20.03.20 — Journal

Life Before Lockdown

In a stark contrast from my last post, in which I spoke about a trip from last month across Europe and all the way to Amsterdam, I write to you all from a country in complete lockdown. Here in Spain, all but essential travel has been banned, and so I’m now cooped up in my flat until further notice.

It’s a somber time, and something which I’ll touch on in a more reflective post at a later date, but for now I’m going to focus on the positives. I have some fun updates to share from before these measures came into place, and I must also give a huge shoutout to all my colleagues that make up the Erretres team – in a few short days, we’ve managed to move our entire operation online, and we’re all now working from home and as productive as we ever were. No small feat!

Anyway, let’s get back to pre-lockdown life, which I unconsciously but thankfully made the most of. In sharp contrast to the frostiness of Amsterdam, Madrid was just beginning to warm up, and so this meant plenty of outdoor time and wanders around the city to take in the upbeat atmosphere. One evening, I headed down to the river to watch the sun set and advance with reading my book, which I had abandoned somewhat after ditching the train to work in favour of a lift with a colleague.

The sun sets on a red building in Madrid, with trees and a fountain in the foreground.
La Puerta del Sol in Madrid, with the famous Tío Pepe neon sign.
Old text on an orange facade reading "Mercado Santa María de la Cabeza".

At work, I was also presented with a lovely surprise, as the U-Tad University sent me a wonderful gift to thank me for my participation as a speaker at the Prisma Design Fest a few weeks ago, an event which I documented in a blog post afterwards. I was chuffed to bits with my new fancy pen and a fabulous design book!

A pen in a box and Spin 360 design book.

The weekend after, I headed into the fancy Salamanca district of Madrid and met up with Soyoung, an ex-colleague from Erretres. We met at a lovely little café for some brunch and a much-needed chat to catch up on everything, from our work lives to what it was like to live as a married woman after her lovely wedding last year!

I sit next to a large stand with different brunch dishes on it.

I always fancied myself as one of the elegant ladies who lunch.

During our chat, we talked about her family back in South Korea and how the coronavirus was just beginning to spread there, and at that moment we had no idea how soon it would come and change everything here in Spain. Quite the foreshadowing…

The preceding weekend was to be, without anyone’s knowledge at the time, our last weekend of freedom for a while. Thankfully, two friends were celebrating their birthdays that week, and so the days were to be filled with fun evenings in great company.

This series of shenanigans kicked off with a trip to see “La Jaula de las Locas” (literally “The Cage of the Crazy Ladies”), a hilarious piece of theatre led by drag queens and some big names in Spanish showbiz. After paying for the cheaper seats, Bogar (the birthday boy), Hugo, and I were thrilled to be told that we could have a free upgrade, and took our places near the stage to enjoy a few hours of riotous scandal and great laughs.

A curtain on a stage reads "La jaula de las locas".
Hugo, Bogar, and I pose for a photo at the theatre.

I then found myself back out in the city a couple of days later, as Luis was also celebrating his birthday, and I was excited to see him again after he left Erretres a while back. A huge group of us gathered in a bar in Lavapiés, and we were all soon tipsily away, chatting (see: shouting, this is Spain after all), nibbling on some lunch, and roaring with laughter as he opened a few presents (including a prop of a severed foot, brownie points if you spot it in the photo below).

As the celebrations had kicked off at 2pm, I foolishly assumed that this meant that there would be time to head home for a siesta in between the afternoon drinks and the evening’s party, but I was mistaken. Instead I was informed that we’d be heading off to a party called Tortilla, which is named as such as they serve portion of tortilla (Spanish omelette) in the club. Yes. At the bar. In a club.

After a hilarious taxi journey, in which many of Luis’ lifetime friends asked me about my time in Spain, we rocked up at the club, and I was informed that they kick everyone out at 11pm – that’s my kind of club! We headed in, were joined by more friends and colleagues, and boogied on down until the very pleasant time of 10pm, when I said my goodbyes and hopped on the metro back home. I wish all my nights out ended on such a civilised note!

The sun sets over the financial district in the north of Madrid.

As I’d been out with Luis and company that evening, I missed out on the second night of celebrations for Bogar’s birthday, but I had secured him a great present to make it up to him: a trip to Hammam Al Ándalus, an Arab baths experience hidden in the city centre.

Naturally I don’t have any photos from our trip, as it was a lovely opportunity to disconnect, bathe, and enjoy a relaxing massage just as the coronavirus panic was hitting Spain, but we had a lovely time – even if Bogar was somewhat hungover! I do, however, have a photo of the churros which we devoured after a lovely post-bathe lunch – it may have been a mistake to book our two-hour slot for 2pm without having any lunch first!

There’s nothing like a big portion of churros after a steak lunch.

Churros and chocolate.

After this lovely weekend, the fateful week began. Monday began with business as usual, and ended with the whole of Spain on complete lockdown and everyone in obligatory quarantine. As I mentioned at the start of this post, I’ll be following up over the coming days (and perhaps even weeks) on the rapid switch to working from home and what it’s like to be on lockdown by myself.

But hey, it’s not all bad – I’ve been able to pull my favourite game, Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, out again, and there’s a new season of Élite on Netflix ready and waiting to be binge-watched. Also, it’s Friday night, and now I have the perfect excuse to open a bottle of wine and have a night in pampering myself. Every cloud!

01.03.20 — Travel

Amsterdam

As mentioned at the end of my last post, Design Event Extravaganza, and continuing with the theme, I spent last weekend over in the Netherlands, attending the Awwwards Conference, a series of talks on the state of digital design. The trip was paid for by Erretres, and so me and my colleague Zoe jetted off from Madrid to Amsterdam on Wednesday evening straight from work.

With the busy weeks in the office preceding the trip, I hadn’t had much chance to do my research on this country that I’d never visited, and so I rocked up without even being entirely sure if they use the euro or not, where exactly the hostel was, or even how we were to get from the airport to the city centre. The same chaotic approach also went into my packing, as I spent half an hour the night before flying throwing stuff into my backpack rather willy-nilly, before hauling it to a client’s office in the centre, back to our office on the outskirts of the city, and finally over to the airport.

To summarise, the whole trip was rather spontaneous and chaotic, which was somewhat refreshing.

We arrived in Amsterdam near midnight, and fired up trusty ol’ Google Maps in order to make our way to our hostel. Hopping on a bus and discovering the first example of what would become many services which only accept payments by card, we eventually rocked up near the hostel and traversed some of the city’s streets by night.

Upon finding the hostel and checking in, we didn’t waste much time in getting off to bed, as we’d to be in the DeLaMar Theatre at 8am the next morning in order to register, pick up our passes, and grab a seat for the start of the conference!

The following morning ran pretty much like clockwork: I managed to be up, showered, and waiting for Zoe on the steps of the hostel in good time. The two of us then set off to the venue, catching our first glimpse of the city by day, albeit through a grey haze of rain. Google Maps then proceeded to fail us, dragging us down a back street two blocks from where we should have been, but we soon orientated ourself and wandered into the theatre.

