7th March 2018
When you graduate and leave home, you think you can finally escape from your parents, especially when you’ve flown nearly 1000 miles south – but alas, they still mange to show their faces every now and then. All joking aside, last Thursday after work I grabbed a bag of crisps and hopped on the Metro to the airport to pick up my parents, who were landing after a day of wondering whether they’d even make it to the airport to leave England!
This was of course due to the weather brought by the double whammy of the “Beast from the East” and Storm Emma, which left our little English village of Worsthorne pretty much cut off from my hometown of Burnley. After braving some scary blizzards and huge snowdrifts, they eventually managed to get our little car all the way to Manchester and made their flight.
Cut to that evening and I was stood waiting at the terminal exit, with a “Briggs” sign in hand and a beer in my stomach: I had decided to arrive early and have a drink in arrivals after I was late to pick Amber up last year. Oops.
Pretty soon they appeared, we had our reunion hugs, and then we made a beeline for the Metro. We didn’t move fast enough however, as we had to wait a good while to get our tickets, but after two metro lines and a Cercanías train, we eventually rocked up at their hotel. As a traditional welcome to Spain, we went to a local bar and ordered some typical Madrid food, but I had to leave pretty soon thereafter as I was working the next day.
That Friday I was busy away at work and so they were left to sort themselves out in the morning, but just after 2pm I let them in the door to the office, and my mum finally got a chance to check out my workplace after she didn’t manage to visit when she visited in 2016. Once again we brought along an aperitivo, and the team gathered to chat, snack, and drink wine whilst discussing the proper use of alioli.
Once we’d finally left the office at 4pm, we headed down to the Príncipe Pío shopping centre for some montaditos (little sandwiches) and jars of tinto de verano (similar to sangría). I forgot to mention that it’d been raining pretty much non-stop since my parents arrived, and so when we saw a break in the weather outside, we scrambled up to the Temple of Debod to enjoy the views.
The palace from the temple
As you can see, dry though it may have been, the weather still wasn’t great and so we hopped back on the Metro and headed to the centre of the city for a spot of shopping. On the high street we decided to dip into the Museum of the City of Madrid (which I visited for the first time just over a week ago), but my mum soon looked pretty bored and so we carried on towards the Puerta del Sol in the centre.
The museum’s courtyard
We were getting pretty weary as the evening came around, so we made ourself comfy in the back corner of a coffee shop and chatted until we eventually surrendered to the call of our beds.
Saturday began equally as lazily, with them two sleeping in long enough to miss the breakfast at the hotel. We thus decided to meet up at one of my favourite spots to get brunch, and there we enjoyed a slap up breakfast – and I felt quite pleased to have found somewhere that my notoriously picky mum enjoyed!
Taking photos for the ‘Gram
From here, we headed down to the south of the city and to the Matadero, a place my dad had loved the last time he visited. We stopped for some pinchos, with my dad trying out crabmeat for the first time, before polishing off some more sangría and crossing over the river. There we visited a big shopping centre, mainly so that my mum could have a snoop around, and then headed back northwards for a full dinner at a Venezuelan restaurant my friend introduced me to last year.
After a delicious array of dishes there, we headed out to find a local bar for another round of drinks, but soon found ourselves back in bed – the three of us seem to be getting a bit easily tired in our old age.
Sunday started late once more, as we started off with some breakfast near Plaza de España at midday, before heading to check out a museum which I’ve been meaning to visit since the first time I visited Madrid. I had always assumed that due to the wealth of treasures it contained, that the Museo Cerralbo would charge a bomb for entry, but it turns out that if you head there on Sunday you can get in for free!
Heading to the Plaza de España
We rocked up and managed to head in after a short queue outside, leaving our bags in some lockers and beginning the tour around the house. All I’d seen of it previously was a few minutes of a documentary about European cities which I’d seen whilst in England, but I remember thinking that it looked pretty cool – but this didn’t prepare me for the insane opulence that lay in store.
The entrance hall
All the artefacts within belonged to one man, Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa, a nobleman who amassed the collection and eventually donated his house and all the objects within to be used as a public museum. I really can’t write anything which will do the place justice, so I’ll leave you with a few photos and this link to read a bit more about the place.
One of the rooms
A close-up of the chandelier
A grand hall
One of the most striking things (after the collection itself, obviously) was that you could actually walk through pretty much everything. Naturally you’re not allowed, but if you wanted to you were within touching distance of pretty much every object on display. It made a nice change from the glass walls and fenced exhibitions of most museums, and I implore that you check it out if you’re ever in Madrid – it seems to be overlooked by quite a lot of visitors to the city.
If that hasn’t convinced you, let’s just say that even my mum liked it!
After that adventure it was inadvertently time for another, after we unsuspectingly sat down for lunch in an innocent looking spot in Plaza Mayor. Our table was nearby a light stream of water which was running from some kind of overflow pipe above, but we didn’t think much about it until suddenly it began to dump water all over our table with the force of a thousand oceans.
Needless to say that we moved pretty quickly, eventually finding another table by the side and enjoying our sandwiches in peace – albeit whilst watching the irritated owner explain what was going on to two bemused police officers.
Architecture along the way
Having survived the Great Flood of Plaza Mayor of 2018, we wandered down through the district of Lavapiés to make a tea stop at my flat, in doing so allowing my parents to check out where I’m living. Once we’d kicked back there and my dad had taken a nap, we hopped back on the Metro to the city’s east, where we’d arranged to meet up with my friends for a big reunion meal.
We were reunited at a cosy little restaurant near my friend’s house, where my group of friends and my parents were also accompanied by Megan’s brother and his girlfriend who were visiting Spain from the U.S. We had a lovely relaxed meal together, and I had a great laugh with everyone there – nothing better than good food and good company!
The following Monday I had taken off work, but as we once again didn’t rush out of bed, we didn’t really have chance to do all that much. We didn’t mind though, as I was enjoying having a laid-back weekend and my parents fancied a relaxing holiday, so we headed out for coffee and lunch at Chueca.
My dad in Lavapiés
As the time of their train approached, we headed back to my apartment to pick up their luggage and we were soon down in Atcoha train station. I was waving them off down there rather than at the airport as they were headed down to Murcia (where I was just over a month ago) to spend the rest of the week with my auntie and uncle.
After a lot of worry concerning a broken departure board and an unannounced delay, I had soon managed to bundle them on to (what thankfully turned out to be) the correct train and off they went. As with last time my mum and dad visited on separate occasions, it was weird to be see them leave, as I had enjoyed a few days in which they were in Madrid and it was strange that they weren’t there anymore…
Anyway, things have quickly returned to normal as I’m halfway through a pretty hectic week at work, with exciting projects such as the new visual identity for Fama: a bailar being revealed just today! For a nice break to look forward to amongst all this craziness, I have just booked yet another journey up to Oviedo to see Kevin and the rest of the gang in April – this coming only a few weeks after my last visit last month!
No rest for the wicked, eh – except for right now, as I’m going to light some candles, stick some British TV on and curl up in my new double bed. Bliss…
23rd February 2018
Since returning to Madrid from Asturias (again) I have been busy at work (again) – I feel I don’t really need to go through all that with you, so lets move swiftly on to the more interesting stuff which I’ve been up to recently, including something I never thought I’d wind up attending… Let’s get stuck in!
First up I headed out to spend a day in the city with my friend Loredana, and we’d agreed to meet to watch a performance of the Catalan tradition of building castells, which are basically human towers to the top of which usually clambers a small child. Figuring it sounded safe and all I agreed to go along, but with me being the person I am I managed to sleep though my alarm and arrived at the plaza literally just as they finished disassembling their last creation.
