Friday, December 29, 2006

Correspondencia con...

"Próxima estación: Nuevos Ministerios, correspondencia con líneas 6 y 8 y Cercanías Renfe." I am back in my daily commute. Today, both the lab and the swimming pool were deserted. It's sunny and warm here, we had our after-the-lunch coffee outside and I was wearing just a T-shirt. Amazing, the temperature at the airport in Prague was -8 centigrades.

Friday, December 22, 2006

El Viaje Navideño

¡Feliz Navidad! What a crazy week. On Monday, we celebrated Christmas with 317 and Genomics in the mountain village close to Madrid with roasted cabrito for madrileños and chuletón for guiris. Tuesday and Wednesday, frantic days, filled with DNA preps and genotyping before my Christmas trip. On Thursday, at 5am, on my way to Barajas; at 10am, landing in Prague; and finally at 3pm, arrival to Brno. Today, a little shopping: Il Vangelo secondo Matteo by Pier Paolo Pasolini. What a gem.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

My first celebrity

I met José Antonio from Operación Triunfo. You can see him singing here, here and here. His departure from the show is here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Route of the Caliphs

Wednesday, December 6
A long weekend again - to live in Spain is truly miraculous! This time we made a trip to the south, particularly we followed what is called the Route of the Caliphs that runs between the two most important towns of Hispano-Muslim history, Córdoba and Granada. Two great cities and two great centuries. Between them, a land of legends, watchtowers and castles, of amazingly beautiful towns, people, food and angels, as you will find out later.
We left Madrid very, very early, around 7am in the morning, taking A-4 and later N-323 to get to Granada, where we arrived around 1pm. We booked tickets to Alhambra approximately three weeks ago, because it's impossible to get there without a reservation. The Alhambra Palace and the Generalife have been awarded a status of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Winter is definitely not the best time to visit Alhambra. Even though we really enjoyed the architecture, the gardens and the fountains were already shut down, unfortunately. In Alhambra, I met my first Spanish celebrity! Recently, I became obsessed by the Spanish version of the Pop Idol contest, here it's called Operación Triunfo and my favourite singer was José Antonio. To my surprise, I recognized him with his boyfriend there and I asked Marco to take a picture of us. After visiting the palace, we had some tapas and beer and later, when the night fell, we crossed the city to Albayzín, where it's possible to see Alhambra from a mirador by the Plaza de San Nicolás. Later we had a dinner in the city on c/ Navas. When we arrived to the camp site, there was no electricity, no heating and no hot water. I slept in all clothes I took with me as the trip was becoming truly adventurous.

Thursday, December 7
Still in Granada, we spent 2 hours trying to find a place to park. We visited the cathedral, gigantic building with two organs, something unbeliavable, and later the Real Capilla de Granada with the Cripta de los Reyes Católicos, where they buried Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon. We had lunch in a Lebanese restaurant and later a tea in a tetería. Later in the afternoon we got to Alcalá la Real, where we booked a hotel. In the night, we played card games: burro and mentiroso and got completely drunk, as it became a habit for the rest of the trip.

Friday, December 8
In the morning, we made a visit to the La Mota fortress in Alcalá la Real. This was the place from where Isabella and Ferdinand rode out in order to receive the keys of Granada. It has two distinct spaces, the alcazaba and the abbey church. The citadela has three towers and one can see the ruins of the old Moorish military quarters there. From Alcalá we followed a road 336 to Priego de Córdoba with a splendid walkway on the cliff surrounding the Barrio de la Villa with the olive trees bellow. We had not so splendid lunch there, unfortunately. Later in the afternoon we arrived to Zuheros, in my opinion, the most beautiful castle we visited. The fortress is from 9th century and it's perched on the top of an enormous rock. Next stop was Luque, the city I refer to as "La ciudad de los Ángeles" now. The tank of Marco's car was getting dangerously low when we arrived to the main square of Luque with no gas station in sight. Then, an angel arrived on a motorcycle and join us in the car to show us a hidden gasolinera in a polígono industrial approx. 5km away, which we would never found without him. I am sure he helped us again in the latter so-called "San Pedro accident". In the night, we had a wonderful (truly!) dinner back in Alcalá, in an unexpectedly good cervecería serving delicious jamón asado. In the night another round of card games with even more drinks.

