Madrid. Again!

The sun rising over Franfurt, Germany.

Its the same feeling but with a bit more spice when I clicked the itinerary’s book & confirm button of the flight that’s supposed to take me away for two weeks; The countdown was long but worth every single day. It gave me that hope whenever boredom crawled. That secret internal smile of “heh who cares, m disconnecting soon” even though the “soon” meant a couple of months. a Multi destination journey starting once again in Spain, then Rome, and ending in Zurich.

Slicing things down, in Spain the plan was Madrid & its hype, by bus to tranquil Granada, by train to forgotten Cordoba, then by bus again to addictive Seville.

It’s gonna be a story-like sequel starting from Madrid. Moving on city by city in separate posts just to avoid never ending journals & spare the time. Thus, hereby, I start from the captivating Spanish heart, Madrid.

As always, the flight to Madrid is properly selected; a proper airline to have an appropriate start. Lufthansa, thank you for your unmatched services both on & off board.

If I was to define Madrid, it would be a city that forces you to fall in love with it. Loving Madrid is not by choice at all. Once you step there, it marks your soul and commands your sub-conscience to voluntarily come back again. It’s always awake, alive, full of energy, mouthwatering cuisine, tasty wine, excellent gin, art of all kinds, music, fun, and you name the rest. Its a traditional yet modern city that got something for everybody. For me, it hosts everything I look for. When visiting the city, make sure to brush away all pretentious (maybe Arabic) attitude and just be humble to enjoy the charm; if not, you’re still have a chance to enjoy the fancy, classy, flashy part which doesn’t add to the experience you get at the flashy classy districts present in every other city.

A panoramic view of Gran Via street;

Gran Via, the artery of the city was the center, from there and out of experience everything became handy and close; This busy street kept us on the move; Never bored, always strolling around the same places just for the joy of being there. A stop or two for coffee refill or sugar refuel, a taste of the various ice cream flavors, and mostly important was the daily routine at National Geographic cafe where the happy hour chit-chats & espressos were a must.

 

 

The daily ritual. Double espresso, long chit chats, and planning. This place is an addiction.

Night shot of Madrid; Taken from the hotel room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At sunset, the city changed the color and the mood. Tickled to start the night early, we strolled to La Latina, a Spanish district by far, where authentic Spanish food is served at an array of resto/pubs. Lured by the tinkling heard everywhere, we stopped at Artebar to attend a very local flamenco performance. Honestly, I was never a flamenco fan due to the simple fact that art to me resembles peace and tranquility while flamenco acts are loud and aggressively expressed. My perception changed last year; I came this year eager to catch up with what I had missed.

From left to right: two bailoras, chanter clapping, solo bailora at the Artebar performance, La Latine, Madrid

That night, the same performers more or less were there. What changed was the chanter & one of the bailaoras. The place was dim and old, equipped with few single metal chairs and a primitive  wooden podium; we were few; a trio of late 60s ladies , and a group looking like a family. Each carrying his/her wine glass waiting for the show to commence.

It lasted for almost an hour and a half with a break in between where they rested and changed outfits. I took this photo during the first half of the show. This photo and its color treatment manifests my exact feelings at that moment. A mixture of admiration, sadness, and joy. Many questions were hovering in my head during the act. Is dancing their main profession. Is it how they make their living? where do they live? Do they have families? Are they happy? do they make enough money to properly survive a not that cheap city? Do they really enjoy what they do especially that its a tough sweaty performance? I left the answers behind that wooden door. Maybe i can find answers during my next visit.

After the  show, we strolled around La Latina to immerse more in the district’s vibes. Our main drink of choice was mainly house white wine that kicks smoothly into the system. For dinner, tapas are always the option. Gazpacho with chorizos, patatas bravas, and albondigas with tomato sauce. Keeping it light to leave room for other cuisine attractions.

A glass of Mahou beer at Mercado de San Antonio’s roof top

Mostly the main activity in Madrid is nightly. When the streets get crowded and people go out for drinks. Tremendous pubs scattered everywhere in the city, each offering special discounts and free drinks just to create footfall. A fierce competition to please;

What is best to try there, aside from wine, are gin & tonic and local beer. A nice venue we tried was Mercado de San Antonio. A mall-like complex of three floors. It looks like a tapas food court with very rich assortment of choices. The roof top terrace was packed; lovely mini bars and young crowds. Going out of there, we didnt miss to try the various flavors of croquetas. A lovely stand bar at the left corner of the first floor serves the best of those with a wide selection of  jamon, spinach, chicken, and cheese fillings. When you are there, just aim for it and please dont thank me 🙂

Mornings are calm and slow, only thinking of breakfast; Since we couldnt do churros late at night, we didnt forget to give it a try in the morning, and where else to have churros and hot chocolate except at the infamous Chocolateria San Gines. Located just next to Sol among narrow cozy streets and at a calm addictive neighborhood. We spent two easy hours without even noticing.  only interrupted by beggars who didn’t even have the time to beg before being driven out of the area by waiters.

