Thursday, March 29, 2007

I'm a sucker

Last post about Barcelona. I bought this:

I'm a sucker. Note that the photo in wikipedia is actually taken in Barcelona! The tiles shown in the photo are the typical Barcelonian tiles. Joel and I paid 4 Euros each for two pieces of cardboard, basically.

Picasso, Gaudi, and CosmoCiaxa

As bad tourist as I am, I still managed to hit some of the Barcelonian highlights.

Picasso: The Picasso museum was interesting. Most of it really isn't what you expect to be Picasso at all. Apparently before he turned all abstract and cubist and blue and rose, he did lots of run-of-the-mill type of paintings. And most of them are quite average. Particularly his attempt at copying the impressionists paintings -- they were flat out bad. But the story goes that he didn't really know what impressionists were, and all he had to go on were newspaper black/white prints of the impressionist paintings at the time. So he tried to copy those and failed spectacularly. It just goes to show that it's much better to create than copy ;)

Gaudi: The Gaudi buildings are interesting. They look like they were built for the smurphs. It's definitely things that would get tiresome to look at after a while -- kindda like a crazy party dress, you can only pull it out of the closet once every few years, but when you do, it's fun. It's definitely not your classic black gown that stands up to the testament of time.

CosmoCiaxa: The science museum of Barcelona. Fantastic! As soon as we walked into the CosmoCiaxa, it became clear that the three of us are undeniably nerds. As much as Picasso and Gaudi were interesting to look at, put us in the science museum is like dropping 3-year-olds off at Willy Wanka's chocolate factory. The museum's exhibits were all very hands-on. You get to apply magnetic field to this fluid and watch its viscosity change; you get to wind up this hand-shaped wire, then unwind it, apply heat, and watch how it goes back to the exact original shape; you get to apply strobe lights of various frequencies to a bunch of bouncing balls enclosed in a while glass box; etc. The museum had an indoor rainforest, too. There were some pretty big fish swimming around the tree roots. There was also this room called "Toca Toca" that we didn't get to see -- you could touch rats and turtles and what not. And then, there's an outdoor science park, with an archimedean screw and many other things. Anyway. It's a fun time. I would definitely go back there if I were ever in Barcelona again.


You know you live in the right country when no matter how much fun you had traveling elsewhere, you're relieved to be back. I love the good old U.S. of A. My bank has already given me the provisional credit for my 120 Euros that the Spanish ATM ate. This is what happens when people don't take ciestas -- things get done!

It's cute how proud the Germans are about their efficiency and engineering prowess, sometimes almost to the point of being delusional. I flew Lufthansa from SFO to MUN. The pilot made sure to inform us that tha Airbus XXX we were flying was the longest commercial aircraft in the world, "even longer than the Boeing 747!". Good job, Airbus! And on my way from BCN to FRA, it was clear that our flight was running late. But the flight attendant kept saying, "We're expecting an on-time arrival". I was like, just because you keep saying it, doesn't actually make it true! I have a watch!

In case you didn't know, when sitting in an airplane, humans cannot distinguish between the airplane going through turbulence, and a child kicking the back of your seat. On the 11-hour flight from FRA to SFO, I had 10 hours of "turbulence". I politely asked the child to stop kicking the back of my seat. It was about as effective as politely asking the weather god to change the weather.

I think I'm getting old. I can't believe how much traveling is taking out of me these days. It seems that I use to be nonstop for a long time before really feeling the effects. But I spent the entire day yesterday sleeping. I'd only been on the road for a little less than 3 weeks. I'm relieved to not have to travel for some time. Lots of things to get done before moving to New York for the summer though.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Hunt for Churro con Chocolata

Day 1 started late. We didn't even wake up until 2pm. After sitting around the apartment and talking for 3 hours, we finally got out of the door at 5pm. Spain just sucks you into this lifestyle of late nights and lazy mornings, it seems. Or, in our case, the complete absence of mornings. The next 12 hours of our day involved 1 hour spent in the Museo de Picasso, and 11 hours hunting for churro con chocolata.