Saturday, December 9
We had to wake up very early to be on the road by 8am, as we had to drop Carlos at the AVE railway station in Córdoba. We took the northern branch of N-432 through Alcaudete, Castro del Río and Espejo, arriving to Córdoba at 9:45am with the train departing at 10:00am. On the way from the station we stopped in a cafeteria to replenish the caffein blood levels and I asked Govi what was the name of the hotel we were staying in Córdoba, as the name of the hotel next door sounded familiar to me. Amazingly, we accidentally parked in front of our hotel! Was it an act of the angel from Luque? Shortly after moving our luggage to the rooms, we mistakenly left our parking spots to find ones closer to the city and at the end, after 1 hour in the car, circling around, we parked on the other side of the old town. It might have been actually much better, if we had left the cars by the hotel. In Córdoba, we visited Alcázar and the Mosque, both stunning works of art of all times, awarded as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Later in the afternoon, we walked through the old city, visited the synagogue and later a romanesque church of San Pedro. We refreshed ourselves in a small cervecería across the church plaza and continued through the Plaza de la Corredera and around the ruins of the Templo Romano towards our hotel. In a hotel room, Marco realized he couldn't find his insulin applicator and we walked back to the San Pedro pub together, where the waitress knew what we wanted even before we told her. The angel from Luque struck again. Then we watched a football game while having a dinner and later ordinary cards and tequila.

Sunday, December 10
Taking the A-4, we arrived to Madrid at 5pm. My short nap at 7pm actually stretched to 12 hours. I guess one can fight the sleep deprivation only for a short time.

Monday, December 4, 2006


A shopping therapy weekend. On Saturday, I stormed Pull and Bear, Zara and Often to get a jacket, because the temperatures are getting dangerously low and I left all my winter clothes in Brno. No success, but I've got at least a bottle of Burberry Touch that I missed so much since I left So-Cal. In the evening, I saw the new Bond movie with Marco and Mar in IDEAL Cinemas. Before the movie, we went for a beer to Alhambra, one of the very first cervecerías I went to after my arrival to Madrid. The film was almost 2,5 hours long and we got so thirsty that we needed more beer and we ended up in a German pub on Plaza de Santa Ana. On Sunday, my hunt for a jacket continued. In between Bershka and H&M attempts, I sent a desperate message (or better, a cry for help) to G., but I guess it was too early for him, so I had to make a decision by myself. Finally, I've got a black nylon one from Sfera and I am guessing that Sfera will become my new Guess, because I liked many, many things there. I hope that G. will like the jacket, because I do!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Otra niña

Los Príncipes de Asturias esperan para la próxima primavera su segunda hija.

Monday, November 27, 2006

La Comida Ecuatoriana

More rain... the whole weekend was wet. On Saturday, I went to see "Scoop", a new movie by Woody Allen, with Maite, Alicia, Govi and Daniel to another V.O.S. cinema, this time it was Verdi on c/ Bravo Murillo. Nothing groundbreaking, but Hugh Jackman was cute as hell even if he played a really bad guy. It's hard to make another Manhattan or Annie Hall. After the movie, we had some cañas and pintxas in a Basque pub, most of the food and drinks were listed in Euskadi, for instance: in Castellano they call one liqueur "pacharan" and there it was spelled "patxaran".
For Sunday, we had planned "La Comida Ecuatoriana" in a small restaurant called San Francisco de Quito close to Tetuán metro station. I picked "fritada", apparently very authentic Ecuadorian meal. We drunk some beer and almost at the end I read the label and realized they made beer from maize, how weird.

Monday, November 20, 2006


"I will look through your treasures, gypsy. Is this understood?" Borat interrogates a yard sale lady/gypsy over a Barbie doll/woman she has shrunk and I couldn't stop laughing. I went with Adrian to see "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" and Sasha Cohen is a pure genius. It's offensive and cruel and... but I had to check YouTube for more sketches right away.
On Saturday, I went out with Antonio, José Manuel and Rubén. First we hit "Why not?" and after Antonio and JM left, we met two flight attendants for the BA, a girl from Venezuela and a fairy English guy. We went together to "Polana" on c/ Barbieri and we had so much fun there. It's a disco place (only) and it was so packed and smoked... I got home at 5 am in the morning.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Angels? Why not?

