09.12.23 — Journal

Ellie & Johann Return

Just a week after I’d been off to Cuenca on business and a mere fortnight after I landed back in Spain from the US, I was cleaning the house up ready for the arrival of a couple of guests: Ellie and Johann. My sister usually comes once a year but it’s been a whole five years since she last came with Johann!

After picking them up from the airport, our top priority was getting some food. We visited a lovely little Greek restaurant near my house and had some amazing grub, including some divine roast carrots. From there, we pottered down the road and to the Matadero, which was hosting a series of installations from Luz Madrid.

As you can imagine, this annual festival celebrating light is right up my street. I last managed to visit it here in the city two years ago, so I was keen to see what kind of delights they’d have in store. We rocked up and weren’t disappointed; there were all kinds of installations including my favourite in the form of a big star which interacted with the Matadero’s water tower.

We then carried on further down the river, passing through other installations such as a matrix of flashing spotlights under a bridge and then a series of huge work lamps which changed colours. Ellie and Johann also took a ride on some kids slides which were quite the death trap…

You can just about make Ellie out in the darkness here.

It then began to rain in a rather Madrid fashion: both suddenly and very heavily. Taking it as a sign that it was time for bed, we scrambled for cover and hailed a taxi back home for the night.

The next day it was dry once more and so we hopped on the metro and up to the city centre to to indulge in some shopping and tourist activities. These naturally included some churros for breakfast and a pizza at Ellie’s favourite Italian restaurant for lunch.

Once it was dark again we were back out to check out some more of Luz Madrid, but not until we’d sat down at a bar for a drink. This evening we were out around the Plaza de España, where it looked like a huge and colourful spaceship had landed in the middle of this iconic square.

I then wanted to check out another installation inside a church, but the queue was long, we were hungry, and it had just started to rain again. We nipped a couple of streets down to a restaurant next to my old office, a place I used to haunt with my colleagues and which I knew would have us full of patatas bravas in no time.

We then returned to the church and hopped in line to see the show inside. It was worth the few minutes of queuing: the installation was a visual delight, involving moving spotlights, mirrors, and other visual effects in time with the music and within this rather unusual setting.

I always love it when fog is used to visualise rays of light.

The next day we had some tacos for lunch and then regrouped in the evening to go and watch the sun set from a park in Madrid’s south. We ate some snacks, enjoyed the panoramic views over the city, and shivered as the setting sun brought forth the bitter cold of the Madrid winter.

The Cerro del Tío Pío is one of the best places to get some iconic shots of Madrid.

Another day we headed up to the sierra, the mountains which surround the city. I’d wanted to visit a reservoir up there for a while and Ellie and Johann enjoy a walk around the countryside, so we caught the bus up to Navacerrada after a bit of a drama when I realised I didn’t have enough cash to pay for the three of us.

Once up there we were met with some lovely surroundings. We set off with the intention of walking the entire perimeter of the reservoir but wound up deviating from our course and up into a nearby village as we’d all wound up rather hungry and rather tired. This turned out to be a good decision; we found a nice spot on a terrace to have some lunch, a drink, and then grab the bus back to Madrid from the bus stop just across the road.

It had been a long day, but we still had the energy to go and catch another sunset from a place that I’d been wanting to visit for a while. Grabbing a bike each, we cycled down to the Dama del Manzanares, a sculpture atop an artificial hill in one of the parks which borders the river near my house. We made our way up to the peak just in time to catch some last rays of sun.

Once we’d cycled back home and returned our bikes there was just enough time for us to meet up with Luis. The four of us met up at NAP, the pizzeria that we all enjoy, and had an absolute whale of a time. From there we crossed Lavapiés to have a drink in Bodegas Lo Máximo, a local bar famed for its quirky decor and fun clientele. It was, as always, an absolute hoot!

That night sadly marked the last of Ellie and Johann’s visit. The next day we were all up and out relatively early as I took them to the train station and waved them off on their way to the airport. As ever, it was an absolutely lovely visit and I look forward to having them back over soon.

My next little adventure saw the tables turn as it was time for me to head off to the airport and away for a few days to visit a friend. More on that next time…