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Changes, so many changes

When I moved to NYC almost two years ago, I knew that my position wouldn’t be a forever-type thing. I wanted, I needed to have some security, to get out of the training loop. I wanted to have benefits, to have a job that involved doing science, training, sample prep, and of course, learning new skills to add to my repertoire.

I knew the position would only be a temporary fix to my situation at the time (frustrated with academia, hated my postdoc, etc). I also knew, or at least expected, that the separation from honey would be a temporary one, especially while he finished his PhD. He’d be looking for work, hopefully in NYC or nearby, and we’d reunite after a while.

Hon was struggling for a few months to try to find work. He lived with his parents in the meantime, as my salary could not sustain the two of us. We went back to the long distance thing, with him doing most of the traveling to NYC. We’ve had a fantastic time in this city. This city is amazing. I’ve met some super fantastic folks, I’ve made contacts that I never even dreamed would be possible. I’ve met some of my favourite scientists, connected with emerging ones, in general, I’ve had a grand ole time.

I hadn’t been looking for work, or at least actively, since joining my current lab. Since I did such a short postdoc (in my opinion), only 1.9 years, I was afraid of doing a bunch of short stints at a couple of places, and creating the impression that I couldn’t hold on to something for a while, and improve my publication profile, network, present, etc.

Back in October I was contacted by a somewhat new hire at one of my previous places of training. I know this PI because they started in this place just as I was finishing. This PI’s postdoc lab is rather famous in my field, and has been very prolific in method-development. In addition, this lab has had a shit ton of trainees, some of which I’ve gotten to work with or meet since moving to NYC.

People at this previous place of training have been searching high and low for someone to be a manager of a lab in one of my disciplines of training. There have been some major changes (faculty-wise) and some of the people in power know of me and my work.

A couple of weeks ago I flew in for an interview, not sure of what to expect. I hadn’t seen these people since I left for my current job and I wasn’t sure how I’d fit in (if at all). Granted, I was trained at some point of my career there and people know the calibre of work I did. I was sure that all I’d get would be a free trip to say hello and goodbye and that’d be the end of it. I was oh-so wrong.

A few days ago I got semi-official confirmation that the position has been opened … for me. In essence I was asked to name everything I needed In order to leave NYC and join them. Yup. I’m still trying to pick my jaw off the floor.

I’m switching jobs once again. I’m going back and (hopefully) getting a do-over of some of the things I didn’t get to do, or did wrong. Hon will be relocating also, which means I get to have my cake and eat it too! Yeah, pinch me. I’m still trying to understand how the heck did this happen.

This new job has the potential for incredible amounts of growth. I’d be heading a lab I worked in, not as a PI, but as a bona fide manager. I’d be training people, creating protocols, collecting data, interacting with PI’s, postdocs and students of all levels. There would be no middle man like there is now. I’d basically become the female version of my current immediate supervisor, a person I adore beyond measure.

Yeah. I’m still freaking out. I can’t begin to wrap my head around the whole thing. I’ll be leaving NYC. That saddens me terribly. But what I earn now is not enough to live with hon, let alone cover the debt I have. I’d be getting access to the same level of benefits I currently have, along with more responsibility. I’d have access to a kick ass library, to decent sports teams, good food, and a whole new wave of talent.

I’m both excited and terrified. I’m excited about the possibility of working once again with people I know, but in a new aspect of my career. This is not a soft money position and I’m thrilled that the school/department/faculty kept me in mind when the whole change in faculty/department structure happened.

I also have some worries. I’d be the only woman in the lab, in a conservative environment where most of the faculty are white bearded dudes. And while I’ve been trained well in the science and in some admin stuff, I have no idea how to confront white bearded dudes, should they get out of line. I’m half their age at best … this shit is crazy.

I’ve certainly changed a bit from my old days there, so I don’t know how my “new” personality will mesh. I’m worried about that too. I’m worried about how I’ll be able to head the lab and move things along to show that the lab is self-sustaining and that we can bring more staff to help me. I’m worried about the pace of things, and about meeting the expectations. I don’t want to let anyone down. And of course, my imposter syndrome is acting up.

