A reader writes:
I've never gotten any right, but this time I think I have a shot. I believe this is the square outside Notre Dame Des Victoires Church in Quebec City, Canada. My wife and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary this past summer in Quebec City. There's no place like it in North America.
That looks like a square in Puno, Peru, the city on Lake Titicaca. If I recall correctly, there were some cut hedges in the middle of the square and it was on a college or high school. My then-girlfriend, now-wife, and I went there after we finished grad school. It was August and freezing cold. I had altitude sickness. The people were really nice and I got a nice pair of wool gloves right there.
Maybe I'm wrong, who knows? Either way, it was a great trip five years ago, and I'm now listening to that girl sing a John Lennon to our 4-month-old daughter. Thanks for raising the memory of the start of our relationship.
Tallin, Estonia, Townsquare. Been there, done that. Five minutes.
My first impression is Prague. I lived there for awhile, and the gently-sloped roofs and rooftop decks remind me of the city. The graffiti would fit, too. But the street surface looks too nice for most of the city, and I recall the nicer parts of town having mostly cobblestone streets. It's been almost ten years, so I could be very wrong. The newer construction in the background is probably a hint - I can't think of many cities I've visited that have this kind of architecture but would permit skyscrapers right there. It's probably somewhere in France or Germany, but I'll go with Milan, Italy.
At first glance there is a lot here. But really it could be so many places. The cars look European. There is no sign of snow, so somewhere southern Europe, probably on the Mediterranean. And some nice urban regeneration (probably EU funded). So we are thinking Marseille in France, Valencia or Barcelona in Spain, or Genoa in Italy. The graffiti is tagged as "Nico" a very common nickname for Nicolas in France. So we will stick with Marseille.
Metz, France? I think I've seen that "NICO" tag there before, near Luxembourg. But there are no tall buildings like those in Luxembourg. Could be Thionville, too.
That there is both Spanish tile roofing and a presence of small European style efficiency cars permits one to quickly narrow down the likely possibilities to somewhere in Spain. This square vaguely reminds me of one I passed through in Barcelona while backpacking across Europe in college (how cliche, I know!), and so I'll go with that. Since others are likely to also guess Barcelona, I'll say that this square is on a side street feeding into the Las Ramblas strip.
It's Madrid, Spain.
I say Spain because of the way the buildings are done, mostly because the window frames are painted in white, and because of how the street and the square have been refurbished. That's how streets and square now look all over Spain. It's Madrid because of the two tall buildings in the background. The exact location would be somewhere in the upper left third of the picture attached.
Those are two of the tallest buildings in Madrid, the Torre Madrid and the Edificio España. The view is specifically the intersection of Calle del Espíritu Santo and Calle del Marqués de Sta Ana. My partner knew it was Madrid right away by the balconies and façades and towers in the distance. Also, Spain holds a special place in our hearts - I proposed to my partner there and we plan on getting married there.
Finally, a VFYW that jumped at me and screamed, "You live there!" I had already recognized my beloved Madrid even before I noticed the unmistakable brown booth that the ONCE (Spanish organization for the blind) uses to sell lottery tickets.
As it happens, I live nearby. Before moving a few months ago, I lived a couple blocks away from the square itself. Clues that tipped me off: the main building of the Plaza de España in the background, the style of trashbins, and the red flooring material in the playground area. All are VERY familiar looking. It's a rather fun neighborhood and worth a visit if you're in the area.
Wonderful area in Madrid where all the queens hang out. I clearly remember a chicken place nearby called "Pink Pollo". And yes, that looks like the time when you come out of the club, especially if you think about going out at 2AM. Good times!
That latest picture is from the Plaza de Juan Puyol, that sits in a somewhat sketchy, but otherwise endearing, part of my very own hometown of Madrid. If any you guys ever plan on coming over, and you happen to need a guide, especially if you need some help navigating Madrid's legendary nightlife, do not hesitate in contacting me. Despite the brutal crisis we're going through, Madrid remains the world's capital of fun.