A cool sign nearby: “A childhood without borders”
I wasn’t to be deflated however, and so in earnest we hopped on the Metro and embarked on a mini tour of some of our favourite spots in the city, including having pinchos at the Matadero and fooling around in the city centre.
Came across a cool sculpture in Plaza Mayor
Some delicious pastries
Also last week came one of my favourite days on the British calendar: pancake day. After the distressing realisation that it’s not something which is celebrated here in Spain, I marched myself down to my local supermarket, determined as hell that I would make my own pancakes by myself even if it killed me – the lack of electric whisk nearly did, mind you. Anyway, one dead arm, one pancake on the floor and one hot oil spilling incident later, I had made the first of my batch.
Not too shabby if I say so myself
Once the pancake flipping fun was all over it was time to clean up the oily mess which was the kitchen, as my ex-flatmate Giorgia was returning from Italy for the weekend to sit a couple of exams. Once those were done the two of us hit the town once more, heading out for another lovely evening of drinks and tapas and the world’s biggest plate of huevos rotos.
Heading out in my neighbourhood
That weekend I also made a trip across the city to check out one of the events which was going on as part of the Madrid Design Festival, an exhibition run by IKEA which intrigued me seeing as I seem to spend half of my waking life there. I headed to La Neomudejár and spent a good while poking around the cool exhibits, including up-and-coming IKEA products which have yet to be released – I felt like I had been accepted into some secret IKEA society. I was buzzing.
Heading into the exhibition
It turns out that La Neomudejár is a cool abandoned warehouse space, and a location which contrasted perfectly with IKEA’s modern aesthetic and the colour scheme of white and vibrant yellow which they’d opted to plaster the place with.
Looking over Atocha
Although I didn’t really understand what some of the installations were trying to convey, it was nice to explore the space and tinker with the products, and I found a room full of neon lights so I was happier than a pig in…
Anyway, moving on, and to something I never thought I’d find myself doing again: I went to watch a football match! Not a huge fan of football, I’ve only even been to one game, but my friends found some cheap tickets and so I agreed to tag along and see what all the fuss is about.
This time however it wasn’t just a friendly game in Burnley, it was Atlético de Madrid! Once I’d discovered that they’d moved out of the infamous Vicente Calderón stadium at the end of last season, I hopped on the packed Metro and zoomed across to their new Wanda Metropolitano stadium in the far west of Madrid.
Arriving at the stadium
Some pretty wicked architecture
Of course being more designer than I am football fan, I spent so much time gawking at the architecture that I forgot I should probably hurry up and find my friends so we could get seated, but we eventually made it inside. I headed straight to the bar for a hotdog and a beer, so you can imagine how frustrated I was once I was told that they only sold non alcoholic beer. I opted instead for a bottle of water because at least that could be reused later, but then they took the lid from that too for safety reasons – needless to say at this point I was super vexed.
Eating some of my hotdog calmed me down, and so we then had a gawk out from the top of the stadium before taking a group selfie (which I look horrible in so I shan’t be sharing). Once we found our seats I started asking questions about the basic rules of football, which probably annoyed everyone, especially as we didn’t realise the match had started because we were so deeply into the Q&A session which had ensued.
Up in the heights of the stadium
Looking back out to the centre
The Atlético de Madrid vs. Copenhagen game had begun, and just six minutes in Atlético managed to land a pretty decent goal, prompting the stadium to erupt with this rather catchy Atléti, Atléti, Atlético de Madrid chant. The rest of the game was just some people in neon shoes kicking a ball around some grass as far as I was concerned, and it was explained to me that as the outcome of the game didn’t really matter and so it seemed as though Atlético were just killing time.
Just before it all kicked off
Despite this it did serve me well, as I learned some of the rules of play: for example I now know that “off side” doesn’t just mean someone kicked the ball into the crowd. My favourite moment of the match was when the ball rolled into a microphone on the side of the pitch and it fell over, but that will probably upset any football fans amongst you so we’ll move swiftly on.
Just this evening I left work a little later after a meeting with a client, and instead of heading home to do my washing like I should have done as a responsible adult, I headed off to have coffee with my friend Napo. After a catch up we spontaneously decided to have a wander through the north of the city, visiting two museums which I’ve been meaning to visit since I first landed in Madrid over two years ago.
The first was the abandoned Metro station of Chamberí, which opened in 1919 and closed in 1966 when the length of the stations of Line 1 (the oldest) were being extended. Technical restrictions and its proximity to neighbouring stations meant that it was easier to just close the station, and so it laid disused until 2008 when the city council made it safe to visit and opened the Andén Cero (Platform Zero) museum.
Walking into a time machine
Walking down was quite the experience, as the tunnels and platforms have been perfectly preserved as if frozen in time. I was particularly enamoured with the hand-drawn lettering on the old signage, which harks back to the typography blog I wrote a few weeks ago, as well as the tile designs in the tunnels and on the platform.
Some gorgeous typography
A platform frozen in time
The trains still run along the platform as it remains to this day an active section of the line, and so we watched a few zoom past just inches behind the glass screens which separated us from the track. I’d like to visit this place again really soon and take some better photos, but as it was closing at 7pm we had to head out before we’d done all the poking around we wanted to. If you’re in Madrid it’s free to go and well worth the short walk from any of the stations nearby!
Heading out of Chamberí
After this we headed back towards the centre and to the Madrid History Museum, and spent almost an hour meandering through its zany array of exhibits. From ancient maps and artefacts to lavish baroque pottery and paintings, it proved to be really well thought out experience detailing Madrid’s past, and definitely worthy of a second visit – which will be necessary as we were kicked out of here also as closing time approached! The two of us aren’t to great at timing it would seem.
This brings me to the here and now, as I’m back in my room preparing to start moving my things over to my new flat this weekend. I’ll have to wrap it up there though I’m afraid, as I ordered a burger and it’s just arriving. Hey, leave me be – it’s my last night so I have no food in.
Or maybe I do have some food in the fridge but it’s healthy and unappetising. Either way, none of your business. I’ll be back soon with more ramblings!
14th February 2018
For this my latest post I’m going to have to send you elsewhere, as recently I was enlisted to write an entry for our company’s blog on Medium. As someone quite new to this whole world of professional design and such, I figured the most useful topic which I’m relatively knowledgeable in would be the transition from student to working life!
Today we’ve just got round to posting the post on the Erretres Medium profile, so please feel free to head on over and give it a read by clicking right here. It’s mainly directed at design students trying to find an internship or graduating and looking for a job, so if that’s you and you have any questions then please be sure to drop me an email – I’m always happy to chat!
Also if you have a Medium account and enjoyed what I had to say, feel free to give me a little bit of applause. I’ll be back again very soon with the usual programme of nonsense on my blog here, but until then I’m heading out for the evening for Valentines Day burgers with all my single friends. Here’s to another year with my by myself!
10th February 2018
So my last post may have been a little heavy for some of you all, and thus here I return to the usual programme of day-to-day wittering, starting with the really boring news that my new pair of shoes finally came. Okay, I shall try to make the rest of this post somewhat more interesting…
Things really took off as I quite literally took off on the train from the northern station of Chamartín, heading further north once again to visit my second Spanish home of Oviedo. Kevin was once again so gracious as to host me for a few days, but with the weather promising to be pretty shocking and me being tired from a few busy weeks, we decided to take it easy for the weekend and spent most of our time lazying around, eating and chatting into the early hours.
