Kim Prelosky is a junior Sports, Arts, and Entertainment Management Major focusing in live entertainment and arts administration. She works part time for a concert promoter in town and is getting ready to become the Executive Director of Point Park’s Campus Activities Board. She has always loved traveling and although she studies in the school of business, she is excited to see what Spain and Portuguese media have to offer.
As the sun came up over the ocean on Tuesday, May 12th, I knew that I would be fighting off jet lag to catch an adventure of a day that waited. Prior to this trip I had only ever traveled to Mexico, as far as international travel goes and having no Spanish speaking abilities had me curious to see if I would be able to understand what was happening around me. Despite some initial challenges at the airport I can happily say that I was greeted into this country with hospitality and warmth.
What seemed like months of anticipation was suddenly gone and this morning I set foot in Spain. Knowing that this country was at one time a world leader but has since lost it’s prominence, I expected things to be out of date and somewhat lost in the past. After trekking around the airport and getting onto the highway system, I realized this area is more modernized than I would have ever thought. Our friend Olga explained to us that the six main highways in Spain are set up to intersect at the city’s center but go outward like a clock. This helped me get my bearings straight and before I knew it we were directly in bustling Madrid. We visited at Plaza de Torros, the second largest bullfighting ring in the world. Built in 1929, this stadium is capable of holding 25,000 spectators and annually hosts hundreds of fights. I took quick interest to this location because sporting events such as this relate to what I have previously learned in my Event Management and Venues and Facilities Administration and Design classes. One thing I particularly took to was the fact that patrons can purchase tickets to be in the sun or in the shade and depending on your seat, prices may be more expensive. Moving along to the next location, we buzzed over to Retiro Park, which was dedicated and opened to the city some years ago and is maintained by the city. It was a wonderful experience and some of us strolled around the pond and ate lunch from the steps of the beautiful statue located in the center of the park. Shortly thereafter, we arrived at the Royal Palace where we met our official tour guide, Mauricio. We neared the outdoor balcony on the far side of the Palace’s outdoor courtyard and it hit me how big of a city Madrid truly is. Until this point, I knew very little of the royal history in Spain and visiting this place with a knowledgeable tour guide was incredible. Being the history fanatic that I am, the palace was my favorite stop of the day. I thought it was a great way to look into Spain’s past and set us up to understand the city a little better.
Although I am left with sore legs and an exhausted mind, our first day spent in Madrid was incredibly pleasant. I hope to brush up on Spanish as we continue and make the most of my time here!
“Innovate even at the risk of failing”
Waking up in a foreign country is nothing short of disorienting. I will say that I have never appreciated sleep more but once I woke up this morning I could not wait to begin.
We got started at ten in the morning and had our first experience with the metro. It is incredibly well maintained and convenient to use. I truly wish we had a better developed transportation system in Pittsburgh after experiencing Madrid’s today. Traveling through the Santo Domingo and Canal stops we arrived at the Universidad de Navarro, a branch of the University located in Pamplona. We met with Gustavo Garcia-Mansilla who teaches in the MBA program and holds an impressive resume in publishing, management, and business of media. I thought his presentation about the status of Spanish media was wonderfully enlightening and broke down the main sources of media that Spaniards consider popular. It was great to hear from someone who is knowledgeable in both the communications and business sides of our course’s subject matter. Since I am in the school of business, this opened my eyes to new concepts and I believe this lecture set me up to better understand the discussions we have for the duration of the trip. My favorite thing Gustavo mentioned was that in order to succeed in business it is important to pay attention to your consumers and respect them as people. In American culture, I can see that often times companies treat humans as revenue sources and nothing more but Gustavo’s perspective gave me a good clue as to how Spaniards look at consumers.
After leaving the Universidad, we walked to eat lunch at VIPS, a chain eatery comparable to an Eat N’ Park. I enjoyed a simple meal that reminded me of home and was ready to make my way to Condé Nast Spain. The group strolled through an area reminiscent of Washington D.C. where we heard everything from birds chirping, scooters buzzing past, and the beeping of traffic signals. It is funny how all of the road signals and sounds of vehicles sound like home but if you look around and try to understand advertisements and simple signs on buildings you can see just how much we as Americans take our language for granted.
