Saturday, May 02, 2009

Europe Trip: First Accounts...

Much wanted for is a blog post, precisely a travelogue, which depicts my Europe trip. I must say, it was one of the trips I would never forget - whether it is from the career point of view, or just for my mere love of traveling. My trip was short, but very sweet, and the places that I traveled to were Madrid and Paris, both in western Europe. A per-day account follows from this point onwards. In this blog I have accounted for my first three days in Madrid. The rest, along with the Paris blog would follow soon!

Apr 19: I started from my home early morning, helped by Uday to get dropped at the airport. I needed to get a domestic flight first, to Chicago, and then had a connection to Madrid on the Spanish airline Iberia. The one stress that I always had before I started my journey was my 100% ignorance of the language in either of the two countries. Apart from a "hi" and a "thank you", I had no clue about how I would express myself out there. Much before I started, friends recommended I learn a bit of Spanish and French, but my ever-busy schedule did not let me a single opportunity to do so. My Chicago flight was delayed, almost by an hour due to bad rains there. Though I was skeptical I am going to miss the connection to Madrid, which would mean staying a night in Chicago, things fell in place when the Iberia flight was delayed as well! I embarked on my journey, when I figured a significant number of the passengers were Spainiards.
The flight was long and boring. The food was mostly continental, and so were the drinks, ref. Heiniken (not one of my favorites). This wasn't the real feel of Spain yet!

Apr 20: I reached in the Barajas Intl Airport in the morning, about 11:30 am local time, which is nine hours ahead of Arizona time. I knew how to get to the hotel from there - went down the terminal, got some currency exchange and walked to the Metro station. I had to change at a certain station in the middle and then had to walk to the hotel which was hardly about 200 meters from the station. At this point what really helped me was Google Maps street view. I had already looked up where the station was and how I needed to walk up to the hotel. So when I walked out of the station, it felt I had been there already! Good God, technology!
The hotel was 3 star and so quite upscale as far as the amenities and the hotel associates were concerned. They would speak English, so it wasn't an issue for me. The guy helped me take my bags to the room and I thanked him "Gracias". To my surprise, I found the elevator to be really small, even at a upscale hotel - unlike the ones you see in the States where you can virtually sleep! The room was nice and cozy. I quickly freshened up and got ready in formals. I had to run to the conference venue where one of my friends / ex-colleague was presenting his paper at a workshop. I took the Metro again and used my Google Maps street view experience to find out the conference venue easily!
The conference venue was quite different from the locality my hotel was in. It looked new and the buildings you would see were new and quite urban, much like a regular office area in the States. I registered for the conference onsite and quickly moved on to the room where that Workshop was. Soon after had lunch and checked out some talks.
That day I was terribly jetlagged. Had to return to the hotel about 6 pm because I was too sleepy to even sit upright! No dinner, I came and dozed off.

Apr 21: This was in fact the real "free day" at the conference, because most of the talks were not of interest to me. So me and the friend who was presenting there went out after lunch at the conference to visit the Palacio Real (The royal palace of Spain). For the first time we saw the real face of the city! Madrid is adorned by lots of old buildings which have survived hundreds of years. However the Palace was a different story altogether. It was beautiful and elegant despite being old - something you would hardly see in the architecture in India.
Unfortunately the palace was closed on that day so we walked around some church, and took a nice walk at the Plaza Mayor which is a 17th century historic locality in Madrid. We caught some glimpses of Madrid life - narrow streets, old houses, canopy windows, a painter and the regular people.
On our way back, we were surprised and pleased to come across with the official welcome to the Indian President! Apparently Pratibha Patil was visiting Madrid at the same time as a National tour. So we were coincidentially a part of the entire royal welcome she got - horses well enamoured with jewels, nice vintage cars and what not! As a second coincidence we met one of my collaborators and her friend there as well!
We paused during our walk next to grab some coffee. Just to give you an idea, a small coffee which is half the size of the ones you get in Starbucks here, costed 2 euros. We sat and chatted nicely for a long time. We din't even realize it was two hours already!
I had an invitation from the Yahoo! party at the conference, so I had to rush there. Going there was nice fun. Though technically not a Yahoo! yet, but as a future Yahoo! person it was nice to interact with some of the people there. I tried the Yahootini - which is a vodka based Martini specially made on account of the Yahoo! party!
I returned back to the hotel at about 10 pm. Again I was very tired, but worked on my talk a little bit, which was scheduled a couple of days later.

Rest of my account would follow soon. Hope this left you excited! :)


Aravind Krishna K said...

good to see a Travelogue from you.. It feels very nice when you revisit the post after say few months !

Munmun said...

@ T, yeah and possibly years too!

durga said...

When is the next installment coming out?

Moumita said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Moumita said...

Funny that you found the elevators small. Most houses in Europe and England are very small and cramped compared to US average apartments. May be to help with heating.

Spain could be little different.