Wandering to the train station
Leaving the city
Once I arrived we set off to have dinner at our friend’s house, where we were treated to a dish she called Mexican lasagne, which turned out to be a delicious cheesy concotion. Once we’d had our fill and had chatted away into the night, we headed back and were up bright and early the next day to get some breakfast in the city!
Okay that’s a total lie, we slept in until the early afternoon and then had to grab pasties on our way to the second bus after missing the first, winding up in the city in time for Spanish lunchtime (around 2:30pm, they’re crazy). We booked a table at an amazing spot and we were soon gorging ourselves on an array of delicious Asturias dishes, including a plateful of pork and more delicious chorizo cooked in cider like the one I had up in the Basque Country.
Once we were bursting and fit to pop we headed back towards the city centre, making a surprise stop along the way when Kevin noticed that the nunnery had opened its doors and was selling some of the infamous biscuits.
Walking through a cold Oviedo
If you haven’t before heard the tale of the nuns’ biscuits, I shall explain based on what I was told when I discovered the legend during my first ever trip to Madrid. Basically a lot of the nunneries in Spain produce their own selection of delicious sweet biscuits, especially seeing as some nuns take a vow of silence and so dedicate any spare time to carefully perfecting their baking craft. They are renowned for being crumbly and delicious, and also extremely hard to get your hands on, as they’re made in small batches and you have to persevere in order to arrive at a time when a nunnery is open for business.
Anyway, Kevin was super sweet and bought me them as a gift to take back to Madrid (I have since managed to eat them all, oops) and we headed home for the evening. Once there we were joined by Sara and Rocío, and began having drinks and chatting away into the night, putting the world to rights and reminiscing about all the fun we had whilst in Leeds together. It was a lovely evening, and we managed to remember to snap a selfie to remind us of the occasion…
The four of us
The next day we stayed true to form and didn’t rouse from our beds until at least midday, whereupon we chatted and ate leftover pizza until it was sadly time for me to head to the station and grab my train back down to Madrid. Once I’d passed through the mountain range separating Asturias from the rest of Spain, I was in for a shock – Spain had turned white.
A snowy vision of the countryside
I was particularly taken aback as I’d never seen snow here, and I didn’t even manage to take a half decent photo in the area where the snow was thickest and most complete – I was obviously too busy straining my neck and admiring the frosty downpour to take a photo. I’d seen on everybody’s (literally everybody’s) Instagram stories that it had been snowing somewhat in Madrid, but it didn’t look nearly as dense as the coverage which we were passing through on the train.
Sure enough then I wasn’t too shocked when the snow began to disappear as Madrid drew closer, and I didn’t see a single snowflake as I trudged back to my flat late on Sunday evening – but Monday morning was a different matter.
Mercilessly the snow didn’t start until I was comfortably inside the heated paradise of the office, but when it did come, it came down at a surprisingly rapid speed. Soon the skylight windows of the office were completely covered, and heading out for lunch with Dani became a perilous journey as we waded through some pretty slippy slush on the way down to the food court in the train station.
The train station is topped with snow
By the following day however all the snow had been cleared away by the reliable Madrid sun, but another surprise lay in store for us all as Dani arrived at the office with a box full of churros and porras (like a thicker version of a churro) as it was his birthday! Having devoured most of them for breakfast, it was back to the grind with lots of new projects coming in and plenty of interesting work to get stuck into.
The sun returns the day after
Although last weekend was a lovely chance to relax with fabulous company, this weekend I have decided to have a little me time, opting to have a glass of Baileys and embark on a Pirates of the Caribbean marathon instead of heading into the city. I’ve been admiring the view from here too, as in just two weeks I’m excited to be moving flats – but more on that when the time comes!
The city from my flat
For now it’s currently 10:30pm, I’m two Pirates of the Caribbean films in, and I reckon I can squeeze another one in before I turn in for the night. Time to light my vanilla IKEA candles, pour a glass of coke and tuck myself in for some swashbuckling entertainment – drink up me hearties yo ho!
8th February 2018
It’s been a good few years since I unwittingly began my tumble into the world of typeface design, as way back in 2012 I began to wonder why even the most geometric of fonts I could think of (at that time Avant Garde) wasn’t actually geometrically perfect.
Geometry overlaid on Avant Garde
After a frantic web search for any fonts which fit the style I had in mind – perfect circles and zero contrast (meaning all lines would be the same width) – I gave up and decided to make my own.
The resultant typeface was pretty basic, with only capital letters, numbers and some basic punctuation included, but it did come in two weights – light and chunky. I only ever had the patience to male the bold variant into a font file, as my mastery of the software was at that time somewhat nonexistent. I named the resultant typeface “Fries”, and you can check out a sample of it in all its glory below.
Fries Chunky and Light
At the time I was quite pleased with it, as it adhered to my then purist principles of perfect shapes and minimal styling – and I even used it on a website prototype I was building. Looking back at it now though, I see that it’s only real use is as an example of why nobody makes fonts which are geometrically perfect – they look awful.
I shan’t go wittering on in great detail about the intricacies of typeface design, as there’s already plenty of brilliant articles and books which have all that covered, buy what I shall go over however is how the two features I insisted on including – perfectly geometric shapes and a uniform line width – are actually the ultimate downfall of the typeface.
Firstly there’s the use of perfectly geometric shapes, most notably how I used perfectly round circles for letters like O and C, something which is very rarely done by type designers – and for a good reason. Perfect circles in text look like they’re wider than they are tall, and so the majority of typefaces use slightly oblong shapes to counter this optical illusion. You can see the slight offset when I compare Fries to Avant Garde below:
Fries in blue, Avant Garde in pink
Secondly there’s the use of the consistent stroke width, which is also avoided by designers as another optical trick causes certain lines to look thicker and others to look thinner even though they are all actually equal. Take a V for example, where the lines become thinner where they join in order to avoid the point of intersection looking too heavy. Then there’s also the effect of horizontal lines seeming thicker than vertical ones (some people think this is because of the shape of the human eyeball), and so the horizontal lines of letters such as E have to be slightly narrower than any vertical ones.
Fries in blue, Avant Garde in pink
Needless to say that after this, and with college and university to be completed, I didn’t exactly rush into trying to make another font.
An interest in typography still hung around at the back of my mind though, and so whilst completing an optional university module on typographic theory in 2015, one evening I had the idea to just sit and draw the entire alphabet, numbers and some essential punctuation entirely from memory. This was scanned and converted into the free experimental typeface which I eventually released as Memory, which is still available to download today.
The original master sketch of Memory
Soon I was whisked away to Spain for my year in industry, soon I was back for my final year of university and I had realised that I could be more playful with design, and thus decided to incorporate experimental typography into my final year projects.
My third attempt at a typeface came as part of my Pearson project, where quite late on I decided to develop a quick geometric typeface which I could use for the project. I called it Celebration to fit the project’s concept, and although it was built on a geometric grid a bit like Fries was, it was much more carefully considered. Circular elements are slightly taller to account for visual trickery, there’s no entirely round circles, and the equal line width is justified by an “inline” style which can be layered on top.
Some letters from Celebration
Once the project was over and submitted I began to tinker with Celebration once again, seeing the opportunity for another experimental typeface release. I changed the style of a couple of the letters from the original, added a fill and shadow variant, and then wrangled with my font software to align everything and release it as a separate project on my website. It’s now available for free for personal use, and if you fancy using it for something else then feel free to get in touch.
With this project wrapped up I found myself in the early stages of preparing my new portfolio for graduate job applications, and I decided that I’d use the opportunity to develop my own font for my personal brand. Inspired by the sketches of the famous (sometimes for the wrong reasons) type designer Eric Gill, I set about sketching a typeface called Goddess in earnest – I was so confident that I’d get it done that I even wrote a blog post on it.
