2

Jan

2018

Flying Home for Christmas

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

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

Early Christmas gifts

The building near work comes down

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

Someone took to decorating the street

Festivity in the city centre

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

Looking down into the south

Tapas for days

Tapas for days

The train station

The train station

The sun sets

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

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

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

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

Mum and Dad have a drink

The family gathering

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.

Gravy galore

Gravy galore

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

Delicious rarebit and good coffee

A cold Burnley

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

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


10

Dec

2017

Basque Road Trip

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

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

Having escaped the petrol station shop

My orange baby

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

Arriving in Olite

Passing through the castle

Passing through the castle

The central plaza

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.

Flowery archways

Flowery archways

An ornate design

An ornate design

Walking to the restaurant

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

Wandering the streets once more

Heading into the palace

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...

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair…

Looking over Olite

Looking over Olite

A tree hides some arched windows

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 back on the palace

Looking through an ornate window

Looking through an ornate window

Looking down on the rest of the palace

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

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

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

Wandering down the steps

It's a church on a rock!

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 pretty little fountain

A view from further down

A view from further down

Looking in the other direction

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

Chilling on the beach

Looking out to another big rock thing

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

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

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

Ornamental street furniture

A new girl group is formed

A new girl group is formed

Trying to make windswept look cool

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

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.

They also had loads of turrón

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

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…

Stupid thing

Stupid thing

Wandering along the beach

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

Looking along the beach

The sea beckons

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

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.


2

Dec

2017

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas…

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

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

A gorgeous sunset

The gates of hell

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

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

Madrid gets festive

Reunited in the centre

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

Cool shadows and light pools

Wandering the markets

Wandering the markets

The crazy extra lights leading to the Puerta de Alcalá

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

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

Exploring the east

A Thanksgiving feast

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

Walking home of an evening

Looking up near work

Looking up near work

A shock of orange

A shock of orange

Delicious staff lunch

Delicious staff lunch

A view from the Metro stop

A view from the Metro stop

The daily commute past the palace

The daily commute past the palace

Walking to a temple

Walking to a temple

A very cold Templo de Debod

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!


27

Nov

2017

What’s in Your Bag?

27th November 2017

One of my favourite tech blogs, The Verge, has a series entitled “What’s in Your Bag?” in which they invite their employees to share what they carry with them on a daily basis. I’ve always been a keen reader of these articles, as I’m fascinated by what people actually treat as indispensable enough to carry with them at all times.

To this end I thought I’d share what I carry with me in my day-to-day life here in the busy city of Madrid. I may not be as huge on tech as some of the guys over at The Verge, but I think I carry my fair share of interesting bits and bobs. So what exactly does a designer carry around with him? Let’s dive in…

IMG_4713

Bag

Herschel Pop Quiz Backpack

Just before moving out to Spain I bought a new one of these, but my last one lasted me the best part of four years. It holds my laptop or iPad perfectly, I like the design and its size is nicely compact for everyday use, but I’ve found I can cram a surprising amount into it when travelling.

IMG_4705

iPad

iPad Pro 13” with Apple Pencil and Keyboard

Instead of my laptop I usually just throw my iPad in my bag, as my MacBook is quite heavy and its battery pretty dreadful, and the iPad does everything needed on a daily basis. At work I use it as a secondary monitor for my iMac (thanks to the great app Duet), and after work I can set up my keyboard in a café and do some writing, or use the Pencil to doodle as I speed along on the Metro.

IMG_4627

Notebook

Leuchtturm1917 Dotted A6 with Schneider Xtra 805

This handy little notebook is dotted which can work perfectly as a grid for designing on or as lines for longer form writing, and I its compact size makes it the perfect go-everywhere pad. In this pen I firmly believe that I have found the best pen in the world, as it sits somewhere between a gel pen and a standard ball point, making it smooth and perfect for both writing and sketching design ideas.

IMG_4686

Mobile Phones

iPhone X and iPhone 6

Whilst some may have been drawn in by the big screen or gimmicky new features like the so-called animojis, I mainly upgraded to this phone for its camera, and so I now find that my trusty Canon 500D gets left at home. The iPhone X presents a sizeable upgrade over the iPhone 6, which although suffering a broken home button and a two hour battery life, still gets thrown in my when I need to use it as my Spanish mobile.

IMG_4636

Headphones

Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Another recent purchase, these replace a knackered pair of Beats, and are a treat I bought myself from duty free just before boarding my flight out to begin working here. After years of catching my headphone wire on door handles, it’s nice to pop them on and wander around the city without a care in the world. I find the sound quality excellent, helped in no small way by the noise cancelling which works incredibly well.

