The blog underneath this is also pretty recent, I was in a hurry to type it up so I could write the Madrid adventure before my goldfish/Alzheimer’s/sieve memory kicked in, so if you want to read about me being ill and not really doing much in France, that thriller’s below. Speaking of which, I’m in Madrid airport, listening to Thriller. Happy bear.
So, my ‘long weekend’ (still not quite sure how I milked 5 nights out of it) in Madrid began on Wednesday, after a long and largely uneventful trip from France-Belgium-Spain. Met Lauren, who, for those of you who are unsure, is my amiga from uni. She’s doing the same course as me and is working as an English assistant in a primary school in Madrid. Headed off to her flat, which was a short metro ride away and is basically in Madrid’s equivalent of the West-End, and a couple of metro stops from anything touristy that took my fancy…..ideal! Met her flatmate, Nadia, before getting an early night, since thanks to an unexplained Ryanair game of “let’s-sit-in-the-plane-on-the-runway-for-over-an-hour-for-no-reason,-surrounded-by-garish-yellow-interior-and-confused-spaniards” I didn’t get in till after 11. We’re both so polite, Lauren kept insisting I take her bed and I kept insisting I’d take the couch, her logic being “I’m a dyke, I’m a gentleman-dyke”.
In the morning, McBadyin (as Lauren is hereby referred to as) was working, so went into Gran Via with Nadia for some wandering amongst the shops. For a girl who’s been living in a small town for six weeks, I was delighted to see Spain’s finest, Bershka and Stradivarius, alongside some old favourites such as H&M and TopShop. Sarkozy (he’s my top-boss, so I blame him) has also fucked up and forgotten to pay me, so I’m pretty brassic-lint and was trying to restrain myself on the shopping front – it was a toughy, I must say. Went and got some delicious spanish pizza and sat on the edge of the fountain at Sol and had one of those “this is the fucking life” moments. Wandered around looking for a chino [there’s just hunners of chinese bazaars here that everyone refers to as ‘chinos’, but I’m fairly certain it’s the Glasgow-equivalent of saying you’re going to the ‘pakis’, which doesn’t sit well with me. Yes, looking for a chinos to try and locate some form of Halloweeny accessories for Nadia. Couldn’t find one but succeeded in finding an old man who chatted away in Spanish for some time, so swings and roundabouts.
George (another uni chum) was arriving in town that night, so went with Lauren and Nadia to meet him at the aeropuerto. I was meant to be staying with him and some of his friends who’re living here, but since Lauren’s crazy-bitch landlady was in Denmark visiting her daughter, I was able to stay with McBadyin. Once we’d met George we were going to get some scran, but even by Scottish standards, it was early, being about 5. You couldn’t get food if you wanted to here before about 8, which I actually love, I think we should shunt everything in Scotland forward a few hours. Anyway, I digress. Met George and metro-ed it back to Casa McBads, since they have a concierge and an admittedly absent psycho-landlady, we had to stealth George in. Ironically, George wasn’t actually staying over, but since he had an overnight bag, it was going to look shady, so Lauren and I had to carry his bag and go in a good 15 mins after him and Nadia. Met Lauren’s other flatmates, one of which is bizarrely, also a girl on our course. You can’t swing your dick over here without meeting a Glaswegian. There are so many wee coincidences, like you’ll be 700miles away and meet a friend of a friend.