After picking up our passes and free goodie bags, contained in a cool tote which has now become my new favourite shopping bag, we took our seats in the auditorium and waited for the talks to begin…

A harpist plays music on the stage at the Awwwards Conference in Amsterdam.

Then followed a day of awesome presentations by some really interesting speakers, ranging from the dark patterns used by some UX designers to the current state of accessibility, and even tips on how to overcome creative blocks and build great design teams. In between the talks, me and Zoe got chatting to a guy from the Netherlands, and also made the important discovery of a nearby supermarket in which to buy some belated breakfast.

The auditorium of the DeLaMar theatre in Amsterdam is filled with attendees of the Awwwards Conference.

After the day’s talks concluded at about six o’clock, the two of us headed back to the hostel for a siesta, as we’d planned to then head into the city centre itself for another networking event. It was a bit of an odd introduction to the new city, as the conference was on the city’s outskirts, and our first introduction to the canal-bisected streets of the centre was by night.

We caught a tram to said event, which took place in the rooftop suite of an office building, a place we couldn’t find thanks to Google Maps acting up on us again. We then came to the conclusion rather quickly that Google Maps really doesn’t like Amsterdam, but we weren’t too fussed as we managed to arrive before all the food and drinks had gone.

The evening event made for another interesting few hours, with presentations of new design software, talks on copywriting, and the chance to chat to some of the speakers from the day’s main event. We got chatting to the creative director of Büro, a design studio from Porto in Portugal which I have always been a fan of, as well as the developers of Framer, a new interactive design tool. I also discovered the wonders of Chocomel, a brand of chocolate milk that I took to drinking after discovering that the only beer on offer was Heineken. Bleugh.

Wooden slats between two buildings with the morning sky in the background.

The second day began with much brighter skies and even a few rays of sun, but the city remained freezing cold. After I couldn’t get in touch with Zoe, I wandered off to the event on my lonesome, snapping a few photos of the sights along the way and picking up some breakfast from the aforementioned supermarket.

A Mini Cooper, a bicycle, and an old gas lamp in front of old red brick houses in Amsterdam.
A blue tourist boat sits docked in a canal in Amsterdam, with the light of dawn breaking in the sky above.
The sun rises over the streets of Amsterdam.

Once I’d found Zoe, who’d been taken offline by the dodgy WiFi connection in the hostel, we took our seats for the second day of talks, and were once again entertained and inspired by another round of charismatic speakers who divulged personal experiences and tips for navigating the world of digital design, but also the design industry in general.

After the presentation of the Awwwards themselves, which are given out for best website and various other categories, the conference was officially over, and so we repeated the previous day’s routine: back to the hostel, a siesta, and then out for another afterparty. This time it was the official afterparty, in which we got chatting to a guy from Canada, and then some designers from Belarus and Germany.

We didn’t stay out too late, as the day after was Saturday and our only free day to actually explore what Amsterdam has to offer. As I said before, it was kind of odd: as I woke up on Saturday morning, I realised that I had been in the city for over 48 hours but still not actually seen anything of note!

To change that, me and Zoe regrouped and headed into the city centre, where we’d arranged to meet two of her friends who were visiting at the same time. After finding our preferred spot to be full and with a waiting list exceeding 45 minutes, we found another café in which to have some brunch and awaited their arrival.

A canal and streets in the centre of Amsterdam, set below a grey sky.

Zoe’s friends met us there, and we got chatting about all sorts of stuff, from design and UK life to their experience as primary school teachers. The four of us then set out to explore the city some more, wandering down Amsterdam’s kooky streets of thin, tall, and perilously crooked houses.

The wonky houses of Amsterdam.
A canal winds through the streets of Amsterdam.

We were informed that the wonky appearance of these houses is because of the uneven settlement of the wooden-pile foundations into the waterlogged land on which they stand, and I guessed that the cranes built on to the roof of each of them was for hauling bulky stuff up to higher floors: the shallow houses have really steep staircases (our hostel’s stairs felt like a deathtrap) and so it would be practically impossible to haul a sofa, say, up them. This revelation came to me when we wandered past a group of guys hauling parts of their new sofa up the outside of their house to another guy who was half hanging out of the window of the third floor. Health and safety’s worst nightmare!

The streets of the red light district of Amsterdam.
A church spire between the tall, crooked buildings of central Amsterdam.

I usually try and straighten the lines of my photos, but this city made that impossible.

After exploring the chinatown district and the central station area, the four of us were once again peckish, and headed to a Sotto, a pizza restaurant that Zoe’s friend had found online. The place was a little way out, but it was worth the journey, as we tucked into a lovely round of thin crust pizzas.

Sotto Pizza in Amsterdam.

With lunch devoured, we headed back to the centre, and soon found ourselves queuing to try the traditional Dutch pancakes at another recommended spot that Zoe’s friends had found. I ordered an apple crumple pancake, and was shocked to find that they were quite literal about the whole affair: my pancake had a huge mound of ice cream and apple crumble dumped on top!

This humongous dessert had us all itching to walk it off, and so we headed out in the dark in order to explore part of the city that we’d not yet been through: the red light district. With the aroma of marijuana following us around, and the regular spattering of the infamous window-fronted rooms, it was an experience unlike anything that I have lived before.

I wondered if I would be taken aback by this very liberal attitude to drugs and prostitution, but I actually found it refreshingly interesting. The streets of the neighbourhood were buzzing with people of all walks of life, and we dived in and out of bars and pubs, drinking and chatting the evening away.

The red light district was not half as imposing as I thought it would be.

Amsterdam's red light district by night.

All good things must come to an end, however, and so after our last drink in one of the bars, Zoe and I had to part ways with her friends and head back to our hostel for our last night’s sleep before our flight back to Madrid on Sunday morning. The return journey wasn’t half as eventful as the outbound flight, mainly because we actually knew where we were going and weren’t wondering what the name of the country was and whether we were about to get charged for using our Spanish cards abroad!

Well, as unprepared as I may have been for this short and busy trip to the Amsterdam, I had a lovely time in the city. I would like to return in summer, however, as I think the biting cold, nasty wind, and endless rain didn’t exactly present the Netherlands to us in its best light. That’s all good by me, though, as I’ve a good excuse to return again! Until the next time, Amsterdam…

29.02.20 — Journal

Design Event Extravaganza

Since returning from Murcia almost a month ago, things have been rather hectic, the pace of change has been rather drastic, and I have been up to many new things; which all means that my blog has consequently been receiving very little TLC during the past few weeks. Now, however, and after another issue with my website going down for a few days, I am back once again to bring you a good few updates on what I’ve been up to!

An illuminated sign reading "Erretres – The Strategic Design Company".

I have been seeing quite a lot of this place!

In between many busy days in the office working for some pretty cool projects, I have been sure to balance work and play, heading out for plenty of lunches, dinners, and drinks with friends in between times. I don’t have any decent photos of said evenings, as sometimes it is best to just disconnect and enjoy the moment, but trust that I have been making the most of what Madrid’s culinary scene has to offer!

