06.01.22 — Journal

A British Christmas

Just like last year, the end of December saw me take a flight from Madrid back over to Manchester and my parents’ house to spend Christmas with my family. After all the concerning news about COVID cases, I was worried that I might not make it, but my test came back negative and I hopped on board my early morning flight headed northward.

The weather wasn’t certain what it was doing when I arrived in Manchester.

Landing in Manchester, my dad came to pick me up and I completed the first of three tests that I’d have to complete during my stay in the UK. I was confined to the house for the first five days at least, but it wasn’t an issue as I’d four days of working from home lined up before Christmas Eve came around.

Working from home was quite pleasant, and in the evenings I made the most of our comfy sofas to read Becoming by Michelle Obama (my current book) and help out around the house. After disconnecting from work on the 23rd, I took a celebratory bath with a glass of wine and thus began to wind down and get ready for Christmas.

After me and my mum had conducted a Bake-Off-style round of baking (she made a lemon drizzle and I presented a Victoria sponge with fresh cream to boot), it was Christmas Eve, and me and my sister were treated to a little bag of presents as has become the family tradition. The best gifts were definitely the new pyjamas, which were immediately put into service!

The 25th then came around and with it the opening of presents, which took up most of our morning – we weren’t in any big rush. As an extra Christmas Day miracle gift, my test-to-release came back negative, and so I was allowed to end quarantine and head out of the house! To celebrate this, my dad and I headed out for a walk, battling high winds on the country roads to make our way to a nearby reservoir that I’d somehow never been to.

After having a good poke around the place for a while, we then headed back home as the light faded, which wasn’t a problem thanks to the beautifully decorated cottages that we passed along the way. When we arrived, the traditional Christmas dinner was almost ready, so we all sat down to fill up on turkey with all the trimmings.

Boxing Day was then a pretty chill affair, with the main event being our traditional lunch of cream of cauliflower soup which my mum makes with the recipe of an old family friend – it’s always a delicious part of our Christmas routine.

The day after I was keen to exercise my newfound freedoms, requesting that we make a trip to “Big Tesco”, the huge supermarket in our town. After so many years away, I am always fascinated to see what is sold back in the UK, and how many strange new products have been launched since I left – I’m not sure why we need so many flavours of everything, but someone must be buying them!

As one of my dad’s presents from me and my sister, I’d brought over some meats, cheeses, and other extras to put together a Spanish food hamper, and so I put together some nibbles for him that afternoon. I was quite proud of my meat platter of jamón and lomo, I never get them to look this good back in Spain!

We then went for another walk after lunch, heading up to the reservoir I’m most familiar with, Hurstwood, before stopping back off at the pub on the way back. I took the opportunity to have a nice cool Guinness, drinking it was too quickly in hindsight: I was quite giddy on the way home.

With another negative test result the following day, I headed off for a much needed catch up with Amber and Jess. Our little reunion took place at Amber’s new flat, where she put on a beautiful spread of cheeses and other nibbles. We chatted for hours over a glass of wine each before I had to head home in order to be whisked off to my next destination: my grandparents’ house, where I saw them again for the first time in twelve months. How time flies!

The next day I headed to the Trafford Centre with my mum and sister, where I met up with Danni to have lunch together and a snoop around at the sales. Abi couldn’t make it as she’d contracted the virus, but the two of us had a lovely lunch together finished off with some delicious cinnamon and sugar pretzel bites.

I then had to wake up relatively earlier the next day, as it was suddenly my last day on British soil. After saying goodbye to my family, Danni came to pick me up, as we’d one last thing to do before I jetted off back to Spain.

The two of us then headed so Salford and Media City, where we’d booked tickets to see Van Gough Alive, an interactive exhibition showcasing his life and works. We had fun at the exhibition and even had time to nip by the Cadbury’s outlet shop afterwards, but all too soon we’d to head back to the car and up to Manchester Airport.

As you can imagine, it was lovely to be back in England and to celebrate Christmas with my family once again, especially as the last time I was over wasn’t such a jovial time. As you’ll notice, I haven’t mentioned anything about my New Year’s celebrations, and that’s because I did something a little different to see in 2022 – but that’s for the next blog post!

01.01.22 — Journal

December in Madrid

After a lovely long weekend in Porto, it was back to Madrid for me to spend the last few days before Christmas. Much of my time there was taken up doing my last few bits of Christmas shopping, but I also made time to decorate my flat, including adjusting all the LED lights to a new, festive color scheme…

In between getting my second dose of the vaccine and organizing myself ready for my trip back to the UK for Christmas, I spent plenty of evenings with friends, from pizza evenings with Napo to a hilarious evening of ice skating and traditional Chinese food with Luis and Yaewon.

As you can see, the meal consisted of a central heated bowl with three types of broth, in which we dipped a series of different ingredients for varying times so that they were perfectly, freshly cooked. We also had the option of creating a series of sauces and other adornments – it was all delicious and great fun!

