Tag Archive: spain

adios, españa

spain is over.  all 101 ceph talks were given (well, 100, there was one no-show), although i can’t honestly say that every single one was attended – a non-fisheries-biologist can only absorb so many separate reports on individual populations and fluctuations of commercial species.  the conference dinner was held at a castle 45 minutes from town (for a brief exciting moment, we thought we might be in portugal, but realised that the questionable legality of transporting 130 scientists from about 50 countries across an international border for dinner made it unlikely).  i would very much have liked to see more of this castle by daylight, and to learn more about it, but arriving as we did at about 10pm and being engrossed in dinner and then riotous dancing, it remains something of a mystery.  it may have been the parador de baiona. 

i had a rather humane flight the following day, departing at 2pm (in contrast to some people who left at 6.15), so there was time for a reasonable sleep and unhurried packing, plus reflections on the past ten days.  lasting impressions of spain include: the delayed daily schedule, including daylight hours from about 8.30am to 8.30pm, lunch from 1.30 to 3.30 and dinner starting at 9 or 10 at night; the friendliness of locals and their patience with slow, awkward communications; the unbelievable stamina of night-time partiers especially on weekends, and the dedication and size of the clean-up crews in public areas on the following mornings; the dogs of all shapes and sizes; the lovely streets lined with laden orange trees and interesting statuary, yet dotted with an astonishing number of suspicious, foamy puddles (see previous two remarks); the remarkable clarity of the water in the harbour, even next to the pier (easily 5 meters’ visibility), and the presence of many large, healthy-looking fish; and the pleasure of sitting along the waterfront at any time of day, with harbor breezes, warming sun or shining moon, in the company of fellow ceph-heads.  muchas gracias, amigos y amigas.

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giggling in the supermarket

cíes islands

yesterday we had a day off from the conference proper, and i joined an expedition to the cíes islands national park.  there are three islands in the group, two joined by a sandspit that creates a stunningly beautiful beach with crystal-clear, brilliant aquamarine water.  the dunes host many interesting plants, but are quickly replaced inland by — of all things — pine and eucalyptus forests.  there are apparently large colonies of seabirds, although i didn’t get the chance to see them, instead walking up to several vantage points including the highest of the three lighthouses.  i’m actually a little disappointed with my photos – didn’t notice the camera was stuck on a particular setting that made things quite grainy, until about halfway through the trip — but you’ll get the idea.

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on the opening night of the conference, a welcome reception was held at what may  have been ‘city hall,’ but no one is really sure – buses took us there and brought us back, and the building itself was kind of castley and apparently also functioned as a museum.  the reception was out in the gardens, which were lovely, and we wandered around admiring the mini castle on an island in the pond, the sunset behind the main tower of the building, and the pairs of goldfish that made up the table centerpieces.  (i sincerely hope they got to live in the pond or somewhere else nice, after their decorative duties.)

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moonrise on the pier

el castro

yesterday morning i went up to a large park in the middle of vigo, on a hill overlooking the city.  ‘el castro’ includes the ruins of a celtiberian fort, plus several separate monuments and gardens, and offers spectacular views over the city.

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in between organized conference activities, there have been a few opportunities to walk around town and enjoy the sights.  in addition to the cool buildings, narrow alleyways and laden orange trees, there are many interesting statues, monuments, and signs.

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turn for the better

i mentioned that the hotel i stayed in for the first two nights was somewhat lacking in warmth and cheer.  not that i was complaining at the time – the saintly desk clerk took pity on me and my bumbling spanish and gave me a perfectly adequate, lockable space in which to bathe and sleep, which was exactly what i needed.  but the place i have moved into is just a *little* more welcoming – let me illustrate.  exhibit a, my first hotel room:

as i said, clean and perfectly serviceable, albeit slightly spartan (apart from the bidet), with smallish tub, slightly oddly colored water and shower head mysteriously coiled at knee-height.
now, exhibit b, my current room:

notice that i didn't post any pictures of the window from hotel #1.  that's because the windows had heavy roller-blinds in front of them that, when raised, only gave views into a narrow, echoing courtyard and the less-than-picturesque backs of some other rather industrial-looking buildings.  how do i know that the courtyard echoes, you ask?  perhaps i leaned out my window and gave a whoop of delight just to test it out? 
no, i know because i was awakened at five o'clock this morning to the sound of someone in a room above me flinging his window open and spewing long and energetically into the courtyard five stories below.  and when i say 'energetically' and 'long' i mean over a period of enough minutes and with enough variation in pitch and volume that i eventually used my ipod to try to drown it out and go back to sleep. 
by the way, my current window is mostly soundproof when shut, and gives onto a small balcony that affords photo opportunities like this.

and lo, i am well pleased.

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never before has a trip started quite like this one.  i am safely in spain, amid a cheery throng of cephalopod enthusiasts, soaking up the sun, atmosphere and geeky presentations.  the architecture is admirable, the signs diverting (you are correct – photos to come), and the meals late and prolonged.  i am settled in a nice hotel three blocks from the conference venue and it seems to be safe to wander around town gawking at things and taking photos.  in summary: loving it.


the way here has not been exactly smooth.  my accommodation in particular seems cursed.  on the morning i left new zealand, i tried to confirm that the deposit i wired to england for a week-long flat sublet in london had come through.  the email bounced and the website on which i had previously accessed info on this flat had been removed ‘for legal reasons.’  with a sinking feeling in my stomach, i called the bank; in the meantime the pebbles discovered a warning posted online a few days earlier, by someone else who had been scammed by the same person.  so although i am still trying various avenues to recover my £308, i suspect it is gone.

thus unburdened, and after making a fraud statement at the bank, i ran around like a headless chicken for the remaining two hours at work, packing specimens, dissecting gear and other international travel necessities.  i spent the afternoon packing at home and stocking up on a month’s worth of kitty cuddles, then had a lovely dinner at our neighbourhood italian restaurant with bumbly and gizmo.

my four flights were long (12, 11, 2, 1 hours, for a total of 36 in transit) but uneventful, apart from being told on the last leg that taking photos out the window of the plane was prohibited.  (?!)   fortunately at that point i had already taken most of the ones i wanted – see previous post.

as we descended into vigo, the evening sun and 31-degree heat of madrid gave way to low-hanging and extremely productive rainclouds.  there was not much to be seen on the taxi ride into town, but plenty to see when we arrived around 9.30pm at my hotel (booked and paid several months in advance), in the form of a firmly shut roll-down door and signs that apparently said ‘closed for refurbishment.’  after a rather labored conversation with the driver, making good use of my spanish dictionary/phrasebook, i was taken to another hotel nearby, where another very slow conversation with a lot of fumbled page-turning, apologetic shrugging and confused head-shaking yielded me a key to my very own room.  although somewhat joyless, the place was clean and included a bathtub, which i made good use of.  the shower apparatus reminded me of france, the bed was hard enough to do sit-ups on, and there was no clock (a fixture of apparently lower priority than the included ashtray), but i had a door to lock and a place to lie flat.  i did both and slept hard.

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