IMG_4625

Book

Arial by Sylvia Plath

A collection of poems rather than a novel, I find I always have time on the metro to read even just a short poem on my way to work. Plath’s work might not be the most jovial or uplifting, but I find each piece to be somehow beguilingly haunting and beautifully written. I’ve also noticed that as I’ve read each one so many times I am able to half recite them as I read, which gives me a sense of calm familiarity as I traverse this foreign city.

IMG_4646

Drink

Solan de Cabras Water

Of course I’m not so wasteful (or for that matter rich) as to buy these with any kind of frequency, rather I just keep topping the thing up with tap water to keep me hydrated as I sizzle in the sun. At 60 cents a bottle it’s cheaper than a proper reusable one, and although I’ve been told I’ll catch some kind of desease by reusing it, I wash the thing on a regular basis and to my knowledge I haven’t died yet.

IMG_4658

Ephemera

Keys and Cards

Wherever I go I like to keep a copy of both my personal cards and my new shiny (literally) ones from Erretres. These sit alongside my transport card, which at 20€ a month for unlimited travel within the entirety of Madrid is an absolute steal. My keys (one of which is a USB memory stick, look closely) sit on a metal ring which for some reason I decided should be huge, and so sourced from eBay some years ago. Don’t ask.

IMG_4667

Accessories

Apple Watch, Sunglasses and Ring

I can’t say I rate the Apple Watch, as these days I pretty much just use it to check the time and occasionally read a text message. The sunglasses are just an 8€ pair I bought from H&M in Lisbon after I forgot to bring any, and so here the ring is probably the only thing I actually value. It was custom made from the smelted wedding rings of my grandma and grandad, and then bashed into this custom design by our family jeweller.

And thus concludes a tour through my bag. I’m always interested to see what everyone else couldn’t live without, so if you have made your own little collection then get in touch! I shall be back to my regular schedule of updates from my day to day life pretty soon, somehow this week has become much more hectic than expected…


20

Nov

2017

An Asturian Reunion

20th November 2017

After a weekend out of the city, a full day of work and then having to cook two meals once I rocked up at home, I have only just now managed to sit down at my laptop for the evening. Adult life is indeed hard, and the whole “you can eat sweets for dinner whenever you want” expression fails to mention that you have to actually buy the sweets yourself…

Anyway, I’m not here to rant, rather to share that this weekend I spent a lovely couple of days traversing Asturias with my friend Kevin, who I saw last time I was up in Oviedo (and other places for that matter) back in July. This involved heading straight from work at 3pm to the northern train station of Madrid, Chamartín – but not before a quick stop to pick up a thank-you gift in the form of a napolitana de chocolate (a chocolate filled pastry) from the famous Madrid bakery La Mallorquina.

Arriving pretty early to the train station (British style), I proceeded to immediately manage to get lost, getting my bearings just in the nick of time to board my train. It was pretty quiet, so before we’d even cleared the city centre I’d found myself a comfy double seat to kick back and enjoy the views. I’ve noticed that sunsets here in Spain seem to always feature a short-lived shock of pink and purple, which is a feast for the eyes as well as the camera – photo to come later in the post!

Four hours of sketching new website ideas later, I arrived in Oviedo train station and set about finding Kevin. A surprise hug nearly had his phone crashing to the ground (note to self: do not surprise people whilst they are texting), but we were soon wandering the streets of the gorgeous city, gossiping and laughing as if we’d last seen each other yesterday.

That Friday evening we ate pizza near Kevin’s house and decided to have an early night to make the most of Saturday, but the habit we acquired in Leeds of chatting away into the early hours is a habit that will indeed die hard, and so we wound up waking up more around midday on Saturday than in the actual morning. Oops!

Once we’d eventually showered and left the house, Kevin revealed that we were to catch a train to visit the coast. I was super excited as it’s been so long since I visited the beach, and we were soon whirring even further north. It was on this train that I actually got round to taking one of the first half-decent photos of the trip…

On the train to the mystery beach

On the train to the mystery beach

Abandoned cargo

Abandoned cargo

The greenery of Asturias

The greenery of Asturias

We soon arrived at our stop, and getting off I still had no real idea where we were – and I couldn’t see any coast. A quick consultation on Google Maps directed us northwards, and I soon began to see what kind of place we’d rocked up at. It was a small town near the city of Avilés, a kind of coastal suburb with a mix of huge industry and pretty little seaside houses. We passed these, wandered across a car park full of surfers (getting changed no less, avert thine eyes!) and then headed over the sand dunes and on to the beach.

An abandoned building

An abandoned building

More rusting trains

More rusting trains

The dunes

The dunes

Spot the ship

Spot the ship

We’d arrived at a stop called San Juan de Nieva, a kind of ugly industrial spot, and so I had not imagined that a walk down the beach would ever be this beautiful. In fact, I have never been on a beach with such a beautiful sunset and with so few people around. The lack of noise and movement meant that we could enjoy a super chill stroll along the sand, watching the sun set and the waves crash. I’m trying my best not to get way too poetic, but it really was the stuff of fairytales.

