06.03.23 — Journal

Film by Ellie

When my sister Ellie came over to visit towards the end of last year, she brought with her a film camera that she’d been using to document some of her holidays from last year. After exploring the city, meeting up with friends, and both cooking and consuming some good food, I was keen to see the snaps once she’d had them developed.

Just a month or so ago she finally got them developed and sent me a copy of them over. I loved them, and so asked if I could share them on here as a little look back over our autumnal shenanigans. So without further ado, here they are!

A night at the local Italian restaurant with Luis.
A cheeky drink after a wander down the river.
Me giving California vibes in the municipal greenhouse.
Ellie ready to eat a delicious pizza at NAP.
Some breakfast pancakes made by yours truly.
Drinks down by the lake on our last day together.

I hope you enjoyed the photos as much as I did, they’re a fun and unfiltered look at a great few days we spent together in Madrid. To read all about it, be sure to check out the original post from October last year. For now, I leave you with this little look back and promise that normal programming with resume shortly!

26.02.23 — Journal

Between Chef, Model & Tour Guide

Well, after some weeks of quiet I’m still here, I’m still in Madrid, and it’s still bitingly cold. After returning from Gijón, we had a week or so of milder weather, but just these last few days have seen temperatures plummet back into the minuses. It’s not as bad as when Storm Filomena passed through a couple of years, but it’s well enough to keep me indoors for the time being.

I did brave the cold one weekend, though, as I’d agreed to act as tour guide for some special visitors to the city. After I’d had an absolute blast at their wedding last summer, Jess and Adam came to visit Madrid for a few days! Before I could meet up with them, I’d arranged to visit La Casa Encendida with a few colleagues. I’d been meaning to drop by this cultural centre in my neighbourhood for years, so it was lovely to finally get a look around and enjoy the warmth of the sun on its rooftop.

From there, the four of us stopped by a terrace and enjoyed a couple of vermouths before I’d to head off and meet Jess and Adam, who’d just arrived in the centre and were waiting to be allocated a room in their hotel. Jess came out and found me waiting for them outside and we got chatting, but once they’d been given their room key I headed up to the hotel’s rooftop terrace and had year another glass of vermouth whilst looking over the city. Not a bad Sunday at all!

Jess and Adam then joined me for another drink before we headed back down to street level and began wandering around the city. I showed them some of my favourite areas to eat and drink, but the streets were thronging with people and all the bars were packed out. I later learned that this was due to a huge protest that had finished just as we were setting off on our tour of the centre.

In the end we wound up sampling some of the local dishes in my local neighbourhood, after which we headed to mine for another drink and so that the two of them could see Casa Briggs, my humble abode here in the city. We then headed back to the centre for a meal at a tapas restaurant I knew they’d enjoy, followed by a visit to a sherry bar which turned out to be closed for a private event. We took that as divine intervention and headed back to our respective abodes for the evening.

It was lovely to show the two of them around and I was even happier to later learn from Jess that they’d enjoyed their time here in the capital. I hope to have them back over soon!

The next week saw the beginning of some of my culinary adventures, from a lovely caprese salad that I threw together to an early batch of torrijas, a Spanish Easter tradition. I first made these sweet cinnamon delights back in 2017 when I first lived in Madrid as an intern, the story of which has been retold again and again by my colleagues and goes something like this: one day my colleague Luis brought a torrija to the office that he’d bought, I tried it and liked it, and that same weekend I set about investigating how they were made and threw together a batch myself. I then brought them into the office and various colleagues insisted that I had done a better job of them than their own mothers!

The secret to my recipe is to add as much sugar and cinnamon as you dare.

That weekend I had some other plans which involved cooking as little as possible while eating as much as possible. This began with a trip to Sara’s house, where we were joined by Rocío for a night in with some wine and homemade pizza. It didn’t quite go to plan as we wound up so deep in gossipy conversation that we forgot about the pizza and it turned out a bit crispier than perhaps we would have liked, but we had a fab time all the same!

The next day I met up with Luis and we headed into the centre to join Carmen and participate in her photography project. This began with an initial photo shoot on the street, after which me and Luis went for some breakfast. We were joined there by more friends, with whom we wound up visiting an amazing bakery (I grabbed a chocolate croissant and Luis some bread similar to the loaf me and Megan bought in Montreal) and then treated ourselves to some new plants in a florists next door.

Whilst we waited for Carmen to wrap up, the group of us wound up in a nearby bar for some vermouth (my tipple of choice, in case you hadn’t noticed) and some little bites of food. As often happens here, this then turned into hours of snacking and chatting once Carmen arrived.

After having had lunch without even realising, Luis, Carmen, and I hopped in a taxi and down to Carmen’s house to carry on our afternoon of merriment. We put on some old silent movies, poured ourselves a glass of wine, and spent the rest of the afternoon munching on some jamón, cheese, and homemade bread that Carmen had made. Bliss!

The next day I spent at home cooking and cleaning. I made a lovely (even if I say so myself) batch of lentejas a la riojana, a lentil dish made with pork and chorizo and garlic all things tasty. I also popped some chicken wings in the oven according to my colleagues recipe, and they came out rather tasty too: even if they were an absolute sticky mess to eat once in the office!

At work, I had a lovely morning one day thanks to a visit by a bunch of design students from Valencia. I always remember the giddy excitement of having talks by top designers from local studios whilst I was at university, so it was an honour to sit and share our work and my experience with them all as well as answer their questions. I can only hope they found it as interesting and nutritive as I found it enjoyable!