About twenty minutes later we walked into an elegant foyer and it hit me I was about to meet people from some of the most popular publications in the world. Not knowing much about communications and sitting several feet away from the Chief Executive Officer of Condé Nast Spain was more than intimidating. As Natalia, the Vice President of Corporate Development spoke about what this company does I realized that she was talking about things I can actually understand. This visit taught me that because I am a consumer, I can comprehend the things media groups are trying to accomplish. She explained that she wants her people to “innovate even at the risk of failing”, which grabbed my attention. I also was impressed by the values of Condé Nast Spain as she mentioned. Integrity, Talent, and Long Term Vision were only a few but I felt as though they have it down to a science. As it was news to me, Condé Nast Spain reaches 16.3 million people every month through their six brands; Vogue, Glamour, Vanity Fair, Condé Nast Traveler, GQ, and Architectural Design. I appreciated most that each person who met with us was willing to describe what they go through realistically. Sometimes I find people dressing up ideas of what is like to work in a professional company to college students in order to generate their interest but not here! It seemed as though everyone from editors like Ines and Marta to Beatriz who works in Photo Editing, they were willing to speak to us about the challenges of their positions and I respected that. My favorite part of this experience was that everyone who spoke to us projected their passion for this brand onto us. I felt that it was a great deal to be able to attend these lectures and I am so inspired to pay more attention to these publications!
“Ketch”ing On to Communications
As a student in the School of Business, I have already been able to connect information from our visits to information that directly relates to topics I am more familiar with such as economics, statistics, commerce, and business models. So many of the individuals presenting to us have talked about these things and it proves that this trip can be applied to business students as well as communications students.
With an early morning start, I discussed with my roommates what to expect from Ketchum Spain and Havas Media. It’s been comforting to be on this trip with such wonderful people who have been kind enough to explain things to me!
Another morning commute on the metro had me disoriented. It’s probably more confusing to me since I am not used to such a labyrinth of a transportation system but it certainly has been useful to us. We arrived in a section of the city we had not yet been to even though I’m starting to realize that most buildings are white with iron rail just outside the windows and ornate statues on every corner.
Ketchum Spain introduced me to concepts I did not even realize pertained to communications. Out of our seven speakers, I personally enjoyed Guadalupe Sae. I had no idea that a full service firm could have a part in healthcare branding and campaigns. It was great to see her passion about creating something for a client that helps people.
We had the pleasure of meeting with the CEO of Ketchum Spain who explained to us a big piece of advice- you must maintain both professional and social relationships with your client. It is all about them trusting you to get the job done the way they want it handled. I have been noticing more and more that people here truly seem to care about their consumers and want to do good for the public. I think going back to the States I will be sure to remember that value.
It was also interesting to hear that she started the company division in Spain twenty six years ago and to see the level of work they do is incredible. Ketchum has come a long way from it’s days as headquarters in Pittsburgh.
Some things I took note of today while exploring the city and making our way from way stop to stop. Spaniards are for the most part are fluent in English. It is somewhat embarrassing to come here and not be able to properly and politely communicate with them but on the plus side, they welcome us with smiles and have been more than kind. I have also noticed that the locals refer to Santiago Bernabeau Stadium as the “Cathedral”. Although I will not have the chance to attend a soccer game here, (I have become more and more interested in Real Madrid in the past year) I have picked up some great souvenirs to celebrate my time in this city!
After returning to the hotel for a relaxing few hours we began or commute to Havas Media. Not knowing anything about advertising I was so pleasantly surprised at how much I fully understood at this visit. Havas was my favorite office space as far as décor and style go. A bold red and white lobby lit by intense clean lighting welcomed us. Trophies and a mural of smiling people are placed around the room and from them I felt the positive vibe this company wants to give off. Meaningful Branding was the lesson of the day and I thought it was fascinating the lengths that this company goes to retrieve information from 300,000 people in thirty four different markets across twelve industries. I cannot even fathom putting together this effort but knowing how useful the data is now, I can see why it is necessary.
Two visits later, a few of us made the bold decision to attend a bullfight. That experience will require a post of it’s own. I can say that it has changed my perspective of the Spanish culture but what a spectacle!
Brow Raising at the Bullfight
When in España!
As promised, I have compiled my thoughts on the bullfight on Thursday May 14th. Leading up to this point in my life I have never been exposed to any kind of hunting or associated sport that involves animals. I consider myself to be sensitive to animals but something in my gut told me that I needed to take the opportunity to witness a bullfight while I was here because I may not ever get the chance to again. While I tried to prepare myself for what I would see, I don’t think there was any way I could have braced myself for it. Bullfighting is a raw sport.
When I was a kid helping my mom with laundry (our usual Saturday morning before doing something more exciting) I can remember her holding up a towel and I would pretend to be a bull and make horns with my pointer fingers and run at her. That was all I knew and I understand now that the American cartoons I watched as a child kept me from seeing what happens at the end of the bullfight. It makes me a little sad that my childhood charades that imitated this sport were truly naïve.