The sun sets over the beach

The sun sets over the beach

Some seaside typography

Some seaside typography

The troublesome twosome on the beach

The troublesome twosome on the beach

As usual we were running late against the setting sun, but we agreed that time is never wasted when you spend it discussing nonsense for hours on end. We eventually reached a lovely little town called Salinas, where we went exploring further. The setting sun had me worried for the quality of the photos, buy the camera on my new phone has done a surprisingly good job of taking in all the light possible.

The aforementioned pink and purple sky

The aforementioned pink and purple sky

After following the road around, we found a little cove which looked cute but also a little bit like a death trap with the rising tide, and so we opted to walk through a tunnel cut through the cliff and see where it led to exactly. It eventually opened out to reveal an eerie sight; a factory, complete with dual chimneys, silhouetted against the darkening sky. I saw some ramshackle brick steps which had been placed on part of the sheer rock face, and being curious and careless as I am, I climbed up them in the darkness to see where they led.

Two minutes later I found myself perched atop a perilously thin ledge of jagged rock, with a sheer drop to the ground on one side and an ever steeper drop straight down into the rocky sea on the other. If I had any sense I’d have sped straight back to solid ground, but instead I stopped to take a few photos, returning when Kevin made like my mother and told me to come down at once.

The factory from the cliff

The factory from the cliff

Once we’d walked back toward civilisation, and after some drama trying to figure out a confusing bus schedule, we boarded on a bus and headed not back to Oviedo but rather to Gijón, where we’d arranged to meet up with our friend Sara and some others for a few drinks – almost everyone who I’d met in Leeds!

Arriving in Gijón was lovely, with the familiar streets from last time I visited looking equally as lovely in the dark. Me and Kevin went for another one of our aimless wanders, only stopping our chatting to snap the odd photo and take in the odd view. We had time to kill before Sara was free to meet up, and so grabbed some of the cheapest tapas and drinks ever (did somebody say 1€ for a cup of vermouth?).

The docks of Gijón by night

The docks of Gijón by night

An archway

An archway

As we were binging on calamari, chips with alioli and huge croquettes, Sara arrived, and we had a round of reunion hugs and kisses (Spanish style) before grabbing a drink and heading to another bar. On the way out we ran into some more of Kevin’s friends from the Erasmus programme, and we all went to a local rock bar to have a few more drinks and attempt to take a half-decent selfie…

The three reunited!

The three reunited!

At about 1am, and with me and Kevin being the old men that we really are, we had to bow out and rush to the bus station to catch one of the night buses back to Oviedo, but not before running into loads of other people and many rounds of goodbyes. I promised I’d be back again soon for a proper night out with everyone, and so I’m now looking into returning as soon as possible!

A foggy morning from the flat

A foggy morning from the flat

Looking up in Oviedo

Looking up in Oviedo

Anyway, the next day was Sunday and that sadly heralded my last short day in the north, as at 4pm I had to jump on a train back down to Madrid. We made the most of our time however, heading out for a lovely breakfast and then meeting up with Kevin’s friend who I had also met in Leeds. The three of us began a rather taxing stroll up a hill beside the city, but it was all worth it when the views over the city came into focus.

Looking over Oviedo

Looking over Oviedo

Time was soon pushing on however, so we had to descend from the dizzying heights of said hill and head back towards the city for my train. Kevin had one last treat in store for me though, as we were heading to get a huge cachopo and wash it down with the local cider. A cachopo is a local dish which is every meat-eaters fantasy: two layers of beef stuffed with Spanish ham and cheese sauce, before being breaded and deep fried and served over an equally huge portion of chips.

The menu description of “cachopo gigante” was no lie: the thing was huge, and there were only three of us! No fear, we decided, for we would struggle on until we had eaten every crumb. As I said this was enjoyed with the local cider, a very dry and non-carbonated natural variant which has to be poured from a height to aerate the drink and make it easier on the stomach. Not having the space or the quantity of cleaning staff needed to allow such messy cider-pouring, the restaurant provided us with this nifty little machine which aerates the cider for you. Talk about only in Asturias!

The cider machine

The cider machine

The cachopo was indeed huge

The cachopo was indeed huge

To all our surprise, between us we actually finished the whole cachopo (not the chips though, we’re only human after all), and we even opted to have some dessert and a shot of the local cream liquor to wash it all down. Soon I was getting pushed for time though, and so we had to pay up and leave for the train station, where I managed to find my train after a bit of confused wandering.