I’m happy about the change though (well, except the part about leaving NYC), about living with honey and being able to afford a place where we’re each others’ only roommate, of continuing our own little family, mamma, dadda and kitty. I’m happy to be able to drive places once again. I won’t miss living with total strangers (thankfully all of them have been sane!), the noises of the street, the crazy, stinky people during rush hour. NYC has been a tremendous adventure, but it’s my time to go.

We’ll see how things happen. But rest assured, I’ll keep writing about life in school, and life as a staff scientist, now loaded with moar responsibiliteez. Omai. I hope the new job, and the new me will still shed some light on the post-academic life. I hope y’all hang in there while I figure out my new roles, as a wife and lab manager.

Oh!? Did I mention that honey proposed and that we’ll be getting married in NYC before the move? Yeah …. totally. But that’s for another post, hehehe

Much love from my family to yours and a very merry 2013.

I guess I was wrong

Due to money constraints, I thought I would not be able to attend a conference or a workshop this year. Earlier in the year I went to a workshop a few hours away which was super informative and a great place to network. That resulted in visits from a couple of applications/engineering people who helped a lot with one of our renegade instruments. That beast had been tamed somewhat.

Then my boss and supervisor had a budget meeting and turns out there’s money left to go somewhere, not too far, but still. So, by the end of this month I’ll be flying away from NYC to attend a little conference in my field. I have nothing to present, which is both good and bad. I’m going into new turf and will be talking to peeps who do this thing I do in the lab but which I’m still new at (and apparently the only one right now to do it in my division), so I’m looking forward to getting pointers from more senior people in the field. This was a totally unexpected and very welcomed surprise. I hope to make new contacts and maybe get in contact with a couple of corporate people too. I guess I gave up too soon on the traveling to a conference (however small).

Hon was here for 2 weeks. It was bliss. We went down to DC to celebrate 7 years of being together and we loved it. I apologize for not getting in contact with of you lovely DC tweeps, but we had a little over 30 hours to do some tourism in the area and felt it would have been too short on you to make it memorable. I hope we can go back for a little longer some other time. Hon is still looking for work. I’m also keeping my eyes open for any opportunities that arise at home. I miss my hon, and I want to be near him once and for all.

The air is getting chillier. I’m not looking forward to a bad winter, though I suspect this will be. Bummer.

I’m liking the new place and my roommates. The apartment is homier and I get to interact with the roommates more than I did with my previous one. I’m finally getting used to the new place and settling into a routine. Things seem more normal.

Science-wise, there are lots of projects going on and I’m trying to keep my head straight. Been doing lots of data collection, lots of samples and learning lots too. It’s incredible how much I’ve learned in a year as a staff scientist compared to being a postdoc stuck in a rut. Don’t get me wrong, doing the postdoc taught me many things, but mostly about me and my limits. In this lab I’m learning tons technique- and science-wise.

What’s new with you?

Resolutions: 2012 edition – three months in

Here’s how things are going two months into 2012. The changes are crossed and have a comment. Enjoy!

Even though I complain all the time about hating to do resolutions, I still manage to make a list. I like lists, I enjoy making them and I enjoy crossing stuff off. So, without further ado, here’s what I hope to accomplish in 2012 (in no particular order):

  1. Get bangs. I love bangs, but after a while I get tired. I found a haircut that I love and back in October, I found a stylist that I like, so I hope to get into the spirit of spring with a new haircut and bangs to match. Finally sporting bangs, a little long, but that’s better than ending up with Audrey Hepburn’s bangs on hair that’s thicker than thick. 
  2. Sell my car.
  3. But first I need to *finally* get the papers in order. It still has an ON title.
  4. Ask for a raise, because I deserve it, and I want it. After having the results of my year end review, I ended up with a few more pennies in my pocket. Not too shabby 🙂
  5. Visit the family and stay a few days without worrying about money. Possibly attend my nephew’s birthday.
  6. Attend hon’s defense and graduation.
  7. Make a dent on credit card debt #3, the smallest one (thought it’s still pretty significant).
  8. Attend a national meeting of my discipline or at least sub-field.
  9. Appear on a publication, even if it’s in the acknowledgments.
  10. Write an entry once a week.
  11. Make dinner at home, at least 1 week of every month (it costs me as much to dine out as to buy groceries and cook, so I opt to (mostly) eat out and work late).Woo! Achieved. I’m cooking most days in, not 7 days a week, but most days a week, every week. Not too shabby here either. I’ll take eating in most days, rather than cooking for 7 days just one week a month.
  12. Tell annoying family member to fuck off if he keeps harassing me.
  13. Try a few new places to eat, especially around my neighbourhood (not that I don’t love you y’all, but you know, I need variety).
  14. Walk more, eat less, drink more water. Not eating less, but I’m opting to walk more whenever I can (and soon I should be getting my orthotics! finally done, yay!!!) and I’m drinking water most days at work.
  15. Find a good, local brewery and try a new beer every month (suggestions are more than appreciated, also #drunksci).

