Picture of the Week

27 September 2021

Week 36: Madrid, my first business trip since March 2020

Filed under: — Administrator @ 05:51

All the photos this week are from Madrid, where I had my first business trip since my return from Croatia in early March 2020. The background was the annual conference of the European Policy for IP association, an academic event, this time hosted by the Spanish Science Research Council. In fact, this conference was supposed to have been held in September 2020, and the organisers approached me early that year to see if our office would co-sponsor the conference (i.e. finance part of it). I managed to get the agreement of the head of our office, but then the conference was postponed for reasons we all know. This year the situation is much better, and so the conference went on from September 8th to the 10th. As most such events these days, it was a hybrid event, with about 75 participants on-site and another 250 connecting remotely. Realistically, this is how things will be for the foreseeable future. Still, it was great to be there in person, with 3 members of my team, and also meet some people whom I have known for years. This is what such conferences are about, besides the knowledge sharing.

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I took the train to Madrid Wednesday morning and went to my hotel to leave my stuff. It was a very nice boutique hotel located in a part of Madrid called “el barrio de las letras”, literally “the quarter of the letters”. Sure enough, close to my hotel was the house where Cervantes lived the last years of his life:
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In the pavement around the neighbourhood there are quotes from various literary works, here Cervantes:
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The conference was starting Wednesday at 4 p.m. While walking to the metro, I looked for interesting details, as I always do in cities:
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I saw this in several places in the neighbourhood, an indication on a heavy wooden door of the best place to push with your foot to open it:
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After attending the opening sessions of the conference, we made our way back to the hotel, changed into comfortable clothes, and walked around the neighbourhood. Two of us, Francisco and Carolina, know Madrid very well, and they guided us to beautiful places like this:
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We ended up on Plaza Santa Ana, a beautiful little square with the the Teatro Español at one end and a statue of Federico García Lorca as the anchor point:
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Although we were mainly attracted by the many bars on the square:
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Safely installed at our table with our pints, I turned my attention to the surrounding tables:
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And to the people passing by. This is one of the great pleasures of sitting outside:
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On the way back to the hotel quite late, another canine-themed scene that also shows the character of the neighbourhood. People seem to know each other in the Barrio de las Letras. The woman walking her dog chats with a waitress outside a restaurant:
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On Thursday morning, as is my habit, I went for an early morning walk in the neighbourhood. The streets were still largely empty:
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I walked back to Plaza Santa Ana, which looked a lot less lively than it did the night before:
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Not sure about the meaning of this (“in Madrid we are cats”):
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A street corner in the Barrio de las Letras:
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When walking around a residential neighbourhood, I always like to look at the balconies. They often express the nature of the place. Here, clearly it is an artsy and progressive place:
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Just before descending into the metro at the Antón Martin station, I photographed this monument to the “lawyers of Atocha”. This was a group of lawyers who worked for the socialist party and the labour movement. They were ambushed by fascist terrorists in January 1977, just over one year after the death of Franco, when the political situation in Spain was very fluid. Four of them died, along with a union man present in the office:
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On Thursday morning, the substantive part of the conference began. Here is the organiser Catalina Martínez with a well-known IP economist Dietmar Harhoff, with Professor Anita McGahan from the University of Toronto speaking via Zoom:
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The lunch breaks at the conference were quite long, 2 hours or so. The site was located in a nondescript industrial area quite far from the centre of the city, but I had seen what looked like a nice park nearby, called Parque de la Quinta de los Molinos. So I used part of the lunch break to go for a walk there. This is the rather impressive entrance to the park:
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The park turned out to be a delightful oasis, with lovely tree-lined paths and beautiful spots:
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I saw several people, like this young woman, relaxing on the grass:
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A nice pond:
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A man drawing, next to his mobility vehicle:
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On my way back to the conference venue, I was amused by the murals on this building. It turned out to be some sort of media company, decorating its building with murals depicting classic movies. Here, “The Birds” by Hitchcock:
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The greatest movie of all time, albeit some idiot has defaced Humphrey Bogart:
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Back at the conference, Francisco presents a new study we are about to publish; the chair of the session, Professor Carolina Castaldi from Utrecht University, looks on:
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In the evening there was a gala dinner hosted by a local think tank. The weather was nice, so we had drinks and some of the tables outside. Carolina shares a snack and a laugh with Malwina from the European Commission in Brussels:
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There was some music too:
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Our ex-trainee from Lithuania, Antanina, was there too, presenting a paper she wrote while at Bournemouth University in the UK:
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On Friday, Carolina presented a paper, a tough slot at 8:45 after the late night on Thursday:
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I was not interested in any of the sessions in the slot before lunch, so I had about 3 hours free in the middle of the day. I decided to go to the Parque del Buen Retiro (or simply “Retiro” as it is known) where the annual Madrid book fair, Feria del Libro, was opening. It is a big event, and even more so this year, with the 2020 edition having been cancelled like so much else. I took the metro to the Retiro station and walked through the park towards the fair. On the way I passed the ornate Alfonso XII monument:
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Collonade, couple for scale:
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Not sure what this is. The Retiro park is huge and it is dotted with fountains and monument of all kinds:
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There were lots of people in the park, like this couple using shaded spots for some exercise–just like what I see on the beach in Alicante, some people in Madrid like to exercise outdoors:
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Another couple, not exercising:
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The Feria del Libro is huge, with a couple of hundred stands representing Spanish and foreign publishing houses, various university presses, and individual bookshops. It is the kind of place where I could have spent all day:
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All kinds of fiction and non-fiction was on offer:
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The Feria del Libro is clearly a very popular event, among young and old alike:
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Having spent about an hour at the Feria, I sat down for a beer and a bit at an outdoor bar just next to the entrance and did what others did–sat down with my beverage to look at the books I had just bought:
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My final photo from Madrid is this grab shot at the entrance to the Suanzes metro station. Just above the entrance, an advertisement for a used car dealer says “Don’t take the metro.” In reality, the metro is a far more efficient way to move around Madrid than fighting the notoriously heavy traffic in this city:
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