3

Jun

2018

Let There Be Sun

3rd June 2018

As we enter the month of June, the weather here in Madrid seems to be going somewhat crazy. We’ve had over a week of intermittent thunderstorms, but when it’s not been making it a nightmare for me to dry my washing, the sun has actually been heating the city up rather nicely. Naturally I’ve been making the most of the pleasant temperature, and so below I share a few photos of my wanders around the city.

The streets around Barrio de las Letras

The streets around Barrio de las Letras

The central plaza

The central plaza

Descending through the Lavapiés district

A quiet street right in the city centre

A quiet street right in the city centre

A government building along the way

And naturally I havne’t been on my own the whole time, with plenty of time spent amongst friends, including the traditional Taco Wednesdays – I concept which I explained just a few posts back here. As well as our Mexican feast, on Friday Loredana and Heidi also hosted drinks on their lovely central roof terrace. It was another great chance to catch up, have a cheeky sangría and, of course, take more photos…

Cake Club are reunited again

Cake Club are reunited again

Megan on the roof

Megan on the roof

I was also gifted a lovely surprise by Megan, who had sneakily brought back mini bottles of maple syrup when she returned from her hometown in Vermont, USA just this Christmas! It was a lovely thought, and I now have a fabulous excuse to make the batch of pancakes I’ve been thinking about whipping up for a few weeks now.

Proper maple syrup!

Proper maple syrup!

All that brings us up to date to this weekend, where I’ve been pretty lazy in all honesty. Opting to relax at home rather than head out, I’ve been suspicious as the weather, although nice, has been looking threateningly unpredictable. I wasn’t a total sloth however, as I managed to find the time to head out to my beloved Mercadona (a low cost supermarket) and procure the ingredients to try a few new baking recipes.

Carrot cake by yours truly

Carrot cake by yours truly

As you can guess, I whipped together the (rather laborious) carrot cake above, which I shall take into work tomorrow morning to share with the team at Erretres. I can also very happily report that after 8 months of struggling with dodgy ovens, overzealous baking powder and Spain’s refusal to accept that self-raising flour actually exists, I have finally perfected my spongecake recipe! Watch this space guys, I’ll be back soon with a Victoria sponge to slay those of all your grandmas.

Yes, I went there, and I’m bowing out until I return with more updates from the 640km² oven that Madrid will soon become…

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20

May

2018

Manzanares el Real & Royal Wedding Shenanigans

20th May 2018

So what’s been going on since I got back to Spain from my trip back to the UK I hear you all ask, and so I shall reveal the two most interesting things that have occurred since I got back. I’d make a big fanfare to reveal what these two things were, but I already gave the whole thing away in the title of the blog post, so let’s just get straight down to it…

First up was Tuesday’s trip to Manzanares el Real, a small town in the province of Madrid, but way outside of the city limits. As it was a bank holiday (which rather awkwardly happen here on Tuesdays), we jumped on a bus and headed out to see what I thought would just be a castle and adjoining lake.

Arriving in the little town

Arriving in the little town

A nice sign

A nice sign

As we hopped off the bus, we were greeted by a cute little castle, but as we got closer we soon realised that it wasn’t yet open for visits. I’d quite liked the idea of having a snoop around the castle, but all was not lost as our friend Loredana said we could grab a free bus up to some natural pools to dip our toes in the water.

Once this little free “bus” rocked up, however, we soon realised that the four of us weren’t going to fit in it, and with the next one not scheduled for another hour we resigned to the fact that we were going to have to walk the 40 minute journey. We set off in good spirits, although I had declared that I wasn’t going to walk for more than 45 minutes as I was wearing jeans and lugging around a tote bag – not exactly the kind of gear one wants to go hiking in!

The winding road up to the pools

The winding road up to the pools

Once we’d started off a little game to keep us all occupied during the walk, I soon realised that I had been deceived – the walk was looking more like 90 minutes than the mere 40 I’d been told! We had a break for refuelling in the form of some teddy-shaped biscuits Megan had brought along, and then I reluctantly returned to the uphill climb towards this promised land.

The four of us on our wander

The four of us on our wander

The valley comes into view

The valley comes into view

Thankfully though we soon crested the hill we’d been walking up, and it was then that the views and our destination came into view – and what a view it was! I took a few photos, but I was more concerned about picking up some speed on the downhill section, as me and Megan had an inkling that there might be some kind of bar down in the valley – and that meant a well deserved beer might be up for grabs.

Loredana faffing around

Loredana faffing around

Smiling on the outside, dying on the inside

Smiling on the outside, dying on the inside

Descending further towards our destination

Descending further towards our destination

And lo and behold, look what we found! As we returned back to civilisation, we made a beeline for a bar and grabbed a beer to sit on the terrace and recover, taking in the surroundings and discussing where we were going to head to next. After chatting to one of the guys working there, we discovered that if we headed down to the river which ran alongside the bar and followed it downstream, we’d eventually be spat back out into the town of Manzanares el Real where we’d began our long walk.

A welcome refreshment break

A welcome refreshment break

Once we’d polished off our beers, we had another spot of relaxing down by the riverbank, taking time to do a spot of sunbathing, singing and even a few minutes of yoga. Slapping a bit of suncream on when some of us began turning a touch pink in the midday sun, we soon began our trek back downstream and into a series of stunning views.

Traversing the valley

Traversing the valley

Another compulsory selfie stop

Another compulsory selfie stop

More views along our hike

More views along our hike

Before too long, and after another refreshment stop at a cool little bar in the forest along the way, we found ourselves back on tarmac roads and heading back to where the whole hike had started – I call it a hike now as what had started as a 40 minute walk did eventually turn out to be an hours-long trek up and back down the valleys which cradle the river Manzanares.

Hey look, it's the castle!

Hey look, it’s the castle!

I can’t say I didn’t complain at all during the actual trip, but as we finished off I realised that it had been a great day spent out of the hectic city centre, and it was nice to be up on my feet doing something when I spend most of my days sat behind a computer screen.

