9th November 2017
So today is a national holiday here in Madrid, and that meant that I managed to oversleep and miss a trip to the very north of the community of Madrid to go for a hike. Oops! But that at least means I have an hour to sit and update you all on the latest bit of gallivanting around the big city – this time with Amber!
As mentioned before, Amber booked flights and a hostel to spend almost a week here, and so on Thursday evening I left work and went to go and pick her up from the airport. It was lovely to see her again, but as we were both tired and pressed for time that evening, we shared a jug of sangria and headed off for a relatively early night.
On Friday though, and after a morning of exploring the west of the city including the Egyptian Temple, she came along to the office to say hello to everyone once again (last year she visited with Jess whilst I was an intern). Once more we had a spread of snacks or aperitivos laid out, and I finally got round to fulfilling Mario’s request for a round of coronation chicken sandwiches – they went down an absolute storm!
As we finish early on Friday at work, from there we headed down to the lake for a relaxed ice cream. During a wander around the lake we wound up taking a different path than usual, and stumbled upon an old viaduct, before heading deep into the city centre once more for some relaxed drinks in Malasaña and then Lavapiés. We covered a lot of ground and drank a lot of the local cocktail, tinto de verano!
A viaduct in Casa de Campo
Us two in a bar in Lavapiés
Sunglasses are even needed at night in Madrid
On Saturday morning, and after a decent lie in, we met up down in the south of the city at the cultural centre called Matadero. We had a good look through a photography exhibition, sat down for some pintchos, pastries and coffee for breakfast, then explored an outdoor exhibition of design from around Spain and Latin America.
The architecture of the Matadero
Amber getting into brand design
After this we crossed the river and had a snoop around the new Madrid Río 2 shopping centre, before heading back up northwards to continue or snack fest and check out views down Gran Vía, the main artery which runs through the centre of the city.
Crossing the river
Looking down Gran Vía
Once we got a little tired, we both headed our separate ways and had a proper Spanish siesta before reuniting in the city centre and heading down to the cute little are of La Latina, where we traversed a well known street which is buzzing with little bars and restaurants. There we began our evening drinking gin and tonics, eating an array of toasted bread with delicious toppings, and eventually taking the Metro up north to Chueca to continue our night on the town.
The contrasting colours of my local Metro stop
A car sits abandoned at night
Up in the district of Chueca we visited more bars and eventually wound up in a club, meeting some friends along the way and dancing to all the latest reggaetón and Spanish hits. Here’s an example of some reggaetón if you fancy a taste!
Needless to say that the next day we didn’t rush out of bed, eventually meeting up just to leisurely wander around the city and eat and graze as usual. As the day wore on, we decided to pay an impromptu visit to the top of the Círculo de Bellas Artes, a building from which you can enjoy great pretty much 360° views over the city. The last time I went was over a year ago when my dad visited Madrid, but we decided to have a coffee and watch the sun as it began to set over the skyline.
Bruschetta style toasts in La Latina
A view over the city’s east
The sun begins to set
Monday came around too fast and it was our last proper evening together, so after work we met up and went once again to chill out in the city. We had traditional Madrid food at an old-school bar in the centre, where I chowed down on a delicious plate of huevos rotos – which seems to be becoming my favourite right now.
After this we went once again to have a few glasses of tinto de verano, but I couldn’t stay out late as I’d to work on Tuesday morning. On Tuesday though we managed to meet up during my lunch break, and headed to have some food in a shopping centre near the office. From there we said our goodbyes, as that evening Amber was heading to the airport to catch her flight back home before I left work.
¡Que buena pinta!
A light in a bar in Malasaña
It was a pleasure having Bam around in the city with me, and I can only hope she enjoyed being here as much as I enjoyed just lazying around every evening eating and drinking the hours away. Usually I’d be a bit down once a friend leaves the city, but next weekend I’m off to see Kevin and visit the beautiful city of Oviedo once again. I’ll also be back in England for a week over Christmas, which will be lovely.
I just have to end this post with a quote from my grandma, who always reminds us when we’re a little down after something lovely finishes: “it’ll soon be Christmas, and we’ll have some nuts!”
1st November 2017
After celebrating October with the cool installations of Luna de Octubre a week or so ago, it’s now time to bid goodbye to my first month of working in Madrid and that of course means spending Halloween here. To celebrate we all gathered at my friend Megan’s flat to watch the classic Halloween film “Hocus Pocus”, and I didn’t dress up because the night of Luna de Octubre I managed to get bitten on the face three times by a mosquito, so I decided that I looked scary enough with the big red spots adorning my cheeks.
Megan cooked up some fresh pumpkin bread, staying true to the season, and it was absolutely delicious – I had never had it before! In the end we were all pretty tired so once the film was done we decided not to go out, but I have spent the past week or doing plenty of other things.
After work one day I went to go and see Randy, and we explored the new shopping centre called Madrid Río 2 which is near his house. It was lovely to see him again and the views from the food terrace turned out to be pretty nice, overlooking the lovely architecture of the Matadero.
Looking over the Matadero
The next day I had a journey to the south of the city to make, as I’d made an appointment to go and see Apple regarding my iPad which just decided to stop working completely and died a most spectacular death – I couldn’t even get my laptop to recognise it, much less get the actual thing to show any signs of life. Not expecting much except to be offered a discount off a new one, it turned out that when I bought it I bought insurance with Apple too, which according to them I still have a month left of. I must be the luckiest man alive – they’ve since replaced it with a brand new one at no cost. Get in!
Anyway, whilst down at the shopping centre and with a new iPad in hand, I went to relax a little by the food court which surrounds a pretty little lake. I spent a while taking in the atmosphere and doodling on the iPad, and for an hour or so I felt like I was on holiday as I basked in the sun by the water.
Relaxing by the little lake
Speaking of lakes, this weekend just gone I decided to kick back and relax a little, heading to the huge park of Casa de Campo to relax by the huge lake there. It was sunny but cool when I left my flat, but it soon heated up and I had to retreat to the shade where I spent a good few hours just reading a book I brought along. It’s been a while since I took a good moment to get stuck into some reading for pleasure, and I’ll definitely be picking up books a bit more often now I’m not obliged to read them for any kind of studies. Who’d have ever thought that working life would have felt like freedom compared to studying? Wild!
