Monday, June 30, 2008

Madrid Day Two

Click on the photos to see the larger version!

Today started at a very late 10 AM...that is when I set the alarm to go off...after the previous 36 hour day, I was afraid I might sleep all the next day! I decided that I wanted to just go out into the city and walk through the streets...just see and hear the city, firsthand.

The first thing I noticed is that folks in Madrid love scooters and motorcycles. They are everywhere! Young and old, male and female...all kinds of people.

I particularly liked this photo of a man wearing a business suit and an 8 ball helmet on his Harley.

I passed by this very ornate building and thought this must be some sort of royal building or maybe the Spanish president lives there...'s the Palacio de Communicaciones - The Post Office!

As I walked down the street I came across this archway. It is called the Puerta de Alcala. Click on the link to learn the fascinating history of this arch!

Up the street a bit I entered the Parque del Buen Retiro. Translated, it means "Park of the Pleasant Retreat". Click on the link to read more about was very interesting and very peaceful! Here are a few pics...

This is a monument to King Alphonso XII located on a large artificial pond, called the Estanque. This boating lake is one of the parks oldest features (built around 1631) and in the days of King Filipe IV it was the setting for mock naval battles. Now you can just row a rented boat if you like.

This fountain is called Fuente del la Alacachofa...known here in Madrid as the "artichoke fountain". It was designed by Ventura Rodriguez and made of Sierra de Guadarrama granite and Colmenar stone. Sounds pretty fancy, huh??

This last featured photo in the park is of the Palacio de Cristal...the Crystal Palace.

After many hours in the peaceful park, I ventured out into the noisy and very busy city. Everywhere you look there is amazing architecure and statues! I am not even sure what this statue is, it just looked neat!

Along the way I came across the Iglesia de San Jeronimo el Real. It is a former monestory of St. Jerome the Royal. It was closed when I was there, but the level of detail on this old church was amazing!

The next stop on my unguided walking tour was to the Royal Palace of Madrid. It is the largest royal palace in western Europe! I had a picture of the Palace yesterday on my blog, but today I paid to go inside and tour it. They don't allow photos to be taken inside, but if you click this link, you will see TONS of pics!

It was so amazing! Every room was more opulent than the previous...giant frescos on every ceiling and everything "gold colored" was really gold!

Well, the day isn't really over...tonight we are going to go 1/2 block from where my friends live and we are going to watch the victory parade for the Spanish Football team. They defeated Germany to win the coveted Euro cup and tonight the team returns to Madrid. I am sure I will have lots of neat pics of the celebration!

Till tomorrow!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

36 hours...

Click on the pictures to see a bigger version.

I have been up for 36 hours (with a 3 hour nap on the plane). I have had an AWESOME start to my visit to Spain. I arrived here in Madrid at 9 AM this morning and was met at the airport by my friends Rich and Madelyn...

They promptly took me on a walking and metro adventure through Madrid.

First we went to Plaza Mayor to see the neat architecture...

Next we walked to Palacio Royal to see the largest palace in western Europe...

The weather here in Madrid was a pleasant 85 degrees with a nice breeze. Rich and Madelyn were so nice to take me through the historic parts of the town and also show me how to use the metro system. After all that walking we stopped at Cafe de Oriente for a few Mahou beers.

It was getting time to head over to the Plaza de Torro de Las Ventas to watch the weekly bullfight.

I was interested to see just what really happens at a bullfight. It is such a traditional part of the Spanish culture and I didn't want to miss it. I wasn't sure how I would react to seeing a bull get killed...

The actual killing of the bull is supposed to be the finale to a very choreographed sequence of events. However the 3 toreadors we saw all botched the death blow and they had to try it again.

We would have stayed for more, but Spain was playing Germany in the EuroCup Finals. We walked to the Plaza de Colon because they had many big screen TV's set up outside...

Well, us and about 50,000 other fans had the same idea because it was PACKED!!! The game itself was being played in Austria and this is where the fans came to cheer their home team on!

Well, Spain won the Championship (which is played every 4 years!) and it is a madhouse outside right now. After the end of the game, we went outside to the main street (1 block away) and waved the Spanish flag and yelled Spanish cheers with the now 100,000 fans! I had a complete blast partying with all of my very happy and very drunk Spanish friends! The game ended 3 hours ago and it sounds like Fat Tuesday, New Years Eve in the French Quarter and add in if the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl!

Well, I have had a VERY FULL 36 hours and I am surprisingly lucid. I am betting that tomorrow will be a bit tame compared to today.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

In Atlanta for a few hours...

My first flight of the day was a quick 30 minute hop from Huntsville to Atlanta. I only listened to about 5 songs before I had to turn my MP3 player off because of our approach to Atlanta International.

I am sitting her in Concourse E...a place I have never been to before. I have been to this airport probably 100 times, but never to this particular concourse because this one is used for international flights.

It is quite interesting here...there are lots of people coming and going to many different foreign countries. As I walk around, I hear many different languages and the architecture is a bit more modern here than in the other 4 or 5 concourses.

A few random travel thoughts...

What is it with people walking around with their pillows in airports?

Who flies wearing flip-flops?

Sir, you and I know there is no way that bag will fit in that overhead compartment!