The long and short of that story is that I digitised it, it looked a lot worse on screen than it did on paper, I got mad, I had a sulk about it, and then I shelved it indefinitely.
I was busy back then and I am only human so I can forgive myself for giving up so easily, but at the end of the day I still needed a typeface to use for my personal branding. I’d fallen quite in love with Maison Neue around that time, and so a quick fix solution was to simply add the sharpened angles of the ascenders and descenders (the key feature of Goddess) to Maison Neue.
A few hours of tinkering in my font software later and I had my custom copy of it ready, which I named Liv, a name which my friends and family often call me by. You can see how I made some adjustments to the original font in the letters below.
Maison Neue versus Liv
Things really started to pick up once I had finished all my university work but was still living in Leeds, and so had the time and space to do some design for pleasure. I had been wanting to try something with cut sponges for a while, and once I’d had the idea to experiment with the typographic “weights” (usually referring to how bold the font is) to mean the amount of ink used, I began stamping in earnest.
Creating the sponge font
With a fully fledged character set and two variations of each letter for each of the three weights, this typeface was eventually released as Kitchen Sink. It’s original name was much more fun – Spongefont Sanspants – but I didn’t want to be landed with a lawsuit from Nickelodeon…
A sample of Kitchen Sink in action
It’s proven to be the most popular experimental font I’ve done thus far, having been featured on various design blogs, acquired plenty of attention on Behance, and even been licensed multiple times for commercial use – not bad for an afternoon of painting with sponges like a three year old! It’s also available free for personal use, and if you want to license it for commercial use feel free to get in touch.
After university I had all the stress of job hunting to get through, and eventfully the task of moving my life over to Madrid and settling into a new job. After returning from a Christmas spent at home and now pretty settled into my routine, in my spare time I have recently fallen further down the typographic rabbit hole.
As someone interested in visual communication, I’ve always been intrigued by other writing systems and codes, and so one day for an experiment I turned east and studied the letters of the Cyrillic alphabet. This alphabet is most well known for being used as for the Russian language, and although there are similarities to the Latin alphabet (i.e. the one used for English), most of its letters don’t mean anything to an English speaker.
I combined this study of Cyrillic with a love for ultra-condensed typefaces, and created a silly experimental typeface which I called Responsive Cyrillic. In separating each letter into three sections, I was able to expand or contract the midsection of each at will, changing the height of each letter without distorting any curves or lines.
A sample of Responsive Cyrillic
Although for my next stop along my journey I’ll be sticking with the theme of alternative alphabets, I have to preface this next one with a bit of a backstory…
A few years ago I was writing down some thoughts in my notebook whilst on a train, but I could feel the guy sat next to me was cheekily reading every word I wrote over my shoulder. At that very moment I decided to create my own code, a very simple letter-for-letter substitution, which was easy to remember as it was based on the absolute simplification of the shapes of each letter of the Latin alphabet. I invented it as I wrote, and since then I’ve been gradually adjusting it. As such I am now able to write it pretty quickly, although reading it with any speed is still quite a challenge.
An example of written Simplified Latin
In order to get myself quicker at reading the system, I decided to create a typeface so that I can quickly “translate” typed text into the coded system. Adding small serifs to the otherwise simple straight-line symbols aims to help me distinguish between similar shapes as I begin to read faster.
Simplified Latin font
As I’m keeping the coded system just for my own personal use for now, the text above is just jibberish, a random jumble of symbols. I say this so that you don’t waste any time trying to read what it says – not that anyone would bother…
This all leads me to where I am currently tumbling deeper into a typographic obsession, and that’s my attempt to create my first viable ‘standard’ typeface, with ‘standard’ here meaning not experimental or overly decorative like all the previous.
Once again it’s an attempt to create a font which somehow captures an essence of my identity, much like I attempted with Goddess, and so for now its working title is the rather unimaginative “Goddess Version 2.” Please try to not pass judgement on the messiness or terrible curves just yet, it is very much an early work in process!
Early design sketches of Goddess V2
With this font I am attempting to create a nicely legible typeface inspired by my rather illegible handwriting. Often mocked for its pointless extravagance, my handwriting can be distinguished by lengthy curls on the end of most letters. As I work over my initial sketches, I’m trying to incorporate these fancy flicks in a more subtle manner, adding a slight curved ear to the letters which feature such a curl in my handwriting.
It’s still very much a work in progress as I struggle to find the ideal shapes for certain letters, a good balance of minimalism and decorativeness, and the visual balance of the letters and the spacing between them, but I’m hoping to get a first version done over the coming months. I am well aware that it won’t be anywhere near the standard of work done by the many amazing type foundries out there, but typography is something I’d like to get more involved in – and I know that there’s plenty more of that metaphorical rabbit hole to fall down after this…
31st January 2018
Happy 2018! Yes, okay, fine – the timing of this post might be a little off (especially seeing as there’s a blog post which fits right in the middle, you’ll see) but I plan to fill you all in on some general nonsense since I got back from England anyway. When titling the post I had a think for a while to try and figure out what bound everything together, and as usual the only common theme I could find was that of food. Here we go…
As I mentioned briefly just after I’d got back from my festive holiday, I started my time back in Madrid by meeting up with my friend Megan and a couple of her friends who were visiting her from New York and Barcelona. We went exploring the city as usual, and as it was Sunday we found ourselves amongst the hoards of people swarming around the El Rastro Sunday market – a Madrid staple. Once we’d had our fill of the atmosphere, we dived into a nearby Mexican restaurant and tucked into some delicious tacos.
Street art near El Rastro
A delicious platter of goodness
After waving them goodbye it was soon the evening of New Year’s Eve, and I headed to meet another friend and see in 2018 with his family and a friend who was visiting from France. We had a lovely night and got along really well, such that a couple of days later we met up and had even more tacos and a (slightly more sober) chat. I shall spare you more pictures of tacos – some of you might be feeling peckish and I don’t want to ruin anybody’s New-Year-New-Me diet.
Around the same time I started back at work, where a mystery late Christmas gift to the studio arrived when a big fancy coat showed up from seemingly out of nowhere. Having found it on the coat rack, we asked around (even putting up flyers on our street) but nobody came along to claim it, so we made the most of the opportunity to don the oversized leopard-print monstrosity. Here’s my attempt at looking regal with a cardboard crown we also happened to have lying around…
God save our gracious Ollie
The winter climate has also been treating me as I wander back home from work, as the sunsets here seem to always manifest in rather spectacularly colourful compositions. To make the most, one night I went for a wander up at the African temple next to my office, where I could look out over the west of the city and unwind in the breeze.
Looking up whilst leaving work
Looking down the road
A fountain, the temple and the city
The sun sets on the Temple of Debod
My culinary adventures aren’t just restrained to life outside of the Erretres office however, as a colleague recently insisted I try a local dish which is basically fresh cheese topped with honey. I remarked that it didn’t sound too good, but I had to take it back the next day when I was presented with a bowl of said dessert and I actually rather enjoyed it.
Having been introduced to a typical local dessert, I felt like I should introduce the guys at the office to a bit of British sweet culture. Seeing as I was to make a lemon sponge for my mum’s birthday down in Murcia, I made another and brought it along for everyone to try at the office…
The cake is cut
The cake went down a real treat in the office, and I have been told I have to follow it up with some traditional Spanish torrijas pretty soon as Easter draws closer and closer. No pressure then – I should never have made them for everyone two years ago when I first interned in Spain!