Wandering through Casa de Campo
After a while I got peckish, and so I grabbed the metro further into the city and decided to head to one of my favourite little haunts in an area called Malasaña, where I ordered the slap-up brunch menu and enjoyed a tonne of dishes including croissants, a selection of bread, a medley of dipping sauces, a mini tortilla with béchamel sauce, a coffee and plenty of fresh fruit juice. It was delicious!
Being watched in Malasaña
Wandering through the café
On the Saturday I also thought I’d do my best to explore the area where I lived a bit more, prompted mainly by a huge craving for a dish called huevos rotos (which is like fried potatoes with runny fried eggs and pieces of Spanish ham on top) and a lack of motivation to actually cook anything for myself. I quickly searched for local places online and it recommended a small bar just a couple of streets away, so I headed down to eat a little bit of something and have a quick small beer (a caña).
Well five hours later and I was still there, as at the bar I got talking to a local called Eva and was then invited to join her brother and his girlfriend for more drinks, and in the end we wound up sat outside on the terrace telling stories and sharing experiences until the early hours! I had such a lovely time and it was a real laugh to meet everyone. We stayed out so late that the bar technically closed, but we were allowed to stay inside as the owner put out some incense and candles and we continued chattering until I stumbled back home at about 3am.
A time-lapse I made from my window
As far as work goes, everything is a good laugh as usual, with projects moving forward and plenty of exciting designs to be done. I had to nip out to the bank (again) as I’d forgotten my password and accidentally blocked my shiny new debit card (oops), but I am happy to share that I now finally hold a Spanish bank account and I have received my first paycheque – I feel like a real adult now.
The walk to the bank is pretty nice
In the office I also received a lovely little surprise this week as a mystery envelope appeared on my desk, but I recognised the handwriting straight away as my mum’s. Inside she’d put a little note and a little zip-lock bag of 10 decaf teabags alongside a 10€ note – all of which is sure to come in very handy, especially with Amber coming to visit tomorrow night! I am very, very excited to spent almost a week relaxing and showing her the city once more!
At home today I just met my new flatmate, Giorgia, who’s from Italy but has spent years working in Chile and so speaks perfect Spanish. We initially went out to explore the local neighbourhood with our landlord Abdel, but after that I had to nip into the city to run a few errands and so me and Giorgia spent a good few hours wandering around the centre, as it’s her first time in here in Madrid. As she’s here for at least one month, I said we’ll be sure to go exploring plenty more!
I had a traditional squid sandwich
Me and Giorgia in Plaza Mayor
The above photo was taken by Giorgia, who also runs a blog (check it out here if you know any Italian!) and works in communication, so I’m sure we’ll be having plenty of chats over a bottle of wine or heading out into the city to try the sangría in every bar we can find our way into…
Anyway, I’ll be back next week at some point to update you all on the mischief that me and Amber get up to over the next few days. Hopefully the sun will hold out and defy the cloudy forecast, but whatever happens we’ll be sure to make the absolute most of her time in Madrid!
Until then, and in reference to the title of this blog post, why not watch this clip of the iconic Bette Midler’s main musical number from the Halloween classic Hocus Pocus… You will not be disappointed…
26th October 2017
With my week as busy as ever, I totally missed my self-imposed deadline of Wednesday to get this blog post out, but never mind for here we go. As I mentioned in my last post looking back at last week, on Saturday night I headed out with a couple of friends to explore the festivities named Luna de Octubre. This event brought together a set of nocturnal installations, all of which used light in some form to great effect – as you can imagine I was on cloud nine with the array of lights which had been installed around the city!
The first installation we stumbled upon was one of the infamous fountains of Madrid, which had been turned off, lit up and filled with empty plastic bottles. It did make quite the statement, and I was happy to hear a nearby parent explaining to their child that it was a warning, and that reducing and recycling is important. There might just be hope for the future after all!
Plenty of bottles
We continued to walk down the huge avenue of the Paseo del Prado, which had been completely shut off to cars, an event almost unheard of as it’s one of the biggest roads in the city. Further down we came across a really cool installation projected onto the main facade of the Museo del Prado, the biggest of Madrid’s three huge art museums.
Not only was it a great work of video mapping, they had also made it 3D, and so we donned our glasses and gawked at the spectacle. Naturally I can’t show you guys the 3D effects, but the fuzzy shot I managed to take on my phone should give you a little bit of a feel to what it was like…
The facade of the Prado begins to warp
After handing our 3D glasses to another group of spectators, we then headed further down the road and stumbled upon another really cool dynamic light installation. This consisted of a grid of light up stick men figures in various poses, which flashed in sequence to a musical backdrop in order to recreate a bunch of movie and dance routines.
The light up stick men
The illusion worked really well, and I partially enjoyed that we were allowed to walk through the figures. Being able to immerse myself in the installation like this was something I’ve never been able to do so much before, as usually in England artworks are sealed off, but here we spent a good amount of time jiving along amongst the stick men – I even took a selfie to prove it…
Is this here because it’s essential to the blog post or just because I look cute?
Further on past the Prado we wandered by a few huge pyramids of colour changing light, before heading down to the end of the Paseo del Prado and then up towards the famous archway of Puerta de Alcalá. Here they had installed three huge custom built screens into each of the archways, showing all kinds of cool slightly psychedelic videos.
Big wobbly pyramids
Screens in the Puerta de Alcalá
From there we wound up stumbling on the final installation which was definitely my favourite, purely because of how silly and extra it was. It consisted of a huge industrial cement mixer which had been covered in mirrors, creating in effect a huge mirror ball. It was suitably accompanied by a medley of dance music, and for a few minutes we joined in the impromptu rave in the middle of the street. I loved it.
The cement disco
I don’t know what else to tell you about this last one – just that something like this could only happen in Madrid! Let’s see what the coming weekend brings, but for now I have just finished watching the Bake Off and should get some sleep in before an early start tomorrow – a busy Friday looms!