I've been a reader since your page was purple, but a first time emailer. I've lived in Madrid for the past ten years and instantly recognized the Heineken building in Plaza de España in the background and the narrow streets and graffiti as being part of Centro, which consists of many smaller barrios like Malasaña y Conde Duque, Chueca etc. I can't remember the name of the plaza, but there are tons of them like this in Madrid and they have been the center of the botellón controversy of recent years. The botellón are outdoor parties in public spaces that go until daylight. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of young people who can't afford or are otherwise disinclined to party at the discotecas simply take the party public and everyone brings their own booze (hence the name). Unfortunately, people also live in the Plazas and have to suffer the noise and trash (mostly bottles) the partiers leave behind. It's quite the spectacle.
I recognized the location immediately. Last May, for my 50th birthday, I traveled with friends from San Francisco to Spain. We met up with an old friend, who had moved to Madrid with his Spanish partner when same sex marriage was introduced in Spain (in the US, his partner was on a temporary visa). We were drinking at Bears Bar Madrid in Chueca until 3:30 a.m. (the madrugada, as the early morning is called there), when my friend took us on a tour of Madrid. By 4 a.m., we were standing in the little square in the Malasaña, where the contest picture was taken. The square was filled with Spanish hipsters, with their tight jeans and Vespas, drinking cans of beer sold for one euro by Chinese women street vendors. We bought cans of beer and hung out right at this location. I thought that we could have been in the Mission District of San Francisco, drinking cans of PBR with the Mission hipsters.
Thanks for the fond memory. It distracted me from today's tragedy in Arizona.
This was one of the more intriguing journeys I've experienced in this contest, because a public art dimension emerged along the way. I started out analyzing the usual elements - predominant roof color and materials, building and balcony design, the mix of old and new architecture, presence of air conditioners, and types of vehicles. I looked first at Prague, but felt there were Latin influences because of the balcony design. What unlocked the locale was grafitti: I Google-imaged "graffiti Europe" and was led to images from a project in Barcelona in 2007 called Difuson, in which artists were invited to paint public spaces before a new ordinance went into effect banning graffiti.
I scoured Barcelona but couldn't find the same modern high rises as those in the VFYW's background. So I went to Madrid and found the high rise on the right in someone's Flickr collection. Using Google Earth, I figured out the angle of the neighborhood facing the high rises, pulled away, then flew over and spotted the dark brick square in the middle of the small plaza. I Googled some of the landmarks, found the street, and zoomed in via Street View to confirm the details and find the building from which the photo was taken.
The graffiti made this too easy - a search for "nico graffiti" got me to this and this [see left] within a few seconds, which got me to the city name. A bit more googling got me a blog of what appears to be all the locations of Nico's tags in Madrid, but unfortunately - despite the map, which I thought would get me there - no luck. Frustratingly, none of the many pictures I found of the graffiti actually mentioned the street name. I spent a while fruitlessly walking around a virtual Madrid in google maps, which was fun. But I suppose I need to give up there - I'm sure someone will get closer, but hey - it was fun trying!
The photographer of the above shot has an astounding Flickr set of graffiti throughout Madrid - nearly 5,000 photos. Another:
Since the graffiti was the biggest clue, I kept searching Google Images for photos of graffiti in European cities. I hit paydirt when I found a photo (attached) of the triple-breasted bass-playing alien - Eccentrica Gallumbits of Eroticon Six, anyone? - on the blog of someone who had just visited Madrid.
I can honestly say that I've never searched for "triple-breasted" and "graffiti" on Google Images until today. The VFYW content enriches my life in so many ways ...
This was a hell of a way to spend a (hungover) Saturday. It went like this ...
My gut told me the photo was Antwerp, Belgium, which is why I bothered pursuing this at all. But a search for the Nico of the graffiti turned up this one Flickr image that was tagged with Madrid. The style looked somewhat similar to the Nico in the VFYW photo. Ah, yes, the red tile roof! I hadn't noticed it initially.
