Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Russell Square Station

When I made my first visit to London a few years ago I did not bother to use the underground, I just walked all over the place.  This past St. Patrick's day weekend I made my second visit to the city I decided to use the tube, it was my first experience in this subway system.  I was planning to walk from Kings Cross to Leicester Square, but the distance between these two locations was longer than I anticipated, luckily, I randomly walked up on Russell Square Station.
 When you enter this station, you can get a ticket from a machine, pass through the wicket and follow the sign that says 'stairs to platform'.   The problem is that the sign does not mention that there are 175 steps on a spiral staircase to the platform that no one actually uses, it's better to use the lift.  They made an announcement over the PA about one third into my trip down the stair case.
 Midway down the stair case is a platform with a help button.  It's a help point.
 The platform is small but all over was good signage, old school tile work.
 Trains are also small, I could stand up in the center but needed to 'duck' when I exited the train.
 It's really amazing, these trains leaving the platform does look like a movie.
The trip from Russell Square to Leicester Square is fairly quick, I think it was 4 or 5 stations away.
Leicester has a nice escalator, everyone heading down into the underground was coming or going to a St. Patrick's party.  It was very noisy in the tube today.
 So many Guinness hats you might think this is the Dublin underground.
 It was totally bonkers above ground.  I wanted to visit a few clothing shops, but by the time I got here everything was closed.
I was able to find a good Mexican restaurant for dinner though.. If you are ever in London and craving Mexican, check out Cantina Laredo!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Antonov AN-124 Departure

I have a good view of the Grottaglie airfield, TAR, from the roof of my apartment.  This past Saturday my BBQ was interrupted by the departure of an Antonov AN-124, one of the largest commercial cargo planes in service today.
 The airport is a single runway without a taxi-way.
 This plane is using runway 17, from where it parks, these planes need to taxi to the end of the runway and turn around on the runway before departing.
 This plane has a really slow roll-out.
 And it's off.
 After departing, these planes usually fly out and over a city called Monteparano before turning left.
 And when the planes turn left, they kind of fly back over Grottaglie and my apartment.
 It's kind of like an air-show.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Toledo, Spain

South of Madrid is the city of Toledo which at one time was the capitol city of Spain and is today a UNESCO site and the current capitol of the Province of  Toledo.
Getting here from Madrid is easy, and once you get off the train you can hop on a bus or a tourist style bus, for the first time I tired the hop on hop off tourist style bus.
 So, the hop-on-hop-off bus is really convenient.  Not only is it timed to be at the train station when you arrive in Toledo but it takes you on a tour around the city before dropping you off in the city center.  And for 9 euro, you get little headphones that allow you to listen to audio about the city and music.  BUT, I never felt so lazy in my life, during the tour around the outside of the city the bus would stop and allow you to take photos.  But you did not even have to get off the bus or standup to enjoy the view.  For this super lazy experience, make sure you get a seat on the right side of the bus in Toledo.
 From the bus you get a great view of the Bajada San Martin Bridge over the River Tajo...  but you can't walk across the bridge.
 It's kind of amazing the bus driver could navigate this thing though the city center.
 I'm not sure if this happens every Saturday afternoon but today a religious precession was working it's way though the city.   Although the parade was nice, the number of people participating in the parade made it impossilbe to pass through here, so I took a different route.
 These floats look really heavy, about 14 people was needed to move them around.
 If you look up Toledo, Ohio on Wikipedia, it not clear where that city got it's name from.  But after seeing the street name Toledo Ohio... I'm going to call it, Toledo is named after this city, someone please update Wikipedia.
 All through out the city are narrow alley ways between buildings that connect different parts of the city together.  You can get a map of Toledo at Madrid station but using the map within the city center is difficult.
 This was kind of a weird statue of Mary, the dress is kind of scary.
 The city is full of beautiful churches and a mosque, but within the city everything is so close together that it's difficult to take photos.
 My spanish is not great, but I think the name of this street is stick man.
 In the main square of the city was this group of people dancing.  I could not tell if they were Spanish people or tour group who's guide was stuck in the 1970s.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Toledo Station

Another amazing train station in Spain is Toledo.  Not to be confused with Ohio, this is the old capitol of Spain
In the 8th century, the Iberian peninsula was ruled by the Moors of Northern Africa.  And although this station was built early in the 19th century, I assume this stations architecture is influenced by that period of Spain's history.  The Moors used this city as their capitol.
 This tile work is amazing, I wish I had the patience to put down tile like this, Home Depot can't even hook you up with the raw materials to pull-this-off.
 By the time I left Toledo, lights in the station were turned on.  I think these are over 100 years old too.
The outside of the station is in good condition too.  This is looking back from the platform.
This train also servers Toledo station, runs around the inside and outside of the city.  Believe it or not, it's made from a Toyota something. I have seen lots of modified cars but not one that moved the dash board of the car to the trunk.

Madrid Atocha Station Turtles

Madrid's main train station is located in the south-southeast corner of the city and it's a really cool station that is well connected with all of Spain and probably France.  I made a trip to Madrid this past weekend, but before I post about that, check out this train station.  Atocha station has one thing all main train stations around the world needs, a pool full of turtles.
 If you read the wikipedia page about Atocha station you would have no idea 100's of turtles live here, but they do.
 And it's fun, kind of something relaxing to look at while waiting for your train.
 I get the idea all the turtles are out of the water not for the sake of sunning but just trying to avoid the green water.  Someone needs to flush this pond with water minus the green stuff.  I'm sure the turtles would enjoy the opportunity to chill in non-tocix water.
 The rest of the station is nice too.  This is the terminus for many high-speed rail line though out Spain.
 Tickets are easy to get too... you can print your ticket at home and they scan it as you board the train.  This 33 minute train ride to Toledo cost about 11 euro... good price!
 Spain does have tight security for it's rail network, you need to scan your luggage before entering the platform.
The train on the left is kind of goofy looking.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Grottaglie Carnaval

I accidentally found the carnaval (carnival) parade in Grottaglie, I was walking from my apartment to the local supermercado when I noticed a festival a few blocks down the street.  By the time I finished shopping for groceries, what I thought was a stationary festival was actually a parade passing out front of Dok (the mercado).
 I watch the entire parade pass by the grocery store before returning to my apartment to drop off food and grab my camera.
 But by the time I got to where the parade finished, the event was over and everyone was packing up to return home.  Everyone one kept moving around, so it was kind of difficult to take a photo, that's why I had to go B&W with these.
 At this point in the evening, only one snack car remained at the festival, it too was shutting down.
Here is a video of the parade:
Carnival has been all over Italy for the past few weeks.  Sadly, it all ends tonight with Fat Tuesday!