You are currently browsing the daily archive for March 13, 2011.

This is my 4th year taking part in the Earth Hour, a global event aimed at raising awareness about sustainability issues.  This year, I have decided to write a daily post during the month leading to the event in order to share some thoughts about the environment and give tips the little changes we can make in our daily lives.  There will also be some guest posts by fellow bloggers who will share their own views on a topic related to the environment.  You can read my introductory post here and access the Earth Hour website here.

I encourage you to comment and share your own tips, ideas and experience.  In the last couple of days before the event I will do a few posts about what readers had to say.  I believe we can learn a lot by sharing!

I had pledged to write a post everyday in the month preceding the Earth Hour and I feel guilty to have missed a few this week.  I was away at a conference in Madrid and hadn’t managed to get enough post ready before I left.  I guess that it is understandable with the events of the past few weeks, but still…

I am still not fully recovered from my trip, I guess you can call that conference-lagged, and will thus keep this post quite brief.  I thought that, as I was just back from abroad, I could share a few things I noticed and thoughts I had on my travels in relation to the posts I have previously written in connection with the Earth Hour.

I must say, there was nothing very striking about the travelling in itself.  I took a few planes and stopped at various airports, which all look the same.  However, I seem to remember seeing sensor lights in the bathrooms in one of these airports.  Airports are often kept relatively litter-free thanks to staff working non-stop (more than to careful travellers, I assume).  One thing though felt a bit incongruous.  In Gatwick airport, in London, as in all other airports, they have a smoking area; however, it was the only space outside the airport where there wasn’t any bin/ashtray.  Go figure!

I drank many cups of coffee in these airport and was a bit disgusted by all the packaging involved in this little pleasure.  Milk and sugar packed in little doses, plastic spoon, cup, top for the cup, cardboard holder around the cup.  Why not have at least jugs of milk and sugar shakers?

Madrid seems to be particularly concerned about conserving water, for understandable reasons, and they have stickers in all public places near water points to remind you not to be wasting.  On the other hand, the same places are overheated.  I was shocked by this and the waste of energy resulting from it.  The rooms in the university were so hot it was actually uncomfortable.  Even the bathrooms were overheated and the windows were open.  Something could obviously be done in this domain.  I understand that Spanish people are used to hot weather, but public places such as universities should actually set an example in regarding consumption of energy.

I also noticed that very few places had ashtrays outside the doors.  One had to go to find a bin to discard cigarette butts and you can imagine how many people do so.  However, I didn’t find the streets too littered; but I imagine it is because they are cleaned from the remains of party nights every morning.  Outside the university, I spotted a recycling bin, which is something I had also noticed in Toronto.  I wish there were some of these in Cork as well.

Sensor lights also seem quite popular in bars and restaurants.  I often found myself in the dark, but at least it makes a huge difference on energy consumption.

Not long ago, I was talking about public transportation and explained how difficult and expensive it is in Ireland.  Indeed, I checked the prices when I went from my house to the airport.  I first had to take my car to the closest town, Midleton, where I caught a bus to go to Cork.  The journey lasts about 25 minutes and costs 6 euro for a single ticket, which is a lot more than what it would cost me in petrol.  I then took a second bus to the airport for 4.50 euro.  I find such prices excessive and not encouraging people to use the bus.  Madrid, on the other hand, has a brilliant metro system.  The airport is connected to the city by a metro line and the trip costs only 2 euro.  Going from one point to another in the city is made easy by the many metro lines crossing the city and tickets cost only 1 euro each.  I can’t imagine why people wouldn’t use public transports there as the system is so practical….

How is it where you live?  Do you think the council makes an effort to help with the protection of the environment?

I am sorry about the sketchiness of this post.  Things should get back to normal from tomorrow on.

"Guenica", Picasso

What can I say about Madrid?  I had stopped there on a school trip to admire “Guernica” in 1992 and hadn’t returned since.  It is a beautiful and atmospheric city.  I loved strolling in its streets.  The architecture is really impressive and there are lovely buildings every few meters, but what I preferred were the small streets with those cañas y tapas bars.  I loved this web of streets, which managed to disorient me a couple of times.

Metropolis building, Calle de Alcala

Alhambra, cañas y tapas bar

I was lucky enough to meet a friend there who brought me to a lovely tapas bar.  I still can’t believe at how cheap wine and food are compared to Ireland.  I also really appreciated the way they always give you a little snack when you order a drink; crisps, salami, cured ham, cheese, fried white bait, etc.  However, the late night life wasn’t what  expected.  I would have thought it would be possible to stay out late for a quiet drink in chilled out bars, but it seemed that after 2.30am, everybody went to late bars and night clubs, which are quite noisy and more expensive.  Maybe I wasn’t in the right area?

Cured ham in a tapas bar

I was there for a conference on “Myth and Subversion” and, unfortunately, did not get enough time to explore the city at my leisure.  However, I managed to escape for a few hours to visit a part of the Museo Reina Sofia and enjoyed looking at paintings by Picasso, Dali, Miro, Gris and others.

"Figura en una finestra", Dali

"Un Món", Angeles Santos Torroella

Here is the whole set of photos I took at the Museo Reina Sofia:
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And this is the set for Madrid, which does not do justice to what I saw:

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