Every morning when I was in Spain, I met Eric, my boss, outside the fancy hotel where he and his wife stayed, and we walked together to the conference. Often, we ran into people Eric knew along the way, and we spent the walks talking shop. I was in nerd heaven.
We also walked by a lot of beautiful trees. After the cold, dark winter that I had escaped in the US, this was divine.
The site of the conference was the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, which used to be a factory. One might think that would make for an industrial atmosphere, but this is Europe, after all.
I gave my presentation on Tuesday, and although I was nervous enough that I shook well into lunch afterwards, it went well. Well enough, at least, that ETH offered me a job immediately after I was done. Unfortunately, I had to turn it down because I’m only beginning my masters program now.
On Wednesday afternoon, I explored the campus some and found a suspension pedestrian bridge. Below is the view back at Toledo from the bridge.
Did I mention the food? Every day, we ate lunch at Vente de Aires, a restaurant close to campus. And, my friends, this was not your average conference lunch. I wish I had had the lack of self-consciousness to whip out my camera at every meal, because the food was decadent. Each meal was three courses — appetizer, entree, and dessert — with plenty of pan and vino tinto to go along with it.
There was a lot of meat, some seafood, and very little that was green. I missed salad while I was there, but the cheese and wine made up for it.
Oh, Spanish wine. I could write an epic poem about Spanish wine. A 5 euro bottle of wine there is better than a $15 bottle of wine here, and it flowed like water wherever we went. I definitely got used to having at least a glass a day. When I got home, I eased myself back into American life with a glass of wine and a wedge of Manchego. But really, I’d go back to Spain in a heartbeat for the wine.
At the last lunch, Janette and I ate alone (most conference goers had left by this point), so I was able to snap a few quick pictures.
As is traditional with conferences like this, the last night was positively royal. It started with a string quintet concert in an old chapel. The acoustics were clearer than mountain water. As Eric put it perfectly afterwards, that kind of musical experience can make a religious person out of you. The quartet itself was divine — the lead violinist is one of the few in Spain who is approved to play the Stradivarius that is tucked away in a museum in Madrid.
After the music, we walked to the Plaza Zocodover, where a bus picked us up and took us to Downton Abbey.
Okay, it wasn’t Downton, but it was as breathtakingly huge and decadent. We drank cocktails around crackling fires, surrounded by marble and stone and those funny little groomed hedges. Then waiters directed us to a vast tent (I use the word “tent” lightly — it did have walls, after all). Inside, the ceiling was draped with cloth, and the tablecloths were red brocade. Unfortunately, it was too dark to take good pictures.
After we ate (and endured the most awkward speech I’ve ever heard), we went outside to discover that the conference secretaries had pulled some strings to get the mayor of Toledo to light up the city for us. All of the landmarks — Alcazar, El Catedral, etc. — were lit up from below. It was breathtaking, but again too dark to take pictures.
All too soon, it was time to go home. The next morning, I headed to the beautiful old train station and took the high-speed rail to Madrid to catch my plane. Of course, I had to have a last café before I headed back to bad American coffee.
There are so many more pictures, and so many more anecdotes, so I might share more in the future. But for now, I will leave you with this:
For more on my trip to Spain, see Spain, Part 1: Toledo.