This weekend is being a quiet one so far after a rather busy week. I’ve been catching up with people back in the UK and all over the world, organising my life a little bit, and even re-grouting my shower. Adult life is a never-ending list of tasks! I was rather proud of my breakfast yesterday though, which for once tasted as good as it looks in the picture!

I’m now sat waiting for Sara to head over for an afternoon of tea, sandwiches, and perhaps a cheeky vermouth. I’ve made a batch of coronation chicken and some biscuits for the occasion, but I’m missing a bowl of cheese and onion crisps as the my local British shop has closed down. I only discovered this after a cold bike ride down there this morning – what a disappointing way to start one’s Sunday!

11.02.23 — Travel

From Madrid to Gijón

My last blog post saw me down for one last visit to my auntie and uncle’s place before they sell up and move back to the UK, but I’m already back with another little trip. This time I’m headed to the opposite side of the country, up north and to the coastal city of Gijón. I mentioned before Christmas that my friends Bogar and Javier were in the last throes of organising their move up to Gijón, so this trip was going to be my first chance to see them in their new home!

In order to reach the city I rushed out of work on Friday and sped up to Moncloa, a transport interchange just ten minutes walk from my office. There I was picked up by Juan, who was the driver for my car share up to Asturias. I got chatting to another passenger on the way up who told me how he’d worked in a theatre all his life, first as an actor and then in set design and production. It reminded me of my days back working at Burnley Youth Theatre, where we were always up to all sorts of stuff.

We arrived in Gijón much earlier than expected which caught Cami, my hostess with the mostess for the weekend, completely off guard. I unpacked the few bits I’d brought with me whilst she finished off organising, then the two of us grabbed a taxi up to the beach in order to meet Bogar and Javier for a meal.

After some drinks at the bar, the four of us were given a table and the shenanigans began. I’d had a very long day between work and the long journey up and I knew that Bogar and Javier had to run some errands the next day, so I’d naturally assumed that it’d be a quiet and early night. Boy, was I wrong!

Once tipsy off the natural sidra (cider) which is typical of the region, Javier mentioned that we should go out partying as the plans they had for the next day had been put on hold. We’d had some great food, drinks, and laughs, so it didn’t take much convincing for us to end up in a bar that Javier knew the owner of. There we enjoyed some delicious frozen raspberry daiquiris before heading out to boogie at a couple of clubs.

My favourite bit was the huge marshmallow on top.

Needless to say that I did not get the early night I had envisioned, but we had an absolute blast. There was some great music, great drinks, and it was so nice to have Cami meet Bogar and Javier now that the three of them live together in the same city. The downside of all this was that the next day me and Cami were absolutely exhausted, so we stayed around the house pretty much all day besides a quick trip out to grab some pet food for Luke, Cami’s dog.

On Sunday we were right as rain once more. We headed out in the afternoon to Bogar and Javier’s place, a gorgeous flat near the beach that the two of them moved into back in December. After a tour around, we wound up in a nearby bar for an afternoon tipple which soon turned into a long afternoon of bar hopping.

The next day was a Monday and so I found myself back at work, only remotely from Cami’s living room. I managed to snag an hour for lunch and Cami and I tried out a sidrería near her house. The word sidrería means somewhere that cider is served, but it’s common for the restaurants in the region to be named as such. After all, it is Asturias: cider is served everywhere!

After a delicious meal of chicken soup, barbecued meats, and rice pudding, we headed back home so that I could finish off my working day. Once I’d signed off, Cami accompanied me down to a nearby car park where I said my goodbyes as I hopped in the car share back to Madrid.

I must say I had an absolutely fabulous time up in Gijón with Cami, Bogar, Javier, and friends. We were quite spontaneous with our plans, which I think is always the best way to take on little trips like this. I have to thank Cami for graciously putting me up at her place once again and I look forward to crashing at Bogar and Javier’s place at some point just as soon as they have the guest room up and running!

Now back in the capital, I’ve been back to my familiar routine of work, swimming, and socialising. As I haven’t really stopped recently, I’ve decided to take a few weekends off from travelling or making big plans. This weekend all I seem to be doing is cleaning the house and organising myself a bit, which is fine by me for the time being!

Here’s a vanity selfie of me enjoying the sun whilst suffering the cold.

This means that things will probably be slow here on my blog, but do not fear, as I’ve a few other posts in mind that I’d like to put together to share some other photos and stories from the recent past. Stay tuned!

28.01.23 — Travel

One Last Hurrah in Murcia

My first blog post about a trip to my auntie and uncle’s place in Murcia was back in 2015. I spent some days down there with my mum and auntie, then took a train up north for my first ever trip to Madrid. It wasn’t my first time in the southern Spanish region, as I first visited in 2009, a year after my auntie and uncle moved there. Since then, I’ve visited plenty of times and had lots of fun – you can check all this out on my travel page.

Fifteen years later, and they have decided that it’s time to sell up and move back to the UK, meaning I’d to make plans to visit my auntie and uncle in their house one last time. I organised this before heading back home for Christmas, and just last week headed from work straight to the train station to begin my journey.

This journey was somewhat chaotic: there’s never a dull moment when I travel. I arrived at Atocha train station to find that half the departures screen was broken. I thus waited a while for my train to appear on the other screen, eventually growing impatient and heading for security. It was there that upon scanning my ticket, one of the security guards let me know that I was at the wrong train station!

I was cursing myself as I ran down to the local train line and tried to find the next train headed to Chamartín, Madrid’s northern train station, in a blind panic. In a stroke of luck, I headed down the first escalator I saw and it led me straight to a train which was just about to depart for where I needed to be. This miraculously pulled up just ten minutes before my train to Murcia left, leaving me just enough time to fly through security and catch my breath.