The low winter sun makes for the occasional aesthetically pleasing scene despite the cold.

Work has also been quite busy, with plenty of projects to wrap up before the new year and some events to attend to. I can’t go into too much detail, but one was a presentation of a new brand at an international event for one of our clients, and the other included a trip to the headquarters of another to tour their offices and chat about new projects in the pipeline.

The Friday before I flew back to the UK took me to my third and final event, as I’d been asked to give a presentation at Referentum Talks, a celebration which brought together design students and Madrid’s most important design studios. There I gave a talk about how I went from design student to design director, talked through how we work at Erretres, and explained the process of our branding for Seedtag.

Here I am, probably making a joke about how I was going to do the talk in English.

It was lovely to be back representing Erretres on the design scene after the last talk I gave just before the pandemic, and it was a fitting end to a busy month of work before I flew back to England for a big family reunion – but more on that in the next post!

18.12.21 — Journal

The New Erretres

I’m not usually one for mixing work and play, nor I haven’t ever really spoken about any new projects at work, but I’m going to make an exception today as I’m pretty proud of what we’ve accomplished as a team. Just a couple of weeks ago, we launched our brand new website as the maximum expression of our new brand and the transformation that we’ve been undergoing for a few years now.

We’re also up for an Awwward, a prestigious web design award, so feel free to head over there and vote for us! I won’t witter on any more, for I’ll be back with more news and stories very soon.

10.12.21 — Travel

Porto

With a busy few weeks in Madrid over and done with, it was time for a spontaneous weekend away. A couple of holiday days here in Spain allowed me to nip over to Porto in Portugal, a city I’ve been wanting to visit for a good while since I visited Lisbon a couple of times back in 2017.

The trip began with a mad dash to the airport after work with my colleague, Julia, whose family live in Portugal, and so she was also going to spend the weekend in the city. After a very short flight the two of us landed in Porto together, before heading our separate ways as she headed out to the suburbs as I headed into the centre of the old city and to the flat I’d booked for my four-night adventure.

My first task was to run myself a bath, as I’d splashed out a bit on a nice apartment with a fully-equipped bathroom for just that purpose. Popping on some relaxing music and dimming the lights, I lobbed the bath bomb that I’d brought with me into the tub and settled down amongst the bubbles for a relaxing evening in.

The next day I woke to my first view over Porto and my first taste of its weather, with a low fog hanging over the terracotta roofs of the nearby buildings. I still couldn’t head out to explore, however, as it was a Friday and I’d still a full day to work. For this, I set up my laptop, had some leftover food for breakfast, and then began my most extravagant day of remote working ever.

It was somewhat difficult to concentrate on the tasks in hand with such lovely views by my side.

Once work was over, Julia came over, and the two of us headed out to spend our first evening in Porto together. She’d been taking about an Asian fusion restaurant, Boa Bao, which was a real treat – we enjoyed a few different types of bao, a curry, and some delicious sticky noodles. This was all washed down with some delicious cocktails and then one final G&T in another local bar, all before we headed out to grab some pastéis de nata (little sweet custom tarts) at a place that Julia insisted had the best ones in the city – it was a lovely evening!

If you ate some nice food without uploading a story about it, did you really eat it?

I was in no rush to move the next morning, mainly because the mix of drinks had left me with a bit of a dodgy head – I forgot to mention that I also had a shot of ginjinha (a cherry liquor) with my dessert, which may not have been the best idea. Hindsight is a beautiful thing!

The one thing that did eventually motivate me to get out of bed was the beautiful clear skies and the beguiling sun I could see shining from the lovely views of my bedroom – that plus the knowledge that I’d a couple more pastéis de nata waiting for me for breakfast…

Freshly energised, I headed out for my first day of exploration of Porto by day, which wouldn’t take me far from home seeing as I’d grabbed a place smack bang in the centre of the historical centre of the city. I’d decided on where I was going to head to for lunch (thanks to one of Julia’s many recommendations), and so decided to wander around any pretty streets that I found along the way – something I learned to do in Lisbon four years ago.

This was the first time I’d seen the street I was staying on in daylight.

As you can see, the city streets were as charmingly beautiful as I had been told they would be, with a certain quaintness coming from their age and the dilapidated state of man of the buildings along the way. I’m sure I looked rather like a lost tourist as I wandered around aimlessly looking upwards, and that wouldn’t have been too far from the truth – I was in no rush.

A big old city on the side of a hill makes for some interesting architectural solutions.

My walk took me past the São Bento train station, a place I had marked on my map thanks to its striking displays of painted tiles (azulejos), so I headed in to take them in before containing on my way. I eventually found my lunch spot and sat down for a delicious sandwich with was full of succulent pork and local type of gooey cheese. I washed this down with a beer before heading back off on my way.

