One of my favourite places…

I find myself once again apologizing for the lack of updated content on Well, the one thing I can assure you is that I will never post something on my blog if it doesn’t deserve to be shared.

As the summer is winding down.. at least for us Canadians, here’s a video I put together for a trip that never happened. (Wow, this sentence came out far more melancholic than I anticipated)

In any case, I will share it here in the hopes that it may inspire some of you who watch it to visit one of my favourite places on earth…

Questions? Planning a trip? Ask away.. my advice is free (for now)!

World Cup Fever in Spain!

Nicole and I cheering on "La Roja" in one of their early world cup games.

How lucky was I to have lived in Spain the one year they make it all the way to the finals and win the world cup? I suppose some would consider it unlucky, with all the swarms of loud fans, honking car horns, and traffic caused by the games, however as a foreigner from Canada, where nothing exciting like the world cup ever happens, I was thrilled to be a part of the action!

Even though I had never sat down and watched a soccer game from start to end (shocking, no?), I found myself watching every single Spanish world cup game and even dressed up and supported “la roja” like a true Spaniard. Alicante was a truly exciting place to watch the game, where everyone rushed to the bars an hour before the game started to secure seats in front of the many new HD big-screen TVs bought just in time for the games, and sat outside cheering, drinking beer, and having a good time.

For the final game, I wound up in Toledo. After a disappointing first period watching the game in an almost-empty bar, my family and I rushed to the “plaza de toros” (the bull-fighting ring) where the action was at. The plaza was completely filled with people, all sporting the colours of Spain. It was as if everyone in that arena was linked emotionally; we all cheered, boo-ed, shouted, and screamed at the same time as Spain fought their way to become world champions for the first time in the history of the world cup.

Here are some pictures and videos to give you a taste of what it means to be Spanish and support the national football team!

[zenphotopress album=17 sort=random number=12]

Guide to Living and Working in Alicante, Spain as an EU Citizen

After living and working in Alicante, Spain for almost a year, I decided to make it easy for anyone else who decides to follow in my path. While all citizens of the European Union are welcome to work in Spain, not knowing the local language and customs can be a barrier, especially in obtaining all necessary legal paperwork.

The attached flow chart describes how you can become a full, legal employed citizen in Alicante within just 7 business days! The information is current as of June 2, 2010.

Download the guide now!

Aventuras en Barcelona

English translation to follow below.

El fin de semana del 12-15 de febrero, viajé a Barcelona para explorar la ciudad y celebrar el Carnaval. Había una oferta muy buena de Spanair para volar desde Alicante a Barcelona directo por solo 25€ ida y vuelta. Ya que estaba muy acostumbrado a Ryanair (donde haces la facturación en Internet y puedes llegar al aeropuerto media hora antes de la salida) mí compañera, Nicole, y yo llegamos al aeropuerto cuando el mostrador de facturación se acababa de cerrar. Ya que Nicole no había podido facturar en Internet, no pudo pasar por la puerta de seguridad ni embarcar en el avión. La mujer de la taquilla de Spanair dijo que no podíamos hacer nada. Ya que solo 25 minutos quedaban, corrí a la puerta de embarque y después hablé con otra mujer de Spanair, Nicole pudo embarcar porque antes, yo había llamado a Spanair para verificar la reserva, ellos habían realizado la facturación. Por fin, llegamos a nuestro hotel en Barcelona a medianoche. Encontramos un bar que cocinó una pizza preparado para nosotros (todos los restaurantes ya habían cerrado) y tomamos una cerveza para olvidar todo.

El sábado, fuimos primero a la famosa Casa Batlló de Gaudí. ¡Era impresionante! Nunca había visto un edificio tan creativo.  Todas las habitaciones se habían diseñado de forma completamente única y con mucho detalle. La casa se había diseñado sin líneas rectas, porque en realidad, no hay líneas rectas en la naturaleza.  Además, cada habitación tenía luz natural. Luego, fuimos a mirar escaparates por la avenida principal de compras (Passeig de Gracia). Descubrimos una tienda muy interesante que se llamaba Nespresso que vendía expreso de mucha calidad en cápsulas de colores diferentes. Había una mesa con cafés de degustación donde tomamos un café gratis (Ahora he descubierto que hay una tienda de Nespresso se acaba de abrir en Alicante cerca del Corte Inglés). Poco después bajamos a la Plaza Catalunya y encontramos un restaurante japonés de buffet libre. La comida estaba muy rica, y sólo valió 13€. Para digerir la comida, dimos una vuelta por las Ramblas donde había mucha gente y tiendas de mascotas, flores, y libros. También había un mercado con muchas frutas y zumos exóticos, frescos, y llenos de colorido. Por la noche, fuimos a un desfile de Carnaval. A pesar de que estaba lloviendo, había mucha gente y los participantes tenían mucha energía y ánimo.

