Tag Archives: Madrid

Madrid Town Hall By Night

I took this picture last night, while out and about in Madrid with Team Tapas.

Madrid Ayuntamiento (Town Hall)

Madrid Ayuntamiento (Town Hall)

Am trying to fall in love with a city, which, at first glance, I didn’t really take to. It will soon be my home, so I better make an effort. I think it’s slowly happening…

There will be a food post to follow…


The Writing’s On The Wall…

When I got back from Key West a couple of weeks ago, I found this wedged into my bathroom window:

"For Sale or For Rent"

“For Sale or For Rent”

Although I didn’t know the sign was going to be there, it wasn’t exactly a huge surprise. While we were on our Christmas break together in Lisbon, I told (my landlady) Sofía that I was planning on leaving Toledo this spring. She said she would put up the place for sale very soon, because it would probably take ages to shift it.

Ever since Spain’s construction bubble burst its overbloated, bribe-infested guts in 2008, selling property has become extremely difficult. The same goes for finding tenants. With a youth unemployment rate of around 55%, young people have little choice but to keep living with their parents. Forever.

The local housing situation is probably worst in Toledo old town, which, although of overwhelming rustic beauty, is very inconvenient for daily living, to put it mildly. Car access is restricted, parking (even a bike) is virtually impossible, the internet is excruciatingly slow, noise travels like through a megaphone, burst water pipes are a monthly occurrence. And let’s not talk about the horrors of cockroach season. In its glorious past as Spain’s capital, Toledo’s historic centre was home to 30,000 people. The present headcount is around 9,000 and dwindling.

When I moved here in 2011, I knew that Toledo wasn’t going to be my home forever. I was reluctant to move to a big city first off, because I didn’t want to get sucked into the parallel universe that is the expat community. My prime objective for moving to Spain was (and is) to learn Spanish, a feat more easily achieved in a small-ish town with few foreigners skipping about. And this strategy has, on the whole, worked quite well for me.

My linguistic obsessions aside, I’ve been finding it hard to build a satisfying life for myself in Toledo. Having said that, I’ve made a bunch of lovely friends here, I certainly don’t want to poo-poo that.

Essentially, what it boils down to, is this: I miss London. Or maybe not London per se, but what it represents: A bustling capital, where the whole world is at home. I miss having an extensive array of cultural and educational offerings and, even more importantly, convenient access to food from all over the planet right on my doorstep. Toledo may have the most succulent tortillas, the tastiest hams, the most flavoursome of (Manchego) cheeses, the smokiest of picante chorizo….

…but every once in a while, all I want is  some decent sushi. Or proper Chinese food from northern China, not that generic gloopy pap that is served up in Chinese restaurants all over the world (except in China). I want a curry that’s actually HOT. I want grocery shops that sell coconut milk, brown basmati rice, soba noodles, rice crackers, pitch-black German wholegrain bread. I want a cake that’s not a flippin’ muffin or a brownie.

Also, I feel the need to connect with a small handful of expats like myself. The blogs are great, but they only go so far. I miss speaking German with people who are not my family. I want to speak REAL English with a Brit who shares my set of cultural (UK) references and unsanitary vocab. I need people who understand, on an emotional as well as on a practical level, what it’s like to move countries.

Some of you may vaguely remember a post I wrote almost a year ago, contemplating Barcelona as my next destination. Well, after a lot of umming and ahing, I decided against it. Why? Because it’s not compatible with The Prime Directive, i.e. getting to grips with Spanish good and proper. Although Castilian Spanish is, according to what I’ve been told, sufficient for navigating Barcelona, it is the capital of Catalonia, and the official language there is Catalan. If you’ve been watching the news, you will know that the whole issue is politically very sensitive. I might well encounter situations where people in Barcelona will reply to me in English rather than in Castilian. I’ve consulted with my besieged brain, and it threatened me,  in no uncertain terms, with a permanent nervous breakdown if assaulted by yet another language.

To be honest, I simply lack the motivation right now to pour tons of effort into learning a “boutique” language spoken by so few people, but it would bug me no end if I couldn’t understand the signs and conversations around me, and if, when out with a group of local friends, they’d be forced to switch languages in order to include me in their conversation. It would make me feel like I was right back at square one, and after having worked so hard at it over the past couple of years.

