We’re now a mere few days from December, and I’ve begun to make plans for my Christmas trip home back to England, trying to keep an illusion of normality and repeat last year’s festive holiday. We’re definitely in the latter, wetter stages of autumn here, with grey skies and miserable showers marking a stark contrast from the stuffy heights of the Madrid summer.
Christmas, however, has come slightly early for me, as I treated myself to a new phone which arrived a couple of weeks ago. I splashed out in order to get myself one with a great camera, and so this post will be punctuated with many photos that I’ve been taking along the way! Let’s see if this new camera marks a noticeable change like my iPhone X did three years ago…
In between my days at work, taking photos out of the windows, Jhosef came over to have a snoop at my new toy and urge me to finally move all my data over to it. After an evening of drinking tea, holding a spa evening at home, and a quick trip to the office to pick something up, I finally made the switch to the new device, and off I headed for the rest of my weekend’s activities with its three new cameras in tow.
The proceeding week was as busy as usual, with plenty of working hard and playing hard. With the arrival of another member to the Erretres team, we took the opportunity to head out for a team meal, and I made plenty of time to relax back at home after long days in the office. This relaxation is made even more zen by the coloured lights, which I have added to even further, with a new lot installed under the desk of my home office.
These evenings in the office do have their perks, though, as the new space receives some lovely evening light and offers great birds-eye views over the boulevard below. The new location is especially great for spontaneous evening plans after work, which came in useful when me and Jhosef arranged to meet up one Friday for an end-of-week lunch.
After work that day, I haded down to the rental bike station which sits just on the eastern edge of the Parque del Oeste, which was looking resplendent in the afternoon sun as you can see above. Instead of grabbing a bike and heading straight home, I called Jhosef to see if he wanted to nip up to a rooftop terrace for a beer and a bite to eat, and so the plan was made.
We had lunch framed by this amazing view down Gran Vía, Madrid’s main artery, and then headed out on to the outdoor section of the terrace to take some photos as we watched the sun set over the west of the city. From here, I talked Jhosef into taking a bike with me back home, and so we flew down the steep slopes of the south of the city at full pelt as day turned to night.
I began that weekend with a spot of decorating my flat ready for Christmas. In keeping with my minimalist take on everything, I opted to try to kit my place out with the bare minimum, decorating my existing plants with lights and tinsel that I had spare from the year before. It’s a stark contrast from my university room, where more certainly was more, and I went so far as to build a winter wonderland atop my coffee table!
Making the most of my cozy new setup, I invited Sara and Jhosef over for the evening, and we took the opportunity to ring Kevin for a catch up. Sara, Kevin, and I met up often in my final year at Leeds University, where the two of them were studying their Erasmus, and since then I’ve spent many a drunken evening with the two of them up in the north of Spain before Kevin sadly had to leave us to the US.
The day after, and capitalising on Jhosef’s new found taste for cycling, I insisted that we take a ride down the river, an activity which kept me as sane as possible once the lockdown restrictions began being lifted. Once we’d managed to find two working bikes which didn’t make funny noises or start jittering as soon as we picked up any kind of speed, we spent the afternoon making our way northwards along the river, ending our journey with a delicious roast chicken lunch at a Peruvian spot that we both always enjoy.
Once we’d devoured half a chicken and a whole lot of chips between us, we sauntered up Gran Vía in order to catch another bike back home. There I grabbed my laptop and set to work on a few things that I’d neglected to do during the rest of the weekend – drinks with Sara and outings with Jhosef had kept me rather distracted – before heading off to bed early to ready myself for the coming week.
I’m now currently enjoying a couple of days off work which I’ve taken in order to make myself a much-needed long weekend, but the three days I have worked have been as action-packed as ever. This was broken up lovelily by an evening spent at Hugo’s, where he whipped up a batch of delicious enchiladas for me and a few other friends, all washed down with a very strong Russian drink that his boyfriend had brought along!
So concludes my little overview of the past few weeks of outings around Madrid. As I say, I’m hoping to spend Christmas and New Year back in England, but we’ll have to take things as they come in these uncertain times. Either way, I do hope to be back with another post before then, so I shall be back very soon…
Another fortnight has passed and a lot has happened, both in my own life and in the world. From the move to the new office to the long awaited end of the Trump era, it’s been a busy couple of weeks which have flown by once again, so it’s time for me to bring a quick update on what I’ve been up to in between times!
As I say, the move into November has marked the first few days in Erretres’ new office space, which has been a healthy mix of socially-distanced work sprints, video calls from every corner of every meeting room, and plenty of time spent trying to work out where the big plates are stored in the new kitchen. With a couple of new members joining the team, it’s also been a great chance to socialise, with various lunches held both in the office and in its surrounding restaurants.
As well as the restaurants, the new location also offers quite a few other perks, one of my personal favourites being the ability to grab a bike home from the nearby BiciMad (Madrid’s city bike network) station. The two-minute wander to the station takes me to the edge of the Parque del Oeste, with its spectacular view over the west of the city – hence its name, which means “Western Park”. It’s a spot that I frequented a lot with Ellie and Johann when they visited a couple of years back, as there’s always a good sunset to be enjoyed if you catch it just at the right time.