I’d definitely recommend anyone who is visiting Madrid for a few days and wants to see a bit of nature pay the place a visit – just be sure to dress more appropriately for the journey than I did! You can catch a bus from within the city for just 1.70€ each way, so it really is an absolute steal of a day out!

And now, keeping on the theme of castles and royal locations (Manzanares el Real literally means “Manzanares the Royal”), as someone rather indifferent to football, Saturday could only mean one thing for me – it was time for the royal wedding! Love it or hate it, I saw it as a chance to host a get together and have a few cheeky drinks over a selection of British food, and so I invited my friends over to mine to watch the live stream and wave flags around a bit for a couple of hours.

The spread is laid

The spread is laid

Me and Megan get all patriotic

Me and Megan get all patriotic

We had a great time critiquing people’s outfits, singing along to the songs that we knew, and tucking into tuna mayo and egg and cress sandwiches (with the cress sneakily substituted for some chopped spinach as it seems like cress doesn’t exist here). The excitement was all over way too soon, but before everyone left, it was time to sample a British party staple – the humble scotch egg. Those don’t exist here either, so I took up the challenge of making them myself from scratch, and although they weren’t perfect I’m pretty proud of how they came out.

Scotch eggs by yours truly

Scotch eggs by yours truly

With the shenanigans all over and with it being a Sunday evening, there’s only one thing I should be doing right now, and it’s not sitting here writing this blog post. I shall then be leaving it here, putting on a face mask, and spending the next hour relaxing in the bath!


9

May

2018

Liverpool, Leeds & London

9th May 2018

So now that I am back in Madrid and one year older, I bring you this update on how my life as a 23-year-old kicked off! As I mentioned last week, I did have big birthday plans, and so I have just returned from a whistle-stop six-day tour of England! Before leaving, I had a nice little birthday send-off at work, as we all clubbed together to buy food and beers for an aperitivo, after which I was eased into my return to England with a sudden downpour…

A hearty lunch

A hearty lunch

After the downpour

After the downpour

Anyway, enough with the preamble – let’s get straight to the hectic six days I spent back in the motherland!

After a frantic morning moving through Madrid, I landed at Manchester Airport before I could even catch a breath. I headed outside only to be greeted rather nonchalantly by my mum, who didn’t even bother to look up from the text she was writing! Whoever received that message should feel rather humbled, you are clearly more important than a son who lives thousands of miles away…

All joking aside though, it was lovely to see my family again, and especially lovely that I had been brought a bag full of snacks and throat spray (I had woken up with a nagging sore throat which plagued the trip, but enough of that.) After no time at all driving and catching up, we arrived in Burnley and headed straight for item number one on my agenda: going to see my grandma.

We had to leave her all too soon though, as me and my mum had a joint hair appointment, after which she dropped me off at Burnley Youth Theatre so I could be reunited with my ex-colleagues. It was lovely to see everyone there again, and a little bizarre to be back in my old office less than 24 hours after leaving my new one at Erretres!

Once I’d worked up an appetite, I hitched a ride with Bam, who dropped me back off at home for part of the trip I’d been looking forward to more than I probably should have: mum’s cottage pie. After I inhaled the delicious meal, I stopped for a chat and a quick gin and tonic before heading to bed for a relatively early night, as the next day I had an equally busy plan lined up.

The cottage pie to end all cottage pies

The cottage pie to end all cottage pies

The morning after I was up (relatively) bright an early and in the car with my friend Abi for a trip to the lovely city of Liverpool, which I last visited with Kevin quite a while ago last year. Once we’d arrived, we met up with my sister Ellie, who I’d arranged to meet in Liverpool as she’s currently at university in Sheffield. I think in organising myself and everyone else for this trip I got a taste of what it’s like to be a mother!

Nice street art in Liverpool

Nice street art in Liverpool

Once we were all reunited, we headed to one of my favourite areas, Bold Street, and settled in a little café for a slap-up lunch of sandwiches and bottomless chips – a deal not to be sniffed at! It was a delicious start to the trip, and as the weather was holding out quite nicely, afterwards we sauntered down to the docks for a while.

A delicious lunch

A delicious lunch

Ellie loves avocado

Ellie loves avocado

Down at the docks

Down at the docks

Once down there we had a wander along the riverside, passing plenty of kooky street food places along the way. After a quick trip to see the Liver Building, we (perhaps inevitably) found ourselves in a bar for a cheeky 2-for-1 cocktail deal.

Increasing levels of Britishness

Increasing levels of Britishness

Drinks with Ellie and Abi

Drinks with Ellie and Abi

All too soon we had to leave the docks and head back into the city as Ellie had to catch her train, but that didn’t stop us all from grabbing some delicious waffles along the way! Once I’d waved Ellie off at the train station, me and Abi headed back to Burnley, where I had to endure the obligatory rendition of “happy birthday to you” before we all treated ourselves to a slice of chocolate cake.

Approaching the train station in Liverpool

Approaching the train station in Liverpool

The next day I was once again on the move, this time to visit all my university friends across the border in Leeds. Before I waved my mum and dad off at the train station, however, there was one more thing on my list of must-eats which we hadn’t squeezed in: fish and chips. For this there was only one place which would suffice, Grandma Pollard’s in Todmorden, where I enjoyed mine with a side of mushy peas – I seem to have developed an addiction after years of being indifferent to them as a child…

A delicious British feast

A delicious British feast

I arrived in Leeds quite late, and so made a quick visit to my friends’ house to drop off my bag, as Em and Lincoln had been so gracious as to put me up for the two nights I spent there. After another rushed taxi journey to the city centre, I was soon once again reunited with (almost) the entire graphics gang!

Back at our usual haunt

Back at our usual haunt

As per tradition, we soon found ourselves having a drink or two at Belgrave, catching up and joking around as we always did – even through the stresses and trials of our final year of university. The general consensus was that even though we had a lovely time at university, we were all pretty glad to be free of it and in the big bad world of adult living.

Because we’re all now living in said adult world, none of us could really stay out late as everyone had to work the next day – everyone except me. I had a lovely lie in the following morning, before ambling to my friend Pippa’s house, who I’d arranged to wander to campus with for a catchup over some lunch.