Sat and chilled for a bit then headed into town for some dinner. Wandered about Sol
for a bit looking for somewhere and if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s people who fanny about for ages humming and hawing about whether they want to eat somewhere, so we would find somewhere that looked decent then it was like oh-let’s-look-at-somewhere-else for ages, till we eventually returned to the first place we’d found. It was an all-you-can-eat buffet, that we made the mistake of asking for a table for 4 in, and she basically just looked at us like we were morons and said “sit where you want”. Clearly we overestimated the classiness. I don’t have the writing prowess to convey just how hilarious the meal was, I’m not sure if I was delirious from the heat but we were all sitting crying with laughter for about 80% of the meal. Such freudian slips as George being invited to stay and him replying, straight-faced “I don’t want to jeopardise your safety”, when he meant he didn’t want to get them in trouble with the landlord. The food was actually pretty fucking tasty. Had about 5 full plates, I think people underestimate me at all-you-can-eat, I’m pretty little but if you fire out swordfish and spanish rice, you won’t know what hit you, amigo. Hilarity also arose when looking at some unlabelled and questionably coffee-flavoured cake, we asked what it was, and the guy started to tell us, in detail, what a cake was “it’s eggs, flour…”, he wasn’t even ripping the pish, either we asked the wrong question in Spanish or he thought we just had whisky for pudding in Scotland.
The Friday, Lauren was working again, so George and I decided to go and be tourists. Went shopping before I met him and bought some brown leather shorts. I feel like every time I try not to go shopping I’m just even less practical and buy things like leather shorts and fur capes. They’re pretty Gestapo-chic though. Met in Sol (George seemed throughout the trip to have an inability to meet anywhere but Sol, for fear of getting lost) and headed to the Plaza Mayor, where we met a man who was fully covered in strips of tinsel, but with a goats head, which he clapped the jaw together of anytime someone got near him. He was doing it to make money; he wasn’t just mental. I think it’s the kind of career path my dad or Tom might’ve taken had they known such costumes were available. Headed out of the square to find somewhere less touristy (read: cheaper) and found a cheeky tapas bar, which filled us with tortilla espagnole, paella mixta and croquetas, along with some fine Estrella.
We decided to visit the Retiro, which is a massive park here, it’s absolutely beautiful. So, boarded the ever-faithful metro and headed along, but the second we got off George was just like “I need to go to the toilet”, all casual, then 2 seconds later, was practically running down the street about to shit himself, while he was half-jogging down the street I noticed there was a Christian Louboutin and Oscar de la Renta, which I made a mental bookmark of for later. Found a cafe, with George literally running inside, throwing a twenty at me and instructing me to get what I wanted. Naturally, nestled myself down with a Bailey’s. The bars here are really cool, they had tonnes of amazing wee plates of tapas fleeing about and mini cakes everywhere. Plus, they still smoke here, which is weird, seeing someone walk into a bar with a cigarette in their hand, and not stopping to throw it away.
So after George’s treat of getting to shit somewhere that wasn’t his pants, I treated myself to a swatch in Oscar de la Renta. George was adamant we weren’t going in, but when the lovely doorman opened the door, I think he felt obliged. Went downstairs, where I was joined by the ridiculously handsome assistant (gorgeous to the point I could’ve turned a blind eye to his inevitable homosexual daliances….I could even cry into a beautifully discounted OdlR fur coat when he left me for someJuan else….geddit?), who started talking to us, George was basically translating for me since my Spanish is awful, but once he realised we were Scottish he told us he didn’t speak much English, then proceeded to speak fluent English to me. That’s the thing here, so many people here speak a decent level of English but would still say they don’t speak it, whereas anyone at home that has a 20 year old O-Grade would say they speak a bit of French. He asked me if I knew of Mr de la Renta and I told him “I worship at the altar of Oscar de la Renta, but his dresses cost more than I make in a year”. Knowing I wasn’t buying but was in love, my NGBF (Shields, it means New Gay Best Friend, before you shout Rhuraidh to ask) proceeded to show me all his favourite pieces downstairs (my personal favourites included a floor length, red ruffled dress and a white dress with an antique-lace overlay and pearl applique….swoon), before telling me he really preferred upstairs and whisked me off to see the hand-painted jackets and £3,400 silk coats, while George stood looking increasingly bored and uncomfortable. NGBF even came and rubbed some rabbit-fur boots on my arms to show me the softness (very soft). George and him then stood talking for ages about different areas of Spain and George looked like he was loving his chance to speak a bit of the old castellano, but when we left he went “that was the most uncomfortable experience of my life, there was a doorman for fuck sake”. He is from the wilderness though, once they get the internet in Alexandria I’m sure he can Google Oscar de la Renta and appreciate. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I was walking about like I was actually in love with the clothes, I genuinely felt like I’d spent the afternoon with only skunk for company. Managed to drag George into Christian Louboutin as well, which I was a bit disappointed by, to be honest, not a very strong collection from them, aside from the spiked stilettos (with matching flats for men, cuteness).
