31 May, 2007

Self realizations

This morning on my run, I wanted to go the track at Estadio Vallerhmosa, which is about 4km from our apartment. I found it but it was closed; which was strange as there were a lot of people out running around the stadium as well! So I decided to take a different way back, based on my cursory glance at the map the night before. For those of you in Dallas, I basically wound up trying to figure out how to get across the equivalent of the High 5! Not quite as bad but adding being somewhat lost certainly increased the anxiety of running through rush hour traffic!
I eventually found my way back to familiar territory and finished up my run along the Palacio Real. I decided to stop and look at the Palacio in the courtyard between it and the Catedral de la Almudena. And that's when it hit me...I'm a peasant!

Here's the second biggest palace in western Europe, after the Louvre, with a direct link to the Church...how could you not believe in divine right of kings and that they were the chosen? It must have been as plain as the noses on all those faces as it was to me this morning! For all the education and travel and exposure, it was a very impressive sight/thought and, for the first time, I understood how that must have felt.

It's also been interesting how we've had some role-flipping in our family. Because I'm basically at my desk for big chunks of the day and night here to stay in sync with the US, Becca and the girls are the ones out exploring the city, meeting people, and getting engaged. She and I were talking how we both feel sort of isolated from the world in some ways...no newspapers, TV, etc. So we're pulling together as a family but there are tradeoffs, of course.

All part of the learning process about Spain, Madrid, our family and ourselves.

28 May, 2007

Cercedilla and the Sierra Guadarrama

What a great day! After a little stress getting out the door we made it uneventfully to the Atocha train station and were quickly on our way to the mountains we can see from Madrid and the little town of Cercedilla.

The ride is about 1.5 hours; the train was clean and ran right on time so that was a breeze. When we got to the station in Cercedilla, we knew right away this was different. The air was crisp and we really were in the mountains! (trivia point: after Switzerland, Spain is the most mountainous European country).

Just shy of 4000 feet, we started walking up and up toward the information center. We had no map or plan today; we were totally winging it.

We passed a little spot where we could fill our water bottles straight out of the mountainside and the girls couldn't wait to get their hands wet!

Very sleepy town on a Monday so lunch was hard to find, much to our surprise. We found a supermercardo, bought some bread, cheese, turkey and mustard and had a feast right on the plaza, looking at the mountains. Best, and cheapest, lunch since we arrived. See Taylor's smiling face afterward and Laura Macie's siesta plans for all you need to know!

Our only goal was to scout out the trails and decide if it would 1) work for my running and 2) a good place to come back and spend some time. A home run on both fronts, no question. I even found a marathon here 3 weeks from now. So we know we'll be back at least on the 17 June!

27 May, 2007

Getting to know you

Friday started off a little rough as Becca fried some of her personal care appliances and blew all the fuses in the apartment, not the best way to begin her day. She's replaced them but lesson learned: for some things, it probably makes sense to buy local so that compatability is not an issue.

That evening, while she was out with girls shopping to replace the electronics, I met them for dinner in Sol, which is a happening place at any time. We found a Madridleno-recommended Thai place and had a great dinner. On the way back home at about 11pm, we've suprisingly/ quickly adapted the Spanish schedule, we walked through the Plaza Mayor (pictured here). There's always something going on here as well and it was simply delightful to be out, together, experiencing Madrid.

24 May, 2007

Looking for a new place to live

We're only living for the first month here on Plaza de la Paja with the goal of finding the place to live for the rest of our stay in Madrid. Becca and the girls spent Wednesday looking at nine different places, some of which were apparently just nightmares, but they found two that we looked at again this morning.

One point to note is that Madrid gets 300+ days of sunshine a year. But today was not one of them! Parking and slogging to the Metro in the pouring rain was certainly not the charming picture of house-hunting that we had in our minds.

We have learned a few lessons about renting an apartment here. In addition to one month's deposit, most furninshed apartments require an additional month deposit. OK, we can work w/ that. But wait, in Spain the renter pays the real estate fee so there's another month's rent. That's it, right. Pero no! Because the laws are so lopsided in the tenant's favor here, the stories are shocking. It takes at least a year to evict someone who's not paid rent, for example, and they can stay in the apartment during that process and not pay anything! So most landlords require a 3-12 months bank guarantee, which is effectively an additional deposit. Incredible!

Still, it seems like we have two good choices and should be making a decision in the next few days and we'll have some pictures to post.

Trip to Barcelona

I left early Tuesday morning for a meeting with Maria Sipka in Barcelona to work on YPO Networks. Definitely found out that flying in Spain is a lot like flying anywhere else: grumpy people in long lines being herded like cows...we are the world :-) It was a good experience to be mostly clueless as to why everyone was so grouchy (turned out to be a cancelled 7am flight) as all I could really do was smile, remain calm, try to figure out the rapid-fire Spanish PA announcements and trust. It worked, no surprise really, and I was in Barcelona only 10min late.

Traffic was crazy and I was a little stressed but quickly realized Barcelona is not a place to stay stressed. After checking in at a very, very cool little hotel (suprisingly affordable) called Chic and Basic we walked through the Zoological Park and saw the beautiful fountain (above). Overall a gorgeous city full of cultures and culture (though so much I didn't even see!).
I had a great run along the sea, past the Hotel Artes, the Olympic Village...ocean on the right and mountains on the left, running toward the sun. Not a bad a start to the day!
One interesting note about the place where we actually met, CAN (Caja Navarro) that was started by and for entrepreneurs, no bankers allowed in the start up phase! They do an incredible job of supporting their entrepreneurial customers and was a different approach. Barcelona is working hard to the business capital of Spain and seem to be doing some things right.
Can't wait to go back and spend more time.

21 May, 2007

Running in Casa de Campo

I was worried about where I would run in Madrid but I needn't have been. From where we're staying now, it's about a 10 min warmup to El Parque del Retiro and then about about a 4k loop around the outside with many lovely interior paths. I see many runners and walkers at every time of the day.

On Saturday, I did my first real run in Casa de Campo. When Becca and I visited in October, I ran here, in the dark, and had a less than good time: I didnt know where I was going and the transvestite who popped out of the bushes was not good for the heart rate! But I was much better prepared this time and once I got past the dozen or so prostitutes at the entrance (very agressive in that they were not afraid to step in front of cars!) I was stunned at the size (more than 15k around with untold paths crisscrossing the park) and how isolated it felt. What a treat it was to be out there.

This coming weekend we're planning an excursion to the nearby mountains, a combination of running and exploring for all four of us, which I'm hoping will help me train for the Karwendal Challenge I'm planning to run at the beginning of August.

20 May, 2007

First week in Madrid...and having a great time

We arrived on Monday 14 May and we have already started falling in love with this city. We decided not to fight the time difference and have allowed Taylor and Laura Macie to go to bed late and sleep late as well. It's the Spanish way and, because they're not in school, has made the first week that much more fun and different for them.

We are living in La Latina and loving the little plaza outside our 2nd story apartment.