Anyway, here’s where this post gets a bit weird, for here lies the gap when I went down to Murcia to see my family, which I have already covered in a post you can jump to by clicking here. Check it out or pretend you have read it already, and we’ll now move on to what I’ve been up to since I arrived back in Madrid. Here we go…
The first day back in the office after my mini holiday ended in heading into the city to meet up with Thuy once more (now we’ve seen each other in Leeds, London and Madrid!), as she was on a fleeting visit to the capital. We had a lovely catch up over arepas and then chocolate a la taza, a local type of hot chocolate which is so thick you can stand a spoon up in it. I tried an orange infused one and it was just divine.
Looking up in the big city
Orange chocolatey goodness
This weekend just gone I headed out to do a few bits and bobs and see the sights of the city with some friends, including a trip down to IKEA for meatballs and hot dogs, a disappointing visit to a lake which has been drained and is no longer there (oops) and a visit to Retiro park to check out a cool exhibition currently being shown in the Palacio de Cristal. A series of names was written on the floor with letters made of water, and they slowly filled and ebbed away as we wandered amongst them. It was pretty cool and must have needed some insanely intricate plumbing!
Wet words appear from nowhere
The exhibition space
On Sunday evening we finished up by checking out a concert in an alternative art space in the south of the city, but soon retreated to a local café to catch up over coffee, and planned our very important Tuesday evening meeting.
Quirky interior design
A sunset as seen from the south
The meeting, which took place yesterday, is part of our tradition of meeting up to share cakes and all manner of sweet desserts, and so once again I was charged with creating my third lemon sponge cake in a month. It went down well once more, but after cake and a burger from one of my favourite local spots, I headed (or should I say rolled) home and after another day of work I have finally managed to sit down in my flat and get this post sorted.
I update you with urgency for good reason however, as come next Monday I’ll have more photos and stories to share once I’ve returned from Asturias. Once again I’ll be hopping on a train on Friday evening and heading northwards to spend the weekend with Kevin and plenty of other friends, and there’ll surely be plenty of cider and the local cachopo dish to be had. Here’s looking forward to that!
23rd January 2018
Sometimes in life things just seem to slot together perfectly, and that’s just what happened last week when cheap train tickets, a couple of spare holiday days at work and a well timed trip by my parents all aligned just right. I grabbed the Thursday and Friday off work in earnest just before Christmas, and then the plan was set: my parents were to fly into Murcia and stay with my auntie and uncle who live there, and I was to meet them all on Wednesday night to spend a few days basking in the warm air of the south of Spain. It’s been at least a few years since I was last there, so the plan worked out just perfect!
A view from my auntie and uncle’s place
The journey started with a quick transfer to Madrid’s main train station, Atocha, straight from work. Once there I grabbed a slice of pizza and made my way on to the platform, where I realised that I was in possession of a fancy ticket for the preferente cabin – I guess it’s the Spanish take on first class. I definitely didn’t opt for that through choice, so I assume they must have been the only tickets left when I bought one…
Anyway, and after four and a half hours of enjoying the extra legroom and personal space of the three-to-a-row seating of the fancy cabin, I rocked up at the train station nearest to my auntie’s place. There I was greeted by my mum, dad and auntie, and then we hopped in the car with my uncle and headed back to their apartment. Arriving after midnight, we quickly all resolved to put ourselves straight to bed, and I enjoyed a good night’s sleep thanks to a lack of nighttime chill.
The next day it was time to present my mum with a couple of slightly belated presents I’d brought down for her birthday, namely a bottle of fancy gin and slices of homemade lemon sponge cake. We had to get creative with the use of the candles provided by my auntie, as in order to fit the cake in my bag I had had to cut it into slices in Madrid before setting off. It did the job just fine, and after a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday, the well-travelled cake went down pretty well!
Ready for presentation
Mum and her cake
After some lunch we decided to head out and do a little exploration, and we opted to visit the coast as I’d said that it’d be nice to see the sea – I was feeling slightly cheated to have been living in Spain for four months and only managed to spend some time on the coast once in that time whilst up in Oviedo with Kevin.
We hit the empty beach
Looking out to sea
Before leaving my mum and auntie had badgered me saying that it’d be a good idea to don a pair of shorts as the sun was quite hot, no matter how much I contested, and so I eventually borrowed a pair of my dads against my better judgment. My hypothesis was proved right as soon as we stepped out of the car, as the sea breeze kept up a steady battery of my poor exposed legs. Not to worry though, as I kept myself warm by keeping on the move, pacing down the empty beach and snapping photos of anything and everything that caught my eye.
A funky lifeguard station
An even funkier zig-zag pier
Once we’d had our fill of the first beach, we hopped back in the car and headed a little further down the Mar Menor for another spot of strolling, and to stop at a picturesque little coastal bar for a cheeky cocktail.
A pretty little church
A desserted beach
Drinks in a courtyard
Looking through the plaza
It was soon time to head back to my auntie’s place, where we freshened ourselves up before being picked up by the local town’s curry house who run a free taxi service. There we enjoyed a lovely meal, and rocked up at home later on full of chicken curry and wine.
The next day we’d decided to head up to a restaurant run by who my auntie likes to call the lady in the mountains. In reality it’s a pretty traditional café/restaurant run by a lovely señora which serves an array of typical homemade local dishes, and we all tucked in to a lovely selection from the menú del día. Me and my dad tucked into a lentil-based dish before enjoying a salmon steak, all followed by a round of coffees and various desserts.
The road to the restaurant
After an evening meal at home, my mum and dad set about packing up for the following day, as before we knew where we were Saturday had come around and it was time to wave my parents off at Murcia airport as they headed back to the sleety streets of England. Once I’d ushered them into departures with a round of “see you in six weeks!” (they’ll be up here visiting Madrid before I know it), me and my auntie headed out on an adventure together alone, as my uncle wasn’t feeling too well and had to decided to get rested back at home.
A view from the car park
As you can see from the photo above which was taken just next to where we parked the car, we were back on the seafront visiting a place called Cabo de Palos. The pretty little peninsula jutting out just below the Mar Menor was actually recommended to me by my boss Pablo, who knows the region quite well from many visits in previous years.
Another view from the car park
Once I’d done messing around on a rocky outcrop taking the previous two photos, me and my auntie took a stroll along a little promenade which terminated in a picturesque little harbour, opting not to eat at the pricey spots offering 38€ fixed menus, but rather to get ourselves lost down the backstreets. There we found cañas (small beers) and tapas for a couple of euros – now that’s more our kind of price!
Brightly coloured palms
The pretty mess of the harbour
Drinks and nibbles by the roadside
After our little refreshment stop we were back on our feet and making progress along the seafront, heading slowly but surely to the tip of the peninsula, guided by and headed towards the cape’s iconic lighthouse. Once we arrived nearby we thought about giving the rest of the trek a miss, but a curiosity to see what kind of views it would provide led us marching up the spiralling road to the base of the imposing brick structure.
The sea and the lighthouse
More striking shapes
The views over the sea were quite impressive, but as you can see from the photos above I found myself rather mesmerised by the unexpected jumble of angular shapes provided by some rather wacky architecture hidden at the base of the lighthouse. Upon peering into the blue tinted glass of the structure above I also found myself before another rather lovely view – my own reflection! All joking aside, it did actually create quite a cool effect, so I will be so vain as to share the selfie I snapped…
Chilling at the lighthouse
Here I should mention that you won’t be finding any more photos of me herein, as I managed to forget to bring my sunglasses down with me from Madrid, and so was forced to rock a spare pair of my mum’s diamante encrusted frames. Regardless, the sea breeze eventually had us descending back further towards sea level, but not before one last shot from our vantage point across La Mancha and the Mar Menor beyond.