Last weekend was a lovely three-day break thanks to Spain’s celebration of All Saints’ Day, which was – of course – preceded by Halloween. To celebrate Halloween this year, we’d to get a little creative, and so Danni, Abi, and I borrowed an idea from earlier in lockdown: a virtual fancy dress quiz! Once again we’d hold an online quiz with the three of us connecting in full costume, and the results were as hilarious as last time!
After a miserable performance in the Halloween-themed quiz, I spent the Sunday after cycling around the city once more. My little route took me up to the north of the city and to the British shop to stock up on Vimto as I’d nearly run out – disaster averted!
As I said, I then had the Monday off too in order to relax, but Sara was having none of it, and dragged me out of the house and up to the north-west of the city for some lunch. After meeting up outside the rather impressive headquarters of the Spanish Air Force, we wandered around some of the streets of a neighbourhood I’d never properly explored, and wound up sitting down for a delicious lunch of spring rolls and huevos rotos (chips with fried eggs on top, but in an odd twist, these ones came with chicken and caramelised onion instead of the usual cured ham).
After some cheeky lunchtime vermouths with Sara, which then naturally turned into a full afternoon’s worth of drinks and nibbles, the working week begun. It was a busy week for my team, but it made Friday all that more rewarding and led us beautifully into another long weekend!
I kicked off the bank holiday break with a meal with Jhosef, his sister, and her boyfriend on Friday night. The four of us wound up in a lovely restaurant in Chueca that I’d visited with Jhosef a few months back, where we tucked into a garlic-prawn-filled tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelette) and a plate full of morcilla (blood sausage), fried peppers, and quail’s eggs.
This was proceeded by a rather calm Saturday, which involved me heading out for the weekly shop and proceeding to deep-clean the flat – a couple of rather mundane things that I actually quite enjoy. A trip to my local supermarket, Mercadona, is always good fun, and I don’t mind scrubbing my shower if I can listen to Lorde on full blast whilst I do so!
Sunday was much more animated, however, as I’d arranged to host brunch at my flat. Initially I’d just invited Sara, who agreed to bring along a bottle of vermouth to share, but upon realising the sheer quantity of food that I’d prepared, I thought it best to invite Jhosef along too!
The issue of excess food didn’t really get resolved in the end, however, as Jhosef also brought along an absolutely delicious lasagne which we all shared alongside the vast spread that you can see above. After sitting around and chatting whilst we did our best to finish the feast, the vermouth soon kicked in, and before long we were all singing along to a playlist of some of the most iconic Spanish classics.
After Jhosef had to head off, me and Sara popped the coloured lights on and danced some of our energy off to the timeless tunes of the Vengaboys, reminding us of the many nights we spent drunkenly dancing to cheesy 90s and 00s hits in Leeds together with Kevin. After exhausting my playlist of songs from my very British childhood, the two of us crashed out on the sofa, grazing on the leftovers from brunch whilst we watched a couple of episodes of Derry Girls and brought our most excellent Sunday to an end.
I was then supposed to spend this Monday off advancing the design of my new website and writing (and translating) this blog post, but in the end I found myself dragged to IKEA by the need for a desk lamp and the thought of more gratuitous spending in order to further fill my flat with plants. Said mischief was managed, and so my desk setup is now complete and I have welcomed a whole eight new additions to my plant family!
I thus once more bring together another update looking at the past fortnight of shenanigans, of which I’m sure there will be many more as I inch slowly but surely towards Christmas. I’m still hoping to head back to England to spend a week or so with my family, but with England’s descend into a second lockdown, we’re all just having to take things one day at a time.
Missing bonfire night this year has also been a bit of a sad one, as I always remember the many nights spent at bonfires all over the place with my family, and then in Leeds in later years with friends. I also feel like it’s the only annual event that we celebrate in England which is 100% British without being related to any key dates of the current monarchy. But hey ho, and to quote my dad: never mind, we’ll just have to make the bonfires twice as big next year!
To conclude: Halloween is over, Bonfire Night has come and gone, and with it so has Trump. With him on his way out and only Christmas left on the 2020 calendar, things are looking up. Although I do have to recognise that I’ve been very lucky compared to many, I think we’re all ready for this year to come to a swift end!
I point-blank refuse to believe that it’s just been two weeks since I last posted on here, as it seems like I’ve crammed enough errands and outings into the past fortnight to bring me up to the end of the year! Be it a quick visit to the Erretres office or a leisurely stroll around the city centre, I’ve been making the most of the last days of mild weather before winter hits, so let’s get stuck right in…
To prepare for the move, I made one last visit to our old office in order to pack up my desk and other belongings, and also bring my iMac back to my flat. This was because I wanted to buy myself a monitor, and didn’t know what size to go for, and so off I popped with my 27″ iMac in an IKEA bag that I’d found in a cupboard in order to make a comparison at home. It must have looked odd, as I bundled the huge computer – wrapped in a towel and shoved into a plastic bag – into the back of a taxi after having waltzed out of a huge house in the outskirts of Madrid.
After having decided on the screen that I wanted and placed the order, it was time to celebrate Jhosef starting his new job. This was marked with a shopping trip to pick him up a new suit, and then a huge plate of tacos to share!
