Day 2 of TechEd Developers was also the only day of the conference during which I had no presentation obligations. Since I slept through my first intended tourist interval on Sunday, today was the day to see things that don’t involve hotels, convention centers, or airports.
What a day I had!
I started at the Temple Expiatori de la Sagada Familia (Temple of the Sacred Family). This indescribably epic structure has been under construction since 1882 and is expected to take another 30 years to complete. The main spires are over 400 meters high, and several other features of the building are over 300 meters. I went up to the top (or at least the highest accessible point) despite the warnings that those who suffer from vertigo and claustrophobia should avoid the experience. I won’t say my knuckles weren’t white, but the views both inside and outside the Temple were simply remarkable. There’s also a museum in the basement which offers great insight into architect Antoni Gaudi’s unique approach to his craft. In addition to being totally awed by the scope and ambition of the place (there may be a thin line between inspiration and insanity), I learned an awful lot about architecture and a considerable amount of Spanish history. If you’re ever in Barcelona, you simply must visit this place.
After several hours at the Temple, I then went to the middle of the old city and saw the Barcelona Cathedral, which is on the site of a Roman Basilica. Construction on the cathedral was begun in 1298; the Roman Basilica was built in 343 AD and there are sections of the Roman wall which surrounded the old city which data from before Christ. I touched something man-made today which is over 2000 years old! Another first for me, and another place you should see if you ever get here.
Then I went down to the Olympic Village and walked around for awhile. I didn’t see much evidence of the Olympics (they were fifteen years ago, after all), but I did find a nice sandy beach and stuck my hands in the Mediterranean! Warm water! Nostalgic for home and surrounded by seafood restaurants (seafood, alas, is bad for my digestion), I paid 6 Euros (a little less than $9) for a Big Mac meal (the Subway next door to McDonalds was closed). It was essentially indistinguishable from those made in Redmond, which I suppose is the point; however there were some items on the menu (such as a humus burger) which are not found in the States.
Then I came back to the conference in time to attend Bob Beauchemin’s interactive session, Using Powershell and SQL Server Management Objects (SMO) Together to Manage SQL Server. This functionality will be included in SQL Server 2008, so Bob’s presentation was essentially a teaser; it was nonetheless quite impressive to see Powershell running in a SQL Server context. I’ve wanted to meet Bob for quite some time, so it was a pleasure to introduce myself to him after his session and discover that I was one of the people he wanted to meet here as well.
Yesterday I promised some random observations about things which are different here than at home. As a first-time visitor to Europe in general and Spain in particular, I’m keenly aware that I’m in a place that’s very different than where I’m from:
· The ground floor of both my hotel and the convention center is labeled “0,” while back in the States it would be labeled “1”. So, room number 2303 is, by my math, 24 storeys above the street.
· In authentic local restaurants (not the hotel and not McDonalds), entrée portions are much smaller than I’m accustomed to, all servings of water are bottled and paid for (no waitstaff with pitchers of ice water as in the USA), and dessert is practically a requirement. People also seem to eat much later than in the States; I see crowds of folks in restaurants after 11pm.
· Restaurant workers in Spain are paid a living wage, so tipping is not only not required, it surprises people when it happens.
· I’ve seen two flavors of potato chip here that I’ve never seen before: fried chicken and prawn cocktail. I’m told that seafood-flavored potato chips are especially popular in the Far East.
· This may be simply a technology thing, but the buildings I’m in over here are at least five years old and I’ve never seen this back home, even in new buildings: the escalators have electric eyes at each end. They go very slowly so they’re easy to get on; once you’re on the escalator it speeds up, and then it slows down again when you walk off of it. Pretty slick, although I noticed this because I almost stumbled when I was getting off of an escalator on Sunday.
Overall, I’ve been very impressed with the country and its people. Everyone I’ve spoken with has been very helpful and kind, despite my pidgin Spanish (my previous highpoint en Español was the correct pronunciation of Leo Carrillo). From both a professional and personal perspective, this trip is shaping up to be one of the more remarkable experiences of my life.
More tomorrow, likely of a far more technical nature..