La Mancha and Mar Menor
When we’d descended from the little hill we began our slow return back to the car, but with the coast pretty much to ourselves, I was sure to make plenty of stops to explore deserted coves and abandoned buildings. I even roped my auntie into taking a photo of me as I risked life and limb in venturing out onto a little rock jetty in the perilous wind…
A look back at the lighthouse
An abandoned house
A view from a deserted mini beach
Who is that idiot over there?
Once we’d found our way back to the car we were momentarily led astray by my evil Google Maps. I have named the malicious woman who narrates the directions Marisol, as she is a Spanish lady who sounds like she’s rather bitter about something and has decided to take it out on me by sending my on pointless looping detours.
Despite Marisol’s attempts to sabotage our journey, we found our way back to my auntie’s place and had some food with my uncle who was thankfully feeling better. After eating we all made our way up to one of the lakes of the resort on which they live, as my uncle wanted to grab a shot of the sun setting over the water, and my auntie wanted to feed a bunch of stray cats which she has unwittingly adopted.
The sun begins to set
The sunset over the lake
The rolling landscapes
Not being the world’s biggest fan of cats, and spotting the opportunity for a cool panorama, I abandoned my auntie as she fed the cats in the maintenance area of the resort. I went for a brief jog up a manmade hill, from where I managed to snap the following shot of the technicolour sky over Murica. If you’re on your computer be sure to click on the photo to expand it and check out all the details!
The sun sets on Murcia
The day after was Sunday and so my last day in Murcia too, and as I was catching the coach back to Madrid from the city of Murcia, it seemed only logical to go and check out the city before heading back. I had visited once before with my parents and sister many years back, but we’d not really had a great time of it – it was a Sunday in the height of summer so nothing was open and it was way too hot to just meander the streets.
This time I was driven there by my auntie and uncle, and the cooler weather and pleasant sun made for a much more enjoyable experience. They also took me to some lovely corners of the city which we’d missed last time, and so once again I was back to my usual running around to find places to take a few decent photos.
The river and the cathedral
The facade of a lovely building
Fountains and flowers for days
It turns out that although Murcia may not be Spain’s biggest or most eventful city, it certainly is beautiful. After a couple of hours of admiring the architecture and the carefully manicured flora, we stopped for a quick meal in one of the many plazas, and soon thereafter we were once again headed back for the car.
Oranges by the cathedral
More gorgeous facades
A blue sky covers the plaza
I love the layers of this shot
Being back at the car was a pretty brief affair, as I had just to pack a few last things into my backpack and pick up the hug multipack of monster munch I had bought for work. Once I’d found my coach at the bus station, I hugged goodbye to my auntie and uncle, thanked them for having me down at theirs for the long weekend, and began the five hour journey back to the centre of Spain.
Murcia at street level
I’m now back in the throes of reality and working life, but with an exciting new project to get my teeth into at work and plenty of people to see and things to do, I’ll be sure to be back pretty soon with more updates and photos. I also plan on bringing you all a few more design-related blog posts as I begin to pick up some personal projects I’ve been meaning to do for a while, details of which will be with you pretty soon…
As we say here – ¡vamos a por ello!
2nd January 2018
To kick off 2018 I have to wish everyone a happy New Year, but I also have to bring this blog up to speed with the events since I returned from the Basque Country way back (well it feels like it) in early December!
Traversing the city
Of course the last few weeks of 2017 were pretty busy at work, with plenty of projects to switch between, and even a surprise package landing on my desk from England! My mum sent over a wonderfully christmassy shirt, twenty euros and an extra special surprise of some shiny festive underwear – with a good few giggles ensuing in the office…
Early Christmas gifts
The building near work comes down
Outside of work life, the city has been getting pretty festive and we’ve been doing our best to bask in the ambience. This has involved both strolling around the freezing cold of Madrid’s streets, and convening when possible for impromptu dinners across the city.
Someone took to decorating the street
Festivity in the city centre
One weekend my friend’s friends came to visit from Austria, and so we all headed out into the city to explore, eat good food and soak up the Christmas ambience. That particular evening the light was quite nice, and whilst heading down to the station to catch my train home, I took a few pictures along the way…
Looking down into the south
Tapas for days
The train station
The sun sets
As the last week of work neared, it was soon time for my first Erretres staff Christmas meal, which involved us all hopping on a bus to a Cuban restaurant in the city centre. Once there we were treated to a fabulous array of dishes, and with mojitos on tap I suddenly felt I had total command of the language, and we all stayed out chatting until the early hours.
Wintery road to work
Before I even knew what was going on it was my final day at work, and to celebrate the occasion I made sure to fashion myself a fabulous outfit from some tinsel that I found at PoundLand…
My tinsel monstrosity
After leaving work on my last day I headed over to my friends for a catchup, and wound up being fed and watered before having to dash off to the airport to grab a flight to Manchester. Once I landed I didn’t really have time to do much, opting rather to head for bed and wake up bright and fresh on the Saturday.
That first day I relaxed and had coffee and a good old catch up with Bam, who I haven’t seen since she rocked up to visit me in Madrid back in November. Once my entire family had gotten home we were reunited over some drinks and played plenty of Scrabble and watched plenty of TV, and pretty soon it was Christmas Eve and I went off to visit my Grandma.
Christmas day kicked off with presents and merriment, but then my mum had to head off to work so me, my dad and sister hopped in the car and headed over to Bradford to pay a surprise visit to my Grandma and Grandad. We had a lovely few hours there, and then headed back home to pick my mum up from work and have our customary Christmas curry.
The Briggs family
In case you were confused, we have curry every year on Christmas day because my mum usually has to work, and so once she’s home to make life easier we just order from our favourite curry place – one of the few places actually open on Christmas day. Naturally we never miss out on the traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, as we’re always sure to do this on Boxing Day – as evidenced below…
Mum and Dad have a drink
The family gathering
Well, truth be told I actually forgot to take a decent photo of the main course, and so what you see above is actually the world’s most gorgeous cauliflower soup, and another tradition which we have every year courtesy of a family friend who makes it herself. The one meal I did manage to snap a photo of was the leftovers meal the day after, the day before I headed over to Leeds to visit Izzy and have a catch up in my old university city.
The few hours I got to spend in Leeds were a blast, with me and Iz heading to get coffee and brunch at our favourite haunt, Laynes. After this we headed up to Belgrave where we had our goodbye drinks earlier
this last year (this will be happening for a while), and I had a bit of English cider after the strong stuff up in Asturias.
Delicious rarebit and good coffee
A cold Burnley
The next day I was in the hairdressers pretty early, before grabbing a McDonalds breakfast at 10:29 (a world record, surely) and hopping on a bus to Manchester. I had a lovely day in store, visiting friends and then meeting up with my dad to enjoy his Christmas present – a meal in the city and then a musical at the Royal Exchange Theatre!
Me and my dad at the Royal Exchange
After a delicious slap-up tapas meal at Lunya, we headed into the theatre to begin watching their production of Guys & Dolls. By the inteval we had both already agreed that it was a pretty amazing production, and by the end we had laughed so much that my throat was hurting! It did go on for a good while, so it wasn’t until the early hours of Friday morning when I got into bed.
That said, Friday morning was pretty damn hectic as I managed to oversleep as my friend came to visit, and then had to scramble to pack as quickly as possible before saying my goodbyes and being whisked off to Manchester Airport to get my plane back. Once there I made good and proper use of the new KFC in Terminal 3, before a pretty uneventful flight and Metro journey back home to my flat.