I always seem to run into drama when I travel, but I’ve never actually missed any connections or been stranded anywhere. It’s a miracle!

This mix up had been caused by the new train service to Murcia which began this year. The city has been incorporated into Spain’s high speed rail network, so my journey was now broken down into two parts: a high speed train or AVE to the capital city of Murica (also called Murcia), then a slower local train Balsicas, a town near my auntie and uncle’s place.

The change of trains was the second part of the journey to go wrong, with the train I was supposed to catch on to Balsicas being cancelled as we were all stood on the platform waiting for it. After 45 minutes of standing around in the cold and without any information, we were finally ushered towards another platform where a train eventually showed up and took us on our merry way.

In between the stress of the mixup in Madrid and then the hour I stood around in the cold in Murcia, I wasn’t feeling great upon arriving in Balsicas. I was greeted by my auntie and the three of us headed to their apartment so I could get some well-needed rest.

The next day I worked from their place, connecting with my team and busily working on some business. I’d taken the next day off in order to attend happy hour at the resort’s bar-restaurant, but it soon became clear that I’d have to do some work the next day in order to wrap up some stuff before a meeting that couldn’t be moved.

Despite this inconvenience, I managed to clock off on time and shower in to head up for a night with my auntie, uncle, and their friends. We had drinks, food, chats, and some good laughs with everyone who’d also attended. We were all sat at a very long table, I said it felt like the last supper!

I enjoyed my wander up to El Casón in the dark, despite the cold.

The next day I worked and connected to my meeting from a handy coworking area just above the bar which we’d been drinking in the night before. I was then met by my auntie and uncle for a drink, after which we headed down to their apartment just to find that some potential buyers were looking around the place. I thus sat by the pool in the sun whilst they finished their viewing.

Once everyone had left, the three of us headed back inside and I put together a spread of sandwiches and other nibbles for lunch. We sat down and ate together, but I’d then to carry on working for a few more hours before I could fully disconnect and enjoy the weekend. That night we went for a meal at a lovely Venezuelan restaurant in another local town, where we shared a mix of dishes and I had the chance to introduce my auntie and uncle to some of the dishes I knew.

The next day I woke up feeling quite worn out after a rough night of sleep and a bunch of cold symptoms that were getting slowly worse. After some breakfast, I headed back to bed for a quick lie down which then turned into a whole afternoon of drifting in and out of naps. I definitely must have needed it!

By the evening I was feeling somewhat better, helped along by a (nearly lethally strong) dose of menthol fumes that my auntie prepared for me. Airways cleared, the three of us headed to a town a mere five minutes drive from their apartment, where I wound up ordering some Peruvian food whilst they enjoyed some burgers. It was a lovely little spot!

I should note that the skip isn’t where we ate. It was outside and for some reason I thought it looked cool.

The following day marked my last in Murcia, so I spent the morning packing and lazing around my auntie and uncle’s place, saying my final goodbyes to this little second home I’ve had in Spain for so long. We were then joined for lunch by a couple of my auntie’s friends at the local community centre before I hopped on the train back up to Madrid.

We had a lovely little lunch together and all wound up so relaxed that I nearly lost track of time. In the rush to pay and head out, I left my lip balm on the table, but it could have been a worse casualty so I will have to let it slide. I was at the train station with time to spare, where I eventually hugged my auntie and uncle off as I began my (this time perfectly smooth) journey back up to the capital.

As you can tell, it wound up being a rather quiet long weekend down in Murcia, but I think it was just what I needed after a busy few months. It was also odd to think that it would be my last time in that apartment, as it’s always been a little second home for me here on the Iberian Peninsula. I know that my auntie and uncle will be back, however, so it’s just a matter of waiting for them to rent some other place for a few months and then I can be back down to bother them once more!

24.01.23 — Journal

Madrid in Lights

Since I returned from the UK at the start of the month, it’s been a pretty quiet affair in Madrid thanks to the biting cold. This doesn’t mean that I’ve been staying too still though, with plenty of things to do before the official Christmas period ended!

Firstly, I wanted to head into the city centre and catch the festive lights before they were taken down. With two trips to England in December alone, I hadn’t had chance to see them before Christmas, so I took myself into the city to admire the colourful spectacle one evening.

I also caught a showing of Cortylandia, a cheesy animatronic show set to light and music which is put on by El Corte Inglés, Spain’s one and only chain of department stores. This iconic Madrilian Christmas tradition is always set to the same catchy song and this year was no different, with everyone dancing in the street to the refrain of Cortylandia, Cortylandia, ¡vamos todos a cantar!

My first weekend back in the capital included a quick visit by my auntie and uncle, who came up from Murcia in order to drop off a suitcase after a mix-up in the baggage reclaim after their festive cruise. Despite the sudden and rapid nature of it all, we had a lovely time. I made some meals at home, we went for a wander and some lunch around the city, and even had the chance to celebrate Reyes together.

El día de los Reyes Magos is the Spanish name for the holiday we might call the Three Kings’ Day and is celebrated on from the night of the 5th of January to the day of the 6th. It’s the day that the locals here open up the bulk of their presents, but me, my auntie, and uncle stuck to just indulging in the traditional food in the form of a roscón. We enjoyed this big ring of sweet bread topped with sugar and caramelised fruit with a mug of thick hot chocolate: the perfect way to end a cold day!

Even the sun was putting on a colourful show of lights.

That same weekend, I also headed out for some rather fancy food in a lovely restaurant for Napo’s birthday. We celebrated with some delicious dishes including Italian burrata, cod, and steak. This was all accompanied with lashings of white wine, as any good meal should be!