Saturday was the day to see Cirque du Soleil's "Alegría". One could tell already in the subway that most of the people in the car were going there as well. The company built a tent in front of the El Estadio de La Peineta and the construction details were amazing. So small and cute from the outside but surprisingly spacious and comfortable inside. The show was divided into two parts that felt different from each other - the first part was a little bit weaker than the second one, which was full of breathtaking acrobatic performances. The whole piece was actually a traditional circus show - with clowns during the intermissions imitating the previous performance in a messy way. In the first part, there were two performances that were very good - in the first one, called Powertrack, they quickly installed long trampolines and the artists were jumping above each other, it was like a dream. The second memorable piece, called Fire/Knife dance, included two half naked and very cute guys playing with fire, literally. At one moment, they danced with two torches burning from both sides. After the break, there was not a single weak piece in the second part, everything was simply amazing with the closing performance (Aerial High Bar) being the most stunning. I was very happy that I could enjoy it - thank you, my Riverside friends, once again!
After the show, I went for dinner with Antonio and Jose Manuel and later for a drink. We hit two bars, first one, called "Why not?", has a live DJ. The place is in a deep basement and the ceiling has the same decoration as the lovely Menagerie. The second bar, called "The Angel" was fortunately very close to my house as the universe began to be a little bit warped at 4am in the morning.
On Sunday, I saw "Los Fantasmas de Goya" or "Goya's Ghosts", the newest movie by Miloš Forman with Stellan Skarsgård playing Goya and Javier Bardem portraying an Inquisition monk. Situated around the outbreak of French revolution and the consequent French occupation of Spain. Worth seeing, even though it is very depressive.
UPDATE (16/11): Worth seeing not only for the European audience, I guess. One can draw parallels between the fate of particular people at the time depicted in the movie and any other time in the European history, like the early 70's in Czechoslovakia after the Soviet occupation. Forman is from the same country as me, so I can completely understand why he focused on some particular parts of the story. If somebody wants to understand the history of Europe, with all its tweaks and re-runs, "Los Fantasmas de Goya" can be the first step. Reading what I wrote, it sounds pretty pathetic, huh?

Friday, November 10, 2006

La Virgen en el tren

Cool! Another public holiday, this time we celebrated a patron saint of Madrid, La Virgen de la Almudena. On Wednesday, in my Spanish class I learnt a useful "expresión familiar": when there is a public holiday on Thursday like today, the Spaniards like to take a day off on Friday, too, and they call it "hacer puente". It's unofficial, thus extremely popular. I guess I celebrated this day with the best lunch here so far. I went for a menú diario to Areia Colonial, a restaurant/bar/chill-out on c/ Hortaleza, where I enjoyed a caipirinha on my first day in Madrid, so I have a special feeling towards that place. A wonderful salad with warm aromatic cheese on top was followed by "brocheta de langostinos". This feast was crowned by an outstanding "tarta de chocolate" that was served warm. In the afternoon I went to see a movie and as I happened to be in the Madrid de los Austrias, I went to check if there was anything happening on Plaza Mayor. Indeed, there was some fiesta there, as colourful as described in my travel guide. The castizos from Vallecas, dressed in traditional outfits, were dancing on the stage and were proudly accompanied by many people in the audience. I understand that the stage performance could be targeted on tourists, but the madrileños followed, so it was a pretty surreal experience. After the movie, I made a stop in fnac and bought a new CD by Alejandro Sanz, called El tren de los momentos. Passing by a Pull and Bear store, I remembered that I wanted to post a piece of an advertisement for their clothes with Evandro Soldati, a Brazilian supermodel that convinces me that if there is a God, he must be Brazilian.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Fuera de mí

Oh, a dreaming human brain... the land of wonders. You can get whatever/whoever (LOL) you want! Enough said.
Today, I had to pay for my Spanish class so I went to the ATM of my bank, Santander Central Hispano, on campus. There was a graffiti over the front door saying "Fuera de la UAM" and the ATM machine was painted over with a black spray, so nobody could see the screen. Amazing.