My afternoon then took me past the Livraria Lello, a gorgeous book shop which inspired the design of certain locations in Harry Potter. I had intended to head in for a visit, but there were huge queues outside, and so I decided to head on and check out a few more sights that Julia had mentioned.

The first place was another spot to see more azulejos (the blue tiles that Portugal is famed for), this time on the side of an old church in the north of the city. There I red into (almost literally) one of the infamous trams of Portugal’s hillside cities before sitting down again for another bite to eat at another local spot that I stumbled across.

I continued on my way after the second half of my lunch, passing through yet more pretty and sometimes empty buildings and down some gorgeous tiny streets with some impressive views. I nipped back home for a quick rest in the mid afternoon, after which I headed back out again and to one of Porto’s most famous landmarks.

Heading back out, I wandered just a few streets away from the one I was staying on and started my descent onto the Ponte de Dom Luís I, a huge double-decker metal arch bridge which spans the River Duoro and which offers some stunning views over the city. I gingerly began my crossing, worried about losing my phone down the gaps in the metal sheeting or being run over by the metro. Yes, you heard that right: the metro runs over the upper deck of the bridge. Moving out the way to let the trains pass and feeling the shaking as they do so was quite the experience!

The sights that began to come into view were quite something.

I’d inadvertently timed my crossing just right, as the sun was beginning to set over the river which splits Porto from it’s neighbouring city, Gaia. As I crossed over into the latter, I snooped down at the sights such as the boats passing by, the expanses of Port wine cellars along the banks of the river, and the general gorgeous views across the hillsides.

Once over in Gaia, the best views of Porto finally came into view, and I headed up to the best vantage point I could find to take a series of shots. I think it’s another one of those times where I don’t really have to explain all that much, as the photos capture the moment pretty well…

After a good while just taking all of my surroundings in, I began to head back down to the bridge in order to head back over to Porto as the sun finally fully set beyond the horizon. I had originally planned to head straight back to the flat, but curiosity got the better of me, and I found myself heading down to the riverside to take in the evening views and atmosphere.

I’d quickly noticed the orange streetlights, which created some interesting colours through the city.

I then headed back home, relaxing with another quick bath in the flat, and then headed back out into the city streets for my evening meal. I eventually wound up back over in Gaia for a traditional cod-based dish and a glass of wine, which took me back over the huge bridge by night – another pretty unique experience!

The meal down by the river was very enjoyable, and I finished it off with a delicious dessert and a glass of Port wine – I mean, it’d have been a crime not to! I then meandered my way back up the steep streets back to base, bedding down to make the most of the Sunday afterwards.

Check out the barrels of port wine on the barges along the riverside.

My Sunday began much the same as the day before – with a morning lazying around in the flat. What eventually got me out the door was a message from Julia, who said we should meet up to eat the city’s most famous dish, the francesinha, for lunch. She insisted that she knew the best place to try out this huge sandwich consisting of bread, ham, linguiça (smoked sausage), chipolata, roast beef, cheese, and a fried egg, all covered in a spicy sauce made with beer – quite the list!

In between these two photos about half an hour passed, and we moved from sun to rain.

As you can imagine, this meal was quite the experience, and I really enjoyed the huge explosion of a sandwich! Whilst we were having lunch it had begun to rain, but the clouds thankfully lifted after we left the restaurant, and so Julia took me to a lovely rooftop bar for a coffee with a view.

After another drink or two in a bar that Julia used to haunt a few years ago, we met up with her brother and another friend to finish off the evening with some beers in a specialist brewpub. There we entered in a whirlwind of languages, with English, Spanish, and Portuguese being thrown around seemingly at random. At least it was a good way to tire me out so I’d get a good last night of sleep!

The next morning was my last day, and so I packed my bag, left the flat, and had a coffee and some breakfast before hopping in a taxi back to the airport. I’d been in Porto for just three and a half days, but I’d had a great rest and not rushed around too much, which was quite nice, as I’m famed for trying to pack in as much as possible whenever I go travelling.

Porto was a lovely city to spend a long weekend in, and I’ve to thank Julia for her recommendations and for spending time to show me around. Although I didn’t do everything on my list, I know now how easy it is to get to from Madrid, and so I’ll surely be back in a warmer season to enjoy the rest of the city that I didn’t manage to see.

Until then, I’ll sign off here with another photo and a quick video that I took from the vantage point in Gaia, looking over Porto and it’s iconic bridge. I took so many photos from up there that I really struggled choosing which to include, so I’ve decided sneak these in as a little extra at the end such as not to overwhelm the post with photos above…

06.12.21 — Journal

Sing-Song & Sushi Times

After Danni’s visit just a few weeks ago, the month of November has very quickly come and gone, and with it a good few weekends of mischief. Just a day before Danni arrived, my new Dr. Martens boots arrived, and so I made the most of the trip to the airport to start wearing them in – especially apt as they matched my bag! I also spent a few evenings walking around the area and chilling out with friends at home.