Just a week later and I was back in the centre once again, this time to attend something that Sara and I had booked quite a few weeks prior. Naturaleza encendida is an anual event held in the Royal Botanical Gardens here in Madrid and which is always hard to get tickets for thanks to how popular it is. It involves the installation of a tonne of lights, speakers, and various other visual effects within the gardens, so you can imagine that I’ve been wanting to go for years!

We first met for a bite to eat and a quick drink before heading down to the Real Jardín Botánico. Once inside, the spectacle and the sheer size of the thing unfolded before our eyes. The two of us had visited the gardens together last summer, but seeing it lit up in shades of pink, purple, and blue was a whole other experience.

You can see it was pretty spectacular from the photos, but there’s nothing compared to actually being there, surrounded by all of these colour-changing lights, mysterious sounds, and trees which seem taller just because the different lighting made us look at them in a different way. It was awesome!

After nearly two whole hours, our tour of the illuminated nature came to an end, but not before I’d grabbed a hot chocolate and we’d had a good snoop around the second half of the exhibition. This took us up to where we’d caught a photography exposition last time we visited. As you can imagine, it was quite different in the dark!

The week after began with a spontaneous plan that me and Napo came up with on the Monday evening. We met in Chueca, just north of the city centre, and had a drink together before heading off for some Venezuelan food at a restaurant he was keen on trying out. I was keen to see what it’d be like after the lovely Venezuelan Christmas meal we’d had together back in December!

The food ended up being absolutely delicious, with a special mention to be made to the yuca balls in honey. Even the drink was different and tasty – even if I have since forgotten what it was! Hopefully Napo remembers for next time…

Just the next day I was packing my bag ready to head off on my first little trip of 2023, and this one was to be quite an interesting one! More on that in my next post, though, as I’m currently trying to keep moving around my house and thus stave off the biting cold which has descended upon Madrid. Brr!

09.01.23 — Travel


I left my previous post on a train out of Lancashire and on my way to my next destination in order to celebrate the New Year with some friends. As you’ll have guessed from the title, I was headed southwards to Norwich, a city I’d never yet visited and to which my friends Luisa and Sol have moved to. This trip had been arranged after I managed to catch them in Leeds whilst over for Em and Lincoln’s wedding. It’s crazy how these things happen!

Also visiting them down in Norfolk was Evie, Luisa’s sister, who I know well from a the odd past trip to Germany in order to join the festivities at the beer festival in their small town. With all four of us reunited, it promised to be a fun weekend spent seeing in 2023.

I should also apologise in advance for the lack of photos – we were having so much fun I forgot to take hardly any!

Anyway, I arrived at Norwich train station in the evening, from where we headed to their place so I could drop my stuff off before heading out for tea. Luisa had reserved a table at a local Mexican restaurant, where we enjoyed a lovely meal over some margaritas, after which we went for a tipsy snoop around the city and then headed back home. There, I managed to eat a whole easter egg (yes, they were already selling them at Tesco) in record time whilst we had a boogie to some international music before heading off to bed.

The next day was New Year’s Eve, so we headed out to grab some ingredients for lunch and our evening meal. We had a good old laugh snooping round the local supermarkets, where I grabbed a lot of Cadbury’s chocolate and some very disgusting vermouth. England doesn’t seem to sell any of the good stuff!

Back at Luisa’s, we had a lovely carbonara and then began preparations for the later celebrations. Nibbling on some of the Spanish meats and cheese I’d brought over, we all got dolled up and had a few drinks whilst we waited for the clock to strike midnight on the telly.

Well, having the TV on mute turned out to be quite the error, as the slow clock on the living room wall tricked us all into believing that we’d still time before the proper celebrations begun. It was only when someone noticed the fireworks on the TV that we realised we’d missed the big moment!

I scrambled to eat the twelve grapes that I’d dutifully purchased in advance as per Spanish tradition, then we all bundled out of the door and hit Norwich town centre to spend the rest of the night. That was quite an experience, but wound up being lots of fun with some cheesy old English party music and then some greasy food to end the night properly!

The next day we all awoke quite late but with enough time to have some lunch and head out into the city to have a proper snoop around the place before the sun went down. Luisa showed us the main sights around the centre and then we stopped for a hot chocolate before heading home for another relaxed evening playing Scrabble and eating yet more delicious pasta!

The next day I was up, packed, and out relatively early as I’d to grab a train down from Norwich to Stansted Airport. Back at the train station, I hugged Luisa off in the station before climbing on board the very expensive train even further south, where I’d to suffer the dreary chaos that is Stansted Airport in order to grab my flight back to Madrid.

With that, I rather quickly summarise my quick trip down to Norwich. As I’ve had no photos for reference, I’ve probably missed out lots of fun little details, but I had a fabulous time. Many thanks to Luisa and Sol for having me over, and thanks also to Evie for inviting me over to Germany again this year for another beer festival experience. This time, we’re thinking of taking on Nuremberg…

Happy New Year!

04.01.23 — Journal

Our Lancastrian Christmas

I mentioned in my last post that I was back home to England to celebrate, as I have done since moving out to live in Spain, Christmas back with my family in Burnley. After a near Christmas catastrophe during the flight over, I was then able to enjoy some lovely and relaxed time with my family.

My first full day in Burnley was Christmas Eve itself, the 24th of December. After a lazy morning, the four of us headed out for a family walk over the moors as we usually do. This took us up to the reservoir, where we stopped and chatted for a while. There’s no better place to catch up than with views over the water and the countryside beyond!