The four of us took a taxi from our last media visit of the day to Plaza Del Torros in the North Eastern quarter of the city. We have suspicions that the driver took the long way there just to get a few more Euros out of us but seeing as we paid 8.9€ for the tickets, this was not an expensive night out! The ticketing process for these fights is interesting to me and I hope to share the information with my SAEM ticketing class next year. People can buy tickets for the seats in the sun or the shade and shaded ones are more expensive. Just like in most sporting events, the seats closest to the ring are more expensive. Mauricio explained to us that higher class people and socialites commonly sit along the ring’s edge. This is a high class sport and this stadium is the second largest ring in the world so it is no wonder that it receives so much attention. As people flooded into the stadium we realized that we were running on empty stomachs and should grab something before so we stopped at a place across the street. Much to my dismay I discovered after practically inhaling a “mystery meat” wrap that I had in fact eaten bull. It felt wrong but in some weird way appropriate.
In a rush of excitement we found our section and I determined that there was not a bad seat in the whole stadium. It felt like I had been funneled into a new world full of cigar smoke, brass instrument fight music, and vibrant flags waving from every direction. This is the national sport of Spain and even though I could not understand what people around us were saying, I knew that everyone takes it seriously the way we obsess over football and hockey back home. I felt lucky to be amongst people who are diehard fans because in my program, we emphasize on the importance of selling people the experience. In the SAE Industry, we are not handling tangible product. Being able to see that the fan experience translates across cultures was re-energizing for me.
I will not go into gruesome details to explain what I saw but I am going to try to explain how the fights work as I understood them.
• The matadors and their picador teams are chosen and scheduled for a day to fight
o (In the fights that I saw, three teams were scheduled and each team fought twice)
• Bulls are chosen from farms in the area based on a number of factors like size and readiness
• The team enters the ring to compete with the bull entering shortly after
o (Most of the rounds that I saw started with the matador kneeling in front of the bull’s entrance waiting to shake the flag to attract the animal into the ring.)
o The matador uses a red cape/flag and his picadors use pink and yellow.
• While getting used to the animal’s movements, the team shows off their skills by building suspense. This was done by:
o Slowly shuffling their feet toward the bull to get closer to it
o Nodding their heads upward to get the animal to recognize motion
o Confuse the animal and see how many figure eight like turns the matador could accomplish. (everyone seemed to be impressed when this happened several times in a row)
o Walk away from the animal to accept applause
• Once some of this happens the team of three picadors move in to rotate around the bull and plant two sets of knives with large oblong tassels into its back. After one set the bull is obviously angered so it takes a lot of skill to be able to place the second set. I have my opinions on this but as far as I could tell this part was only for decoration.
• After the two sets are in the team gets the bull to run around the ring more (or handles whatever movements it makes)
• Then comes time for the final challenge of the fight which is to put the animal down. Now knowing what this looks like I will never be able to forget the image but I don’t necessarily know that readers want to know. Just know that it depends on what the bull is doing-if it puts up a fight or not. Out of six bulls I saw different reactions to the situation but I ended up crying during all of it. Trying to respect the culture while being emotionally affected was difficult!
During the last fight of the day I believe we saw something truly monumental. Jimenez Fortes, a darling fighter of Madrid was considerably the champion of all the fights based on his first fight. He was granted permission by the president to cut the ear off of the first bull he fought as a sign that he was impressed. Mauricio explained to us that the president watches matches and if he is not impressed he signals the band the start playing to hurry the fight along. If he is impressed, which we saw with Fortes he signals the spectators to wave white flags or programs before the matador has permission to cut the ear off. It reminded me of how we wave our terrible towels!
His first fight was successful but during Fortes’ second fight, as Mauricio explained; he pushed the limits of the bull and started to attempt moves that were not in his best interest. While showing off, he turned his back to the bull and it knocked him onto his back. He viciously rolled away and the bull gored him in the neck which sent the audience into an uproar. The bull somehow got him onto its back and the picadors stormed in to help and he broke away immediately. Walking a few steps while grabbing his throat everyone was obviously upset and confused which told me this does not happen often. He was carried away by his team and rushed into surgery. The most disturbing part of this fight was that the picador team still went after the bull once this happened instead of letting it go. Obviously a sign of how seriously they take this sport.
We got back to the hotel and instantly started translating articles published by El Mundo and El Pais. He remained in serious condition through the night but the next day we found out that he was stable and will live through his injury. Somehow the horn missed the esophagus, nerves and bones in his neck.