One Friday, and after a rather busy day holding another photo shoot in the office, I met up with Sara for an evening meal out. She’d suggested a Japanese restaurant that I’d seen a few times before, and it turned out to be an all-you-can-eat of small dishes delivered by a conveyor belt system. We had a wonderful evening, filling up on sushi and other delights before downing a couple of G&Ts around the city.

I also spent some time conducting a deep clean of my flat that weekend, which involved bringing together all of my plants for their regular pampering (i.e. removal of dead leaves and a good watering). I also tried my hand at a bit of cooking, throwing together my best attempt at a fry-up (a British breakfast) before making some noodles in the evening.

With the next working week coming around, I had another exciting plan in place. That Wednesday, I cycled down through the city centre and to Antón Martín, and to the new offices of a couple of ex-colleagues. There, I was joined by Luis, and the four of us had a wonderful catch up over a bottle of wine. From there, we headed to a friend’s house to carry on the festivities, before winding up in another local bar for some tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelette) and a final glass of wine.

To end that week, me and some colleagues then met up at Citynizer Plaza, where we had some drinks to celebrate the conclusion of another working week. That weekend’s frivolities then continues with a visit from Sara at home, which replaced our original plan of going out for a karaoke night as I was still feeling a bit tired from our night out at Citynizer the night before!

The next week, I spent some more time wearing in my new boots, including cycling through the newly opened Plaza de España (where our office was when I first started working at Erretres) and some more wandering around my local neighbourhood – including the exploration of a dodgy backstreet that I’d never seen before…

Autumn in Madrid is very pretty also frighteningly cold, although it might not look it.

In a break from my wandering, one evening I headed down to Luis’ flat, where we were joined by his friend Carmen for an evening of wine, ramen, and gossip. After a lovely evening with the two of them, my streak of evenings out continued the day after, as Sara and I had rescheduled our karaoke evening. We first headed out to Tapapiés, a tapas trail around the Lavapiés district, before having a few G&Ts and heading to my favourite karaoke joint.

After an evening of energising the crowds with our 2am rendition of the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe”, the two of us spent the Sunday recovering before heading straight back into another working week. My week, however, was to be slightly different, as the Thursday evening I was to leave Madrid to spend a long weekend elsewhere – but that story is for the next blog post!

21.11.21 — Journal

Danni Swings By

As I mentioned, my sister’s visit wasn’t the last in my run of visits, and a couple of weeks ago I welcomed one of my oldest friends, Danni, to the cool streets of the big city!

The adventures began a Friday after work, when I haded off to El Toril with some colleagues to celebrate one of their birthdays. There, we ordered some of their delicious burgers, and Danni arrived to join in the fun and have lunch with all of us!

The lunch ended with a lovely little surprise courtesy of Inés’ partner, who surprised her with some homemade dessert accompanied with a rowdy rendition of “Cumpleaños feliz” (the Spanish version of “Happy Birthday to You”). We washed our slice of cake down with a shot of crema de orujo, a cream liquor, and then grabbed a taxi back to my flat so that Danni could unpack what little stuff she’d brought with her.

Before heading out for an evening drink, Danni handed me a little gift she’d brought over with her: bonfire lollies! The Friday she’d arrived was the 5th of November – Bonfire Night in the UK – and so naturally we’d to have a bonfire lolly whilst I mounted a questionably safe mini bonfire in an old frying pan…

Ah yes, my indoor bonfire fuelled by gin and paper was very safe.

With the mini bonfire thoroughly extinguished, we headed up to a place that I’d been wanting to visit, but decided to wait to go with Danni as it’s right up her street: the rooftop terrace of the Hard Rock Hotel. Having booked in advance, we arrived only to be told that the terrace was closed due to rain and heavy winds; something which didn’t come as much of a surprise as we’d suffered the horrible weather the entire journey to the hotel!

All wasn’t lost, however, as we were given the option of having a fancy cocktail in the hotel’s restaurant or some drinks in the lobby bar. We opted for the latter so that we could enjoy the live music courtesy of a local band, and so spent a good few hours nattering and soaking up the Hard Rock atmosphere.

We begun the next day with a bit of culture, heading up to a free exhibition in the Fundación Telefonica titled Color. El conocimiento de lo invisible (“Colour: The Knowledge of the Invisible”). This included a lot of installations visualising the hidden workings of colour and light, and so it was right up my street.

After the exhibition, we went for a wander around the city centre, meandering our way down to Lavapiés to have a delicious pizza lunch at the same place I took my parents and my sister. For dessert, we sought out some frozen yoghurt, which we devoured before making a trip to Mercadona to grab some snacks for the rest of Danni’s holiday with me.

The homemade bread and aubergine, cheese, and tomato starter never fails.

