Breakfast in Amsterdam, Lunch in France, Dinner in Switzerland

To enjoy a long weekend, I recently embarked on a trip to Amsterdam and Geneva from March 19-March 23. We flew Ryanair from Alicante to Madrid, and connected to an easyJet flight from Madrid to Amsterdam. Recently, I’ve noticed that Ryanair has become VERY strict regarding carry-on baggage. They now thoroughly inspect everyone’s hand luggage to make sure it fits the required dimensions (comfortably) and is not too heavy. We never had problems before, but this time we had to fight to take our bags on-board with us (they fit the dimensions fine, we just had to squish them a bit, although even this caused us trouble!).

The mood in the plane bound for Amsterdam was very energetic. Everyone, it seems, was excited to arrive and continue to fly high. The food of choice in Amsterdam is Steak (bistek) served with fresh fries and beer; all the restaurants offer this as their menu. We couldn’t enter a Coffeeshop our first night because someone forget their ID (although we later discovered that there are some that don’t check). The weather was unfortunately a bit rainy, but we still enjoyed the better part of the next day exploring the city, its canals and the famous Red Light District, which is just as active during the day as it is at night. Amstedam is of course world-famous for legalizing soft drugs and prostitution… it’s quite a different world. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to try some cake, from what I hear the one served at Goa is very strong, whereas many others are similar to what you’d find at your local bakery. We were lucky in seeing the tulips beginning to bloom, probably now, as I’m writing this, the city is much more colourful! Another curiosity about Amsterdam is that everyone gets around by bike or public transit. There was a three-storey structure near the central station stuffed with bikes belonging to commuters.

The next day, we woke up, ate breakfast, and left for the airport. A few hours later we landed in Geneva, rented a car, drove to France, and were skiing in the Jura Mountains by noon. After a satisfying day, we drove to Lausanne in Switzerland where I met up with a long-lost second cousin for dinner at his beautiful house. We later returned to Geneva where we were staying with a friend. The next morning we returned the car, only to receive a 280 CHF bill for a one-day rental! Apparently.. the antenna on our car was missing and since we didn’t think to check if the car came with an antenna when we picked it up, we were responsible to replace it. We also paid through the nose for insurance and a barrage of other fees. With gas considered, the one-day rental cost us 308 Swiss Francs (roughly equivalent to Canadian Dollars).

We spent the remainder of the day wondering around the city of Geneva. The downtown area was full of very professionally dressed people as it was a working day. We window-shopped at the many expensive boutiques there are, and had a very expensive, but filling, lunch.

The next morning, our flight back to Alicante was delayed one hour in departure due to the striking French Air Traffic Controllers, and was delayed another hour in landing because of bad visibility in Alicante. In fact, we ended up landing in Valencia instead and had to spend another three hours to get back to Alicante. All things considered, it was an enjoyable trip. I’d like to return to both places to see more of the country-side outside of the cities, but for now my appetite for travelling to Switzerland and Holland has been satisfied.

Buenos Días

Wow! Time flies. On Tuesday I will pass the three-week mark here in Spain. I just woke up not too long ago as last night was Fiesta Night! Wondering what a Fiesta is? It usually starts with a big dinner at around 10pm, followed by some drinks. At around 1 or 2 in the morning, you head to a few nightclubs and dance until around 6 or 7 in the morning. Afterwards, it is common for people to go for breakfast near the beach. Last night I only made it till 4 in the morning, but I still have plenty of time to build up my endurance.

A week ago, I had a dream that I left Spain still not speaking much Spanish. I made it my priority to find a way to take Spanish Lessons, and next week I’ll start with my first Spanish Lesson at a language school in downtown Alicante. It should work well as my current schedule at work allows for a 2-hour lunch break, and from now on, one of those hours will be a Spanish class. I hope to learn quickly since I’m always immersed in Spanish. All my co-workers speak Spanish, I have to occasionally read and translate Spanish documents, and the documents I produce are in Spanish as well.

Work at CYPE is really enjoyable so far! The working environment is great: everyone dresses casual, other engineers are always more than happy to help out when you run into problems, and the work is very self-driven. I am really surprised at how much responsibility and freedom I have after just two weeks here. I spent two days getting trained on how to use the software, was shown my desk, and was told to go through the American Steel Code (used to determine if steel structures in the USA are safe to build). CYPE’s software uses these codes to analyze CAD models of structures and report any problems to the user. In my first week, I found a few small errors in the code and began working with a programmer right away to fix them. In my second week, I was asked to train a new intern to use the same tools I was using to get his job done.

In other news, I’ve booked my first two trips!

From October 2-7, I’ll be travelling to Bologna, Pisa, and Florence with some co-workers. The round-trip flight from Alicante cost me 40 euros (although my friends got the fare for 20 euros), and we’ll be renting a car when we’re there so we can drive around and explore. Look for a post upon my return!

From November 21-24, I’ll be travelling to London and meeting up with some friends who are working in Switzerland. I managed to get this flight for only 20 euros with Ryanair 😉

While I haven’t booked it yet, I’m also planning to travel to Malta to spend Christmas with my family and friends for the first time in 18 years.

That’s all for now. Check back soon for more updates!