A blast from the past

A blast from the past
Camera
Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT
Taken
2006-05-23 22:43:24
Exposure
1/60
Aperture
f/4.0
ISO
800

Chris and I during one of several wine parties we had the week the Reading crew were in town. (Photo: Vergine)

It was a fun few days as four of our friends from Reading descended upon Madrid and back into our lives for another round of adventure. Unfortunately, like all school time visits there is no perfect time and we also had assignments due which invaded our chance to spend more time with our visitors. So while we were in class (some of us), they headed into Madrid and saw the sights — likely more than I have at this point. But in the evenings, we managed to spare some time to talk, laugh and drink some wine.

It is always sad leaving good friends for an indefinite amount of time, as I mentioned back in December when I was leaving Reading, so it was really great to see Chris, Ken, Delphine and Vergine again. I would like to get a chance to travel a bit this summer and plan to try and visit some of my other friends from Reading who are now more distributed around Europe.

3Jun
Location: FAM, Leganés @ 6:50

Whirlwind travel

It is about time that I let the world know what I am up to these days. Well, this week in particular is going to quite busy. Monday and Tuesday are normal-ish, but on Wednesday, I am going to London for the night in order to leave the Schengen region. I am going with Q and Sissi. Essentially we are fleeing the country in hopes of getting certain stamps that will allow us to stay more legitimately in Spain for the duration of our exams.

So all day Wednesday and Thursday are devoted to that little project, and then on Friday, I have to turn around and go to Brussels. I was chosen as one of the representatives for our Erasmus Mundus course to attend the 2nd Annual Erasmus Mundus Student Conference. It should be interesting to attend, but I'm not sure how rested I'm going to be, as our flight leaves Madrid at 6:25, and that means we need to get there around 4:30 — a time when the metro isn't running. So we either go the night before (which might not work for me), or we take a cab. The cab would be 40€ so Teeroumanee and I (she is the other student going with me) could split it to save on costs. However the rest of the trip is free, so I guess I can't complain. The route that the conference team found us has us going through Milan, so while I won't leave the airport, I will be in Italy briefly. Then we are on to Brussels where we arrive around 11:35. The conference starts at 14:00 I believe so it will be a fun time rushing to the hotel (which we have to find by metro I guess) and then getting to the conference hall, which I think is near the hotel fortunately. Then we finish up the conference the next day around 13:30 and our flight leaves Brussels at 17:45 so we have a couple hours to sight-see, depending on the time to get to the airport. We get in around 23:00 after going via Milan again, and hopefully we can make it across Madrid before the metro shuts down. Luckily we won't be carrying much — just a backpack I suspect.

The quick trip to London is just as crazy, because the cheap prices we found (116€ return — all in), mean that we aren't flying out of Madrid, but out of Valladolid, which is a two hour bus ride from Madrid. Ironically it will cost me less getting to that completely different city than it will to the Madrid airport in the middle of the night. Then we fly into London Stansted, which means a £25 round-trip ticket on the Stansted Express into the city. Then we take the Tube to wherever it is that we want I guess, but our ultimate destination that night is to stay with my aunt — who has graciously allowed three disillusioned international students to camp out for a night. In the morning we pretty much turn around and head back home. We might get a chance to see some things, most likely on Wednesday night, but who knows, we don't have any plans except to leave Spain and then return again. :)

So that is my week. A little bit of a departure from my usual routine, but I'm hoping everything goes smoothly and we don't get stuck in customs somewhere.

12Jun
Location: UC3M Leganés, 2.1.C17 @ 10:55

London Bound

London Bound
Camera
NIKON E5600
Taken
2006-06-14 15:28:07
Exposure
10/601
Aperture
f/2.9
ISO
50

Sissi, Q and I on our RyanAir flight to London

As I mentioned before I recently had a very busy few days with a couple of short plane trips to various parts of Europe. The first was a very pleasant albeit short trip to London. Q, Sissi and I took a bus from Madrid to Valladolid and waited at a incredibly small airport for our RyanAir flight to London Stansted. As a budget airline, RyanAir does things a bit differently than most other airline, but the procedure wasn't unpleasant. In fact, while airborne we were able to purchase tickets for our train trip into the center of London from the airport — and at a bit of a savings.

Once in London, we headed to my aunt's place to drop off our bags. No one was home, so we just headed straight back out. Down to Oxford Street, where Q was keen to purchase a team England jersey with the name and number of footballer Michael Owen. Sissi and I accompanied him on this task, but I was really keeping my eye open for a place to eat dinner. After three stores we found one which still had a jersey and decided that it was finally time to eat. Returning to a place called Deep Pan Pizza which had an "All you can eat" pizza buffet, I managed to eat myself into a pizza induced coma. It was great to finally get a good fill of decent pizza after living in two cities that lack it.

We returned home and chatted a bit before heading to bed. Err... bed isn't exactly accurate... couch and mattress maybe, but in any case it was comfortable and it wasn't long before we were asleep. In the morning we had our first "English" breakfast in quite a while. Of course we it was all too soon when it was time to take off again and head toward the airport. The trip was uneventful (but I'm not a fan of Baker Street Station) and we stood in another long queue to check in. Once we landed in Valladolid again, we had the chore of figuring out how to catch the bus back to Madrid. We met up with another Canadian named Lindsay who was also going to Madrid to visit a friend. Ironically perhaps, she was attracted to Q's England jersey and figured he spoke english. Once we realized we were both headed in the same direction, she joined us for that part of the journey. We caught a shuttle from the airport to the main bus terminal in Valladolid and activated our return tickets (and bought one for Lindsay).

