01.04.18 — Journal

Semana (No Muy) Santa

I shall translate the title of this blog post a little further in, but for now we’re back to the usual photo-filled programme this week, with an update of what I’ve been up to since my parents left back for England almost a month ago. Where did the time go?

Anyway, on with the show, where I shall begin with an update on what we’ve been up to in the office. I can’t take any responsibility for the work on this project as I wasn’t really involved, but we recently completed a rebranding of a Spanish TV show called Fama: ¡a bailar! or “Fame: let’s dance!”.

The sun returns
A poster for Fama in the street

As a project with a damn quick turnaround, it’s all been launched quicker than we can prepare it for our website, but for now you can check it out as it was featured on Brandemía here, and we also posted a preview on the Erretres Instagram here. Props to Mario and Dani, who worked tirelessly on bringing it into existence in such a short space of time!

Outside of the office (literally) the sun has begun its slow return, and so I’ve been spending a little bit more time on the streets of the city instead of cooping myself up in the warmth of my bed. To get us both up and out of the city a bit, me and Napo have also recently begun a tradition of going to IKEA to make good and proper use of the free coffee and WiFi.

To get to IKEA I only have to walk a few minutes from my house to Madrid’s main station, Atocha, where I grab the Metro down to the south of the city. It’s a really pleasant walk it turns out, and it takes me past the insane architecture of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, one of the city’s three huge art museums.

Exterior stairways
An angular design
Inside Atocha train station

After one of these trips to IKEA, me and Napo decided to head back into the city centre, and it’s now that I shall have to explain the title of the blog post. Semana santa literally translates as “holy week”, being what we’d probably more commonly call Easter, and across Spain it’s a pretty big deal. Some of you may recall all the drama which unfolded the last time I was here for Easter, which I share in the aptly named Semana Santa blog post from 2016.

Celebrations usually involve either a tonne of noise and periods of spooky silence, which happen as huge processions pass through the streets. There’s people carrying statues of religious figures, mourners weeping over the death of Jesus, people in traditional semana santa attire (no, it’s nothing to do with the KKK), and even performances of saeta, a traditional type of music loaded with emotion.

Needless to say you can guess by now what it was that we stumbled upon: a huge procession making its way through the city. I took plenty of videos which I posted on my Instagram, but I think for now a photo of the start of said procession will suffice here. As I said, if you want to check out better photos, I took plenty back in 2016!

The processions begin

Needless to say that with all the hysteria around semana santa, I was afforded two days off work this week just gone. Rather than spending it in amongst the processions and religious ceremonies, I opted rather to head out of Madrid city altogether – hence the blog post’s name, which translates to “Not-So-Holy Week”.

As most of my friends were away visiting other places, I wound up doing an experiment to see how far out of the city I could get using my travel card – crazy fun, I know. Turns out I could have gone all the way to the beautiful city of Toledo, but I thought it’d be packed with Easter tourists, so I headed north instead and to a place called El Escorial.

Arriving in El Escorial

Before setting off to El Escorial, I hadn’t done any research to see what was there, which is very unlike me indeed. I knew that there was some kind of royal residence or something there, and to be honest I was more excited to see some greenery speed by the train window than I was about the destination, so I wasn’t really expecting to do all that much.

Once I arrived I didn’t really find anything to write home about, it was a pretty village surrounded by some greenery. I noticed a lot of people seemed to be heading northwards and uphill however, and so I reluctantly followed them up the incline. I found a little house in a park which was quite cute, but it looked like paid entry so I decided to scoot around the back, which was when I noticed a spire poking out from the treetops in the distance.

I soon realised that the royal residence I had caught wind of was actually a full-blown palace, complete with sweeping views of the valley and expensive gardens to boot. I popped up my umbrella to protect me from the hailstones which had begun falling, and began with haste up the ever steepening hill.

Down the side of the palace

Once at the top I was pretty tired, but decided to have a sniff around to see if there was anything interesting. The rest of my trip followed a similar pattern of almost turning back, but I kept pushing on and exploring as I was curious to see what I could see. This eventually lead me to fully encircle the palace, as I discovered an unsuspecting little entrance which actually allowed free access to the gardens and stunning views of the place.

Wandering through the gardens
A façade along one of the sides

This quiet day trip was turning into quite the solo adventure, as I definitely hadn’t expected to find myself wandering around the perimeter of such a huge edifice. Things got even crazier though when me and another family had a near brush with a group of three female peacocks, who flew up out of nowhere and proceeded to terrorise us as I tried to snap a photo. I have a video on my phone but I shan’t share it here due to the quantity of screaming and swearing which it contains…

I also learned the Spanish word for peacock, pavo real, which literally means “royal turkey”, which I thought was quite cute.

Part of the palace in its surroundings
Looking into the distance

Eventually I retraced my steps back to civilisation, stopping for some food at a local bar, where I got chatting to the owner and one of the employees. I was treated to a slap-up meal of cheese stuffed peppers and a mini slice of free cheesecake, and we wound up putting the world to rights for an hour, all before I descended back to the train station and made my way back to Madrid.

As today is Easter Sunday however I shall have to wish everyone ¡Feliz Pascua! We celebrated at home, not with chocolate eggs (which I’m used to in England), but with a lovely dinner party hosted by my flatmate Mirian. A couple of friends came over and we indulged in wine, tapas, pinchos, and then a selection of Brazilian dishes which we ate until we had rice flowing out of our ears!

This is just some of the delicious food

So now I am sat in my room considerably rounder than I was this morning, basking in the glow of the new coloured LED lighting that I treated myself to during yet another IKEA trip with Napo yesterday. With work at 9am tomorrow morning, I shall have to leave it there for tonight, but you can be sure I’ll be back soon as I have yet another trip to Oviedo booked for next weekend!

No rest for the wicked!