Finally, made it to the Retiro, where I met Mickey Mouse. I think he was on his holidays too, cause if he was at EuroDisney he’d have the same holidays as me. The park’s so beautiful, a huge green space, with a lot of gorgeous buildings, fountains and a big lake you can take boats on. Good craic to have a park like that, smack in the centro de Madrid. Stumbled across the Museo del Prado, purely by chance, and seeing that it was 8euros to get in, or free in an hour, we decided our 16euros was better spent dragging a nearby bar through the credit crunch for an hour. Found a nice wine bar, where I partook of some hot chocolate and Rioja, a treat of a combination if ever I heard one! We sat reading a Spanish newspaper, which I understood quite a lot of, then we were talking to each other for a bit, before asking the couple next to us to take our picture. We asked what the Spaniards say instead of “cheese” when they take pictures, and the guy told us he didn’t know since he was German, and we told him we were Scottish, to which he replied “What? Weren’t you talking to each other in Spanish?”, and apparently Glaswegian is such bizarre English that it sounds like another language. Hilariously, he’d also heard us talking about the newspaper articles in English and said to his girlfriend “the Spanish are trying to learn English”. He was so good at English though, he sounded like he was from London with a twang of Australian, I love meeting people like that, it gives me such hope that I can be that good at my languages one day.
I got pretty clued-up on the metro in my time there, but the buildings themselves are like a maze to get out of, so one of the lovely men who works there came and asked me if I was ok and was asking me for the address of where I was looking for, and I managed to explain in broken spanish I-ken-where-I’m-going, I-just-need-out-of-nunez-de-balboa-station,gracias. And everytime I was in the station after that he gave me an hola, lovely chap!
Headed off to the Museo del Prado, which had some amazing pieces, a lot of Titians and Goya. They had a Renoir exhibition on the top floor, but by the time we got there we realised we needed tickets from the bottom floor, so missed that. I felt quite the culture-vulture until I got George to distract a guard, so I could take a picture of a painting of the last supper because it looked like Jesus was offering out prawn crackers. You can take the girl out of Clydebank….
Met in the square that night, and when asking a Spaniard to take our picture he asked us if we were British and if we knew Motherwell, since he had friends there, bizarre! Went for an Italian and got some cracking green mushroom pasta, and managed to meet another 5 Scottish people in the restaurant, who overheard me telling George about the Motherwell man. We ended up in an Irish bar, which over here is not like an Irish bar at all. It was essentially a club, complete with the macarena and a lot of questionable spanish dancing, and the token gaelic writing on the walls and a few Guinness mirrors hung up.
On Saturday, we rendez-voused yet again at Sol and took the bus tour. Felt like we had to do it so we could see the main bits of Madrid, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The man on the English version of the tour-chat sounded like he was reading SRA tapes, and as much as we did see the monuments of Madrid, it wasn’t overly exciting. Got back to Plaza Mayor and sourced a nice wee cafe and split a couple of paellas between us. I could live on paella and tortilla espagnole, and I’d be quite happy.