That evening took us out back to Lavapiés, where we met up with Luis and some of his friends for drinks. We had a great laugh and a couple of very strong gin and tonics, all before winding up in the new Vurger King (a new vegetarian Burger King that’s opened here) where we stove off a hangover the next day with a burger and a huge Gold Oreo flavoured milkshake.

Keeping the hangover at bay was very important, as the next day we’d a day trip planned to Parque Warner, the Warner Bros. theme park that I’ve been meaning to visit after checking out the other park, Parque de Atracciones, a few months ago. The day begun with a bus journey down to one of Madrid’s main interchanges, where we picked up the theme park tickets and grabbed the bus down to the park.

After queuing up for a while, we were finally in the park, where we immediately set about visiting all of the biggest rides. The two of us are pretty geeky when it comes to roller coasters and theme parks, as evidenced by our frequent trips to our local park, Blackpool Pleasure Beach, from many years ago!

One of our favourite rides was “Superman: Ride of Steel”, a lovely B&M standup coaster.

With the biggest rides ridden, we headed for Correcaminos Bip Bip, a coaster whose name had us giggling as it literally means “Roadrunner Beep Beep”. As the day wore on, the sky began to turn and it began to get cold, but we decided to head into a show called “Loca Academia de Policía” (“Crazy Police Academy”) after we came across a huge queue to get in.

The show turned out to be a big motorbike and supercar stunt show, involving general silliness between some pretty impressive stunts, the likes of which I hadn’t seen since my last visit to Florida a good few years back. The show was a blast, but when we left the arena, it was completely dark and getting pretty cold. We decided to get one last ride in on a boomerang coaster that we’d enjoyed, all before accidentally running into a nighttime parade, during which we had a little dance on the street as the parade floats passed by.

With half an hour to kill before the bus came to pick us up and take us back to the city, we grabbed a festive flavoured hot chocolate and headed out to wait for the bus, arriving home with a kebab in hand to settle down for a relaxed evening after such a long day.

The next day already signalled Danni’s last full day in Madrid, and so we headed out for breakfast at a local bar before heading down to the river to begin our day around the city. After grabbing a bike and having a little cycle around, we headed up to the city centre and carried on our cycling around Retiro, after which we headed to a local restaurant for a tapas-style lunch.

I think this is the most sport I’ve done for a while: a zip line and then a bike ride in the same day…

After lunch, we went for a coffee, dessert and a spot of shopping around Chueca, after which we mounted ourselves back on a bike and went for some sightseeing around the palace area of the city, stopping to watch the sunset from the hillside gardens next to a big church. After this, we headed back home, where we had a relaxed evening with a drink and a takeaway.

The next day, we heeded out for breakfast in the form of churros with chocolate at San Ginés, Madrid’s oldest churrería and a place Danni was keen to head back to. I hadn’t been since before the beginning of the pandemic, so it was lovely to head back and enjoy some delicious churros and porras (like a thicker version of a churro).

From there, we’d then to head to the nearby train station and grab the Cercanías up to the airport, where I waved goodbye to Danni after a fabulous few days spent with her around Madrid. It was great to see her again after almost a whole year, and I’m super excited to see her again when I’m back over in England for the Christmas holidays – which won’t be too long now!

13.11.21 — Journal

Luz Madrid

Epilepsy Warning: This post contains videos which include flashing lights.

The weekend after another busy week brought plenty of fun stuff to be getting up to, even if the weather was continuing it’s downward spiral as we head into winter. I say winter because the weather in Madrid seems to skip spring and autumn: it’s either unbearably hot or freezing cold!

Despite the chill, I’d made plans to head out for tea at a lovely restaurant in the centre before handing out for some drinks and then to a karaoke with some colleagues. It had been a good while since I last went out, and even longer since I last went to my favourite karaoke bar!

The next day, and having somehow miraculously avoided a hangover, I’d arranged to meet up with some other friends to watch a theatre piece written, directed, and starred in by one of their girlfriends. The comedy, called Reset, was a great laugh and took place in a cute little theatre down in the La Latina district. Once the show was over, we all took shelter from the rain in a nearby bar, where we had a round of gin and tonics whilst awaiting the arrival of the cast. 

As 11pm approached, however, I decided that I simply could not miss the last night of Luz Madrid. This was an event taking place all over the city consisting of light installations across some of Madrid’s most emblematic buildings and spaces. I’d been meaning to go during the first two days of the three-day event, but karaoke plans and the third season of Sex Education had wound up distracting me.

The walk down to the centre from La Latina made me begin to think that perhaps my idea hadn’t been the best, as it began to pour it down with rain the moment I stepped out of the bar. With my brolly in tow I wasn’t fazed, however, and I marched determinedly down towards Cibeles, where the bulk of the installations were taking place. 

The reflections of the city lights looked lovely along the wet streets.

The first light show I stumbled upon turned out to be the most enthralling, as the whole of the gardens of the Cuartel General del Ejército de Tierra (Headquarters of the Spanish Army) had been turned into an interactive light show with music and lasers.