Churros are these fried little things. They sell them here along with a cup of melted chocolate, either with or without whipped cream. Apparently, they're a popular thing to eat *before* dinner, which doesn't happen until 9:30pm. So we rolled down the street around 8pm looking for these things. The first place we went to sold out of them. We were like, okay, no problem, we're not quitters, let's hit place #2. And guess what??? They were sold out, too! Then, the third place actually had some left on a plate, on display in their window. But we had to stand in line to get seated, and literally watched the last plate of churros disappear before our eyes! That was incredible! I didn't even know about these little suckers until this trip. But Joel had talked them up so much, along with the lack of availability, just all added up to me wanting them even more! I don't understand these Spaniards! No one seemed to care that there's clearly more of a demand of these things, that there's more money to be made if they just fried up more of these things! I mean, this is just bad business practice! But I guess no one here cares too much about making more money... Long story short, we walk around the city searching for these damn things, and every store was out. We took a break and ate dinner. Then finally, we ended up at this place at almost 1am, and they had some. And thus ended the epic hunt for churros con chocolata.

Today, we didn't fool around. Comes 7:30pm, we got our butts back in town from the CosmoCiaxa and parked ourselves right into a shop that had refused us churros the previous day, and got ourselves some churros.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Barcelona, Day 0

Okay, I'm not complaining or anything, more just musing about things that I've forgotten about Europe... But will somebody please tell me why, in God's name, is it that the Europeans just *love* to line up 30 minutes before the *boarding* time of a flight in front of the gate??? Do people fear that the plane would leave without them??? Has the plane ever left just to punish someone for *not* being in line 30 minutes beforehand??? And why is it that people stand up from their seats as soon as the plane lands, no matter how many times they're told to wait until the plane has finished taxi-ing? Has anyone ever *not* gotten off the plane because they weren't quick enough standing up? I mean, I literally had the guy sitting next to me climbing over me, tripping over my legs to get out into the isle! In the US, people just couldn't care less. We line up when we absolutely have to; we sit around until the plane's come to a complete stop; tripping over your neighbor's legs to get in the isle is considered bad manners. But it seems that the US, or its Protectorate Canada, are about the only places this is true -- people do the same thing in Asia. I just don't get it.

My very first experience in Barcelona is that the ATM machine ate 120 Euros of mine! The damn thing had this slot for dispensing money that looked exactly like a slot for dispensing trash. So I shoved some receipts into the slot before taking out money. Maybe that was just me being stupid after a 20 hour trip. But of the course the first 100 Euros I tried to take out wouldn't come out because of the receipts jammed into that slot. The I tried to force them out by withdrawing another 20 Euros. Lost those too. Thank God Vicky speaks fluent Spanish. She ran around the airport, made some calls. The final verdict? I have to call my bank in the US and have them resolve it with the Spanish bank. So for now, I'm just out of 120 Euros. Barcelona has already been an expensive, expensive date. Barcelona's the guy that made me pay for dinner before even putting out. That's all I'm saying.

Thankfully, I'm of the peosonality to not let little things like loosing 120 Euros ruin my trip. In the grand scheme of life, or even the smaller scheme of my 4 days in Barcelona, what's 120 Euros? Just another adventure.

It's daylight. It's bright. I'm going for a run to a little while. I'm looking forward to my next 4 days. It should be fun.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The morning after...

I have to admit, I was terribly afraid of going to bed last night because I was afraid what I might wake up with this morning. When I did my 13-mile run, I woke up more sore than I'd ever been in my life. So one could only imagine what a 18.5-mile run would do to a body. However, I woke up feeling quite well. I think the massage really helped. My back is still a little tight, but much, much better than I was feeling yesterday. Other than that and some sore quads, I really feel pretty good. Almost good enough to go on another run ;) But I think I'll just chill and pack for Barcelona.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

18.5 miles

I spent my morning running 18.5 miles.

It hurts. There's no other way to put it. It freakin' hurts. I'm not making any sudden movements because it feels like if I did, who the hell knows what might happen. Random muscles might cramp up. Random muscles *did* cramp up! I was taking off my socks, and the bottom of my right foot had this weird little reaction that was like a muscle cramp. But I quickly countered it by massaging it. So all is well. My toes will live.

I took 800mg of ibuprofen. I took a cold shower -- not long enough, because I'm a wimp. I'm icing my back. My lower back started feeling this sharp pain at about mile 18. Every step, it felt like the disks were compressing. I kept going for a while while keeping the pressure off of my lumbar. But then I decided it's better to stop. I'd already gone over my goal of 18 miles anyway. So I stretched it a lot afterwards. Though now overstretching is painful, too. So I'm just icing. I hope it's nothing too serious. (Mom, if you're reading this, don't worry about it, everything's peachy.)

