Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Argentina. Second Part: From Madrid to Buenos Aires with Madonna´s concert in Valencia in between.

As I mentioned in the first part, the second time I went to Argentina my departure was a night after Madonna´s concert in Valencia, where I have gone with my friend Topo.

The concert was great, it was my first Madonna´s concert. I had heard that she wasn´t a good singer in lives. Maybe with the new technology her team had changed it because from my point of view, just in one song she didn´t sounded fine, but all the rest she was great.

I´m afraid I really haven´t seen her in live more or less 3/4 of the concert due I was in the yard and I´m not exactly so tall… actually I´m small… so what I have seen more were others´ necks. :( I´ve decided not to stay at the yard in a concert so long ago. I have done that for so many years, with 20 something but I started to appreciate to watch a concert being sit (or at least with the possibility to get sit if I want), more or less in my 30s. You enjoy better the performance in general, you are comfortable, you can rest every time you want, you don´t lose anything from the scenario and nobody pushes you for having a better place. The problem in Madonna´s concert was the price. Sometimes it´s not about if you could or not to pay a higher price, but about if you think the concert/theater piece/whatever, deserves the price. Yes, I like Madonna (otherwise I wouldn´t travel to Valencia before travelling to Argentina just for her concert), but I do think the prices of her concerts are so high. The point here is that she will continue with those prices as far as her fans pay them.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the concert and was great to share it with Topo and his friends.

The ones in Spain that will participate in a Scrabble in Spanish World Championship usually can´t plan to go together in the same plane. First of all, because we are from different locations, but also due we are sure about if we are or not classified just when the season is over. In some works you have to give advice about when you´ll have vacations in January, so, if you think you could be classified, you should take that in consideration. Sometimes you need to wait to know if you´ll have the money. For others the problem is about family matters. So, usually what we do is to do our own plans and then to see if by coincidence your plans match with others´. In this case it was funny because a lot of us had planned to travel on Sept. 19th. but in different airlines. So, Topo had a flight from Madrid, but some hours after mine, he will travel with Patxi and Montse, in my case I´ll travel with Blai… and yes, I have to admit that I did it with Aerolineas Argentinas again (it was the cheapest option).

So, my journey to Buenos Aires was: Madrid – Valencia on Thursday 18th by train. Madonna´s concert that night. Valencia – Madrid on Friday 19th morning with Topo, in his car and playing things like anagramming with the words of the signs or to know who was the faster one adding the cars´ numbers or singing out loud. :D We had lunch at my home and had gone together to the airport in a cab. He had to wait a bit more. I was lucky and found a way to have sit with Blai.

Blai is a quite interesting person. He´s teacher in Lloret, but his talents are multiples. He´s brilliant with math and with letters as well. He had done different games that you can find at his web. He also likes to draw (and has great ones) and to build scale models (right now he´s doing a cathedral, for example). He had read and travel a lot and you notice about that when you talk with him, you always learn something with him. He had been in the whole life of the Scrabble Association of Spain one of the best players and even had won the World Championship in 1992. Plus this all… he also dances sooo fine!!! :D Yeap, it was an honor to share with him this travel!

Of course we had been playing a bit during the flight, but also talking about his experiences in other Championships, our travels, our lives… we arrived in Buenos Aires at 5.30 hrs. more or less.

(To be continued)

Monday, September 28, 2009

I feel it in my bones!

Yesterday Madrid´s people went to Cibeles to break the “most number of people forming a mosaic” record. This is part of Madrid´s efforts for being the Olympian City in 2016.

There were hundreds of thousand people around Cibeles with color cards, with joy and hope at their faces. Telemadrid was in charge of the program and cheering, also broadcasting in live. They did a great job.

At the end, a David Bisbal free entrance concert. Curro and I went to look around and to take pics from different places.

As negative points, on one side, I really think it was a bad idea to cover Cibeles as far as this is one of Madrid symbols internationally, so I think actually would be better to give it more relevance indeed. And a bad experience I had: we were trying to going trough but there were 2 ladies blocking the natural place to go through, so, we should move them to. We stop to take some pics before and when we were ready I kindly asked one of them “can you please let us to go through?” And she answered angry “no! We are fed up of this!” :( I hope this won´t be the sportsmanship the Olympic people will receive! :/ (Curro took care of the situation and we went through without asking… Spanish style?). ;)

Around Cibeles there were some encounter points were people could take souvenir pics (as the one at the beginning of this post) or paint their hands with the emblematic colors.

