04 August, 2009

Parks & Stations... A memorial of sorts...

Yesterday, was a long LONG day indeed... It started at around 8.30am when I left the Hotel and headed for Madrid central. I first went to the Atocha main railway station. This is where, in 2004, terrorist bombings took place. There is a non descript memorial to the victims of this attack, but what I found far more important, in some ways and not to take away from the loss of so many lives, was the Garden inside what looks like the old railway station. It appears as though the multiple new platforms were moved to allow for the central meeting are with cafes, shops and of course, the Garden.

Atocha Station, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.

Inside the Garden, there is a lot of little walkways, lighting and climate control sprays to maintain humidity. There is also a pond with aquatic plants, fish and turtles!

Atocha Station Garden, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.
Atocha Station Garden, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.
Atocha Station Garden Turtles, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.

After checking out the station, I then headed over to the Parque del Retiro. This is a HUGE park, I suppose it is about the same size as work, but it is a very different layout, with many statues, fountains lakes where you can hire a boat and row. There is also a very well used fitness area. I sat on the lawns amongst the Peach trees, and watched for a couple of hours actually, enjoying the sun, whilst having lunch. I could not get over just how many people used the fitness equipment! It made me come to the conclusion, I HAVE to get fit again, and when I get home, it is ALL SYSTEMS GO to lose some weight!

Parque del Retiro Fountain, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.
Parque del Retiro Lake Fish, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.

After lunch, and nearly 7pm, I slowly walked around the rest of the Parque, and came across the Mto. Alfonso Xii which is a very grand structure, Roman in style! More walking around and it was finally getting dark, now nearly 10pm, so I thought I had better head for the Metro and head back to the Hotel. I ended up getting to the cit centre, tried to find the spot where I saw the Paella for dinner, failed, so it is on for tonight! I got back to the Hotel at 12.30, showered and relaxed but very sore indeed...

So far today, 10.30am wake up, breakfast and shopping at the local shopping centre, and a swim in the pool. Camera battery is on charge, and as soon as it is ready, I am off to the Teleferico Madrid!


03 August, 2009

In Madrid!

I am in Madrid! It may have taken a 13 hour flight, with a moderate amount of turbulance, broken sleep THANKS to the turbulance and finally waiting over an 90 mins until my room to get ready (I did arrive well before check-in time though), but I finally got to my room at the Hotel Osuna. I very quickly got some things unpacked, laptop on charge and I hit the bed and thought I was going to have a quick (2 hour) nap... This ended up being nearly 4, but I was tired!

When I woke up, I had a quick shower to freshen up, and headed off to get lost, find the Metro. It was hot, and seemed to be getting hotter as I walked to the station, so I was glad to see that the train had A/C! It was about a 30 min train trip and I was in the heart of Madrid! Not really sure of where I was going, but I stumbled my way through what appeard to be the main square, a I followed the majority of people, and ended up down at the Art Gallery. Turning right, again following other people, I stumbled across the Royal Botanic Gardens Madrid! (planned all along, yeah RIGHT!). Not that there is anything wrong with the entrance to my work, but isn't this a grand entrance!

RBG Madrid Entrance, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.

In the interest of saving time bringing a lot of images across, I have again used one of my favourite Flicker toys, and made another mosiac...

Inside the Gardens was also a cute little pond, surrounded by grass that had a sign, "Please Keep Off The Grass", which is in total contrast to work, where we WANT you to go on the grass!

RBG Madrid Pond, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.

When I was heading back to find the Metro, there was this huge roundabout, that had one of the best gardens I have ever seen inside of it.

Madrid Roundabout, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.

So, that's the first day from me in Madrid... I have a few things planned, but for now, I am heading for a swim in the pool... Cya!


30 July, 2009

Valle Nevado

Today started out quite cool, and after a quick bite to eat, I headed down the road to the Conference Hotel to catch the bus as it was 'Conference Tour Day'! Now most of the delegates were off to either the local 'National Stadium' and Winery, or off to a Golf Course, and a Winery (the Sod farm was cancelled due to lack of interest...), but I thought long and hard about it, and thought I will go on the trip to Valle Nevado Ski resort!

It was not that far of a drive there, and as there was only 8 people taking the opportunity of something unique, it were almost had our own little private tour! After about 20 mins or so, we started our ascent up (yes, UP) the mountain. We were going to go up 3000m and that was just to the car park, hotel and restaurant/bar (and where the trails and lifts start)! Trouble was, the bus we were travelling in was only going at a MAX of about 30klm AT BEST, but we had to negotiate a very long and windy road. There was some 60 odd hairpin bends and it felt like at least another 100-200 others that were close as well! It was also a road that was just wide enough for one and a half cars, which was fun when trying to pass oncoming traffic!

Once at the bottom of the mountain, there was a rental place in the car park, and one again under the restaurant/bar. Also, downstairs was a cheap and cheerful cafeteria styled place which had some good looking food and drinks etc. There was a magnitude of different lifts from tow-ropes, to J bars to Quadchairs, which were all easily accessible and quick.

