Thursday, September 23, 2010

Spain Trivia Game

Hello loyal readers,
To see how many of you have been paying attention to my blog and to what depth, I am hosting a trivia game! The first person to answer the 24 questions below and email me the answers will win a 5-10 euro prize! The people who went on the trip with me are not eligible.

Email the answers to

If no one has gotten everything correct by Saturday I will have to pick the person with the most correct responses.

Good Luck!
  1. List all the food/entertainment things that both the Walkies and I brought:
  2. What superhero did we pose with in Madrid?
  3. What 3 restaurants did I go to on my Madrid evening walk?
  4. What was the name of our bike tour guide?
  5. What brand of beer is Rudy Fernandez on a box of?
  6. What museum did we go to twice? How much did it cost?
  7. What dish did Eric and I end up ordering when we failed to get tapas the first time?
  8. What is Eric and my favorite cheap meal?
  9. What animal was in the Madrid train station?
  10. What treat did we get on the ZocoTrain?
  11. What was Eric’s dream the first day in Sevilla?
  12. What sporting events have we watched on TV in Spain?
  13. Which actor does Eric think is a heartthrob?
  14. What are the four people depicted carrying Christopher Columbus’s Tomb?
  15. How many cats has Eric tried to make friends with? How many has he been successful with?
  16. What did we feed the cat in Granada?
  17. What was Allison's favorite animal at the Zoo?
  18. How many panoramajama’s have there been on this trip?
  19. Where was the only water fountain we found in all of Spain?
  20. In what city did we do laundry?
  21. What city was the first place we actually did tapas correctly?
  22. Other than Spanish what type of food did we have the most of?
  23. What is one reason why more people make out in public places like parks in Spain?
  24. What has been YOUR favorite post and why?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Grad Consortium, Madrid and Free Tapas

Well, today was the day of the grad consortium as well as the day that Allison left, so basically I was on my own for most of the day.

Allison departed at about 6:00, I think? I was not yet awake, I have heard that she made it safely home. I may now lose one of my more consistent readership cities as Allison's mom may no longer read it.

So this will be a short blog, but I just would like to thank all of you. Even if you didn't comment, I did know that people were reading as I could follow along and see how many hits I was getting, and it was a good feeling knowing 20 something people were enjoying my blog.

I also got a compliment from an OSU professor about my blog at the conference, so that was neat :).

Ok, so anyway, the rest of the roommates had to leave at like... 7:30? Sometime that I am not aware of, since I wasn't involved in the planning. I do remember walking up and hearing them chopping potatoes and some talking and then going back to sleep and then waking up and discovering that I was all alone, which was something that basically hasn't happened since about... September 8th.

So I read a little bit, have I mentioned yet that I have blown past Eric in our book? Well I have, not that I expected anything less, but I know Eric had high hopes. There are very few people that I believe can outread me.... of course there are probably lots of people who after we are done with a book would be able to test on it better... maybe?

So after reading, I finished up my presentation and then I had a small lunch. I was waiting for Markus, my friend from Germany to arrive, since he was coming in and we were going to check out Madrid. Unfortunately, he had a lot of bad travel, and so he wasn't able to make it. So after I while I just struck out into the city to explore a little bit.

I actually really love walking through Madrid. I have a fairly good sense of direction which helps a lot, but the city, actually all cities in Spain

So I needed to get a shirt for the conference, I managed to pack not enough polo's... which was silly of me, I should have planned better than that. So that was my primary goal while walking around. I went into a few shops and finally settled on an olive greenish polo that was pretty nice, as well as not expensive. I can also wear it again, so that is nice.

I then went and got a few more post cards. I realized that Allison took some of the postcards home that I had purchased, which was a little unfortunate. I then walked around a little more. And I saw a couple of cool things:

The first... well not cool thing, but I walked by the Church of Scientology:
It was huge! and fancy and I could have gone in and got tested for free. I figured, I didn't really need that, so I walked on by, but I thought that the size of the place was funny.