The severity in bullfighting is not something you would ever see in America. It was an experience I will never forget but I would never take time to go see it again. It was something I may never have the chance to see again so I am proud that I committed to it. When in España!
Here Comes the Weekend!
An early morning start was required for today since we packed in so many exciting stops! One of my favorite parts of traveling is always driving through new places. I enjoyed our bus ride to the nearby northern system of mountains. It gave me some perspective as to what the region looks like and I found it refreshing to get out of the city. After about an hour drive, Mauricio enlightened us with some history about the Valley of the Fallen, our first stop.
This monument is a sacred place to Spaniards that pays tribute to all 30,000 lives lost in the Spanish Civil War from 1936-1939. Francisco Franco was the leader of the nationalist rebel force at the time and Jose Antonio was also a leader of importance at the time. After learning much about Franco this semester, I was shocked to turn around at one point during this visit and see his burial site.
We arrived while the sun was still warming up the mountain range so I put on my leather jacket (something I never actually thought I would use on this trip) and made my way up the hill toward what I thought would just be a statuesque monument overlooking the countryside. The view from the top is breathtaking and I felt an inner peace immediately. Many times during our travels thus far I have forgotten to remember to soak in the natural beauty around me but being out in the middle of nowhere on a mountain with birds chirping and pine trees blowing in the wind, I felt like I could understand why Franco wanted this site in this location. It is truly magnificent.
We walked around to become acquainted with the space out front but then Mauricio took us inside the basilica which was built in the 1950’s. Thinking about what the American 1950’s looked like and comparing it to the Spanish 1950’s made me wonder what the progression of the last one hundred years of Spanish culture have looked like and how they compare to that of the United States. As we entered, we were passed by a group of nuns which told me that this is still an important place in the culture.
With not a great deal of time to spend at Valley of the Fallen I was sure to take in the surroundings because it was the first place on the trip so far that I have felt calm and comfortable. It’s a spectacular view but before I knew it we were off to Segovia!
Segovia is a little farther outside of Madrid and since we were out for the day the drive did not seem too bad. It has actually been fun to drive through the mountains and see what is outside of the major cities here. When we arrived I was so surprised that this “medival village” was no small little gathering. Segovia is probably as big as my hometown. It does not compare to Madrid but it certainly holds it’s own. It’s earliest dwellings date back to the twelfth century and include cathedrals, castles, and some historic buildings. It even holds a Roman Aqueduct! It’s pretty impressive because touching buildings and structures that are so old and still stand solidly in place amazes me. You don’t realize how young the United States is as a country until you go to places that could swallow the lifespan of our country whole. I think that has been one incredible part of being here and I look forward to continuing to find new facts as far as history and architecture go.
We spent the afternoon touring the Alcazar, or castle. I have not been in a castle before and I was truly impressed by the artwork inside. That and the chandeliers. The Spanish know how to go big or go home and I really admire that about them.
After our tour we had some free time to roam around and shop. Everywhere we go, my friend and I try to find penny pressing machines and I’m happy to say that I’ll be coming home with one from Segovia! After regrouping, we walked together to dinner where the majority of us had the suckling pig which we were told is a specialty in this area. I probably would never order it again but like I’ve been saying, when in Espana!
On the Run!
I am happy to report that during our time here we have made the most of every minute. Some of us are exhausted but when it comes to media and cultural visits we cannot get enough. I am personally a history lover so I have jumped at the chance to see the things that really make up the Spanish culture.
We woke up early enough to enjoy a full breakfast at the hotel and carried our belongings out to the bus. It was sad to say goodbye to Madrid but here’s to hoping I will return one day!
About an hour later we arrived at Toledo, a village South West of Madrid derived of Moorish and Roman history. This place has been conquered over and over more times than I could count but it’s unique because it has elements of Judaism, Christianity, and Islamic culture. Its dwellings date back thousands of years and include an Arab bath site, the Roman circus ruins, and bridges that lead into the city.
We briefly coasted along the city’s outskirts to get the best view (and wow is it a view) before we made our way into town. The hike up to the cathedral was charming and I noticed how confusing the streets are laid out. I would love to live in a place like this but I am sure I would get lost at least once a day.
I will not lie; Spain is full of churches, cathedrals, and castles. I love that I have had the chance to see architecture from a time before anything that we have created in the United States. Some of the most beautiful things I have seen on this trip have been inside of these structures. The Cathedral of San Ildelfonso is hands down the best work of architecture I have seen so far. I will tread lightly with that statement though because I do have plans to make it to La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona! Between the organs and the delicate mural behind the altar, I was stunned. I have never seen anything like this Cathedral and I think it shows just how close the connection is between Spaniards and their faith. It is a remarkable thing to see such dedication.
