Category Archives: Spain

Artie Aardvark Looks at La Palma

For those who don’t know him, Artie Aardvark is my little friend who is very curious and likes to visit various astronomy sites. Naturally when he heard about the La Palma observing run, he was begging to go…
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I am so excited, I get to visit La Palma and see what astronomers do!  La Palma is an island in the Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco where a lot of Europeans come for vacation, and here I am relaxing with them on the beach a little before heading up to the observatory on the summit.  I am worried though- it’s cloudy!  Won’t the clouds make observing stars hard?IMG_1253

IMG_1260I soon learn the secret of La Palma though is the mountain is so tall and steep that we are above the clouds here!  Wow!  I can’t wait to visit all the telescopes! Continue reading

La Palma- On The Roof of the World

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IMG_1282These shots were taken at sunset a few hours ago, in the sort of sunset and circumstance that makes you think if this really is all there is, well, you’re pretty ok with that.

I am on La Palma in the Canary Islands for a week-long observing run.  Normally coming up to this sort of place isn’t the astronomy I do (I play with a radio telescope in the Netherlands, which I’ve never seen as I download the data form a supercomputer, meaning not too many exotic observing trips), but we have a course at the University of Amsterdam for our M.Sc. astronomy students where we have them write proposals and take data and write it up on a proper big telescope down here in La Palma.  They take a TA too- a PhD student who is the teaching assistant- so upon realizing I had to TA anyway I asked just what someone had to do to TA the La Palma course.

“You have to ask, and you’re the first one to ask” was the answer, so here I am, adapting to a week of nocturnal existence where one typically sleeps from 8am-4pm.  Something else I never really do normally by the way, as radio waves don’t care if it’s day or night when you observe them.

More later, probably from a furry little aardvark friend of mine who loves exploring all things astronomy.  But it was just too glorious a sunset tonight to not share it.

Inside the Palace of Catalan Music

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I’m normally not an architecture person when I travel.  What I mean by this is when I think of places I want to go I do like picturesque places or buildings loaded with history, but I don’t think I’ve ever deliberately traveled somewhere because someone told me the architecture was stunning or spent much time at all considering it.

So when I tell you Patrick and I decided to go on a tour of the Palace of Catalan Music and it was stunning you know it must have made quite an impression!  Built just over a hundred years ago, the entire style is supposed to invoke a garden.  Stained glass windows flood the place with light during the day and there are little details everywhere your eye looks from little flowers to statues showing the Flight of the Valkyries to musicians on the walls, each different and there to inspire the musicians-

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Patrick: Why don’t you put me in your blog?  You know I’m a ratings bonanza!
Me: Ok, go stand by that statue and give everyone a sense of scale.

So he did.

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There were tons of details all over the place, but my favorite was definitely the stained glass skylight in the center of the concert hall.  It’s supposed to look like a drop of sunlight in the middle of the blue sky, but as you can see here there are so many details that you can’t help but stare trying to take them all in.

So hey, this was architecturally a very lovely building!  I’m not saying this is a sort of style that you’d want in your living room, but in the middle of a concert hall where your mind and eyes tend to wander it is quite remarkable.

Photo: View from Park Güell, Barcelona

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While everyone in Amsterdam was busy shivering to death this past weekend, my brother and I went to sunny Barcelona.  Where, dear reader, it was warm– skirt and t-shirt during the day warm!- so just the right thing for folks getting impatient for the end of a long European winter.

Barcelona is a very lovely city with lots to see, so to kick things off here’s a view from Güell Park overlooking the city, designed about a century ago by Antoni Gaudi.  More on him later as it’s impossible to show off a bunch of Barcelona photographs and not have a bunch of his buildings in them, but the park has the added bonus of the view out towards the sea…