22nd October 2017
As today is Sunday and my third week working here comes to an end, it’s time for me to swing by and update everyone on the latest nonsense that’s been going on during the week. Naturally we kick things off at the office, where we’ve been having fun with a special mat which is used by Japanese children as they learn to draw the complicated strokes and forms of the Japanese alphabets.
Japanese letters and an elephant
My little mascot the Beefeater has been watching over me in the office as we work away on our many projects. I brought him with me as a gift that Amber got me when we met up before I left! Speaking of Amber, she’ll be here in less than two weeks, so I’m busy working on the 5th version of the Madrid Guide I made for visitors when I was last here!
Keeping things in check
I was also given another gift by the guys at work during the week, in the form of my very own set of business cards. I am very happy with them as I am quite a fan of the dark blue and every designer cannot resist a good bit of spot foiling…
I feel like an adult now
After work last Wednesday I headed over to visit Heidi’s new flat, and brought along some ingredients and the cake tins I had brought over (little luxuries, eh?) and we attempted to create a Victoria Sponge. I say attempted as we didn’t have a whisk, any kind of measuring equipment, or even a proper mixing bowl, so everything was roughly thrown together in a big pan and stirred with a fork until I thought it looked kind of okay…
Making cake, or trying to
Once the mixture was done it was time to put it in the oven, at which point we discovered that the wear on the knobs meant that we couldn’t see exactly what temperature it was at – great! Roughly estimating the 180° mark, we eventually put it in and hoped for the best. All seemed to be going well and we were getting a good rise on it, until I realised the oven was on the wrong setting and we had to change it, meaning the air escaped and the cake collapsed quite spectacularly. Damn!
We cooked it through though and eventually had something resembling a cake put together. We cut it up and tried a little, and in the end it actually tasted quite nice, albeit a little too sweet for my exacting sponge cake standards. Maybe next time things will go better!
It was by no means a wasted evening however, as we also took time to catch up over a glass of wine and admire the lovely views from the rooftop terrace just above their fourth floor apartment.
Looking into the Writer’s Quarter
As ever the next day it was back to Príncipe Pío and to work for me, however on the Thursday we had leaving drinks as one of my colleagues celebrated her last day, and gin and tonic at one’s desk is never something to moan about…
A good view over Príncipe Pío
Friday afternoon means aperitivos
Seemingly within a blink of an eye it’s now the weekend again, and yesterday I met back up with Heidi and Loredana to have some food in Lavapiés before heading out to a rather special event, called “Luna de Octubre“ or “The October Moon”. This is a huge festival of nocturnal light installations which takes over the city once a year, very much like previous Light Night events which I have attended whilst at university in Leeds. In fact, my very first blog post ever was reporting back on the very first Light Night I attended back in 2013 during my first year of uni! Wild.
Autumn arrives in the city
Anyway, back to current events, I have plenty of photos and videos to share of Luna de Octubre so I shall have to let those wait until later on in the week when I have a bit more time to organise them all. For now though, enjoy another photo from Heidi’s flat, this time during the evening when a gorgeous pastel sky set over the city. I swear I could spend hours on end watching the city from that place!
A pink sky
In other news this weekend, I just got back from the Apple Store where I was worried about my unresponsive iPad, and where they confirmed that it is indeed completely dead. Turns out, however, that when I bought it I took out insurance and so I am basking in the relief that once they get some more in stock it will be replaced at no cost. Phew!
Whilst the iPad is out of action, I have been increasingly doodling with actual pens and paper, and after my little bit of typography last week I thought I’d try another style this week. These lettering doodles may end up filling the whole black paper section of my notebook – maybe I’ll have to eventually upload it here to my website as a little personal project!
Twisty like Blackpool Rock
I’ll share more progress on this doodle as I finish it off – I’ve since added some nice blue highlights and a couple of illustrations of the sickly sweet Blackpool Rock I used to eat as a child. For those who don’t know, the so-called “rock” is actually a stick of flavoured hard boiled sweet which is usually twisted to create a spiral pattern along it’s side, which inspired the twisty lines of the typography above.
Anyway, as I round off this post you might be wondering why it is called “Abandoned Bread & Other Nonsense”, and I shall indeed explain. Last Sunday evening and after writing my previous blog post I went for a wander in the local park, and what should I discover along the way but a lone baguette perched atop a bollard down a quiet street in my neighbourhood. As a huge fan of bread, and given the quality of the stuff here, I was absolutely distraught that it had been left forgotten and forlorn. I leave you with a picture of it – I am not joking when I say I have been thinking about that wasted loaf of bread all week…
Alone and forgotten
15th October 2017
This weekend hails the end of my second week here out in Madrid, and as you’d expect I’ve been using my time to explore and see what I can see. We begin things last Sunday, where me and Heidi headed into the city and have some coffee. Heidi had plenty of reading to do for her masters course so I took a book along with me to just draw and watch the world go by. Here’s the beginnings of a little typographic doodle I managed to rustle up…
Coffee and typography
In further procrastination, I had heard that world famous architect Norman Foster had an exhibition on in the city centre, so we headed to the Fundación Telefonica and took a look at Futuros Comunes, an exhibition dedicated to exploring the infamous buildings designed by Foster + Partners. The coolest exhibit for me was a scale model of what the new Apple campus, Apple Park, will look like.
Unfortunately Heidi had to head off, and so I didn’t get a chance to take as much time as I would have liked to look around, but I’ll be sure to return and bring more photos and updates from the exhibition soon.
Later that evening I found myself down at the Matadero, visiting the design centre who were running a poster series themed around the phrase “Madrid: La Cuidad Ligera” or “Madrid: The Light City”. This was open to interpretation so there were posters with all kinds of concepts, however my favourite one just read: “mi cuidad es ligera cuando saltamos todos al mismo tiempo”, translating to “my city is light when we all jump at the same time”. Genius.
A reminder of how to move around the Matadero
Sundays soon turn into Mondays, but that didn’t bother me so much however as I was looking forward to getting stuck back into the design projects at work. There my desk is starting to become overrun with post-it notes, I think I should work out a better system for keeping track of all the new vocabulary – it’s starting to feel like college Spanish lessons all over again!