After exiting the Cathedral we raced down a hill from staircase to staircase and got to walk across the oldest bridge in the city! This was a great walk because Mauricio bought us Marzipan desserts and I was so happy to find that I like them! The drive back to the Madrid train station seemed to go so quickly and before I knew it I was on a train to Barcelona. I can just say that I would take a train ride through Europe any time. Seeing the countryside and mountains from our coach was something I will never forget. I couldn’t help but take a video of it for my mom that is how gorgeous it was!
Arriving in Barcelona felt refreshing and had me full of excitement. It has a totally different feel here and after seeing the cityscape from Montjuic, I was ready to begin a new adventure in this tropical paradise.
A 24 Hour Siesta!
I had been looking forward to our free day in Barcelona since I first read our itinerary. It’s a city I have always been curious about and I am thankful to have the opportunity to explore it. When we arrived in Barcelona we were told that it is home to over one million people and I realized I would not be able to see everything it has to offer but I made a list of the things that were important to me.
Over dinner on Saturday my roommates and I discussed what our plan was for the next day and we agreed that the beach was a top priority! It has been so wonderful to room with such sweet girls and make these memories. They have been integral to the fun I have had on the trip.
We leisurely woke up around 10:30am and got ready quite fast! We met up with others and made our way to brunch on La Rambla at a place called Cosmo’s. The trickiest part of being here so far has been paying the bill at any meal. It’s not common in Europe to split the bill between people, here they expect it to all be paid in one transaction. This is not hard when you think about it but throw in seven american girls who are already confused about the currency and you have a challenge on your hands. My lunch was about 8.50 € and it was a large spanish omelette-something I’ve been obsessed with since I got here.
With fuel in our tanks we were ready for the beach which ended up being about a five mile walk. On a map things look compact here but Barcelona is more spread out than Madrid and I don’t think any of us actually realized how far we had to go. The beach along the Mediterranean was well worth it anyways. The beach front has shops and a main road alongside it and you can take ramps down to the sand where there are restaurants in covered shade. I practically jumped into the sand out of excitement and noticed my feet weren’t burning! A nice breeze and sunshine made it easy to lay out on the sand and all of us actually fell asleep for at least an hour! I felt so relaxed and just soaked in the fact that I was sitting on the Med. with a smile on my face. Kids surrounded us kicking their soccer balls and some locals splashed around in the waves. I felt like I was in a movie and will never forget how wonderful the beaches of Barcelona are!
Making our way back to the hotel we grabbed some gelato and hung out sea side near the marina. The two wheel culture here is huge so it makes for fun people watching! Men and women buzz past on their scooters and skateboards and I find myself impressed at how well the weave through the crowds of tourists.
Shopping was also another point on our agenda so we strolled through the streets and fixated on jewelry, art work, and food! What could be better? We came past a local artist using different techniques than we had already seen and were drawn to his work. After bartering a little bit he offered to sell three of us paintings for twenty dollars each and I caved…I bought two! They are so gorgeous and I can’t wait to display them at home!
With all of our spending, we felt like it may be a good idea to go the inexpensive route for dinner. Somewhat reluctantly we landed at McDonald’s and tried some things that are not on the American menu. Just a suggestion to the McDonalds’ back in the states, you should really consider the coffee with ice cream in it!
All of our adventuring made it easy to turn in early and get ready for a new week of media visits and cultural experiences. I can’t wait to get to Camp Nou tomorrow and travel to Lisbon this week so I will be sure to keep updating!
Week Two: The Whirlwind
I will be honest, I know nothing about tv or broadcasting. The idea of being able to see the complex at TV3 excited me but also made me nervous at the same time. I know that the Spanish and Catalonians take great pride in their culture and they reflect their values in their media. Back in Gustavo’s lecture I remember him saying how important Television is to Spaniards so I think it was special that we could visit this place.
Adrianna took us for a tour of the complex that went from the control rooms, dressing rooms, set warehouse, studios (where we were able to sit in on a live broadcast of an afternoon talk show that lasts six hours!) and around to special effects workshops. No one expected to get the prime access that we did on this visit but I felt like a VIP after seeing sets, a green screen studio, and a live broadcast! This was one of my favorite visits so far because it was more interactive. It goes to show how welcoming the culture is if they were willing to do all of this for us.
For lunch, Mauricio took us to a nearby outdoor complex that serves as a popular shopping destination with quick service. Most of our meals have been short and sweet but all in the spirit of getting to the next adventure!
