Friday, February 29, 2008

Brothers' trip

After some intense negociations with my brother Javier, I can make official that we will go to Marrakech (Morocco) for 4/5 days in August.

After my visit to Istanbul and my coming trip to Egypt, I wanted to wrap up my visit to arab countries with one of Spain's neighbours, Morocco. And my brother was the best possible travel buddy! ;-)

Marrakech has many interesting things, including snake charmers, story-tellers..., and it is the perfect place for some 1-day trips to cool places nearby: Essaouira (Unesco World Heritage), Atlas Mountains, Sahara Desert...

For the moment the plan is quite open! but one thing is for sure, we'll have so much fun!!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

When the Sun and the Earth meet

Sunset in Istanbul seen from the top of Galata tower.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Istanbul was an unforgetable trip. I didn't know what I actually expected of the city, but however beautiful I thought it would be, I couldn't have imagined what it really looks like! It is full of mosques, and they are so cool! The weather was also far better than in the Netherlands. And in addition, Naoko was there!!

I usually post too many pictures and give a too detailed description of the trips... this time I will try to keep it short for a change. Not to bore you!

The main highlights in the city, or at least some pictures I like are these:

- Topcapi Palace: it was the sultans' palace and it is next to the well known Ayasofia temple (it was a mosque but was found to be a bizantinum temple in the 20th century...). This photo was taken within the Sultan's Harem.

- A roman temple, composed of underground cisterns.

- Twilight in the pier at Old Town. Galata Tower on the other shore.

- Two beautiful mosques at dusk in perspective. So beautiful!!

- We took a day cruise around the Bosphorus and went up to the Black Sea. Here we are in the top of a mountain with a castle. Behind us, Europe (left) and Asia (right) want to meet!

- And this is at the Grand Bazar.

- And the impressive Ayasofia! The visit inside is well worth it!!

For photos of the Blue Mosque just check my previous post! Some other photos will be coming in the next days, but I can tell you I am still keeping some of the coolest!!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Greetings from Istanbul

Hi everybody! Now I am in Istanbul with Naoko! Our first day here has been really interesting and the cultural shock is still there... It is strange to wake up at 5am with muslim songs!

Here, the proof I am not making this up!! hehe, the blue mosque and ourselves!

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Sometimes, at night, reality just fades away...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

In a Japanese shrine in Kyoto...

Time flies... it can sound as a too typical sentence but I really feel like that... I was checking my passport to go to Istambul on Thursday, and I found out it is exactly one year and a half since I left Japan, after 3 months living there... and it feels like it was yesterday! 1.5 years gone in a blink!!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

De vuelta a los orígenes

Este fin de semana estuve en España, en mi pueblo natal, el sitio en que, en palabras de Mario Benedetti, quedó mi infancia y envejecen mis padres. Fue un viaje relámpago, me fui el sábado por la mañana y ya estaba de vuelta el lunes por la mañana, para ir a trabajar. Sin embargo, ¡estuvo genial!

Como dijo mi compañero de oficina un par de días antes, de vez en cuando hay que volver a los orígenes. Trabajar o estudiar en el extranjero está muy bien pero siempre hay que recordar quiénes somos y de dónde venimos. Hay que viajar al pueblo para recordar nuestra identidad, para reencontrarnos con nosotros mismos.

¿Cómo se pueden tener objetivos en la vidad sin saber quiénes somos en realidad, de dónde venimos? Podré estar muy lejos, pero nunca debo olvidar que Almansa será siempre mi casa y mis orígenes.

Espero que en el futuro pueda seguir yendo allí al menos tan a menudo como ahora.

Friday, February 15, 2008

More books read...

In the last weeks, I have read some more books; 3 books in 3 different languages:

- Lo mejor que le puede pasar a un cruasan, Pablo Tusset (in Spanish)

- O sorriso aos pés da escada, Henry Miller (in Portuguese)

- Blind willow, sleeping woman, Haruki Murakami (in English)

At the same time, I am reading other books, but I will comment on them once I am done with them. Of the previous three, the first one was just ok, although the story didn't completely get me, the second was interesting and the third one was without any doubt the best one of the three.

That book in Portuguese was an experiment. I was sure I could read Portuguese... During my visit to Porto I developed the theory that Portuguese is almost the same language as Spanish and if you have read something in old Spanish, you can even understand it better. Of course, some words are really different. But anyway, the whole context and meaning is perfectly understandable.

Murakami's book was as good as usual. In only 4 books, this guy is becoming one of my favourite writers ever. This volume was a collection of short stories. Some of them were just ok, but most were really good. I am still fascinated by the way he writes. This weekend, I am making for Spain. I think I will buy some of his books there. The price is quite lower than here! and I can buy them in English as well!

In total, that makes 6 books in 6 weeks! I am reading at a good pace for the challenge of the 50 books in a year! Let's see what happens when I start travelling.

By the way, I think I didn't tell you, but next week's weekend I will go to Istambul to meet Naoko!! That adds another country to my visited countries list ;-)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Finally, Columbus, ESA's laboratory at the International Space Station has been completely deployed! After several months of uncertainty (the original launch was scheduled last 6th December), Columbus was launched last Thursday evening (at 8.46 pm). During the weekend, it was on its way to the ISS and yesterday, at around 3pm in Europe, it was connected and correctly activated.

It's been many years' effort for many people here in ESTEC. Last Thursday, in the Erasmus Center, the place where the launch was broadcast for all ESTEC, many people clapped and even shouted and cried after the launch was successful. Today, before lunch, ESA has offered a drink to everybody working here, to celebrate it is working properly up there!