My next trip out was with Sara, who took me to a fabulous Italian restaurant near her house – which is also handily in Argüelles – where we tucked into some delicious stone-fired pizza. We headed back to her place after our meal, where I met her housemates and polished off a decent part a bottle of vermouth, before heading home and spending the morning after with a bit of a heavy head…
Said heavy head wasn’t about to hold me back, however, as I had dessert to prepare. Me and a couple of colleagues had arranged to meet for lunch in one of their houses, where she’d prepared a huge helping of cocido madrileño, a traditional Madrid chickpea-based strew. I’d been left in charge of dessert, for which I prepared a huge batch of torrijas, a cinnamon-flavoured sweet which I first made as an intern at Erretres after having first tried one back in 2016, and which always go down a treat!
Once I had my torrijas made, I headed off and enjoyed a lovely meal, all washed down with a lovely few glasses of red wine. We spent a good while chatting away into the evening, helped on our way by a selection of cheeses and a glass of gin and tonic.
One back in my flat, and with my new screen unboxed, I headed into the next working week with my new desk all set up and in place. It’s certainly given my poor old neck some relief and made my working days a lot easier, even as we prepare to begin working in the new office.
After a lazy Saturday messing around on my new setup, I decided to get out of my flat and wander around the city to see what I could see before the cold winter begins to bite. This little walk took me to the Barrio de las Letras, Madrid’s literary quarter, where I stopped for some coffee and cake before mooching around some of the independent shops which line it’s pretty little side streets.
After my solitary wander, I headed back to the city centre and up to the Chueca district, where I met Hugo and Sergei for a drink and some snacks. Whilst on a quest to find some old lightbulbs to start a collection here at home (an old obsession of mine), I found a few little interior design shops that I’d never seen before, and managed to hunt down some old coloured incandescents.
That weekend ended with a lovely Sunday evening spent in Retiro, Madrid’s main park, with Jhosef. The two of us headed up to the idyllic spot on a bus, before wandering around the artificial lake, stopping by the Crystal Palace, and taking a leisurely stroll around the outside of the park. As darkness fell on Madrid, we left the park for home, stopping off at a churrería (churro stand) for some freshly-fried churros and a thick chocolate dip – bliss!
The next week began and saw me headed off to Argüelles for my first two days working from the new office. The new space is absolutely lovely, with balconies over the street below and a plethora of spacious rooms to work in. Although I was working alone in a room due to the limited capacity, it was nice to be in a different environment, and heading out for lunch with my colleagues was a lovely return to some kind of normality.
This, however, doesn’t constitute a full return to the office, and so I’ll still be working from home frequently for a good while yet. To keep up the good feeling of being out of the house, I’ve been heading out in mornings and evenings around my local area, snapping the odd photo of the dawn or evening light.
This weekend has kicked off with quite a busy Saturday, as I heeded up to the Chamberí Market with Jhosef, Sara, and my colleague Blanca. There, we met with another colleague, Jesús, who owns a burger restaurant on the market. Both me and Sara had heard talk about the place, El Toril Gourmet, and we certainly weren’t disappointed – we had some of the best tequeños (Venezuelan cheese sticks) and burgers (ranging from pulled pork to ribs) in Madrid!
After this, Sara, Jhosef, and I wandered back through the streets of Madrid, stopping off at a terrace in Cheuca for another drink. I then dragged the two of them into a shop to buy myself a dressing gown, before the three of us headed off for a quiet Saturday evening at home.
Now at home and lovely and cosy in my big fluffy bata (dressing gown), it’s time to bring this blog post to an end. I hope to have some new news over these coming weeks, as we’ve got two much needed three-day weekends in November!
With my last post focussing firmly on the inside of my flat, this post looks to my time out in the streets and hidden corners of Madrid. This is something that I’ve had to make the most of seeing as the looming prospect of a second lockdown has since become a reality. This new lockdown is – mercifully – less restrictive than the last, as it mainly concerns travel in and out of Madrid, and doesn’t leave us cooped up in our houses.
Without further ado, however, let’s delve into the past week’s worth of antics, which began with a bike ride which took me from the northernmost point of my local metro line, all the way down the eastern corridor of the city, and then back home. Starting in Moncloa, I sped off downhill through the Parque del Oeste, taking a little diversion which led me to discover a lovely bike trail along a less developed section of the Manzanares River.
From there I had to double back on myself before I ended up out too far away from home, and then proceeded to cycle my usual route along the river, past the Matadero, and back up the hill to my apartment. I was a little dubious as to whether I should have been following some of that paths that I did, as I did wonder if they encroached on some of the neighbourhoods of Madrid that have been in selective lockdown for a week or so now, but nobody stopped me so off I went!
Another evening was spent at a colleague’s house, when I headed up to her lovely flat in the centre to pick up some packaging samples for a new project at work. Upon arrival I was delighted to be invited to stay for tea (dinner, in standard English), and soon found myself plied with tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelette), jamón (cured ham), and a delicious homemade cream of pumpkin and carrot soup, amongst other goodies.
After chatting the evening away with her family, I returned home full of food and tipsy on cider – as every evening should end!
The next evening I headed out with Jhosef to celebrate his job offer at a company here in Madrid, where we headed up to a rooftop terrace for some drinks and pinchos, small dishes of food from the Basque Country. The evening was short but enjoyable, but I didn’t have long to wait for my next reunion, however, as I’d arranged to meet up with Sara who has moved to Madrid from Gijón in my beloved northern region of Asturias!