I saw what I think was the congress of Spain? I am not sure since it seemed so unguarded. Only like 5 policeman, all sitting in their cars smoking, but it said Congress of the ... something. :p

The final thing I saw was the funny bull statue, that was interesting only in that it looked very mad, the shirt says Crazy Bull.

So eventually I headed home and looked up how to get stamps and went and did that. I had to do it entirely in Spanish! It was actually not as bad as I would have thought, and really it was kind of smooth.

Then I got ready to go to the Welcome reception, except a few minutes before I was going to leave, Eric contacts me and says they aren't feeling the reception so they are just going to come home, which is fine with me, it means I don't have to travel! :)

I also arrange it so Markus comes back with them. So eventually, they show up, it turns out they turned the wrong way for the train and so they had to walk to the next train station which was about a mile away.... :-/ Not very fun.

So they show up and we eventually go out to eat at a little place near here. The lady spoke english and yet did not understand our orders. Chris B. tried ordering a Spanish Omelet and she was like, Spanish Omelet? and he was like Yes. And she said.. A Spanish Omelet? and he again said yes and point to the picture on the menu. And she said, its eggs and potatoes, and he said yes, I want that. She finally just accepted it. I am not quite sure what she was trying to tell him or thought that he didn't know.

After dinner we split up, they all went to get their posters while Markus and I went to drink a beer and talk for awhile. I took him to the place where they had belgian beer but sadly they were closed, so we just went to this little shop right under Hotel Cruz Sol. And we got tapas!!!! We ordered a beer and they brought us two chicken wings. lol... it wasn't the best tapas, but they were legitimate tapas and we weren't even trying. It is like... we are learning! :)

That was pretty much the evening. We tried going to bed early since we all had to wake up early for the conference. We sort of didn't succeed at that, but we tried!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


So... I think this is the title that I promised to use, but I am not exactly sure. It was a pretty low key day today. Eric, Chris B, and Todd were headed off to go get their posters made and then were planning on working on their presentations for the day. So it was up to Allison and I to find something fun to do.

Depending on how you feel about art, it was either good news or bad news that all of the museums were closed on today, as it was a Monday, and apparently no cool things can be open on Monday's. I suppose this is one way to avoid people having a case of the Mondays... so at least that is something.

So, we decided to go to the Zoo! A baby panda had just been born at the zoo, which made me think about it, and Allison seemed excited. Our stop was on the same metro line as the people actually doing work, and so we all headed out together.

Here we are in the Metro station waiting for the train. Eric is trying super hard not to look at the camera since I mentioned that I like action/candid shots better. I am not sure that is working for him.

So the train ride was pretty smooth. We made the transfer and other than the train losing power on the tracks at a stop, everything went fine. Once off we had to walk a little ways to the zoo, but soon we were there. It almost appeared as if no one was there. In fact, we could barely find any place to get in. We finally found a ticket window and bought our.... slightly too expensive tickets and then we were in. Don't get me wrong the zoo was cool and huge, but each ticket was 18 euros... which was, other than hotels and transportation the second most expensive thing we have done all trip! It would be the most expensive, but my tourist trap lunch from the first day was 19 euros. Curse you chubby spiderman!

Anyway, the zoo was entirely empty... I really mean entirely:

So.... can I just take a golf cart?

The only people that I actually saw were a couple making out by the bathrooms... so, we pretty much had the zoo to ourselves. The first stop was to the flamengoes, there was a little thing of bird seed there, and Allison wanted to feed the birds.
So she got some and tossed it out to them. They were very receptive:

This is the flamengo reaction to food, it is also the typical reaction to sun, rain, wind, yells from annoyed zoo goers and air horns.

So, Allison gave up and I finally just started tossing the bird food as far as I could get it to go and it started bouncing off the flamengoes. After getting hit by like 5 or 20 pellets, one of the birds finally looked around and noticed something. ONE! WE concluded that the flamengoes are just not very smart.

We continued walking and soon found the penguins. They were actually rather boring as they just stop around. A couple swam a little bit, but in general they didn't do anything.

