Monday, May 30, 2011

Sunday Funday

Sunday was a day full of museums. I personally am not a huge fan of art museums, but I can tolerate them for small periods of time, especially when it is modern art. We planned it out so we hit the free entrance times of the museums. First up was the Reina Sofia. It had some weird and beautiful temporary exhibits,
but also really interesting collection pieces by Picasso including the giant Guernica (of which pictures are not allowed) and this...
some by Dalí...
We stopped by the Madrid Puerta de Atocha, the Atocha Train Station, as recommended by our tour guide the previous day to see the turtles. More importantly, I  bought 2 scarves.
Terrapins at Atocha Station
Next was the Museo del Prado. It had the kind of art that I am not good at appreciating. Pictures were not allowed inside, but you can check out the website if you want to get a feel for it.
Museo del Prado
We had some time to kill and the weather was beautiful so we went back to Parque Retiro. So many families were out on this Sunday afternoon spending time together. There were lots of street performers singing, dancing, and juggling.
Parque Retiro
That evening we went to Chocolatería San Ginés. The only thing they sell is chocolate con churros, which is the most delicious combination of food ever! The chocolate is supposed to be hot chocolate that you can drink, but it is so thick and rich that you could easily make yourself sick.

Yum Yum Yum
Ryan was complaining that no pictures of him made it into the blog recently. So here it is...

Just 1 Minute Walk Away Behind You. How could you resist?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Exploring the Solar System...Oh, and Madrid

Our second day in Madrid started out with a guided city tour provided by our hostel...for free! There were only 5 of us and we had a really great guide. She showed us the major highlights of the city and the stories behind it without giving boring information. I am slowly getting my bearings and learning to find the way from one plaza to another without looking at the map.
This is Plaza Mayor. Originally it was made of wood and housed bakeries, but it burned down a total of 3 times and was finally reconstructed with stone.
Plaza Mayor
This is the old wall that used to surround Madrid. Once it became the capital and started expanding, the wall was either torn down in places or turned into buildings. On the left the architecture is pretty plain, but later architecture (on the right side of the street) is more ornate.
We also saw Restaurante Botin, which is the oldest restaurant in the world. I'm not exactly sure how one would go about determining that, but they have a certificate, so it must be true. 

Restaurante Botin certificate

The Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena was only recently finished. It was under construction from 1879 until 1993. Apparently a lot of people are not very happy with the construction because many architects were cycled through and there is no one style of architecture. I have to say this is true and it is not a very impressive building.
This is the Royal Palace. The royalty don't actually live there, but there is a museum and a garden that are open to the public.
This statue of Philip IV is located in the Plaza de Oriente.
Isabella II became the first queen of Spain in 1833. Previously, women had married the kings, but she inherited the throne by succession. Supposedly she was a pretty crazy lady and accused her husband of affairs so she could have her own.
At the corner of Calle Gran Via and Calle de Alcala is a large gold dome adorned with an angel and the word "metropolis". It rests high above a major intersection and is the place two of the main streets come together.

Overall, I am impressed with the beauty of Madrid. All of the buildings are nice to look at and there are so many plazas, outdoor cafes, and parks. It seems like people enjoy being outside here so much more than other cities I have been to. There are so many museums and with that comes a lot of TOURISTS! I am so surprised at how much English I can hear just walking down the street. The majority of shop and restaurants also speak English. I'm kind of disappointed in the people of Spain. I heard that they were so friendly and helpful, but every experience I have has been the opposite. Oh well, traveling here is still a lot of fun and yesterday afternoon I found the most amazing place in the world: The National Geographic Store and Cafe! We spent a while there looking through the photo books, movies, clothes, and magazines. The have a huge TV room with movies playing, pillows all over the floor, and books lying around. I educated myself about our solar system....did you know that it has 11 planets? Whoa...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

If You Like Milk Mixed Drinks and Getting Caught in the Rain...

We have made it to Madrid after a very frustrating experience in the airport. Remember when I had to deal with United? Well, something similar happened yesterday. I had to reschedule my flight as I said in that post from Ibiza to Madrid on the 2nd. Then we found out that we had to be out of the house in Formentera on the 27th so that meant buying a new flight for yesterday. Besides not being able to cancel the flight on the 2nd due to AirEuropa not having phone customer service, everything is okay. I got an email saying that my Dad's credit card had been charged. When I arrive at the airport to check in, the man behind the counter tells me that I do not have a ticket for the flight because the booking was made and then canceled. Long story short, I had to buy a whole new ticket for 216 euros. Fun stuff. So now I have spent over $900 on AirEuropa and so far they are not addressing the issue. Grr...
Madrid is awesome so far. We ate tapas for lunch.
 Our hostel is located right in the heart of Madrid near the Sol Plaza. Right now there are a ton of people camping out and demonstrating because of the economy. Marina has a friend who we met up with last night who said that it is normally not like this.
Plaza del Sol

 We spent the afternoon walking around. It is amazing how many shoe stores they have here! After not shopping for 6 months, I am ready!