Walking above the train station

Walking above the train station

Saying goodbye is always horrible, but it felt somewhat easier this time now that I live in the same country as Kevin and the rest of the guys I met in Leeds. As I promised everyone in Gijón, and as I foresaw the first time I visited Oviedo back in July, I will definitely be back very very soon!

As I say, I am now back in Madrid, and work is continuing with the usual laughs and interesting projects to get my teeth stuck into. I am beginning to practice my Spanish vocabulary at home when I can, and I have become a walking English Dictionary in the office – it’s proving to be a good challenge!

Stay tuned for my next update, where I’ve to collate some other bits of news which I’ve been too busy to post about, including a new phone and even more design studio shenanigans…


9

Nov

2017

Amber in Madrid

9th November 2017

So today is a national holiday here in Madrid, and that meant that I managed to oversleep and miss a trip to the very north of the community of Madrid to go for a hike. Oops! But that at least means I have an hour to sit and update you all on the latest bit of gallivanting around the big city – this time with Amber!

As mentioned before, Amber booked flights and a hostel to spend almost a week here, and so on Thursday evening I left work and went to go and pick her up from the airport. It was lovely to see her again, but as we were both tired and pressed for time that evening, we shared a jug of sangria and headed off for a relatively early night.

On Friday though, and after a morning of exploring the west of the city including the Egyptian Temple, she came along to the office to say hello to everyone once again (last year she visited with Jess whilst I was an intern). Once more we had a spread of snacks or aperitivos laid out, and I finally got round to fulfilling Mario’s request for a round of coronation chicken sandwiches – they went down an absolute storm!

As we finish early on Friday at work, from there we headed down to the lake for a relaxed ice cream. During a wander around the lake we wound up taking a different path than usual, and stumbled upon an old viaduct, before heading deep into the city centre once more for some relaxed drinks in Malasaña and then Lavapiés. We covered a lot of ground and drank a lot of the local cocktail, tinto de verano!

A viaduct in Casa de Campo

A viaduct in Casa de Campo

Us two in a bar in Lavapiés

Us two in a bar in Lavapiés

Exploring the city

Sunglasses are even needed at night in Madrid

On Saturday morning, and after a decent lie in, we met up down in the south of the city at the cultural centre called Matadero. We had a good look through a photography exhibition, sat down for some pintchos, pastries and coffee for breakfast, then explored an outdoor exhibition of design from around Spain and Latin America.

The architecture of the Matadero

The architecture of the Matadero

Amber getting into brand design

Amber getting into brand design

Grimy

Grimy

After this we crossed the river and had a snoop around the new Madrid Río 2 shopping centre, before heading back up northwards to continue or snack fest and check out views down Gran Vía, the main artery which runs through the centre of the city.

Crossing the river

Crossing the river

Looking down Gran Vía

Looking down Gran Vía

Once we got a little tired, we both headed our separate ways and had a proper Spanish siesta before reuniting in the city centre and heading down to the cute little are of La Latina, where we traversed a well known street which is buzzing with little bars and restaurants. There we began our evening drinking gin and tonics, eating an array of toasted bread with delicious toppings, and eventually taking the Metro up north to Chueca to continue our night on the town.

The contrasting colours of my local Metro stop

The contrasting colours of my local Metro stop

A car sits abandoned at night

A car sits abandoned at night

Up in the district of Chueca we visited more bars and eventually wound up in a club, meeting some friends along the way and dancing to all the latest reggaetón and Spanish hits. Here’s an example of some reggaetón if you fancy a taste!

Needless to say that the next day we didn’t rush out of bed, eventually meeting up just to leisurely wander around the city and eat and graze as usual. As the day wore on, we decided to pay an impromptu visit to the top of the Círculo de Bellas Artes, a building from which you can enjoy great pretty much 360° views over the city. The last time I went was over a year ago when my dad visited Madrid, but we decided to have a coffee and watch the sun as it began to set over the skyline.

Bruschetta style toasts in La Latina

Bruschetta style toasts in La Latina

A view over the city's east

A view over the city’s east

The sun begins to set

The sun begins to set

Monday came around too fast and it was our last proper evening together, so after work we met up and went once again to chill out in the city. We had traditional Madrid food at an old-school bar in the centre, where I chowed down on a delicious plate of huevos rotos – which seems to be becoming my favourite right now.

After this we went once again to have a few glasses of tinto de verano, but I couldn’t stay out late as I’d to work on Tuesday morning. On Tuesday though we managed to meet up during my lunch break, and headed to have some food in a shopping centre near the office. From there we said our goodbyes, as that evening Amber was heading to the airport to catch her flight back home before I left work.

¡Que buena pinta!

¡Que buena pinta!