Alongside all this work and play come the moments of domesticity. I have had to endure further trips to the dentist, who I swear is trying to blind me with the particles of my teeth which go flying through the air whilst she drills further holes in my pearly whites. I also made my first pot of lentejas a la riojana, lentils cooked with chorizo and vegetables. I couldn’t really appreciate the first bowl, as my mouth was still half-numb from the dentists, but I must say that now it has worn off and I can reheat the stuff in peace, I feel worthy of being decreed king of lentejas!

One Friday afternoon saw the first in a series of design-related events, with the Collision network holding a ping-pong tournament in order to catch up with everyone involved in the mentorship programme. It soon became clear to me that I was destined to hover around the pizzas rather than progress much with the tournament (I have terrible hand-eye coordination), but I had a good few beers, chatted with everyone for a while, and had a lovely time.

The Collision ping-pong tournament event.

That weekend, I once again headed out with Bogar and Hugo, and we spent an evening watching the sun set over the city centre from a rooftop terrace in Callao. The beers that we enjoyed and the couple of hours out were most welcome, and the colours of the sky made for some lovely photos.

The sun sets over Madrid.
The sun sets over Madrid.
Bogar, Hugo, and me atop a rooftop bar.

I then had a few days to prepare for the main design event around which has given this blog post its name. As a Lead Designer at Erretres, I was invited to talk in an event called Prisma, a conference about design and technology organised by the U-Tad university in Madrid. My talk presented quite a daunting task: I’d to give a 30-minute talk in Spanish in front of 200 attendees!

After prepping my presentation, which I had titled “Nuevas marcas en un panorama en constante cambio: branding digital para start-ups” (New brands in a landscape in constant change: digital branding for startups), I headed down to Medialab Prado to be mic-ed up and interviewed. I’d never been in the space before, but the Madrid-government-owned arts centre turned out to be a real architectural gem, full of neon yellow corridors and a lovely café space.

Neon yellow stairs.
Neon yellow corridor.

As the people filtered in, I was ambushed by a technician so that he could connect me up with a fancy wireless microphone, and I was soon on the front row and watching the first speaker present. Once he began to conclude his talk, I found myself up on the stage, and in a flash I had begun my talk, wittering on about how the difficulties of branding the new realm of digital startups.

My name is up on a screen at the Prisma design event.

I think that my talk went well – well, minus the cough that plagued me the whole time, that is. Over on my Twitter I got lots of great feedback, and stopped to chat to some of the attendees afterwards about the topics I’d presented about.

I had a great time at Prisma, meeting other professionals as well as design students, and it was a real personal achievement to get through a half-hour talk in my second language – if my Spanish teacher could see me now! Another personal highlight was definitely being able to put Burnley’s name up in lights – I never thought all those years ago when I first visited Madrid that I would ever be up on stage talking about my hometown!

I present a map with Burnley marked on it.

Burnley!

During the following weekend, I decided that I needed some fresh air, despite the dull skies that covered Madrid. Picking up a scooter, I headed off down the long Parque Madrid Río (Madrid River Park), which follows the river from my neighbourhood (in the south) all the way to the far west of the centre.

This little journey took me past the Royal Palace and the Almudena Cathedral, offering a different angle from the typical city-centre views of the regal architecture. It’s a very picturesque area, even if the cloudy skies bathe the photo below in a gloomy grey aura.

The royal palace and cathedral seen from the west of Madrid.

The following week marked the last day of my colleague Luis at Erretres, which was a bittersweet farewell. Luis has been a great colleague and good friend since I started at Erretres all those years ago, but I was happy to see him move on to bigger and better things.

Luis’ leaving also coincided with an open studio event thrown by Tres Tipos Gráficos, another Madrid design studio which I applied for back in 2015. There, I chatted with lots of friends, ex colleagues, and new contacts, and even the police shutting the event down couldn’t stop us – we simply shifted to an Irish pub nearby and ordered a round of gin and tonics!

February also brought around the dreaded February 14th, Valentine’s Day, but I decided to stick with tradition and instead celebrated the day after. I met up with Bogar for some coffee and cakes to celebrate Galentine’s Day, and we had a lovely time wandering around Malasaña until late.

My toothy date for Galentine’s day.

Bogar with coffee and cakes.

This brought in a weekend spent outdoors, as Madrid’s sun finally returned. Amongst running ends in the city, drinks on terraces with friends, and some cheekily-shaped waffles, I took the opportunity to take some photos of the city I call home.

The Puerta de Alcalá, a gateway in Madrid.
Gran Vía, the main road through the centre of Madrid.
A brick church against the sky.

This brings me relatively up-to-date, but there’s still another design event to tell you all about: the Awwwards Conference in Amsterdam! Just last weekend was my first time in the Netherlands, but I have decided that I shall keep that for another blog post: I’ve plenty of photos to sift through and I want to get this belated post out as quickly as possible!

06.02.20 — Travel

Grey Skies Over Murcia

After saying that I was hoping to update you all and catch up on my delayed blog posts, I have managed to not do that. It’s been a hectic couple of weeks, however, so I have been spending my spare time as horizontal as possible whilst nursing a viral infection and then the pain of a rather stubborn filling in a back tooth.

Well, once I’d been shocked to find out that my colleague’s English teacher is also from Burnley, I was once again on the rather slow train down to my auntie and uncle’s place in Murcia. This always takes me back to the first time I visited Madrid, when I made this trip in reverse after spending a few days with my family, all leading up to my first time flying solo once I returned to the UK!

I landed in Murcia rather late, but not too late to have a couple of drinks and catch up with the two of them, after I last saw them in person when they passed by Madrid on their way back to England in October. The next day, we all hopped into the car and drove to the coastal city of Cartagena, driving under some rather threatening-looking skies.

My uncle walks up a strangely inclined path.
The sky over Cartagena is grey.

The main reason for said trip was to finally try a café asiático (literally “Asian coffee”), and my auntie and uncle knew just the place to take me. Down a little side street we found a little bar owned by Ramón, who explained to me the origins of the name of the coffee, which comes from its origin as a pick-me-up for sick travellers hailing from Asia.

Once I’d downed this very boozy coffee, we ordered a bite to eat and then I got chatting to the whole bar, from the owner to his wife to the regulars, and picked up a few tips on where to get the best egg-based dishes in Madrid. With this new information in tow, the three of us left the bar and back onto the rain-drenched streets, heading back to the dry warmth of the car.

The next day, I was finally taken to the Centro Cultural (Cultural Centre) in Sucina, the town closest to the Golf Resort on which my auntie and uncle live. They had been talking about visiting for a while, as they enjoy the home-cooked food that is prepared there by the lovely Mari Carmen.

Well, I was not disappointed! Mari Carmen was an excellent host, filling us up with chicken soup, garlic prawns, fried chicken, and even some lovely clams cooked in a herby sauce. We finished this off with some whiskey cake, before taking a seat outside and watching the sun go down with a beer.