Back on campus

Back on campus

Eventually we decided that we didn’t fancy going anywhere in particular on campus, and so we descended into the centre of Leeds, where we made a pit stop at Trinity Kitchen for burritos and then McDonalds for milkshakes. As Pippa was heading into her last few weeks of intense final year work I had to let her go sooner than I would have liked, but I still had a trip around Leeds Docks to make and a couple of design shops to visit, so it wasn’t all too bad. Even the sun had shown its face, which made for an extra-special treat!

Down by the docks

Down by the docks

In one of my favourite shops

In one of my favourite shops

Wandering through Leeds' arcades

Wandering through Leeds’ arcades

That same night heralded my last night in Leeds (are you beginning to get a sense of how hectic this whole trip was?), and so I headed out with Em and Lincoln for a lovely walk to one of our favourite pizza spots. After we’d gorged ourselves on plenty of fresh sourdough delights, we grabbed a bottle of wine and had a relaxed evening in, catching up and laughing about all the nonsense that we used to get up to at university.

On our way for pizza

On our way for pizza

Once more I couldn’t afford to stay up too late, as I had a 6am start to be in Leeds train station for a train I really couldn’t miss – as on Saturday morning it was time for me to head down to London! Emily was the only person missing from our graphics reunion in Belgrave as she now lives and works in the big city, and so I’d arranged to spend the weekend down there with her.

Arriving at London King's Cross

Arriving at London King’s Cross

Once I’d arrived and we’d been reunited in her lovely neighbourhood of Fulham Broadway, we wasted no time in heading straight back out to visit a couple of places that I’d requested: the Design Museum and the Lush Shop on Oxford Street. After we’d paid the two a visit and I had bought myself a little something in the Lush shop (a very little something as my hand luggage bag was already bursting at the seams), we nipped back to Em’s place for a snack and to meet her housemates.

Spot the Em in the fountains

Spot the Em in the fountains

Inside the Design Museum

Inside the Design Museum

A cheeky apertivio at Em's house

A cheeky aperitivo at Em’s house

As a little gesture of thanks for letting me crash at her place, I’d brought Em some chorizo from Madrid, which went down well – maybe a little too well as we found ourselves heading out for a very late tea, and even then we couldn’t finish our pizza!

The next morning, and after a breakfast of delicious cold pizza, we headed once again into the city centre. By now it was Sunday and the last day of my tour of England, but things weren’t set to slow down, as through some stroke of divine luck it just so happened that our friends Sophie, Joe and Rhea were also in London!

Em and Rhea in Covent Garden

Em and Rhea in Covent Garden

Needless to say that we’d all arranged to meet up for some delicious lunch, and do so we did, stuffing ourselves with delicious Bao steamed buns until we could eat no more. After this we found a pub with a little outdoor terrace, and so we plonked ourselves down, ordered some drinks, and let the alcohol and conversation flow.

After our delicious lunch

After our delicious lunch

Letting time pass us by in the pub

Letting the world pass us by in the pub

I was quite upset then when the time came for me to begin making the long journey back to Madrid, but after a round of hugs and farewells, I found myself back in the chaos of journeying from Soho to my bed in the south of Madrid. After two tube trains, a very expensive airport transfer train, a one hour delay and two hour flight, and then three metro trains which I thought I would miss because of Ryanair’s delay, I eventually made it to my flat at 3am and within ten minutes I was out like a light.

I could now moan about how a mere 5 hours later I had to be up and ready to head to a client meeting as I’d rather stupidly not taken another day off work to rest and recover, but I’d like to end the post on a happy note. A crazy busy trip it may have been, it was a delight to see everyone again, even if rather rapidly due to my timetable. I’d say that next time I’ll have to go a little easier on myself, but anybody who knows me will know that that just won’t happen.

All that’s left to say then is a huge thank you to everyone who rearranged their timetables to see me, and especially to the two Emilys and Lincoln who let me crash at their places. I hope to be having people over in Madrid soon, but regardless of that I’m currently trying to sort my summer holidays out after having had such a great time back in England!

I’ll be back again soon with more shenanigans from the Iberian peninsula, so don’t you all be going anywhere!


29

Apr

2018

Munching & Marathons

29th April 2018

After I’d waved Kevin off at the bus station as he returned to beautiful Oviedo, it was straight back to the daily grind for me, as the day after I headed back to work. In order to keep myself occupied outside of the office, a bunch of us decided to start a new tradition: Taco Wednesdays! Now I know there’s no alliteration, but bear with me, as we decided on this particular day because the Mexican restaurant directly under my friend’s flat does a 1€ deal on tacos on Wednesday evenings – buzzing.

Wandering to my friends' place

Wandering to my friends’ place

On the terrace before our tacos

On the terrace before our tacos

As the temperature has been climbing and summer seems to be drawing closer, we first met up for some drinks and a catch up on my friends’ lovely terrace. Once we’d drank our fair share of sangría, we descended to the restaurant and enjoyed a lovely tipsy evening of tacos, managing to bag this selfie before things got a little messy downstairs!

The taco gang

The taco gang

Later that week, we all regrouped for a wander around the city, a stroll which took us to an infamous bar I’d been meaning to check out for quite a while. Bar El Tigre is well known for the sheer size of the tapas that they gift you with every drink, so we headed in and grabbed a caña (small beer) and watched in awe as they served up three plates full of snacks!

Free tapas at El Tigre

Free tapas at El Tigre

Wandering the Madrid streets

Wandering the Madrid streets

Last Friday also saw another event happening in the centre of the city, with La Noche de los Libros (Night of Books) in full swing as the sun set. After we’d watched a video mapping presentation in the Puerta del Sol, we headed to another legendary drinking spot, Sala Equis.

Video mapping in Sol

Video mapping in Sol

Wandering into Sala Equis

Wandering into Sala Equis

“The X Room” used to be – as the name hints at – a porn cinema, but has now been transformed into a multi-use cultural space which can act as both a cool drinking spot as well as a cinema for retro movies. We all grabbed a beer, perched ourselves on the random deckchairs, and tried to make out the plot of an old silent movie which was being projected onto the screen above the bar.