The three of us had unwittingly come dressed as the three primary colours…

The house and tree looked festive as we arrived back home in the early evening.

We then relaxed for the evening with some lovely veggie lasagne cooked by Ellie, after which we headed off to the pub for our traditional Christmas Eve drink. We ran into some familiar faces in the pub and had a great laugh over a gin and tonic, even if I was complaining about how small it was…

After this, it was time to head home and wait for the big man to arrive!

Our Christmas Days are always a little odd, as my mum usually works in the morning. This means that we open our presents in the middle of the afternoon and leave the Christmas dinner until Boxing Day, but we made the most of the morning by heading off to Bradford to visit my grandparents. Despite having to set an alarm for an ungodly hour on Christmas Day itself, it was lovely to see them and catch up with my uncle in passing.

The four of us were later reunited back at home when my mum arrived back from work. This meant the bulk of the festive activities could begin, including the unwrapping of some fun presents and the general laziness borne of binge-eating chocolate that usually occurs on Christmas Day. We ended the day as we always do, with a selection of curries from our local Indian takeaway!

The next day was Boxing Day, and thus time for us to enjoy our Christmas dinner. This began – as it always does – at lunchtime, when my mum expertly prepared some cream of cauliflower soup to a family friend’s delicious recipe. This was followed by another lovely turkey dinner prepared by my mum and expertly plated by yours truly. After so many years, my mum and I have fully perfected the delicate dance of plating up the various components in order to serve them as my family like to eat them – piping hot!

We then sat down in the living room to partake in another Briggs Christmas tradition that I managed to start, the Briggs Family Christmas Quiz. Besides some disagreement over the definition of mainland Europe, the quiz went without a hitch and ended in a tie between my mum and sister!

A couple of days after this, I was up and out of the house again relatively early. Well, at 10am, but I do think that that is early for the Christmas period. This was to meet up with Abi and Danni and head over to Blackpool, our favourite silly seaside haunt!

Under the typical grey skies of winter, Abi was super excited to be in Blackpool!

We’d a busy day planned around the main activity: an escape room that the two of them had invited me to as my birthday gift earlier in the year. I’d never been to one and was thus quite apprehensive to see what it’d be like. After fretting and emailing them to see if they would leave the door unlocked for me – I can get very claustrophobic – I had an absolute blast! Danni’s analytical skills, Abi’s maths prowess, and my domination of language meant the three of us joined forces to create quite the team!

After escaping the room, we headed for some lunch and a spot of shopping. We then wound up paying a visit to one of my favourite attractions in Blackpool that I’ve been visiting since I was little – Coral Island. There, we relived our childhoods by spending a good while on the 2p coin pushers trying to bag ourselves some silly prizes!

Abi and I were very excited to be spending our 2ps.

On our way out of Blackpool, I picked up some rock to bring back to Spain and we took a detour to ride the Blackpool Illuminations, a series of illuminations about 10km long which adorn the seafront. This was another blast from the past for me, as I remember many a December spent with my family with my head out of the sunroof of our car gazing in awe at the thousands of bulbs along the route.

We also exchanged our Christmas presents, a hilarious anual activity which involves the three of us buying each other the funniest gifts for under a £10. In the excitement, I left the rock I’d bought in the back of Danni’s car when she dropped me back off at home. Damnit!

That meant that my plans for the next day were predetermined: I’d to get myself up to Abi’s house to pick up my stranded bag of Blackpool rock. The journey was a bit of a pain thanks to Burnley’s bus service, but it led me on some interesting walks around areas of the town previously unknown to me.

The tree that had fallen on me at the garden centre had turned out rather nice.

I then spent my last night with my family in Burnley in the living room, where we had a good chat and one last drink before I headed off the next day. Where would I go though? Where would I be spending the New Year? Well, that’s for my next blog post!

24.12.22 — Journal

Festivities in Madrid

Before we begin today, an anecdote. As I wrote my last blog post from the terminal in Manchester, I didn’t have the chance to document the chaos that then ensued as upon boarding. I had only mentioned in that post that my flight had been delayed by three hours thanks to an admittedly festive but ultimately irritating bout of snow, but there was more to come.

Well, I spent almost all of those three hours in the airport building happily finishing my blog post before boarding began. The bus ride to the plane then allowed for a look at the state of the airport. There was a decent amount of snow piled all around, but it seemed that things were under control.

I really should not watch plane crash documentaries before flying…

That was until we were all seated on the plane, when the second round of delays began. Our flight was stuck in a queue of flights needing de-icing before takeoff, which in the end led to another 90 minutes stationary on the tarmac.

The plane might have been stood still, but us passengers certainly weren’t! Restless after such a long evening, lots of people started to move around and grab some fresh air at the front door. I was buzzing as I’d a whole empty row to myself, so I kicked back and got my laptop out to finish the Spanish translation of my previous blog post.

We then all made friends on the stranded plane, with a lady in row 1 pulling up a live stream of the England vs. France semifinal. Not interested in football or contributing in any way to the disgrace that has been this year’s World Cup, I wasn’t inclined to get involved, but seeing as it was already on and there was nothing else to do, I eventually watched England get kicked out of the competition.

The plane eventually took off about four hours late. Ryanair valiantly managed to claw half an hour of that back by doing whatever the plane equivalent is of stepping on it, but it still made for a very late landing and a healthy dose of grumpiness born of exhaustion. On the bright side, the flight into Madrid took us right over the centre for some amazing nighttime views.

Now back home, the first order of business was just that, business. I headed back to work in the cold showers that were pouring down Madrid, showers which lasted for the entire week. I’m from Burnley, though, so I’m not fazed by a bit of water. I thus carried on with my plans, the first of which was yet a night at the theatre after my rather thespian week back in the UK.