A light in a bar in Malasaña

A light in a bar in Malasaña

It was a pleasure having Bam around in the city with me, and I can only hope she enjoyed being here as much as I enjoyed just lazying around every evening eating and drinking the hours away. Usually I’d be a bit down once a friend leaves the city, but next weekend I’m off to see Kevin and visit the beautiful city of Oviedo once again. I’ll also be back in England for a week over Christmas, which will be lovely.

I just have to end this post with a quote from my grandma, who always reminds us when we’re a little down after something lovely finishes: “it’ll soon be Christmas, and we’ll have some nuts!”


1

Nov

2017

It’s Just a Bunch of Hocus Pocus

1st November 2017

After celebrating October with the cool installations of Luna de Octubre a week or so ago, it’s now time to bid goodbye to my first month of working in Madrid and that of course means spending Halloween here. To celebrate we all gathered at my friend Megan’s flat to watch the classic Halloween film “Hocus Pocus”, and I didn’t dress up because the night of Luna de Octubre I managed to get bitten on the face three times by a mosquito, so I decided that I looked scary enough with the big red spots adorning my cheeks.

Megan cooked up some fresh pumpkin bread, staying true to the season, and it was absolutely delicious – I had never had it before! In the end we were all pretty tired so once the film was done we decided not to go out, but I have spent the past week or doing plenty of other things.

After work one day I went to go and see Randy, and we explored the new shopping centre called Madrid Río 2 which is near his house. It was lovely to see him again and the views from the food terrace turned out to be pretty nice, overlooking the lovely architecture of the Matadero.

Looking over the Matadero

Looking over the Matadero

The next day I had a journey to the south of the city to make, as I’d made an appointment to go and see Apple regarding my iPad which just decided to stop working completely and died a most spectacular death – I couldn’t even get my laptop to recognise it, much less get the actual thing to show any signs of life. Not expecting much except to be offered a discount off a new one, it turned out that when I bought it I bought insurance with Apple too, which according to them I still have a month left of. I must be the luckiest man alive – they’ve since replaced it with a brand new one at no cost. Get in!

Anyway, whilst down at the shopping centre and with a new iPad in hand, I went to relax a little by the food court which surrounds a pretty little lake. I spent a while taking in the atmosphere and doodling on the iPad, and for an hour or so I felt like I was on holiday as I basked in the sun by the water.

Relaxing by the little lake

Relaxing by the little lake

Speaking of lakes, this weekend just gone I decided to kick back and relax a little, heading to the huge park of Casa de Campo to relax by the huge lake there. It was sunny but cool when I left my flat, but it soon heated up and I had to retreat to the shade where I spent a good few hours just reading a book I brought along. It’s been a while since I took a good moment to get stuck into some reading for pleasure, and I’ll definitely be picking up books a bit more often now I’m not obliged to read them for any kind of studies. Who’d have ever thought that working life would have felt like freedom compared to studying? Wild!

Wandering through Casa de Campo

Wandering through Casa de Campo

After a while I got peckish, and so I grabbed the metro further into the city and decided to head to one of my favourite little haunts in an area called Malasaña, where I ordered the slap-up brunch menu and enjoyed a tonne of dishes including croissants, a selection of bread, a medley of dipping sauces, a mini tortilla with béchamel sauce, a coffee and plenty of fresh fruit juice. It was delicious!

Being watched in Malasaña

Being watched in Malasaña

Wandering through the café

Wandering through the café

On the Saturday I also thought I’d do my best to explore the area where I lived a bit more, prompted mainly by a huge craving for a dish called huevos rotos (which is like fried potatoes with runny fried eggs and pieces of Spanish ham on top) and a lack of motivation to actually cook anything for myself. I quickly searched for local places online and it recommended a small bar just a couple of streets away, so I headed down to eat a little bit of something and have a quick small beer (a caña).

Well five hours later and I was still there, as at the bar I got talking to a local called Eva and was then invited to join her brother and his girlfriend for more drinks, and in the end we wound up sat outside on the terrace telling stories and sharing experiences until the early hours! I had such a lovely time and it was a real laugh to meet everyone. We stayed out so late that the bar technically closed, but we were allowed to stay inside as the owner put out some incense and candles and we continued chattering until I stumbled back home at about 3am.

A time-lapse I made from my window

A time-lapse I made from my window

As far as work goes, everything is a good laugh as usual, with projects moving forward and plenty of exciting designs to be done. I had to nip out to the bank (again) as I’d forgotten my password and accidentally blocked my shiny new debit card (oops), but I am happy to share that I now finally hold a Spanish bank account and I have received my first paycheque – I feel like a real adult now.

The walk to the bank is pretty nice

The walk to the bank is pretty nice

In the office I also received a lovely little surprise this week as a mystery envelope appeared on my desk, but I recognised the handwriting straight away as my mum’s. Inside she’d put a little note and a little zip-lock bag of 10 decaf teabags alongside a 10€ note – all of which is sure to come in very handy, especially with Amber coming to visit tomorrow night! I am very, very excited to spent almost a week relaxing and showing her the city once more!

