Sunday, February 22, 2009

Barcelona, the MWC, parties, men in black and meeting old friends. Culture, Catalán and home again.

Me on the rooftop of Casa Mila (La Pedrera) by Gaudi on Paseo de Gracia in Barcelona.
Hi again

This time a week ago I was writing my post on the high speed train to Barcelona. The week went by really quickly and I came home exhausted but happy on Thursday evening.

So what did I get up to in Barcelona.? Well, of course, I went for the MWC and most of my week was taken up with activities around the congress but I did a lot of other things too.

The trip started with the TeliaSonera get together on Sunday evening at the Reunion Café near the Rambla. Thankfully that was a quiet start which meant an early night. Here I met up with my European colleagues over tapas and wine.

Oli joined me on Monday and we shared a room at the Hesperia President Hotel on the Avda. Diagonal which is very central. As I walked out on Monday morning I realised it was just across the road from my favourite night club (well actually the only one I know) called Luz de Gas; quite a coincidence. As a treat for Oli’s arrival I organised a massage for her and for me in our room on Monday evening and a very nice Colombian lady did a great job of relaxing our muscles and also giving us tips on how to keep fit.

On Monday evening we went out to dinner with Grainne and her son Marcel. Grainne and I go back a long way as we went to school together. She lives in Barcelona so every time I go we make a point of meeting up. We went to Agua, one of my favourites and had a very spirited night where we spent most of our time laughing.
Grainne and Olivia
Meanwhile the MWC was going on. Here I saw lots of old and new colleagues and made a point of visiting the Nokia Siemens Networks hospitality suite which is always my point of reference. I also visited the Nokia press outfit and greeted old colleagues and the Golla stand (great Finnish designer of mobile phone and pc bags) where I picked up a lovely pink camera case for my new Canon (unfortunately dropped by Oli in Amsterdam and remarkably still working!). I also visited Palm to see Xavi as well as Genaker to see Miquel. MWC for me is about seeing people. It’s actually quite difficult to see the people you want to as everyone is busy and the place is seething with people. I never managed to see Claire despite our numerous phone calls and was distressed to hear she had been robbed on her last night in Barcelona! The crisis has affected the congress in that fewer people went this year. Each taxi driver had a different estimate but overall I think there were about 10.000 people less than last year when approximately 60.000 attended.

On Tuesday morning it was the TeliaSonera press conference which I went to just in case there were questions on Yoigo which of course there were. I was also busy with final touches to our press materials for our own press conference the following day. But before that there were some parties to go to.

The first party was the Ericsson splash out at the Fira itself. Wow was that big. However it started at 18.30 with dinner which was far too early for me. I didn’t really know many people so soon made my way back to the hotel to join Oli and wait for Gloria and Ana from the events agency as we were going to another party and then on to dinner. We went to Miquel’s bash at the Xalet de Montjuic, a wonderful location with great views of Barcelona “la nuit”. We caused a bit of a sensation, 3 pretty girls and I walking into a male dominated party and they would hardly let us leave. I always call the MWC “Men in Black” and if you went you would understand why! When we finally got away we made our way to another great restaurant in Barcelona called Nichel where once again ours was the only all female table.

Wednesday morning was the Yoigo press conference breakfast which we held at a great little Catalán bar cum restaurant called Matamala on Rambla de Cataluña, not to be confused with La Rambla which unfortunately some people did! The turn out was amazing, some 24 journalists and the atmosphere created was very us, in that it seemed more like a meeting of friends. So much so was this that some of the journalists stayed on to write their news wires which we were to see published on line whilst we were still clearing up!
Behind the scenes, Gustavo and Carlos removing the photo call after our press event
I wasn’t free until midday but when I was I went with Oli to the Port Vell for lunch with Martita, an old friend from my Nokia days who happened to be in town on business. We went to a great place recommended to my by Julio called El Merendero de la Mari. It was good to see Marta in great form and happy in her new job. We were lucky to be able to eat outside and enjoy the Barcelona sun. Marta and I
In the afternoon Oli and I had time for culture. We walked from the Port Vell all the way to the Casa Mila (also known as La Pedrera) in Pº de Gracia and visited this gem of a building built by the famous Catalán architect Antonio Gaudí.
Casa Mila or Pedrera on Paseo de Gracia by Gaudi.
I had visited it before but was equally fascinated. Here we visited every nook and cranny and took photos of nearly everything we saw, specially on the roof top with its incredible mosaic encrusted chimneys and view of the unfinished cathedral, the Sagrada Familia, also by Gaudi and perhaps his most famous building.
Oli on the rooftop of Casa Mila
Wednesday evening brought with it the party I had been organising for weeks for my ex Nokia Networks colleagues from our stint together from 2000 to 2004. And here I had help from the girls at Quinta Esencia with the activities. Thanks to Marc, we went to a great place called Raco d’en Cesc, recommended by the Michelin Guide and frequented by local politicians and football players. What a great find it was too. If you ever go, be sure to ask for the duck canaloni with foie sauce which is heavenly.
The ex Nokia Networks party - group photo, oh such fun!
The girls had made a great poster and badge for everyone based on the Cartoon Networks logo and characters. Also we held the ex Nokia Network awards where we voted with giant hands for all sorts of fun categories, such as “the most missing person”, “the person who sent the longest e-mails”, “Mr. most suitable bachelor 2000” etc. I was very surprised and flattered to win the Miss Nokia Networks 2000.
The Cartoon Networks poster where each one of us was a cartoon character!
The evening was such fun and we all made speeches on what our time with the team meant to us and remembered all sorts of things which had us all laughing endlessly. But the evening had to end and when it did we of course went for a night cap. And where did we go for the night cap? To Luz de Gas of course. A good time was had by all and we have all agreed to repeat the experience next year. We shall certainly be going back to Raco d’en Cesc.