Monday, November 6, 2006

The river is wild

Hey you, whoever you are up there, listen: Enough is enough! One more weekend full of rain! Time to take some rest from these water activities, ¿vale?
On Saturday, I slept like a baby till noon and then I tried to get the tickets for "Alegría" (a Cirque du Soleil performance to which I got tickets as a farewell gift from my friends in Riverside). The tickets were bought through El Corte Inglés, that monstrous chain of gigantic department stores that obviously do other things such as ticketing. Well... it's too early to judge them, but I haven't got my tickets (yet?). Unfortunately, when the girl at the counter check the computer there wasn't my name anywhere and I couldn't be surprised that she didn't want to give the tickets to me, because anybody could come and try to do the same thing.
In the afternoon, Govi called me and as we discussed on Friday, we went to see "The Inconvenient Truth", or "Un verdad incómoda" in Castellano, to IDEAL Cinemas. To my surprise, Iván "the cutie" was there as well, I thought he'd left like a week ago, but he went to Italy for a conference and as it turned out it was his last day in Spain as he was flying back to the US on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, he had to do some packing so we didn't go for any cañas after the movie. Then Marco sent me a text message at 11pm from a rock bar called La leyenda, close to Plaza de España and told me to come over for have some beer with his girlfriend who came from Italy to visit him. The funny thing was that in that message the bar was on c/ San Bernardo, the street that I know so I didn't take any emergency map with me. When I got there, no such a place could be found, so I called Marco back and the bar was actually on c/ San Bernardino, fortunately very close from c/ San Bernardo, but because I didn't have any map, it took me a while to find it. I met also Mar and Marco's roommate there with whom I had some drinks in Lavapiés few days ago. The bar was a very eclectic place, playing various styles of music, from The Cure to ZZ Top. I was told that bands actually performed there pretty frequently. On the way back home, a big storm came, the streets were instantly flooded and we could call the Madrid's main artery easily the "Gran Río". I am sure there was more water in the streets than in the Manzanares river.
On Sunday, an ordinary Spanish homework and then I went to see "The Sketches of Frank Gehry" to another V.O.S. movie theatre, called Golem Alphaville on c/ Martín de los Heros, very close to Plaza de España, but because I got some training the last night, it was a piece of cake to find the cinema. The place is much, much nicer and cleaner than IDEAL, also the people are extremely friendly there, so I am positive that if I could choose, I would prefer Alphaville to IDEAL. The movie could become easily an adoration garbage, fortunately Sydney Pollack also included a voice of Hal Foster, a professor at Princeton, who was not as excited about Gehry's works as the other ones in the movie, including one artists who was interviewed in his house wearing a bathrobe and sunglasses and claiming that Gehry shouldn't care about the "naysayers" because they are just bunch of flies flying around a lion.
UPDATE (7/11): I received the tickets! Apparently all that the girl needed was a little letter written in Spanish that Mien sent to me, saying that the tickets were for me.

Friday, November 3, 2006

Madrid needs water

Madrid necesita agua. That's what I can read close to the drinking fountain in the cafeteria now. Yes, but it rains already for three weeks. Please, "too much water kills the water", OK? I need some sun!

Thursday, November 2, 2006

La fiesta en el barrio bajo

The Halloween we spent in Lavapiés, a barrio where the artists and other "dangerous people" live. First, we had many jarras of beer and some croquetas, patatas con queso and ensaladas in Taberna Achuri on c/ Argumosa. Sitting outside (as I was told, very unusual for this time of the year), we watched cool people dressed in really great costumes and also some homeless guys trying to find a bench to sleep. Then we went to another bar in the same neighbourhood, with IKEA lamps and 80's music, how stylish yet funny. Unfortunately, that place was very smoky, otherwise I would stay longer. Catching the last train from Atocha metro station, the barrio was still full of little kids dressed like devils.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Songs and Saints

Another busy weekend. On Saturday, I had to do some homeworks for my Spanish class. Many, many regular and irregular verbs... I was so tired that I took a nap and woke up in the night, ready for a drink. I called Fer and we met at 1am with his novio and some other friends and we hit a discotheque called Long Play with two stages and 5 DJs. It was a really nice place (it's good to know these places, so I am trying to remember as many of them as I can) and then, around 3am we went to a lesbian bar for some rock en español. I had to wake up quite early because we were supposed to meat at 10am at Plaza de Castilla and go for a trip to Ávila. That city is truly magical. Situated at the highest altitude of all Spanish provincial capitals, the entire Old city is walled with 88 towers and the walls are more than 2.5km long and 12m tall. They also marked the line between the wild world and civilization or between the power and domination and the poor countryside. To build the walls, numerous materials were used, including the pieces from the nearby Roman necropolis like urns and steles with inscriptions. The booklet about this UNESCO World Heritage Site says that the style of their construction suggests somebody with Arabic building skills, like the mudéjares, the Muslims that were permitted to live in Spain under Christian rule. The city of Ávila is also known for the famous saint, Santa Teresa, as she spent 30 years there. The booklet was surprisingly honest, they said that the convent where she lived was not attractive for its aesthetic (oh, these Spaniards are so polite, LOL) but the trail the saint left behind. Well... I saw a statue of Teresa in the wall of the church and she looked like she had 300 kilos of fresh weight and apparently, she levitated... These saints are just so funny... and they like galletas a lot.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Brass in pocket

