Monday, November 26, 2012


I arrived in Madrid early on Thursday morning, about 2 AM Central time.  I took a taxi to the hotel, part of the NH chain that I stayed at earlier this year in Belgium.  By European standards they have large rooms with modern amenities.  To my pleasant surprise they let me check in hours early.

I worked for a couple hours but even though I'd been able to sleep for a few hours on the plane my body said that this was time to sleep, so I took a nap.  I'm not sure there IS a good way to deal with jet lag flying East to Europe.  My approach lately is to sleep when my brain gets fuzzy and hope that lines up reasonably well with my speaking schedule.  I took another nap after dinner, then went to sleep at a reasonable time about 1:00 AM.

I was on my own for dinner.  The cab driver had said that the plaza near the hotel -- one of many; it seems that Madrid loves plazas -- had good restaurants.  So I peered in the windows until I found a menu that looked appetizing -- most had English descriptions up as well as Spanish.  The emphasis was on tapas dining, so I picked four that sounded good.  Three of them were on bruschetta -- two that I expected, and also the Iberian ham plate.  The fourth plate turned out to be a toothpick skewering a bite of salmon and a couple peppers.  All in all, not my best meal ever.

The conference on Friday went shockingly well for a product of first-time conference organizers.  Mine was the second talk of the day, and while they couldn't set up the wireless mic I requested, they did get it set up for another speaker later.  Lunch was the only disappointment -- plates of finger food that disappeared as soon as it arrived.  They conference had sold out, and the catering was perhaps a little overwhelmed.

After lunch I headed back to the hotel with some of the other American speakers.  I wanted to rest up before the dinner the organizers had invited the speakers to, especially since Jon warned us that dinner the night before had started about 11.

Dinner started on time at 9:30. This was fortunate because it lasted almost four hours. I lost count of the plates of pinchos (tapas) that we had. Eight kinds, perhaps, including the most fois gras I've ever eaten in one sitting. Hours into the meal the main course arrived, a kind of monster empanada stuffed with ox tail. It was good, but at that point I was already full. This was followed by three desserts, the last of which was American-style brownie topped with violet ice cream.

It was pretty epic, although to be honest none of it made me think, "Damn, I need to try this again some time," except perhaps the first pincho, some kind of bisque with meat and egg in it. If I were to guess, it was probably well over $100 per guest, including the four? five? kinds of wine. As one of the organizers said, "In Spain our economy is s***, but we can still cook."

Saturday morning I took an Easyjet flight to Paris.  It reminded me of Southwest -- cheap and extremely bare-bones.  Packed like sardines, paying extra to take even one bag besides my laptop briefcase.  But hundreds of dollars cheaper than the other options.

I didn't do any sightseeing in Madrid.  I suppose that was a missed opportunity but I planned to play tourist in Paris, and there was work to be done.

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