|Monday, Sept. 26: We made it. Our flight out of Minneapolis was delayed, but we still got to Amsterdam in time to make our Madrid connection. While in Amsterdam we saw a Russian an-124 cargo plane (one of the biggest in the world) take off - a rare site for an American.|
Since our destination was Europe, we went through customs in Amsterdam (where we first landed in Europe) and not Madrid, so we managed to slip through customs without having to pay Spanish tarrifs on the equipment (I was told that Spain would have tight customs regulations, apparently the Netherlands does not).
|We made it to Madrid and we even figured how to use the local phones to call our hotel for a ride. We're on a roll. However, having had no sleep since yesterday, I think it is time to check out the rooftop pool (to make sure the network works there - and maybe a nap).|
|Tim and I checked out the pool - the view is good for the eclipse, but there is no network there at all, not to mention the hot tub is not hot. Problems, problems, problems. Time to find something to eat.|
Tuesday, Sept. 27: We slept in to recover from the flight and time difference.
|.||We then headed off to an Office Depot which was only a half-mile from the hotel to scout out network items we may need. However, it took over an hour to get to it (had to cross two highways). Here's the view from the Office Depot of our hotel and of the Office Depot from our hotel's roof (pool). From Office Depot we headed off to a bank (to change money). This took another hour and by the time we found a bank it was 4:00 PM - the banks close at 2:30 PM. I guess we'll try again tomorrow. The language barrier is a real problem as all of the directions sound the same!||.|
|While wandering around (looking for a bank) we came accross several of these little cars - I bet they get great gas mileage!|
We finally got back to the hotel and Tim contacted the U.S. Embassy to see if their Science Attache was interested in the eclipse. He is very interested and suggested that we collaborate with a Spanish university and that we meet with him tomorrow (at the U.S. Embassy). However, being the Madrid train bombing suspects were charged today, security will be very tight (and, yes we will have to take the train from the suburb we are in into Madrid - ugh).
We did get some good news. Ms. Terry Brenchley and Mr. Evan Jolitz have donated $1000.00 to the expedition.
We contacted Tim Lawlor at Penn State - Wilkes Barre and verified that his mirror works.
Wednesday, Sept. 28: We got up at 6:00 AM for a ride into Madrid to visit Ken Forder (Science Attache) at the U.S. Embassy. Our hotel has free shuttle service, but it is not very convenient as you have to reserve the shuttle well in advance and they will only take you to the nearest subway station in Madrid. Thus, we had to leave very early and take the Madrid subway into the center of town. The subway was very was cheap (1 euro dollar) and rather convenient, we will definitely make more use of the subway.
We found the embassy (and a bank) and met Ken Forder. He is very interested in our work and helped us get a hotel room at the Melia Galgos which is near the Embassy, has a good internet connection, a good view of the eclipse and a staff that offered to do whatever it takes to make the webcast a success. They even got us a room right next to the rooftop terrace (from where we will webcast). Of course, our current hotel has a good view also, but there is no network connection from where we would need to set up the telescope (at the rooftop pool) and the staff here does not seem too willing to go out of their way to help their guests. Thus, we will move to the Melia Galgos for Sunday night and Monday and webcast from the rooftop terrace in downtown Madrid - rather cosmopolitan, if I may say so. Also, being close to the embassy it will be easy for the press to find us (Mr. Jessie DeBusschere, Assistant Information Officer for the U.S. Embassy is working on this end).
|.||We took the subway back to where the hotel shuttle was supposed to pick us up (but didn't), took a few pictures and bought a few "treats" for my grandkids (Radell and Arianna Marsh of Fargo, North Dakota). Here is a picture of the Paseo de Recoletos (a major road in Madrid) and of the Puerta de Europa twin towers (which lean by 15 degrees).||.|
Since the hotel's shuttle never showed up we were left with 2 options: Pay $20 for a taxi back to the hotel or chance it and take a bus. We tried the bus - it only cost 1.25 euros and dropped us off 1 block from our hotel. Talk about dumb luck!