Another day, another word
At the studio a busy couple of days soon ensued, and so on Tuesday night I did a spot of therapeutic cooking after work, creating a huge batch of the cinnamon-flavoured Spanish treat torrijas for everyone to enjoy in the office the next day.
Walking to work
With last Thursday being a national holiday as the Spanish celebrate the “Day of being Spanish” on the 12th October, we went out for some celebratory drinks on Wednesday night after work. We all headed a few streets down from the office where one of the restaurants has an outdoor terrace with a beach bar area, and so we all clinked glasses and chatted for hours over the sand.
Heading to the “beach”
Gin and tonic all round
Watching the sun go down
Having stayed out on Wednesday night to the early hours of the morning singing karaoke and meeting tonnes of new people, my Thursday off was spent dozing around in bed and doing some housework in my flat, however things perked up on Friday as it was time for an aperitivo at work on the terrace as we bid goodbye to a couple of the team.
Food, glorious food
A few beers and hugs later it was the weekend once more, and I spent Friday night in the city watching the sun set over the lake at Retiro – a gorgeous sight.
The sun sets over Madrid
This weekend has been a little less busy than last weekend, however I did manage to head out yesterday with my friend to try the burgers at a place I have been meaning to visit since I first came to the city – Goiko Grill. I ordered one with fried breaded Monterrey Jack cheese, mushrooms, bacon, smoked bacon mayonnaise and lettuce. The portion size was huge and the burger was to die for – I’ll definitely be back again soon!
Today is another calmer day as I’ve just whipped up some pisto, a Spanish dish of vegetables flavoured with paprika in a tomato sauce, and I’ve to get some washing done and try to dry my shoes. That doesn’t mean that it’s not an exciting day though, as I’ve now got two exciting events coming up very soon in my diary!
First up is that my friend Amber is coming to visit me in less than three weeks to spend a very long weekend relaxing in the city! It’ll be lovely to have her again after she visited last time, and I can’t wait to have a good catch up and do what we usually did back in England – sit around with a glass of wine and put the world to rights until the bar closes.
The next little trip I’ll be going on is back up to the north of Spain to see Kevin once again in the beautiful city of Oviedo! Me and Kevin met whilst he was studying Erasmus at Leeds University, and last time I went to Oviedo just a few months ago I had an absolute blast. It’s only a Friday evening until a Sunday evening, but I know that with Kevin’s plans we’ll squeeze so much in to the two full days that it’ll feel like a two week summer holiday all over again!
Anyway, I can hear my pisto sizzling away in the kitchen and it’ll soon be time to head up on to the roof of my block to hang my washing out to dry, so I must dash off. If you need me, I’ll probably be sat on the roof next to my washing, looking over the city and sipping on a can of Mahou from the corner shop. ¡Salud!
7th October 2017
As you can probably imagine this week has been a hectic week to top all hectic weeks, as on Monday morning I headed off on the metro to be reunited with the guys at Erretres and begin my first week working as an adult in a full time job – scary stuff!
Off to work on my first day
Coming back to the office was just like coming back home, and after a shower of hugs I presented a gift which I had brought – scones with jam and butter for the entire team. They went down pretty well, although I was upset I couldn’t bring along clotted cream instead.
Anyway, we were soon whisked into our weekly planning meeting and I was soon assigned my first project, which had a quick turnaround – we had to get part of it ready for Friday! Between designing for that however, there were some other things to do as part of the initiation ceremonies, including moving my head for the announcement video on Instagram – here’s Álvaro doing his…
Ready for some dabbing
As usual I can’t really discuss any of the work which is going on behind the big closed metal doors, but I’m having a blast in getting stuck into some big design projects and working with a bunch of cracks (what the Spanish have taken to mean fun people). I’m even enjoying the challenge of balancing the books as an adult, meaning I’ve been making the rounds to Mercadona (a bit like a Spanish Tesco/Aldi combo) to get my 36¢ tins of tomatoes…
Back in the office
Outside of work I have obviously been making the most of the sun before it begins to cool down as October wanes on, including wandering around the centre which is just a few minutes walk from work. I love being able to walk out of the office and be passing the royal palace and gardens in a matter of minutes – and then onwards for coffee and a sunbathe in the park!
Wandering around the city
Passing the royal gardens
As you can imagine the shock of moving from casual hours to full time has meant that I’ve been pretty tired every weekday, but today is Saturday and so I had plans ready to make the most of my free day – tomorrow I shan’t be working either of course but most of Spain is shut on Sunday so it’s a bit of a write off. Last night I couldn’t be bothered to cook, so the owner of my flat showed me a nice local spot to grab some food at, and I enjoyed a lovely seafood cannelloni – something I’d never heard of before!
How I’ve missed good food
Today was another jam packed day though, as me and my flatmate Heidi had arranged to go out and do plenty of things out and about in the city. We started off at Parque del Retiro, Madrid’s huge public park, where there was an exposition of dogs and cats which were looking to be adopted. We went along to see all of them and I was happy to notice that most had stickers over their little signs announcing that they had found a new home – and also happy that there were so many dogs! I just love dogs.
Changing leaves in Retiro
A very beautiful cat
Once we’d had out fill of our feline and canine friends, we headed to the lake in the park to stop and have some lunch, and we had a lovely long chat whilst I managed to spill all the sweetcorn from my sandwich all over my new white jeans. Genius idea to wear those…
Lunch with a view
I found it really pretty how the seasons are quite visibly changing here, with some of the trees still lush green and others turning a vivid orange as autumn creeps up on us. It’s also definitely cooling down slowly but surely, I woke up with cold toes this morning! Maybe I’ll need to actually start putting a blanket over myself… Que locura.
One we’d managed to find our way out of the park we made a quick visit to Dealz (basically Poundland) and bought some chocolate teacakes to try tomorrow – Heidi grabbed a bar of Cadbury’s Caramel and we certainly enjoyed that as we continued on with our explorations, explorations which eventually took us back to the centre and around the royal palace.
Us two in the palace gardens
It was then time for me to finally visit one of my favourite spots in the city, a tiny little Mexican bar which I think serves the best tacos in the entire city – I’d mentioned it to Heidi and we decided we had to pay it a visit. The food was as delicious as ever, and I washed it down rather nicely with a fresh green apple margarita. I didn’t know different flavours other than citrus existed!