Ha! There is a guy in my institute that is so intriguing that I have to write something about him. I don't know his name and it's really hard to find out. I meet him every Monday and Wednesday on my way back from the Humatinities building where I take my Spanish class. Everytime I say "¡Hola!" to him, but he never responds, like a star. Then, I often see him going to the gym (yes, he looks like he spends more time in the gym than at the bench). I asked Govi about him when we saw him after the language class (she is taking a French class at the same time as my Spanish) and she told me: "Oh, that's the one that everybody finds extremely attractive (LOL, yes, including me), but he is so arrogant!". Yes, sweetie, I can see that he is arrogant but that makes him so interesting. I hope I will find out something about him.
UPDATE (30/10): He sports a new haircut, a mohawk, yes, my friends... life is tough.
UPDATE (2/11): He works in the structural biology department.
UPDATE (27/11): He lives close to my house, I just met him in EROSKI!
UPDATE (29/11): He is queer.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

La tarjeta sanitaria

I received a temporary health care card! I am happy! After a little accident we had in Bizkaia, when I realized that if something happened to me, I couldn't show any proof that I actually had a health insurance, I finally found out that things were not as simple in Spain as I thought. At first, I had to go to the branch of the City Council that my streets belongs to. Then, having my "padron" in hands, I had to go to the "Centro de Salud", again, only the one that my streets geographically belongs to. Well, while getting the "padron" was a piece of cake, the "tarjeta sanitaria" took about three hours of waiting in an ugly hospital-like place. No pain no gain.

Monday, October 23, 2006

El Guiri Verdadero

It rains and rains here... On Friday, a drink with Nacho from 317, it was his last day at work. We met in the vinoteca on Plaza de Santa Ana (Bruce, Eva, Andrea and Jose Manuel) and later we hit a funny place called La Boca del Lobo. We had a great time, great music, just one little thing: there was a latino guy with gigantic ears who started to strip on the stage in the middle of the night. Kind of gross, fortunately his pants stayed on, LOL. On Saturday I went to see Children of men to the Ideal Cinemas close to Sol, but I am not very impressed. They show movies in original version with subtitles (V.O.S.), but the screen and sound is so crappy, well... better than nothing I guess. Then Govi called me to go for dinner with her friend from Texas. OMG, that guy, a medical doctor, was so cute! My gaydar was functional and later we hit a bar in Chueca together and his friends. I haven't been to that bar before but I did like it a lot!

Monday, October 16, 2006

From Picos de Europa to Bilbo

A Long weekend in Spain, on Thursday we celebrated "El Dia de la Hispanidad" or the Virgin "Del Pilar", depending whether you stay in Madrid or in Zaragoza. In Madrid, there was a big military parade on the Plaza de Colón - but I just heard about it in my Spanish class because we made a trip to the North of Spain. Originally, we thought we would spent that long weekend in Asturias, apparently the prettiest part of Spain, approx. 12 people, 3 cars etc. At the end, though, it was just five of us, so we fit in one car. In addition, it wasn't a trip to Asturias but to Cantabria and Euskadi (Pais Vasco). We were leaving on Thursday and when I was approaching my metro station in the morning, there were already crowds leaving the subway towards Paseo de la Castellana, because I live very close to the Plaza de Colón. On the way there, we made a quick stop in Burgos, an amazing old city with a beautiful cathedral. In Cantabria, we stayed in a house of Enrique's grandparents, but Enrique was in Michigan last week, so it was just his wife and kids (actually many, many kids, because there was another family visiting Esther). You can see the royal side of my boss on a picture called La Casona, it's the house we stayed in. On Friday, we made a trip to the eastern part of Cantabria, first we visited Santillana del Mar, which is known as "The village of three lies": it is not a holy city ("santa"), it's not flat ("llana") and it has no sea ("mar"). Very close to Santillana you can find the famous Altamira cave. Then we visited Comillas, a cute city close to the sea, famous for its castle, a big university and a house designed by Gaudi. The last place we visited on Friday was a city of San Vicente de la Barquera, a harbor that is close to the border with Asturias, so we could see Picos de Europa. On Saturday, we hit the western part of Cantabria and also the eastern part of Euskadi, a province called Bizkaia. In Cantabria, we visited Castro Urdiales, a holiday town with a beautiful cathedral and a Castle-Lighthouse. Then, crossing the border with Bizkaia, we realized how different were the provinces in Spain, it was like travelling in time: from the sleepy Cantabria, full of sheep and cows and cute little towns directly into a book written by Jules Verne about the industrialized Bizkaia. No doubt the Basques are so proud! In Bilbo, we made a short trip to see the Guggenheim Museo and then we had a wonderful lunch in the old city as the Basque chefs are known to be the best in Spain. On the way back, already in the night, we made a stop in Elantxobe, a fishermen's village that has such a small square that it has been motorized so the bus can turn around. By the way, the names in Euskara sound so good! Galdakaoko, for instance. Pure gems. Well, have a look at my Picasa website.