We saw the reserved place for the reporters that had cover the event… They were enjoying a lot at the concert, even dancing a bit! :)

We also saw a journalist improvising a space at the street to send up rapidly his notes and pics of the event.

Well, maybe Madrid chances for being the Olympian City in 2016 are not realistic (as far in 2012 it will be London and it supposed not to be 2 cities of the same continent one after the other), but… it´s nice to see how people support and participate at this kind of initiatives! :)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Argentina. First Part: Going There

Argentina is a big country with an incredible mix of contrasts. I had the very good luck to visit it twice.

The first time was due work in 2004. I traveled with Aerolineas Argentinas,from Madrid, and I should say I don´t recommend this airline. I´d traveled alone. The sits in tourist class are bigger but their status is a pity.

Also that travel was terrible due something that wasn´t the airline fault at all: when we were close to the landing time, the captain advices us that due a storm in Buenos Aires, we should land first in Córdoba, but, as far as that wasn´t an international airport, it won´t be possible for us to go out of the plane, he couldn´t know for how long we should stay there, but will keep us informed. Well, you see, you can´t blame anybody for that, at least we had a place to stay. They played again the movies we had seen already, but at least you have the feeling there´s something to do while waiting.

Every 20 minutes, more or less, the captain tried to give us news and more planes in the same circumstances were arriving as well. The real problem was that the time was running and we had no food, no drinks, the smokers can´t go outside to smoke and they weren´t allowed to smoke inside neither.

Some kids and babies were at the flight as well. A couple with a 2 y/o baby was at the row behind the mine. During the whole flight I had seen her taking care of the baby and him enjoying the entertainment of the plane. After more than 12 hours flying and several more at the airport, inside the plane, of course the poor baby was bored! And the mummy as well! But the daddy instead of helping a bit started to complain about the baby and at that time the mummy was tired enough to just accept what he was claiming and then they started to fight. :( People that know me closer, already know I´m not exactly the kind of person that would even to play with kids that I don´t know. And I´m afraid I have some kind of allergy to the babies crying. Of course with the fight the baby started to cry more… so, again one of those situations that I really can´t explain even to me why, but I told the mummy to give me the baby and I started to play with him, you know that kind of games like “hey! Look at this! This is a light! Now it´s here… now it isn´t… where´s the light?” Yeap! For sure I was desperate! ;)

Other dramas were worst. People losing flights. People that their final destination was Cordoba and they weren´t allowed to go out of the plane as well (but well, that´s normal, as I said, they didn´t have a way to receive people coming from out of Argentina), people starting to complain to the crew as if it would be their fault… A smoker didn´t want to wait more and had smoke at the toilette and then the alarm started to ring and the captain told us to please give information, in case we can, about the person that have done that due it was against the law no matter if we weren´t flying; someone said the fine will be expensive but the real problem was that they also forbid to use any other airline for 3 years…

In my case, I would be just for the weekend in Buenos Aires and had reserved a city tour that was already lost, of course. :(

After six hours…. Yes! SIX HOURS! Finally the captain told us the storm was over. We arrived at Buenos Aires at 13.00 more or less, without having eat since the diner (we supposed to arrive at 6.00 in the morning, no breakfast then) and no way to claim anything, as far as it wasn´t the airline fault… BUT! I was finally in Buenos Aires!! :D

Yes, I know… this is not exactly the happiest or nicest story about going to Buenos Aires! But I thought it should be told!

The second time I went to Argentina was in September 2008, due the Scrabble in Spanish World Championship. (This time I really deserved to be selected!) ;)

The journal started a bit before, because Madonna was giving a concert the night before my departure (and the departure of a lot of us, actually). I asked Topo if he would like to go to the concert, as far as he lives in a location of Valencia, one of the places Madonna selected for her concerts in Spain (she didn´t done one in Madrid, somehow Valencia was the best option for me).

Then, as I said, my journal started on Thursday Sept. 18th. at midday, going to Valencia by train! Of course, previously leaving the bags ready! :D

(To be continued)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Driving Rented Cars

Due reasons that would be so long and boring to explain, the last 2 months I had been renting different cars in Madrid.

