13.10.22 — Journal

The Return to Spain

After a crazy monthlong trip around the US and Canada, I was finally back in Europe with plenty of energy. Having done so much whilst in the Americas, I was inspired to make a shedload of plans and keep up the holiday spirit back in my home city of Madrid.

The first thing to do was to catch up with all my friends that I hadn’t seen for a month, so I spent a good few evenings meeting up for drinks around the city. If there’s one thing I’d missed whilst across the pond it was the concept of cañas (pronounced ‘can-yas’), meeting up with mates on an outdoor terrace for a few chill beers.

The summer sun was still shining down on my neighbourhood.

Another afternoon I headed out to the Royal Botanical Gardens with Sara. This was a place I’d been meaning to visit since I first visited Madrid but which I’d never got round to, so we decided to head there together seeing as it was free for the afternoon.

We had a good snoop around the plants and exhibits, but it was a markedly average time of year to visit. The blooms of summer had passed and they hadn’t yet replaced the summer foliage with the winter one. I did enjoy a photography exhibition that they had on inside one of their buildings, however, and so took note of some of the works and photographers that had caught my eye.

After leaving the gardens, we wandered past the Museo del Prado which it sits alongside and headed up into the literary quarter to have a drink and a proper catch up. As usual we had a great laugh whilst chatting about our summer’s antics.

The Prado is one of the world’s most famous art museums.

Later that same week I met up with Hugo, Sergejs, and some more friends to have a meal out to celebrate Hugo’s birthday. We headed up into the north of the city and to an American BBQ restaurant that they’re a fan of – something I found somewhat ironic after having just arrived from the US a few days before.

We had a great time at the restaurant, where one of Hugo’s friends knew one of the waitresses from having worked together there in the past. We shared some delicious meaty dishes and had a good few drinks, during which the desserts were on the house as a gift to the birthday boy!

Continuing the celebrations, we arranged to meet up for a picnic that weekend. Despite the delicious desserts at the restaurant, I theorised that it wouldn’t be a proper birthday without some cake, and so I whipped up a Victoria sponge for everyone to try down by the river. This was also prompted by the need to use up some self-raising flour that I’d bought while down in Murcia a while ago – it’s a nightmare to get hold of here in Spain!

Not a bad attempt thanks to the self-raising flour.

In another moment of me doing something I should have done a while ago, I also finally bought myself a helmet to use whilst cycling around the city. I put it to good use in some of my many cycles home, but I also spent some time enjoying the more tolerable late-summer temperatures and did plenty of walking and exploring. One of these wanders took me through the Campo del Moro, the royal palace’s formal gardens which I’d also never been inside.

The next weekend I was back out with Sara once again, but this time joined by her boyfriend Eric and his friends who were visiting from the north of Spain. We had some drinks around the centre of Madrid and then headed to a restaurant in the north of the city, where I enjoyed some delicious salmon and some drinks.

My next adventure took me to Arganda del Rey, a town on the outskirts of Madrid where Luis is from and where his family still live. I grabbed a lift with Carmen to join Luis and friends in the centre of Arganda one evening, where we had some food and drinks before heading out to the edge of town and to the main event: the fair!

These fiestas are a staple of Spain, and the last one I’d been to was up in Gijón back in July, so it was high time for another! The group of us headed into the action, where we grabbed some more drinks and headed over to dance to the music as we waited for another of Luis’ friends to take the stage for his DJ set.

We had an absolutely fabulous night out at the fiestas, dancing and laughing and eventually filling ourselves up with huge sandwiches full of chorizo and morcilla, a Spanish blood sausage which is one of my guilty pleasures. As the only person not from Arganda in the group, I then headed with Luis back to his family home where I stayed over in one of the spare bedrooms.

The next morning I had quite the heavy head, but this was soon tended to with a breakfast of homemade and freshly fried tequeños (Venezuelan salty cheese sticks) courtesy of the lady who takes care of Luis’ parents. Me and Luis spent a good while in their picturesque garden munching on these cheesy delights whilst calming our hangovers with a hot chocolate.

Luis’ family’s garden is a lovely spot shaded by grape vines.

We then headed out into the centre of Arganda del Rey, where the streets were buzzing as everything was prepared for the encierro. This is the name given to the running of the bulls, an event played out in small towns across Spain which is exactly what it sounds like: bulls are let loose to charge through the streets whilst people do their best to outpace or at least outmanoeuvre them.

I do love many aspects of Spain culture, but their treatment of bulls is not one of them. It was fascinating, however, to wander around and see how they had prepared the entire town for this event, and how they have permanent infrastructure in place such as holes in the floor in order for the huge iron walls (with gaps enough for a human but not a bull to slide though) to be installed.

My weekend in Arganda ended with some ice cream and a very warm car journey with Luis back up to the centre of Madrid, where he left me at my house and I spent the rest of the day mooching around and feeling sorry for myself as I nursed my heavy head.

This wasn’t the end of the late-summer festivities back in Spain, but I’ll have to leave my next little adventure for my next blog post. There’s a lot to catch up on after pumping out thirteen posts from the Americas!