27.08.20 — Journal

De Madrid Al Cielo

It’s been nearly two weeks now since my holidays in Tenerife and Murcia came to an end, and so I thought that it was about time that I drop back in and update everyone on what I’ve been up to since then. Apart from work, which is still being done remotely from my flat, I’ve been making the most of the cooler late-summer nights to visit some interesting spots around the city and take a few pictures.

Now, the title of this blog post, “De Madrid al Cielo”, is a famous phrase used around here which roughly translates as “from Madrid to the heavens”. It’s common poetic use implies that Madrid is about as close to heaven as you can get, but I like the double entendre which brings me perfectly into my first little story, which certainly involved us getting as close to the heavens as possible.

One evening, Jhosef and friends invited me up to the mountains which surround Madrid in order to escape from the bright lights of the city and watch the meteor showers and take some long-exposure shots of the night sky. I figured that this wasn’t an everyday opportunity, and so I hopped in the car and off we went into the night, secretly hoping that I’d see my first ever shooting star.

A group of friends lying on a rock in the dark.

After a lengthy ride up a very bumpy dirt track, we arrived in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, and scouted out a rock to throw some blankets down and set up camp. We first spent some time munching on snacks we’d brought along and chatting away, with some of us later opting to huddle together and rest rather than run around taking photos.

I didn’t bring my camera with me, which was perhaps a silly decision looking back, but after a few walks with Cake Club in the same area in the past, I wasn’t about to end up having to haul my heavy camera up a mountainside! Jhosef and his friends took some lovely photos of the sky, however, and I even managed to make out the shape of the Milky Way and see a grand total of six shooting stars. It was magical!

I stand on a rock in the darkness.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a background so dark.

After arriving home from our outing at 4am, I then spent the rest of the weekend resting and trying to knock my sleep schedule back into line! During the week, however, I kicked back after work by heading down to the Matadero cultural centre near my house in order to find a seat in the shade and write my previous two blog posts out in the fresh air.

The water tower at the Matadero, seen in the sunset.

One evening even saw me take a bike all the way up to the city centre, where I sat myself down on a lovely terrace in Madrid de los Austrias, the oldest part of the city. After some more blog post writing and a cheeky beer, I decided to walk back home as the journey is downhill, and at that time of night the sun was hitting everything just beautifully as I walked down the ancient streets of the centre.

The facade of a red brick building in the evening light.
A street in the ancient part of Madrid, lit in the warm sun of an evening.

Once I’d seen such lovely evening skies over the city, I was determined to catch some more photos of Madrid’s gorgeous sunsets, which have had me hooked since I first saw a stunning example of the purple skies way back in 2016. Even Ellie, after a couple of trips to the city, always asks to check out the sunsets!

To chase a nice sunset, I headed back down to Parque de las Delicias, a lovely park which I discovered is a mere ten minutes walk from my house as I began exploring the neighbourhood more once lockdown was lifted but a 1km limit still applied to any excursions.

Abandoned trains in an abandoned station, with a cat in the foreground.
A tree in the foreground with the Madrid skyline in the background.

I wandered first past the fenced-off abandoned train station at the northern peak of the park, which is covered in black netting to keep prying eyes out, but which was no match for my determination to bag a photo of the abandoned trains and lazy cat which I could see within. After drawing some odd looks for shoving my phone through any hole I could find in said black net, I headed further south and into the park, snapping more photos as I crossed the large railway bridge.

A sunset with orange clouds behind a large concrete structure over Madrid.

This bridge led me out to a path which leads further into the park, but curiosity got the better of me as I noticed that some people had scaled the straits of the brutalist planetarium building which sits just to the left of the bridge. I snuck off to investigate whether the metal stairwells and various open-air platforms of the tall concrete structure were public, which they turned out to be.

The concrete levels of the planetarium in Madrid.
A blue, pink and orange sunset behind concrete columns.
An evening sky with pink clouds over a black silhouette of trees.

Once on top of the planetarium, I took these few photos of the gorgeous sunset, and then managed to get lost as I searched for a rental bike spot in order to cycle back home. In the end I’d to give up and find a bus back home, but as it was getting late and I was working the next day, I think it turned out to be a good idea!

The sunset over the south of Madrid, with a canopy of trees below in the foreground.
A pink sunset behind the dome of the planetarium in Madrid.

This past weekend was a particularly warm one, and I had some errands that I wanted to run and some things I wanted to pick up, so I decided to head to an indoor shopping centre to make the most of the free air conditioning! Instead of visiting one of my usual haunts like Parquesur or La Gavia, I decided to head to a centre in the north of the city that I’d been meaning to check out for a while.

The trip there ended up taking me much longer than I ever expected, as I managed to just miss the next bus or train at every stop along the way. I then got completely lost in a housing estate after hopping off my last bus, but I did eventually make it to the shopping centre!

A baseball court in between blocks of flats.

Another activity which never disappoints is a leisurely bike ride down the banks of the Río Manzanares by my house, and so I have spent a couple of evenings this past week doing just that. The many bridges along the way provide great spots for one or two lovely photos of the heavens of Madrid, and the sunsets this week haven’t disappointed!

A pink sunset over the Madrid River.
A vivid orange sunset reflected in the water of the Madrid river.

I’ve also been catching up with friends since I arrived back from my holidays, including a movie night in at home, a meal out of delicious vegan burgers with a friend I haven’t seen for a while, and then an evening in the park with Bogar and Hugo. The three of us, alongside Hugo’s boyfriend, met up in Retiro, Madrid’s biggest and most famous park, where we set up a little picnic and had some beers as the sun set around us.

A blue and orange sunset behind the silhouette of trees in Retiro park, Madrid.
A blue sky between the canopies of trees in Retiro park, Madrid.

And thus I conclude this little look back over the past week, with all the photos of the evening sky of this lovely little city I call home that one could possibly wish for. Coronavirus may still be quashing all dreams of travelling in this rather terrible year that is 2020, but once we are all free to move around once more, I do implore that you visit Madrid and see why the locals say “de Madrid al cielo”…