So there it all is, albeit slightly rushed this time – I have to ensure that I get this posted as fast as possible before things start to back up! For the moment I have just seen in the New Year with friends and finished my first day back in the office, so it’s back to my daily routine and so a relatively early night for me – but maybe just one more episode of Jane The Virgin…
10th December 2017
This week here in Spain we enjoyed a type of public holiday called puente, which is like a bank holiday but it consists of two holiday days with a working day sandwiched in the middle – hence its name, which literally means ‘bridge’. Most people do what I did though, and use up a day of their annual holiday leave to turn the puente into a five day weekend. A few of my friends also did the same, and so it was time for another adventure – a road trip to explore the Basque Country in the north!
We begun pretty early on Wednesday morning, convening at Atocha train station to pick up our car, which they upgraded for free to a fancy Audi. Buzzing with the novelty of being able to connect all our phones to the stereo, we set off and were soon chewing up the miles on the autopistas through Castilla y León, La Rioja and Navarre, where we’d decided to stop on the way to have a snoop around an old castle.
Atocha in the morning
During the journey we made a couple of stops, firstly a refreshment stop where we managed to get locked in a petrol station when the power went out and hence paralysed the automatic doors. Eventually escaping out the rear with our snacks, we then carried on for a while until the next pit stop, where we loaded up on more munch, including a giant sack of oranges which a lady on the roadside sold us for 4€.
Having escaped the petrol station shop
My orange baby
Once we had all resigned to the fact that we’d be eating oranges for the entire trip, we set back off and eventually landed in Olite, a town featuring at its centre a huge royal palace. This palace is dotted with towers which offered amazing views over the town and its surroundings, however the first thing to do was to grab some lunch after surviving solely on oranges, crisps and a croissant since 8am.
Arriving in Olite
Passing through the castle
The central plaza
This little town and its restaurant filled streets were gorgeous, and I was especially keen on the pretty ornate facades adorning some of the buildings around the main plaza.
An ornate design
Walking to the restaurant
At the cute little restaurant on the left of the street above, we ordered a selection of raciones to share, including a portion of caracoles (snails) which me and Loredana had dared each other to try out for the first time. We had a lovely lunch (the snails included, they were good!) and then pottered back to the town centre to head into the castle and see what we could see.
Wandering the streets once more
Heading into the palace
The Royal Palace of Olite was like a labyrinth inside, but its steep spiral staircases and confusing layout hid plenty of gorgeous and surprising views. As it was down season it was pretty empty, and so we had the chance to admire everything at our own pace and be as stupid as we wanted taking photos, such as this one of Loredana acting as Rapunzel…
Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair…
Looking over Olite
A tree hides some arched windows
Soon it was time to prepare ourselves to scale some of the tiny stone staircases within the palace’s numerous towers, which stood precariously tall at several of the palace’s corners. Once we had managed to make it up to the top of one, we caught our breath and had to shuffle around a tiny little circular platform without falling back down the stairs. I reckon it was about 1.5m in diameter, but with three of us and another family up there, it made for quite a perilous squeeze! The views, as you can see, were worth it though.
Looking back on the palace
Looking through an ornate window
Looking down on the rest of the palace
Once we felt we had been sufficiently attacked by the cold wind, we descended back to less dangerous ground and soon headed out of the castle and back to our car. From Olite we headed straight up to our final destination, San Sebastián, a city in the Basque Country where we’d booked a hostel for three nights and which would be our base for the coming days.
Looking back up at the palace
Pretty quickly thereafter we rocked up in San Sebastián (or Donostia in Basque) as the sun was setting, and then unpacked in our hostel room before heading out to grab something to eat and a few drinks in the city. We eventually settled in a lovely bar which was full of a spectacular array of pinchos, an eating concept I first encountered back in Barcelona almost two years ago but which I will try to explain in a more informed manner here.
Pinchos are basically small portions of food (that us Brits would probably mistakenly label as ‘tapas’) which are presented on the bar for people to pick up as they please. In this particular bar you were invited to grab a plate and load it up with whatever you fancied, which was then counted up at the counter as you were being served your drink. Another way I’ve seen it work is that each pincho (or pintxo in Basque) is speared with a cocktail stick, and then once you’ve finished eating the barman will bill you based on the number of cocktail sticks on your plate once you’ve finished eating.
Along with my insane collection of food I got myself a cider to remind me of the good times spent in Asturias, which was nice but not quite as good as the ones I have tried (and even had to pour myself) back in Gijón and Oviedo. The pinchos were excellent, and after we’d wrapped up we soon found ourselves hopping between bars before landing back in our beds in the early hours of the morning.
What kind of delicious heaven
The second day begun with a parking ticket for not moving our car from its street side parking spot early enough (oops), but we were soon back in said car and on the road again, this time going to visit some mystery location, as all I’d been told is that “they filmed some of Game of Thrones there.”
Well after parking on an incline and wandering up a blustery hill, we were soon descending towards said attraction amongst scores of other tourists who seemed to have mainly come from other areas of Spain. Once we’d cleared a set of perilously muddy “steps” (quotation marks as they were more mini cliffs than “steps”), we turned the corner and our destination came into view.
Wandering down the steps
It’s a church on a rock!
I turns out that the place I had been taken to was called San Juan de Gaztelugatxe (quite a mouthful), and has indeed featured in Game of Thrones, a TV show I could never force myself to enjoy. Even with the pop culture reference being lost on me, it was still an awe inspiring place to explore, with the dramatic cliffs of the islet and its snaking steps which we had to scale whilst being buffeted by the chilly sea breeze.
A pretty little fountain
A view from further down
Looking in the other direction
A lot of panting and climbing later we reached the church at the top, where I decided not to join the huge queue to ring the church bell but rather to sit down and catch my breath. I did take some photos from the summit, but given that all I could really see was sea and the mist, they all came out pretty dull and underwhelming. Once we’d had our fill of the views, we began our descent, making a stop at the “beach” (if you can call it that) where three of us relaxed whilst the other two headed out to look at the little rock pools.
Chilling on the beach
Looking out to another big rock thing
Once we’d scaled the muddy hill back to the car and stopped for a quick drink to warm ourselves up in a hillside tavern, we once again jumped back in our trusty Audi and headed for Bilbao, where we stayed for a few hours. We didn’t really get much done once there, opting rather to hunt for food, have a coffee and chat away a few hours. We did manage to see the Guggenheim Museum – well, its gift shop – before leaving, but it was soon pretty dark and we headed back to San Sebastián for the evening.
The Guggenheim in Bilbao
That evening it was something along the lines of “pincho Thursday” at the local bars, a deal in which you could grab any pincho and a drink for just 2€. We made the most of this opportunity, and bar hopped for a few hours eating and drinking and laughing as we went. We finally made it to an Irish pub and then tipsily onto a swing set, but I soon found myself back in bed to gather some energy to explore San Sebastián a little better the day after.
Friday greeted us with a downpour, and so I headed to a local shop and bought an umbrella for 3€ as I’d forgotten to bring mine along. This 3€ was probably the worst I have ever spent, but more on that later. Once we’d seen the shoreline during the day we retreated to a little café and got ourselves a coffee and a local variant of cake, which we enjoyed whilst listening to the cold air swirl around the coast outside.
Coffee and cake
Once we’d warmed up again we headed back out and made our way into the centre of the city, crossing its famous river as we went. There we made the most of my phone’s portrait function, with the girls grouping in front of the city and me standing by where the river meets the sea. This made the river look pretty badass during high tide, as the water rose and sloshed around menacingly as we crossed over it.