So, Madrid it is. It may not be as beautiful as Barcelona, and there’s not a beach in sight, but it offers a number of advantages, besides speaking the right language. For instance:

  • It is close to Toledo (just 80km away), so I will still be able to see my friends fairly regularly. They like going to Madrid for things like exhibitions, food, cinema.
  • My Portuguese teacher, who I’m growing rather fond of, also teaches in Madrid, so I can keep up my lessons with her. Besides, I shouldn’t have any trouble finding some willing Portuguese bods in Madrid for language intercambios. I’ve not managed to find anyone in Toledo.
  • Most of my friends in Toledo have lived in Madrid and some are actually from there, so I can tap them for local knowledge and contacts.
  • Madrid has excellent public transport connections to the rest of Spain (and, of course, the rest of the world). I don’t have a car, and I detest driving, so this is a huge plus point.

I’m in no immediate rush to move, but I’d like to be out of here before the beginning of July. I need to do my research… I’m looking for an affordable neighbourhood which has character, but isn’t too grubby.

Do any of you happen to know any Madrid-based bloggers I could cyber-stalk?

Which Way? Harbour, Aquarium, Airport

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an entry for Cee’s Which Way? Challenge. This series of shots comes from the Iberian Peninsula, which I currently call my home. Although, I’m many miles from there right now, on a houseboat in the sunny, sultry “Floribbean”. There will be a rash of posts from Key West over the next few weeks, just so you’re prepared 😉

Taken inside Lisbon Harbour terminal, with the warm glow of the sunset casting an arresting pattern onto the walls and metal beams

Taken inside Lisbon Harbour terminal. The warm glow of the sunset is casting an intriguing pattern onto the walls and metal beams

A walkway connecting two of the buildings of Lisbon Aquarium. Taken on a horrid, stormy, rainy day. You can see how wet the path is, despite being covered by a roof

A walkway connecting two buildings at the Lisbon Aquarium. Taken on horrid day with lashings of rain and wind. You can see how wet the path is, despite being covered by a roof. I got totally soaked crossing it.

Madrid Airport

Madrid Airport

Madrid Murals: Freaky Flies And Perky Prick

During the outing to Madrid last week (where we ate all that sushi), I came across some graffiti wall art:


A viking elephant… my flash seems to have given him red eye. The flies are making me feel all itchy…

Note the "Fuck the police" and "Eurovegas No" additions

Note the “Fuck the police” and “Euro Vegas No” additions

The “Euro Vegas” project, which was meant to create a massive gambling resort just outside Madrid, has been hugely controversial. Incidentally, it was reported yesterday that the whole thing had now been cancelled. See this BBC business news article for details.

With regards to the police comment, in mid-November, Spain introduced new legislation, which stipulates extortionate fines for insulting police officers and also the, uhm, Spanish flag. This has created a tremendous uproar, as these laws are seen as a hostile attempt to curb the growing number of (overwhelmingly peaceful) street demonstrations against the government’s ineffectual economic policies.

OK, I won’t bore you any longer with politics. I realise that you only clicked on the post to gawp at this one:


A radioactive codger… best not to get too close…

I dunno what this is… but it sure is colourful 🙂

That bird is far too puny to finish off the ghastly worm, and that lady has a rather hairy stalk.

Sea Urchin Sushi, Bollard Cozies & Chocolate Churros

Last Saturday, Olga, Carmen (my trusty partners in food crime) and I decided to flit off to Madrid for a sushi lunch and a mooch about la capital.

Said lunch was provided by a Japanese restaurant called Kokoro, a stylish but tiny place – you absolutely need to reserve a table. The food was simple, and out of this world.

The sashimi was so fresh, it didn't smell in the least bit fishy. And it just melted in your mouth... divine!

The sashimi was so fresh, it didn’t smell in the least bit fishy, and it just melted in your mouth… divine!

Sea urchin sushi. We were told they were in season right now and not to be missed. I don't much appreciate the texture, but Olga and Carmen had to try it.

Sea urchin sushi. We were told the tiny spiny creatures were in season right now and not to be missed. I don’t much appreciate the texture, so I declined, but Olga and Carmen decided to go for it.

A bollard with a knitted cozy. Is it feeling the cold...? Were people stubbing their toes on it...? No. turns out, they (there were three of them)  were right outside a knitshop who hijacked them for advertising purposes.

A metal bollard enveloped in a knitted cozy. Is the poor wee thing feeling the cold…? Do people keep stubbing their toes on it…?
No. Turns out, the bollard was right outside a knit shop, who hijacked it for advertising purposes.

Well, this is just the kind of guerrilla advertising that I like 😉 Next up is the kind I detest. Some of you may have heard about this, but it’s so scandalous, I feel impelled to make the point.