We saw a few more exhibits, including the seal and sea lion and some rhinos, and then we stumbled across the elephants. I like elephants, they are sort of my own chosen animal.... lol... I am not sure you can choose an animal, but, I like elephants...
The next stop was the kiddie zoo, where I got to feed the goats. The goats were very very excited about being feed. A little too excited considering that they were already super fat. I tried to make sure that the little goats got food too since they kept getting butted out of the way.

One of the main exhibits at the zoo was that you could buy a ticket to walk with the lemurs. I have to say, that doesn't look particularly fun, they are all asleep.

In fact I think I make a better and more active lemur than those guys.

Directly across from the lemurs was Allisons favorite animal at the zoo the Leopard. It was pretty cool, even if all it did was yawn and stare at the lemurs hungrily.

Here is Allison with the Leopard scratching in the background. Better watch out Gort!

Strongly challenging the leopard was the giraffe's which Allison has always liked and has many socks of.

This giraffe enjoyed rubbing against the railing.

Oh, hello there. I'm a giraffe!
The zoo had a lot of little antelope things as well as a few camels. This was the cutest little antelope since it would run around and nip and things and then dash away really fast.

So we realized that we could catch the Seal/Sea lion show if we hurried so we ran to the monkey exhibit... which was ... huge as well as stinky and kind of gross. It was just covered in garbage and the monkeys were... not very sanitary. It was kind of crazy.

This little monkey had this doll and he really loved it. He would kiss it. And then he would hold it down by his crotch, and then kiss it again... then it fell and he went sliding down the pole to retrieve it

So after that we hustled to the show and arrived just before it stated. It was a pretty good show. The smaller seal was by far the best and the trainer seemed more into too. The show was pretty good, although all of the music was disney music remade in spanish, which was a tad creepy.
After the show we tried to get food... only to discover that all the places at closed at 4:30. (Note... technically, it was 420 when we were trying to get food so I think that they just closed early since there was no one there)

So we kept walking around and we saw some more antelopes and we saw a lot of chimps, then we saw some orangutans. This one had a baby that it was very protective of. The orangutans were cool... and very smart. One came over to the window and stared at us.

We came across the meerkat exhibit and despite these little guys being the fatest meerkats I have ever seen they were still on the look out for predators.. they couldn't decide about me, the lookout stared at me for a long time:
Finally, we showed up for the dolphin show, which was really cool. The dolphins pulled this little girl around in a boat and then did flips and jumped through hoops. It was great, best part of the zoo I think. My camera did not do a good job capturing this at all... but here is a picture: oh... lol... the first picture is just me sitting there... you can tell the place is pretty full, we were lucky to find a seat.

Here is a picture of the dophins doing tricks!
The final exhibit was the bears, which were really funny, they would roam around and pace and then stop and stare at these pigs and just stare at them. All three bears would do this! The pigs got restless and hid. so the bears started pacing again!

At the exit to the zoo there was a giraffe ride that Allison got to go on. She seemed very excited... almost as excited as the horde of kids that followed her up the stairs.
(Note: Not a real giraffe despite how life like it looks.)

And then we were done. We headed home, hungry but satisfied that we had seen the entire zoo. It had been a good day.

We had to get dinner on our own since the other group ate without us, but that allowed Allison to get snacks for her flight, so that was probably good.

It was sad to see Allison go, since she has been a trusty member of the group since the beginning, but I can't claim the conference would have been super exciting for her.

Eric may or may not guest blog the missing piece of today, since I couldn't be in two places at once.

Until tomorrow loyal readers!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bob Barker your country... er... Spain needs you!

I am sure that many of you are familiar with the typical ending to the price is right where Bob Barker implores people to spay and neuter their pets. Well Bob Barker, or someone like him needs to come to Spain and start that campaign, because there and tons of stray cats here.

Often they don't seem entirely like strays as several places people have set out food for the cats to eat. For example, in Madrid, the cats at the botanical gardens had a plate of food set out for them when we walked by. This was similar in Malaga where we walked by a construction zone and there was a cat eating off a paper plate. It quickly scurried away when we stopped.

I am not sure if there is a reason why there are so many cats here, as I mentioned before it could be to try and counter act more worrisome pests such as mice or rats, but it seems like there might be better ways to deal with it.