My clown boots and the leaves made for a rather autumnal scene.

After seeing my first performance there this summer, I was once again in the Sala Verde at the Teatros del Canal, one of Madrid’s main theatres. I spent a good two and a half hours there watching Women’s Football Club, a Spanish-language piece despite its English name.

The show told the story of the world’s first women’s football team from Sheffield, the city where my sister’s based and whose name I’d also ran into just a few weeks before at a market near my house in Madrid. Strange how these things happen!

It was an absolutely amazing performance, with the eleven women who made up the cast giving it their all as they sang, danced, performed, and even played a game of football without even so much as an interval. I was left touched by the story and in stitches by the comedy!

Back home, I’d finally finished decorating my flat for Christmas. It made for a lovely atmosphere to return to after some long days at work as clients as well as us are keen to finish as much as we can before the Christmas holidays begin.

The week then finished with a rush to throw together a carrot cake for a very special occasion. After years of living just down the road from me here in Madrid, Bogar and his partner Javier are leaving the capital for new adventures. To mark the occasion, I baked my signature cake and headed over to their flat for one last hurrah before the big move.

It’s not the prettiest carrot cake I’ve ever made, but it sure did taste good.

It was a bittersweet occasion, as I’m naturally sad that they’re not going to be so close, but I’m equally happy with where they’re off to: Gijón! This city in the north of Spain is like a second home to me, as I’ve visited more times than I can remember with Cami, Kevin, and Sara. I’m still very often found around Asturias, and I’ll now have yet another reason to visit and another bed to sleep in!

With the goodbyes said and the tipsy hugs given, I then had another relaxing weekend with friends. Things started on Saturday, when me and Napo met up for lunch in the city centre. He took me to a Venezuelan restaurant, where I tried a traditional Venezuelan Christmas dinner. It was absolutely delicious but rather filling, so we effectively had to waddle back to the bus stop to grab the bus back to mine.

Everything was washed down with a Venezuelan beer, of course!

Back in my house, we had a nap to begin to digest so much food. This nap wound up getting completely out of hand and we woke up blurry eyed at around 9pm! With nothing else planned though, we popped on a film and cracked open some snacks for the night. I even made some mulled wine which went down a treat and helped us get back off to sleep at around 2am!

The next day, I made English-style pancakes for breakfast, which we proceeded to devour with the traditional toppings of lemon juice and sugar, followed by some more decadent ones with Nutella and cream. You can’t beat it!

Later that day, Sara and Rocío came over for another round of mulled wine. The three of us had a good gossip, some snacks, and a cup of the festive drink at mine before we all headed off our separate ways for something to eat. I wanted to carry on making the most of all the Christmas decorations and scented candles I’d bought, so I stayed right where I was in my living room!

At work the next week we then had a bittersweet occasion to celebrate. It was Inés’ last day at the company with us before she heads off to Japan for a new adventure in 2023. Me and the rest of the team convened in the office to head out for a goodbye lunch – at a Japanese restaurant, of course – and so that I could give them my traditional team gift of some chocolate. This year it came with some “Oliver” confetti my mum had sent me once, so everyone branded themselves with them!

A vanity selfie because I’m not in the above photo and because I look cute.

My last festive event before the Christmas holidays then took place down in Legazpi, an area just a ten minute walk from my house. Luis, a whole bunch of his friends, and I had arranged to meet up to go ice skating and then had a Chinese hotpot meal for tea. This was a carbon copy of the fun evening we’d spent with Yaewon last year, so it’s well on its way to becoming a little Madrid Christmas tradition!

The Matadero is lit in a rather dramatic fashion at night.

The bunch of 15 of us met up at the ice skating rink for our quick run around on the ice. I was pleased to see that after losing some weight and taking skating lessons this year, I was much better on my feet and had did a good few laps of the rink in a decent time. I was no match for Luis, though, who was zooming off and twirling around like there was no tomorrow!

The image captures the speed, beauty, and grace of our skating session perfectly.

Once we’d had our fill of the ice, we moved over to a cozy bar in the Matadero and had some drinks. I had a bad stomach so went straight for a gin and tonic, protesting that tonic was good for the stomach. This was quite the start, though, so I then stuck to munching on the free crisps (thanks, Spain) and drinking water before we headed to the restaurant.

We then had an absolutely fabulous albeit completely chaotic hotpot meal. Last year with just the three of us it had already been a bit of a logistical nightmare to organise what we were cooking in the broth, so with seven of us around the table you can just imagine the scenes!

I do love a good amount of chaos – why do you think I moved to Spain – and so had great fun struggling to pick up some meatballs and then watching other people fail spectacularly to pluck noodles out of the simmering broth. This combination of a fun format, delicious food, and hilarious company made for the perfect sendoff before heading to the UK for the Christmas period.

We had a lot of fun cooking our own food around the table!

The next day, I balanced work with packing before having some lunch with Nacho, who was visiting from Prague. He brought over a bottle of wine and we ordered some Italian food from one of my favourite places. This meant we could have a lovely catch up as we nibbled on some pizza, which we did up until the moment I’d to head out to the airport for my evening flight over to the motherland.

After some horror stories about the state of Madrid Airport in the run up to Christmas and the border force strikes over in Manchester Airport, I had probably the smoothest journey from Madrid to Manchester ever. The only hiccup came as I lost my AirPods in departures in Madrid, which I went rushing around the terminal looking for before eventually resigning myself to the fact that they were lost and hopping on my flight as they called us to board.