I love to drive, not even the traffic in rush hour is something that could get me mad about driving… well, that reminds me one day that I took a taxi and you know, I was on those days that would like to talk not really mattering with whom, so, actually without thinking so much, I told the driver: “I really love Madrid!” and he answered: “aha, seems you don´t drive a lot at rush hours or you would think the opposite!” Well, I wasn´t on the mood of fighting, so, I just answered “well, it should be…”

But I really mean it, as far as I can have the music on, I don´t care about the traffic at all! :D Well, actually it also depends on the day… I remember a situation: I was 26 y/o, in Guatemala, rush hour in the morning, taking my daughter to school and in a so concurred avenue, the traffic light turned into green. I was the second one at the line, so I´d move but I´m afraid that line haven´t moved at all, so I was blocking the perpendicular street and the line didn´t move at all till the traffic light turned into red… :( No way to move to any place and yes, of course, the one that I was blocking started to blow the horn in a way that I really understood he was thinking about my whole family and not exactly in a nice way! I really can´t do anything and it definitely wasn´t my intention, but he kept on blowing the horn, so finally I turned my head to watch him and he start to “tell” me something like idiot, gesticulating… so I sent him a kiss… no, I haven’t even thought about it, it was the kind of things that time to time I find myself doing and immediately I think “but what I´m doing???”. Immediately I turned back my head. Well, it worked. He stop at all, I can imagine he was waiting whatever but not that from me… yes, it was a good day for me, otherwise my logical reaction I think would be related with an specific finger of mine, but well, maybe it wouldn´t be that effective anyway! ;) (And not, I´m not recommending doing that in a similar situation, this was just to give a good example of how different could be my own reaction in a good or a bad day).

Also, if you watch a lady dancing a bit while waiting at a red light… could be me… :D Yes, I know, being inside a car doesn´t mean you are inside a bubble that protects you from the glances of the people outside… but… I just can´t stop myself! (No worries, you wouldn´t find me doing that at the metro or at the bus) ;P

Let´s go back to the point. To rent a car could be something that anybody thinks it´s so expensive. It really depends. Searching in internet you can find a lot of cheap options, here maybe the point is how to know in which companies can you trust if it´s not in your own country. In this case I recommend you to search in forums, in case you have no one to ask about.

In Spain, and after a lot of searching and comparisons, my recommendations are: it´s the cheapest one, you can find cars from 9€ per day, that includes taxes, but you have to add 16€ for preparing the car (it´s the total quantity, if you rent the car for one day, you have to pay 16€ more, if you rent the car for 20 days, you also pay just 16€ more). This renting price includes 100 kms. per day and an a just a third party insurance, if you want an all risk one, you should pay extra, something like 20€ per day. Also you should present a credit card where they will charge 150 € (again a flat rate), as deposit, in the moment you return the car they´ll cancel that charge. You can rent cars with them at their web, but also calling them by phone (so expensive to do it by cellular phone, btw) or by Halcón Viajes (I´ll explain this a bit latter). They have all the kind of cars that someone could need. The clue with this company is to rent with more or less a month in advanced, then you´ll get the better prices, if it´s for renting during the summer, better to do it with more time in advanced. This is due the rates change day by day depending on the amount of rents they have. Important: read carefully all the details before you confirm your purchase, they won´t accept any change no matter how obvious an error could be.

As negative points, renting with them you can´t return the car in a different location. In case you want it, it will cost you 100 € more.You can´t take the car out of Spain. I haven´t rent with them till now, due I always find better prices with pepecar, but it´s also a good option.

Halcón Viajes: they work with bonuses you buy at their agencies called “Week-End plan”. It means, if you want to rent a car with them, you should go to one of their agencies to buy the bonuses. They have special agreements with:

Pepecar: here you have the prices and conditions for 2009:

Yeap, could be more expensive than buying straight with Pepecar, but really depends, at summer, for example, if you haven´t done your rent with time in advanced, then this could be a better option, especially if you will rent for more than 5 days.

Remarkable: they include an all risk insurance and 500 kms. per day. You have to pay the preparing the car fee, that in this case is just 10 €, payable at the car agencie.

National Atesa: here you have the prices and conditions for 2009:

Yeap, more expensive than Pepecar, but still a good option if you didn´t find there and I should say they have the cars in better conditions.

Remarkable: you can return the car in a different location with no extra fee. They also offer renting out of Spain, but you should check it out at Halcón Viajes agencies.

Alamo: for renting in USA, you should check out at their agencies.