I last saw Sara two over two years ago now when I was last up in Oviedo just before Kevin left for the US, and so you can imagine my excitement when she messaged me to let me know she was now in Madrid! The two of us arranged to meet bang in the centre of Madrid, at the Puerta del Sol, below the iconic statue of Madrid’s infamous symbol: el oso y el madroño, “the bear and the strawberry tree”.
From there, we walked and chatted away non-stop for a good few hours, passing by the city’s cathedral, which looked absolutely resplendent in the evening sunlight. Along the way, we stopped for a caña (small beer) and some tapas atop an upturned barrel in the street along the way, where we caught up on each other’s news and gossip from the past couple of years.
From the centre, we descended through Lavapiés and down to my neighbourhood, where we gorged on two of my favourite plates from my favourite local bar: chopitos (fried squids) and huevos rotos (chips with fried eggs and cured ham). We then stopped off at my flat, where we enjoyed a vermouth to end the night whilst messing around with the coloured lights.
A few days later, I took myself out for a trip through the city, which involved cycling up to the Chueca neighbourhood (the gay centre of the city, where I stayed the very first time I visited this city) and then passing through Malasaña. After passing through the streets of this kooky neighbourhood for a while, I stopped off for a fully loaded pitta at a lovely little spot my friend had recommended.
After this delicious lunch – which reminded me of the many evenings spent in Belgrave Music Hall in Leeds, where we’d often hang out and eat delicious food and sip on ciders as students – I went in search of some of Madrid’s most delicious vegan donuts. I was saddened to learn upon arrival at the shop that they’d all sold out, but I wasn’t particularly mad, as I’d enjoyed a lovely saunter around a neighbourhood of the city that’s not a typical haunt of mine.
To end a busy week of work and escapades in the city centre, I paid a visit to the British shop to pick up some Vimto, which I’ve since got Jhosef hooked on to also. I enjoy these little evenings out to the north of the city, where I take the opportunity to do a spot of reading on the bus, before cycling back through the city centre and back home.
This brings to a close my updates from the last couple of weeks here in Madrid, where we’re back on alert as we’ve been put back into an estado de alarma (state of alarm) due to the rising coronavirus cases. I’ll be heading out to visit some friends over this long weekend, but we’ll be wearing masks and socially distancing and keeping the numbers of people down to a bare minimum – we’ve all to do our bit!
This year, most of us have spent a lot of time at home. With the strict lockdown which came into force in Madrid earlier this year, I have seen much more of my inside of my flat than ever before, and so have strived to make the place as welcoming and comfortable as possible.
This led me to install my current system of home lighting. For a while now, most of the lamps and other light fittings – oven hood included – have been connected to my phone via a combination of an IKEA Hub and Apple’s HomeKit, meaning I can adjust the brightness of most of the lights in my home at will, setting different “scenes” depending on the time of day and my mood.
Naturally, though, I couldn’t stop there, and so bought myself some coloured LED strips from IKEA to accompany a few that I brought over from England and which had once been installed in my university room. During quarantine, I set about designing and installing a comprehensive setup with these lights, such that the entire colour of my house can be changed with just a tap on my phone.
An important aspect of said setup, however, was that they should be completely invisible when not activated. I love the idea of being able to activate a host of coloured lighting to create different moods in my flat, but I didn’t want the inclusion of such a system to in any way compromise the clean and minimal look I have strived to create.
I thus designed a system which is completely inconspicuous when not activated, with the series of hidden LED strips providing full coverage throughout my house. Whether installed behind furniture, mounted along crevices in the architecture, or even inserted to blend in with the stalks of a plant, the activation of the coloured lights is as shockingly unexpected as it is aesthetically pleasing.
This all leads me to the series of photos below, which document some of my favourite corners of the flat as they are bathed in shades of red, pink, purple, and blue. Of course the colours can be changed, and I’ll definitely take more photos at some point exploring this, but for now do enjoy some snaps of this palette that I’ve been using so often as of recent…
Now it’s time to see if I add any more, as I’m currently setting up a new desk and computer setup in my living room now that remote working is becoming a bit part of the new normal. For that, and to see the place lit up in various other colours, be sure to stay tuned!
It’s been a while since I posted about my day-to-day life, with exactly a month now gone since I last brought updates from Madrid. Of course I’ve been meeting up with friends, cycling around in the dark, and cooking up a few bits and bobs at home (today’s bake has been a huge batch of cookies), but there’s not been much that’s worth sharing on my blog – especially seeing as I’ve been a bit off my game recently in terms of taking photos along the way!
No fear, though, as I’m here today to right this wrong. We kick things off at a lovely brunch prepared by my colleague Blanca, who whipped up a delicious meal as I swung by her new flat to check out the new place. After some beers and a good serving of food (including an excellent poached egg, I have nothing on her skills), we chatted the afternoon away and I wound up giving her daughter an impromptu calligraphy lesson!
The next day I decided to spend a day out in my own company, and so headed up to Madrid’s version of Poundland, which is run by the same company, and so which offers a decent range of British goodies! Making good use of a 3€ discount voucher and scoring myself the deal of the century in the form of an official Apple iPad case for just 6€, I hauled my bag full of Vimeo and Cadbury’s chocolate into the basket of one of the city bikes, and took in the gorgeous evening views of the city as I cycled home.