I got closer and stood with my head against the railings for a good while, taking in the surreal atmosphere generated by the “Planum et Lumen” installation by Maxi Gilbert. I’d have wandered in, but there was another spectacle I wanted to witness just down the road.

It doesn’t really show up well on camera, but there was a column of light reaching upwards.

The next installation was “Camino a la Vida” by Juanjo Llorens, which took over the facade of the Cibeles Palace, a beautiful building my dad likes to call the “wedding cake”. This piece illuminated the facade as much as it did the sky, with lasers pointed towards the heavens and spotlights scanning the area from atop the palace.

As I stood in the middle of a closed-off roundabout with my shoes absolutely drenched and the rain coming down heavier and heavier, the clock struck midnight and signalled the end of Luz Madrid. I waded back through the empty streets (everyone with any sense had retreated back home when the torrential rain began) and eventually braved the packed metro back home.

The next day saw a break from the rain, but the cloudy skies prompted me to spend the day having lunch and watching a film at a colleague’s house. After a plato combinado (basically a dish with many different types of food on it), we settled down under some blankets on the settee and watched the Almódovar classic “Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios” (titled “Women on the Verge of a Mental Breakdown” in English). I absolutely loved the film, and particularly the song “Soy infeliz”, which I will use to end this blog post…

30.10.21 — Journal

Summer to Autumn

If you keep up with my blog, you’ll know that recently I’ve had plenty of visits: from friends to my parents and then my sister. This wasn’t the end of things, though, as I’d still one visit more to squeeze in as summer turned to autumn: my auntie and uncle!

After Ellie left on the Thursday, the two of them rocked up into Madrid on the Friday, stopping off as they often do for a couple of nights on their way back down to Murcia from the UK. I reunited with them after work, and found them waiting in a bar just by my house.

We went out for tea down at the slaughterhouse that evening, after which it was soon Saturday and time to enjoy their only full day in Madrid. This took us into the centre, where we passed by many of the sights, stopping for a snoop around the Almudena Cathedral on that had enchanted me so during my first visit to Madrid. Breakfast was also quite eventful: it was accompanied by flyovers from the Spanish military to mark their national holiday: Hispanic Day.

The cathedral’s patterned and colourful roof is always a pleasure to photograph.

After this, we headed up to the northern neighbourhood of Malasaña, where I was keen for them to try some potato omelette from one of my favourite bars. There was a big queue out the door, however, and so we headed to another bar and had some tasty lunch there, all before heading home to rest for a while.

That evening, the three of us headed back out for tea at my local restaurant, arriving home ready for their last night staying at mine. The next morning we didn’t have all that much time to do much, having breakfast before heading back down to the car park for them to carry on their journey back down to Murcia.

It was lovely to see the two of them again in Madrid, even if it was a whistle-stop trip! As they left on the Sunday, I had another busy week at work in store afterwards, with some relaxed evenings in order to recover from so much activity recently.

The golden hour as seen from the park next to my office made for a lovely walk back home.

The weekend after my auntie and uncle’s visit was one of semi-forced relaxation, as on Friday – and after two bouts of coronavirus – I was finally able to get my vaccine! Props to the Madrid health service, as the whole procedure was about as easy as going to the fish counter in the supermarket, even if it did leave me a bit feverish for the next couple of days.

I’m finally vaccinated and ready to try to return to some sense of normality!

One evening I did, however, decide to push back against my general state of malaise as I headed out for some wine and food with Sara. We popped down to a local Galician restaurant, where we just about managed to munch our way through three huge plates of seafood and meats. It was absolutely delicious, but left me even more feverish than before. I’ll never learn!

I was fully recovered for Monday and my return back to the office, where another busy but rewarding week awaited me. I was once again kept going by my lovely evening drinks with friends and wanders through the park – even if the cold is now beginning to bite at my toes a bit.

There’s been no better spot to ring my friends back in the UK and across the globe.

And with that, I bring my blog up to date and to this long weekend. I’ve some plans with friends to head out for a drink and even to the theatre tomorrow, so it should prove to be a nice relaxed few days – despite the rain that has descended over Madrid and which won’t giving up until next week.

Fingers crossed that it does lift before Friday – I’ve another important visit coming up, but that’ll have to remain a little secret until closer to the time. Until then!

23.10.21 — Journal

The Briggs Siblings Reunite

A mere week after my parents visited me, and over two years after she was last able to come over, I was joined once again by my sister here in Madrid! After work one day, I left the office and hurried my way up to the airport on the metro, as I’d agreed to meet her so that we could head back to my flat together and kick off of her week with me here in Spain.

Our first evening together was spent having some drinks: I was in no rush because I’d taken the next day off! We discussed what we might get up to over the coming days, throwing together some quick plans for the next day before heading off to bed.