Taking it slow really helped. We still managed to average 5.9mi/hour (that's 10.1km/hour for my European fans). And still then, at mile 17, we passed a couple who were jogging (probably on their mile 2). Now that felt good.

I'm glad I did this before going to Barcelona. I'm glad I did this the day *before* my 20-hour flight! At least now, I get a chance to stretch out a bit before cramming myself into an airplane seat! I should ge arrange for a massage...

I have to say, 18 miles was a huge mental block for me. I'd done a half marathon. So the 15 mile run wasn't such a big deal mentally. It felt like something I could do. But 18 just seemed like a *huge* number. I'm glad I did it. Just one more long run left before the taper. I'm ready.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

When to Blog

It occurred to me as I was drinking my morning latte and reading Ph.D. Comics that this really is the only reasonable time to blog -- I'm hardly awake, I need to be awake, I'm drinking my latte in order to become awake, I can't really do anything productive other than attempting to read New York Times to enrich my mind but eventually finding Ph.D. Comics more entertaining... Well, you get the idea. So this is the time to blog!

I'm back from Vancouver. See photos here. I really love Vancouver. I do I do I do. If Vancouver were a man, I'd marry Vancouver and have babies with Vancouver, and the babies would be beautiful and smart and grow up to get their Bachelor's from MIT and then go on to win Nobel's and Field's metals and Miss. American titles ;) Here's the thing I've come to terms with -- I grew up in a city of 15 million, I spent 9 years in Boston, 3 in Atlanta. I'm a city girl. I like being in a big city. I like having different, vibrant neighborhoods instead of just one semi-vibrant Main Street. I like people from different countries coming together to cook me different kinds of food. I like living in a fashionable city. I like living in a city where people come to make something of themselves. I like the energy of big cities -- well, certain big cities. That's all. Nothing against small cities, villages, or farm houses. I just prefer big cities.

And I love Vancouver additionally for its Stanley Park and the amazing views of the snow-capped mountains. I really like mountains. I like looking at them from afar more than I like climbing them. I like the high-level views, okay? Stanley Park is also fantastic for jogging. I love all the little Japanese ladies in their matching polyester track suits -- they're like old little Asian Gwen Stefanie's.

I'm leaving again for Barcelona in a couple of days. This is a whirlwind traveling month for me. I hardly have time to unpack. In fact, I'm not sure I really will unpack... But Barcelona should be fun.

I invested in a pair of Bose noise-cancelling headphones yesterday. "Invest" is the keyword -- these things are damn expensive! Shouldn't peace and quiet be a right, rather than a luxury??? Ah well. Christoph promised me that my productivity will shoot up because of these damn headphones. Well, it'd better! Otherwise it's a bummer of an investment.

After our little shopping foray at the outlet mall in Woodburn, OR where I dropped $350 on the headphones and Christoph became the domestic diva and purchased a coffee machine and coffee and wines and jams and various things that go into your mouth, we decided to go into Portland for a little impromptu trip. It turned out to be really fun. We just walked around the downtown area. They have this enormous Saturday Market that was fun to go through. I like Portland. It's not a huge city, but it's cute. We had an early dinner at this place with a huge crab on top of the building, and then, had some fantastic chocolate at Cacao Drink Chocolate. Oh it was good! They had this drinkable chocolate made with dark chocolate, spiked with pepper, mixed with milk and coconut milk. So good!

Okay. Latte's done. The end.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

15 miles

Well, I did it. You have to wonder what the hell would possess someone to want to run this far. 2.5 hours on the road. The last 3 miles was brutal. I can't believe I really did it.

I'm not nearly as hungry as I thought I'd be. Maybe it's because I ate a lot yesterday in preparation. I ate a hamburger, and then ordered a basket of bread just for myself.

It's amazing what nerves can do to you. I usually have no problem getting up at 5:45am to prepare for my 7am run. But this morning, I woke up with the alarm, and simply could not will myself out of bed. I literally stayed in bed until the very last moment -- around 6:30am -- I really *had* to get up.

Well, anyway. There it is. 15 miles. Done.