April 13, 2011

Last weekend I went to Madrid with Lee-Anne for a long weekend. It was partly a pre-birthday celebration, partly to make up for not going on a proper holiday this year and partly just to go for a girly long weekend, to catch up and have fun.

It was hot hot hot: 26-27 degrees most days. I need not have brought my denim jacket, poncho and fleece *sigh* My gym kit also lay idle and unused the entire weekend, despite their being a gym in the hotel. Oh well.

I only brought five pairs of shoes for a four day trip - quite restrained I thought!

We arrived pretty late on the Thursday so retired to bed after a bit of a stroll and a lovely tapas dinner. On Friday we went into the centre of Madrid to explore. The first thing of interest were the human statues in the Plaza Mayor. We saw the usual array of people painted gold, people wearing suits and hats but seemingly missing their heads, etc. but the first one that really caught our eye was Fat Spiderman:

What the hell? He wasn't even doing anything, just standing around, wearing a spiderman suit. Hilarious! But not as funny as the sparkly goat:

Sparkly goat basically was sparkly and jangled its bells and clacked its castanets at you when you gave it money. I was quite scared as you can see!

After that we went shopping and I purchased a gorgeous new red handbag which I adore and a top and some touristy stuff. We went to the Puerta del Sol square and saw more human statues. We wandered down to the Plaza Espana and along to the Royal Palace, which you can see in the background here:

Those beers cost 8 euros each. Oops! It was a lovely spot though!

After that we walked around the Royal Palace and had a wander through the gardens. It was virtually as warm as the hottest day of the year in England. Here I am standing by a fountain in the gardens.

We walked around the palace and inadvertently came across the crypt. We decided to go in and it was amazingly cool (as in temperature) and interesting. There is a painting of Mary in there which dated from 1083! I'd definitely recommend going for a look around if you're in Madrid - it's quite a spiritual place and we both liked it a lot.

On the way back to the metro we popped into the market and had some ice cream and looked at the jamon.

After that we went back to the hotel for a rest but we only made it as far as the bar, where we drank a couple of beers followed by a couple of tintos and only had time for a shower before heading back into town.

That evening we went out with an old friend of mine I've known since I played Magic, Jamie Wakefield. He lives in Madrid with his wife Wendy and whilst we were there, a couple of his friends from home were also visiting (Hilary and Michele). I'd "met" them online in Asheron's Call so it was great to meet them in real life too! We went out for a lovely evening of tapas and meandering. For some reason this was the only picture I took that night:

It is a bull's head on the wall of a bar. I suggested Jamie and Wendy should buy one and take it back to the States as a souvenir of their time in Madrid! Not sure how Customs would feel about that, nor how you'd squeeze it into a suitcase...

Jamie and Wendy answered all our questions about Spanish culture:
* what was the mystery ingredient in my tinto earlier? (sweetened soda water)
* what is going on with Easter in Madrid? (long story)
* what do Spanish people say when they curse? (too obscene to print here; Mattgreen gasped in shock when I told him which should tell you everything you need to know)
* what is the Metro station with all the plants? (Atocha)
* WTF is going on with Fat Spiderman? (OK, even they couldn't answer that one) ;)

They also told us where we could get the best churros in Madrid, so at midnight we went off and indulged:

And lo, it was ridiculously good. We finally got to bed at 1.30 am.

The next morning we were up early again as we had to collect our car at 10am. The story of the car is so amazing I'm going to do a whole other post about it. Suffice to say it was one of the most entertaining elements of our trip.

After that we went to Wendy and Jamie's apartment for a cal├žotada! This is a special party to celebrate the cal├žot which is a kind of leek/spring onion type vegetable. You roast them and serve them dipped in a romesco sauce. Wendy had made this herself and it was totally lush. In fact all the food was utterly delicious, including the jamon and the sexiest dessert I've had in a while. We met Stefan and Lena and Stefan's son (whose name escapes me but who was delightful) and enjoyed the stunning views from the terrace over Madrid. Whenever I go to a new place, my favourite thing to do is to hang out doing what local people do (hence why my favourite thing to do in Paris is go to the market or just sit in cafes and people-watch). It was brilliant.

By the time we got home that night we were shattered and couldn't face another early morning, so instead of getting up and going to the Prado (Madrid's art museum, equivalent to the Louvre) or going all the way into town to see Retiro Park, we decided to just potter about the local area. We ended up finding a lovely little park and having a few beers on the way to the airport.

A relaxing ending to a very relaxing little mini-break. Highly, highly recommended!

Excellent travelogue baby!
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