The return trip was uneventful as expected and when we finally made it to Madrid we parted ways with Lindsay in the bus station. We made it back to the residence shortly before 22:00 and was able to get dinner, which was much needed. I then had only a few short hours before leaving once again for my next flight, but that is another story...

22Jun
Location: UC3M 2.1.C17 @ 9:55

Beautiful Brussels

European Commission
Camera
Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT
Taken
2006-06-17 14:28:26
Exposure
1/125
Aperture
f/7.1
ISO
100

Reflection of Brussels skyline on the EC European Economic and Social Committee building.

The second part of this weekend odyssey had me flying to Brussels to represent my class at the 2nd Erasmus Mundus student conference. Still tired from my trip to London, I showered, shaved and replaced the dirty clothes from my back pack with some clean shirts, socks and other important articles. Pablo had graciously indulged me by arranging earlier to have a taxi show up at the residence at exactly 3:30 AM! and so I wasn't really in any position to get any sleep.

The cab was very prompt and through some very bad Spanish and the help of a note I had written in my note book, I managed to communicate the fact that before heading to the airport, we needed to pick up Teeroumanee who lives in another residence. We managed to make contact successfully and continued on to the airport. The whole trip cost 45€ which was the most expensive part of the trip (fortunately). We were a little bit early, but there were people queued up at the Alitalia desk anyway even though it wasn't open yet. So we waited... waited... and waited (which isn't easy with no sleep at 4:30 in the morning) and eventually the desk opened. We checked in without any issue and we moved quickly through security and sat by our gate. The flight was quite punctual. We left at 6:25 and I slept most of the way to Milan.

Milan? Oh yes, I forgot... not a direct flight... which was a little foolish if you ask me, but I didn't book it so I guess it didn't really matter. But it is about a 2:15 flight to Milan from Madrid, and when we landed we had over a full hour to wait for the connection to Brussels. Again, I slept most of the flight, which wasn't all that long. In Brussels, we found a train that went into the city center and then took the metro over a couple of stops to the one we were told was near our hotel. We didn't have long before we needed to get to the conference, and as luck wouldn't have it, my room wasn't ready. Thankfully Teeroumanee's was and I was able to change shirts and splash some water on my face before the afternoon session.

As it happened, the afternoon turned into the evening in what was one of the longest days of my life. More tired than I have been in years, I was in no mood to listen to a room full of students whining about various things. Obviously the session ran long, and we had to rush back to the hotel (thankfully not far) to drop off our stuff (and check in for some people). Then they took us on a few buses to the restaurant, which to be honest, I don't think I know the name of. Just as well, because despite it being a nice looking place, the food didn't do anything for me. We met a couple of the others who were there, but all of us were so tired that it wasn't as much fun as I would have liked. We took a bus back to the hotel around 23:00 and before midnight I was asleep (not before taking a nice hot shower in a human sized shower/tub).

Breakfast the next morning was likely the best part of the whole trip. It was an American style buffet affair that allowed me to satiate my need for bacon, eggs, hash browns and other breakfast fair, that I promise never to take for granted again. We then had to go back to the conference which I don't mind saying was in a very poor choice of venues. The Biblioteque Savoy, while very beautiful and historic (Einstein taught there), was not suited for entertaining 120+ international students. Bad lighting, and no tabular surface for writing bathed the whole event in an amateurish quality.

The main reason we (in particular Teerooumanee and I) were there was to bring awareness to the serious problems our program was facing and seek out a solution on behalf of our classmates. I'm not going to go into it now, but suffice it to say it was really bad, and while some steps have been made, it is clear to most that it is too little too late. Due to conference format, it was Teeroumanee who was in a position to handle that issue, and I on the other hand was made part of Erasmus Mundus Alumni Association launch committee outer circle (EMAALCOC — we are getting t-shirts printed ;) ). Essentially we are trying to create a student association that will bridge all of the many different Erasmus Mundus courses and provide contacts and information in the form of newsletters, magazines and other assorted niceties. Kind of like a secret society for the international mobility elite. :) Only not secret. And not that elite from what I've seen.

More whining and general disagreement occupied most of my morning, and then we all got back together into a big group again and reported on it. A light sandwich lunch followed which was another chance to talk and network a bit. I managed to hand out 4 or 5 of my business cards over the weekend, so I feel like I might have accomplished something. After that, Teeroumanee and I wandered a bit and took some photos. Then we headed back to the hotel and gathered our stuff. Reversing our earlier trip we found our way back to the Brussels airport (which is really nice by the way). For the first time in all my travels, I managed to set off the airport metal detector. It must have a high sensitivity, because I guess it was the metal coil on my small notebook that did it. After a very thorough rub down I was allowed through and we continued on through the gate area. At this point I want to say that I thoroughly regret not buying any Belgian chocolate for Pablo. I'm sorry Pablo. :)

Waiting, flying, sudoku, waiting, flying, sudoku, and so on followed at this point. We made it back to Madrid shortly after 23:00 and managed to make it to the metro and took it all the way back to Leganés/Getafe — paying less than 2€ each. I guess this makes the total travel costs average out to much less. Finally I was able to rest in my own bed and take a rest from my travels — for the time being.

22Jun
Location: UC3M 2.1.C17 @ 11:05

What Now?

Well, it would seem that for the most part, my Europe Adventure is over. It has been an amazing time. Now, I am reviving the ailing colinbate.com and going to make a go of it over there. All the best.

Times

Nova Scotia, Canada
4:35 (Dec 2, 2020)
Reading/London, United Kindom
8:35 (Dec 2, 2020)
Thessaloniki, Greece
10:35 (Dec 2, 2020)
Madrid, Spain
9:35 (Dec 2, 2020)
Guatemala, Guatemala
1:35 (Dec 2, 2020)

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