Anyway it´s a good idea to search straight to Alamo´s web, I have rent straight with them in Miami, very good prices and very good attention. You can also rent cars with them in all this places: (The blue ones).

Take into a count, when you rent a car, that you should ask anything about the car and to try everything before leaving the agency… and I´m not talking just about the damages the car could have, no, no! TRY EVERYTHING! Here some of my experiences for you to have an example of what could happen to you if you don´t do so!

I had rent a Ford Fusion car. Immediately after taking it from the agency, I went to the gas station that was a self service one (must gas stations in Spain are already self service). When I tried to open the gas tank… no way! I searched for any special button inside the car… nothing! The line was growing, so, I decided to go to the next one to ask for help, explaining that I had rent that car, of course… he also tried in different ways… nothing! He ask the one at the side to please help us… so, we were 3 adults, with the custom of driving cars, trying to open a simple gas tank without finding the way to!!! Finally I decided to call the attention service, but at the same moment a guy of the gas station came to ask if he can help us… yeap! He was an expert! And actually it was so easy, you just need to push before to unscrew it… like some medicines, for you to understand me. :/

I also had been several times without locking the doors when I was inside the car due I haven´t find a way to… till finally I´d ask at the agency! And yes, it was so simple but definitely I wouldn´t imagine how to! It was about pushing the small handle you usually pull for opening the door! No, I haven´t seen that before!

But actually my favorite anecdote happened to me the last Saturday… and it was the reason I decided to write this post! I had rent a Smart for Two. It´s a lovely car! With my previous experiences and taking into account this is an automatic car (I should say semi automatic do you should do more things than in a normal automatic one), I asked, from my point of view, EVERYTHING before going out of the agency. I had gone with my daughter to take it from the agency, so I invited her to breakfast, but the time for asking for breakfasts was almost over, so I told her to go to the cafeteria and the breakfast I would like to have and I should go alone to find a parking. After several times going around the block without finding a place (not even for this small car!), I decided to go inside a parking… Thanks of God! I should say! I´d park the car, switched off the lights, turned off the motor… and when I tried to take out the key… no way to!!! :( I searched for a button close to the starter, at the own key… all over the car!!! Nothing!!! :( After trying anything I could imagine, and have thought about all my options (even to leave the car with the key and to go to search my daughter to go back to the agency, but after thinking that maybe the car would lock automatically the doors once I closed it, I´ve rule out that option… and no, she haven´t take her cellular with her…), finally I´d call the assistance phone… and I had to talk with 2 different people that were almost sure I was doing something wrong (smart people! Point was to find out what exactly!), they decided to open an incidence report and to send me someone to help me, but I should give them the address and I didn´t know it, that wasn´t at the ticket neither, so I leaved the car with the door a bit open (the lady at the phone told me it would lock if I close the door), and went to search the person in charge of the parking… that once I told him my problem, smiled like saying "aha! Once more!" And came to the car with me… and yes! He can take out the key!!! Here the point was that, even when talking by the phone, when they asked me if I gear lever at neutral position, I answered yes, due in a manual car neutral position is when you can move the lever to the right and the left without problem… but in this car, you should put it completely at the right, then it´s in neutral position!! (Not even the girls at the phone new that actually). My poor daughter was really scared when I finally went inside the cafeteria! Already thinking about calling the police! :/

Isn´t it cute?? :D

Moral: ask EVERYTHING before taking out a car of a rent agency… and… enjoy the life! :)

Maybe this is a good moment to mention something else about driving in Spain. I really don´t remember now, but I think this happens just in Spain, it´s about traffic lights. In Spain you have traffic lights at the beginning and at the end of every block (as far as you have traffic lights, of course), and you should obey both, so, if for example you need to turn to the right, in the new block, at the beginning of the street, you´ll have for sure another traffic light that you also should obey, so, if it´s red, you have to stop, and yes, be sure it causes traffic jam! Anyway, for having it a bit more clear, here you have a video explaining it:

Btw: if you know other cheap and good rent a car agencies, no matter in which country, would be great if you leave the name (and the link if it´s possible for you) at the commentaries, so we all can enjoy their advantages! :D

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

At least I can say… I´ve lived!!! (Final Part)

On March 25th. 2003 started the V [´ju:nien]. . The Lords have done special t-shirts with our own version of the image of Iwo Jima´s flag raising. The Lords started playing Quake, that´s why the name of the klan, so, the image was with different characters of the different Quake games, including some of RTWC as well. The inscription… I loved it!!! :D “We already fragged your father” like letting the others know: yes, we know, we are old… but good! ;P

The [´ju:nien] was in a Mercure hotel, at the conventions room, 600 people there, mostly men, I´m not sure about quantities, but I remember we were just few females there. The organization was great and was really impressive how ordered and well set was everything, it looked like if it would be a professional convention instead of a LAN party (but again I´m comparing with what I have seen on t.v. and pics about Spanish LANs).