During the working week I’ve been rather busy, but there’s always time for a wander with Jhosef down by the river or a quick run around the city on a bike – I’ve to make the most of the freedom whilst I still can. With certain areas of Madrid already in partial lockdown, I’ve a suspicion that a city-wide series of restrictions might be announced any day soon, and so any excuse to get out and about is very welcome!
This weekend I’ve been back out and about once again, wandering round the city centre at just the right time such as to catch the gorgeous streets of Lavapiés and the city centre in the golden hour just before the setting of the sun. I also walked past a newly refurbished hotel, which is a gorgeous building that’s been under wraps and in renovation since the very first time I visited Madrid five years ago, and was happy to see that they’d covered the facade in a gorgeous series of ornamental lamps.
My evening wander ended with a lovely evening meal at Ramen Shifu, where my friend Hugo was working the evening. Whilst catching up in bursts as he attended other tables, I tucked in to a gorgeous beef ramen, all followed by some mochi and a lovely Japanese beer.
Just last night I met up with Jhosef again and the two of us headed down to the Matadero, and to a lovely outdoor terrace and bar that’s been set up to make the most of the post-lockdown summer nights. Stopping for a tinto de verano (a mix of red wine and lemon Fanta), the two of us talked the evening away whilst being serenaded by a live band who had created their own Spanish version of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust”. Once we’d tired of these new lyrics, which spoke mostly of “energía solar” (solar energy), the two of us headed back to my flat and spent the evening watching Salt, a film which I’d never seen before and which had me hooked with it’s wild plot twists!
This quick update pretty much sums up my past few weeks of little escapes and explorations of the city, but I’m sure there’ll be more to come as we head into a rather sudden autumn – I say sudden because the onset was shockingly quick, with a few days of storms and a temperature drop of almost 10°C taking us all by surprise and with no time to adjust!
And so here I leave you, as I prepare to change out my summer wardrobe for my winter one – prepare to see the return of the yellow coat in the coming posts!
In a rather late follow-up to a post published almost a year ago in which I shared some 35mm film photos, today I bring a few more photos from my summer 2019 visit to Caudete de las Fuentes, the hometown of friend Roberto’s family in rural Valencia. I had forgotten that these extra few shots even existed, and so it was a lovely surprise to find them bundled in with my photos of Tenerife after dropping off a roll of film to be developed.
These photos document some of the scenes from their old family home, and were taken on an old Samsung in between explorations of the small town and time spent mounting a lightbulb spectacular in their back patio. The warmth and imperfection of the film shots combined with the frozen-in-time nature of the location make for quite a special set of photos, one which looks like it could come from another century.
As ever, I haven’t edited any of these photos, as I’m a fan of leaving such intimate and mysterious 35mm film shots as they come. This second half concludes the series of photos from this tiny rural Valencian town, and represents a contradiction that I took away with me from my trip: there was an eerie melancholy air to a town in decline and suffering from severe depopulation, but my time there with Roberto was a whole lot of fun and relaxation with someone who’s also a fan of lights like me.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 oftrips to the city, always asks to check out the sunsets!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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”…
My last post left off with me catching a plane after a lovely few days down in Tenerife, but this plane didn’t bring me back home to Madrid, but rather eastwards and to Alicante. I wouldn’t be spending my time in Valencia like last summer, however, as I was picked up by my auntie and uncle and whisked off to Murcia to spend the second half of my holiday at their place.
Upon arrival, the weather was thankfully much warmer and brighter than the last time I visited, but the sun was already beginning to set by the time we arrived at their apartment. We weren’t about to waste the evening though, as my auntie had organised for us to meet some of her friends at a local restaurant to take advantage of their happy hour!
After snacking on some lovely croquetas de bacalao (cod croquettes) and sneaking in as many drinks as we could before happy hour finished at ten, we returned home to carry on our conversation and get rested for the next day.
As I’d agreed to make my auntie a carrot cake as a late birthday present, and I wanted to pick up some home comforts from the supermarket, we kicked off the next day with a trip to Mercadona (my local supermarket chain). We also stopped by at the British supermarket to buy some cordial (seeing as I could bring it up to Madrid with me on the train later), and then spent the rest of the day lounging around the pool.
In the evening, we headed down to a town on the coast and a restaurant that my auntie and uncle had recommended, where we had a lovely meal as we watched the sun set over the sea. After some table-layout-related chaos, and a starter containing gulas (baby eels) which had my auntie and uncle intrigued, I enjoyed a lovely cut of pork and a homemade dessert which left me fit to burst!
We were up bright and early(ish) the following day, as we’d a trip planned up to a covenant in the mountains. My auntie and uncle had spoken quite a bit of this place in the past, but I’d never managed to make it up there, so I was keen to see what the fuss was all about.
It turns out that the cluster of buildings perched on the mountainside is absolutely gorgeous, with panoramic views over the city of Murcia to match. These views revealed themselves as we walked between two buildings and through a lovely archway, but I’d been told that there was a little chapel that was worth a visit before exploring further. The interior of this place was decorated to the rafters with gold and frescos, but we were soon ushered out by the lights going out as mass was soon to begin.
We then stopped in the covenant’s café for drinks and some of their delicious homemade empanadas (imagine a Cornish pasty), which gave us the energy to begin climbing some of the pathways and taking in the amazing views over the covenant, the mountains, and the urban sprawl below.