Ornamental street furniture
A new girl group is formed
Trying to make windswept look cool
Once in the centre we were all somewhat peckish and so went looking for a snack. In a central plaza we stumbled upon a tent we’d noticed the night before, only this time it was open for business with wood artisans, cider barrels and a selection of pinchos aplenty. Me and Loredana made a beeline for a pincho consisting of chorizo cooked in cider and then stuffed in bread, which has to have been one of the richest and most delicious things I ate during the whole trip.
Delicious chorizo delights
From this tent we decided we wanted something sweet, and so headed then to a cake and dessert shop on the corner across the road, where we found ourselves in a wonderland of chocolate and pastries. I went for a relatively safe option of a “roca de chocolate”, basically cornflakes bathed in chocolate and formed into balls, but the others tried out such delights as double chocolate cream eclairs.
Did you notice my little face in the mirrors?
After that the group split, as some of us were too tired and wanted to nap, but me and Loredana decided we would try and battle through the sleepiness and find the old area of the city. To get there we began by walking the entire length of the city’s other beach, stopping to head out on to a rather unsafe looking pier to take some photos.
Mad at the broken umbrella
As I alluded to earlier, the 3€ umbrella wasn’t really worth the hassle. After about 5 minutes of use it was pretty much completely broken, with the material coming off the frame and the actual rod breaking into two when some kind of mechanism just fell out when I opened it. I didn’t want to spend any more money buying another, and so the terrible umbrella became the joke of the afternoon as I battled with the sea breeze to keep it in one piece and covering my head with what little material remained…
Wandering along the beach
We never really did find the old town it would seem, as in the area we thought it was we could only find a lot of empty streets and one coffee shop which was still open. A coffee and a bus ride later we were back in the hostel, and we’d soon headed out for our last evening in the Basque Country. We ate at a lovely little place in the city before moving into the Whiskey Bar next door, where I treated myself to a fancy gin and tonic before heading home for the night as I wasn’t feeling too well.
That final morning however I wasn’t feeling all too bad, and so we spent it down on the beach, writing messages in the sand and petting all the dogs which came our way. We even made friends with one of them, who came over and was sure to give us each a turn at throwing his stick. We all agreed that he was a very good boy.
Looking along the beach
The sea beckons
After a while it was time to head back to Madrid, and so we went and recovered the car one last time and began the 5 hour journey back to the capital. On the way we naturally made plenty of stops for snacks (including the final few oranges), and were even treated to a gorgeous sunset just as we were dropping down into Madrid through its outer suburbs.
A warm welcome back home
Once we’d arrived back in Atocha we waved goodbye to our faithful little Audi and headed back into the station to head home for an early night. My evening was spent watching Netflix in bed with a big packet of crisps and a packet of Oreos, which probably wasn’t the best idea as the lack of decent nutrition and lack of sleep have left me with a bit of a cold today.
Never mind, I have all week to rid myself of that – so long as the staff Christmas meal on Thursday doesn’t get too out of hand! I had a lovely time up in the Basque Country with a great bunch of people, and I’ll be sure to visit another time (hopefully nearer summer so I can avoid any more umbrella dramas). The food is great, the people are lovely and the local language is pretty insane, so I’d definitely recommend anyone visit should the opportunity ever arise.
Anyway, and as ever, I’ll be back with more nonsense from the slowly freezing city all in due course, hopefully before I fly back to England on the 22nd (12 days left) to celebrate Christmas with my family. Until then I leave you with one of the key sing-along songs from the car journeys: Edelweiss – and don’t even bother asking why.
2nd December 2017
As I mentioned in my last post, I have somehow been caught up in a whirlwind of all kinds of activities over the past week or two, and so it’s only today under cloudy skies which I have found the time to update my blog with just a few other bits and bobs that have been going on between work and my trip up north.
First up we had a surprise visit to the studio by Thuy, who used to work with us and was a great help when I first interned at Erretres almost two years ago. After a good catch up in the studio, three of us headed for a cheeky gin and tonic at a local bar, where we had a good old chinwag and put the world to rights – not forgetting the obligatory reunion selfie, of course!
Thuy, me and Luis
This was a lovely surprise during my weekly 9 to 6 routine, which I have been spicing up a little now that I’m still buzzing with the excitement of having a new phone with a decent camera. Every day I make it a little personal challenge to find something new and pretty to take a photo of as I gallivant around the big city, and so I have recently begun posting daily Instagram stories to document what I encounter along the way.
A gorgeous sunset
The gates of hell
If you want to have a nosey at what I’m up to at any given moment, feel free to follow me on Instagram, my username is pretty simple: ohsb. With Snapchat’s shocking UI design and therefore UX, and a pretty terrible photo quality, I have abandoned it in favour of trusty old Instagram.
Most of what you’ll see is probably plenty of gilipolleces from work life (this being a crude way of saying ‘nonsense’), but every now and then a decent photo arises, like this one that my colleague Blanca snapped of me whilst I was idly working away on a project – a candid look at my life in the office.
I wonder what I was looking at
Outside of work life I am still managing to cram in plenty of other stuff, including a reunion in the centre with my old flatmate and friends to see the switch-on of the Christmas lights. Said event didn’t really go to plan, as we convened in the central square at 6:30pm to see the lights come on at 7pm – but when I ascended from the Metro I noticed that they were already on!
Madrid gets festive
Reunited in the centre
Not to be phased by missing the actual turning on of the lights, we decided to make the most of the evening anyway and set about a little tour of the city centre to see what could be seen. We met up with more friends, had Portuguese pasteis de nata (not dissimilar from the ones me and Ellie had in Lisbon), tried out some artisan violet flavoured chocolates, had a wander through the festive markets, eventually sitting down for a pint of Guinness below a glittering ceiling of twinkling lights.
Cool shadows and light pools
Wandering the markets
The crazy extra lights leading to the Puerta de Alcalá
Another evening we all got together to make a Jacob’s Joint of native foods from our respective countries (England, Austria, and the US). I made Coronation Chicken sandwiches, Loredana made a delicious salmon, cheese and spinach strudel, and Megan provided dessert in the form of a glorious apple crumble, complete with cream and ice cream. It was a lovely evening of wine, chatting and culinary bliss!
The savouries are served
Pretty soon after Megan and her flatmates, all from the US, celebrated Thanksgiving, and so we were all invited to experience our first Thanksgiving dinner and have a few drinks at her flat. I had a lovely time, with an excellent spread of food (I contributed some Cadburys and other British snacks), and then one of the biggest Ring of Fire games I have ever seen!
Exploring the east
A Thanksgiving feast
To round things off, I think I’ll leave you all with a decent photo gallery of some of the photos I have been snapping with my new phone. Don’t be fooled, it might look sunny but we’re actually all freezing to death here in the middle of the wasteland that is central Spain. Even when we were sat eating the delicious calamari rings and gouging on bread and jamón and chips with eggs on top, we were shivering a little at midday on the outdoor terrace.
Walking home of an evening
Looking up near work
A shock of orange
Delicious staff lunch
A view from the Metro stop
The daily commute past the palace
Walking to a temple
A very cold Templo de Debod
I hope you enjoyed the few little photos tagged on here at the end, and I shall be back next weekend with more updates of all the silly nonsense we’ve been getting up to. We’re planning a trip up to Bilbao and San Sebastián in the Basque Country in the north of Spain for later this week, so I shall be bringing some photos from there too no doubt!
Until then I have to go and eat some chocolate turrón, a traditional Spanish Christmastime treat, and open the second door of my IKEA advent calendar. On that note, actually, here’s a parting song, even though I have been told that it’s bad look to start any festivities until the 8th of December over here. I for one am willing to risk it!