depending on how many lights I have to stop at). This is constantly amazing to me as I realize that the city is not that huge. It is actually a really nice feeling. My next observation is how much I hate to run in the city. Luckily I have a relatively quiet park in my backyard so I never have to again if I so choose, but every time I got into a rhythm today I had to stop at a light. Or jump over a pug. Or dodge a six-year-old. I actually managed to run into a moped when he acted like he was gonna pull off the sidewalk and then just stopped in my path. I limped off with a charlie horse and a few muttered choice words. Also, I was listening to the radio and was stunned to hear unedited songs from the US playing. I suppose that curses in another language aren't monitored by whatever agency does that sort of thing here, but I was certainly taken aback the first time I heard it. Interesting.

Phew. I think that's all for now. I will upload those photos now, so check them out. As usual, hope all is well with you, and thanks for reading!! Hasta Luego!

Posted by dclift 22:35 Archived in Spain Tagged landscapes art buildings Comments (1)

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