Once we’d knackered ourselves out in the heat, we hopped back in the car and began searching for a restaurant that my auntie and uncle’s friends had recommended. We were told that it was an unassuming spot, attached to a service station, but upon entering it became obvious that it was a hit with the locals. I spotted that a lamb dish on the menu had won an award, and so I opted for that despite not being a fan of lamb, but I sure was glad that I did – it was delicious and an absolute steal at just 8€!
The next day we decided to spend relaxing around the apartment and pool, and I decided I’d whip together aforementioned carrot cake as my auntie had invited a group of friends over for a drink. In the end I made a two-tier monstrosity, something I don’t usually do, but it went down an absolute treat. I also must mention that we were joined in our gathering by my auntie’s friend’s dog, Paolo, who was a very good boy and a joy to have around.
We spent the evening in a quiet local bar, where we shared a range of dishes on the terrace, chatting about all sorts of nonsense as the sun set around us. It had soon become my third evening in Murcia, and I still hadn’t decided when I was returning to Madrid, as I was still waiting to hear if my sister’s trip was definitely off due to the quarantine situation.
For breakfast the next morning, my auntie and I jumped in the car together and headed down to a lovely restaurant on the coast that we always tend to stop at. Singing a range of songs in the car on the way down (which reminded me of my car karaoke project for university), we arrived to enjoy a classic Spanish breakfast followed by a cheeky beer as we looked over the Mar Menor.
After this followed anther relaxing day at the pool, when I finally found out that sadly Ellie wouldn’t be able to make it over to Madrid, and so I booked my train back for the Thursday to give me a few days relaxing in my flat without rushing back.
Now that we knew exactly how much time I had left, we made a plan of action for the following day, involving taking a little shuttle train from a tiny local village up to Cartagena, a city on the coast. This is another experience that my auntie and uncle had talked a lot about, but that once again I had never done, and so I hopped on to the tiny one-wagon train in earnest.
Upon arriving in Cartagena, we walked around the city wall and into the centre, where we soon stopped for a drink to cool off from the summer heat. After this we were sure to stop by a local bar, Ramón’s, where I once again got chatting to Ramón himself and we enjoyed the local speciality coffee, un café asiático.
For lunch we sought out a restaurant that my auntie and uncle knew, and sat down on the terrace for what was to become the start of a wild two-hour experience! After we placed our orders and they gave us a plate of patatas bravas “as a gift for the delay”, we had an inkling that things might not be running smoothly behind the scenes, and this hunch turned out to be right!
With our starters coming out at random intervals, it soon became evident that a complete chaos had been caused by the numbering system of the tables, which had fallen apart as new tables had been put out and nobody new which numbers they were. When it was eventually time for dessert, the head waiter had clearly had enough, and opted to just stand in the middle of all the tables and shout out the list of desserts that were available, instructing everyone to just raise their hands for their preferred dessert as he did so. What a laugh!
Once lunch was finally over, we headed slowly back down to the waterfront, wandering along the docks of the port and back forwards the train station. I then spent a relaxing evening in the pool by myself, watching the sun set as I called some friends around the world.
All too soon my final full day came around, and after a morning hanging around the pool, me and my auntie headed out for lunch at a local bar whilst my uncle headed out with his friends. This involved a few courses of local dishes, all of which was delicious, and which I then digested whilst lounging around in the pool once more.
I did have one thing I wanted to do before I left, though, so we made the most of my last night to squeeze it in before my return up north. This involved a trip down to the mud baths of Lo Pagán, which I’ve made the most of during a previous visit, but which my auntie has never experienced. This involves wading into a shallow pool, slathering oneself in sulphur-infused mud, allowing the stuff to dry in the sun, and then washing it off.
After watching the sun set and stopping off for a kebab (it’s hard to get a decent one in Madrid, so I’d to make the most), we headed back home and had one last drink for my last evening. The following morning was then spent lounging around the pool, before heading off for a lunch at a restaurant that we usually visit just before I head back on the train.
This time, however, there was a rail replacement bus service in action for the first half hour of my trip, and so I’d to wave my auntie and uncle off from the car park before a rather uneventful socially-distanced train ride back to the big city. Although sad to leave my auntie and uncle and resigned to the fact that my summer holidays were nearing an end, it was lovely for me to come back to find that all my plants had survived my absence thanks to my friend for nipping in to water them!
Much like Cami, Sam, and family, I’ve to once again thank my auntie and uncle for putting me up and putting up with me for a whole week after my five days were extended by the unfortunate cancellation of my sister’s trip to visit me in Madrid. I feel like any time out to travel is a real luxury this year, and so I’m really grateful to have been able to visit Tenerife and Murcia.
For now, it’s back to work for me, and I know that Ellie (my sister) and Johann (her boyfriend) will be back in Madrid just as soon as they can!
Once again I was to spend my time staying with Cami, Sam, and Cami’s family, which I was very much looking forward to after they were the most gracious of hosts last year. The odd thing this year would be the whole experience of travelling under new coronavirus restrictions and safety measures, as this two-hour flight represented the first time I have travelled in any real capacity since Madrid was plunged into lockdown back in March.
The trip began as my holidays usually do, with a frantic last-minute check that my flat was secure, my plants were watered, and my electronics were turned off. I then headed up to the airport on a practically empty train, arriving at T4 with time to spare in case of social distancing related holdups. Apart from an abundance of hand gel stations and social distancing markers – all of which I feel we are now accustomed to – the airport experience was quite normal. I filtered through security as usual, headed towards my gate, and began to look for a bite to eat for lunch before my 3pm flight.