Monday, October 9, 2006


In contrast to the last weekend, a quiet one this time. A week ago, on Saturday, I went out with Antonio and Jose Manuel. At first, we we went to a music-kinda bar called Bar&Co. on a street named Barcó, what a funny name, huh? I was drinking gin'n'tonics with them, a big mistake. Then I needed more money and what a mess! The ATMs we saw on the way to another bar (cajeros in Castellano) were out of money, these Spanish people really drink like crazy. Well, then we finally spotted one ATM with money, but as soon as I put my only card inside, the keyboard became unresponsive and I was worried that I would end up without my card. Fortunately, after 5 minutes of desperation, the cajero popped the card out. Finally, one ATM was working and having a 50€ bill, I was ready to get fucked up. Well, I thought so... the bill was fake, as the bartender told me. I used the bill the day after in a restaurant, without any problem. Still don't know whether it was fake or not... On Sunday, I woke up at noon with a terrible headache, no B12 to reach... I promised to Govi that I would go to the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum with her. I sent her a text message whether she REALLY wanted to go and apparently yes, so I had to drink 2 double espressos to be responsive and we hit the museum. What a wonderful place! So far, the best museum in Madrid for me. Very cute inside, the walls are painted in a pink/orange colour, a wonderful collection of paintings, a nice museum store (I couldn't resist to get a Renoir poster for my house), such a gem.
The week was OK, I took a classification test for a Spanish class at the university on Monday and on Friday I found out that I was accepted to a B1 (español básico uno) class, which means that nobody's Spanish could be worse than mine, LOL. The classes start on Monday! Maite from my lab gave me three months to learn Spanish, well... we'll see.
Yesterday, there was a lunch BBQ in the house of Enrique's parents that were out of town. I posted some pictures on my Picasa's web site, so you can check out my wonderful "El Jefe", his family and also bunch of people from the institute. Marco, Maite and Teresa work with me, the rest are mostly people from the 317 lab. Enrique, Miguel, Marco and Andrea did a good job, the meat was wonderful. Then a LOT of drinks, of course, I am in Spain now. That house was close to a subway station, so everybody could drink without a limit, it's a good thing to have a public transportation here.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Back in the Everlasting city