Now that we know how to get into Madrid, around Madrid and back to the hotel. I think tonight maybe the night to explore some of Madrid's famous nightlife. If I do not post again, you can probably find me camped out in a flamenco bar (I have no idea what a "flamenco bar" is, but I have been told that I must...).
|We took the subway and found the Gran Via (Broadway) and wandered up and down it. The Gran Via is a theater area with a lot of shops and restaurants, but no flamenco bars. The premier opening of the Spanish version of Victor Victoria was tonight; the media and a crowd of people were waiting for the "stars" to arrive. Since we had no idea who they were, we decided to move on. Finally, we managed to catch the last bus out of town and called it a night.||.|
Thursday, Sept. 29: Tim decided to work on the GPS unit while I had to find a network switch. Since I knew there were shops along Gran Via I headed off to Gran Via in Madrid.
|Gran Via looks like a traditional major road in any European city. There are traditional buildings, sidewalk cafes, narrow side streets and a lot of people walking|
|And there are the theaters, including the one where the premier was last night:|
|While on Gran Via I realized that I have been slacking with regards to the blog and that I should post something of interest to tourists. I also realized that I was only a mile from the palace - so I headed (walking - yes, I could have taken a bus, but since I cannot read Spanish very well, who knows where I might have ended up) towards the palace:|
Wow. The Spanish royal family knew how to live. The palace was amazing and is still used by the royal family for official events. Here's the nickel tour:
|The Cathedral of Madrid (next to the court yard), where the most official events take place (such as the wedding of the spanish prince).|
|The palace court yard.|
|In from the court yard looking up to the 2nd floor (the royal living quarters):|
|A 10-foot tall clock in one of the many rooms.|
|The thrown room which is still in use when the occasion demands. But because the King believes in democracy, he receives people in that room standing so no one feels required by protocol to bow (although they may if they wish and some do). When the introductions are over he will sit down.|
|Each room had its own decor. In this room the ceiling was covered with these sculptures.|
|In this room (and in many rooms) the ceiling was covered with these paintings.|
|The Kings study.|
|This small room was covered with porcelain sculptures.|
|The banquet hall.|
|The dining table in the banquet hall.|
|A sample of the many royal silver pieces on display.|
|The royal chapel (obviously a very important room - even more so than the throne room).|
|Another view of the royal chapel.|
|Medicines in storage in the royal pharmacy.|
|Medicines in bulk storage in the royal pharmacy (there were several rooms with these jars).|
|The armory (Where the Kings horses were kept, but now used to display his gear).|
|Another room in the armory (Where the Kings personal armor is now displayed).|
|A side view of the palace.|
|A view of the buildings around the front of the castle - probably owned by very wealthy people during the time.|
|A view of what was the King's private park (a huge area - now open for "limited" development):|
|A public park next to the palace (part of the King's private park):|
What do you expect for a nickle?
At this point I was getting tired of walking (my hip was starting to hurt), had found a network switch and was getting hungry (it was nearing 5:00 PM and I had had no lunch) so I took the subway back to the bus station to get a bus back to the hotel. I also found out that there is a bus stop very near the hotel and that it is next to a small shopping center (nice find, if I do say). I got back to the hotel, headed for the pool (the busses and subways are HOT), found Tim working and met two British businessmen who knew of nearby places to eat. We cleaned up, had dinner and called it a night. All this expedition stuff wears a fellow out.
Friday, Sept. 30: Tim decided to work on the telescopes unit while I update and correct the webpages. I think tonight we will head back into Madrid to find a flamenco bar and maybe Plaza Mayor (the main square as there are many restaurants and bars there (so we were told).
|For now, here is a picture of the "official tree" of Madrid. These cranes are EVERYWHERE! Madrid must be a very presperous city. P.S. This picture was taken from the hotel roof (pool area) and the "Alcampo" is the small shopping center I "found."|
|We received an email from Dr. Michael Taylor (Research Faculty in Physics) at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid inviting us to webcast the eclipse from their observatory. They had also already organized a public showing and had contacted the press. Obviously, we said we were very interested as making international contacts is part of what this is all about. However, we wanted to see the place to make sure the infrastructure was there before committing to it. So, we immediately headed off to the university. To get there, we got a ride on the hotel shuttle to a train station and took a commuter train to the university.|
|Once there we checked out the observatory - the infrastructure and view both looked great. We also met some of the faculty and grad students and talked about giving guest lectures on Tuesday.|
|As this picture from the observatory shows, Spain is a lot like California with regards to the weather and terrain (desert like). Finally, we took the computer train back into town (Alcobendas), but we had to walk about 1.5 miles back to the hotel from the train station - we're getting used to walking.|
That night we headed off (walking) to a restaurant/bar area near the hotel and found a tapas bar (like an appetizer bar) where he had "dinner" (In Spain lunch is the big meal of the day and dinner is mostly light food.). We each got a beer and weren't asked to pay for them (?) and helped ourselves to about 7 or 8 small sandwiches (steak, pork, fish, etc) and weren't asked to pay them either (?). In fact nobody seamed to be paying for anything (?) (Free beer and food? How do I immigrate to Spain!). Well, at least in this particular tapas bar, the sandwiches each had 1 toothpick and when you were done you went to the bar and told the bartender how many drinks you had and how many toothpicks you had and then payed for it. I.e. the honor system.