On Friday night and after a long journey, Curro arrived at the [´ju:nien] as well. The QLs received him as if he would be also part of the klan, even with a T-shirt for him :D

We had been playing hours and hours, almost without sleeping at all, (MPower, Stryker and Eagle didn´t slept at all). Was really funny to watch them (their gestures, movements, expressions…) while playing… the part you always miss of the other person when is at the other side of a screen! It´s a pity that I haven´t took videos! :D

Some klan wars took place, but I´m afraid we didn´t win any prize… but at least I did!!! The longer distance journey for arriving to the LAN one!! Ok, ok, they gave it to Curro and me actually, but anyway, that was the first QLs´ prize! ;P

Here a video I have done with my pics that resume that travel:

Curro went back home on Sunday afternoon, immediately after the LAN party was over. I still had that afternoon and Monday´s morning to do a bit of tourism, Voni and MadDoc were my guides, they even had patience enough to go shopping with me!! (That´s what friends are for…) ;P Part of the route was to go to a beer factory where I bought a couple of “big beers” (2 litters one), actually due I loved the bottle, and I mean it! I don´t drink beer! (Yeap, they almost killed me when I told them that and tried really hard to make me to try it, come on! How can I be in Germany without trying the beer?... well, I´m sorry! I don´t like beer!).

In 2003 another girl had join the QLs, this time a German one, Ana Morph, and Dagonet, a guy from Denmark that actually had been playing hand to hand with us almost at the same time I started to play at that server… the klan was a really multicultural one!! ;P

In 2004 another [´ju:nien] came and yes! I had been there as well! I had been trying so hard to convince Dagonet to join us as well… but it wasn´t possible for him, a real pity! This time Curro can´t go. We were more QLs and we won a prize playing and again my longer journey one! :D

I really don´t remember when it was, but we started to play Enemy Territory instead of RTCW, that was quite similar. Problem was when the Lords get bored of that one as well, they started with new games that I didn´t like, I´m afraid. Today, few of the Lords still play together, but WOW. I don´t like it. :( And I can´t convinced them to play Scrabble in Spanish with me! ;PP But time to time I go to Dortmund, to visit my good friend Voni and usually we do a QL´s dinner when I go. It´s always nice to met them again and I still feel a QL even if I don´t play with them anymore.

When Playstation placed the add “double life”, it went straight to my heart… reminding me the great moments I had lived fighting hand by hand with my QLs… do you remember it?

Here's a transscript:

For years, I've lived a double life.
In the day, I do my job
I ride the bus, roll up my sleeves with the hoi polloi.
But at night, I live a life of exhilaration,
of missed heartbeats and adrenalin.
And, if the truth be known, a life of dubious virtue.
I won'€™t deny it I've been engaged in violence, even indulged in it.
I've maimed and killed adversaries€“ and not merely in self-defence.
I've exhibited disregard for life, limb and property,
and savoured every moment.
You may not think it, to look at me,
but I have commanded armies and conquered worlds.
And though in achieving these things I've set morality aside,
I have no regrets.
For though I've led a double life, at least I can say:
I've lived.

And here the German version for my QLs:

Monday, September 14, 2009

Scrabble Masters´ Tourney, Final Part

CONGRATULATIONS SANTI!! Today is his bthday! :D

Here some pics:

The new Master of the Universe, Spain 2009: Antonio Alvarez!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Masters´ Scrabble Tourney in Girona

Hi! Hi! Hi!

After several months without playing in real life, I went again to visit my Club: Scrabble Girona for playing the Masters´ Tourney.

I arrived at midday and had lunch at Patxi and Monte´s home, where also was Arantxa. Of course I played with Patxi a couple of rounds, but he made me to released how out of fit I am.

That night we stayed at David and Susana´s home (and their 2 dogs!) :) they really were great hosts! David also played a bit the guitar and share with us part of his guitars´ collection.

Here some pics of Saturday´s rounds