Tag Archives: Madrid

Polywhat…?

“Let me think about it,” was the response from my Toledo friends when I nudged them to come along to Madrid with me on Sunday for a Polyglot Meet-up. As if I couldn’t see their eyes glaze over with the red **NERD-ALERT** warning lights flashing behind…

So I went on my own.

I’d never been to such an event before. Social gatherings – hrrumpfh. But I quite fancied this one, not least because I would finally get to meet Alex Rawlings in person. I came across this personable polyglot a couple of years ago, when the BBC featured him in this video showing off his language skills. I started following his blog and we exchanged a handful of messages. Then, a few weeks ago, I was delighted to read that he was organising a meeting for language enthusiasts in Madrid.

Atocha Station, Madrid

Beautiful Atocha Train Station, Madrid, taken Sunday night

I’d had no trouble finding the venue, although the restaurant seems kinda deserted when I walk in. I eventually find a member of staff fiddling with a table cloth.

Excuse me, I’m here for the polyglot meeting.

The polywhat…? What is that?!

I decide to take a different approach.

Some people have booked a room for an event here this afternoon. Has anyone arrived yet?

Well… there’s some people downstairs…

He points me in the direction.

I recognise Alex straight away. Unexpectedly, he also recognises me as “Lady Of The Cakes”. I’m not quite sure how or why… it’s been almost a couple of years since we exchanged those two or three messages on the blogs. He’s been hopping from country to country and must have met thousands of new people. I guess having a superhuman memory and being a polyglot go hand-in-hand. That would also explain why I’m not one.

The organisers have prepared tables with language flags and ice breaker games. But there is no ice to be broken: People arrive and they immediately start chatting to the next-best complete stranger. I notice that most arrive unaccompanied… evidently, I wasn’t the only one cruelly abandoned by their so-called friends…

Me, Johanna (one of the organisers), Mr Circus and Alex Rawlings

Me, Johanna (one of the organisers), Bar (aka Mr Circus) and Alex Rawlings

Pretty much everyone seems to speak Spanish and English, the rest is potluck. I meet a Spaniard who has the best German accent I have ever heard. (From a Spaniard.) I chat to a young Israeli student, switching between English, Spanish and Portuguese. I ask him what he’s studying. Circus studies, he tells me. I blink. I confirm that I understood correctly. It’s like someone telling you they’re an accountant and you’re stuck for a response, but for the exact opposite reason. My brain is whirring with questions. Turns out his specialism is juggling, not lion taming.

My worst fear – that someone accosts me in French (this is my kryptonite right now!) – does not materialise. Instead, I get myself caught up in a maelstrom of Hebrew, until the speaker realises from my deer-in-the-headlights-stare that I’m not getting any of this. I point them towards Mr Circus.

Three hours go by in a flash. I only manage to nab a fraction of the people who I would have liked to interrogate have a chat with. I fix a lunch date for Tuesday with a lovely couple visiting from Vermont who had already been planning to come to Toledo.

On my way back to Atocha station, I’m thinking… I wouldn’t mind doing this again… and it didn’t even involve cake! I must be coming down with something…

And one more...

And one more…

Post Script: It has just transpired that the next Polyglot Meetup Madrid event will be held on 17 January 2016. Just in case anyone wants to “think about it”… ahem.

[Find Alex Rawlings’s language blog here: www.rawlangs.com]

A Fool’s Errand

My laptop has developed some kind of motor neurone disease. It starts with mouse paralysis, which then extends to the trackpad and the keyboard. After an unsuccessful repair attempt, which involved a two-week wait, I decided I could not be doing with this. Christmas is looming, and the thought of being stranded in Germany for a couple of weeks without a computer, never mind the money I’d lose by not being able to work from there, is more than I can bear, financially and mentally.

So, today I schlepped all the way to the Apple Store in Madrid. I had thought of everything: My passport (shops in Spain routinely ask for ID at the checkout), my Apple ID, a bag to conceal my purchase. OK, Madrid is not Maputo, and you can call me paranoid, but I don’t want to be drawing the attention of any shadies in the very place where they all hang out: in the heaving centres of capital cities, waiting to lighten the loads of hapless shoppers and unsuspecting tourists.

I was relieved to find that the product I wanted was in stock, as was a type of semi-exotic cable I’d been looking for. But when I tried to pay, card was declined, despite sufficient funds in my account.

It turns out that the one thing I had evidently not thought of was that there might be a daily transaction limit on my card. I’d never tried to make a purchase of well over a thousand bucks before with my Spanish bank card.

The store was better prepared for this than I was, because, apparently, this happens all the time. The nice assistant pointed me to the number to call to get them to up the limit.

My bank, the Santander, has a very affable marketing slogan: “We want to be your bank”. But not on a Sunday, it transpired, when all you can do by phone is to check your balance and block a stolen card. As for anything that’s not automated and requires the input of a human being… forget it!

I had a couple of hours to kill (rather than my bank, which would have given me infinitely more pleasure), so I wandered around town for a bit.

Spiderman

He cheered me up 🙂

Cakes

So did a dose of this. It’s six hours later as I type this, and I’m still riding out the sugar high.