Chocolateria San Gines street in the morning

Getting lazy during the last day. Final check and ready to leave

Time flies in Madrid; Many things done, various places visited, and a lot of memories attained. I didnt forget Santa Anna‘s first lunch, nor Sol‘s shoppings, nor La Latina‘s Sunday morning breakfast. But promising to keep this post short, I will fold my memories and keep them to myself.  Till that day, the best thing that happened in 2012 was Madrid. It still hides tremendous places to discover, tastes to try, and new faces to meet. That is what preserves its charm and addiction and leaves me attached to its known as well as its unknown; to that and many other reasons, Madrid, I am definitely coming back.

 

 

 

 

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Dusting off

It has been a significant absence. Its time to dust off & prepare this place for some ink again.

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The city in charm

Its the first time I take the chance to tour the city walking. Avoiding the traffic jam I decided to pull myself away from the conventional means of transportation we usually use in Dubai i.e the car, after a somehow-fancy meal at Bazerkan in JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residence) the beach escape, hotel hub, and casual outings place.

The weather was the best it had reached this year. Lovely breeze, charming sunset, herds of people leaving the sands after a long tan, and blocked ways during the weekend rush hour. Enjoying the walk, I got this feeling I hadn’t got since I arrived to this city a couple of years back. I had the chance to witness things I never did, smell things I never smelled, and heard hints I never heard.

Usually driving the car makes the mind concentrated and avoiding getting shattered. The focus is all converged towards the destination and the main view is the road. Getting the chance to walk made me better discover the neighborhood; A variety of stores, restos, & cafes filling the corners, some of which have really warm-cozy settings. Smelling the different scents of food to freshly baked scones to just brewed coffee. But the thing that aroused my senses was astonishingly weird but yes: it was the  cars smoke. I dont know why but this (environment unfriendly) smell made me feel that I am engulfed with an adorable-alluring city-side which I had the chance to discover.

This vibrant city, which I love, had succeeded to replicate all the world’s wonders & vibes but unfortunately failed to improve its weather. Being all year round imprisoned in artificially conditioned offices, homes, & malls deprived us of discovering what this city would have been that its climate was a bit less hot, I mean a bit cooler.

Nothing like…

There is nothing like feeling at ease with everything. When you wake up, when you dress up, when you chew well your breakfast, when you quietly go down the stairs towards your car, when you drive to work, and when you park.

The ease continues when you have your morning coffee and enjoy the morning aroma, when you open your Outlook, when you smile to each and every email downloaded, when you reply, when you answer the phone, when you receive an sms from your mom and reply back, when you make other people around you smile, when you start thinking of what to have for lunch, when you feel lousy and sleepy after the meal, when you refresh with an afternoon cup of strong coffee, when you regain power, and when you start looking at your screen clock every now and then.

The great feeling continues when the time becomes 6:00 pm, when you kiss-goodbye your colleagues, when you leave office, when you drive home & dive through the rush hour traffic, when you reach home and start being hesitant of going to the gym, when you force it upon yourself, when you shower and get back home saying “thank God I worked out”, when you have a light dinner bite, when your TV night show starts, when you switch off the TV, when you sink into the bed then remember you forgot to brush your teeth and smile again, when you brush ur teeth back and sink again into your bed freshened up with the mint-flavored saliva.

It climaxes when u rest your head on your cushion, when you drift away into the wonderland, when you dream, and when u wake up the other day smiling to the sun peaking through your window.

There is nothing than looking positively at everything whatever it is.

A Re-Start

It has been a while when i released my thoughts through this space that I created. It has been almost 2 months of foggy unexplained ramifications where each in turn was supposed to lead into what is reached now. Things were piled with time to reach a status of equilibrium and confinement for a better restart.

After an unexpected, though long, stay in Beirut in March 2010, the journey started again in Dubai. A phase which I took at ease, snail crawling, aiming to harvest the best out of the available. A series of business interviews moving along my ongoing freelance activities led at the end into what is considered the best I think I can get. I will not announce it now, I will keep it for a later post. Of course this started after my resignation from ART (Arab Radio & Television).

What I believe in is that whatever we aim to do, is always bound to certain universal parameters whose outcome will not lead except to the destined. I always repeat this: When you want something, the universe conspires to make you get it, beautifully said by Paolo Coelho’s in his marvel “The Alchimist”.

I leave you here, with all the best that can be wished. If I want to summon my status, there will be no better way to express it except in Celine Dion’s charm:

Goodnight.

A hint

I always go round and around and always reach the same conclusion: Every thing in life is not hap-hazardous. Everything is intended. I am closest than ever to conclude that nothing in this life comes by chance. Everything is meant to be for a certain task that it will achieve later.