At home today I just met my new flatmate, Giorgia, who’s from Italy but has spent years working in Chile and so speaks perfect Spanish. We initially went out to explore the local neighbourhood with our landlord Abdel, but after that I had to nip into the city to run a few errands and so me and Giorgia spent a good few hours wandering around the centre, as it’s her first time in here in Madrid. As she’s here for at least one month, I said we’ll be sure to go exploring plenty more!

I had a traditional squid sandwich

I had a traditional squid sandwich

Me and Giorgia in Plaza Mayor

Me and Giorgia in Plaza Mayor

The above photo was taken by Giorgia, who also runs a blog (check it out here if you know any Italian!) and works in communication, so I’m sure we’ll be having plenty of chats over a bottle of wine or heading out into the city to try the sangría in every bar we can find our way into…

Anyway, I’ll be back next week at some point to update you all on the mischief that me and Amber get up to over the next few days. Hopefully the sun will hold out and defy the cloudy forecast, but whatever happens we’ll be sure to make the absolute most of her time in Madrid!

Until then, and in reference to the title of this blog post, why not watch this clip of the iconic Bette Midler’s main musical number from the Halloween classic Hocus Pocus… You will not be disappointed…


26

Oct

2017

Luna de Octubre

26th October 2017

With my week as busy as ever, I totally missed my self-imposed deadline of Wednesday to get this blog post out, but never mind for here we go. As I mentioned in my last post looking back at last week, on Saturday night I headed out with a couple of friends to explore the festivities named Luna de Octubre. This event brought together a set of nocturnal installations, all of which used light in some form to great effect – as you can imagine I was on cloud nine with the array of lights which had been installed around the city!

The first installation we stumbled upon was one of the infamous fountains of Madrid, which had been turned off, lit up and filled with empty plastic bottles. It did make quite the statement, and I was happy to hear a nearby parent explaining to their child that it was a warning, and that reducing and recycling is important. There might just be hope for the future after all!

Plenty of bottles

Plenty of bottles

We continued to walk down the huge avenue of  the Paseo del Prado, which had been completely shut off to cars, an event almost unheard of as it’s one of the biggest roads in the city. Further down we came across a really cool installation projected onto the main facade of the Museo del Prado, the biggest of Madrid’s three huge art museums.

Not only was it a great work of video mapping, they had also made it 3D, and so we donned our glasses and gawked at the spectacle. Naturally I can’t show you guys the 3D effects, but the fuzzy shot I managed to take on my phone should give you a little bit of a feel to what it was like…

The facade of the Prado begins to warp

The facade of the Prado begins to warp

After handing our 3D glasses to another group of spectators, we then headed further down the road and stumbled upon another really cool dynamic light installation. This consisted of a grid of light up stick men figures in various poses, which flashed in sequence to a musical backdrop in order to recreate a bunch of movie and dance routines.

The light up stick men

The light up stick men

The illusion worked really well, and I partially enjoyed that we were allowed to walk through the figures. Being able to immerse myself in the installation like this was something I’ve never been able to do so much before, as usually in England artworks are sealed off, but here we spent a good amount of time jiving along amongst the stick men – I even took a selfie to prove it…

Is this here because it's essential to the blog post or just because I look cute?

Is this here because it’s essential to the blog post or just because I look cute?

Further on past the Prado we wandered by a few huge pyramids of colour changing light, before heading down to the end of the Paseo del Prado and then up towards the famous archway of Puerta de Alcalá. Here they had installed three huge custom built screens into each of the archways, showing all kinds of cool slightly psychedelic videos.

Big wobbly pyramids

Big wobbly pyramids

Screens in the Puerta de Alcalá

Screens in the Puerta de Alcalá

From there we wound up stumbling on the final installation which was definitely my favourite, purely because of how silly and extra it was. It consisted of a huge industrial cement mixer which had been covered in mirrors, creating in effect a huge mirror ball. It was suitably accompanied by a medley of dance music, and for a few minutes we joined in the impromptu rave in the middle of the street. I loved it.

The cement disco

The cement disco

Party time

Party time

I don’t know what else to tell you about this last one – just that something like this could only happen in Madrid! Let’s see what the coming weekend brings, but for now I have just finished watching the Bake Off and should get some sleep in before an early start tomorrow – a busy Friday looms!


22

Oct

2017

Abandoned Bread & Other Nonsense

22nd October 2017

As today is Sunday and my third week working here comes to an end, it’s time for me to swing by and update everyone on the latest nonsense that’s been going on during the week. Naturally we kick things off at the office, where we’ve been having fun with a special mat which is used by Japanese children as they learn to draw the complicated strokes and forms of the Japanese alphabets.

