Sunday, March 2, 2014

Short trip to Alcalá de Henares

It has been quite a long time since I last visited Alcala de Henares; it must have been last February, in the context the Organic.Lingua 5th project meeting. This time I had the opportunity to make a short trip to Alcala (26-28/2) and I admit that each opportunity to visit Alcala is more than welcome! Direct flights from Athens to Madrid are only a few and rather expensive so the trip to and from Madrid takes little bit longer than it should: it usually takes about 8 hours, through Munich, Rome, Istanbul or Zurich, depending on the flight selected; even Sofia and Bucharest can serve as intermediates for these flights. Despite this fact, the destination usually makes up for the long trip.
The entrance of the University of Alcala (UAH)

Reaching Alcala de Henares used to be a little bit hard, as the most common (and cheap) way was to take the metro from the airport until one station and then get the suburban railway to Alcala. However, a new bus line, 824, was recently introduced which takes you directly from the Madrid airport to Alcala. At 3,60 euros, it is also a budget-friendly way to get directly to Alcala and a hassle-free one, as it picks you up just outside the Terminal 2 and drops you off at the same spot.

This was my 3rd time in Alcala, a town which I really like; it is so alive (mostly due to its traditional Spanish character and lots of students) but at the same time it has kept its medieval character; I can almost feel such vibes each time I visit the town. Apart from that, it is always nice to get to meet the UAH team in their own territory - they are always a nice company but I feel that they feel more comfortable in Alcala. Let alone that they are excellent hosts and guides of their own town.

Is he Don Quixote or what?

During my first visit in Alcala for the Herbal.Mednet Kick Off meeting I had the opportunity to see the main building, where the Rectorate is. The meeting took place in a magnificent room, with large paintings on the walls. The second time I got to see another building of the University, in walking distance from the first one. It was modern and well-equipped, probably closer to a meeting place. This time I got the chance to visit the actual base of the IERU team at the Polytechnic building, which is located outside the town of Alcala. Access is easy; one just has to take the Bus No 2 towards the Hospital/Polytechnic building of UAH which takes about 20 mins (depending on traffic) and only 1,30 euros.

Timetable of Bus No2 

During my stay I had the opportunity to meet my UAH colleagues, including Salvador, Miguel-Angel and Elena Garcia Barriocanal (for the first time after all these years), David Martin Moncunill, Enayat, Paulo and Alberto Nogales, with whom I had discussions about the Organic.Lingua 3rd and Final Review Meeting, the ODS metadata aggregation tasks and the agINFRA user trials, respectively. I also had the pleasure to meet Meritxell, with whom we had a long communication through emails during the last months but never got the chance to meet, Rutilo from Mexico and Eydel from Cuba; we are talking about a truly multicultural group there, if one also adds Paulo from Colombia and Enayat from Iran. I personally find this amazing! In fact I managed to spend some time actually working in the lab with the guys and it seems that there more than enough space for everyone here.

I also had the opportunity to vote for the UAH rector (as I am an employee of the University) as well as to visit the Birthplace of Miguel Cervantes which was a really interesting experience; unfortunately no photos were allowed from the well-re-innovated interior of the house. Last but not least, I had a great discussion with Paulo during my last evening in Alcala, over a number of beers and tapas at the lovely Indalo cerveceria.

Lunch with the IERU team

P.S. My trip ended with a nice surprise: I was upgraded by Aegean to Business class on my flight back to Athens; this means that I enjoyed a full 3-course meal and special care from the flight attendants! I don't know how this happened but it was well-appreciated and I would love to see this happening again! :-)