I’d supposed that the “Find My” app on my iPhone was malfunctioning as it said that I had my AirPods on me the whole way back, but I’d unpacked my bag and run through all the pockets on my coat many times over and I still couldn’t locate them. This was until I got home and took my jeans off, upon which they fell to the ground. I’ve no idea where they were within my jeans or how they ended up there, but it was a Christmas miracle to discover that I hadn’t in fact lost these 220€ earphones!

Time will only tell when I publish this blog post, as these days I’ll be relaxing and spending as much time offline and with my family as possible. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and hope you all have chance to enjoy some chill time off, whatever it is you may be celebrating!

10.12.22 — Journal

A Week of Theatre

As I alluded to a couple of posts back, I’ve just had a rather busy but lovely week. After work last Friday I had a quick chat with Pedro, packed my bags, and then headed up to Madrid Airport to catch my habitual flight back to Manchester.

The main purpose of this weeklong trip we will come to shortly, but the working week was an odd affair in Spain. Thanks to a couple of national holidays I had both Tuesday and Thursday off, meaning I’d have to work on Monday, Wednesday, and then Friday. Quite a strange one!

After getting rather confused and telling my mum that I was arriving at 10:30pm and my dad that I was arriving at 00:30am, I eventually landed bang in between the two times I’d quoted at 11:30pm. We headed home and I got a decent night’s sleep in to kick off the weekend.

It was very nice to be back in the green room that I designed as a teenager.

On Saturday I headed over to Bradford to visit my grandparents, after which we headed back home for a roast dinner with beef and homemade Yorkshire puddings that my mum had confected for the occasion. It was all rather delicious, but the Yorkshires were definitely the star of the show!

The next day I headed into the centre of Burnley for lunch and a catch up with Abi and Danni. We headed to Ellis’, an American-style burger joint located in what once was a pub that we used to go drinking in quite a lot in our student years. It was quite odd to be sat having a civilised meal in a place I’d before associated with tipsy cocktails before hitting the clubs!

Not wanting to break tradition, I ordered a bright and fruity cocktail as I waited for Abi and Danni to arrive. Yes, the tables had turned, and I was the one who showed up on time for once! Once they arrived, we ordered some food and enjoyed some lovely burgers and sides.

The next day I was back at work from the cozy warmth of our back room. Once I’d finished at about 5pm, I changed into something a bit nicer than my dressing gown and Amber came to whisk me off for a few hours together. We headed up to a local gastropub and had a catch up over a lovely evening meal.

Amber looking cheeky and festive before all the shenanigans began…

Of course it wouldn’t be a meet-up between me and Amber without some drama. This came when I first ordered a vermouth, something that they weren’t sure if they had in. I ended up having to explain how to make a martini, which I then didn’t enjoy as I was complaining about the olives. They just weren’t the same as the ones from Mercadona!

I also caused further confusion when I asked for some olive oil for my starter and then requested that the two flavours of ice cream I ordered for dessert didn’t touch each other on the plate. They wound up bringing me them in two separate glasses and it looked like I’d ordered two desserts: what a nightmare!

We had a great laugh, and I left a nice tip for all the confusion I’d caused. I forgot which friend it was that made the observation, but it is true that I very rarely order something straight off the menu. Nightmare, so I am.

The next day I was back working from home, after which we’d another evening activity organised. My mum, dad, and I prepped the car and then drove over to Todmorden, where we visited the Gordon Rigg garden centre to buy our Christmas tree. I also wanted to have a snoop around their festive displays, in particularly the room where they always set up their huge selection of decorative Christmas lighting. It’s something I’ve always loved doing since I was a child: it’s not Christmas without a snoop around Gordon Rigg’s!

The business of choosing a Christmas tree – which can often be a drawn-out affair as me and my mum search for the perfect height, girth, and fullness of branches – took a matter of seconds this year. Heading into the outdoor area where the trees are displayed, my dad grabbed one that he liked the look of. This caused the tree next to it to fall right on top of me, and I jokingly remarked that instead of me choosing the tree this time, it had chosen me. We then had a good look at the fallen tree, decided that it was actually rather nice, and reserved it to take home later.

It couldn’t have been easier!

The next day I was up and out early in the morning, as me and my mum headed back over to Todmorden. This time we headed to the train station, where we picked Ellie up ready for our day together as a family. Outside of the Christmas period, the four of us very rarely have the opportunity to meet up all together.

The reason for our meeting was a rather special one and the reason for my visit in the first place: we were off to see The Lion King: The Musical! Me and Ellie had bought my mum and dad tickets to see it for last year’s Christmas, so it’d been almost a year of waiting, but the big day was finally here.

We headed off to Manchester around midday, heading first to the Christmas markets and then for a spot of present shopping. We had a good wander around Affleck’s Palace, an awesome old mill full of kooky independent shops that my dad has taken me and my sister to visit many times over the years.

Sometimes I think Manchester is ugly, but it has its charm.

With many floors of all sorts of second-hand wares and weird and wonderful things to see, I wound up losing the three of them. Once I’d seen all I wanted to and made a few purchases I knew exactly where to find them though: up in the top-floor restaurant munching on some of their legendary chip butties!

The views from Affleck’s Palace were nice in the afternoon sun.

From Affleck’s, we walked further into the Northern Quarter, Manchester’s cool independent district and my favourite part of this great city. We payed a trip to Fred Aldous, a stationary and arts supply shop that’s been going for years and where my dad wanted to recreate an old photo of me and Ellie.

We saw some funky coloured posts in the Northern Quarter.