Inside Sala Equis

Inside Sala Equis

That same weekend was a special one for my friend Loredana, as she’d signed up to run the Madrid Marathon on the Sunday – a week ago today, in fact. To show our support, me and Heidi opted not to join in with any physical activity, but rather to go down to the route and cheer her on with embarrassing custom t-shirts!

As Loredana had (for some reason unknown to man) chosen “croquetas” (croquettes) as the text on her bib, me and Heidi knew that we simply had to incorporate the delicious Spanish snack into our design. We secretly made a trip to Primark the day before, and then spent a good couple of hours applying our fabulous design, ready to meet up along the route the next day.

Our fabulous t-shirts

Our fabulous t-shirts

Once we’d cheered Loredana on as she passed the spot where we were waiting, we had a bite of lunch before heading to the finish line to (what could have been quite literally) catch Lore as she finished the gruelling 42km (26mi) course. As we watched on in earnest, however, one of the runners got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend right as they both finished the marathon! This proved quite the distraction, and we almost missed Loredana wandering by, but I spotted her just in time and we yelled for her to come over.

Waiting at the finish line

Waiting at the finish line

After checking that she was alright – I was shocked at how normal and not dead she looked – we left Lore to pick up her medal and an energy drink before we were finally reunited. After grabbing a stranger to take a photo of the three of us, we headed in to the city to eat some lunch – croquettes, naturally – before heading back to Lore and Heidi’s flat for a relaxing evening.

Congratulations to Loredana!

Congratulations to Loredana!

All this madness brings me pretty much up to date to this weekend, however I still had one surprise in store on Friday night! We’d arranged to meet up at their flat again, which was for what I assumed would be some quiet drinks before the two of them and Megan headed down to Málaga for the week. I was completely caught off guard then when they went downstairs to “get more sangría” and then returned with a gorgeous birthday cake!

The cake arrives!

The cake arrives!

I was really touched by the lovely gesture, but we didn’t waste any time in getting stuck in, as the cake is actually one of Megan’s speciality ice cream cakes! Having worked at Ben & Jerry’s flagship store back at home in Vermont in the United States, she is an expert in these decadent treats, and her cookie dough, chocolate brownie and vanilla masterpiece did not disappoint!

A quick photo with the cake

A quick photo with the cake

As I mentioned, that evening Heidi and Loredana headed down to Málaga for a long weekend of sandy beaches and sunshine, with Megan set to join them tomorrow morning. I really wish I was there with them all, especially after such a lovely surprise, but I’ve to relax and prepare myself for a crazy hectic week ahead…

We're the Cake Club!

We’re the Cake Club!

Tomorrow is indeed my birthday and I’ll be turning the ripe old age of 23 – don’t talk to me about how the years are flying by – but there’s no rest for the wicked, so I’ll be at the office for most of the day! I won’t even get a break in the evening to head out for a celebratory drink, as I’ve to pick up some last minute goodies and head home to pack and get an early night in to catch a flight early Tuesday morning!

I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned it here on my blog before – probably not as I am notorious for forgetting to mention important information – but I’m headed back to England for a short week! It’s going to be six hectic days of intense travelling and catching up, with a day in Burnley, a day in Liverpool, two days in Leeds and then two days in London all lined up. With such a schedule I’ll no doubt be way too busy to post any updates here, but fear not as I’ll be back next week to share all the shenanigans which will have undoubtably occurred!

I guess that I’ll be back with you all when I’m another year older…


24

Apr

2018

Kevin in Madrid

24th April 2018

After I was up in the north (again) with Kevin just a couple of weeks ago, a mere four days later he found himself on a coach down to the capital, where we had a busy weekend of chilling in the city planned! Once he’d met me at the Erretres office on the Friday, we had a quick tour of the studio and then headed into the rather grey looking city centre.

A rather sad looking sky

A rather sad looking sky

Once we’d had some tacos at my favourite Mexican spot in the city, we headed through the centre and past the palace and cathedral, where we stopped for a while to sit down and take in the ambience of the evening. After listening to the harp and watching the sun slowly retreat by the royal palace, I whisked Kevin to watch the sun set from the Temple of Debod.

It was whilst wandering back from the temple that the rain suddenly began its attack, and we had to take refuge in a bus stop before braving he downpour and seeking shelter in a bar. A couple of beers later, we admitted that we were tired, and so headed back home for a good night of sleep before a busy Saturday!

Our explorations the next day began with a walk down the river near my flat, before hearing back to the centre and the cathedral, where we headed inside and gawked at the architecture for a good while. Once we were back outside in the rather sunnier weather, we headed to the commercial centre to make the most of the Saturday shopping hours.

Up to the heavens in the Catedral de la Almudena

Up to the heavens in the Catedral de la Almudena

A Madrid boulevard

A Madrid boulevard

Once we’d stocked up on fancy chocolate from Cacao Sampaka and toiletries from Lush, we headed to a spot Kevin had requested after a good experience during a previous visit: El Mercado de San Ildefonso. At this street food bazaar we grabbed some Guinness and a delicious plate of Korean fried chicken, before heading down into the writer’s district, where I knew Kevin would be in his element as a student of all things literary.

Korean chicken and Irish beer

Korean chicken and Irish beer

That evening, and after returning home through the indoor tropical gardens in Atocha train station, we headed into the La Latina area of the city for a drink. After putting the world to rights over a cheeky gin and tonic, we headed back home to prepare for a busy Sunday – it may be a day of rest, but I always say that there is no rest for the wicked!

Sunday kicked off in traditional Madrid fashion: with an amble up the huge street market of El Rastro. Once Kevin had picked up some goodies and we’d cleared the hoards of people, we had some lunch in Plaza Mayor before hopping on the metro for a museum which I’d discovered for the first time only when my parents visited a mere few weeks ago.