Chilling in the bar
After this Heidi had an appointment to make and I was getting tired, but our progress was stunted by the passing of a very extra baroque-inspired procession. I didn’t manage to shove my way very far forward but I did capture a quick photo of the extravagant outfits of the dressage section…
I want one of those hats
Having just got back to my flat about half an hour ago, and at only 10:45pm local time, I’m already pretty knackered after having been on my legs all day and so I think I’ll probably put myself to bed pretty soon. The day tomorrow will be a pretty relaxed one, as I’ve just to do my washing and a few other admin tasks, and then I’ll probably take myself up to the local park and do some sketching and reading before watching the sun set over the east of the city. It sounds kind of idyllic but I’ll have to report back as to whether it’s as good as it sounds…
1st October 2017
I sit in my bed writing this post exactly 18 months after a blog post called “Moving To Madrid” – and so I’ve had to tag “Again” on so that WordPress doesn’t shout at me for having two blog posts with the same name! Last time I’d just moved here to start work with Erretres as an intern, but this time I sit in bed awaiting to start my full time job with them tomorrow morning.
As you probably know by now from my last blog post, I have accepted a job to work here permanently and so just yesterday I left from England to start my next chapter here in the big city. The moving process kicked off well before then however, as I had to scoot around Leeds and Burnley to say goodbye to everyone I could get hold of!
A farewell to the Leeds gang
As you can see above, I started with a couple of days in Leeds, where I visited everyone I could including a bunch of friends who are either designers or have somehow been sucked into our design world. Convening at Belgrave, I had a lovely evening catching up and seeing everyone off whilst sipping lemonade (no cider due to a bad head) in one of our favourite old haunts.
Strike a pose
After hugging and waving everyone off it was time to head back to Burnley for my last day at Burnley Youth Theatre, where I’ve worked on and off for almost six years. What I didn’t expect was a big surprise buffet, complete with a theatrical hand-clicking opening and a background of Spanish music!
A Spanish themed buffet
After helping ourselves to heaps of chorizo, jamón, olives and even some nice warm churros, the team gathered and it was time to make a quick speech – something I am hopelessly bad at, but I gave it a go. More hugging ensued, and sooner or later it was Wednesday morning and still without having packed a thing I was roused early to go to visit my sister Ellie in Sheffield, where I’d agreed to make her university room a bit more homely by installing the lights I used to use in my university room – better than them being stuck in a loft!
Ellie’s new room
On Thursday I was back in Burnley again, where I headed out for coffee with a friend from high school, then went to get my hair cut, then out to lunch with Amber. Unfortunately amidst the excitement of a leaving present she’d bought me (a hilarious mechanical walking beefeater) we forgot to take a photo, but thankfully we took one whilst we were catching up in the pub the week before.
Gin and tonics all round
That Thursday night I still neglected to do any actual packing, however I did manage to pull out a few piles of clothes and toiletries and group them together ready for packing. The next day was Friday and that heralded my last day in England, but my mother insisted that I spend half of it with her picking my sister up from Sheffield once again. I know the road to Sheffield like the back of my hand now, I swear!
Anyway, we eventually picked Ellie up and returned back to Burnley for our last supper together as a family, but on my return I abstained from packing once again and instead had a nap to try and stave off a gradually worsening cold. Once I woke up it was panic stations as I rushed to get everything organised and packed into a mere 30kg total baggage allowance – it may sound fine but it’s not much for everything one needs for the foreseeable future!
Needing to be up at 2:30am to make it to the airport in time to catch my flight departing at 6:30am, it’s no surprise to discover that I didn’t sleep at all once I’d climbed in bed at about midnight. Fuzzy headed I said goodbye to my room, my sister and then my parents once I got out of the car at the airport, and then made it through bag drop and security in a tired daze. I don’t remember much of the flight, I popped on a new pair of headphones I bought in the airport (one last treat before the budgeting begins) and I think I drifted in and out of sleep for the whole 2 hours.
Sooner or later I found myself whipping out my trusty Madrid travel card which gets me super discounted travel throughout the city, and eventually wound up at the door to my new flat. Being shown my room by my lovely host, I soon met my flatmate and was invited out for a meal of tapas and sherry with one of her friends – an offer I couldn’t really turn down!
Tapas and tinto de verano
After a lovely evening of chatting, dining and of course drinking, we headed back to our flat relatively early as I was (and still am) full of a cold and we both wanted to get rested. We did, however, take a quick detour to Plaza Mayor, where there was an installation consisting of a huge circle of grass which brought a breath of new lease of life to the square – everyone was sat down and enjoying the ambience!
Grass in Plaza Mayor?
Today it is Sunday (I say this more to remind myself than you guys, it has been a busy week), and I had a relatively calm day visiting Lush and IKEA to buy a few essentials (yes, their rosewater scented solid shampoo is an essential). As I mentioned at the start of the post I am sat in bed having watched the sun go down from my window, a photo of which I attach below.
An evening over the east of Madrid
At 9am tomorrow I will be headed to the Erretres office to begin in earnest, and make no mistake that I will be back on my blog to tell you about all the shenanigans of my first week as soon as I can next weekend! Until then however I must bid everyone dulces sueños as I should really try to get some kip in!
30th September 2017
I have to admit that I’ve been hiding a little secret from the general public for a couple of weeks now, as I wanted to ensure that everything was concrete and sorted before publicly breaking the news. If this post seems like it has a familiar tone then you may remember my last blog post which contained exciting news which was posted in February 2016. At that time I had managed to secure myself a work placement with Erretres in Madrid for six months, and I was over the moon!
As some of you probably know by now I had a great time whilst I was out there, from my initial move out to moving studios to eventually having to come back home for my final year of university. After this and a fun and stress filled final year I graduated this summer and suddenly I was thrust into the big bad adult world of trying to find a job and balance the books.
My family have been a great help in allowing me back home and I once again began working at Burnley Youth Theatre where I have been involved in various capacities since 2012 – they really helped me find my passion for design and get me on track for further experience all through university. After working with an array of fabulous people and companies such as Sky, Elmwood and indeed Erretres, I was faced with the dilemma of deciding where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do.
