Monday, May 9, 2011


For those living in the Basque region, Semana Santa is something of a misnomer. It is actually semanas, as the girls had two full weeks of spring break. We made the most of our time. They make up for it by being in school until late June.

Part I: Lauren attends Eurocall SIG in Barcelona
I left a couple days before everyone to head to Barcelona where I attended the Eurocall-CMC Telecollaboration conference. Upon arrival Mercedes and family, my youngest sister of my Basque family, met me at the airport. They took me to the bed and breakfast I had reserved near the downtown area of Barcelona. Ana’s Guesthouse was wonderful and I would highly recommend it. Ana and her daughter Natalie were great, breakfast was perfect and the house was lovely. Here are a few pictures of the patio courtyard and living room. Hard to believe this is just off of the downtown area of Barcelona.

At the conference met a colleague from León with whom I had been communicating for over a year. It was a small conference attended by people from all over Europe and Scandinavia. It was interesting to learn about what people are doing with language technology in other parts of the world. It was also interesting to realize how different US expectations are of connectivity as compared to other regions. While not all of our students are connected at home there is a definite move in the US to expect students to find ways to get connected when they have to be; via cellphone, at the library, or at school. While other countries are connected, and so are their students, they don’t expect students to be. Some instructors still hesitate to require students to use media and the resources that make the web a richer resource than a traditional paper. Much of the work is done during the school day when they can get access to a lab. They do have the same issues as we do which are bandwidth and filters.

The final keynote was a US colleague, Steven Thorne, who is always a great speaker and stretches all of us a bit to move out of our usual comfort zone. All in all it was a great two days and I’m glad that I attended.

Part II: Look UP!!! High!!!
On Friday night Dean and the girls flew out to meet me. I unfortunately had to switch to a different B & B as Ana didn’t have enough rooms available for all of us. We stayed at BBB - Jardinets Guest House. The rooms were nice and the girls especially liked the elevator.

We met some of the other guests who were also friendly although it didn’t have the same family feel and was a bit more do-it-on-your-own than Ana’s. Our room was on the front of the building on a busy street but we managed with the night noise. The location was really convenient.

At this point, I had realized in Barcelona, it is very important to LOOK UP. The architecture everywhere is amazing and if you don’t look up you miss most of it.

Saturday we started out on our own. A long walk down the street took us to Las Ramblas and the pier. Along the way we stopped to take pictures of some of Gaudi’s amazing creations. The Pedrera and Casa Batlló were definitely worth the time to study from the outside.

We stopped briefly at Plaza Cataluyna.

From there we headed down Las Ramblas. At the end of the street near the pier we stopped for some pictures at the monument dedicated to Christopher Columbus, Plaza de Colón. We decided to skip the inside. On the way back up Las Ramblas we stopped at the Boquería, a large open market full of all kinds of food. We picked up some fruit and smoothies. Like everything during Semana Santa, the place was packed.

Our last photo op before lunch was Gaudi’s Segrada Familia. We again decided to stick to just taking pictures from the outside. I’m not sure how or when people ever get really good pictures of this church as it has been under construction for years. We did the best we could but you’ll have to just imagine what it would be like without all the scaffolding. The amount of detail put into all of Guadi’s work, and especially this one is beyond words.

Later we met up with Mercedes, Carlos and Unai for lunch. We were in plan to see more of the city from the very top, or what seemed like as high as we could go. We headed up the steps to the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC) and then kept going.
Before long we found ourselves at the Olympic stadium. It was pretty cool to be walking where all those amazing athletes shared their talents with the world. It’s nice to know that the buildings are still being used regularly for a variety of other events.

By this time, Maia and Unai were fast friends. Unai never napped as he was busy looking for Maia and a bit for Morgan too.

We eventually found our way to the teleférico that took us to the top of the mountain and Castle Montjuic with some great views. There was an African festival there that day so we caught a bit too much of some rap music and a really good storyteller.  Of course we have some pictures of the views as well. Barcelona is a HUGE city.

On our way back down the mountain we caught the magic fountain show. The fountain leading up to the MNAC was timed to "dance" with the music. At night it also has colored lights but the sun sets rather late here so we didn't stick around for that.

It was a long day and a lot of walking but the girls did amazingly well and we all slept very well Saturday night.

Sunday we  headed to Parc de La Ciutadella where we again met up with Mercedes, Carlos and Unai. It turned out to be the day of the Green Festival so besides the park being packed, there were hundreds of tents set up with all kinds of information on living green. I especially liked the Caballitos Ecológicos, pedal powered carousel with the recycled material horses. Not pictured is the music for the carousel that was solar powered. Very cool!

We enjoyed the park, the bicycle built for four, and most of all the company for a picnic. Later that afternoon we made our way to Mercedes, Carlos & Unai’s house. Yolanda, the sister that I went to high school with in Portugalete, joined us for a walk to the park and dinner. Nothing beats great conversation and great company.

Monday we headed to Parc Güell, another one of Gaudi’s amazing works of art. I have long been fascinated by the mosaic work that he did. It was unfortunate that the park was so packed, as it was hard to get some of the photos I was hoping for. Aside from that, I had seen it in many pictures and was glad to finally have a first hand view. Yolanda met us there with some of her housemates. It was nice to spend a little extra time with her as I rarely have the opportunity to catch up. She’s the one of the four that I see the least. We had a lovely afternoon in the park but wanted to keep things a bit lower key so the kids didn’t get too worn out.

Tuesday was our final day. I was on a mission to see Casa Batlló on the inside. So, Maia and I headed down shortly after it opened and Dean and Morgan met us later. It left me speechless. The admission  included a guided audio tour that was great as it  helped to point out the details that I would have otherwise missed. What an amazing place. He paid particular attention to light and glass as well as wanting to give it a maritime feel. You may notice the soft waviness of some of the design. There were no less than 20 points of interest on the audio tour. We were there for probably 2-3 hours. Gaudi used a mixture of soft wood, metal, and mosaics with attention to the most finite details. He was also very focused on reusing materials, something that is quite popular today but was innovative during his time. I’ll let the pictures tell the tour.

Following our busy 5 days of Barcelona, we had a couple of days in Algorta before a 5 day excursion to Salamanca. That post coming soon...

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