This is where I managed to royally cock everything up. I had noticed that the usual offer of shops and restaurants was all but shuttered, and so had headed out towards my gate in the hope of finding a little sandwich stall to bag myself a meal deal. This, it turned out, involved catching an underground shuttle train, as T4 is split into a main building and a “satellite terminal”, which is a fancy name for a smaller building with even more gates surrounding it.
Well, upon arrival in this “satellite terminal” it soon became clear that no such eating establishments were to be found. Not to worry, I thought, as I had plenty of time to spare before boarding began, I would simply return to the main terminal and carry out a more comprehensive search there: I was sure I could at least find a McDonalds. I thus hopped back on the shuttle in the opposite direction and arrived at the other end only to be immediately stopped by security.
The two security guards in question began to ask where I’d flown in from, whereupon I explained that I’d just come back to the main terminal from the other building in order to search for some lunch. They were very understanding, but told me that I’d have to go through the security checkpoint which is otherwise only used for connecting flights in order to return to my gate. This I did, only to be spat out of the other side of the security control and straight into the jaws of another couple of security guards.
These two also asked where I’d flown in from, and so I explained that I hadn’t come from anywhere, that I’d come from here, from Madrid, and that I’d yet to set foot on a plane. This was received with some suspicious looks and a thermometer aimed at my forehead, and one of the guards persistently asking if I’d come from Marrakesh. I rattled off the story of how I’d ended up stuck in the connecting flights area of the airport just because I wanted a bloody sandwich, and I was eventually let back through to the shuttle, where I resolved never to make a u-turn in an airport ever again.
There’s a happy end to this story, as I eventually found a kiosk, grabbed myself a sandwich, and made it to the gate in time to get confused by the boarding procedure, which is now undertaken in rows of five in order to maintain some level of social distancing. The tinny sound of the airport PA meant that I was left as one of the scragglers at the end who had no idea what was going on, but I had no trouble eventually finding my seat (at the very back) and settling down for two hours of trying to sleep in a stiff airplane seat with a mask bound to my face.
At the risk of making this whole blog post about my misadventures in airports, I shall skip to the bit where I arrive in Tenerife, leave the airport building to get some sun, am immediately greeted by an unbearably cold breeze, and then try to head back into the airport only to be told that I couldn’t enter as I didn’t have a boarding pass to fly.
I was soon saved from my this blustery debacle by Cami and Sam, who arrived in their car for a hug-filled greeting and the half-hour trip down to the south of the island where they live. After setting me up in a spare room of Cami’s parents’ house (complete with en suite and balcony, I may add), the three of us headed out to pick up some snacks from the British shop and then for a delicious street-market tea, which involved a mix Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish dishes.
The next day I woke up to the news that Cami’s parents were to prepare a barbecue, which I was very excited for after my delicious experience last time. Before that, however, Cami’s parents took me down to a car boot sale just down the road whilst Cami and Sam were busy with their two dogs, Luke and Nas.
After a snoop around the endless stalls of odds and ends, we returned home and began to prepare four our barbecue lunch. Once again I had brought my film camera, and so I took plenty of photos on that which I’ll have to wait to see in a few weeks time, but I was way too busy enjoying the delicious meats and fresh salads with homemade sauces to even stop and take a photo of any of the food!
Once we were full to burst with delicious food and Chilean wine, we sat out the mid-afternoon heat indoors, before regrouping to head down to a beach next to La Montaña Roja (The Red Mountain), an interesting rock formation whose name comes from its red tint. We had a paddle in the sea before walking along the sand to dry off, but we were lured back into the water by some of the biggest waves I think I’ve ever swam in!
One particular wave left me with a mouthful of seawater and my sunglasses floating in the surf, and so I took that as a sign that I should probably make for dry ground, and we ended our day of explorations with a few drinks and a game of Scrabble at Cami and Sam’s house – we were all still too full for tea!
The next day’s plans involved a trip down to some natural pools, plans which were nearly dashed by the high waves from the day before meaning that the pools we were planning on going to had been closed for safety reasons. Luckily Cami devised an alternate plan on the spot, and we eventually rocked up at another natural pool a little further down the coast.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I was told that we’d be visiting some natural pools, but we ended up at the base of a cliff where the constant sloshing of the waves had filled a basin with fresh seawater. We left our bags on the rocks and dipped down into the pool, relaxing in it’s tranquil waters for a while before venturing over to the wall where the waves collided. Here we could sit peacefully for a few minutes before the odd well-timed wave would hit in just the right way as to send a rush of water upwards and crashing into the pool, thoroughly drenching us and occasionally throwing us from the wall and into the pool.
Once we’d tired of our frolicking at the pool and I’d managed to burn my shoulders in the sun (something I’d find out later on), we headed to a pizzeria where Cami and Sam insisted that I try a pizza which had slices of potato on it. I was dubious, but after trying the potato, sausage, mozzarella, and rosemary pizza, I can confidently say that it’s an absolute winner! I am sat here in Madrid writing this now, and as I think about that pizza, I’m starting to get rather hungry…
Anyway, by this point it was getting somewhat late, and so we opted for another relaxing evening at Sam and Cami’s place, where Cami whipped up some delicious homemade chicken nuggets and the three of us called Kevin in the US. It was Kevin who introduced me to Cami and Sam when the three of them all lived in Asturias, and we had an absolute riotous time in FaceTime, reminiscing about old times and laughing at Kevin for buying a garden tool cupboard thinking it was a wardrobe.