Japanese letters and an elephant

Japanese letters and an elephant

My little mascot the Beefeater has been watching over me in the office as we work away on our many projects. I brought him with me as a gift that Amber got me when we met up before I left! Speaking of Amber, she’ll be here in less than two weeks, so I’m busy working on the 5th version of the Madrid Guide I made for visitors when I was last here!

Keeping things in check

Keeping things in check

I was also given another gift by the guys at work during the week, in the form of my very own set of business cards. I am very happy with them as I am quite a fan of the dark blue and every designer cannot resist a good bit of spot foiling…

I feel like an adult now

I feel like an adult now

After work last Wednesday I headed over to visit Heidi’s new flat, and brought along some ingredients and the cake tins I had brought over (little luxuries, eh?) and we attempted to create a Victoria Sponge. I say attempted as we didn’t have a whisk, any kind of measuring equipment, or even a proper mixing bowl, so everything was roughly thrown together in a big pan and stirred with a fork until I thought it looked kind of okay…

Making cake, or trying to

Making cake, or trying to

Once the mixture was done it was time to put it in the oven, at which point we discovered that the wear on the knobs meant that we couldn’t see exactly what temperature it was at – great! Roughly estimating the 180° mark, we eventually put it in and hoped for the best. All seemed to be going well and we were getting a good rise on it, until I realised the oven was on the wrong setting and we had to change it, meaning the air escaped and the cake collapsed quite spectacularly. Damn!

We cooked it through though and eventually had something resembling a cake put together. We cut it up and tried a little, and in the end it actually tasted quite nice, albeit a little too sweet for my exacting sponge cake standards. Maybe next time things will go better!

It was by no means a wasted evening however, as we also took time to catch up over a glass of wine and admire the lovely views from the rooftop terrace just above their fourth floor apartment.

Looking into the Writer's Quarter

Looking into the Writer’s Quarter

As ever the next day it was back to Príncipe Pío and to work for me, however on the Thursday we had leaving drinks as one of my colleagues celebrated her last day, and gin and tonic at one’s desk is never something to moan about…

More gin

More gin

A good view over Príncipe Pío

A good view over Príncipe Pío

Friday afternoon means aperitivos

Friday afternoon means aperitivos

Seemingly within a blink of an eye it’s now the weekend again, and yesterday I met back up with Heidi and Loredana to have some food in Lavapiés before heading out to a rather special event, called Luna de Octubre or “The October Moon”. This is a huge festival of nocturnal light installations which takes over the city once a year, very much like previous Light Night events which I have attended whilst at university in Leeds. In fact, my very first blog post ever was reporting back on the very first Light Night I attended back in 2013 during my first year of uni! Wild.

Autumn arrives in the city

Autumn arrives in the city

Anyway, back to current events, I have plenty of photos and videos to share of Luna de Octubre so I shall have to let those wait until later on in the week when I have a bit more time to organise them all. For now though, enjoy another photo from Heidi’s flat, this time during the evening when a gorgeous pastel sky set over the city. I swear I could spend hours on end watching the city from that place!

A pink sky

A pink sky

In other news this weekend, I just got back from the Apple Store where I was worried about my unresponsive iPad, and where they confirmed that it is indeed completely dead. Turns out, however, that when I bought it I took out insurance and so I am basking in the relief that once they get some more in stock it will be replaced at no cost. Phew!

Whilst the iPad is out of action, I have been increasingly doodling with actual pens and paper, and after my little bit of typography last week I thought I’d try another style this week. These lettering doodles may end up filling the whole black paper section of my notebook – maybe I’ll have to eventually upload it here to my website as a little personal project!

Twisty like Blackpool Rock

Twisty like Blackpool Rock

I’ll share more progress on this doodle as I finish it off – I’ve since added some nice blue highlights and a couple of illustrations of the sickly sweet Blackpool Rock I used to eat as a child. For those who don’t know, the so-called “rock” is actually a stick of flavoured hard boiled sweet which is usually twisted to create a spiral pattern along it’s side, which inspired the twisty lines of the typography above.