The next day we headed to a lovely restaurant on Gran Vía that I’d visited with my parents, as my mum had spoke so much about the dessert that I decided it was worth going back. We rocked up and ordered plenty of little plates to share at, and Ellie decided we should share a litre of sangría. Once we’d polished off our crema catalana (basically a crème brûlée) and torrija quemada, we began to realise that the sangría had more of a kick to it than we thought!

There’s nothing more dangerous than a sangría that lures you into a false sense of security…

We then paid up and headed out into the city, having another decidedly non-alcoholic drink on another terrace before heading down to the lake. There, Ellie grabbed herself an ice cream and we relaxed for a while, resting between the racket of the squawking parrots in the trees above. We then walked back towards the city centre, grabbing the train back home.

That evening, we headed out for an evening meal, grabbing some delicious dishes in my favourite local Italian restaurant. As we ordered a huge slice of chocolate cake for dessert, it was getting quite late, and so we finished out last glass of wine and headed back home.

As we awoke the next day we were already in day three of Ellie’s weeklong visit, and so headed out bright and early to make the most of the sunny Saturday. After some breakfast near home, we headed down to the Matadero, having a drink whilst we waited for an exhibition at the design centre there to open.

I was particularly keen to visit the Exposición Madridgrafía, as some of my work at Erretres was included in this exhibition looking at graphic design made in Madrid. It was lovely to see the brands I worked on for Buendía Estudios and Seedtag up there, and I felt honoured to have work included in a place that I’ve been visiting for a good few years!

After taking the obligatory photos alongside my work (which I have omitted here), we headed just down the road and to the city’s public greenhouse, which Ellie always enjoys a wander round being the biologist that she is. It was actually a much more pleasant experience than last time – despite the obligatory face masks – as it wasn’t half as humid and much cooler than last time.

With all the plants seen and all the obligatory aesthetic photos taken, we then headed back home to prepare some food, as we’d a picnic planned in the Retiro park. We last did this when Ellie visited with her boyfriend Johann back in 2018, and it went down a treat, so we’d another lakeside lunch planned.

After we’d tucked into our original creation of bread with alioli, tomato, and basil, we then headed back out of the park to grab some bikes, which we then used to tour all four corners of the huge park. Once we’d tired of the park, we then headed onwards to the Temple of Debod, where we caught a gorgeous sunset to end another long day of exploration.

One of the few selfies of the two of us that we actually got round to taking…

The next day, we made the most of the bikes that we’d taken out, heading down to the river for a cycle around before heading out for lunch. Ellie was keen to head back to NAP Pizza, my favourite pizzeria in Madrid, and it was there that we made the discovery of the trip – a delicious starter made with strips of aubergine with cheese and tomato. It was absolutely delicious!

With lunch done, we ended up back on our bikes again, cycling all the way down to the Anillo Verde (literally the “green ring”) leading out into the north of the city. The trip back took us past the lake again, but we didn’t stick around for long as we’d elsewhere to be…

Once we’d finished our little exploration of Madrid’s cycling routes, it was time to get the metro down to the south of the city to do something that even I haven’t done since the last time Ellie came – watch the sunset from a park down in Vallecas. This great vantage point was the perfect spot for a Sunday evening, and we enjoyed some drinks and snacks as the sun put on a lovely show.

As night fell, we headed back to the centre of the city and began an evening of tapeo – having drinks and eating tapas around the literary quarter. Ellie was back on her favourite, patatas bravas (fried potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce), and we even made a visit at the pintxos (small bites of food) bar that had been such a success with my mum and dad. The night ended in La Esperanza, one of my favourite bars for a drink and a quick bite to eat before heading home.

Nothing says Madrid more than a gin and tonic, a vermouth, and a bite to eat.

We began the next day at Ojalá, a spot which never fails for a slap-up breakfast. From there, we headed down to the Parque de Atracciones, Madrid’s theme park that I visited for the first time just a few weeks ago. There we spent the rest of the day, knackering ourselves out on the various attractions before having our evening meal at my local bar.

The day after signalled our last full day in the city together, and we’d arranged to meet Luis for some drinks after we’d stopped by to meet him and some other friends one evening before. This took us down to the Matadero and then back up to the pizza bar that had been such a hit, all before ending up in Citynizer Plaza to have a few drinks after I’d spontaneously bought myself a new iPad.

The Aperol Spritzes may have flowed a bit too easily, as the ice creams we bought after nearly ended up on the floor.

Ending our last full day with some drinks by down the river, it was then time for me to head back to the office – but I wasn’t alone! Ellie joined me for a few hours in the morning to lend me a hand preparing a workshop, before heading out to do a bit of shopping after we’d had lunch together at a little bar near work.