I always knew that after my time at Erretres I somehow wanted to move back to Madrid, a city which I fell in love with during my first visit back in October 2015, but I did also love working as part of the great team at the studio. To this end I got back in touch with creative director Pablo and began discussions about possibly returning, and so it’s at this point I can reveal that I have accepted a job offer to return to Madrid and join the Erretres team!
The past week or two have been absolutely crazy, especially with a trip to Lisbon thrown in, but I have been managing to slowly get my arrears together in order to move to Spain. It’s all still a blur, even though as this post goes live I will be sat on a plane flying to Madrid, and I cannot describe how excited and mildly terrified I am. I land today, Saturday 30th September, and my first day back at the studio will be Monday 2nd October. No rest for the wicked!
This all means that I will be now permanently based in the Spanish capital for the foreseeable future, and my trips back to the UK will probably be somewhat sporadic and infrequent due to the cost of flying at peak times such as public holidays. Have no fear however, as I will be updating my blog just as often as ever to bring you all the goings on from my upcoming big city life – which from now on will all also be posted in Spanish too as my fluency (hopefully) improves!
As ever I extend an open invitation for anybody I know who’d like to come visit or is passing through the city – most weekends I’ll be free and more than happy to show people around. Just let me know in advance!
Until then I’d like to thank everyone who’s helped me achieve what I’ve always wanted to do; be in the city I love working amongst some hilarious people for an amazing design studio. I shall, to that, raise a sangría – cheers! Or maybe that should be a hearty ¡salud!…
22nd September 2017
This week just gone was time for another trip to Lisbon after my last visit in February, but this time I was accompanied by my sister Ellie! Exploring the city from Wednesday 13th to Monday 18th, we spent a good few days wandering the city’s gorgeous winding streets and even hopped on a train to visit another town near the coast. Buckle up, there’s plenty of photos on the way!
Ellie and the patterns of Lisbon
We landed early on Wednesday afternoon and so headed out to get exploring straight away after we’d dumped our stuff in our hostel room. We covered an impressive amount of the city’s centre on this first day of explorations, wandering down to the waterfront and then up into the city’s western quarter.
Some good signage type
The gate by the waterfront
The old shop facades of the city centre
Once we started getting a bit peckish we headed for a place that me and Izzy had visited back in February and had an amazing meal, Taberna da Rua das Flores. When we rocked up however, the wait had already reached an hour and a half! It’s definitely a place worth waiting for, so we decided to head elsewhere and vowed to return earlier the next day.
The sun begins to set on our first day
We wound up having a lovely meal at a place called Fábulas, where we found out that our waiter had starred in an advert for the local beer Super Bock, and Ellie tucked into a vegetable strudel which sounded strange but was quite delicious.
The next day we had breakfast at a little café near our hostel which became our morning haunt for our daily breakfast, before heading out to the oldest part of the city in the east, in an area called Alfama. This is the only area of the city which survived the huge earthquake of 1755 that destroyed most of Lisbon, and its age is definitely given away by its charm and its windy, narrow and very steep streets.
Relaxing during a wander round Alfama
The traditional tinsel was out in full force
I love a good window
We really enjoyed traipsing up and down the various flights of steps and severe inclines of the area, as unforgiving as they may have been – we were saved from burnout by a decent breeze which was blowing in off the Atlantic! We even had a moment to compose ourself and bag a decent selfie before our hair was ruined said salty breeze.
Obligatory sibling selfie
Something too cool for us about punk, probably
Resplendent in red
As you can see above, I basically dragged Ellie into being a model to stand in front of some of the lovely backdrops which presented themselves to us as we traversed around. When I wasn’t instructing her to stand in front of brightly coloured doorways, however, we took plenty of time to soak in the views and enjoy the ambience – until the wind made us too cold, that is…
Colourful and carefree
A blanket of terracotta with a dash of hi-vis
We also spotted some peculiar things in Alfama, including a gravity-defying pigeon and a “you tried” attempt at covering up an embarrassing bald spot on where the tiles had fallen off a building…
It’s time to try defying gravity, I think I’ll try defying gravity!
Well… they tried
After a pit stop for some bruschetta and a quick coffee, we finally began to descend the hill and wandered past a few of the area’s churches and plenty more jovial street art along the way.
An explosion of colour
Pink and wavy
After returning back to sea level and an unsuccessful attempt at finding Ellie some vegetarian lunch on the TimeOut market by the waterfront, we eventually gave up and boarded a train to the far west of the city and the area known as Belém. There we stopped to snack on some pastries, had a quick bathe in the sun and had a good look around some of the buildings and monuments in their pretty surroundings.
I even managed to snap this photo of a rainbow’s fleeting appearance as the sun hit the spray which appeared every now and then when the fountain in the centre shot out a high jet of water. I was very proud of the shot, which even features a sliver of Lisbon’s famous bridge, but I think Ellie was getting bored of just sitting waiting for me to look at rainbows and so we soon headed back to the city centre.
A rainbow over Belém
Once back in the city we headed straight back to Taberna da Rua das Flores and managed to get a quaint little table for two after a mere half hour wait. We used said wait to go and get ourself one of Lisbon’s infamous custard tarts, so it wasn’t that bad, and then the food itself was definitely worth waiting for.
After our tapas dinner for two, we headed back to our hostel to get refreshed and then walked down the road to a rooftop bar that Ellie’s friend had recommended, and we were not disappointed. Sipping on a mojito and a martini overlooking the gorgeous hills of the city, we chatted away in the lovely evening atmosphere before heading back to the hostel to get a decent night’s sleep before the next day’s adventure – a day trip to Sintra.
Colourful flora of Sintra
Sintra is about 40 minutes on the train outside of Lisbon, and we discovered that it’s well worth the visit – just be sure to top up your travel card before you head to the train station in order to avoid the huge morning queues for the ticket kiosks! On arrival we immediately decided to stop for some lunch and to get our bearings, and so we made a plan of action over a cheese and ham toastie and a much needed 2L bottle of water – it may have been breezy but the sun still got us!