Our strategically timed visit was to ensure that we got into the Museo Cerralbo for free, and we did – just about! Arriving less than an hour before close, we still managed to tour the entire building, and the place managed to leave Kevin speechless more than once along the way.

A pretty façade

A pretty façade

Once we’d had a coffee for some energy, we headed into the district of Malasaña, where there was an event called Pinta Malasaña – literally “paint Malsaña” – and the name says it all. Dozens of artists had taken the streets, each one creating unique pieces on the very walls and shutters of the neighbourhood.

To soak in the buzz, we grabbed some beers and wandered the streets, stopping to watch the artists at work or sit and chat about whatever was on our minds. Once we’d finished our drinks and traversed the neighbourhood, we headed back to my flat for a rest, and I booked a table at one of my favourite places to eat for later in the evening.

After freshening, we headed to the city centre to Heidi and Loredana’s flat, where we were joined also by Kevin and Napo. After all the introductions and all that nonsense, we headed back to the streets and to Goiko Grill for some of the best burgers in the city.

The Goiko Grill Gang

The Goiko Grill Gang

There we had amazing food and even better conversation, and I felt really lucky to be surrounded by a group of such lovely people – it somehow felt like an early birthday treat!

All too soon we were back in my flat, getting ready to head out for Kevin’s final day in the city. As short as the Monday may have been, I had a pretty packed schedule lined up, and so soon I had marched Kevin into the city and up to the roof terrace of Círculo de Bellas Artes. This is my favourite spot for catching 360° over the sprawling city, and we made sure to make the most of the 4€ entry fee by taking in the sun and the views and having yet another of our lengthy chats.

Looking to Madrid's mountains

Looking to Madrid’s mountains

Once we were back at street level we headed into Retiro park, having a quick wander around some of the most pretty sights, before grabbing some lunch and heading to one of my favourite shopping spots in Madrid: Dealz.

Now, I should preface this by telling you all that me and Kevin met whilst he was studying for a year in Leeds, so he’s no stranger to British culture. We were both equally excited to be visiting Dealz, seeing as it is basically Poundland, complete with the selection of British snacks and sweets which I so fondly miss from time to time. Napo had tagged along too, but as a stranger to life in England, he didn’t seem quite as thrilled as me and Kevin were to be there…

The plaza in Chueca

The plaza in Chueca

After this we made one quick last venture into Lavapiés, where we sat on a street terrace and had a round of vermut, all before we had to take Kevin up to the bus station to catch his coach back to Oviedo. Once he was on his way back up north, me and Napo headed into Chueca for a drink in the plaza, making the most of the sun which had finally broken through the weekend’s clouds!

A refreshing pit stop

A refreshing pit stop

As much as I enjoy my weekend retreats in the gorgeous lands of Asturias, I have to say it was an absolute pleasure to have Kevin down in the bustling capital for the long weekend. I can only hope that he had as good a time being dragged around Madrid as I did actually doing said dragging!

It goes without saying then that the two of us are already coordinating my next trip to the north, but for now I shall have to leave the post there, as I have plenty more to share but it’ll have to wait for the next update!

Ido apologise for the delays as of recent, but I am currently without WiFi in my flat due to some technical problem. Have no doubt however that I’m trying every crafty technique possible to keep you all updated – I have even had to publish this from my iPad at work. Sneaky!


10

Apr

2018

Cudillero

10th April 2018

As I mentioned in last week’s post, my weekend was spent once again up in the northern lands of Spain! As part of what is almost becoming a routine, I hopped on a train from Madrid Chamartin station, popped some Netflix on on my iPad, and four hours later I was in a taxi whizzing through Oviedo on my way to Kevin’s flat.

Once the reunion hugs were over, it was straight into the kitchen to boil some water for a cup of tea, and I revealed that I’d brought some homemade Victoria Sponge cake along with me for the occasion. We promptly sat down with our tea and cake and proceeded on one of our extended catch up and deep discussion sessions, and after agreeing not to stay up past midnight, we eventually headed to bed at about 3am. Oops.

The reason we were so keen to get a good night’s kip was because Kevin had a plan for the Saturday which lay ahead, but as we headed to sleep I still really had no idea what said plan actually was.

This was all revealed to me the next day, as we headed into the centre of Oviedo for some quick breakfast, and to catch a bus to a little coastal town called Cudillero. Kevin promised me that it was worth the journey, but even as we arrived, the winding tight streets didn’t give much away as to what was in store.

A house by the river

A house by the river

Pastel houses

Pastel houses

You can imagine my shock then when, after wandering plenty of streets without even a hint of coastline, we suddenly found ourselves in a picturesque little cove. Little rickety houses clung to the sides of the cove, surrounding a central plaza which led down to the docks and the sea below.

Looking into Cudillero

Looking into Cudillero

Looking out towards the docks

Looking out towards the docks

Before speeding off to take in the ambience of the sea – something I miss as I live as far inland as possible – we decided to begin by climbing up the side of the cove to see what kind of views it would offer. We ascended up a labyrinthine web of tiny and often perilous stairwells which weave between the houses on all sides of the village, frequently wondering whether we’d inadvertently stepped into someone’s back garden as the paths crossed behind people’s houses.

Lost in the maze of footpaths

Lost in the maze of footpaths

Once we’d stopped for some snacks at a spot overlooking the central village plaza, we headed back to the docks, being careful not to slip on the algae-covered steps on the way down. As we headed out towards the sea, we were sure to turn back and take in the views of the village over the water…

Constructions in the docks

Constructions in the docks

Looking back on Cudillero

Looking back on Cudillero

A lone lighthouse

A lone lighthouse

I love the colour of rust

I love the colour of rust

Once we’d headed a bit further out, we climbed down to near the waters edge and sat with our feet dangling over the water for a while, chatting and putting the world to rights. In between our chats about the future of language and ideas for pieces of writing that we wanted to do, I spotted that there were some crabs hiding amongst the rocks along the water’s edge, so I was then quite distracted looking at those for a while.