This is a big success for Europe, ESA and international collaboration in general. Now, it is time to start using it for good experiments.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Frase del dia

"Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it"

"La muerte no es lo contrario de la vida, sino parte de ella"

Haruki Murakami

Monday, February 11, 2008

Renato Borghetti

Last week, I went to a great concert in Amsterdam. Felipe, my housemate, told me about the concert and I checked the musician's website and decided to join. The musician we are talking about here is Renato Borguetti, Brazilian, or well... Gaucho more especifically. He plays traditional music from his region with an accordion. Others musicians supported him with a guitar, a piano and some brass instruments. The performance was superb! It is difficult to figure out how good music you can do with an accordion until you've seen this guy playing! I was amazed... The other musicians were also really good, specially the guitarist. Their performance was full of virtuosity!

I recommend you check out some videos in the internet. The music is quite interesting and you can know something more about the South of Brazil. Not everything is samba there! ;-)

Friday, February 8, 2008

Pau Gasol

Now it is 11 pm at night and instead of being out somewhere, I am just hanging around at home waiting until 1 am with some sake to make the wait more comfortable. At 1 am, Los Angeles Lakers are playing and Pau Gasol will be playing his third match with Lakers' T-shirt.

Last Sunday, when I came back from Copenhagen, I turned on the TV and found out the most amazing news possible! Pau Gasol, maybe the best Spanish basketball player ever, had been transferred to Lakers, the team I have always liked! It was kind of a dream... maybe, I actually jumped out of happiness... hehe... I shouldn't be making this confesions in the open... :)

Well, the things is that Pau Gasol will have a real opportunity to win the NBA ring now and my feeling is he will get it. He is a winner. He won the Junior World Championship back in 2000, several Spanish ACB leagues, the rookie of the year award when he arrived at the US and specially, he won the last Basketball World Championship and was awarded the MVP award! He is so good... and he is Spanish :)

Well, let's see if tonight there is a good match coming... Good night!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Blue belt examination

Last summer, I told you I took up karate in ESTEC. It turns out I have continued practicing and studying since then and finally, last week, I had the opportunity to stop wearing a white belt and to put some colour in my life ;-) In this case, the blue colour of the belt for which we got the examination.

The examination took two days and it consisted of a written exam, individual techniques performance, 2 katas and 4 self-defence movements. After all this, all the class got through and everybody got the new belt!

It has been a long time (several months) trying to improve and to start practicing karate properly. All this time has been really nice and I have always been looking forward to the new practice. I hope I can keep motivation until the end of my contract here, and I'd like to continue my karate studies at my new destination!

At the time being, I will continue trying to progress and get the advanced blue belt soon!

Some photos of the exam follow.

And this is when I got my new belt!

And this is a group photo with all the new "blue belts" together with senpai Carolina:


As you can see from the previous picture, last weekend I went to Copenhagen with some Italian friends, Carolina, Maurizio and Ilaria. I expected it to be extremely cold but it was not that bad for this time of the year. I mean, no snow and sunny during the day... the temperature did not go higher than 2-3 degrees though... The city was beautiful and people quite warm and welcoming. It was a nice surprise! We had quite a lot of fun at night and during the day. During the day, we did not stop walking in those 2 days, but it was well worth it! We could visit all the major places... except Carlsberg brewery... next time :)

Now some pictures so you can see what it looks like, in case you have never been there!

This is Nyhavn (New Harbour), a street full of restaurants, ships and colourful houses.

This is one of the most unique churches in the city. The way up to the top of the tower goes around the tower and outside! Quite surrealistic but nice.

And the Opera Theater:

This is one of the last hippie towns in Europe... it is called Christiania and drugs were sold here with police consent until a couple years ago.

This is Tycho Brahe's Planetarium. A beautiful modern bulding it is! Gerard, I couldn't help remembering how Tycho Brahe died... do you remember that final report for our "History of Science" course?

And finally, a typical view from Stroget, the shopping street: lovely square + church + fountain... beautiful

In short, a nice weekend break!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Porto. The last places visited.

As promised yesterday night, I will proceed now with the description of the photos I uploaded yesterday.

After visiting Gaia and the Porto wine caves, we literally climbed to the cathedral. From there, the view was superb. A sea of reddish roofs waving as the streets go up and down, and with Torre dos Clerigos in the background as a nice outpost or continuing with the previous analogy, a lighthouse.

Afterwards, we came back downtown and went to visit a famous modernist bookshop called Lello. It was fantastic! so beautiful! It reminded me of Gaudi. This library could well be in Barcelona ;-) And it is still selling books. Maybe, the most eye-catching element is the artistic twisted staircase. Have a look:

The last stop that day was next to our hotel, in the city hall square. There was a huge Xmas tree with nice illumination. This week I found out that Xmas tree has been the largest ever and has been included in the Guiness Records Book. This is the city hall:

Next day, we visited Mercado do Bolhao, a pintoresque open-market. My Portuguese officemate told me to go there because it was special. But actually, it looks like any market in Spain... maybe this kind of markets is typical Iberian...

The morning was foggy, but I did not want to leave Porto without watching the city from the top of Torre dos Clerigos. So, foggy or not, up I went and enjoyed the view. The sun rays heated the city at that time and fog banks vanished... I was quite lucky!

And finally, on our way to the airport, we stopped at Casa da Musica, a nice building designed by a Dutch architect.

After that, flight and back to Valencia. Two nice days in a surprisingly beautiful city. Really enjoyable!