In the beginning of the class, we were all asked what kinds of things we were excited to see on our trip and I said it would be amazing to go to a soccer stadium. When I found out we would in fact visit the FC Barcelona stadium I was over the moon. Recently some of my friends have gotten me into soccer and knowing this sport is the pride and joy of Europe as a whole really got me into the spirit to visit Camp Nou.
We had been pronouncing it as “new” when it is in fact “now”. We learned that this means the “New Field” because it was built in 1957 and in beautiful condition. The complex is home to the Club of FC Barcelona which hosts sports including Football, roller hockey, handball, tennis, basketball, and more. All of these sports have earned recognition for the club in some way and because of the number of wins in the respective leagues, FC Barcelona is considered one of the most prestigious athletic clubs in Europe.
The football stadium itself holds 100,000 people in three levels of seating. There are private club boxes that vary in price depending on what match it is and how well the team is doing. Most games sell out and season ticket holders (members of the club) have the option to put their own seats on sale for other patrons to collect fifty percent of the revenue. Unlike sports franchises in the U.S. this takes the elitism out of the fan experience and I think this is the way it should be. Our tour guide explained to me that the game isn’t just for the upper class, it is everyone’s game so tickets are never outrageously unaffordable. He also talked to me about special events that take place here. He said that sometimes they have concerts but not very often because the stadium is too specific to the sport to execute an efficient changeover. I had to take a moment to pat myself on the back when he said Bruce Springsteen has played here because just last summer I worked as a runner for him at his show in Pittsburgh! It was a neat opportunity to notice how far the music industry can take me in my career and maybe even give me the chance to travel if I would decide to tour! Camp Nou also hosts private events in the sponsorship lounge. This space can also be rented out by the public for parties which had me thinking that I need to move here and apply for that job! We were able to see the locker room for visitors and the chapel where some players spend time before a match. We also walked out of their tunnel onto the pit for some pictures and stepping foot onto the field had me practically mesmerized. It’s not every day you get to set foot onto a world class elite football team’s field. Hopefully I will be able to visit again someday and bring some of my friends with me who also appreciate the sport!
Returning to the downtown area we hopped off the bus and made our way down La Rambla where some of us continued to shop before returning the the hotel. If there is one thing I have mastered on this trip it is the art of getting ready in a short amount of time. Before I knew it I was dressed up to go to a Flamenco show. A quick metro ride into town and we had arrived at.Palacio del Flamenco.
If you have never seen Flamenco I suggest you take earplugs. It is loud and intense. Somehow these dancers turn stomping around (what I look like when attempting) into a real art. It looks like they are being held up like a marionette with strings and they just shuffle their feet around at the speed of light but it takes a great amount on core strength and poise to do what they do. We enjoyed the show along with paella, sangria, and Spanish omelettes followed by custard filled pastries with chocolate sauce. I could live off of Spanish desserts.
We made the most of our last night in Barcelona by going to La Rambla one last time and turned in for the evening.
What We’ve All Been Waiting For!
For our morning media visit, we traveled a little ways to the offices of La Vanguardia-the oldest newspaper in the region. We spent a decent amount of time in class discussing this company so it was exciting to finally see it in person.
La Vanguardia is 134 years old and has been owned by a family through five generations. What I found to be most unique about this newspaper is that they take a conservative view on politics and economics but a more progressive view in culture and lifestyle. At home I do not know of any news sources that take this approach and so I think it is interesting to see how well this paper is received by the Spanish and Catalan people. The paper publishes editions in both Spanish and Catalan and sells both at most news stands. Around half of the readers prefer Spanish to Catalan because they are an older population who never learned Catalan in school. I thought that La Vanguardia was a great visit because our presenters were comfortable talking about change and the strategies they are implementing in order to expand their capabilities and connect with a larger audience. After touring the newsrooms of the company, we headed out for the next adventure of the day.
La Sagrada Familia is perhaps the most famous work by Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi. He initiated the construction of this gothic cathedral the late 1800’s and it has somehow withstood years of construction since then. Being able to see this structure under construction I believe is a unique opportunity that I have now had in my lifetime. Most structures like this are places to visit and I often wonder how they were built or what it looked like when it was only partially finished. Now I can say that I have seen a massive piece of art while it was still being worked on! Maybe someday my grand children will travel here and maybe in their lifetime it will be completed. In my opinion it looks completely different when you compare the inside and outside. From the external, this cathedral is intimidating with robust turrets and what look like oozing drips of sandstone. When you cross inside though it looks like you have entered some sort of ornate rainforest. Looking up at the ceiling I felt so small. The umbrella like flower shapes along the ceiling made me feel like I was an ant crawling along the colorfully illuminated floor looking up at maybe what Gaudi considered to be the view of humans in the presence of God. Take it for what it is but that is my interpretation.