We had lunch out on the snow at a cute little place, I had a pizza, whilst some of my travel buddies had BBQ spears with salsa and bread. Refreshments were also had, (soft for me) and we were once again off to the lifts, this time, the top we went!

Valle Nevado: - Powder run, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.

When it came time to pack up the gear and head for home (thank goodness), I noticed these widowmakers on one of the hotels... I sure hope that they do NO damage!

Valle Nevado: - Widow Makers, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.

Farewell Valle Nevado, thanks for a great day!


28 July, 2009

Life around Chile... From an Aussie's perspective

Today was full of conference stuff... Poster displays in the morning, another huge lunch followed by an afternoon of Research Paper presentations. Boring right? Maybe not to me, but that's ok for you to think it is!

So, in an effort to keep you here and reading, I will not go on to what was presented, but rather to give you an Aussie's perception of Santiago. And apologies in advance, there were no photos taken today due to being in a room all day!

  • Santiago appears to be a very clean city. There is no shortage of people cleaning, sweeping, hosing down the pavements, street gutters and buildings! I find some of this very strange, hosing, as there are so many areas in Australia, and the world, that have water shortages, it should not be wasted!
  • Landscaping is very similar to what I am use to in Sydney. Species are very similar in the wider horticultural sense, but they differ dramatically when looking downwards to the turf. Sydney, has a predominate warm season grasses whereas here the common are the cool season species, Perennial Ryes, Fescues and so on.
  • Tree planting are, to me, somewhat of a concern with some horrid trees, Liquidambar, planted directly under the telecommunication cables, and within 2-3m of each other!
  • People are incredibly friendly, and are willing to either try or understand our accent and English where they can; try themselves to communicate in English, and are accepting of my very bad attempt of Spanish
  • Getting around the city of Santiago is easy, fast and efficient. The Metro to get into town is 400 CLP ($0.89 AUD or $0.79 USD) how cheap is that!
  • Food is fresh and very VERY tasty... I had lunch the other day, 1/4 chicken with chips, a beer (in one of those big handle jug type glass) and a dessert... 1990 CLP ($4.43 AUD/$3.67)!!!

So, if you want to come to Chile, I throughly recommend you do...

Tomorrow, I am off to Vallenevado, so there WILL be photo's tomorrow, PROMISE!


Grand Hyatt Santiago

Ok, this has to be really quick as I will be running late if it is not... I am also a day behind in posting, sorry, but yesterday being the first FULL day of presentations was an exhausting and long day...

A mutual work aquaintance that both L and I had, just happened to stumble in on day 1 of the preceedings... First I knew of it was from a finger in my back! It was a great surprise that this Sydney Water chap was there...

Ok, as I said it will be quick, so I will post some pics of the hotel where the conference is being held, the Hotel Grand Hyatt (I don't think the extra $90USD was justified, but I am happy where I am staying, even though it is a truely beautiful hotel)!

Grand Hyatt Santiago, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.
Grand Hyatt Santiago, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.
Grand Hyatt Santiago, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.
Grand Hyatt Santiago, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.
Grand Hyatt Santiago, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.


25 July, 2009

Cerro Santa Lucia & Parque Forestal

This morning, after another great breakfast, I headed to a couple of the sites I saw on the 'Turistik' bus tour yesterday... It would be easy enough to do, yeah, right?

Well, I am happy to report it was... A small walk to the Metro station (and I am now all for the Sydney Metro...) and a metro train trip to Santa Lucia, where my first stop of the day, Cerro Santa Lucia, or simply put, The Garden on the Hill. It was very much a hill, and a steep one at that! It was a maze of terraces, some were cobble stones, and others were simple crushed granit type. Atop of the hill is a Castle like structure with battlements, lookouts and canons... A place for kids to play and act like the Knights of olde.

One thing also I have noted in Santiago, is the amount of dogs that are roaming around. Certainly not fle ridden rat bags like in other countries like Blai & Phuket etc, but they actually look healthy. I did see a pack of them, outside a butchers, and a couple already chowing down on what appeared to be a healthy sized shank! Well, around the Cerro Garden, it was the same, with a couple of dogs (and even a cat) either happliy walking around or sleeping in the sun.

After getting my breath and legs back (about an hour I think having a cool drink), I caught the Metro again to Baquedano and headed for the Parque Forestal. This is an amazing park, with wandering pathways of crushed granit (or similar), and beautiful trees either within the paths, or within the turf areas. Whilst almost all of them had dropped their leaves due to winter, I can only imagine what they would look like in the Summer and even in the Autumn!

So here are some photos, this time in a mosaic (easier to see right?) so click on a link to see the full sized photo!