Let’s see

Where to begin? I don’t know. I didn’t realize it had been that long since I last posted. One of my new year’s resolutions had been to blog more often, and here I am, neglecting the blog for weeks. Sorry. I’ve been so busy, many changes, much work, lots of awesome people, and lots of tweeting.

Work is going well, I think. After my immediate boss left (I miss him terribly) we’ve been interviewing people. Two people have been offered positions, though one has a conflict of interest with a few projects (comes from a competing lab and would like to continue working on that line, which is in serious conflict with at least one of our projects). The other one is/was strange. I didn’t like this person, but the higher-ups loved this person. This person got an offer days after coming for the interview …. I was not impressed by the lab work (it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t too great IMO) … and my suspicion is that some people in my place of work are interested in raising the profile of the lab by bringing people from fancy labs and with fancy pedigrees. We’ll see.

Things are getting back to normal, kinda. Hon and I moved out of Ontario and into new job city. Most of our things are in storage. Hon had to move back in with his parents, as I don’t make nearly enough to support us both and he’s still a student without a stipend. We’re back to being long distance, but, it’s possible he’ll be able to visit more often as money-wise, visiting new job city may be better.

I’ve been attending meetings, sending emails, and of course tweeting to many (new and old) contacts. I’ve been introducing myself to different people, from tweeps to PIs, to administrative personnel to staff at labs. I’ve never been too shy, at least when it comes to introducing myself and striking a conversation, so I’ve been taking advantage of my current position and I’ve been networking like crazy. I think networking was one of the thing that helped me get my position, so now that I’m here I need to (cliche coming, you’ve been warned) raise things to the next level, because as much as I like work, and the challenges it brings, things always come to an end, or I’ll want to move to different role elsewhere, and doing a good job and keeping my professional relationships in good shape is critical for the next step.My business cards are adorable. I’ve been getting compliments on them, but I still think the font is tiny. I only have 482 of them left, after that, I’ll make sure to have a bigger font. Sans serif, please.

My room is a mess. Kitty is staying with me, and this has been a bit hard. Since kitty was a baby she’s never slept in the same room as mamma, and she’s a bit too noisy for mamma’s taste. Sadly hon had too many things to take kitty with him (this time) a carryon, so she’s staying with mamma until mamma can figure out what to do with her. Mamma’s roommie may be allergic to kitties, no matter how cute they are. I also have many boxes of stuff from both hon and I, and most of my clothes are still in storage. I only have one tiny closet …. I’m hoping to take this opportunity to get rid of even more stuff than when I did in preparation for this move. I really don’t want to pay for storage for more than a few months, though chances are it will be that way until I can find a bigger place or a place of my own. We’ll see.

My car is here. If you follow my tweets you can read about how frustrating it is to find a parking spot in this city. Though I have to say, in the few weeks it’s been here I’ve managed to find parking without murdering anyone or setting the car on fire. Phewww

This has been a hell of a week. So for now, I’m signing off, I’m tired and I hope to get some rest and buy some (real, non-take out) food this weekend. Thanks for visiting and reading. I hope to go back to my somewhat regular blogging schedule soon. Ciao

Female, scientist and homeless

Can’t give too many details but, there is a possibility of work in the States. In a couple of days I leave Canada. I’m packing away my life of 2 years in Canada and 6 years in grad school city to move to the unknown. I have to downsize drastically, and sadly I have to move alone, as hon will stay in Canada to finish his studies. I can/will leave my things in Canada and it’s possible I get reimbursed once I’ve completed the move, but first I have to spend money.

I got a call from one of the places I had visited earlier this year. The place was very welcoming and nice. I liked that almost everyone is/was a staff scientist and that I wouldn’t have too many people to share my working quarters with.  I don’t hate people, I don’t mean it like that. But, rather than sharing office and lab space with 15 people, it’s possible I get my own (looooong bench space), and maybe a bit of office space (but the offices and lab quarters are way apart, so people mostly stay at the bench). It’s a science place, but it’s neither industry nor academic.

