Pictures from Barcelona, Spain — at a Stem Cell Conference

I recently attended a stem cell conference in Barcelona, Spain. Specifically, the conference was the 7th Annual meeting for the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR). I honestly did not get to see a whole lot of the city, as the conference was pretty all-consuming. But, I did try to take pictures of the city as I zoomed by it, and some inside the conference. Read on for details!

Here’s a link to the gallery of pictures I took on the trip. I’ve tried to describe below what the pictures are of (follow the pictures in order in the gallery, top to bottom on each of the 8 pages — hopefully it’ll make sense!). If you want to read some specific, scientific coverage of the meeting, Nature’s Stem Cell Niche (blog) has some good blurbs (some written by me!) and the ISSCR website will have some coverage too.

The airplane shots are over the area between France and Spain — I took a picture of the flight map so you can kind of see where they are. There were lots of little villages we went over (probably just within France) and then we went over the Pyrenees Mountains which form the border between Spain and France — there’s one good picture of the mountains (the last airplane picture). They reminded me a lot of the Rockies, except maybe with less vegetation.

Arriving in Barcelona, I met up with other students from UCSB attending the conference (or hanging out in Barcelona) (pictured are Dave, Thales, and Donovan) and we eventually figured out how to take the public transportation to the conference from the hotel — Barcelona has a great subway and tram system. The big bullet-shaped skyscraper is Agbar Tower.

Next are pictures of the conference. Tons of people! I heard estimated 3000-4000 attendees. There are pictures of people in lines waiting to register (this was after it had died down a little). The conference hall pictures are of the main conference hall (I was sitting about halfway to the front — it’s huge!). The speaker was projected on two big screens at the front along with their powerpoint slides (though later they didn’t show the speaker during talks, only the powerpoint slides on all screens). Another screen halfway back also showed their slides. The next picture is the outside of the building — it’s not very impressive at all. It’s also just a few blocks from the beach, but almost impossible to get to — there are roads, a highway, and blocked off walkways… we never made it. The area it was in was with many other such big conference buildings that all looked very empty except ours — it’s hard for me to imagine they get enough use out of them to make it a viable enterprise.

The next many pictures are of the palace we went to for dinner — it’s the Royal Palace of Pedralbes. Honestly, it seemed more like a museum than a palace, and it was not as big inside as I’d imagine it’d be — I think it’s more well-known for its big front gardens and fountains. It was buffet-style dinner, but the space was rather small (people were quite crowded) and consequently everyone was rather hot and hungry. I don’t think they were expecting so many attendees. It had a nice big outside area behind the Palace too — it too was packed with people (and apparently my camera lens is a little dirty!). Dave gave an amazing patriotic speech. There was quite a nice fountain in the front of the Palace too, but it was rather dark to get a good picture.

Next (middle of the 2nd page) are some pictures of my hotel room (ends with the closet picture). My hotel was Hoteles Catalonia Atenas, about a 20 minute bus ride from the conference. The hotel was OK, but I’d probably give it 3.5 stars instead of 4 — it was a bit dirty and the internet constantly dropped me, but it was quite a big room, an amazing breakfast buffet, and a nice bathroom (except the shower had some problems). There’s a really nice view from my window — I could see the Sagrada Familia cathedral from my window. Construction started in the 1800s and they’re still working to finish it!

I took several pictures from the roof of my hotel (starting at the bottom of the 2nd page) — really great view of the city from there! The first 8 pictures make up a panoramic (not quite 360% — there was a building in the way). It’s probably hard to tell, but the second picture of this series has the ocean in it. There is a little pool on the roof, but it’s really not much — the view is what makes it awesome. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t typical Barcelonian weather for July — it’s been rather rainy and overcast, so not beautiful pictures, but it gives you a good idea of the city. You can see that same cathedral off in the distance.

The hotel breakfast buffet was quite satisfying (though expensive — 7.50 euros, or about $13, and I think this is on a special sale too). I then took several pictures of the conference (bottom of page 3). The first one is of the main entrance/registration area, where there’s free wireless and tables for people to hang out. The outside pictures are right outside of this area — some interesting modern art designs. The next are of the huge poster presentation area — half of this giant room was posters and half was vendor stands. I proudly presented my poster for two and a half hours, as did Thales for his. There’s one picture of the vendor stands (more to come later).

We all went out together later and had an amazing seafood dinner (thanks to my boss, Dennis!). The most impressive, or unusual, dish for me was the barnacles — they were surprisingly tasty (Dave really enjoyed them — see middle of page 4). We tried everything from mussels, clams, shrimp, deep-fried fish, seafood with rice dishes, octopus, and seafood croquettes. We also all had amazing deserts — I had a crepe with vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate sauce.

The next morning I decided I’d better make an effort to see some of the city before the trip was over! I set off to find a “$1 store” (which in Barcelona was a 60 cent store!) but missed it and instead went to a giant open-air market (page 5, middle). I very cautiously went in and checked everything out. There was everything from kitchen/bathroom supplies, including faucets!, to clothing, CDs, wood furniture, and African trinkets. I had much fun. I then met up with people and we went to the Sagrada Familia cathedral, which was just one subway stop from our hotel. The cathedral is quite impressive and unique — it felt very “organic” (not very sterile), which is probably what distinguished it in my mind from other gothic cathedrals I’ve been to. The cranes were really something to see too.

We went to a park across from the cathedral to figure out what to do next and I, of course, was immediately drawn to the little enclosed, dirt-covered dog park present. I tried to decipher specific breeds, but it seemed like a lot of the dogs I saw in Barcelona were different mutts. I took the subway (bottom of page 6) back to the conference — I’d been warned to watch my bags on the subway, but never saw anything too shady myself, but was always on the lookout. I snapped a few pictures of the vendor stands (BD Biosciences had its own personal island!). Later that night Dennis was on a panel for Millipore with three other experts to discuss the promise of induced pluripotent stem cells.

Next morning — another wonderful buffet breakfast at the hotel (middle of page 7). I made my way over to the conference to hear Prof. Shinya Yamanaka, who created induced pluripotent stem cells at the same time as Prof. Jamie Thomson, speak — he was a lot younger looking than I’d expected, and quite entertaining as well. The conference hall was quite full for his talk. I later went to a vendor talk that had a smaller audience, but offered good refreshments (only on the last day did I discover how to get a free lunch!).

Back at the hotel for the last day, I took some pictures of the nearby area (I couldn’t help but go into the Chinese trinket store, which was amazingly run by a man of Asian ethnicity). I took the bus to the airport the next morning and saw some neat sites — one was a big stadium of some kind, I assume, and another I’m pretty sure was the capital building (page 8, top right). I took a few pictures of Barcelona from the plane as we fly past it. Luckily (with no thanks to Air France) I made it home without too much eventfulness, leaving my hotel at 8AM Sunday and arriving back home in Santa Barbara, CA, 11PM Sunday night, only 4 planes, 3 security check points, and 30-or-so hours later.

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