Escaped balloons

I wonder if the balloon seller was as pissed off as I was after being left empty handed…

A couple more shots from Plaza Mayor, already decked out in its festive seasonal trappings, (using the “drawing” setting on my cheapy camera):

Merry-go-round 1Plaza Mayor

 

 

 

Princess Leia Surrounded By Ancient Penises

A few months ago, my friend Maria informed me that the National Archaeological Museum had opened its doors again after having been closed for aeons (6 years!) for renovations. And finally, this Friday, we scurried off to Madrid to edify ourselves on a dose of culture.

Sphinx

Everyone loves a perky reception 😉

They let you take photos inside. Since flash is not allowed, the pics are a bit fuzzy, apologies for that. Let’s go straight to the museum’s most glamorous A-lister:

Dama de Elche

The Lady of Elche (Elche is a town in Valencia, where this beauty was unearthed), believed to date from the 4th century BC

Dama De Elche 2

It is rumoured that she was wearing a gold bikini on her (unfortunately still missing) bottom half.

Giant penis 1

This one’s drawing much admiration from his brethren…

Big Penis 2

..because he’s the only one who needs a wedge under his pedestal to keep him upright

Devil

The devil’s in the detail

Octopus

*WANTED* Suspect fleeing crime scene. Last seen ca. 2000 yrs ago

Priapus

A beautiful maiden bringing some freshly picked fruit along for a picnic…?

Priapus 2

Uhm…nope. It’s a frisky fertility god named Priapus with a different kind of proposition… The marble statue dates from the 1st century and turned up (or on?) near Málaga.

Food? Of course there was food!

Ethiopian Food

Our Ethiopian lunch 🙂 So pretty. So spicy!

Organic Candy

I may be responsible for some of what’s missing there…

Thai Food And A Dirty Selfie

On Friday, my friend Maria and I sacrificed yet another perfectly good working day on the altar of freelance rebellion. We went AWOL in Madrid, which entailed some glorious food, a thought-provoking exhibition of photographs taken in 1960’s Barcelona by the legendary Eugeni Forcano, and a peruse of the latest scriptures laid out in The Temple (aka Casa Del Libro, a massive bookshop).

Let’s ogle the food. (I could eat it all over again right now…!) Maria chose a Thai restaurant called Thaidy, where we had a great three-course lunch for a mere €12.50 each.

Thai green curry and basil & chili beef

The basil and chilli beef was seriously hot – but that’s what we asked for, and we loved it! The green curry had just a tad too much salt, but it was still enjoyable.

Thai Starter

The starters – fresh and tasty 🙂

Madrid Street

Dirty Selfie

Those doors are in desperate need of a good clean! As are my own windows at home… erm…

An Afternoon Of Pop Art And Vietnamese Nosh

Q: What do two freelancers do on a Tuesday afternoon? A: What they bloody well like!

So, off to Madrid we went, Maria and I, to peruse  the Mitos Del Pop exhibition laid on by the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. (Whoever decided on this tongue twister of a name???)

Madrid Metro - Puerta Del Sol

Madrid Metro – Puerta Del Sol. A bit ‘Pop Art’, don’t you reckon?!

Entrance to the exhibition, with Maria at the end

Entrance to the exhibition, with Maria waiting for me to get a move on.

Soup cans. Photo taken in the Museum shop, not the exhibition itself. I was told off :(

There can be no Pop Art without Soup cans! Photo taken in the Museum shop, not the exhibition itself. And the staff told me off 😦

Let’s move onto the food. We opted for Vietnamese 🙂

Spring rolls, the non-fried version

Spring rolls, the non-fried version. Fresh, crunchy, chewy and delicious.

Stir fry with peanut sauce

Stir fried pork with peanut sauce

El Rastro. And “Peruvian” Food Afterwards.

I’ve already mentioned in a couple of posts that, a week ago, my friend Maria and I spent the day in Madrid. We meandered through El Rastro for hours, with the sun on our faces and the crowd thronging.

El Rastro is an enormous open air flea/artisan market held every Sunday in a part of town called La Latina. It’s crammed to the rafters with rusty old junk (aka “antiques”), delightful trinkets and arty stuff.

I’ve finally managed to go through the pics, and here’s a selection:

DolliesDolls

Keys

I’d not be surprised if a quite a few of those opened random doors in Toledo!

Fabric

Tin Cars

Flamenco dresses

Eeeeeek… that’s me first thing in the morning!

Lamp shop

The Rastro is fun, but what’s missing, in my opinion, is food stalls. In the UK or in Germany, they’d have filled this glaring gap (and quite a few ravenous punters) by now.

No matter. While waiting for a bunch of Maria’s friends to join us, we stumbled across an interesting restaurant not far off the market, serving ‘Peruvian fusion’ cuisine. We had to wait for ages to get a table outside, and the service was excruciatingly slow, but the food was worth waiting for.

Deep-fried wontons and sweet and sour vegetables. ten out of ten for taste, and ten out of ten for photogenicity :)

Deep-fried wontons with sweet and sour chicken, vegetables and mango. Definitely more “fusion” than “Peruvian”. Ten out of ten, though, for taste, and another ten out of ten for photogenicity 🙂

We had to order Peru's signature dish, of course: ceviche. You'll find variations of this marinated fish and seafood dish all over Latin America.

We absolutely had to order Peru’s signature dish, ceviche. You’ll find endless variations of this marinated fish and/or seafood dish all over Latin America. This one was delicious!

Beef stir fry. Also pretty tasty.

It sure was a colourful day :)

It sure was a colourful day 🙂