We weren’t in much of a rush to leave the centre, you see, as it was time for one of the monthly activities that they run there: bingo! After getting chatting to the lovely ladies who were selling the cards, we all took our seats and got stuck into the various rounds of play, with a welcome break for some sweet wine and pastries in between.

Me, my auntie, and her friends at a game of bingo.

Neither me nor my auntie won anything, but we had plenty of fun!

My half-filled bingo cards.

After a day spent with a trip to IKEA to pick up some electronic doodahs that I couldn’t find in Madrid, my last day came around all too soon. In line with the tradition I started during one particular visit with my parents, we headed to another small town, Roldán, and to a lovely restaurant for a farewell lunch.

My uncle and auntie at lunch.

After a good laugh with the other couples who joined us (me being the youngest and most single, something to which I am well accustomed by this point), it was time for me to head back to the little town of Balsicas, a town blessed with a direct train link to the centre of Madrid.

During the train journey I finished the first season of “Years and Years”, a series which is beautiful, tragic, and terrifying in equal measure – you should all watch it if you can get access to it!

Arriving back in the capital with more spare time than usual due to my decision to catch the earlier train, I had arranged to head out with Bogar and Hugo for some ramen at the restaurant that Hugo works at. We thoroughly enjoyed slurping down the huge bowls of noodles and toppings, finishing our big meal with a few shots of saké, which was served warm – rather odd!

Three bowls of ramen.
Bogar, me, and Hugo at the ramen restaurant.

Finishing my day with a delicious lunch with good friends was the perfect end to my mini holiday, and left me well rested and ready for the beginning of a couple of busy weeks in the office – but more on that to come soon!

24.01.20 — Journal

Furniture & Festive Cakes

One back in Spain after my lovely Christmas break back in the UK, it was pretty much straight back to work after a quiet New Year’s Eve, which I spent at home eating grapes as per Spanish tradition! The 6th of January signalled the Spanish celebration of the Reyes Magos (which we know as the Three Kings or Wise Men), which meant that we’d all to tuck into some Roscón de Reyes, a traditional pastry consisting of sweet bread topped with candied fruits, nuts, and sugar.

This pastry is even more delicious when dunked in thick hot chocolate.

A roscón de reyes.

After a rather grey and rainy first week back in the office, the weekend finally brought a little spot of winter sun. This was just in time for some weekend plans that me and Bogar had made, involving watching some previews of musicals in the city centre, and yet another trip down to IKEA in order to pick up a few bits and pieces – I wanted some more electrical components in order to fully automate all the lights I had brought back with me from England!

A stage with drag queens in Sol.

We watched one of the performances, and then headed to a café for a spot of breakfast, before returning to watch the one that we’d been dying to see: La jaula de las locas (The cage of the crazy women, to translate literally). This involved a show run by drag queens, and spearheaded by a particularly witty queen, who even had the audience involved with the confetti canons as their 20-minute set came to an end!

A stage with drag queens in Sol, with glitter animated.

Once the show was over, we headed down to our favourite Swedish shop and made the rounds, stopping, as usual, for some meatballs. I grabbed myself a bookshelf to organise my wardrobe, some other electronic tidbits, and yet another plant.

Bogar wears a Christmas light decoration over his head.

We also checked out some of the discounted Christmas goodies…

We then headed back up to our neighbourhood in a car, and helped each other assemble the various bits of furniture in each other’s respective houses. With so much manual labour undertaken in one day, we felt that we deserved a cheeky evening meal out, and so went to check out Gracias Padre, a Mexican restaurant whose praises Bogar had been singing.

Bogar in Gracias Padre, a Mexican restaurant.

There we ate the best bowl of nachos I have ever had in my life – and bear in mind that I’m not the biggest fan of nachos – and a huge gringa (like a quesadilla, meat and other ingredients sandwiched in cheese between two tortillas). This was all washed down with beer and lemon juice (yes, that’s pure lemon juice), before an early night which I was desperately in need of.

The following week saw me head off to my new dentist for the first time ever, and after a diagnosis meaning I’ll have to come back at the end of this month, I managed to get lost whilst looking for Chamartín train station to head back to work. I eventually found a back entrance that I’d never seen before, but which gave some pretty cool views over the station building and the four (soon to be five) towers in the background.

The four towers of Madrid.
A series of cranes below the blue sky over a frosty grassy knoll.

Another weekend soon came around, and I once again had plans with Bogar to have some breakfast in the centre. This was after I finally remembered to pick up a vinyl record that I had ordered – even though I don’t have a record player here in Spain. Oops.

We had a lovely bagel brunch in HanSo Café, a popular spot in the hipster district of Malasaña, and I then took Bogar to try the best palmeras (heart-shaped pastries) in the city. These can be found at a lovely little bakery called La Duquesita, where I took a cheeky selfie in the old mirrors that line most of the walls.

A selfie in the old mirrors of La Duquesita, a bakery in Madrid.

Nothing beats a sweet craving quite like a generously frosted palmera.

That evening was quite a busy one for me, as I’d finally arranged to meet up with Roberto again after our summer adventures in rural Valencia! Luckily, he has a vinyl player, and so I pottered over to his house with my Rodrigo Cuevas record in hand.

There I met his flatmate and had a snoop around his lovely new pad, and we popped open some beers and listened to the record for a while. Once we were ready for some food, we headed to Buns & Bones, one of my favourite places to grab a light tea (dinner).

After we’d eaten, I picked my vinyl up from Roberto’s place and then headed home, but I was soon back on the Metro and heading into the city centre, as Bogar’s friend Gil was leaving the country and so there was a farewell do to attend! We had a good drink and a boogie in a bar in Chueca, but once they decided to head out to a club, I decided I was too tired and so escaped back to the comfort of my bed.

The day after, I decided to whip up a couple (yes, two) of carrot cakes, sharing one between friends and the other between colleagues. I don’t wish to boast, but my carrot cakes always go down quite the treat!

A slice of my home made carrot cake.
A close-up of my carrot cake.

Just a couple of days later, I found myself once again on a train down to Murcia, but that shall now have to wait until another blog post. It’s been a hectic few weeks, so I am running somewhat behind with these updates, but I hope to catch up a little this weekend and next!

03.01.20 — Journal

Christmas in England

My last regular blog post was entitled “The Arrival of Autumn“, but that was a month ago, and now we are now definitely well into winter! Work was still as busy as ever as we moved into December, but we had the fun of the Christmas meal to look forward to. This was a riotous evening, with plenty of tacos and cocktails flowing, all culminating in a boogie in a club down in the center.

My bedroom lit by candles and fairy lights.
My yellow coat blends in with the yellow panels of the metro.

Outside of the office, I had a chance to catch up with Bogar over some lovely food, which was a welcome chat after a while not having seen each other nor visited our favourite local bar. One day, I also had the opportunity to visit the students at the IED (the European Design Institute), where I chatted to some master’s students about my history with Erretres and our working process.