Below are the pictures of the cats we have seen during our travels. Almost all of them are included, along with some short explanations.

So we started noticing this in our first stop, the city of Madrid. While there were not a whole lot of cats in the streets or the main parts of the city, it did seem like there were smart enough to find safe places to stay, such as the Botanical gardens.

Here is the first cat we took a picture of. It is at the botanical gardens in Madrid, and it wouldn't be Eric's friend.

As I mentioned before the park was full of cats, and someone was also putting food out for them. This cat is sunning itself on the window of a building in the garden.


Since this was our first stop we figured that this might be an isolated event, especially since we only noticed this at the botanical gardens. However, this was not the case. At our next in Toledo we ran into the river cats. These cats, which seemed like mostly young cats, were playing with each other, chasing around and fighting near the river in Toledo. The city did not seem to have a lot of cats, but this may have been because the cats were too lazy to climb all the way up the hill.
The cats were pretty skinny but they seemed to be full of energy, at least they were chasing each other around.
Sevilla was probably too warm in general to house a large population of cats, although their certainly could have been some around the river. However, we did not see any. After our first trip to the river in which we saw lots of graffiti and not so scenic sights, we did not go back.

However, we did discover a fair amount of cats in the Alcazar gardens. It seems like this would be a great place for them. Not only is is shaded and cool and has lots of places to hide, but there are also a ton of birds for the cats to hunt.

The first cat we ran into seemed to feel like it controlled an entire pathway in the garden.

The second cat was hunting peacocks or ducks in the garden. It wasn't successful while we were watching, but you never know.

The other cat that we found in Sevilla could be described as more of a desert cat. In fact it was braving degrees over 100 Fahrenheit and didn't seem to be bothered by it at all. In fact it just found a shady spot and was napping when we ran across it. I offered it some water, but it seemed fine with it and wandered off to find some shady area that was undisturbed.

Malaga while, very temperate, did not seem to be home to a ton of cats. We did find this one that seemed to be enjoying the nice weather. It was also breathing from it's mouth, so hopefully it was ok. We saw some cats that were under some cars, but we couldn't really take pictures of them. You would think that cats would love Malaga since it is basically like one huge litter box with all the sand.

Granada was the city with by far the most cats, although we may have just not been looking in the right places. In general, you could split the cats into three groups:

The street cats: Slightly streetwise, seemed to be used to humans, found on the streets, they were generally pretty brave.

This street cat was staring down a car:

These kittens were fearless as they played in the streets. Their mom was less so, but she carefully watched them:

They have even taken to riding motorcycles:

The Canal cats: These cats were all found in the canal and seemed less comfortable with humans, but they seemed like a huge family. There were there both days we walked by.

A group of kittens huddled together for warmth:

A kitten that reminded me of sprinkles, only not as awesome or energetic:

Lots more cats under the bridge:

Some cats would even jump to rocks in the middle of the stream/canal and clean themselves.

They were also avid climbers and were able to take advantage of the canal wall.

The final group of cats was the palace cats, which seemed undisturbed by anything, almost with a sense of royalty ingrained.

Here they are sleeping in the shade:
This kitten looks regal/evil, like we shouldn't be taking it's picture.

In short, Bob Barker, Spain needs you to help control the stray cat population. I am sure there is an opening... and since you aren't doing the price is right anymore, you could start the Spanish one, El Precio Correcto. (I am sure that looks like I made it up, I swear that is the actual translation).

This post is dedicated to Sprinkles, who I hope is still being good. I have gotten reports that she is growing lazy!

All we needed was a guide!

So, this is going to be a pretty short blog post since basically we did a lot of traveling and sitting around. So I will be adding another special edition blog post later today, that should be of particular interest to my feline readership.

So we sat the alarm for 9 AM, and it went off and we kind of all staggered awake slowly but surely. The bar next to our window had been open late again and so it turned out that Eric didn't actually get to bed until like 5 AM since it was so loud and he was working and he just couldn't get to sleep. But it is Eric, and he is used to a lack of sleep, so I am sure that it will be fine.