We’d eventually to head back towards the centre of Manchester and to San Carlo’s, a fancy Italian restaurant that mum had booked us all in to have a meal together. She was calling it an early tea, but I saw it more as a late lunch. Either way, it was a lovely meal of a lovely prawn starter and then some fresh pasta.

Dad and Ellie opted for some desserts, but I was more than happy to grab some Cadbury Orange Chocolate Buttons as a sweet snack on my way to the theatre. That I did as we were arriving at the Palace Theatre, where we eventually took our seats and waited for the show to begin!

Mum and Ellie had seen the show before and so had advised us that the opening with the “Circle of Life” was an emotional rollercoaster. I still wasn’t prepared for how impactful it was, though. It really set the tone for the rest of the piece, which was a fabulous spectacle of puppetry, singing, and dancing!

With the show over we headed home in the bitter cold of the Manchester evening. It had been a lovely day in Manchester as a family and well worth the logistical nightmare of getting us all together. I’d come in from Spain and Ellie had taken a complex train journey up north from the middle of nowhere in the south of England where she’s currently working on her PhD placement.

The next day I had another day off, so me and mum headed down to Crowwood, the local gym and leisure centre that she’s a member of. She’d got a pass for me to join her for the morning, so I headed into the pool and swam lengths for half an hour. I may have missed my lessons this week, but I was determined to do at least a bit of swimming!

From there, I headed out for lunch with Karen, the creative director of Burnley Youth Theatre, the place I used to work and where I took my first steps in the design world. We had a lovely catch up after all these years, and I then accompanied her to the theatre itself to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening.

In a stroke of sheer luck, I’d chosen to go on the day of the VIP preview of the Christmas show, which meant that lots of ex staff members had come back for the day to see the biggest event of the Burnley Youth Theatre annual calendar. I had a great time catching up with everyone and the Christmas show was an absolute hoot!

If you’re in or around Burnley, I’d definitely recommend going to see the Wizard of Oz. The show has been specially rewritten and reinterpreted for and by young people, and I guarantee you’ve never has so much fun whilst navigating the Emerald City. You can get tickets here!

Friday soon came around and I was back to work again, but this time I finished at 2pm UK time and my crazy afternoon was just about to begin. I packed my bag, headed out the house, and began my long journey over to Leeds. This begun with a walk though the countryside which surrounds my house and up to a bus stop in the middle of nowhere. It was a pleasant if cool walk, and I wound up meeting some rather friendly sheep along the way!

I eventually made it to the bus stop and made the journey over to Todmorden, where I then changed to a train and made the last leg of the journey over to Leeds. There, I met up with Danni for tea and to head to the Leeds Playhouse. I’d yet another piece of musical theatre to see, you see, this time being Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!

It was –3°C when I arrived in Todmorden and I was not happy.

This Roald Dahl classic is one of my all-time favourite stories, so I was very excited to finally get the chance see it live on stage. Needless to say that it didn’t disappoint one bit, with a great cast and some fabulous visual effects telling the funky albeit somewhat dark story of Willy Wonka and the five children.

Once the show had ended, I accompanied Danni to the train station and grabbed myself a taxi up to Em and Lincoln’s place. I arrived there quite late, so we had a quick catch up before we were all wilting and very ready for bed. It was great to catch them even just for a few hours after their wedding just a couple of months ago.

The next day we woke up, took their dog Lando out for a walk, and then headed down into the centre of Horsforth for breakfast. We had an absolutely lovely meal. I tried a rather fancy hot chocolate and some equally fancy poached eggs, but it was all over way too soon as I’d to bid them farewell amongst the news that Manchester Airport had closed both of its runways due to the sudden heavy snowfall.

These poached eggs with bacon and black pudding were glorious.

This brings me to the here and now. I’m currently sat in my usual sport in Terminal 3 of the airport, waiting patiently for my delayed flight to be assigned a gate. I’ve kept a cool head about it all, though – I’m just happy that it hasn’t been straight up cancelled after all the chaos this morning courtesy of the unpredictable British winter weather!

I’m sure I’ll be publishing this now back in my cozy flat in Madrid, but for now I leave you with the dulcet sounds of some screaming children that have done nothing but drag themselves across the floor and throw themselves headfirst into the windows. I really should have brought my noise-cancelling headphones over with me…

08.12.22 — Journal

Murcia on Film

So today’s post is somewhat of a break from my usual scheduling. My idea is to bring myself up-to-date before I wind up busy over Christmas, as well as making the most of an opportunity to share some photos I got back which I found quite pretty.

Much like the photos I shared around my neighbourhood, these snaps come courtesy of a roll of film I had developed after my trip around the US. I can’t say I ever remember taking my film camera down to Murcia on one of my various trips down to see my auntie and uncle, but they were a nice surprise amongst the many others.

The first couple of photos come from one of my auntie’s favourite spots for a coffee and some food along the Mar Menor. La Encarnación has a gorgeous interior courtyard covered in plants, so clearly one day I made the most and took some snaps of the table in the afternoon sun.

The spot really is as pretty and tranquil as it looks.

The third and final photo comes from Cartagena, a coastal city near where my auntie and uncle have their apartment. I have no idea when this was taken or what we were doing, I just recognise the port and the land in the distance.

The other mystery lies in what the two black lines across the photo are. I initially began to invent all sorts of crazy theories, but just as I’ve edited these photos I’ve realised (reluctantly) that it’s probably just the camera strap that’s swung in front of the lens at a rather inopportune moment.

I don’t know what they are but they give the shot a real sense of action.

There’s not much more to comment about these photos. As I say, I’m not sure from which of my many visits down they come from, but you can have a snoop at my many trips to Murcia on my travel page!