Tried to suggest dinner at Chuecha, which is the gay district of Madrid, since Lauren’s been here for 5 weeks and hasn’t been yet, but George was having none of it, so we decided to visit Gran Via. Sourced out a fair few restaurants, which in George’s eyes had minor slights, but I think he sensed my hurry-the-fuck-up,-I’m-hungry tone and agreed with me and McBadyin that a 50s diner type place called La Pequena Betty was ideal. It was really cool inside, all zebra-print feature walls and the obligatory canvases of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and, more unusually, The Supremes. The placemats were all vintage adverts for stuff like Rice Crispies, which was cute. Got very yummy burgers, very Spanish. Service is just not their strong point on the continent though, they seem to just forget you, when all you want in life is a hefty slab of La Bamba chocolate cake.
Afterwards we headed for a bar for some tinto veranos. As much as the tinto verano was reet refreshing and the decor included creepy clowns, the thing to write back home about was Wee Juan. For me it was love from first sight, he walked in the bar, throwing away a can of the Spanish equivalent of Tennent’s Super as he entered. He was roughly 5-foot, with crossed-eyes, a grey ponytail, a pinstripe trilby and a look about him that said “no the full shilling”, he spent his evening leaning against a barrel and generally harassing anyone that got within accosting range, ie 15ft. When the owner had had enough of his antics, he kicked him out, and he instead just stood at the window gesturing for a while, then went and pished on a nearby parked car, before grabbing a girl’s wrist, while her pals chuckled. It reminded me of the nightbus, ahhhh home!
On Sunday, or Hallowsday, as we don’t call it, we went to Principe Pio, which is a big shopping centre. Went to H&M and did pretty well, managed to restrain myself from lots of stuff that I wanted, reasoning that I’d be able to buy it in the french H&M if and when Sarkozy ever stops kicking Romanians out and starts sorting out wages instead. Did get a pair of gorgeous, patterned trousers, though. My justification, I’ve decided, is that when you spend £25 on food, you’ve got hee-haw to show for it, but look, here’s my cute new trousers, yeah I’m a bit hungry but they’re cute, eh? Sorted. Did have to put back some purple-suede heeled hiking boots and some sheepskin ankle-wedges though. Raging. Went booze shopping afterwards and was bemused to find a bottle of vodka was only 8.70, when in a club, nobody thinks twice about paying 11 for one drink of the ol’ russian water. So, ristorante and vodka for dinner with Lauren, it was just like home! Went out dressed as Eve….again. Bought tights in H&M since I have absolutely hee-haw St Tro with me, more’s the pity, and they made me look like I was a shiny ghost.
Went to American friends of Nadia’s flat for drinks beforehand, they were both really cool, and their friend and his boyfriend turned up wearing see-you-jimmy hats since they were….scottish zombies, I think? Lauren’s costume was well my favourite though, we managed to find this really cute shark hat, and she wore all grey. It was a very American halloween, there was even candycorn, which was mighty tasty. After a few drinks, headed to a club called the Orange Cafe (are Orange actually sponsoring everything now?), which for Madrid was actually cheap as chips, 12 to get in, including 2 drinks, then 5 for a drink. It’s funny how that seems cheap now, but being in the ABC and paying £2.90 for a vodka because it’s got cordial AND a dash (the luxury!) seems like extravagance only warranted by paynight.
I was rather popular in my costume, not even just with boys, girls were asking me all night to take a picture with me, just goes to show you what you can do with a few fake plants from Poundland, a leotard and a pot of tea, eh? Spanish guys are reet forward, even more so than their French counterparts, a guy came up to me and Lauren and asked her to ask me if I would fuck him. Has that ever worked for anyone, in the history of time? Not even an “hola”, pal, naw? Also, that’s another funny thing, Lauren was translating for me if I was talking to someone, but they just instinctively knew I didn’t speak Spanish and she did. She did however insist on telling everyone we met that I did speak Spanish but had no confidence, so then they were all sweetly supportive and trying to encourage me. One guy actually said to me “I won’t laugh if you make a mistake if that’s what you’re worried about”. I’m standing in a club wearing fucking leaves, confidence is not the problem, spending 80% of the time I was meant to be in class, in a pub or shopping with Daniel is my main letdown. These guys were trying to fire in – brilliant gaydar that the spanish have, he fancied his chances with Lauren, who told him we were lesbians, and he was still thinking she’d change her mind, to the point I just turned round to hear her shouting at him “I like her vagina, she likes my vagina……and that’s it!”. The language barrier also led to hilarity when we were standing waiting for a taxi and I was talking to this guy for about 3 seconds, when all of a sudden him and Nadia and Lauren all started shouting at each other, and I’m not sure if I knew what was going on at the time and it’s now been reduced to a Bailey’s-addled haze, but I have no clue.