I’m going back to what I know, but applied to something completely different. I may get a “fancy” title with the word ‘scientist’ in it (it’s true peeps, I’ll get to introduce myself from now on as some sort of fancy scientist). In paper I should be getting more moolah, but in practice I’ll be taxed on 3 levels (city, state and fed), which will invariably have me seeing a lot less money than I would have wanted (I did negotiate, but there’s no way to compensate for taxes, and no, I’m not complaining about taxes, it’s my civic duty and I’m happy to do it).

I’m thinking of renaming the blog ‘female scientist and homeless’ because I barely have money to move to uber-cool-city-with-great-science-and-too-small-apartments and I may not see more money for a long time. Possible new place of work will provide a roof over my head for a couple of days (read, a couple). I have a couple of (very, VERY) distant family members, and a grade-school “friend” who live there, but (sadly) can’t play hosts for me while I get my feet off the ground (in an ideal world I’d be happy to crash on somebody’s couch for 1-2 months while I get started, but reality is a bitch, and I don’t have any money, for realz). And because uber-cool-city-with-great-science-and-too-small-apartments is cool, landlords need to see a lot of moolah in all sorts of deposits and this and that prior to letting me in one of their (possibly not so fancy) apartments. I won’t have a car, furniture or even pots and pans to survive the first days (or months, at this stage, who knows who long it’s going to be). I’m taking a sleeping bag, and hoping I can pick up enough loose change on the streets of uber-cool-city to buy a pump and sleep somewhere (I’ll investigate whether there are showers at (possible) new job).

So, to summarize, I (may) have a job (I haven’t exactly signed anything, so to me, it’s not real at all, and based on the last 6 months they could back out at the very last-minute) which requires me to move back to the States, to a state I’ve never lived in, to a complete unknown, which is hard for me to swallow since I’m a type-A, planner-to-the-max kinda person. Yeah, I want to pull my hair to say the least these days.

We’ll see how that goes. Oh, and I’ll also turn 30 alone and (possibly) homeless. I am strongly considering renaming the blog female scientist and homeless.

Vacaciones 2010 – Madrid – Parte 2

In our last installment I showed you the first couple of pictures of our first couple of days in Madrid. Today I’ll show you what happened next. We had a really packed schedule, as we wanted to take in and experience as much as possible of gorgeous Madrid. The night of July 11 the Spanish team (La Roja) would face The Netherlands for the final  game of the World Cup. Ages before I had booked my ticket for Madrid, I remember joking with honey that it would be fun to watch the game there if Spain made it all the way to the final. As time passed and my ticket was booked, and we were there, on July 11, 2010, I couldn’t believe it. It’s not that I’m a die-hard fan of soccer (futbol), but it was a nice coincidence to be there while Spain got to the finals and I am thankful for being able to experience the entire game and aftermath with a vivacious Spanish crowd.

We had a couple of things planned for that day. Early in the morning we went to El Rastro, Europe’s biggest flea market. You can find many things here, from cheap and colourful espadrilles, to decor, shirts, food, jewelery, etc. It’s best if you get there early, so that there’s time to wander around, look at the booths and do some shopping. We didn’t have a problem walking around and shopping, but we were ready and careful as there are many stories of people being robbed at the flea market. I think we got there between 8:30-9am and left right before noon. It is amazing the amount of people who show up at El Rastro. And it’s only open on Sundays.

On our way back to the hotel we started to get a feel for how happy and eager the Spanish crowd was getting for the final game.

Metro during the Copa Mundial

As we were walking close to Plaza Mayor, we saw that the game would be broadcasted at one of our favourite spots, Mercado de San Miguel. We thought it was an awesome venue as it had many little spots for food and drink, so we thought we’d try our luck there later (we weren’t sure if there would be crowds, and if so, whether we’d need a contingency plan).

Our next stop was the Thyssen museum. The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza’s collection was started by the Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon, who married a Spanish woman (a former beauty queen) who influenced which pieces were acquired by the Baron after their marriage. Like the Reina Sofia, this museum showcases modern and contemporary pieces, as well as art from the 14th and 15th centuries and completes the Golden Triangle of Museums of Madrid. At the Thyssen you can admire works by Rubens, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Degas, Van Gogh, Renoir, Picasso and Monet … it is well worth the visit. I especially liked the layout of the Thyssen, and it was definitely less crowded than the other 2 museums.