You see it?!?

You see it?!?

In June this year, Madrid’s ‘Sol’ metro station, located right in the city centre at Puerta Del Sol, sold out to British mobile phone giant Vodafone for €3 million. It was duly renamed ‘Vodafone Sol’. Also, (metro) Line 2, traditionally depicted on metro maps in the colour red (which happens to be the colour of Vodafone’s logo), became ‘Linea 2 Vodafone’.

Needless to say, this move was and is(!) deeply unpopular. It’s one thing to sponsor a sporting event that otherwise wouldn’t have happened, and plaster your name all over it, but adveraping (I just made that word up – reckon it’ll catch on…?) the heart of a capital city is just beyond the pale 😦 What’s it going to be next? The Krispy Kremlin?!

Moving on to cheerier things… a food market!

Christmas lights

Christmas decorations were up 🙂

A pile of enormous loaves

A pile of crusty loaves the size of a four-year-old

A fresh batch of churros is being scooped out of the hot fat.

A fresh batch of churros being scooped from the hot fat.

And here they are, all crispy and succulent

Here they are, in all their crispy, grease-infused glory.

You want yours dipped in chocolate? No problem!

Prefer yours dipped in chocolate? No problem!

Worried about your arteries clogging up? Just let it go…

...because, as this window of an Irish bar proclaims, "Enjoy life without fear - there's plenty of time to be dead"

…because, as this window (of an evidently Irish) bar proclaims, “Enjoy life without fear – there’s plenty of time to be dead”

Proudly Hosting “Lady Button Monday”

Today, I’m doing a stand-in for my dear friend Lazooligirl, who is taking a creative break from her blipfoto blog (translation: she failed to turn up a good enough pair this week).
[Note to my confused regulars: Just read on…]

Mondays are eagerly awaited by Lazooligirl’s three subscribers, because it’s the day of the week celebrated as ‘Lady Button Monday’ (or LBM, to use the local shorthand) in Lazooliworld.

So, without further a do, here is this week’s titillating offering, heralding from a café in Lavapiés (Madrid), where this exotic beauty flashed her sumptuous breakfast options right at me.

I'm not some hussy, you know. I'm a Pirate Queen. Doing a bit of moonlighting as a menu card. Only till I get enough dosh together to have Midshipman Van Buttercup's tattoo lasered off my behind. If Cap'n Jack sees it, I'm toast.

I’m not some hussy, you know.
I’m a Pirate Queen.
Doing a bit of moonlighting as a menu card. Only till I get enough dosh together to have Midshipman Van Buttercup’s tattoo lasered off my behind.
If Cap’n Jack sees it, I’m toast…

I realise that I’ve upped the stakes significantly where photographic standards are concerned, honoured blipsters, but don’t be too hard on our beloved lass Lazooligirl. Her bird masterclasses remain unrivalled. (We won’t mention squirrels, she’s still practising, and she might get all of the paws into the frame on her next attempt.)

Here’s the link back to her journal, so you can give her all the heart-warming commentage she deserves.

Rest assured that operations will bounce back to normal for the next LBM.

Salvador Dalí, Reina Sofía National Art Museum, Madrid. And A Vertical Garden

Today, my friend Maria and I went for a dose of culture. We saw a fantastic exhibition of works by the uncrowned King of Eccentrics, Salvador Dalí. It was much more extensive than we had anticipated, which was a pleasant surprise. We skipped virtually all the films/recorded material, and still, it took as two hours to do the full round.

I’d never been up close to a Dalí painting before, and I was astounded by all the miniscule details, which were suddenly revealed when squinting at the canvas from two inches away. Fortuitously, there were barely any barriers/cords obliging people to keep their distance. Totally worth the €8.70.

Unfortunately, though, they wouldn’t let us take any pics inside the exhibition, not even without a flash – what the hell is that about?!?

Reina Sofia, Dali

Taken from inside the museum - I love the way the street is reflected in the ceiling

Taken from inside the museum – I love the way the street is reflected in the ceiling

Reina Sofia View

I don't know why I like this one. But I do. Humour me...

I don’t know why I like this one. But I do. Humour me…

Side/rear view of the Reina Sofía. Looks a bit like a giant Ark…

This has nothing whatsoever to do with the Reina Sofía or Dalí. It's a "vertical garden", and really stunning close-up

This has nothing whatsoever to do with the Reina Sofía or Dalí. It’s a stunning “vertical garden” that we stumbled upon not far from the museum