I actually think that Eric operates better on little or no sleep, it is like his default mode. In fact, look how excited he is about our bags being packed.

So we had been planning on going to breakfast at the hotel, but we haven't finished packing and it is about 10 already. Our bus leaves at 11, so we are a little bit worried about how that is going to go. We decide to skip out on breakfast since,
a) It was not that good to begin with
b) it took forever to get
c) we figured that we could get better food at the bus station.

So we head down to check out and we ask the lady for a taxi. The front desk has been less than helpful our entire time at this hotel, and we thought that we would just ask them to call a taxi. And the lady informs us that she can't call them because they probably wouldn't answer the phone since it is a Sunday...was it a Sunday?... wow, yes it was a Sunday.

So she explains that we should just walk up the street to the taxi stop and that would work better.

Get out of my hotel! but... taxi?.. GET OUT! (not really, she didn't yell at us)
So we walk up the road and we find a little taxi sign, but there are no taxis, so we are unsure about what to do. We decide to head up the road some more since it seems like there might be more taxis at a more major road.

We luck out, there are indeed taxi's there. I had been worried that the lady was just trying to drive us away and had just told us there were taxis up here to get us to leave. So we snag the first one in line, load our stuff off and away we go!

We get to the bus station in relatively good time, showing up at about 10:30. However, there is no food! What are we going to do. We need food if we are to survive for the 5 hour bus ride. In sort of a mild panic we head outside to asses our options, which are thus:

1) Run down the street to the McDonalds
2) Run across the street to some little cafe's

The cafe's are closer, but we don't know exactly what they serve, they might actually be real restaurants and we can't get anything to go. We gamble and choose the cafe's. The first place we walk into is actually a bar and as we stand there I figure we should at least check out the other place and so I bound off to the next store.

She doesn't speak english!!! yikes.... So I brokenedly ask "... uh... comida para llevar?" which means food to go? She sort of understands and says si, and so I ask Cuantos Minutos? And she rambles at me in spanish and I assume she is basically saying something like it depends on what you order.

I tell here one moment and run back to the other place and gather the group. We order our sandwiches and Allison gets an apricot thing. We are in good shape it is only about 10:45. So we head back across the street to the bus station and get on our bus. There is no bathroom on the bus which is very troubling, and seems weird considering it is a 5 hour bus ride. I guess Spaniards have amazing bladders?

So we head out and the bus is pretty smooth. Eric and Chris B. work on their conference stuff, Allison, who had a very talkative seatmate who told her multiple times that he made a lot of money, listened to her iPod and I read some more.

Eric working:
The bus ride is smooth enough, but it turns out that the bus actually stopped... so we didn't have to go hurrying around for food. We could have just eaten at the most amazing rest stop ever. Not only did it have tons of food, but the bathrooms, while containing weirdly sloped sinks, were actually clean! Also, there was a museum of olive oil on the second floor.

I am not sure this picture shows it clearly, but this is us in the bus stop.

The stop was 30 minutes and so we grabbed some food and then we ate and used the bathroom and hurried back on the bus. I was actually the last person on the bus. (I waited until the last moment to go to the bathroom, just in case)

The rest of the bus ride was pretty uneventful. I have now passed Eric in our book though. Which Eric is sad about. I try not to talk about it a lot though.

We arrive in Madrid actually a few minutes early and we head for the metro to get to our apartment. Being in Madrid is almost like old hat for us and we easily navigate the metro and our soon on our way.

Here is Allison and Chris B. on the metro. You may have noticed by now that they were all wearing greenish shirts. I felt left out, but I did not have anything that was green. Woe is me! I guess that makes me stand out more?

We arrive at the apartment at 4:30 and magically run into the guy we are supposed to meet as he is going in. What an amazing coincidence! It was great. We had been worried about how that was going to work.... We have to get cash to pay the rent, but that works out way better than we thought since the ATM is just about right below the apartment, and the guy was really nice. He even gave us a really good tapas recommendation!

