Quote of the Month

Trip Start Apr 11, 2008
Trip End Jul 03, 2008

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

"A Hen That Does Not Sing Has Got Something In Its Neck"

This is my new quote on my Facebook page as it cracks me up everytime I read it.  My sweet new friend and co-worker, Jorge Fernandez Gonzalez-Galatea (who has done literally everything for me since I've been in Madrid from making sure that I have a phone, network connection, etc... to writing down what I need to say to record my VM greeting in Spanish, translating the automated voice instructions into English and saying "go!" when it was time to record) was trying to share an old Spanish saying with me about why Spanish people (especially people from the South of Spain) are noted to sing outloud all the time.  Apparently, this really surprises foreigners who are not used to seeing such an outward expression of happiness.  This was his attempt at translating what is probably a little piece of Spanish wisdom into English.  I'm sure there was something lost in the translation.

So, I am at work and have reached a point where I am waiting on some information before I can proceed with my work, so I figured I would post a new entry in my blog in the meantime.

Yesterday was a milestone day in two ways - I am finally venturing out to try to meet some friends in Madrid (outside of work), and I booked flights for both of my long weekend trips while I'm here.  My friend Cynthia (Hi CG!) turned me on to a great website called Meetup (www.meetup.com).  She recently moved to NYC and (like me) was wanting to meet some new people.  This website is a great way to do this, or simply find people with a common interest in a particular city.  Had no idea this website existed internationally, but now that I am feeling more settled, a little more rested and a little more confident, I did a little research and found several Meetup groups right here in Madrid.  Normally (at least in Atlanta and NYC) there are hundreds of groups organized around every topic you could imagine - wine, politics, chocolate, industry, religion - you name it, there's a group for it.  There isn't nearly that kind of variety here in Madrid (I think this is primarily a US website), but there is an American Expats group that meets in a tapas bar once a month, there's also a "New in Town" in Madrid group (mostly Americans from what I could tell) that does the same.  So, I joined both of these and plan on attending their meetings in May.  I also joined one other group that meets weekly to work on language skills in both English and Spanish - this would be a big help to me as my Spanish needs work!  If nothing else, it's an option of something to do during the week if I want to get out of the apartment.

Last night I ventured out to the little tapas bar on the corner of my street.  I've walked by it many times and the bar is always full of people who seem to be enjoying themselves.  Until then, I had only been there for an early dinner one night by myself and was so sleepy then I don't think I even notice what was going on around me.  Anyway, when I walked in last night, the place was alive with happy people speaking every language under the sun (well, maybe that's an exaggeration).  There were Brits, Spanish, Swedes, Irish and even some Americans.  The US Embassy is just down the street so I met 4 Americans who have lived in Madrid for 2 years and will be here for another 2 before they head to their next assigment (and I thought I was being a nomad).  Anyway, this is one of those small places where everyone knows the owner (who comes over and shakes everyone's hand personally) and it seems, everyone else.  If you order a glass of wine (which is about 3.5 oz) you get a plate of free tapas - dinner!  I had a great time, met many interesting people and even made plans to have dinner with the Americans from the embassy sometime soon.  It was great - the beginnings of a social life!

Also last night I booked my flights to travel on both of the long weekends that I have while I'm here in Spain (May 1st-4th and May 15th-18th - both are holidays in Spain and Madrid).  After doing what seemed to be literally days of research, checking flights, asking people's opinions, etc....I realized that if I'm going to travel on the Spanish holidays, I'm not going to be able to take advantage of some of the cheap intra-Europe fares.  It's like trying to use Delta miles over Christmas - I would have had to book back in January.  So, after looking at every option and agonizing over the prices, locations, etc..., I finally realized if I want to take advantage of the long weekend, I was going to have to be willing to spend some Euros.  Also, one complication of being in Spain is that since it is on the far west end of Europe, flights to places like Prague, Austria, Italy, etc.. are usually 4-5 hours, and pretty expensive.  The only places that are easy to get to from Spain are Morocco (9 miles off the southern coast), the UK and France (right next door).  So, having been to France twice and not feeling comfortable without my brother-in-law Hakim (from Marrekesh) to go to Morocco by myself, I picked the UK for one of my weekends - I've booked a trip to London and am planning on staying there all weekend.  There are several tours that I'm looking into, so I'll let you know what I decide to do there as soon as I figure it out myself.  The other place that I decided to go was more expensive than I wanted, but as my options were limited, I splurged. So, I'm headed to Munich, Germany and will take a side trip to Salzburg, Austria (where the Sound of Music was filmed as well as the birthplace of Mozart).  I am so looking forward to this trip - there are so many beautiful things to see in both cities.  From trips to medieval castles in the Alps to touring a concentration camp, I cannot wait.  I was disappointed that I couldn't work in a trip to Prague on one of these weekends.  The flight prices were almost as much as if I were to fly from Atlanta - I just couldn't justify it right now.  However, if I can squeeze in one vacation day maybe in June (after our 2009 business plan is completed) I may to try go to Prague then.  It's a 5 hour flight and most of the time not direct, so I really need an extra day if I want to go there.  Otherwise, I am planning the rest of time in Spain and Portugal.  I think I already mentioned that this weekend (it's supposed to be in the high 70's and sunny all weekend long) I'm headed to the ancient city of Toledo (45 miles from Madrid (20 minute ride on the fast train)) and then on Sunday I'm taking a tour of 2 also ancient Spanish cities, Avila and Segovia.  Segovia aside from it's history and architecture, is also known for its food, especially roast suckling pig - which is included in the tour.  Both of these trips I have heard will be outstanding - so many old castles, churches, etc..., and I don't have to spend the night away to see them.

Anyway, I believe I've caught you all up to date.  I only have one picture to post, and I took it from my Blackberry this morning as I was walking into the office.

I will surely post many more interesting ones after this weekend's tours.  Hope you all have a great weekend!

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Where I stayed
ApartHotel Barrio de Salamanca

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