Thursday was ours for the taking and we had all day to enjoy Barcelona as our train wasn’t leaving until 5 in the afternoon. After a leisurely breakfast and packing, we left our suitcases in reception and made our way on foot to the Picasso Museum in the old quarter (el barrio gótico). On our way we visited the Palau de la Música, a singular and very beautiful building in itself. We both enjoyed the Picasso museum and learned a lot about him and his work. He was very prolific and started painting seriously from the age of 15 going from a classical style to his own type of impressionism right through to cubism, including his blue and pink periods. He was pretty obsessed with the Spanish painter Velázquez to judge from his copies of the old masterpieces to over 50 versions of the Meninas. He sure was prolific! He was also obsessed with women and was married several times. What an amazing guy!!!
The Picasso Museum
The reference to Catalan is a must for me in this post. In Cataluña the official language is Catalán and, mainly for political reasons, Castilian Spanish is slowly being eradicated. You hear both languages in the street but in the state schools Catalán is dominant, so much so that many parents complain. As a Spanish speaker I can understand a lot of Catalán but cannot talk it. It is like a mixture of French, Spanish and Latin. In Spain you are supposed to respect it and it is politically incorrect to criticise or laugh at it. However a lot of people living in Cataluña are immigrants from South America or Spaniards from other areas and do not speak it. I was in stitches when I saw a sign saying “Pis en venda” which actually means “Piso en venta” (flat for sale) but which could be understood as “pee for sale” in Spanish!! That’s a very strange business I thought to myself. I asked my Colombian masseuse what she thought of the language and she didn’t hesitate to say “Español mal hablado” (Spanish spoken badly). I heard similar remarks from two taxi drivers. This is the last thing that Catalan politicians want to hear but they are blind to the fact that this is actually true.

From the Picasso museum we made our way to a very popular restaurant called Bestial right by the sea and next to the famous Arts Hotel. We had a quick lunch and an even quicker walk on the beach before we rushed to our hotel to pick up our luggage and drive to the train station only to find out that our tickets were for Wednesday and not Thursday!! So we had to get another ticket and take the next train. In 2.5h hours we were at Atocha station in Madrid and half an hour later at home and in time for dinner with the family.
Oli on the Ave, the high speed train, going home. She was watching Slumdog Millionaire on her mac.
It was lovely to be home again, to see the family but most of all to see my lovely puppy Norah. She is now completely recovered and has grown a lot.

On Friday I got back into the swing of being at home, caught up on my work and had lunch with the family. In the evening Eladio and I went to see Slumdog Millionaire, a film from the British director, Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) which is nominated for the Oscars tomorrow and which I really wanted to see as it is set in India. I loved it. If you haven’t seen it, this is what it’s about:
Jamal is an 18 year old from the slums of Mumbai who against all odds is on the brink of winning the top prize on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. He’s accused of fraud but then tells twelve stories which piece together his life, explain how he knew the answers and finally uncover the reason why he went on the show in the first place (from the Slumdog Millionaire fan club in Facebook).
The enchanting Jamal as a small boy in Slumdog Millionaire
Afterwards we went to a new Lebanese restaurant near home in Boadilla called La Cachimba. It was great, inexpensive and superbly decorated. We will be returning.

On Saturday we took Norah for her second vaccination and she behaved beautifully. She loved the outing even though it was in my arms. The thing is she cannot go out of the house or for a walk until she has had her third vaccination and that isn’t for another two weeks. So she’s getting a bit frustrated all cooped up in the kitchen. We try to make up for this by supplying her with all sorts of toys or holding her whilst trying to read the newspaper which is not easy. Today she had another bath. I’m not sure she’s very keen but she sure looked lovely afterwards!
Norah, posing at the vet
And that’s about it for this week. It has been a very full week but, as always, it’s great to be home. Tonight we are going out to dinner with Roberto and MariCarmen but more about that in next week’s post.

PS you should be able to see more photos of Barcelona here:

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