Like most of us not named Jay-Z and Beyonce, my wife and I had an itemized budget for our trip. Given that I banged up the rental car a bit on my last trip, this time I decided to go with “less car, more insurance.” That said, when we arrived I did not expect to see a vehicle that had the qualities of a car, but more closely resembled a dust-buster crossed with an albino mouse. It took very little time to discover that this Seat “Mii” was a distant, pigmy cousin of Dinkus – the odd little hatchback I had last year. It even had the super-fun dinging noise when the speedometer passed 40 and 100 km/hr that earned Dinkus his name. Therefore, it is my pleasure to introduce you all to “Dink.” He has his very own three-cylinder engine, wheels the size of cookies and maxes out at 70mph! Whee!… I’m driving a Mii!!!
I don’t mean to be too hard on Dink though. For a city car we drove him in some rough terrain, and there were several times I was glad that Dink wasn’t even an inch wider because I was driving him on the sidewalk. We drove him from Madrid to Toledo, down to the “Campo de Calatrava” for daily trips up to the top of Calatrava la Nueva, out to Valencia for some high-stress city driving, down to Xativa, more daily trips to the castle of Montesa, and finally back to Madrid for our flight home. Listening to him whine and drop speed every time we got to a hill on the highway wasn’t exactly a white knuckle experience, but he did bring out my inner Rutgers basketball coach on occasion. Dink is not “The Little Engine that Could.” He is the little Dink who can’t unless I threaten to put him in second gear on the highway.
So here we are a month and a half after the trip and I am finally writing a travel blog now? And I open with my rental car? What is that all about? Well, I’ve been busy and since the luggage arrived without issue, I didn’t NEED to use the blog as online therapy. I really did want to write updates when the memories were fresh, but I realized pretty quickly that with Jocelyn along, I had a lot less down-time to write the blog. This trip was a ton of work, and as you can see from the map above this was not the road-warrior kind of trip I did last year. Instead of 1-3 day visits over the entire peninsula in six weeks, we worked for 5-6 days at each of two sites, and went on three weekend-trips over three weeks. I am not going to try to jam all of that in this post, so consider this entry Part 1: Hydroplaning through La Mancha.
For anyone who has heard me talk about Madrid before knows that outside of the Prado Museum, I’ve never really been too crazy about this city. This time was a little different. Jocelyn and I went back to the Prado, and it was awesome as usual. I was kind of excited to see Jocelyn become a bit overwhelmed by it. We started in the Medieval area on the lower level, but Jocelyn got a little tired of all the crucifixion paintings so we ping-ponged through the museum in the most inefficient manner possible, but saw a lot more than the greatest hits. I’ve been there four times before, but I probably enjoyed it the most this time.
We also got to wander around the city and pick through the menus. The weather was gray and cold, but we huddled up and managed to find at least three great bars and two nice restaurants that I would go back to in a second. If we found a restaurant that was even close to as good as the ones we found in Madrid, we would both have looked like this:
What guidebooks don’t tell you: Most of it is nasty
The food we found after we left Madrid was either out of our price range & exotic, stale bocadillos, or scooped out of whatever “Swamp Thing” uses as a bed. Seriously La Mancha… when you don’t live near the coast, you shouldn’t just pickle that stuff and toss it in as an unforeseen, leaking side dish “surprise.” The story Jocelyn has been telling involves a plate of “patatas bravas” that was unexpectedly heaped with split sardines with eyeballs the size of pennies.
Since I appear to be on a roll with my complaints, this is as good a time as any to get to the main character on this trip: RAIN. No one wants to read about someone bitching about the weather, but this was noteworthy. The rain started when we got to Toledo, and it barely stopped for more than three hours until we left La Mancha for the partly cloudy skies of Valencia nine days later. Since the entire purpose of the trip was to take thousands of photographs of two mostly open-air sites, the weather was the source of a lot of anxiety. Weather predictions while we were there were completely useless, since the wind was blowing so hard that clouds would blow into the hillside and leave every twenty minutes. On the positive side, when it wasn’t pouring rain, the cloudy, diffused light was perfectly suited for photogrammetry. Over five days, we hid in the church at Calatrava la Nueva until a cloud moved off of us, then we ran out to shoot as many photos as we could. The diffused light meant that the photos matched to each other without needing to re-meter and adjust for light and shadow nearly as often as we moved around the site.
These photos demonstrate the kind of meticulous, boring shots we had to take while producing our photogrammetric “scan” of the building. The images were not composed before releasing the shutter as much as our movements of the camera were mechanically adjusted to ensure proper overlap with the previous photo. While we were not completely robotic about maintaining a perfect “base/height” ratio of 1ft of lateral movement per meter from the wall being shot, we did try to take these pictures roughtly 6-9ft away from the walls. That meant we took a single sideways stride between positions, and shot pictures with the camera turned 45 degrees left and right, up and down per position. Jocelyn had never used a DSLR camera on manual exposure before this trip began, but as you can see, she took to it very quickly. To put this process in perspective, when we left Calatrava la Nueva I counted 20 thousand 12-14 megapixel images of that site. We split the site up into pieces and often met in the middle of the same wall. Jocelyn was using a Nikon D90 we borrowed from IATH, and I used my Canon T1i. I am not sure what this means, but I also counted that Jocelyn and I took almost exactly the same number of photos at both sites.
These are Spainbows – Another positive side-effect of getting rained on so much in La Mancha. Two of these were shot from the base of Calatrava la Nueva looking out at the castle of Salvatierra on the opposite hill. The other was shot on the way to our second hotel in this area. While this second hotel was very nice, [The Hotel Casa Palacio] the town [Santa Cruz de Mudela] was rather shabby and will probably just be remembered for their mutant sardines. The first hotel was much closer to Calatrava la Nueva, and I thought it was a lot of fun being out on a man-made lake out in rural la Mancha, but the wifi was almost non-existent and Jocelyn wanted to move to a town (She learned pretty quickly that most of the little towns in this area are not really a “plus” part of the Campo de Calatrava experience.)
The best part of the rural hotel was that we were greeted by a pet sheep named “Nadie” who banged his head into our bags as we carried them in the rain and then tried to get into the ranch-style hotel when the owner opened the door. Apparently this was a theme. I also have to break from my earlier statement to note that while we did feel more like houseguests than patrons, the food cooked by the owner of this little rural hotel was very good and the wine was top notch. I totally recommend this place [Casa Rural La Laguna] if you ever want to get a look at Calatrava la Nueva. It is the best hotel within 40 miles of the site.
This may be a bit out of chronological order, but this is the best time to show what I have been doing since I got back from Spain. With the help of several computers at IATH, my own laptop, and a PC built by UVa’s UVACSE group in Computer Science I have been processing thousands of photos. I have just scratched the surface of the 30 thousand images we took at both sites, but with the help of a Czechoslovakian photogrammetry web-service that Wayne Graham discovered, I can show you a youtube video depicting 765 of Jocelyn’s original photos juxtaposed with the resultant point clouds, shaded polygonal model the textured model. If you get motion sick easily, I would scroll down toward the end because the camera follows the ever-shifting directions of the images fed into it. It is a lot easier to follow near the end. Keep in mind that this is only one part of the model, and less than 1/20th of the photos that will go into the final model.