Once we congregated as a group Mauricio guided us to the airport and put us on a plane to Lisbon. Hopefully this new city will be just as charming as Madrid and Barcelona!
For our first real day in Portugal, we were guided around the city of Lisbon by our tour guide, Odette. Lisbon is smaller than Barcelona on Madrid but to a stranger, it is still just as difficult to navigate. We arrived at night so I did not have a real chance to take in the city’s style or layout initially but I was glad that we had scheduled time to drive around and sightsee.
Odette told us that the city dates back to fourteenth century and has served as an important point of trade since it has a massive harbor along the coast. In the age of exploration, people like Vasco De Gama set sail from this area and the people reflect that in monuments, artwork, and architecture. Our hotel was above the city in the hills by a university. To get into town we took a coach bus and got a firsthand sight at the hills and valleys of Lisbon. We first stopped at an overlook point within the city followed by a nice drive along the coast. Down by the water there are many abandoned warehouses that different commissions are trying to fix up and utilize instead of letting them waste away. I learned that because of the devastated economy and the high unemployment rate there is a large homeless population here. The hardships of Lisbon’s citizens are reflected in the works of graffiti all over the city. I thought it was worth mentioning that Spain’s unemployment rates are higher than those of Portugal, yet I saw much more graffiti in Lisbon than Barcelona or Madrid. I have also never looked at graffiti the way I have here but I think it helps me understand what people are going through and maybe change my perspective on people who face hardships that I myself have never experienced.
The bus made its way toward the bridge that pairs the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco California and just beyond it you can see the statue called “Christ the King” which looks identical to “Christ the Redeemer” in Rio de Janeiro. The coastline in Portugal is gorgeous and I think it was nice to cruise along and relax a little.
Our next few stops were to locations that symbolized the age of Exploration here in Portugal. We stopped at a light tower and a structure similar to a monument. It wasn’t the most exciting thing to do but it made for a good introduction to the Portuguese outlook on their history.
We also passed the parliament building and the town hall of Lisbon. It’s hard to conceptualize because everything is so jam packed into the city and you would never know what you were looking at if you didn’t have a tour guide. All of the buildings here are dusted white, pink, yellow, blue, and other pastel colors. Every street seems to wind uphill and hug the hills of the area so much that this city feels like a labyrinth.
We had some free time for lunch after our tour and I will note that ordering food here is much easier than in Spain for some reason. After trying desperately to figure out what things were at the café near our hotel, we realized that the girl working spoke English and we all laughed a little bit. It’s such a surprise how much this culture loves ham. Ham goes on everything here. Naturally I ate a ham and cheese croissant with some chips. It suffices while I am here but when I get home, if I never have ham again it will be too soon.
A few hours later and we headed to our first lecture in Portugal at the nearby University. We were welcomed by a reception complete with pastries and port wine- the local specialty. We then headed to our classroom where Dr. Paulo Faustino first spoke to us about the current state of the Portuguese media. He noted that a goal of most media groups here is to maximize the usage of the Portuguese language because although it is in the top five spoken languages in the world, efforts to increase usage could be stronger. We learned that the main media groups in Portugal are segmented and driven by national groups and investors. The different media sources have come from several main sources with not much else being contributed by others. There are also four main players that dominate the market with advertising. This also releases the fact that the advertising market varies to about eight hundred million euros. There is a huge concentration of ownership within Portuguese media and it creates challenges for smaller companies who want to be a part of the game. Needless to say the market here is smaller than that of Spain so it makes things more competitive. Portugal also has influence in the media of Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, and the Azores Islands. These used to be former Portuguese colonies so they ironically still have some sense of influence over them. We then learned about situations in which the Portuguese company handled challenges by improving the business model all around.
The first day in Lisbon set me up to better understand the outlook of and challenges the Portuguese media collectively face. I enjoyed spending time getting acquainted with the city’s layout and going directly to the University orientation lecture right after because I thought it all fit together nicely. Here’s hoping the rest of the week in Lisbon will be fun!
A lot of Learning in Lisbon
This morning we were greeted at the offices of RTP, Radio e Televisao De Portugal, with a breakfast reception. If I know anything by now it is that the Portuguese are incredibly welcoming at our visits and it warms my heart to be here amongst such kind people. I have truly enjoyed the fact that each and every one of our presenters have been excited to speak to us and share their wealth of knowledge. RTP was no different!