A tote bag, book, and notebook gifted to me by the European Design Institute.

I was also gifted some lovely goodies by the tutors a the university.

The day after my visit, I arrived back home and had to get to packing: it was time to head back to England for Christmas! Much like a couple of years ago, I picked up my cellophane-bound backpack and made for the airport, boarding my suspiciously noisy plane to Manchester Airport.

Once I’d landed and picked up my bag, I headed out of the terminal and to my dad who was waiting in the car. There was no time for faffing, however, as we’d to head straight to the wedding party of one of my childhood friends! After having ripped him out of said party to pick me up, we made a stop in a service station so that I could change into an (admittedly rather creased after such a journey) shirt, and then headed straight to the event.

After an evening of jiving and sampling the local gin, I was in no rush to get up and ready, but I eventually had to shift myself to the train station in Todmorden in order to head over to Leeds. I was Yorkshire-bound as I’d arranged to spend the evening with Rhea, who was home alone as Luisa had headed back to Germany to spend Christmas with her family too.

Upon arrival, I headed straight to the Co-Op, a supermarket near the house where I used to live, and bought half a shop’s worth of snacks for our evening. I was soon joined by Rhea, who picked up some ingredients for a fancy breakfast the morning after, but we didn’t bother with anything for tea (dinner) – we’d already decided that we were going to grab some grub from our two favourite takeaways! With my visits to Leeds now increasingly fleeting, and Rhea moving to Birmingham at the end of this month, it was our last chance to chill out in her house and eat some of our favourite food.

The morning after an evening of kebabs and RuPaul, Rhea set to work cooking a slap-up breakfast consisting of chorizo, tomato, onions, garlic, eggs, and bread – all of my favourite ingredients rolled into one! With the delicious concoction devoured, we decided to open a pack of “unicorn ice creams” left over from the night before and have them as dessert…

Me and Rhea breakfast on ice cream.

Ice cream after breakfast because we are grown adults and we can do what we want.

Once I’d grabbed a train back to Burnley, that Sunday evening we’d planned a family tip to the Manchester Christmas Markets, which we make a habit of going to every year. Only five minutes down the motorway, however, we were shook by a loud bang, and within a flash we found ourself on the hard shoulder, one of our front wheels completely blown out.

Ellie was the first to think fast, and reminded us all that we’d to get away from the car and the motorway as quickly as possible, and so we all grabbed our umbrellas, turned on the hazard lights, and headed out into the drizzle. As we’d stopped under a bridge, we had to head around the side and climb up the embankment, looking back down the motorway from above whilst my mum rang our insurance company.

My mum, dad, and sister stand under their umbrellas and look down the motorway in the rain at night.

After we were told that a tow truck to rescue four people would take over an hour to arrive, we had a quick look to see if there was any way of reaching the top of the embankment and finding somewhere to warm up, but we were confronted with barbed wire and a dead end. Resigned to our fate on the roadside, we eventually turned to singing Christmas carols and games of I Spy to keep ourselves occupied and warm.

We were eventually rescued, but our wheel wouldn’t be replaced until the afternoon of the next day, which presented a problem to me and my sister Ellie: we’d booked a festive afternoon tea for my mum as an early Christmas present! We eventually had to get a taxi to the Nº 62, a lovely spot in Colne which I’d first visited just before leaving to Spain in January last year.

Ellie stands outside Nº 62 in Colne.

The food here is just as gorgeous as the presentation and the decoration of the place.

After a relaxing day at home, it was suddenly Christmas Eve, and my mum had a little surprise in store: a little bag of Christmas Eve presents! As she was working Christmas Eve night, she surprised us with some gifts to open the night before, which got us all in a festive spirit after the failed trip to Manchester just a couple of nights before.

My dad with a beard of shaving foam, an elf mug and t-shirt, and our Christmas tree in the background.

The gifts included matching elf pyjamas and mugs for everyone!

After we’d opened these, we headed to drop my mum off at work, and then headed off to bed ready to head back on Christmas day morning to pick her back up. Once home, we opened our presents, but then my mum had to head back to bed, and so the rest of our 25th is always somewhat unconventional: we all go away and do our own thing, and then reconvene when my mum’s awake and order a curry in!

Whilst we waited for my mum to wake up, me, my dad, and sister headed out for a walk in order to get out of the house for a while and take in the lovely landscapes surrounding my childhood home. I think it was on this walk when I realised that one of my New Year’s resolutions should really be to get more in shape – after half an hour of walking I was knackered!

A small lake in a forest.
A "Danger: Falling Rock" sign which has bleached and cracked in the sun.
A reservoir building is reflected in the water.
A cloudy sky and forest are reflected in the water of a reservoir.

After our curry tea and an evening watching Élite (a fab Spanish series) as a family, we began the celebrations usually saved for the 25th on the 26th. In the morning, Abi and Danni swung by so that we could do our belated gift exchange, and then preparations began on our family’s tradition of a delicious cream of cauliflower soup which we devour for lunch.

The only way to properly recover from a huge bowl of creamy soup and fresh warm bread rolls is to head to bed for a good ol’ nap, which I thought would be a half-hour affair. Three hours later I woke up in a panic, with the smell of turkey and gravy making me worried that I had missed the Christmas dinner entirely! Thankfully I hadn’t, and I arrived in the kitchen in time to help out with some of the final prep and serving.

Our Christmas dinner on our decorated table.

Mum’s Christmas dinner was as delicious as it always is, and ended our main two days of Christmas celebrations. The day after was mainly a day for rest and digestion, but in the afternoon we headed back over to Yorkshire in order to pick up some fish and chips in Hebden Bridge and visit my grandparents in Bradford. We had a lovely catch up, and then in a blink it was already the 28th of December, and I was headed back to Madrid on the 30th!

I started the day heading up to a local pub with Danni and Abi for lunch, which was delicious and accompanied with plenty of gin and many laughs. The two of them concocted some plans for a night out on the spot, but I’d to pass on them as I’d plans to be up early the next day to get the bus to Manchester – I feel like I managed to use every method of transport possible during my trip!

An old street sign against the backdrop of Burnley.

This trip to Manchester had a dual purpose. Firstly, I’d arranged to meet Luisa (who was now back from Germany) and Declan for a catch up, and secondly I was to then head to the Royal Exchange Theatre with my dad, as I’d bought him theatre tickets as a Christmas present (a bit like a couple of years ago!)

I managed to be late for my breakfast appointment with Declan and Luisa (shocker), but once I’d made it there we had a lovely breakfast and a catch up for a good couple of hours. It was lovely to hear about Luisa’s new career as a teacher, and how Declan has now moved to Brighton in order to work for a company which sounds right up his street.

Luisa and Declan sit in the window of a café in Manchester.

After another coffee elsewhere and a quick visit to a design bookshop (naturally), I had to dash off and find my dad in order to head to the matinee performance at 2:30pm. The piece that we were going to see was called “Gypsy“, but I had done zero research before we went, so the whole thing was to be an exciting surprise. Heck, I didn’t even know that it was a musical!