Monday morning me and McBads woke up still half-cut (I seem to be a lightweight over here) and sat giggling in her room for a bit at shite jokes, good craic! Headed in to meet George since he was affskis back to Valencia, got more tortilla espagnole and croquetas, canny whack it. Met a lovely Canadian couple, so sat chatting to them during lunch, the man had been pick-pocketed the day before so turned round and punched the guy in the month, he was so cute “I mean, I’m 60, but I just turned round and smacked him one”. Said our goodbyes to George and headed for the Reina Sofia to see some Picasso n all that jazz. Managed to get in free since we were students, thank you, Strathclyde! Some of it was just nonsense, like the first exhibition was just rusty, iron cuboids, and there were actually folk walking round them looking at them like “hmm, how interesting”. There was a lot of Georges Braques and Picasso though, in a bit cubism exhibit, I love a good bit of Cubinism. Also, the main piece there is La Guernica, this massive Picasso painting, that was so controversial that apparently until 1995 it has bullet-proof glass round it, but since Franco’s long gone, it’s fine now. When we walked in the room, everyone was standing like 20ft away from it, and it’s a big painting, but even at that, you want a closer swatch than that. So I sauntered up, bold and brass, and managed to set the Reina Sofia alarm system off, by going within 10ft of it. 10ft…..really? This security lad came up to me and was telling me I couldn’t come close than that, and I asked porque-not? and he had no answer, I’m not sure he was Spanish though, he seemed to take a fair while to say stuff.
This morning I got up at the crack of 8 to get ready, was just going to leave with Lauren when she went to bed but realised Eva was going to be in all day so it gave me a bit of time to kill. My suitcase was absolutely bursting, it’s getting worse, as I write this I’m now on the final leg of my journey (having left Lauren’s 11 hours ago, and still won’t be home for a good 40 mins) so hopefully my overstretched holdall can last that long. The woman at RyanAir also kept getting people in the queue to put their bags in that RyanAir suitcase-cage they love so much to show the dimensions that are acceptable. Was dreading her asking me since I knew fine well mine was not RyanAir-acceptable. Hilariously though, she asked the woman next to me, who is also the only person I’ve ever seen to have one of the “RyanAir Approved Samsonite Holdall £69.99!” they try and sell you every time you’re on the website. As if this wasn’t embarassing enough, she also asked her again, later on. The flight wasn’t even worth writing about, dull as dishwasher. The only thing of interest that happened on the shuttle afterwards to the trainstation, was the bus-driver stopping the bus, walking right up to the back (and it was a bendy bus) and coming back with a Fanta and a 50euro note, I have no idea what that was all about.
The train station at Charleroi is a similar level of maze as the Madrid metro, and I must’ve looked lost again cause a nice old man asked me in both languages if he could help me. Explained all I wanted in life was a ticket to Lille, and he pointed me up the escalator, where I met the man in front of me (who had about 5 teeth) asked me if I wanted to sleep with him, did the polite thing and told him I didn’t speak French, terribly sorry and all that, old boy, but thankfully, in case language-barriers were ever an issue to his chat-up techniques, he had prepared a visual interpreation and simply grabbed his junk and shook it. France may be the romance capital of the world, but it clearly doesn’t help its spastic Belgian neighbours out.
Tired, hungry, looking like shit and probably smelling a bit but had a fantastic week and shall definitely be returning to Madrid asap!