Chile Day 3, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.
1. Plaza Da Armas Dancers, 2. Parque Forestal 4, 3. Parque Forestal Bridge, 4. Parque Forestal 3, 5. Parque Forestal 2, 6. Parque Forestal Plant Signage, 7. Parque Forestal 1, 8. Parque Forestal Statue, 9. Parque Forestal, 10. Graffeti, 11. Santiago Skyline 2, 12. Santiago Skyline, 13. Santiago Skyline 1, 14. Cerro Santa Lucia Statue, 15. Cerro Santa Lucia Chapel, 16. Cerro Santa Lucia Canon, 17. Cerro Santa Lucia Terrace Garden, 18. Cerro Santa Lucia Lookout Entrance, 19. Cerro Santa Lucia Seat, 20. Cerro Santa Lucia Lookout, 21. Cerro Santa Lucia Urn, 22. Cerro Santa Lucia Vista, 23. Cerro Santa Lucia Terrace Walkways, 24. Cerro Santa Lucia Palm, 25. Cerro Santa Lucia Shy Knight, 26. Cerro Santa Lucia Boy Statue, 27. Cerro Santa Lucia Girl Statue, 28. Cerro Santa Lucia Tiles, 29. Cerro Santa Lucia, 30. Water Garden Created with fd's Flickr Toys


Turistik Bus Tour

This morning, I awoke rather early, too early it was still dark! But, after a little while (and catching up on things thanks to the wonders of the internet) it started to get light outside... Here is the morning sun rising over the Andes from my hotel window...

Hotel view 6am, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.

After a quick shower, to wake up more so than anything else as I was now getting tired agian, I went downstairs to get some breakfast. I had some ceral with chocolate milk, toast with bacon & scrambled eggs, toast with spanish salami & cheese & a coffee. I also had an apricot juice in there too! After breakfast, I returned to the room to get my things, and the room was re-made already!

My Room 1504, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.

I then headed off to see Santiago. After asking how to get into the city, downtown, I was off with map in hands and careful directions in my head. Trouble was, I was heading in the WRONG direction! She did point me the way, and I followed it, but I was running backwards! After nearly 30 mins of walking, I found an intersection of streets I could understand on the map, and headed off to the banks hole in the wall, to get some cash. Funny thing was, it was all in Spanish, and do you think I could understand a word of it?! I asked the security gaurd for some assistance, and he told me how to change it to English, phew! I then made my withdrawal, for what I thought would be enough, only to find out from the tellers inside, I had withdrawn $184 USD! I had heaps of cash!

After the explination of money from the bank, I was pointed in the right direction towards the Metro; Escuel A Militar! From here I was told it is 11 stops to get downtown, Moneda. Easy as, until I got my ticket and then had to work out HOW to get through the barriers, it was easier than I thought and will not make the same mistake tomorrow!

I got onto the Turistik Tour Bus, its one of those 'Hop on, Hop off' type of ones... It was also incredibly glary all day, with a lot of smog (from wood heaters maybe?), which made photography a little difficult, but these are what I got today...

Old Stataion, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.
Main Mall Santiago, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.
Presidential Palace, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.
Stone monument, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.
Steel books, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.
River Crossing, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.
Roadside Tree, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.
Santiago Andes, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.
Nightmare communications, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.
Fountain Plaza de Armas, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.
Bicentenario 2010, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.

Sorry for the amount of pictures, I will try and do a slideshow or a mosaic next time!!!


24 July, 2009

Welcome to Santiago!!

Well, here I am... After a quick 2.5 hour flight to Auckland to refuel and then a long haul of 12 hours, I have arrived in Santiago. The flight was good, very good actually, even though the food, compared to recent travels in Emirates, was a bit 'light on'... Good, just could have been more!

I was told what to expect when departing Auckland, a very LONG takeoff roll, which was very much the case. It was more than a little bumpy as well as we crossed the bay and headed across the Pacific. The dinner service was delayed just over an hour until we got through the turbulance! I was also told that the approach into Santiago is quite special... Indeed it was as we took a northerly approach THROUGH a valley (snow capped Andes on the right, and another mountain range on my side). We did a quick left bank followed by a steep righthand bank which now saw us heading south and the Andes on my side. It was very glary, so I am sorry for the photos below...

Business LAN, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.
Economy Rear LAN, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.
Approach SCL, originally uploaded by AussiePomm.

I finally got something good about my British Passport. Had I have come into Chile on my Aussie one, I would have had to pay for an Arrival Visa of $64USD, but as Chile and the UK have reciprocity rights, this fee is waived! I passed through immigration within 15 minutes and I had a driver waiting for me outside, you know the guys holding a placard with YOUR name on it! Cool hey! It took us nearly 40 mins to get to the hotel and it was fairly interesting sights along the way. I was dead tired, didn't think to have camera with me, and got to the hotel, checked-in and had a quick 2 hour sleep!

After dinner, I got my internet working, photo's uploaded from camera and I am now about to head off to bed, I am beat!