The main stage at the Royal Exchange Theatre.

Me and my dad had a wonderful time, enjoying every moment of the show, which was full of energy from start to finish. Once the bows were over, we headed to a bar, where we found my mum and Ellie already cradling a cocktail. I didn’t need much convincing to grab myself one, and we were all soon merrily away with our anecdotes.

Me, Ellie, my dad, and mum in a bar in Manchester.

The four of us soon grew hungry, and so it fell on me to decide where we should go for tea, as somehow it was my last evening in the UK. For some unknown reason I really fancied visiting the Trafford Centre, even though the shops had closed by that point, and decided that I thus wanted to relive happy childhood memories and have a cheesy bites pizza at Pizza Hut.

Pizza Hut consumed, my last night in my very springy childhood bed spent, and my bags half packed, the morning of my last day was spent with Amber and Jess. We met up at another local pub, where I treated myself to a proper full English breakfast, and told them all about Gypsy and various other drama from Madrid. All too soon, though, I had to be dropped back off at home, where I finished packing, cellophane-binding, and weighing my bag ready to head back off to the airport.

My dad managed to manage his shift in such a way that he could come along with us to the airport, where I said my goodbyes until March, when my parents will be visiting me here in Madrid once again. I’m already thinking of what we could get up to! Until then, I’ll have to see what I get up to here in Spain. I’ll keep you all updated, of course!

31.12.19 — Journal

Blooper Reel: 2019

This time last year, I launched the first edition of my Blooper Reel posts, and I noted how I hoped that it would become an annual series. Well, good news to past me, as I’m here with the second instalment, recapping some funny moments and unseen moments from the last twelve months! After another year of travels and other shenanigans in Spain, let’s not dilly nor dally as we dive straight in with the first month of the year…

January

Day Tripping

The year began and I was still back in England, which meant the occasional day trip out with my parents. My mum, however, didn’t seem keen on me taking photos of lovely windows that I’d seen along the way…

My mum ruins a photo of a window.

The Web Coding Marathon

After wrapping up my new website design, it was time to spend a few weeks surrounded by sketches and code in order to code my first full WordPress website – the very one you’re on right now!

The walls of my room are covered in coding notes.

Bread

The festive period is all about overeating, and there’s really no greater pleasure in the world than a good loaf of bread with some good butter. This was my meal one night…

I eat a loaf of bread.

An Overdramatic Patient

Just before my big move back to Spain, I had a minor operation on my toe, which really didn’t affect me all that much. I did take the opportunity, however, to over-exaggerate the amount of rest I needed and the delicacy of my foot, insisting that I should always have it raised as though I’d had a leg operation or something…

I hold my foot up on a bin.

Pickle for Tuppence

One of the last photos I took before leaving Burnley was of something which you could only see in the UK – mini pots of pickle for just two pence!

Pickle for tuppence.

February

A Lie Down

The start of February brought with it my first day back in Madrid! Whilst running some errands in the city centre before my first day at work, I discovered some swanky new furniture on the renovated Gran Vía, and was sure to make good and proper use of it.

I lie on a street bench in Madrid.

They Know What I Like

My first day back in the Erretres office saw me gifted with a very suitable present: a big bar of chocolate. They sure know me well!

I eat a large bar of chocolate in the office.

Dining on the Floor

With Bogar moving into a new flat, there wasn’t even a table to eat on whilst I helped him out with his move, and so we wound up buying in some Chinese food and having a feast on the floor of his new place.

Chinese food on the floor.

My Turn to Move Flats

Soon thereafter I moved in to my new place, and it wasn’t long before I was measuring out the space to see what kind of sofa I could fit into the space…

Sticks on my floor mark out the position of my sofa.

March

Is My Spanish That Bad?

Something seems to be off as I always say “Ollie” and get handed a receipt reading “Ori”. Okay.

A receipt with my name spelled O R I.

Office Life

After settling back into the daily routine for a month, it was business as usual for me and Luis in the office.

Me and Luis salute the camera in the office.

My Favourite Place

After moving into my new flat, my new bed soon became my favourite place in the whole of Madrid, with the lovely lighting making the sheets look even more inviting…

My bed is lit by spotlight.

Seems Legit

I’m not so sure if I’d be that keen on getting the part if I was to be confronted by this jail-like mini door when heading for my casting…

A sign marked "casting" on a small iron door.

April

Paint Me Like One of Your French Girls

A preview trip to the new Erretres office provided the rare opportunity to take some stupid photos on the dry pool bed…

I lie on the dry pool bed of the Erretres office.

Filter City

During the big move to the new office, Helena and I decided we’d rather play around with Instagram filters than shift heavy boxes…

Me and Elena through a face-deforming filter.

I am a Meme

After some stupid Instagram stories I posted in Portuguese became popular on a Facebook group in Brazil, I soon found myself being made into memes…

A screenshot of me laughing with a subtitle in Portuguese.

A Birthday Trip

As a little birthday treat, my colleagues took me to another of my favourite places: Mercadona, a low-cost supermarket. Whilst there, I naturally had to pick up a great British birthday tradition: cake.

I pick up a cake in a supermarket.

May

A Rare Bath

I had a great time attending Soyoung and Pablo’s wedding in Valencia, but I was also sure to make the most of the presence of a bath!

A bath with a beer.

Ironing Queen

This trip also saw me act as mother, as I found myself ironing Helena’s dress a mere hour or so before the beginning of the ceremony. As last minute at it was, I’ve never ironed with such a nice view!

An ironing board set up on a terrace overlooking the sea.

Feed the Birds, Tuppence a Bag

May was also the month of visits, with my parents being some of the first to come over. Whilst on a picnic in Retiro, we were joined by some peckish little birds, and my dad did his best to entice them into a nibble of his sandwich.

My dad tries to feed a bird by the lake.

Dirty Kebab

After heading to the concerts of San Isidro with Bogar, there was nothing for it but to grab a kebab to soak up some of the many beers that had been consumed.

I eat a kebab.

The Making Of

I took one of my favourite photos of the year in Tenerife, which was a shot of the sunset seen from above the clouds upon one of the slopes of El Tiede, the island’s volcano. Camila sent me a photo of me taking said photo…

I take a photo of the sunset in Tenerife.

Lady of the House

When the three Cake Club girls came to visit, they all stopped by my office to check out our new pad, and I wound up leaning out of the window of one of the meeting rooms in order to welcome them in.

I lean out of a window.

Questionable Selfies

Whilst at the office, many questionable selfies were taken, with the one below being one of the most acceptable…

Me and Heidi in a garden.

Another Photo Shoot

Em and Lincoln also came over to visit in May, and a lovely sunset and backdrop in Retiro meant that yet another photoshoot ensued…

Em and Lincoln in Retiro park, Madrid.

