Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Last week I attended a conference in Ourense, Spain. I actually had never heard of the city before the conference, but it's a pleasant place in a beautiful region of Spain. The conference was very well organized, even if the program was quite full -- I usually only had about 10 or 20 minutes a day of free time in between talks, group lunches and dinners, excursion, receptions, etc.
After the conference, I spent a day visiting Santiago de Compostela, an hour away, and location of the airport. While I myself didn't walk any of the Camino de Santiago, I saw plenty of pilgrims there. I did attend the pilgrim's mass in the cathedral, mostly in order to see the botafumeiro being swung at the end. It's quite the spectacle for a liturgical celebration. The city itself is small and cozy, and there's a lot of life in the evenings when the local student population comes out. I stayed in the very nice Hotel Pombal, having been moved there since the original hotel I had reserved was overbooked.
Getting home was a bit of a challenge, but I was quite lucky. Due to the volcanic ash cloud, most flights in Europe have been canceled and airports closed, as I'm sure you've heard. I was booked on a flight to Bologna via Madrid on Sunday. When I found out Saturday evening that Bologna would also be closed on Sunday, I immediately called Iberia. After about an hour on hold, having the call dropped, and having to call their German call center since no one in the Spanish call center spoke English, I was finally able to change my destination to Rome, which was still projected to be open. I did make it to Rome, where a large crowd of people were trying to make arrangements to travel to their home countries -- Germany, England, the Netherlands, etc. I managed to get a train to Florence a few hours later, so I had better luck than the many people who were affected by the announcements that all trains from Italy to Northern Europe were fully booked until Friday! I was extremely glad to be back home, even if it was a few hours later than planned.

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