That evening was a chill one at home. We ordered in some arepas and had one last drink as Ellie packed up ready to head back to old Blighty the next morning, which she did as I bundled her into a taxi destined for the airport as I headed off to the office and back to the daily grind…

As with the last two times Ellie has come over to see me here in the big city, the two of us had an absolute blast, and I hope that she can nip over more often now that we’re all vaccinated and things are a bit more under control! It’s been a busy period for family visits, with my parents’ visit just the week before and my auntie and uncle coming the day after – but I’ll save that one for the next blog post!

16.10.21 — Journal

The Parents Return

After being graciously hosted by Loredana and David in Vienna, it was time for me to be the host for an important visit: my parents were coming to Madrid! Seeing as I hadn’t seen them since January, which wasn’t the most pleasant of trips, I was excited by the prospect of seeing them again and sharing my favourite spots with them from across the city.

Their visit began with some drama at the airport when I want to pick them up. I arrived on the metro but then couldn’t enter the terminal building as I had no boarding pass, so I’d to leave via a car park which spat me out onto an abandoned exit ramp which took me to a rather large and busy road. There, I’d to jump over the metal barriers and risk life and limb to get to the other side, where more risky crossing and parkour-style acrobatics were needed to finally get me to the arrivals area outside T1. What’s more, I couldn’t even contact them to see where they were and to tell them that I was outside, as their roaming data hadn’t kicked in!

Through some sheer luck I was eventually reunited with my mum and dad as they wandered outside and found me waiting where everyone else was congregated. We then hopped in a taxi back to my place, where they unpacked as I threw together a platter of nibbles before we turned in for the night – it was already quite late.

The next day began with breakfast down at a bar a stone’s throw away from my building, before some drinks down at the Matadero (an ex-abattoir-turned-cultural-center by the river). We then headed up to the Lavapiés neighbourhood, stopping for a pizza lunch at one of my favourite pizzerias.

Our afternoon then continued at full steam ahead – no rest for the wicked! After lunch, we had coffee and dessert at Citynizer, and then took the metro down to the lake in order to catch some last rays and have a round of sangría. We then headed back to the La Latina district, where we had a selection of tapas and another drink in a lovely little square away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.

Mum always enjoys a glass of sangría down by the lakeside.

We begun the next day with breakfast at the same local bar – it had quickly become a favourite spot of my parents, who couldn’t believe how cheap it was! From there, we grabbed a bus up to Retiro Park, where my mum fancied a go on the city bikes. There we avoided a near catastrophe when one of the rental machines refused to release my parents’ credit card, and I’d to go asking in a nearby bar for a pair of pliers which I eventually used to yank the poor thing out.

Disaster averted, we eventually grabbed some bikes and began our bike ride around the lush gardens of this huge park, stopping at all the must-see spots along the way. Once tired out and ready to eat, we headed for lunch at a local tapas spot, where the different plates and desserts went down an absolute treat.

I swear everyone who comes to visit has this exact same picture taken.

After a much needed post-lunch rest, we headed out for our last meal of the day, which took us to a local Italian restaurant that I enjoy visiting. As I write this I am beginning to realise that it seems like all we did is wander, eat, drink, and chat – and that’s pretty much the truth. If you’re not doing that, you’re not living the Madrid lifestyle properly!

The next day saw us back un the city centre for a spot of shopping, after which we had something to eat before hopping back on the bikes. After passing by the Royal Palace, we came across some dancing in the street, and eventually had a drink in the Mercado de San Miguel, a street market that I’d never before managed to get a seat at. Great success!

That evening we wound up at the Templo de Debod, one of my favourite spots to catch the sunset. The sky put on a beautiful show as always, but we were soon hungry and ready to celebrate my parents’ last night in Madrid – the whole trip had come and gone so fast!

I took the three of us down to the Writer’s Quarter for the evening, as I’d a bar in mind that I hadn’t been to for quite some time. Whilst on our way to this spot, however, I caught sight of another bar that I’d heard great things about, and there they had a table free and perfect for the three of us!

There we had a selection of the most delicious pintxos – the small dishes of food famously found in the Basque Country – and I fell in head-over-heals in love with a salmon and cream cheese pastry. Whilst tucking in to our meal, my sister Ellie gave us a call, and I spent a while chatting to her in preparation for her visit to Madrid just one week later!

With this last bill paid and my parents’ bags packed, we had one last drink at home before they turned in for the night. The next morning saw the three of us then bundle ourselves into a taxi which would drop me off at work before taking them onwards and up to the airport for their flight back to old Blighty.

As you can see, the three days that I had my parents’ company in Madrid positively flew by! I had a lovely time, as we managed to cram a lot in without rushing around too much, and it was great to catch up with the two of them in person after nearly a year without being able to visit.

Well, I already gave away the topic of my next blog post towards the end there, as it’ll be delving into the many aventures that me and my sister got up to during her week here in the Spanish capital – I’m running a bit behind on these blog posts thanks to so many visits, but hopefully it’ll be worth the wait! Until then…