June

Outtakes with Ellie

When Ellie visited, I was often instructed to take photos of her in front of this pretty monument or that, but it’s some of the outtakes which I like the most. Here’s a couple: one from our sunset evening and the other from a bout of snacking and napping down by the lake.

Ellie sorts her hair as the sun sets in Madrid.
Ellie eats a croissant by the lake in Madrid.

A Glimpse of Home

During one of my visits down to Murcia, I found this wall of British snacks and treats, but somehow managed to resist the urge to buy the lot…

A collection of bags of British snacks and chocolates.

The Best Mockup

Borja at work has always been famed for his mockup skills, and the one I posted of me jumping off the balcony in the office is one of my favourites. There was a second, however, in which my “big head” was somewhat exaggerated – enjoy the work in progress and the outcome below…

Borja edits a photo of me at work.
A faked photo of me with a huge head jumping off a balcony at the office.

July

Sommerkirchweih

This ridiculously long name is that of the beer festival which I attended with Luisa and family this summer, and from which there are way too many hilarious photos to choose from. Find a few below…

A selfie with sequins and a flower in my hair.
Me and Luisa at the beer festival.
The Smith family, Steven, and me at the beer festival in Germany.
Me and Luisa in our coats ready for the beer festival.

Old Ollie

I didn’t quite like this glimpse into the future as the infamous ageing app was tried out on everyone in the office…

A glimpse into what I might look like when older.

Stealing Sunglasses

Drinking on a school night? Never. Well, if you drink with your colleagues, it doesn’t count. Here’s a photo of me and María after I stole her glasses for a while.

Me and María in a bar.

August

Magnetic Piercings

During the summer heatwave at work, it occurred to us that we could use the magnets for attaching sketches to the wall as stand-in piercings too. What innovation.

A selfie of me with magnets for earrings.

An Interesting Cinema Snack

Usually people snack on popcorn when at the cinema, but not if Bogar has anything to do with it. When we sat down to watch the Lion King, he produced two boxes of tequeños (Venezuelan cheese sticks) from his bag. Deliciously unconventional!

A box of cheese sticks in the cinema.

September

The Poultry Massacre

At some point I took the plunge and decided to cook my first ever whole chicken. All was going rather well until it came time to dissect the cooked chicken, whereupon I realised I had no idea what I was doing…

Chicken pieces lie all over the counter of my kitchen.

Old Ladies of the Metro

After what I am assuming was yet another IKEA trip, me and Bogar wound up taking more selfies in the window of the empty (I hope) metro train…

Me and Bogar in the reflection of a window on the metro.

Yet More Plants

As if the constant IKEA trips weren’t enough, I also started splashing out on the lovely plants from my local flower shop. Here’s my excited face after having just picked up another…

I am excited to have bought a new plant.

Hello Hedgehog

Whilst on the bus to work one morning, I noticed that this little hedgehog had appeared on one of the bus stops. I’m not sure why it was there, but I am happy that it was.

A photo of a hedgehog is attached to a bus stop with a ribbon.

October

An Ugly Eater

During one of my pizza dates with Elena, she took plenty of photos of me enjoying my dish, but not all of them made it – for obvious reasons…

Me eating pizza.

Oops

During our “Goodbye to Summer” party at work, I had an accident whilst trying to open a bottle of beer, leading to some nasty cuts in my hand. The ensuing drama wound up with Luis, Sergio, and Marco accompanying me home, where we took this lovely selfie after I’d bandaged myself up…

Luis and I with my bandaged hand.

A Useful Mirror

I simply had to to take another selfie in this super useful mirror that can be found on the wall of the toilets in my office.

The top of my head in a high mirror at work.

November

Old-Time G&Ts

One evening, me and Luis wound up having a gin and tonic in one of our haunts from years back: El Café del Rey! This little spot was located just behind our old office, and I’ve many memories of lunching there with the team.

Me and Luis have a Gin and Tonic.

King for the Day

At one point, and as part of her regular little gift packages from England, my mum sent over an inflatable crown. Not sure what to do with it, I took it to work, where it’s still making the rounds to this day!

Me in an inflatable crown.

Pinchos for Days

When Thuy stopped by Madrid for a few days, we went out for some Basque food to catch up. One of the highlights was this bao-style dish, which contained a whole crab!

A pincho containing a whole crab.

December

The Big Breakdown

When our car broke down on the side of the motorway on our way to Manchester, I was reminded by my safety-conscious sister that we should move away from the car without delay. Once the tow truck showed up, however, I was free to take a selfie by the wet and cold roadside.

A selfie by the roadside.

British Haute Cuisine

Whilst back in England for Christmas, there was no way I could leave without trying one of the grossest foods that we have: the battered sausage!

A battered sausage.

And so we conclude the second instalment documenting some of the highs and lows of this great year of 2019. A year of new adventures and familiar faces with my return to Spain, it’s been yet another amazing year spent with some incredible people.

This evening I shall count down the hours until 2020 in my flat, as I’m now nearing 25 and feeling more and more like an old lady every single day! I wish everyone a happy and prosperous year, and can only hope that everyone is welcoming the new decade with as much excitement as I am!

07.12.19 — Journal

The Arrival of Autumn

With work becoming busier as we head into the festive period – something which has struck us all as quite strange, as things usually begin to quieten down during the winter months – I’ve been dedicating most of my spare time to chilling out and recovering at home. I did, of course, have a wild trip back to England thrown in the middle, but other than this, it’s been a rather rather tranquil time!

Because of this, this blog post is much more of a visual diary rather than an account of anything particularly interesting. This isn’t to say that I didn’t get up to anything, however, as I had a lovely catch up with María from work over some vegan burgers, and have also spent plenty of time cooking and cleaning at home.

A street in the northern neighbourhoods of Madrid.

My little trips around the city and the daily commute to the office have allowed me to observe the lovely colours of autumn as we moved into November (and now December?! How has that happened?). I’ve collected a few of these photos below, so enjoy the little visual diary of this Spanish autumn!

Yellow leaves are lit up by the morning sun.
The yellow leaves of the tree.
Sunlight enters through a window at work.
The trees outside Atocha Train Station in Madrid are bright red.
Autumn leaves and shattered glass.
Street signs under autumn trees in the morning sun.
The facade of the Ministry of Agriculture in Madrid is lit by the evening sun.

As we are now (somehow) already one week into December, I should really update you all on my Christmas holiday plans. I’ll be back in England for ten days over the festive period, but I’ll be back in Madrid to welcome in the New Year, and so I have spent a whopping 3.50€ on decorating my flat for the yuletide…

My palm plant covered in fairy lights casting multicoloured shadows.

Presenting my budget Christmas tree!

27.11.19 — Travel

A Non-Stop Visit Home

First thing’s first: hello there again! If you checked my site over the last couple of days, you may have been greeted by a rather terrifying security message, but I assure you that there’s nothing to be worried about – I just forgot to update some security settings. I’m now back online, and just in time to tell you about my latest crazy weekend…

As the title suggests, just last weekend I made a whistle-stop trip to England, during which I packed as much as I could into a mere 36 hours. After leaving the office at 3pm, I nipped by my house to pack (I am a very relaxed traveller these days), and then headed straight for the airport for 6pm in order to catch my 8pm flight.