We wandered over to a huge park called Parque de Retiro and spent a while walking around.
Parque del Retiro
Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating and we got caught in the rain. It was surprisingly cold. We all remarked that we hadn't been caught in the rain for a really long time, not since the beginning on the Galapagos trip.
row boats at Parque del Retiro
At night, we met up with Marina's friend and a friend of a friend who were studying in Prague this last semester and had previously studied in Madrid. She showed us around a little bit. There was an even larger demonstration at the plaza and it took forever to work our way through the crowd.
demonstration at Plaza del Sol
We went to this delicious tapas bar that was also crazy crowded.
more tapas and sangria!
We then went to a bar that is designed like a cave. Their signature drink is based on milk that comes out of a stalactite in the ceiling. Crazy, right? I personally didn't like it and the concept of a milk mixed drink is kind of weird, no? But it was a good experience.
milk poured from the ceiling of the cave

the girls

me with the 4 liter drink

Monday, May 23, 2011

Wrapping it up and Tying a Bow

I can't believe it, but today was our last day of field work! The days have gone by so quickly, but I am ready to head to Madrid in a few days and then back to the U.S. of A. in less than two weeks. We finished up the tethered intruder experiments with a whopping 10 trials today, made possible by the gorgeous weather. We had a period of not good weather, but for the last couple of days it has been beautiful and sunny. The Mediterranean has finally warmed up enough so I can go swimming without a wetsuit for a short period of time. At the end of each field day we've been taking swims and yesterday I went body surfing for the first time. Last night, Jeremy and I tagged along with Nate and his friend Ben for a sunset bike ride around the salt flats.
I'm really looking forward to a change of pace. Visiting Madrid will be a nice finish to this trip. At the end of the Galapagos trip, we were very sad about leaving our host families and our beautiful island home, but we had a few day buffer period in Quito that rounded out the trip. We were able to spend a few days reflecting, relaxing, and a little bit of adventuring before we returned to the states. In the same way, I think it will be nice to spend a week exploring Madrid at a slow pace and enjoying the break before returning home. Ryan and Marina have to start working right away upon returning to the U.S., but I am fortunate that I get to spend a lazy June at home in the Berkshires before going to Miami to work for the rest of the summer. Hopefully before then we can enjoy the rest of our stay here on Formentera.
Thank You Nature

My Lizard Catch Count: 26

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cloudy Day Hike

It's been cloudy lately, leaving us all inside and getting CABIN FEVER! So we decided to go outside and get some fresh air. We hiked from Es Calo to La Mola up the side of a cliff and back down an old Roman road. The trail was called Cami de sa Pujada. I'll let the pictures do the talking.
The Sa Pujada path has undoubtedly been the way that people have reached la Mola since way back in the past, maybe even since prehistoric times, following the contours along the edge of an extremely beautiful cliff. In the past it was a much longer route, and there are signs that it was in bad condition near the end of the seventeenth century. In 1797, the Improvement Board commissioned the engineer Pedro Groillez to repair and relay the path. This is the same route that was restored in 2001 by the Department of Culture of the Ibiza and Formentera Council and the Department of Tourism of the Government of the Balearic Islands. On 16th December, 1993, the best preserved stretch of the path was declared a Cultural Asset in the monument category.
EVERYONE was excited

 My Lizard Catch Count: 26

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I've Got Lizards on my Brain (not literally)

I recently had many people show/send me this article. Although highly interesting and good timing, this worries me. Everything I've learned about biology has told me that populations who are cloning themselves should not survive more than a couple generations. Especially now that us humans have a lot of effect on species. If we introduce a chemical into the environment (still have Silent Spring on the brain) it is the genetic differences in a population that make them able to survive, but if there is no genetic diversity, natural selection cannot act upon the species and they go extinct. Species that clone themselves and have a whole population with the same genes has little chance of surviving when humans have such a great impact on them.
In other news, we have made plans to go to Madrid from the 27th of May to the 2nd of June. If anyone has advice of things to do in this wonderful city, it would be much appreciated.
It's been raining for the 3rd day in a row, so I don't have any beautiful island pictures :(
My Lizard Catch Count: 25

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Monday we spent the day out at Illetes and Trucadors to collect 60 lizards; 30 males and 30 females. It took all day, but we finally got it down along with some sunning and swimming. The water is finally tolerable. Today we took half of those lizards and painted them blue using tattoo ink. Don't worry, it doesn't hurt them. We are doing this so we can once again perform the tethered intruders experiment. This time we are testing if they don't interact with the other color of lizards because of their actual color, size, or the way they smell. To do this we take similarly sized brown lizards, paint one blue, and then present it to a wild male. I'm very interested to see what the results are, but not looking forward to conducting the experiment because it makes for long, frustrating days.