A mysterious shrine
We began by first heading up a hill through a lovely park, where we stumbled upon the above shine. After sticking our heads in led us no closer to working out what it was there for, a gardener approached us who spoke Spanish, and so he explained to me that it was the spot where one of the local saints had apparently appeared.
After getting slightly lost trying to work our way out of said park, we eventually found the small centre of Sintra, and walked up to one of the many castles and palaces. We decided not to go in this big white one, and instead sat on a bench just outside, taking in the views and munching through a bag of warm fresh popcorn which Ellie had bought from a lovely street vendor.
A pretty decent view
Before heading to Sintra, I remembered that I’d seen a multicoloured palace whist researching which I thought we should try and visit, however we couldn’t seem to see it anywhere on the surrounding hills. After a quick Google search we discovered that the place that we wanted to visit was called Palácio da Pena, and so headed to the tourist office to ask how we could use public transport to get up there – this was a trip on a budget!
After having to miss the first bus as it was full, we eventually made it up the hillside and were dropped off at the gates to the grounds of the palace. We then had to part with more money than we expected, but once we’d found the palace itself we soon realised that it had all been worth it – the architecture was magnificent and the views were truly something else.
Walking up to the castle
The gorgeous colours of the palace
Whilst I was taking picture after picture of the palace’s colourful walls and beautiful blue tiles, Ellie wandered off and found a little door which I would have probably missed. She came back to tell me about it leading to a little path called the “Wall Walk”, so we both headed through it to check it out.
It turned out to be one of the most impressive yet terrifying moments of the entire trip! We found ourself walking around the perimeter of the entire palace, which offered amazing views from atop its hilltop location. The only thing was that the wind at that altitude was pretty relentless, and we were both soon very cold and very terrified of being blown over one of the perilously low walls of the wall walk…
The moorish castle in the distance
Once we’d had a few minutes taking in the views of the moorish castle and the landscapes beyond, we soon hurried along the wall walk and back to the other, sun-bathed side of the castle, where we basked in the warmth for a good moment, before eventually descending back to grab the bus back into the centre of Sintra.
The yellow and sunny side
A mishmash of architectural styles
Once we’d got the train back to Lisbon, we headed back into the Barrio Alto area of the city, which is the perfect spot for an evening meal or a few drinks in one of hundreds of tiny little bars. Tired as we were, we decided just to eat, and found a restaurant with some pretty amazing views over the water and the infamous red suspension bridge. There we tucked into a lovely selection of tapas, but soon found ourselves back at the hostel and in bed as Sintra had well and truly knackered us out.
The next day we were back in the centre of Lisbon once again, and yet again found ourselves faced with a ridiculous amount of steps. I assured Ellie that it would be worth it though, as we were to ascent to the viewpoint named Senhora do Monte, which offers unparalleled views over the many hills of the city.
One down, plenty to go
The view from the top
A candid shot during the descent
The wander to our next destination at the other side of the city had us once again on our feet for a decent amount of time, but we were sure to break it up by stopping for some lemonade and having the quick break – even if it was just for me to take yet more photos.
Lisbon in one picture
The patterns and colours of the city are something else
Another view of the city
Once we were lower in the city, it was time to head back up the hill on the other side, so we decided to be kind to ourselves and grab the metro up there. Once we hopped off we were soon greeted by an impressive sight, looking straight down a large grassy avenue down towards the front of the city. For the second time in a day we felt on top of the world!
Looking towards Lisbon
After this we headed downhill slightly to pay a visit to another place which Ellie had found by doing a bit of Instagram stalking, some botanical gardens called Estufa Fría. Not expecting much more than a few plants in a glorified greenhouse, I was pretty blown away by the scale and magnificence of the place. One minute we were wandering through a cool selection of fauna, and the next minute we were in a big heated greenhouse chasing each other round a selection of cacti. For Ellie, a biology student, this place was heaven!
Trees growing indoors?
Once we’d had our fill of greenery for the day, and wolfed down a nice cool ice cream in the building heat outside the gardens, we headed back to the city and had another lovely meal at Fábulas. That evening, and seeing as it was a Saturday night, we heeded back out the Barrio Alto district and had a late night drinking caipirinhas, beers and even a cheeky glass of wine in the lovely nighttime ambiance of the city.
What’s going on here?
The Sunday morning we were once again back on our feet bright and early, heading back into Alfama as we’d enjoyed our wander around it so much a few days prior. From there we eventually headed down to the waterfront and hopped on a bus up to somewhere I fancied visiting, the tile museum.
Every colour of the rainbow in Alfama
The tile museum wasn’t exactly Ellie’s favourite place that we visited, but I enjoyed browsing the various patterns and colours and finding out about the technical process behind making the various types of patterned tile that can be found across the city. One room which was quite impressive was the golden chapel, which took us by surprise as it wasn’t what we’d expected to find amongst rooms full of tiles.
Eventually I got a bit too thirsty and Ellie’s craving for pizza got a bit too strong, and we wound up having a comforting pizza lunch at a local greasy spoon. We headed back into the city once we’d loaded up on calories and tried some pretty grim Russian chocolate, and I had a plan of how to get us back up into Barrio Alto to have some dinner at the restaurant with the lovely views over the water – one of the city’s infamous yellow trams!
This tram wasn’t a tram per se, but an elevador, named as such as it takes passengers up and down one of the steep hills rather than just along the flatter streets. We hopped on, got squished like sardines, and were soon rattling our way up the slope to a spot I wanted to visit for lunch.
That evening and all too soon it was our last night in the city. To celebrate we headed back to the rooftop bar a little earlier than the previous time, meaning we had time to grab a caipirinha and then watch the sun set over the city.
Night falls over Lisbon
The next morning we’d to pack our things and then left our bags at the hostel, as we weren’t flying until quite late and had plenty more to pack into our final day! The first thing on our list was a visit to the oceanarium, so we made our way to the north of the city on the metro and when there found ourselves wandering towards the place under some menacing looking skies.
Cloudy skies over the water
Who doesn’t love a garish paint job on a bench?
