My conference went well. It was quite weird giving a bird talk to a room full of people who study plants, but I think it went as well as could be expected. The point of my talk was to show the plant researchers using controlled environments (growth chambers, greenhouses) what kinds of other research can be done using the same chambers. The highlight of the 2-day conference was a visit to the Millenium Seed Bank and Kew Botanical Gardens at Wakehurst Place. The seed bank was amazing and quite beautiful. They were one of the first Millenium projects approved for funding. At present they are processing/storing the seeds of 10% of the world’s plant varieties. They dry and freeze the seeds and periodically test them to ensure that they are still viable. By 2020 they hope to have 25% of the world’s plant varieties stored there. It’s an important thing to do, and I’m glad someone is doing it. The botanical gardens were gorgeous too. We got a behind the scenes tour, which included the back growing plots and greenhouses. I was also able to see a Chinese tree that has only flowered twice while at the gardens – the first time was 27 years after it was planted at the gardens, and the second was this year. Apparently, the first time it flowered, the head gardener was on vacation, and he missed it! When we left “sunny Sussex by the sea” it was chilly and misty.
In contrast, the last three days we’ve spent in Barcelona have been sunny and hot. We’ve eaten our way around the city and have seen many of its breath-taking sights. We had fruit at Mercat de la Boqueria (food market), lunched in the Barri Gotic near the Catedral de Barcelona, had tapas just off of La Rambla (Taller de Tapas is very good!), saw the monument to Christopher Columbus (who happens to be pointing the wrong way if he’s supposed to be pointing towards the New World), had paella on the Barceloneta beach, and had traditional Catalan food. In between meals we found time to visit Antoni Gaudi’s unfinished Sagrada Familia and the Olympic stadiums and arenas on Monjuic. So yes, we’re definitely enjoying the food and the sights here in Barcelona. We’re saving La Ribera neighborhood, which has a Catalan gothic church and the first covered food market in Barcelona, for our last day in Europe.
It’s an interesting comparison between London and Barcelona. In London, we didn’t find the food all that exciting (although I did enjoy the pies and pasties), but then again, we really didn’t see any British people eat (just drink). In Barcelona the food is amazing, and everywhere you look people are eating (and drinking) at all times of the day.
Tomorrow we board the Norwegian Jade for our Mediterranean cruise. Looking forward to crepes in Nice, tripe in Florence (at least I am, not sure about Greg) and pizza in Naples!