Marina applying ink
Some of the lizards that we collected had 2 tails. Very cool. This happens when they lose their tails and it doesn't completely fall off. When it regrows, the old tail remains attached and there are 2!
When you thought it couldn't get any more amazing....a 3-tailed lizard!
We've still been having our share of fun on the island. We've been going to sunsets at bars (Piratabus and Bartolo's) almost every night and meeting with Nate's friends. One of them had a baby and I got to play with her. I miss babysitting a lot, but I got my fix by spending time with this cutie for a while.
not sad, just tired

boys being boys

parachutes in front of the moon

5/16/11 sunset
My Lizard Catch Count: 25

Sunday, May 15, 2011

It's Cloudy

Here is the link to Nate's latest Field Vision. We said goodbye to Joris today as he is returning to Holland, which I'm pretty sure is located in the arctic circle(they dive in dry suits!).
My Lizard Catch Count: 21

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I have wanted to read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring for a long time now and I’m excited that I now have the chance to sit down and read it. For me, I don’t want to read educational books for pleasure during the school year. After a long day of class, homework, textbook reading (my least favorite activity in the world), and studying, the last thing I want to do is wrap my head around complex ideas that are present in books that actually make you think. At that point of day, I either want to sleep or watch something superficial like Project Runway, not contemplate how human decisions affect the evolution of insects and birds.
My time in the Galapagos has changed things for me. Sitting in class, doing labs, and extra reading wasn’t a chore there, it was actually fun. This is something new for me and it excites me that I have actually learned to love learning! Up until this point, I got by because I tried hard in school, but now I am actually passionate about what I am learning and I’m super pumped about it.
My point is that now I want to read books like Silent Spring for fun. And it is fun because I enjoy educating myself about nature/science/current events. Silent Spring isn’t too current, but I think it has a timeless message about our impact on the natural world around us. Another bonus is that it is written by a woman; a very powerful woman who started a huge environmental movement.
As I was reading this morning in the hammock, I put down my book for a couple minutes to enjoy the sunshine and the breeze and I noticed some birds in the trees making a racket. I’m pretty sure it is mating season because there was no excuse for how many weird and annoying sounds these birds were making. It was unacceptable and I was trying to enjoy my day off. I turn to the tree and yell “SHUT UP ALREADY”. Five minutes later I look down at the title of my book at laugh at the irony I cause in my own life. (If you don’t get this joke, look up what Silent Spring is about)
My Lizard Catch Count: 21

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Cold-Blooded Cannibals

Hi. What's up? We just finished up another rough day of life here on Formentera. AND we have the next 2 days off.
Ryan. Need I say more?
Today we finished up the female half of the cannibalism experiment. The way this experiment works is similar to the tethered intruder, but this time with juveniles. Juveniles are introduced to lizards and we see if they want to eat them (usually they do). As soon as they bite we pull them away as not to cause injury to the juvenile. These lizards are considered cannibals. If they do not attack the juvenile, we present a caterpillar. If they eat the caterpillar after not biting the juvenile, they are considered a "non-cannibal". If they attack neither we consider them not hungry and exclude them from the data. We finished presenting a round of 13 juveniles to both males and females. Of course the place where we performed the work, Cap de Barbaria, was awful.
Nate's friend, Joris van Alphen, has been here the past couple of days to work on a film about evolution for a contest. They are both very talented photographers/videographers and I can't wait to see the film they are making! It will only be 3 minutes long and geared towards high schoolers, but it will include swimming lizards, cannibalism, pollination, and all other kinds of adventure lizards awesomeness! Here is a link to Joris' blog. He mentions Formentera and the film they are making. Click around his site to see his photography also(especially the underwater stuff).
Joris and Nate filming

The "Valley of Death" for the seagulls
As always the sunsets are beautiful here.
I am also learning to cook! Very slowly, but I am expanding my knowledge base. Nate taught me how to make this garlic cream sauce with zucchini. Yum!
I also have a serious question for all you blog readers. My travels are nearing their end, but I still plan to blog. I plan to turn it from a travel based blog to a science/nature/outdoor adventure blog. Would you continue to read? What would keep you interested? I've really fallen in love with blogging and already have some ideas for the future, I just need to know if it will work. Please leave me a comment below and tell me why you read now and what you would like to see in the future. Thank you. 
My Lizard Catch Count: 21