After the Thyssen we still had a respectable amount of time left before the game, so we came up with the idea than since hon’s birthday was coming up, we’d try our luck and visit the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium as part of his birthday celebration. The Real Madrid plays at the Bernabeu Stadium. This was very fitting for the day. Turns out you can tour almost all of the Stadium, from the very top seats, all the way to the turf and even the lockers (which OMG are amazing!) … but it’s a pretty penny (~16€, or over 20$ depending on how the market is doing) … It was well worth the splurge. We opted for the self-guided tour (as guided tours started at over 30€). You get a map which helps guide your tour and there are selected areas in each level where you can take pictures and take in the views.

Estadio Santiago Bernabeu - Real Madrid

I won’t spoil the experience for you, but I’m including a couple of pics hon and I took while at the Bernabeu Stadium. If you want to see more you’ll have to go ;-).

Bernabeu from the top

Bernabeu mid-level

Bernabeu ground level

We toured the whole facility and even had a granizado … a delicious crushed-ice beverage with a fruity flavour that is so refreshing (like an Icee, but with a fruity flavour, I usually go for citrusy ones). The tour starts up at the top where you get the full view of the stadium and the nearby area. The sun and the heat were in full force. Luckily, many of the areas selected for the tour are shaded, and some are indoors. At one point, between the mid and ground levels there’s a museum showing different artifacts, trophies, and memorabilia from the team from its early days. From pins, to shirts, to shorts, to photos, to shoes … you name it, it’s there. You can go to the mid-to-lower level seating area, very close to the field (if I’m not mistaken you can touch the turf, if you’re so inclined). It must be an amazing feeling to watch the team play from that area.

We concluded our visit by walking close to the turf and the seating area for the visiting team. It was H-O-T, but I still got to sit where the other team sits, and OMG those seats are amazingly comfortable. After, we went to the lockers/washroom area. It is beautifully equipped, with many shower stalls, a jacuzzi, boards to discuss game strategies (we wrote our names there, I think, hehe) and finally you emerge where else? but the store. We bought a couple of souvenirs for the family. Needless to say, the authentic shirts and tees and jerseys were extremely expensive which we obviously couldn’t afford, but it was nice to see it all.

Back at the hotel we got some rest before the game. It was a pleasant surprise to see that the Mercado wasn’t too full. There were customers, and most of them had taken up all the seating available. We found a spot near one of the booths and tried a couple of things. We were on out feet for a little while and eventually decided to just sit on the floor and watch the game like that (something which I wouldn’t recommend at the Louvre, since the guards get all pissed, trust me, I’ve tried it). A couple of people followed our lead and eventually more and more people joined. Thankfully it wasn’t to difficult to move around and there were a couple of TVs at the Mercado, so there weren’t any turf wars. After a couple of scares courtesy of Team Netherlands team we joined the celebration and jumped up like crazy with all the Spanish peeps and some of the other tourists who were at the Mercado watching the game. It was truly magical. I have to confess that I was a bit disappointed that the city didn’t have a couple of jumbotron screens at the main squares. Spanish people are jovial and fun and it was a bit sad not to share the moment with more people. Luckily,, after the game, many fans started coming out of the bars and apartments and started flocking the streets. It was amazing to see people of all races, languages and origins join in the celebration. Below is a photo from when we got to Puerta del Sol. We found Canadians, Asians, Latin Americans, Spanish, all united, all celebrating and partying, smiling and greeting each other.

Fiesta en Puerta del Sol

We finally made it to the hotel really late and it was fun to see and hear people around hugging each other, celebrating and just plain having fun.

The next day we walked around a bit, had some western food at this cowboy-ish/old west looking place (it was yummy, and it was nice to have free refills of pop!) and then patiently awaited to see the team. Since we were staying to close to the Gran Via, one of the main arteries of Madrid, we wanted to make sure to catch a glimpse of the team as they greeted the fans. The team got to our area sometime after 7pm (probably 8), and we were at Gran Via from 4pm on (we wanted to make sure we had good visibility and luckily we found an area to recline/sit as needed). Little by little more and more people started filling up the avenue, up until there was enough space for the buses with the team to drive around. It was so cool. Below are some pictures from the celebration at Gran Via.