We kicked things off by hearing from Carlos Maio, Director of International Relations. He stood in front of the room with a big smile and encouraged us to ask questions throughout the lecture. He described RTP as a European Broadcasting Unit member and as a leading company in the industry since 1957. They own eight television channels and eight radio stations which were once separate entities but merged in 2005. This company broadcasts public service radio and television content which can sometimes be viewed as boring or meaningless in the United States but as Carlos explained, it means a great deal to Europeans and he loves his job for that reason. After about an hour lecture we were guided around the offices and studios for the most exciting tour of the trip! We saw the news room of the company followed by a peek into a live broadcast of the news! This visit was similar to TV3 but we additionally got to sit in on a morning talk show for a good bit. After spending time in the television wing we moved to the radio branch where we saw every studio that RTP broadcasts from! From one end of the hall to another we saw an interview with a famous Fado singer, a gentleman waiting for an interview about his work in astrophysics regarding a recent mission to a comet. There are some fun things happening at RTP and it was exciting to see some of the things that happen there daily.
Our last media visit of the trip was to Diario De Noticias, a newspaper published by Global Media Group. We met with the Chief Executive Officer and learned about his time in the leadership position at the company, what challenges he has faced while there and how he is setting up strategic plans to bring the company out of a rut. He described his vision to be a 70 million euro turnover profiting company after expenses, depreciation, and amortization. I thought his process of turning the company around was well thought out and incredible to see in so many words. His management style was incredible and I hope to bring what he taught me to my jobs back in Pittsburgh. Strategic Planning has been a common topic at these visits but I thought he described it best and really inspired me to do big things in my career. One difference that I noticed was how he chooses to cut costs versus what we heard on the first day in Spain with Professor Mansilla and how different the methodologies behind Spanish and Portuguese management differ.
Nonetheless I have enjoyed and taken something away from all of the media and cultural visits on this trip and I thought today was a wonderful way to end things.
Taking It All In
On our last day in Lisbon, we set out around 9:30AM for an exciting day of sightseeing. We had a full itinerary ahead so I hopped onto the bus with a day bag and enjoyed the forty minute drive to our first location, Sintra.
Odette explained the history of Sintra and how we would have the chance to explore the town and its fourteenth century castle if we wanted. She told us that it is an old town that the Portuguese are very proud of because it preserves their history. The palace there is one that was preferred by the royal family and so it holds a lot of meaning to the people. I have had a picture in my head of what this place would look like but much like Segovia and Toledo, it was very different from what I expected.
Nestled into the hills of the west side of Portugal lies Sintra. It is a charming little town which holds it’s own compared to bigger cities like Lisbon. It has high end shopping, tourist attractions, a castle, cafes, and picturesque scenery every way you look. We were given two hours here so I broke off with my roommates and hiked up every crooked narrow street we could find. I bought some fun cork gifts to take home and although it took me a while to find the perfect items, I finally committed to them. Portugal has cork everything and I am pretty sure that if you dream of something you want in cork form you could find it here if you looked hard enough. Shopping and pastries made for a great morning but next we moved on to Cabo de Rocca.
We wound down narrow roads and up and over valleys that seemed similar to a rollercoaster and found ourselves at the Western most point in continental Europe. I have always loved going to places like this because it can be fun to say “I’ve been there!” While it is a beautiful coastline, it is COLD taking in the fresh Atlantic air. It felt nice to be out of the city and be surrounded by lush grass and just a few little shops. It felt like I was on the edge of the world and I could see why explorers (in their hay day) would think that way.
Our last stop of the day was Cascais, a midsize upscale beach town along the coast of southwestern Portugal. I am shocked that these remote locations have such development and attraction but I think this way my favorite stop of the day. We stepped off the bus to sunshine, palm trees, tile streets, and the smell of good food. A few of us went to the Palm Tree restaurant and enjoyed a great meal. We spread out to do some shopping afterwards where I finished my souvenir shopping (FINALLY). Making our way towards the bus I sprung for gelato and felt like everything was right in the world.
Some down time after our busy day had us ready and refreshed for our farewell dinner at a Fado show. The music and food were delicious and I was impressed by how much goes into an experience like this. I think I enjoyed the Fado show more than the Flamenco show in Barcelona but no matter, this area of the world produces some wonderful entertainment!
Since it is the last night, I feel compelled to say that I have had such an amazing time on this trip abroad. It has expanded my perspectives and has me motivated to push for more in my career path. As I head back to Pittsburgh I hope to take the warm and hospitable mentality that I have seen so much of here with me. There was never a dull moment on this trip and I hope to travel back to these countries someday.