Then my hell began. Should I admit that I spent hours flying over the streets of Madrid on Google Earth and roaming the streets in Street View? I just couldn't find the spot. I eventually went back to searching for Nico, and 20 seconds later found this image, obviously the graffiti wall in the photo. It was tagged as being in the Malasaña section of Madrid. Someone with the handle fearthesting2000 had left the comment "Which street is this on?" a mere four hours before. A competitor! After leaving a taunting comment, this new lead and the idea of a tangible competitor inspired more time with Google Maps. And more searches. And more time with Google Maps.
And then I gave up. I drafted my email to VFYW, knowing I probably couldn't win with "the Malasaña section of Madrid" but figuring I might as well throw the Hail Mary Pass after all the time I wasted. But something went screwy when I clicked Send. I lost the email. What a waste.
I went to dinner with my wife. By the time we returned home I was rejuvenated, so I got back to it, paying careful attention to the angle of the buildings and trying to follow them out to the right spot. Then, finally, I just stumbled upon it. The graffiti is different in Street View, but clearly it's the right place.
That bastard fearthesting2000 has probably beat me to it, but here's my entry: Madrid, Spain, 24 Calle del Espiritu Santo, Top Floor (4th floor if using the Euro floor counting system), window on the north side (near the corner where 24 meets 26 Calle del Espiritu Santo).
One of the apartments in the building is for sale for a mere 260,000 euros. You can see the details here, including a video shot from the window directly below where the picture was taken. The address is 24 Calle del Espíritu Santo, 28004, Madrid, so that's our guess. No idea about the apartment number, but it looks like it's on the fourth floor.
I've never been to Madrid, so I don't have a great story to try and convince you that I should win (though I did get Camden, NJ correct a few weeks ago). I guess if the graffiti artist sees the comments on his Flicker page and enters, then we are all screwed anyway.
This is funny; I live in Madrid and moved to a new flat three days ago (I lived for six years at San Bernardo street, in the Malasaña neighbourhood). and I was thinking about sending you a picture from my new bedroom window, aimed for the contest. And this morning I find a picture in Madrid in your contest. Mine would certainly be more difficult than the one you just published, which is very easy to identify for anyone who knows Madrid.
As with last week, I have no interesting story or insight to share about this location, but I've read enough about the plaza (did you know it was named after a double agent in WWII who helped deceive the Nazis about the invasion at Normandy?) and Malasaña (a "counterculture" neighborhood struggling with gentrification) that I feel like I've been there. I suppose that's the true joy of this contest - giving an overworked father of a toddler with no hopes of traveling internationally anytime soon the chance to go on a globe-spanning treasure hunt for a few minutes each weekend. Thanks for the fun!
Finding a winner for this week's contest was difficult, since there were so many precise guesses. Nearly a dozen readers submitted screenshots and schematics similar to this one:
So with all the technical guesses canceling themselves out, we are going to award the prize to the following reader, who was both accurate and in need of a morale boost:
On Friday afternoon at 4:00 (they wait until you have worked the whole day), I got laid off from the firm where I have worked for the past 11 years. So, what do I do this weekend? Start preparing for a job hunt, right?? Oh, no. I spend Saturday afternoon, all day Sunday, and all day Monday solving VFYW. Thanks!
Well, at least I got the exact location. I began by going to Flickr for my first time and putting in a search for "graffiti" and "Nico" which lead me to a photo of the wall art(?) and a byline of Malasana, Madrid. That was the easy part. After scanning Madrid from airspace (a.k.a. Google Earth) and fruitlessly searching for hours, I put a search in for "tall buildings madrid" in Google images and found the tall building in the background on the right. That gave me the location of that building. So I then went on Google earth, turned on the 3D option and found the tall building and the smaller one to the left, figured out the viewpoint from where the VFYW photo was taken and just worked my way backward from there. In a matter of seconds, I "flew" across the courtyard in the photo, did a little 360 in the courtyard and found the building from where the photo was taken. Exact location - at the end of Calle del Marques de Sta Ana, in the building that houses the la Dominga Restaurante, on the top floor.
Now, I figure I have four good days of intense job hunting before the next contest.