15.12.20 — Journal

December Bridge

I wrapped up my last post saying that I hoped to bring a new blog post to you all before I leave Spain for Christmas, and so here I am a mere five days before I jet off back to Blighty for a while. Naturally this last month of 2020 has been spent winding down, enjoying the Madrid festivities (prepare for many photos of Madrid’s iconic LED Christmas trees), and preparing to bid farewell to this year – a year that we can all agree hasn’t been the best!

I kicked off the month as many others did: with a spot of Christmas shopping. A few trips into the city centre and some long queues at the local Correos (Post Office) and I was pretty much done, so it was time to enjoy the Christmas lights that have been draped all over Madrid.

One weekend, me and Napo made a date to catch up, and seeing that we hadn’t seen each other for a good while, we thought that we had best make an occasion of it. We met up in the centre for a wander, then headed to a reservation at Goiko Grill, one of my favorite burger joints. Here I finally tried their biggest and best offering: a burger with a tonne of rib meat thrown in!

The burger was delicious, and the two of us had a lovely evening, which I ended with a bike ride back down to my flat – a decision which, in retrospect, may have been an error. I was so full after the huge burger and a very sweet dessert that I had to take a moment halfway through the trip for a moment to rest and digest!

Speaking of resting, Jhosef and I headed for a relaxing spa afternoon at Hammam Al Ándalus the day after. The last time I visited was with Bogar the weekend before Madrid was plunged into lockdown, so I was excited to be back for an hour or so of chilled-out bathing and a relaxing massage.

After two hours of complete zen, the two of us were keen to carry on our day of total relaxation, and so stopped for a bite to eat in Plaza Mayor in the centre of Madrid. After a couple of bocadillos de calamares (Madrid’s classic snack: squid ring sandwiches) and morcilla (a kind of black pudding or blood sausage), it was time to start the working week.

Between my typical work in the office, I’d also to run a few work-related and personal errands around the city centre, which led me to traverse a few streets that I wouldn’t normally potter down. One of these was the newly renovated area just east of the Puerta del Sol, the center of the city, which has been beautifully decorated and pedestrianized for the Christmas shopping season.

I also took a wander down Gran Vía, the main artery of the city, where I turned down a few side streets that I’d never noticed before. This led me to find a few old gems of shops, which cheered me up so much that I decided to carry on wandering around the city and check out the decorations in some of the main squares.

Madrid still sometimes throws up the odd little surprise.

There’s a differently coloured conical tree around every corner.

That evening, me and Sara headed out to a place that I’d had on my radar for a while, an Asturian restaurant just a ten minute walk from my house. We had a delicious and rather fancy meal of cachopo (a delicious beef, cheese, and cured ham filled concoction that I have enjoyed many times in Asturias) and chopitos (fried squid) – all washed down, naturally, by a few bottles of natural cider.

This kicked off the early December puente – Spain’s version of a bank holiday. We were blessed with a whole two extra days off, due to All Saint’s Day and a day celebrating of the country’s constitution, and we all made the most of it. Me and Jhosef, after a lovely film evening, visited another restaurant in my neighborhood that seemed interesting, a modern-looking Italian spot.

There, we had an absolutely lovely meal, including a fried starter followed by pizza and pasta, all of which was recommended to us by our lovely Italian waitress who talked us through most of the menu! Our eyes were definitely bigger than our bellies, however, and so I took half of my pizza home to finish at work the next day.

Last weekend saw me out again with Sara, who took me out for some drinks and a bite to eat in Lavapiés, a great area of the city to head out in. There, things got a little out of hand, with the waiter serving me some of the strongest gin and tonics that I’ve ever had. We ran into Jhosef, his sister, and her boyfriend, who stopped by for a quick chat, and then me and Sara headed out to a terrace to polish off another drink before heading back home.

After sleeping off a little hangover the day after, I headed down to the shopping area by the river to pick up the last couple of gifts. It was a nippy but pretty day, so I stopped to take a few photos and test out the lenses of my new phone.

Despite having to take some funny detours in order to avoid the pungent smells emanating from a cheese stall within the shopping centre, I managed to pick up the last few bits that I needed. This then take us into this, my final week at work before Christmas, which is as exciting as it is busy: the end is in sight, but there’s plenty to wrap up before we do!

I end this post with a couple of little anecdotes: the first being that, after around three and a half years living here in Spain on and off, I have finally managed to get hold of a proper residency permit in the form of a shiny new plastic card! I headed off there just this morning to pick up said card, and celebrated straight after with a very Spanish breakfast of a toasted baguette with grated tomato, olive oil, and cured ham.

The second little anecdote is to clarify something that may have had you confused since the start of this post: its title, “December Bridge”. This is a joke which I find hilarious but which you will probably groan at, and continues a trend that me and Luis begun at work years ago: directly translating Spanish sayings into English and laughing at home stupid they sound. The bank holiday we’ve just had in Spanish is called “puente de diciembre”, with “puente” meaning “bridge”. The idea of bridge comes from the fact that these holidays usually fall on a Tuesday, creating a “bridge” of days off with a working Monday in the middle. So the name of the holidays we have just enjoyed literally means “December Bridge”.

So yeah, maybe not all that funny, but you have to chuckle at your own terrible jokes every now and then!

Anyway, I bid you happy holidays until the time I post here, which will now probably be from the Tier 3 lockdown in England. Until then: happy December bridge!