Sailboats in the bay

Sailboats in the bay

We only eventually moved on when we heard rumbling behind us, and turned in time to witness a sizeable amount of rocks become dislodged and tumble down the cliff behind us. Sensing that this was as good a sign as any to get back on our feet, we headed back into the village centre to grab some lunch at one of the local bars in the plaza.

Once we’d had some lunch and made friends with the owner of one of the dessert bars, we began our way back up another of the treacherous paths which snaked up the other side of the cove. As we ascended we had a destination in sight: a concrete viewing tower which stood atop the hill on the eastern side of the mouth of the cove.

A cat dozes in the sun

A cat dozes in the sun

Once we arrived at the structure however, it soon became obvious that we wouldn’t be climbing up it, as the metal steps were badly decayed. In an unexpected act of health and safety awareness on behalf of the Spanish, someone had had the sense to block the access with a plastic barrier: colour me both shocked and impressed.

The docks from above

The docks from above

The decaying structure

The decaying structure

At least we got a nice selfie

At least we got a nice selfie

We weren’t disappointed though, and we carried on further up the hill until we reached a cemetery. We had a snoop around but naturally I didn’t want to take any photos, and eventually we had to head back down to the village bus stop in order to catch the last bus back to Oviedo.

Wandering back downhill

Wandering back downhill

A last glimpse of Cudillero

A last glimpse over Cudillero

Once we arrived back at Kevin’s flat we decided to squeeze in a quick nap, as we’d been told to arrive in the city centre for the birthday celebrations of our friend Camila. We eventually made it late (naturally), but we were soon scoffing down an insanely delicious selection of Asturian dishes, including the classic cachopo (check out the last time I had a huge one here), all washed down with unlimited drinks.

It goes without saying then that with such an open bar things soon got a little out of hand, and we all ended up out in the city until the early hours of the morning, singing and dancing and generally having a great time. I haven’t had a night out like that since I left university, so it was really nice to let my hair down for the weekend – although naturally I did pay for it the day after!

As we’d arrived home so late we didn’t really have time to do much the next day, except wolf down some delicious orange chicken that Kevin made from scratch. Seemingly before I could even compliment him on his cooking, we were being whisked off to Oviedo train station and then I had to endure a rather unpleasant 4 hours on the train back to Madrid with quite the hangover. Not recommended.

As ever, I feel like I have flown through this blog post and the great quantity of information it contains, but hopefully you guys all managed to keep up. I have another busy week here in sunny rainy (ugh) Madrid, but I have reason to look forward to the weekend: Kevin is coming down for a few days!

That’s right, I eventually managed to coax the Asturian out of beautiful Oviedo and down to the crazy (and expensive) capital, so I’ll be sure to take plenty of photos of all the shenanigans that we get up to and I’ll be back with an update at some point next week!

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1

Apr

2018

Semana (No Muy) Santa

1st April 2018

I shall translate the title of this blog post a little further in, but for now we’re back to the usual photo-filled programme this week, with an update of what I’ve been up to since my parents left back for England almost a month ago. Where did the time go?

Anyway, on with the show, where I shall begin with an update on what we’ve been up to in the office. I can’t take any responsibility for the work on this project as I wasn’t really involved, but we recently completed a rebranding of a Spanish TV show called Fama: ¡a bailar! or “Fame: let’s dance!”.

The sun returns

The sun returns

A poster for Fama in the street

A poster for Fama in the street

As a project with a damn quick turnaround, it’s all been launched quicker than we can prepare it for our website, but for now you can check it out as it was featured on Brandemía here, and we also posted a preview on the Erretres Instagram here. Props to Mario and Dani, who worked tirelessly on bringing it into existence in such a short space of time!

Outside of the office (literally) the sun has begun its slow return, and so I’ve been spending a little bit more time on the streets of the city instead of cooping myself up in the warmth of my bed. To get us both up and out of the city a bit, me and Napo have also recently begun a tradition of going to IKEA to make good and proper use of the free coffee and WiFi.

To get to IKEA I only have to walk a few minutes from my house to Madrid’s main station, Atocha, where I grab the Metro down to the south of the city. It’s a really pleasant walk it turns out, and it takes me past the insane architecture of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, one of the city’s three huge art museums.

Exterior stairways

Exterior stairways

An angular design

An angular design

Inside Atocha train station

Inside Atocha train station

After one of these trips to IKEA, me and Napo decided to head back into the city centre, and it’s now that I shall have to explain the title of the blog post. Semana santa literally translates as “holy week”, being what we’d probably more commonly call Easter, and across Spain it’s a pretty big deal. Some of you may recall all the drama which unfolded the last time I was here for Easter, which I share in the aptly named Semana Santa blog post from 2016.

Celebrations usually involve either a tonne of noise and periods of spooky silence, which happen as huge processions pass through the streets. There’s people carrying statues of religious figures, mourners weeping over the death of Jesus, people in traditional semana santa attire (no, it’s nothing to do with the KKK), and even performances of saeta, a traditional type of music loaded with emotion.

Needless to say you can guess by now what it was that we stumbled upon: a huge procession making its way through the city. I took plenty of videos which I posted on my Instagram, but I think for now a photo of the start of said procession will suffice here. As I said, if you want to check out better photos, I took plenty back in 2016!

The processions begin

The processions begin

Needless to say that with all the hysteria around semana santa, I was afforded two days off work this week just gone. Rather than spending it in amongst the processions and religious ceremonies, I opted rather to head out of Madrid city altogether – hence the blog’s name, which translates to “Not-So-Holy Week”.

As most of my friends were away visiting other places, I wound up doing an experiment to see how far out of the city I could get using my travel card – crazy fun, I know. Turns out I could have gone all the way to the beautiful city of Toledo, but I thought it’d be packed with Easter tourists, so I headed north instead and to a place called El Escorial.

Arriving in El Escorial

Arriving in El Escorial

Before setting off to El Escorial, I hadn’t done any research to see what was there, which is very unlike me indeed. I knew that there was some kind of royal residence or something there, and to be honest I was more excited to see some greenery speed by the train window than I was about the destination, so I wasn’t really expecting to do all that much.