The next day took the three of us, along with Cami’s mum Nati and a family friend, up to the north of the island. We visited one of the older towns with more traditional architecture, La Orotava, where I naturally spent the time snapping away taking photos of everything!
Once we’d tired of wandering the many steep streets, we went to a rather special place for lunch. In Tenerife, they have a culture of independent restaurants called guachinches (which sounds like “gwah-chin-chez”, a bit of a mouthful) which are special as they usually begin with someone selling homemade wine and food out of their living room. If the food and wine are any good, and word spreads about the place, they begin to expand, installing tables and chairs in garages, gardens, basements, and basically anywhere else that they will fit!
The guachinche that we went to was unassuming from the outside, but once we were shown to our table around the back, the scale of the place became evident. There were tables abound, tucked in shipping containers and under lean-to structures and even in an opened-out basement, and all of them were full of people enjoying their lunch. I left Cami and family to decide what to order, and soon found myself tucking into sharing plates of garlic mushrooms, fried octopus, grilled pork, and the most delicious meringue-topped dessert!
Once again I was too absorbed in conversation and the food to take photos, but the camera did come out again when we headed to the second city for the day, La Laguna. Here we wandered up and down the picturesque streets of the historic centre, stopping eventually for a cool drink and to recover from a long day on our feet.
After heading back home and recovering from our adventures, we decided to have tea at a local burger joint, where I was served a towering monster of a burger along with a mountain of chips – and all this after a huge lunch at the guachinche!I somehow managed to finish the thing, and we then headed back to bed before my last full day on the island. How time flies!
Our last day was spent rather lazily, as we met up for breakfast at Cami and Sam’s place, before heading down to a pool that they have access to in an apartment complex near their house. We would have gone to the pool that’s part of their complex, but they insisted that this one was much more tranquil, and they were right. For the majority of the afternoon we were just sharing the pool with another couple, who didn’t seem interested in actually bathing, and so it felt like we had the place to ourselves!
After a good splash about, we headed back up to Cami and Sam’s place, where we had a bite to eat. I also spent a couple of hours a carrot cake for Cami’s parents as a thank-you gift, after which we equipped ourselves for an evening’s walk up the “red mountain” (La Montaña Roja) from our trip to the beach a few days prior.
Sam parked the car near the base of the “mountain” (it really is too small to be considered a mountain, let’s be honest), and we began our walk with Luke and Nas, their two dogs. Once the climb began to get steep and I began to get tired (quarantine has done me no favours with regards to my fitness levels), Sam told me to grab hold of Nas, the bigger of the two dogs, who was actually strong enough to half haul me up the hill!
As we scaled the large rock formation the sun began to set, and the hills and volcano in the background turned into a dark silhouette. At the halfway point we stopped to recover, taking in the views and watching a plane take off from Tenerife Sur airport, which lies just next to the rock.
When we’d caught our breath we made the last push to the peak of the “mountain”, where we discovered a mysterious cage covered in red lights which seemed to contain nothing more than a solar panel to power said red lights. I would have thought it was some kind of lighthouse or wayfinding device for ships, but the lights were way too dim to have much of an impact, and so we just made the most of the interesting lighting and unique location to take some photos.
Of course I couldn’t miss the opportunity to climb to the highest point of this rock, and so I left my camera with Cami and Sam as I climbed atop the concrete base of a metal pole which marked the absolute peak. Clinging on for dear life in the wind, I was awestruck by the 360° views over the sea and the island, and the uneasy feeling of absolute and complete exposure to the elements in the dark.
After taking my last pictures of the trip from atop the red mountain, the three of us descended back to sea level, nearly falling flat on our arses with the loose gravel of the decline and getting half lost in the dark as we did so. We made it back home in one piece, however, and settled down with one last evening of beers before my last day.
Said last day didn’t really consist of all that much, as I crawled out of bed relatively late, meaning I had time to do very little besides pack my bag, grab some breakfast, and say goodbye and thank you to Cami’s parents who had once again been the most fantastic hosts. I then headed down to Cami and Sam’s place, where I said goodbye to their dogs and jumped in their car to head to the airport.
On the way we had just one last stop to make, at a place which is locally renowned for selling some of the best sandwiches around. I grabbed two, one for lunch and one for if I got peckish on the flight, and we carried on our way to the airport after I’d enjoyed a delicious toasted baguette with a fresh fruit smoothie.
Saying goodbye to anyone at the airport is never a nice experience, but my farewell to Cami and Sam was made much easier by the knowledge that my holiday wasn’t ending there, as my flight was not headed to Madrid but rather to Alicante. There I was to be picked up by my auntie and uncle to spend another few days with them down on the coast of Murcia, but that is another story for another day…
I can safety say that once again I had an absolute blast in Tenerife with Cami, Sam, and family, who found the perfect balance between the rest that I so desperately needed and the trips to interesting places that they know I cherish. I can’t thank them enough for putting me up, driving me around, and generally making me feel like part of the family for the few days I was there. If there’s one complaint from the trip, it was that it was too short – next time it’ll have to be at least a week!