As people started filling up the Gran Via

La Roja and the adoring fans with only enough space to accommodate the bus, all rest is filled with excited fans

And we got to see the team kinda close. See? We saw the coach, and the trophy.

La Roja - World Cup Champions 2010

Up next is Toledo and Cuenca!

Vacaciones 2010 – Madrid – Parte 1

I’ve been meaning to write a post chronicling our adventures in Madrid, Toledo and Cuenca for quite some time. Ever since the first time I went to Spain over a decade ago I’ve wanted to go back. I fell in love with the country, and it’s like I can’t ever get enough of it. Luckily, a few years back I got my wish granted, and then again, last year. I wasn’t even meant to go, but as luck and a bit of faith would have it, I was able to hop on a plane with hon and go to Madrid. We had a lovely time, and now I’ll share some of the goodness of that trip, both in written and graphic forms.

It is no secret that I love to take pictures. I’ve been in love with photography for a while, but it wasn’t until 2006 when I really, really got into it. I got myself a good point and shoot camera, got me a Flickr account, and since then I’ve been snapping photos here and there and everywhere.

The trip to Spain came about as a suggestion of my BF’s parents. They had been to Madrid, I had been to Madrid, but honey hadn’t. We were originally thinking of doing something small, like visit Montreal or Ottawa, but it was über expensive, and for twice as long, and about the same price we could hop on a plane and spend 10 days in Spain … hard to choose, eh?

We got a very good deal for hotel and flights with Expedia. It came to around 1500 for a 3 star hotel, smack down in the middle of Puerta del Sol (which is very close to the Gran Via, one of Madrid’s main arteries) and to the metro and cercanias trains. Hon is a great planner, and armed with some helpful bits from places like this we went about exploring Madrid’s wonderful streets.

Our first stops were at Plaza Mayor and Mercado de San Miguel. Plaza Mayor, is a wonderful place to stroll and buy souvenirs and have a bite. We had a quick lunch a few times while there. Mercado San Miguel is full of delicious food too. We found this place that served AWESOME fruit smoothies and milkshakes and it made for a good snack or refreshment after countless hours of walking and visiting museums.

Below are some pictures I took of the Plaza, Mercado and Sol.

Plaza Mayor


Mercado de San Miguel, Plaza Oriente #3


Puerta del Sol

The next day, after having a yummy breakfast at Cafe & Te (they do an awesome panini which I kept ordering pretty much everyday of our stay), we headed to the Prado Museum. The Prado is immense (not as gigantic as the Louvre, but pretty big nonetheless, especially for someone with heel problems like me). It boasts tons of paintings and exhibitions of artists like Velazquez (and his famous Las Meninas), El Greco (my favourite), Francisco de Goya and his Majas, Ribera, Fra Angelico, Durero, Rubens, among many others. The museum has tons of wonderful pieces to admire. We opted for a ticket to all 3 Museums, as part of a deal. The 3 museums, Prado, Reina Sofia dnd Thyssen are known as the Golden Triangle. If you go to Madrid and have time, visit all 3. For 17 euros, you get to visit El Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza. We used only 2 of our tickets (I still have the one for the Reina Sofia as the museums have a day of the week where entrance is free of charge, so we didn’t use our tickets when we went to the Reina Sofia. If you go prior to December of this year I’d be happy to give you my ticket, it should still work).

At the Prado we got ourselves a map which, if you’re in a hurry, is extremely useful, so we flew from room to room looking at as many of the masterpieces as we could. And it was awesome. The Prado has sculptures, drawings, prints and other exhibits which we didn’t get to see much of, but I had been to the Prado before, so I made a point of covering as much of what I hadn’t seen as possible. I’d recommend that if you love art and want to spend the 17 euros, get the 3-way ticket and if you can’t cover the entire museum on one day, come back when they’re open for free. Both the Reina Sofia and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza are within walking distance, in case you feel adventurous and want to hit all 3 in one day.

Museo Nacional del Prado, summer 2010


Thyssen or Prado, which one to choose?