Germany, oh Germany... Happy to be back in Madrid! It was like going back home but with all the little things I dislike there, for instance, everything had to be organized sharply to the last second and if you don't follow the rules, you're in trouble (yeah, for me it's like looking in the mirror, right, Steph?). But how can you follow the rules when you have all the wonderful people around? I am so happy I met the European "trafficking community". They made the meeting so great. We were drinking like crazy, going to sleep everyday early in the morning, yet ready for the talks after just four hours of sleep.
We flew there with the Chilean company called LAN, they fly from Santiago de Chile through Madrid to Frankfurt/Main. So we boarded the plane for the last 1/10th of the flight. Surprisingly, we got real metal cutlery and glass cups! There was a woman in front of me who accidentally broke the glass, so there were sharp pieces of glass everywhere, how weird. We got to Frankfurt safely, but the place where the meeting was taking place was another 200 km away! So we had to take a bus to a former US military base, now an international airport in Frankfurt-Hahn and a cab from there to Zell/Mosel. How confusing to have two places called Frankfurt, don't you think? Well, we knew about it, but the Ian Moore's group didn't and they took a cab from the other one and at the end they paid like 200€. The meeting was in a former monastery on the top of the hill, so it was pretty challenging to get there after our visits in the pubs downhill in the village.
The last day we left the place around 10am and our flight was in the night, so we had the whole day to explore Frankfurt. We decided to test the reliability of Deutsche Bahn and we bought a ticket for a small regional train from that small village to Koblenz, where we changed to an Eurocity high-tech train to Mainz and then an Intercity (ICE) high-speed train to Frankfurt/Main. It was like going through a century in 2 hours. Those ICE trains are so cute! In Frankfurt, we did some shopping for Enrique's kids and ate real Frankfurter sausages. The flight back was delayed for two hours, apparently the plane from the day before didn't leave due to some technical difficulties and we were not told anything and the LAN people were not helping too much, well... originally I was impressed how good the service was on the way to Germany and I had to change my mind after the round trip.
Yesterday, it was a special night here, La noche en blanco, synchronized with four other European capitals. The museums were open till 2am and there were other activities around the city till 6am. Unfortunately, everywhere we went (I joined the Ecuadorians again), there were long lines and we didn't see anything but the half of Madrid in the streets. At least we had a wonderful dinner.
Today, I went to Museo del Prado, I wanted to see the "Pinturas negras", the Black paintings by Goya. It's an amazing experience. Next time, I will buy a comprehensive guide, the museum is so big, you can see it in little pieces only. Then I saw there was an exhibition of modern architecture in Spain in Real Jardin Botanico, so I spent some time there as well. As soon as I have some ID for the institute, this place should be free for me as an employee of CSIC.

Monday, September 18, 2006

El Viajero

My first real week here just passed. Getting to the lab is a piece of cake. My apartment is close to a train station called Recoletos from which there are three different lines going in the campus direction, lucky me. I am just waiting at the platform and basically whatever comes, I can board. The trains are packed at the rush hours but very clean and nice. BTW, those are the trains that were bombed an they go underground in tunnels through the city. Many people leave the trains at the Nuevos Ministerios station and then at the Chamartín station, so when we approach Cantoblanco-Universidad station, the trains are not so full anymore. Enrique told me that they had built the campus so far away from the city, because Franco was afraid of student protests and that place was surrounded by military camps. No matter what was the reason, it takes me about 40 minutes by train and additional 20 minutes by walk to get from my house to my new lab. Welcome in Europe! The institute is cool, Mien knows what I am talking about. The lab next door (No. 317) is full of great people, it's a truly international lab: Bruce is from Scotland, Sandra is from Portugal and Govi from Ecuador. In my lab, which is No. 316, we have an Italian PhD student called Marco. I went out with Marco and Govi and her friends (three Ecuadorian boys, one girl from Basque country and one girl from Madrid) on Friday. First, we went to a "poetry" place, where they served basically only sangria and the walls were decorated by verses from different poets. Kind of a cool place, too much smoke though, because the pub is in a deep basement. Surprisingly for me, that was the only place so far that was really smoky, the other places usually have a good ventilation so I don't stink like a smoked salmon after, even though people still smoke like crazy here. Then we went to a place called Alhambra, where they played rock en español. Then something to eat - unfortunately, we were a large group and we couldn't find a place that would accommodate us all, so we ended up in a kebab place. These cheap kebab restaurants are like everywhere here! Then one more bar, where we danced like crazy but after that it's kind of blurry, LOL, we got really drunk. Fortunately, it's easy for me to get back to my place safely, because I really live downtown!
On Saturday, I had to do some laundry and I had to take my stuff like 15 minutes walking from my place because the laundromat in my complex is open only during the weekdays and only from 10-19 when I am in the lab or on the way home, that sucks. But the public laundromat I discovered is pretty clean and straightforward and the machines and dryers are way better that in my place and it's on the border of Chueca so the customers are cute, I cannot complain. Just it takes some time to get there, LOL. Then Ruben, a friend of Antonio, called me and we went out with his roommate and that was nice, too. We had a long conversation (in English, of course) about Spain and democracy and all the changes that this country is going through right now and also about the mysterious royal family. Also, Ruben's roommate told me that all the places I went on Friday are stupid places for tourists, it was funny, well, I guess I am a tourist here then. Well, it was past 1 am when we left the dinner place and me and Ruben were going for a drink to another dark and filthy place.
I slept till the afternoon today, I guess that I am getting used to the late lunch, the ultra late dinner and the hyper late going-to-sleep time.
I am going to Germany for a conference with Enrique tomorrow, it's a workshop about protein trafficking in Zell am Mosel that is in a Riesling wine country. We have a wine tasting scheduled for one of the evenings.