En nuestro último día en Barcelona, fuimos primero a la Catedral de la Sagrada Familia (otra obra maestra de Gaudí) para ir a misa. Después, no pudimos entrar por la parte principal porque había una cola de horas. Entonces, desayunamos y fuimos al Tibidabo, un parque de atracciones encima de una montaña donde pudimos mirar toda la ciudad. Más tarde, bajamos a la Plaza Catalunya otra vez para comer en una tasca y después, dimos otra vuelta por las Ramblas. Por la tarde, fuimos al puerto de Barcelona y fuimos de tiendas a un centro comercial allí.

El lunes, tuvimos que despertarnos a las 4 de la madrugada, y a las 8, llegamos en Alicante y fuimos a trabajar.

Barcelona es una ciudad muy antigua y muy impresionante. Me gusta mucho más que Madrid, y tengo que irme otra vez para ver más. La arquitectura, la cultura, la comida… ¡toda está muy bueno! ¡Qué suerte tuve que Nicole pudo ir después de todo!

In English:

On the weekend of February 12-15, I travelled to Barcelona to explore the city and celebrate Carnaval. There was an amazing offer from Spanair to fly directly from Alicante to Barcelona for just 25 euros (round trip). Since I was quite used to flying Ryanair where you check-in online and can arrive at the airport a half hour before the departure, Nicole and I arrived at the airport just as the check-in desk closed. Since Nicole wasn’t able to check-in online, she didn’t have a boarding card and couldn’t pass through security. The lady working at the Spanair ticket counter told us there was nothing we could do! Since only 25 minutes were left before departure I ran to the gate and after speaking with the staff there, Nicole was able to board since I had called a few hours before to confirm the reservation and Nicole was checked in over the phone. When we finally arrived at our hotel in Barcelona around midnight, we found a bar that cooked us a frozen pizza (since all the restaurants were already closed), and we drank a beer so as to forget what had happened earlier.

On Saturday, we first visited Gaudí’s Casa Batlló. It was incredible! Never before have I visited a building so creative! Every single room was uniquely designed and with great attention to even the smallest of details. The entire house was built without the presence of straight lines, since there are no straight lines in nature. Moreover, every room was designed to allow natural light to enter. Afterwards, we went window-shopping along the principal shopping avenue (Passeig de Gracia). We discovered an interesting store called Nespresso that sells their coffee in small, colourful capsules. There was a tasting station were we enjoyed a free shot of espresso (a Nespresso store recently opened up in Alicante and I now have my own machine :P). Next, stopped by Plaza Catalunya and found an all-you-can-eat Japenese buffet. The food was very good, and only cost 13€. To digest the food, we took a stroll down the Ramblas of Barcelona were there where many people selling pets, flowers, and books. There is also a colourful market were you can find fresh, exotic fruits and juices. At night we went to the Carnaval parade. Despite the fact that it was pouring rain, there were lots of spectators, and the participants had a lot of energy and spirit.

On our final day in the city, we visited Gaudí unfinished masterpiece, the Sagarada Familia Cathedral and heard mass in the newly renovated crypt. Unfortunately, we couldn’t enter the main part of the Cathedral since there was an hour-long line-up to get in! So instead, we had breakfast and went to Tibidabo, an amusment park located on top of one of Barcelona’s mountains from where you have an excellent view of the whole city. Afterwards, we returned to Plaza Catalunya for lunch in a tasca (tapas bar) and went for another walk along the Ramblas and waterfront.

On Monday, we had to wake up at 4 in the morning, and by 8, we had already arrived in Alicante and went to work.

Barcelona is a very old and impressive European city. I, in fact, enjoyed it more than Madrid and will have to return to see more! The architecture, the culture, and the food… everything is amazing! How luck we were that we were able to board the plane in Alicante!

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!