Paseo del Prado. Walking by the Prado

After the Prado, we decided to walk back to the hotel. We were looking for a metro station, but realised that walking wasn’t such a bad idea, as we weren’t that far away. We were taking in all the views, the traffic, a bit of rain, and came around this building, which we’d seen in many photos but never thought we’d accidentaly see. It’s between Calle Alcala and Gran Via.

Edificio Metropolis - Madrid, between Alcala and Gran Via

We stayed close to our hotel for the remainder of the day, doing a bit of shopping and eating. Next day we were going to el Callejon de las Letras, where Lope de Vega and Miguel de Cervantes lived!

Lope de Vega & Cervantes

Along the way we saw a reenactment of a sword fight between Cervantes (the one with the back towards the camera, his arm is hidden, as you know he was also known as El Manco de Lepanto) and Lope de Vega. Apparently these two weren’t on friendly terms. Both are among the best known and most prolific Spanish writers of their time.

We walked by the house were Cervantes lived, and a few steps down the road was de Vega’s house, which has been restored to its state when the author lived there. No pictures were allowed, except for the outside and the house’s patio. Entrance is free of charge and it has no A/C, which means that we were a wee-bit sweaty, even though it was barely 11am. Since we went in July, both the sales and the weather were HOT!

Casa-Museo Lope de Vega at the Callejon de las Letras

After that we took the metro to the area of the Palacio Real, where the King and Queen gather to meet with important peeps, but does not serve as the Royal residence anymore. We had our visit to the Palacio planned for another day, so we strolled around the streets a bit more, until we ended up near the Almudena Catheral (just a few steps away on Calle Mayor). Before going to the Cathedral we stopped at Casa Ciriaco (Calle Mayor, #84), a quaint little place were we grabbed a tapa (a small plate of goodies, cheese and ham or bread, or egg salad or aioli potatoes, changes everyday) and a caña or two …. or 3. It was super hot by the time we were near Almudena, and it was also near the siesta time, so a lot of business were closing shop until 4pm or so. Before stopping at Casa Ciriaco, we went into one of the oldest churches in Madrid, the church of San Nicolas de los Servitas.

San Nicolas de los Servitas - One of Madrid's oldest churches

We then walked to the Almudena Cathedral. It is a beautiful Cathedral where photography is permitted and the entrance is not expensive (a couple of euros, and I think it’s only if you want to make a donation, though don’t quote me on that). It was a nice break from the heat and we had tons to explore. The Cathedral is right next to the Palacio Real and it was commissioned ages ago. Construction stopped during the Franco Era, and was eventually picked up after the Civil War. It was completed in the 90s and has a statue of Pope John Paul II, which consecrated it back in the 90s.

Catedral de la Almudena

The next day we went to Goya’s tomb and the Museo de Arte Reina Sofia, Plaza de Espana and Templo de Debod … pheww. Pictures can be taken at many places in the Reina Sofia, but flash photography is not permitted. This is where Picasso’s Guernica is housed, and I took a pic from the room outside of it and I had a guard giving me a bit of grief (I didn’t have my flash on, luckily my camera has a museum setting), until someone had a big ass flash out, then him and another dude went after that guy … pheww. Dali’s works are housed here too. It’s an extremely interesting museum and I loved it, probably more than I did El Prado …. may be that I am inclided to early 20th century art. When the Reina Sofia opened, many of the 19th century and 20th century pieces that were at El Prado were moved to the Reina Sofia, which houses modern and contemporary art.

Panteon de Goya


Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofia


Guernica, de Pablo Picasso


Yes, a Dali, and yes, you can take pictures. No, no flash.

Our last stops were at the Plaza de Espana and Templo de Debod. We were dead tired, because we had been back and forth that day, but it was well worth it. It was also very, very hot and I fell on my ass while walking around the area of the Templo de Debod. But besides a bruised knee and ego, I loved both places.

Edificio Espana, near the Plaza


Plaza de Espana


Templo de Debod


Templo de Debod


Catedral de la Almudena, desde el Templo de Debod

After all this walking and coming and going we had a quiet night. The next day we had a very, very packed day. It was the day of the World Cup final, our line-up was to go to the Rastro (Europe’s biggest flea market), possibly visit a museum if we could squeeze it and try to go to the Bernabeu Stadium where the Real Madrid plays. Oh, and did I mentioned that we were looking for a place to watch the game? We did, but I’ll tell you all about it in my the next installment of our Spanish vacation.