With our tickets already paid for online, we were quickly jumping all the queues and inside the oceanarium’s exhibition. The first one was a gorgeous look at underwater plant life by Japanese artist and “aquascaper” Takashi Amano, but this was merely a prelude to the rich array of ocean life which we found in the main building, a strange looking concrete structure seemingly floating over the water of the docks.
Let’s name the species that live in the sea!
A precious sea otter
Ellie had a whale of a time nosing around the ocean life (sorry for the pun), and then after a quick lunch in a nearby shopping centre we headed back to the city centre. Ellie had a very important purchase to make at H&M, I completely forgot to buy some custard tarts to bring home (damnit), and I paid a quick visit to the city’s photography museum. There was a lovely exhibition on with photos from various stages of Lisbon’s history, but all too soon it was time to grab some dinner before picking up our bags and heading back to the airport.
The photography museum
Light filters into the metro system
After landing at Liverpool Airport and then driving along the motorway in the early hours, I managed to get us back home in one piece and we eventually managed to hit the pillow at about 3:30am. What a slog!
As tiring as this all may have been however, we both had a lovely time visiting the city together and I am definitely looking forward to visiting Lisbon again sometime in the near future. I was also happy to have taken Ellie on her first city break, and am happy to report that she enjoyed it so much she’s considering doing more in the future. As a brother then, it would appear, my work here is done!
Stay tuned for more exciting news and a preview of my new website over the coming days…
21st September 2017
The other day my mum’s friend and her young daughter came to visit, and we all wound up in my room having a snoop around the decor. If you’ve ever seen how my room looks, you’ll know that I have a set of shelving which showcases a photo frame, a green phone and two clocks in sequence. The phone handset is actually connected to an old MP3 player which makes it ring loudly once every 15-20 minutes, and when you pick the phone up there’s quiet hold music playing 24/7.
This is relevant to this blog post on iconography, I promise…
Whilst all gathered in my room, the phone happened to ring, and my mum’s friend went to pick it up. She made a comment about the old-style phone, and then said something which got me thinking: that her daughter of 11 years probably wouldn’t know what the old-style phone actually was.
I’m dubious about how much truth is in the idea that an 11 year old wouldn’t know what an old phone receiver looked like, but it certainly took me back to the debate about the infamous floppy disk save icon. We’ve heard stories about younger people being presented with floppy disks and wondering why somebody had made a physical copy of the save icon, and I profess that when I see the icon I relate it in no way back to a floppy disk.
A famous case of a problematic icon continues to be the share icon, with Gizmodo (and many others) picking up on how nobody seems to be able to agree on what a share icon should look like. Even Microsoft felt obliged to make a change to theirs just this February after tests showed people were having problems pinpointing the meaning their previous icon. The problem with the share icon is that the act of sharing is very abstract – it has no universally accepted physical properties which can be simplified into an icon.
What I have noticed however, is that there seems to be a separate group of icons which may one day fall victim to quite a distinct problem. I’ll take some of icons on my iPhone as examples below: namely the phone, camera, and video icons. These are all perfectly understandable for all users at present; but consider something: all these icons rely on mental associations to real-world physical counterparts in order to make sense.
The camera icon relies on a user knowing the shape and form of an old-style phone receiver (like the one in my room), the camera icon relies on the user being familiar with the shape of a traditional camera, and the video app icon requires they know what a clapboard is. This is all well and good in a world in which the majority of us have had experience with these objects, but what about those being born into an increasingly digital world where exposure to these kinds of objects (especially defunct ones such as floppy disks and large old phone receivers) is increasingly limited?
Apple themselves seem to be aware of this paradigm, having changed their voice notes icon from a rendering of an old-style microphone to a more graphic sound wave. It could be said that this was just a move aligned with Apple’s big push to ditch skeuomorphism which occurred with the release of iOS7, but the skeuomorphic elements of the design were actually removed prior to iOS7’s release.
Skeuomorphism, for those unaware, refers to the act of “making stuff look as if it is made of something else” – see how the old Mac Calendar application used to resemble the leather cover of an actual diary. Yuck.
This rather seems then to be a move towards making an icon which is more easily understood in the 21st century, where large recording microphones are uncommon, today more a reserve of audio recording specialists. The sound wave would be recognisable to those living a near exclusively digital lifestyle, as the UI of the application clearly presents this graphical interpretation of sound when it is used – it has become more ubiquitous than an actual physical microphone for this purpose.
Of course I am not saying that a new generation will suddenly cease to understand the meaning of such icons, as the meanings will continue to be known through what Microsoft describe in their blog post as “ubiquitous meaning”, or something which is “universally accepted as a true representation regardless of its symbolic meaning”. As an example they present the octagonal red road sign which is accepted as representing “stop” even though as a symbol it is not (when you think about it) actually related to the physical act of stopping.
It could be argued that the save icon is a modern day example of an icon which has moved from being a physical representation of an act, i.e. saving a file to a floppy disk in days gone by, to one of these more ubiquitous meanings. Nowadays everybody simply uses the floppy disk icon to represent the act of saving, and so it has become universally accepted as the save symbol, with hardly anybody who sees the symbol actually considering the actual physical object it represents.
Will the same happen to the phone symbol, the movie symbol, and the camera symbol? Has it happened already? It would be interesting to carry out an experiment to see if users, particularly younger users, are able to explain just why they know, for example, that the music symbol represents music. Would it be because they recognise it as a musical note from a bar of sheet music?
It would be very interesting to peer into the icons used in the future and see how and if they adapt to a world in which the objects which they once literally represented in order to be understood have now become defunct. I predict that it will be especially poignant with the internet connecting more and more people of different cultures and languages. It does indeed seem that the same digitalization which necessitates pictorial communication is also beginning to change how the meaning is conveyed, moving from symbolic meanings towards more ubiquitous meanings.
With the digital challenge of having different users speaking different languages, it seems that designers will have to increasingly rely on universally understood icons to be understood rather than the perils of specifying a word for each language – it’s much easier to put an icon of a bin than try to translate the word “delete” into every language in the world. Emojis (which are basically a form of icon) are now often used between two people speaking between different languages, as it aids understanding where words fail.
It seems that icons are now having to graduate from being merely decorative accompanying elements into a vital part of communication, and it’ll be interesting to see how they change with the times.