I broke down and exchanged Dollars for Euros here in Atlanta. I only wanted 100 Euros to start with and I will get the rest at ATM's in Spain. I had to pay $187 for 100 Euros! Damn!

Once I board the plane, it is a short 8 1/2 hour flight to Madrid...not too bad really. I am going to try to sleep as much as I can so I can hit the ground "running"!

Friday, June 27, 2008

I'm off to Spain...

Tomorrow I will be leaving to go to Spain for a week. I really don't have a whole lot planned out in advance, which is unusual for me. I guess I just want to go with the flow and not be locked into a rigid schedule.

I will be updating my blog very regularly and hope that you will come back daily to see what's up!


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Shiner Update

Well, it's been over a week since Eric fell and his black eye is almost gone. Just wanted to show everyone how it is progressing....

Eric's grandfather told him to tell folks "you should see the other guy...he has TWO black eyes" when people would ask him about his black eye.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Eric's First Shiner

On Saturday, we all went to a water park called Point Mallard to celebrate Kevin's 9th birthday. They have a pool with regular diving boards, 8 foot diving boards and various high dives. Well, both Kevin and Eric jumped off the 8 foot board...tentative at first, but after every successful jump their confidence grew.

Well, apparently Eric became a bit too confident because he lost his concentration at the point where the ladder meets the board and he fell to the concrete!

I was less than 10 feet from him when he fell, but I had my back turned because I was walking to a place where I could see him jump (for the 20th time...)

I heard him hit the concrete and when I spun around, he was laying face first. I ran over, picked him up and held him tight. I gave him the once-over and didn't see gushing blood, because I felt that he might be seriously hurt.

He had a BIG bump on his head and we took him to the first aid room to check for a concussion. They concluded that he was fine and after 15 minutes of icing his forehead he was off to the wave pool.

All this was after he had his fingers closed in the door leading to the food court a few hours earlier!

These pics are from the next day...

Other than a few small scrapes on his legs, the black eye was the only injury he received from an 8 foot fall to wet concrete!

That is one tough kid!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Not Much Happening

I have been home for the past week and the work I have been doing is pretty standard TV type work. Making copies of videos, shooting interviews in the studio, converting .vob's to MP3's, meetings, creating files for transcription ...real exciting stuff. This is the type of work that keeps Marshall TV humming...there is always a million things that need to be quickly dealt with.

One thing I noticed was that they are repairing and repainting the rockets in the Marshall Rocket Park. It is a collection of historic rockets that only Marshall employees are able to see because there are no longer public tours of the center. I wonder how many people drive by and never look over to see the very impressive and historic display. We have a Saturn 1, a V-2 and Jupiter C just name a few...they were showing their age and it's nice to see them getting some much needed attention!

Also, we celebrated Kevin's 9th birthday tonight at Tina's house. He had a sleepover with some friends and I brought my Playstation 3 over so they could all play Lego Indiana Jones. I brought pizza and Kevin opened gifts and we all ate cake..Kevin had a great time being the center of attention. We all deserve to be the center of attention at least one day of the year...

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Raiders of the Lost Ark

I first saw "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in the summer of 1981...My Dad and I went together and because I was almost 11 years old, I really don't remember it being overly violent or scary.

Well, I decided it was time for my 2 boys to experience the original Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark. They are 9 and 7 and although I knew the face melting part would freak them out, I knew when it would be and would tell them to close their eyes...

On a side note, the Lego Indiana Jones PS3 game was released last week...I knew I wanted to buy it for the boys because they love the Lego Star Wars so much. I thought they would enjoy the Lego Indiana Jones game better if they actually saw the movies first.

Well, I knew I was in trouble when my 7 year old announced halfway through the movie that this movie was going to give him nightmares like the newest Indiana Jones movie did (which he saw last week...). Uh Oh...I didn't know that...

I played it off like, "don't worry, it's all fake. The fake blood is actually mint flavored..."

Well, My 7 year old woke up twice with nightmares and eventually both of them slept with me starting about 2:12 AM...

On a side note, I took them to see Iron Man today and they LOVED IT! My 7 year old said that it would not give him nightmares...

Let's hope not.

Monday, June 2, 2008

"When We Left Earth"...

This Sunday, the Discovery Channel begins a six part series called "When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions". While I am very excited about this all high definition series, I have to wonder why we at NASA couldn't have produced this...also, who am I going to have to beg to get HD clones of this stuff? The NASA centers should have high definition copies of the footage that the Discovery Channel used for this series.

The whole time I am watching this, I will be thinking...Damn, why don't I have access to this FOOTAGE!

Anyway, I know this is going to be awesome and I will be buying this on Blu-ray this summer. Here is a video preview...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A visit to New York City

As always, click on the picture to see a bigger version...

Today I took a trip to the Upper East Side of New York City to visit a friend of mine from high school and her family. I was a bit nervous driving into the City, but my trusty Garmin Nuvi 260 took me right there.

We went out for lunch at a nice sidewalk cafe type restaurant and then we enjoyed an iced Vietnamese coffee on the walk home.

I haven't seen Ngan since we graduated high school 20 years ago! Hopefully we won't wait 20 more years to get together again.