Saturday, 25 July 2015

Madrid

Last week I was off on work travel again, to GECCO (the Genetic and Evolutionary Computation COnference) in Madrid. This is one of the big ones in my field, and there are usually a good few hundred people at it. This time round I was represented on three papers, one of which I presented personally (not done that for a while - good fun!). There was a really good buzz at this years' conference and it was quite worthwhile. I still have to dig through all the notes on new ideas and possible contacts that I made but even just the discussions there were all good.

It was also very busy - I didn't see much of Madrid apart from the street between the conference hotel and nearby restaurants until the last day. Fortunately I booked a flight back for the day after the conference so things weren't so rushed and a couple of the students from Stirling took me into town to see some of the sights on the last afternoon once the conference had finished (thanks guys!). Travel gets harder, though, and I really missed everyone at home. It was good to see them upon my return last Thursday! My mum had come to visit to help Jay with the children (which we were also very grateful for), so the girls at least had a distraction while I was away. In the space of a week it seems like Miriam has now learned the remaining few words of English that she didn't have before, Naomi has aged another couple of years, and Lydia has started crawling properly. One of the first things Naomi said when I got back was "Daddy, did you have a chance to bring anything?" - which was more-or-less code for "where's my present?" - at least I did put my final few Euros into two sets of castanets (yes, the house is even noisier), some confectionery goodness for Jay and a little bear that Lydia seems to have been unable to let go of since. It's good to know that the girls have their priorities straight!

The hotel, despite being fairly cheap, had really nice rooms. Look, my room had a vestibule!

It was also high up!

They say that PhD stands for Permanent Head Damage - but it seems unfair to label my case this way.

The whole street was like this. Conference fees well spent.

A lovely pool to cope with the 40C temperatures - except I only got one shot in it as I was conferencing the rest of the time. (no,really)

The hotel was in the financial district - albeit not far from the leaning towers and Real Madrid's stadium, so mostly looked quite boring.

The conference dinner (meaning occasional Tapas on plates being carried around) was in an anteroom of the Madrid opera house. Very grand, but a bit cramped.

Apparently the King lives here.

Evidence that I was there (opera house is in the background)

The last day - this is a shopping centre in an old railway station. Naturally I found this quite interesting.

On the final day I got my only real slice of tourism: a Segway tour of Madrid. This was fantastic fun.

Bank of Spain

Me with the two PhD students from Stirling (Kevin and Sami) and Kevin's fiancee.
Segways weren't allowed in this park. Sad.

Cathedral - I'd say more but I think our tour guide was just using Google - so you might as well do the same.

Segway fun!

Yes, the sun in Spain falls mainly on the plain. Or something like that.

I suggested to Kevin that we should look thoughtful as it was a work trip.

Me taking a picture of Sami.

Sami taking a picture of me.

It's the control panel in the lift. Looks innocuous right?

Well, 1: which button would you press for Breakfast, given the above? Wrong - it's the "-1" one, marked Gym. Get off on "0" and you have signs pointing down the stairs.

2: That fan is most convenient if you've eaten too much rich food on the trip and other people get in.

3: Nobody had the courage to press the one on the bottom right, but isn't it scary looking? In some lifts it was labelled "bomberos", which I later found out means "fire brigade", so probably best I didn't press it.

Madrid Airport's terminal is one of the few that might be classed as interesting to look at. Somehow they've worked out how to make an airport look Spanish.

Finally, I conclude with some screenshots from my phone, during the trip and on my return. See if you can spot the difference...



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