18.09.21 — Journal

Izzy Visits & More

Once my double whammy of COVID lockdowns was over, I was understandably looking to spend as little time in my flat as possible. Thankfully, I had plenty of ideas of what to do after so much time to think about it, and begun my freedom with the first of many trips around Madrid. This took me up to Las Rozas and to my friend’s house, where we’d arranged to have a dip in the pool and then head out for a bite to eat.

The sun setting over Las Rozas created some lovely autumnal colours.

We had a lovely catch up at his pool before heading out for pizza, and then spent the evening chatting away in the park with a beer. Eventually I’d to get the train home after the sun set, as it was a Sunday night and I was due back in the office the next day.

The next weekend saw me jump on a bike and head off to explore some of the city centre, as I’d to do some reconnaissance for Izzy’s visit and I also fancied visiting some of my favourite spots around the city. On my first bike ride, I headed to Ópera and the area I like to call “Royal Madrid” around the palace and cathedral. There, I stopped for an ice cream, before swinging past the new viewing platform that has just been opened after gosh knows how many years of construction – it was boarded up the first time I visited Madrid in 2015!

My second runaround took me in a huge loop around the city centre, which ended with a descent down to the lake in the huge park in the west of the city. From there, I headed down the length of the river and back to my house, stopping along the way to jump on one of the swings which hangs from an overpass – it’d been years since I last climbed aboard a swing!

A few days later, when I should have been in Oslo (a trip that COVID put a stop to), I decided to finally redeem the theme park ticket that I’d bought back in April and which I couldn’t use back then because my neighbourhood got plunged into a hyper-localised lockdown. Although this meant that I’d have to go alone, I decided to head on down to the Parque de Atracciones as I was running out of time to redeem the thing and I thought it’d be a good distraction from the sadness of not having been able to travel abroad.

The theme park is just a metro ride away from my flat, so I headed down for opening time (midday) and redeemed my ticket. Heading in alone surrounded by groups of people was a bit odd, but after my first ride (where I wound up sat next to Javier, hello if you’re out there), I soon got into the swing of it and began racking up a ride on all of the attractions that I’d noted down as looking interesting.

After a few rollercoasters and a good drenching on the log flume, I sat down for some lunch, which naturally took the form of the usual mediocre theme-park pizza. After that I headed on yet more of the park’s bigger rides, including some flat rides (rides which aren’t rollercoasters) which were also quite a laugh – except one which span us so much I felt like I was about to spray the poor lad next to me with the pepperoni and cheese I’d had earlier!

I took a video of myself on the log flume, but I daren’t upload it.

With the day wearing on and my energy levels low, I stopped again for a cheeky beer and a huge waffle cone filled with chocolate and ice cream. Once I’d devoured all of that, it was then time to re-ride some of my favourites from earlier, which took me back on a few of the rollercoasters and even led me to find a drop tower which wasn’t on my list but which packed quite the punch! Thankfully not too much of a punch, though, and the people below were saved from a light sprinkling of ice cream and bits of waffle.

After another wander around the park, day became night and I became fully exhausted, and so it was time to start winding down and thinking of going home. As the park was open until 10pm, I decided to grab myself one last jug of beer and a sandwich as the sun set, but not before I’d accidentally stumbled across the River Rapids and then Los Fiordos – a fjord-themed water ride.

I jumped on this last ride a few other people and we went around the relatively short course, getting lightly sprinkled with water after the main drop along the way. When we got into the station, however, there was nobody waiting, and so the group of teenagers in front of me asked if we could go around again. The ride operator insisted that anyone who wanted to get off could, but I thought I’d go with the flow and go around again – a decision I paid for with a proper drenching to the skin on this second round!

Being in a theme park past sundown made for some pretty unique sights.

With my long day at the theme park over, I headed back home and fell asleep pretty much instantly. The next day I had made various plans with Sara, including a brunch in the city centre, after which we ended up at my place doing a spot of colouring in and calligraphy – a nice and relaxing afternoon! We then headed back to her flat and met up with her boyfriend and his friends who were visiting, nipping down to a local terrace for a few drinks and some nibbles to end another busy day.

The day after marked Izzy’s arrival, and so I spent a while cleaning my flat before cycling up to Atocha train station to meet her and Alex as they arrived from Barcelona. Our first task was to nip by a clinic so that they could have their PCRs done, and then we headed back home to drop off their suitcases, after which we headed out into the city centre.

That evening we had tacos in Taquería Mi Ciudad, a tiny little Mexican restaurant I took Izzy to the first time she visited and which I haven’t been to for quite a long time. Full on delicious tacos and gringas, we pottered down to La Latina and then Lavapiés for that evening’s drinks, heading home for a relatively early night ready for a long day of activities ahead.

Saturday was one of the most intense days of exploration I’ve ever undertaken in Madrid – we did so much from 8:30am to 11pm that I can’t even begin to list it all here. In between other things we had breakfast at Ojalá, scootered our way around Retiro (the big park), cycled past the Royal Palace, had drinks at the Matadero, cycled down the river, had a picnic and watched the sunset at the Templo de Debod, and wound up back at my favourite local bar for a bite to eat before bed. Quite the day, huh!

The next day was a Sunday, but there was no rest for us, even after the busy day we’d just had. Heading off on the bikes again in the morning, we headed up to the north of the city for some pastries for breakfast before heading down the river back home. With time running out, however, we’d to grab a taxi back to my place so that Izzy and Alex could grab their suitcases and head off to the airport to fly back to London – it was a quick and intense trip!

After I’d seen them off in their taxi, I had a quick nap in order to gain some energy for lunch, as I’d arranged to meet up with Napo for pizza at our favourite haunt in Lavapiés. Lunch consisted of a beer in the square whilst we waited for a table, a delicious pizza at NAP, and then a cheeky G&T back at my place – a great way to finish off an afternoon.

But wait! I wasn’t done yet, my non-stop weekend continued. To celebrate Hugo’s boyfriend’s birthday, we’d arranged to have a meal out that evening in the city centre. I’d to get another nap in before heading out, but we had a lovely time (even if I still don’t have much of a sense of taste) and I enjoyed one of the wildest desserts I’ve had for a long time…

After my busy weekend it was time to get back to work, but that didn’t stop me from taking some photos and enjoying the odd evening out. My first new perspective on Madrid comes from the third floor of my hospital, where I’d gone for a quick scan. As I walked out I caught a glimpse out of the window, and couldn’t resist snapping this shot of the Air Force building behind the Victory Arch.

I also spent a couple of evenings down by the river where I’ve been writing blog posts and just watching the world go by. A little restaurant and bar that I never paid any attention to before has become one of my new favourite haunts, as I can sit down with my iPad and work on whatever I need to whilst enjoying a cheeky beer with lemon and watching the sun set – bliss!

One evening I was invited around to Sara’s, where we had a catch up over a quick bite to eat and a beer – she’d laid out a lovely spread of delicious meats and cheeses from the north of Spain! We then wound up in a local bar, where we finished off our evening with a plate of calamari rings and one last cheeky drink.

With that, I bring my blog almost up-to-date, as I’ve another post pending looking at my first and last international adventure this summer – thanks, COVID! I shan’t reveal where I got off to for now, however – you’ll have to wait for next time…