Why I say this, first because I believe in it. Second because this hypothesis now has solid proof of its recurrence. Third because this universe is the most arranged and organized chaos which surpass the human brain’s ability to comprehend.

Why The Drought?

It has been a weird winter. Extended sunshine, warmer than usual temperatures, weak & loose snow cover, shy rain, and blooming flowers indicating an early Spring arrival; But why is all that?

Let me start by exposing the whole picture about whats happening in the Northern hemisphere:

1-In Europe, many countries have been effected by a series of freezing waves, snow, and ice since December 2009. Great Britain was completely covered with snow. France, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Scandinavian countries and Eastern Europe got significant amounts of snow.

2- Northern America also has been and still under the effects of consecutive blizzards, where snow reached historical levels in Washington DC. Just to cite, this winter, All the US states received snow except Hawaii.

3- many areas, including the Middle East, are witnessing decreased rain fall & warmer than usual temperatures.

Throughout my readings, one main common reason was mentioned accross online sources, NASA being one, relating whats happening to the Negative Arctic Oscillation. So, what is the Arctic Oscillation & what does it mean being “negative”?

The image below was taken from NASA’s earth observatory website (http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov). It resembles the temperature margins in the Northern hemisphere during the month of december 2009. The illustrations were added personally in order to simplify and explain.

the main image was taken from NASA's Earth Observatory website. Illustrations were added.

The Arctic Oscillation is a climate pattern that influences winter weather in the Northern Hemisphere. It is defined by the pressure difference between air at mid-latitudes (around 45 degrees North, about the latitude of Montreal, Canada or Bordeaux, France) and air over the Arctic (http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=42260). It is a natural phenomena where Arctic dense cold polar air sinks towards southern latitudes while warmer air at mid latitudes climb up towards the pole. This oscillation brings changeable weather patterns during the Northern hemisphere winter. During the month of December 2009, the Arctic Oscillation was strongly negative i.e. the pressure difference between the pole and the mid latitudes was small, thus cools air crept into the south gently and cooled the  land surface.

During this period, the Middle East, including Lebanon, was witnessing extended periods of sunshine interrupted by few days of stormy rain. The less-frequent weather activity is due to the Negative Arctic Oscillation where low pressure systems form at mid latitudes (Europe) and brought winter storms there, keeping the Eastern Med calm and under High pressure dominance.

Its not that accurate to relate the rain/snow absence in Lebanon to global warming. Although global warming is gradually taking place, but still, as scientists claim, its not still strong enough to drag significant change in the weather.

Years of scarce rain and warmer winters were recorded in the recent past in Lebanon. So to keep it on the optimistic side, lets consider the 2009-2010 winter season another pattern of natural rain scarcity.

28

This time it came at a crossroad. A mark breaking the old and starting the new. Although ambiguity dominance fills the air, but yet some areas are still lit maybe as a guidance  for the destined future.

As usual, the last thing I did being 27, was exactly the same thing I did being 26, 25, 24,…  calling the most precious, the  invaluable,  the dearest to my heart; my point of weakness, the person whose presence was a bless in each and every moment of my life and who will remain my utmost priority: Mom.

As I am not that expressive, i molded the call to be as one of the usual weekly calls. Intentionally though, I wanted to hear it from her: Happy Birthday… with an assortment of blessings and recites I wanted to hear not because I was opportunist, but because i needed that load of positive universal energy in this critical period I am passing through.

It was never for me a game of numbers. I never believed in quantifying time. Time is untouchable, unmeasurable, and cannot be contained. As part of this universal mesh where everything is interconnected to the whole until its tiniest bits, I believe my mission in this interconnected intricate system is not over yet; thus I am granted a new mundane year to live. Happy birthday to me.

Sorting things, recapping, and prioritizing is definite. The old should be filed and archived, and the new book should be widened properly in order to get a smooth initiation.

Its gonna be a critical year for me. Much needs to be done, many decisions should be taken, and many steps should be appropriated.

GeekFestBeirut

February 5th, 2010 This is happening tonight. All the @’s are there. I am being tickled on twitter but I had no choice other than staying in Dubai sorting the many things taking place.

I know its gonna be an interesting event to be at, but I cannoe but wish all the guys there the best for the immense amount of efforts invested to make this idea come true.

US-China Tensions

The US-Taiwan arms dealJust to be brief and cut it short: “The US cannot by any means impose its resolutions upon China, that would be a huge mistake the US can commit”.

I am saying this just after the rising tensions between the Chinese government and the US congress after the $6.2 billion weaponry deal signed between the USA & Taiwan last week. Upon it, the US will supply Taiwan with ground-to-air defense rocketry, few defense ships, and 60 Black Hawk helicopters.

If the US is looking to fortify its as-considered a US base nearest to China, Chine in return can play the game differently. Via Economy. We all know that most of the US companies are moving their manufacturing into China for the sake of cutting costs. What if China decided to take economical measures against the US companies? Can you imagine the economical harm this can cause?

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