Landing in England around 10pm, I didn’t waste a minute in leaving the terminal and searching for my parents, who kindly drove over to Manchester to pick me up. The car journey back to Burnley provided a good chance to catch up for a while, as we arrived at home so late that after just an hour of chatting over a drink we all headed for bed.

The next morning, I was up bright and early and hitching a lift down to Burnley Town Centre in order to get my haircut at my 9am appointment. I chatted for a while to my hairdresser, finally had my mop chopped, and then headed into town to sort out some issues with my bank and then for a quick reunion with Amber and Jess!

An old phone box in Burnley on a wet, cloudy day.

Burnley was as grey and damp as it always is.

The three of us were reunited in Little Barista, a lovely independent coffee shop in the town centre, and had a rousing chat over some festive hot chocolate and herbal tea. This was the first of many catchups which was to be cut too short, however, as I soon had to be driven back home by Jess in order to re-pack (yes, already) my bags and head out for lunch with my parents.

Lunch really couldn’t have been at any other place than JJ’s, an unsuspecting canteen at the side of a rural road which serves up some of the best classic British dishes going. I was soon devouring some of their infamous homemade steak puddings, complete with chips, mushy peas, and plenty of salt and vinegar! The meal was delicious as ever, and served as as a fitting but somewhat premature farewell to my parents, as they dropped me off at Danni’s house for the next part of my speedy adventure…

I couldn’t go wrong with a weekend full of good food, old friends, and meeting new dogs.

Whilst being reunited with Danni, I was also introduced to her new dog, Lottie, who didn’t take a shining to me but was gorgeous nonetheless. We caught up at her house whilst awaiting the arrival of Abi, whose birthday present we had all prepared – a customised bottle of vodka! When she showed up and received said gift, it was soon evident that it would be joining the three of us as we headed on to our next destination: Leeds!

Once in Leeds, me and Danni checked into the hotel we’d booked, sneaking Abi in as a cheeky extra guest for the night. Dropping our stuff off and buying some drinks for later, the three of us then (eventually) managed to catch a taxi up to Belgrave Music Hall, one of my favourite haunts from my uni days and one of the finest purveyors of pizza, burgers, and chips in all the land.

Me, Abi and Danni have a beer in Belgrave.

After some drinks and burgers accompanied with a huge tray of delicious “session fries” (chips topped with pancetta, pickled jalapeños, and a whole host of other tasty delights), me and Danni had to set off at quite a pace: we’d a concert to get to!

The concert in question was Sigrid, who I’ve been a fan of since stumbling across her on Spotify earlier this year. We did end up arriving quite late and hence had to take up our position at the very back of the stalls, but we had a great time anyway, jiving along to a host of her best hits.

Sigrid performs at the O2 Academy, Leeds.

During the concert, Abi had headed back to the hotel to get ready and bring us back some drinks, and we were then reunited in the streets of Leeds to head out on the town! After an impromptu photo session in Victoria Quarter, we headed on down to Call Lane and some old uni haunts, as well as some new clubs that I’d never been to before.

As the three of us are getting old and wizened, the night didn’t go on for too long, and we were soon back at the hotel and waiting for our food delivery. This delivery, it turns out, was not to be, and so we were left stranded and food-less, a solution to which I found in marching myself back to the train station and picking up a McDonalds for the three of us.

I tried my hand at a spot of festive photo-bombing.

Danni stands under an illuminated reindeer antler decoration, whilst I crouch on the floor nearby.

The next morning, we all woke up surprisingly fresh, although I had a suspicion that my clear head could easily make way for a lingering hangover later that Sunday. There wasn’t much time for contemplation, however, as I’d to be up, showered, dressed, and at Layne’s Espresso for brunch with Luisa, Rhea, Em, and Lincoln by 11:30am. I really didn’t stop during this trip!

Adding to the weekend’s food woes, I received a message from Rhea whilst en route to Layne’s to inform me that she and Luisa were already there, but that the place was packed and that I should probably have booked a table in advance. Panicking, I was saved when the two of them rang another local spot in a moment of quick thinking, and I promptly informed Em and Lincoln that the location had changed. Hurrah, breakfast was saved!

The reunion thus took place at Wapentake, a lovely and relatively new little bar that I’d never been in before, but which served us all a delicious slap-up breakfast. By this point my head was beginning to pound, and so I ordered a Bloody Mary to go with my full English, a choice I soon regretted as I was reminded just how spicy they can be…

Me, Rhea, Luisa, Em, and Lincoln have breakfast at Wapentake.

I had a lovely chat with the four of them over breakfast, with the whole group letting each other know what they’d been up to and how adult and work life was panning out for them. All good things must come to an end, though, and alas I eventually had to leave for Leeds Train Station and head back to Manchester for my return flight.

Leeds Train Station.
A stop on the Leeds to Manchester Airport line.

As you’ve probably noticed from the sheer speed through which I have run through all of my activities, I was absolutely knackered after cramming three cities and a shedload of events into a mere day and a half. Needless to say, I dozed off a while on the flight back, but even so this week I feel like I am still recovering from the exhaustion!

It was all worth it though, as I had an absolutely fabulous time, and I’m now just looking forward to this coming weekend of total relaxation at home. I’ll certainly need it too, as this week at work we’re super busy with lots of exciting new projects coming in. More on that to come!

14.11.19 — Journal

Caudete on Film

As the winter chill begins to bite here in Madrid, it’s time to think of warmer summer days, days which were spent in Caudete de las Fuentes, Valencia. If you’re an avid reader, you may remember the week over summer that I spent with Rodrigo exploring his grandparents’ hometown and setting up a lighting show in the patio of their old house.

Three months after said shenanigans, I finally got round to having some rolls of film developed, which led to the post “Tenerife on Film” as a follow-up to my post detailing my trip to Tenerife even earlier in summer. In this quick post I shall do the same, sharing the few noteworthy snaps from my visit to Caudete de las Fuentes.

A film photo of sunlight setting on roofs and a church.
A film photo of Roberto setting up a speaker system.
A film photo of the courtyard of an old house.

As the messy, harsh look of a full flash and film camera remind me of days spent with disposable cameras as a child, I naturally took the majority of these photos at night. Our evenings in Caudete, as detailed in the main blog post, were spent listening to a range of music and snacking on bread, cured meats, and cheese.

The last photo on the reel was really rather eerie, showing the darkened figure of a man emerging from a run-down looking edifice. It was, in reality, a sneak shot that I took of Roberto as he emerged from the outdoor shower room.

With that, I round of this admittedly very short post. It reminds me of my first blog posts, where I used to write rather little in comparison to my often essay-length blog posts of recent. The shortness of this blog post is also due to the business of my work life and the therefore lacklustre state of my social life as of recent, but with a trip over to England coming up just next week, I’m sure that’s soon to change!