Last week I was asked to attend a BONDI codefest in Huesca, Spain. I happily accepted, though I was little bit worried Huesca was in the middle of nowhere.
Indeed I left Jamie's 30th birthday on the South Downs at 6:30am on Sunday morning (with only a couple of hours of sleep) to embark on a long journey to Aragon via Gatwick and Madrid.
I did not book the train in advance, hence I did not have much time in Madrid. I feasted on a quick brunch with an old friend and then I had to say goodbye outside Atocha station since they do not allow anyone into the station without a ticket.
Also Renfe operate a security procedure similar to an Airport. I guess because of the terrorist bombings 5 years earlier. I understand why they do this, but at the same time, no other train station in Europe does this. So why succumb to foolish fear?
The Ave trains are excellent. David Rogers caught me boarding the train and I enjoyed the company. Huesca indeed was a small town, though I found it quite charming with the little Plaza and what-not. I enjoyed walking around for a change. It was honestly too small for a bicycle.
Oh and my Spanish from South America came back to me. I felt quite comfortable reading menus and ordering food and drink. Hotel Abba was quite good and anyway "hi-ho-hi-ho off to work I go" for the next few days.
The weather and food were good and plentiful. In the afternoon I took some sun and read "Bad Science" by Ben Goldacre. I felt like I was on holiday. In the evenings I eventually found quite a cool bar in Huesca that had a pool table and table football.
My first pool game in ages and I came bloody close to a perfect game. Table football was also most enjoyable. Social activities culminated in a visit to Loarre Castle with its stunning scenery. I had to ask the staff if they had Weddings here and they said yes. I even went so far to ask how much they cost and the tour guide said all you had to do is rent the furniture. Wow, how civilised!
Thoughout my time in Huesca, the Spanish guys and a couple of OMTP members encouraged me to go to Pamplona for the bull run. So on Friday morning at 8am, I found myself in a street perilously close to a herd of raging bulls.
The experience was quite surreal and happened very quickly. The crowd surged and many people hurt themselves by just running into each other. I had a run about when they released the castrated cattle and found a few dazed looks and people being stretchered off and blood here and there. Carnage basically. They just closed the gate as I approached and I am thankful I didn't enter that street with the killer bull "Cappuccino" running amok.
Once returning to my 110EUR hotel room, soaking in the hot tub and somewhat enjoying the adrenaline come down... I was overcome by how foolish the whole activity was. I don't recommend it and tbh I never really ever wanted to do something like this anyway. Damn peer pressure. I've had a few close encounters with death already and I don't want to push my luck!
I met a few interesting people and after this fantastic week in Spain, I can relate my experiences to one of my favourite books, Fiesta.
I tweeted from beginning to end whilst out there in Spain.