Once I arrived I didn’t really find anything to write home about, it was a pretty village surrounded by some greenery. I noticed a lot of people seemed to be heading northwards and uphill however, and so I reluctantly followed them up the incline. I found a little house in a park which was quite cute, but it looked like paid entry so I decided to scoot around the back, which was when I noticed a spire poking out from the treetops in the distance.

I soon realised that the royal residence I had caught wind of was actually a full-blown palace, complete with sweeping views of the valley and expensive gardens to boot. I popped up my umbrella to protect me from the hailstones which had begun falling, and began with haste up the ever steepening hill.

Down the side of the palace

Down the side of the palace

Once at the top I was pretty tired, but decided to have a sniff around to see if there was anything interesting. The rest of my trip followed a similar pattern of almost turning back, but I kept pushing on and exploring as I was curious to see what I could see. This eventually lead me to fully encircle the palace, as I discovered an unsuspecting little entrance which actually allowed free access to the gardens and stunning views of the place.

Wandering through the gardens

Wandering through the gardens

A façade along one of the sides

A façade along one of the sides

This quiet day trip was turning into quite the solo adventure, as I definitely hadn’t expected to find myself wandering around the perimeter of such a huge edifice. Things got even crazier though when me and another family had a near brush with a group of three female peacocks, who flew up out of nowhere and proceeded to terrorise us as I tried to snap a photo. I have a video on my phone but I shan’t share it here due to the quantity of screaming and swearing which it contains…

I also learned the Spanish word for peacock, pavo real, which literally means “royal turkey”, which I thought was quite cute.

Part of the palace in its surroundings

Part of the palace in its surroundings

Looking into the distance

Looking into the distance

Eventually I retraced my steps back to civilisation, stopping for some food at a local bar, where I got chatting to the owner and one of the employees. I was treated to a slap-up meal of cheese stuffed peppers and a mini slice of free cheesecake, and we wound up putting the world to rights for an hour, all before I descended back to the train station and made my way back to Madrid.

As today is Easter Sunday however I shall have to wish everyone ¡Feliz Pascua! We celebrated at home, not with chocolate eggs (which I’m used to in England), but with a lovely dinner party hosted by my flatmate Mirian. A couple of friends came over and we indulged in wine, tapas, pinchos, and then a selection of Brazilian dishes which we ate until we had rice flowing out of our ears!

This is just some of the delicious food

This is just some of the delicious food

So now I am sat in my room considerably rounder than I was this morning, basking in the glow of the new coloured LED lighting that I treated myself to during yet another IKEA trip with Napo yesterday. With work at 9am tomorrow morning, I shall have to leave it there for tonight, but you can be sure I’ll be back soon as I have yet another trip to Oviedo booked for next weekend!

No rest for the wicked!

Looking into the distanceA façade along one of the sidesA façade along one of the sidesSaveSave

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25

Mar

2018

The Joys, Trials and Tribulations of Moving Abroad to Work

25th March 2018

When I’m feeling a bit sad or maybe stressed out about something, I tend amongst other things to write, as it’s an activity which allows me process my thoughts and enjoy the catharsis of committing them to paper. I might write a little poem in my notebook, a rambling stream-of-conscience essay on my phone, or just a short bit of fictional prose. What I never seem to do though is publish or share such ramblings in any way, and so I’m here with a more reflective post than usual in which I hope to do just that.

You’ll all know by now that five months ago I permanently upped sticks and made the move from a life in the north of England to work and live the big city life in Spain’s capital, Madrid. People have commented on that it was a big decision to make, but in all honestly I never really thought too much of it, as I seem to be someone who gets worked up over the small things instead of any big decisions or changes.

As much as I loved my time in Leeds with all my friends, and despite years of happy memories living over the border in Burnley, I always knew that I wanted a change of scenery from Leeds, and that Burnley didn’t really have anything to offer a budding designer, so I always wanted to move away in some way. What I never really expected was to find myself enchanted by Madrid after my first visit back in 2015, but I returned home determined to at least bag a short stint of work experience there during my placement year at university. I managed to do just that when I was offered a six month internship with Erretres starting in February 2016, as most of you probably know.

So now we get to the juicy bit: what is it like to pack a bag and move abroad to start work?

I remember I was in Madrid and ready to leave for Barcelona when I got the news, which was just in time as I’d arrived with a bag full of portfolios ready to knock on some studio doors. After binning those and enjoying a rather more relaxed trip, I arrived home with the pressure of packing six months worth of my life into a 20kg suitcase in just over three days. What was I to take?

It wasn’t the first time I’d left home, having left Burnley for Leeds two years earlier, but this time I couldn’t just ask my mum to drive over with the frying pan and pyjama bottoms I’d forgotten.

So there I was, at the ripe old age of twenty, trying to decide between packing a towel or another pair of trainers. It was an exercise on trimming down, but a challenge I quite enjoyed, which may be partly why I am recently trying to lead a minimalist lifestyle (which I shall be talking about in another blog post soon no doubt). I remember wondering how on earth I was going to survive without my camera tripod, but being hefty it had to be left out, and then before I knew it I’d zipped it up and I was (kind of) ready to go.

I remember that I was still surprisingly calm, the packing had been relatively smooth, and the only thing on my mind was trying to squeeze in visits to see all my friends and family before I boarded my one way flight. Despite this feeling of relative peace, I didn’t get a wink of sleep the night before flying, but I still can’t say that I was upset or panicking even as I waved goodbye to my family at the airport. It was sad to be leaving them, but we’d already talked about them visiting and I was reeling in the joy of being offered a job at a company I admired, so the overriding feeling was definitely excitement: I was ready for the adventure.

I think that first night of being in Madrid was when the reality of the situation began to set in, once I’d found my way to the hostel I’d be staying in for a fortnight. I had a chat with the lady working on the reception for a good while, but soon I closed the door behind me and suddenly I was alone. It was once I was completely alone that I realised the gravity of the situation I had just flung myself into; but that isn’t to say that I panicked, I’d say it was more bewilderment that anything. As ever I had a list of what I had to do the next day, so I felt calm in knowing I had something to keep my mind occupied.