After the tapas bar, we stopped into another bar in the area and found 3 brits that were also staying in our hotel (electricians in Spain working on a building). Nice guys, but a bit wild.
Saturday, Oct. 1: We got up early and headed off to the Universidad Autonoma to set up all of the gear (a dry run) and being a weekend it was easy to get the hotel shuttle to take us all the way. But, we will probably have to take the comuter train (and walk some) to get back.
|We finished the dry run and walked back to the hotel. Since we were carrying some heavy laptops with us we decided to stop for lunch along the way. I think we ordered lambchops, but they didn't taste like any lamb I have had before (nor Tim). Our conclusion was that they were goat chops (not very good I might add).|
|Later that night, being Saturday, we headed off to Plaza Mayor (the main square) which is supposed to be a real popular place at night (restaurants, shops, bars, etc). When you first get off the subway you are in a small plaza called "la Puerta del Sol" (door of the sun - note the statue) which is also filled with restaurants, shops and bars, but this is not Plaza Mayor, it's down a few restaurant, shop and bar lined blocks.|
|After walking a few blocks you run into these "gates" which are the entrances into Plaza Mayor. Inside the courtyard (Plaza Mayor is completely surrounded by buildings and except for the "gates", there is no way in or out.). Inside the Plaza Mayor are more restaurants, shops and bars (we were warned that some of the restaurants were VERY expensive) all with sidewalk cakes.|
|Another thing one finds in Plaza Mayor is artists of various forms. Here are two of puppeteers doing Beetles songs (they were pretty good). In fact they were so good I recorded some of their performance - click HERE to watch the video clip.|
Sunday, Oct. 2: We headed off into Madrid take in more of the sights.
|We headed first to "el rastro" which is a street fair held every Sunday near the plaza mayor. As you can see from the pictures, it is a popular place with many venders and goes on for blocks. Some of the venders are selling knock-offs of name-brand items (they were all over Plaza Mayor - by the way this is illegal in Spain). I got a picture of one venders "bag". Note the ropes - this is so he can grab the ropes (which fold the bag) and scatter when the police show up (they scatter like cockroaches - it's amazing).|
|As expected many artists perform at el rastro (like these musicians) and this mime (who was fantastic - HERE is a good video of him - without sound and HERE is a video with sound (that's him whistling).|
|Our next stop on the Tim and Ron's walking tour of Madrid (aka how to loose a lot of weight in a hurry exercise program) was the Museo Nacional Del Prado (an art museum not too far from Plaza Mayor). Along the way we photographed several buildings of classical designs (including these two).|
|Here is a picture of Puerto de Alcala - built by King Charles III as the entrance into Madrid. Here is a picture of Palacio de telecomunicaciones (built in 1904 as a telegraph building). Finally, here is a picture of the Plaza de Cibeles (the symbol of Madrid).|
|Here is the inside of the Museo Nacional Del Prado and a couple of the more interesting works. The first painting is of the Plaza Mayor (painted in 1680), while the second (painted in 1634) shows someone praying for and getting (via a crow) a Big Mac (it sure looked like a Big Mac in the painting, I think the guy in black wanted him to get a Whopper instead).|
|On the walk back to the subway station, we came across this clock up on a building. The figures moved about and the bells tolled the time.|
Monday, Oct. 3: The big day...
|The weather was perfect, the website stayed up and the sound seemed popular. Overall, things went well and we had viewers from all over the world (the U.S., Europe, Africa and Australia). However, a few bugs did pop up and we will work on correcting those for the next webcast. For example, the chatroom did not seem to handle as many people as we wanted and switching cameras (from H-alpha to white light) was tricky as the system locked up once during he switch. Also, we lost part of the recording and we need to address that issue as well. By the way, here we are on the observatory's roof.|
Finally, a reporter from the Associated Press (AP) called and talked to Tim.
Tuesday, Oct 4: We headed off to Universidad Autonoma to give presentations on the webcast. While, there Tim gave an interview to a local radio station ().
|Of course, Tim required a translator so Michael Taylor took on that roll. It must have been difficult -|
We decided to browse the news feeds to see if "Tims" story made it out. It did! Here are the links:
|Me, being a biker, I had to find he local Harley shop and by a shirt. Along the way I found this "motorcycle." Note that is has a roof, side guards and a seat belt - what's the point?|
Time for bed to make our 6:30 AM flight.