Todd is somewhere in the city and so he soon finds his way to the apartment and our party is strengthened by one, once again. Since we are all CS majors, we tend to huddle around and use WiFi whenever we can. Here we are IM'ing each other in the same room instead of just talking ;).
I decided that I need to do laundry, so I start that. This is supposedly a washer/dryer... at least that is what I assume since there is not a dryer in the apartment. I don't really know how that works. We should have asked the guy before he left. So I start a load of laundry and hope that everything works out ok. I don't add my conference stuff since I want to make sure it works before I do that.

At 8 we are supposed to meet with one of Chris B.'s friends from Denver who now lives in Madrid teaching music at a school. His name is Chris Suazo... which is yet another Chris... so... I am not sure yet how I will get around that.

Anyway, he takes us for a little walk through Madrid or a very small part of it on our way to a few tapa's bars that he knows. He his great! Knowledgeable and friendly, and he knows his way around. Walking around Madrid again actually feels pretty comfortable, we are in the same basic area that we were in last time and despite the fact that we were only there for three days I seem to remember the area fairly well, which is nice. Oh... so I asked him why so many people in Spain made out in parks and roman ruins and he informed us that it was mostly because they often don't have places of their own. The either shares flats or even live with their parents, so parks are one way to sort of be out on your own.

He takes us to a tapas bar and... it is full of people. Absolutely packed, this is the type of place that we have been scared to go into. But he leads us in and explains that you have to order from the bar (which Eric and I and you have to wait around for a space. So he orders us some ciders and he gets 3 plates of tapas!!! Wow, and they are all amazing. We stand around unsure what to do and eventually we see some space that has cleared so we head back there and maneuver for a spot and settle in.

Here is Eric and our trusty guide, enjoying tapas in our little corner. The tapas are great, and we can't believe that we actually got 3 plates worth! We get another round since we figure that we are kind of settled in and so we should enjoy it while we can.
THREE MORE PLATES OF TAPAS!!!! One is croquettes, (basically jalepeno poppers only with a sort of ham paste, one is garlic fries, and the other is ham on bread)

After our second round, people are beginning to crowd in and to try and steal our area. Also Chris Suazo gets a call from his partner and they are going to go to this little fish market place that is just down the road, so we manage to wrangle ourselves out of our corner and like hungry wolves going after prey, the patrons of the bar soon fill in the area.

We get to the bar pretty quickly, and Chris Suazo, is friends with the bartender and they shake hands and he tells him that we are his friends from the U.S. and that he is showing us around. The bartender is amazing. We order a round and.... get more tapas!!! Hurrah!
One of our plates of tapas:

Chris and Chris and Todd talking and enjoying Tapas.We order another round and we get more Tapas, in fact, we even sometimes get tapas just because the bartender thinks that we look hungry. (like I said, he was great)

Here is a shot of me... explaining something or ... I don't know what, all the tapas (read the drinks that came with them) sort of went to my head.

We also ordered sort of a russian roulette kind of tapa. Some huge plate of peppers and there are just a few that are really super spicy and then the rest are mild and normal.

This is what they looked like. I wasn't close enough to the other plate to count. But I got 1 very spicy one and 1 medium spicy one and eric got 2 very spicy ones and 3 medium spicy ones.. soo... I win? I don't know how to keep score. The peppers were very good though. When we got the played we were like... woah! and the bartender smiled and said "Ooo lala" Did I mention he was awesome?
Soon Chris Suazo's partner arrived with a friend and more drinks were order and more food was brought to us. It was like a never ending supply if tapas! It was amazing.

Allison also got in on the party, drinking several hard ciders and sangria like drinks.

Eventually that took a toll:
By the time we were finished with tapas we were all very full and very happy. Allison pounded her last drink and to commerate the bartender notice and... brought us more tapas, some more little croquette things.

We finally say our goodbyes and profuse thanks to Chris Suazo for being our guide and showing us great tapas and helping us through it and we head home for the night.

I check my laundry and... it isn't really dry... so I am not sure what exactly is up with it. I decide to just hang it up for the night and let it dry. (This works pretty good as in the morning they are nice and crisp and dry)

Yay for laundry!