The panic really hit the day after that: my first day at work. From their website and online communication, I had assumed that Erretres would work in a mixture of Spanish and English, and Esther who was the first person to arrive and greet me spoke to me in English, so I had relaxed a little bit. In this case then you can imagine my shock when after a few minutes she said she was going to switch to Spanish as I’d have to get used to it, and suddenly as the office began to fill and as people began to greet me, I realised that I’d inadvertently thrown myself into a working environment where Spanish was pretty much the only language used.

The first thing on the agenda was (and still is) a planning meeting to organise the team, and it was during this that the panic set in – I understood barely anything. A team of 15 or so people talking over one and other and laughing at jokes I hadn’t understood was disconcerting to say the least, but I had in my hand an overview of the plans, so I decided I would do my best to try and figure out what was what as the day wore on.

Throughout the next few weeks I can’t really report that things got any easier, and I’d be lying if I said that some severe doubt had set in. I wondered if I’d over-faced myself, as starting one’s first professional job is a challenge enough without it also being your first time ever properly using a language that you’d stopped learning at college two years prior. Life outside the office brought with it as many trials and tribulations as it did within, as I didn’t understand how healthcare worked, what opening times were, how to order food, how to be polite, and how to be sure not to upset people. There was also the challenge of meeting new people and making new friends, something which always makes me anxious regardless of where I may find myself.

I can’t say exactly when or how it happened though, but at some point I found that I had inadvertently gotten into the groove of things. I had a small network of friends, which was enough for me as a rather introverted being, and having being exposed to Spanish pretty much 24/7 I was beginning to pick up the lingo. Things were going well until I was struck down by a string of illnesses, which brought with them the first moments of panic as I realised I didn’t have access to a GP, and wasn’t living with people who could take time to take care of me should I need it.

This began quite an anxious period of my six months in the city, as during a visit to the hospital due to chest pain they found that my blood pressure was high. This only served to make me more nervous about my health, and so even though work was a lot of fun and the weather was gorgeous, I often found myself too preoccupied to really kick back and enjoy myself.

It was a shame really then that the time around when I began to feel much more relaxed was also just as I was due to return to England. I was really upset to be leaving the people at Erretres behind, but equally I was glad to be heading back to the familiarity that England offered, not to mention the luxury of being looked after by my parents for a bit once more.

My final year of university then ensued, and as stressful and crazy as it was, it felt quite tame as I was once again reunited with all my friends and only a few hours away from home. Before I knew where I was I was being called on to the stage during my graduation, and I found myself in talks with Erretres to return towards the end of the year.

You all know by now how that story ends; as September came around I accepted a full time job at the company and the cycle of preparations repeated itself, although this time it felt slightly different. A certain carefree attitude can be adopted when one knows that one is to return after a certain period, but this time I knew that I was leaving for an indefinite period of time, and that felt rather more scary. Once again though I had already booked a badly timed holiday just before I was due to move, this time to Lisbon with my sister, so that served to take my mind off things for a bit.

Once I’d used my experience living there for six months to better guide my packing this time, I found myself zipping up my trusty battered suitcase once more and lying in my bed eyes wide open for the entire night. This time I was much more worried in certain ways, as it felt like a much more impactful and permanent decision, but also less worried, as the fear of the unknown was greatly quelled by the knowledge that I’d be returning to an office full of people I knew.

So let’s talk about the here and now.

Right now I’m approaching the six month mark since I moved out here to work, which is the same amount of time that I spent here back in 2016, but things this time do feel quite different. The culture shock (language, working hours, food) definitely didn’t hit me so hard this time around, and as I said, moving back to an office full of people I already knew felt like a return to normality more than it did a drastic change of scenery.

Also this time I think there’s a sense of freedom, almost a sense that I have nothing to loose. Instead of a six month intern contract, I have an indefinite one. As I now know the city, I have been able to find more permanent places to stay instead of moving around every month or so. I know that my parents would take me back in should I ever need to return home, and so I don’t feel so boxed in by restrictions.

With the freedom to take holidays and return to the UK, as well as knowing that I can leave whenever I want, I did wonder if I would become more susceptible to do just that – run back to the UK when difficult problems arose. It seems to have actually had the opposite affect however, as with the calmness that knowledge brings I feel much more ready to tackle such problems as they arise, rather than panicking that they might spiral into a much bigger issue.

I do miss England in many ways, especially friends and family, but with FaceTime and Messenger just a few taps away I never feel too out of the loop. Sometimes I feel like I could kill for mum’s slap-up Sunday lunch complete with lashings of gravy, but I can wait to return home for one of those – a few rounds of tapas works nicely to fill that gap for now.

And so, as much as I worry that I may have focussed somewhat on the negatives of my stint here two years ago, it can’t have been so bad, as I did put all my energy into making sure I came back. I have no regrets about either of the decisions, as my first time here served to teach me a lot about truly independent living, and having moved back I am having the time of my life.

If anybody by any chance is considering such a move for work, then I’d say just go for it. For me the joys always outweighed the trials and tribulations, even if I didn’t see it as such in the moment, and the whole experience has served to help me grow in many ways. It might not be the conventional way to start advancing one’s career, but I’m having loads of fun while still learning so much every day, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

PS: I lied when I said I have no regrets – I regret not packing a lifetime’s supply of pork pies in my bag before I left. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.


7

Mar

2018

The Briggs Elders Visit

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of the rooms

A close-up of the chandelier

A close-up of the chandelier

A grand hall

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

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

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…


23

Feb

2018

Atléti, Atléti, Atlético de Madrid

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 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

Came across a cool sculpture in Plaza Mayor

Some delicious pastries

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

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

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

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.

IKEA Labs

IKEA Labs

Looking over Atocha

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

Arriving at the stadium

Some pretty wicked architecture

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

Up in the heights of the stadium

Looking back out to the centre

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

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 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

Some gorgeous typography

A platform frozen in time

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

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!