Anyway, as I round off this post you might be wondering why it is called “Abandoned Bread & Other Nonsense”, and I shall indeed explain. Last Sunday evening and after writing my previous blog post I went for a wander in the local park, and what should I discover along the way but a lone baguette perched atop a bollard down a quiet street in my neighbourhood. As a huge fan of bread, and given the quality of the stuff here, I was absolutely distraught that it had been left forgotten and forlorn. I leave you with a picture of it – I am not joking when I say I have been thinking about that wasted loaf of bread all week…

Alone and forgotten

Alone and forgotten


15

Oct

2017

Lazy Sundays, Crazy Mondays

15th October 2017

This weekend hails the end of my second week here out in Madrid, and as you’d expect I’ve been using my time to explore and see what I can see. We begin things last Sunday, where me and Heidi headed into the city and have some coffee. Heidi had plenty of reading to do for her masters course so I took a book along with me to just draw and watch the world go by. Here’s the beginnings of a little typographic doodle I managed to rustle up…

Coffee and typography

Coffee and typography

In further procrastination, I had heard that world famous architect Norman Foster had an exhibition on in the city centre, so we headed to the Fundación Telefonica and took a look at Futuros Comunes, an exhibition dedicated to exploring the infamous buildings designed by Foster + Partners. The coolest exhibit for me was a scale model of what the new Apple campus, Apple Park, will look like.

Apple Park

Apple Park

Unfortunately Heidi had to head off, and so I didn’t get a chance to take as much time as I would have liked to look around, but I’ll be sure to return and bring more photos and updates from the exhibition soon.

Later that evening I found myself down at the Matadero, visiting the design centre who were running a poster series themed around the phrase “Madrid: La Cuidad Ligera” or “Madrid: The Light City”. This was open to interpretation so there were posters with all kinds of concepts, however my favourite one just read: “mi cuidad es ligera cuando saltamos todos al mismo tiempo”, translating to “my city is light when we all jump at the same time”. Genius.

A reminder of how to move around the Matadero

A reminder of how to move around the Matadero

Sundays soon turn into Mondays, but that didn’t bother me so much however as I was looking forward to getting stuck back into the design projects at work. There my desk is starting to become overrun with post-it notes, I think I should work out a better system for keeping track of all the new vocabulary – it’s starting to feel like college Spanish lessons all over again!

Another day, another word

Another day, another word

At the studio a busy couple of days soon ensued, and so on Tuesday night I did a spot of therapeutic cooking after work, creating a huge batch of the cinnamon-flavoured Spanish treat torrijas for everyone to enjoy in the office the next day.

Cooking away

Cooking away

Walking to work

Walking to work

With last Thursday being a national holiday as the Spanish celebrate the “Day of being Spanish” on the 12th October, we went out for some celebratory drinks on Wednesday night after work. We all headed a few streets down from the office where one of the restaurants has an outdoor terrace with a beach bar area, and so we all clinked glasses and chatted for hours over the sand.

Heading to the "beach"

Heading to the “beach”

Gin and tonic all round

Gin and tonic all round

Watching the sun go down

Watching the sun go down

Having stayed out on Wednesday night to the early hours of the morning singing karaoke and meeting tonnes of new people, my Thursday off was spent dozing around in bed and doing some housework in my flat, however things perked up on Friday as it was time for an aperitivo at work on the terrace as we bid goodbye to a couple of the team.

Food, glorious food

Food, glorious food

A few beers and hugs later it was the weekend once more, and I spent Friday night in the city watching the sun set over the lake at Retiro – a gorgeous sight.

The sun sets over Madrid

The sun sets over Madrid

This weekend has been a little less busy than last weekend, however I did manage to head out yesterday with my friend to try the burgers at a place I have been meaning to visit since I first came to the city – Goiko Grill. I ordered one with fried breaded Monterrey Jack cheese, mushrooms, bacon, smoked bacon mayonnaise and lettuce. The portion size was huge and the burger was to die for – I’ll definitely be back again soon!

Burger heaven

Burger heaven

Today is another calmer day as I’ve just whipped up some pisto, a Spanish dish of vegetables flavoured with paprika in a tomato sauce, and I’ve to get some washing done and try to dry my shoes. That doesn’t mean that it’s not an exciting day though, as I’ve now got two exciting events coming up very soon in my diary!

First up is that my friend Amber is coming to visit me in less than three weeks to spend a very long weekend relaxing in the city! It’ll be lovely to have her again after she visited last time, and I can’t wait to have a good catch up and do what we usually did back in England – sit around with a glass of wine and put the world to rights until the bar closes.

The next little trip I’ll be going on is back up to the north of Spain to see Kevin once again in the beautiful city of Oviedo! Me and Kevin met whilst he was studying Erasmus at Leeds University, and last time I went to Oviedo just a few months ago I had an absolute blast. It’s only a Friday evening until a Sunday evening, but I know that with Kevin’s plans we’ll squeeze so much in to the two full days that it’ll feel like a two week summer holiday all over again!

Anyway, I can hear my pisto sizzling away in the kitchen and it’ll soon be time to head up on to the roof of my block to hang my washing out to dry, so I must dash off. If you need me, I’ll probably be sat on the roof next to my washing, looking over the city and sipping on a can of Mahou from the corner shop. ¡Salud!