Anyone who is self employed will know the struggles of taking a holiday, but over the years I’ve come to realise that you need to take a few days off from time to time to reset. Especially in a creative industry, our brains get over-loaded with ideas so it’s important to take a break from producing work and just think. So this Summer, I headed off to Madrid for a long weekend ready to refresh my creativity in a new environment...
I didn't expect to be hit with such a culture shock in Madrid as I was, big European cities tend to be much of a likeness to London. I was probably being very naive to think that everyone would speak English, the language barrier was evident even in the taxi from the airport, trying to explain that our hotel was called ‘Dear Hotel’. The hotel was located on the equivalent of Oxford Street in London, on a busy junction, opposite Starbucks - Of course! The hotel looked like something straight off of Pinterest, an ultra modern city hotel full of people enjoying after work drinks on the roof terrace.
The roof terrace and bar were incredible, the views over the city were breathtaking - although not as breath taking as actually being in the street surrounded by the heat. It was refreshing up on the roof, higher than most of the surrounding buildings, it was the only place you could get any kind of breeze.
I’ve never felt heat like it was in Madrid - A different kind of heat than I’ve ever experienced before. All the streets are surrounded by tall buildings and throughout the day the concrete walls and floor would heat up and expel the heat right back at you. I expected that going out on the street in the mid day sun would be a killer, but you never really got hit with direct sun, making it feel hotter at 11pm than it did at midday. Which meant that coming back to the hotel in the evening after dinner and heading up to the windy roof bar was the best… Add a giant gin and tonic fish bowl and it was perfect.
After a quick breakfast to start the day at a local cafe near the hotel - Avocado on toast of course. We did the tourist thing and got on the hop on, hop off city tour bus. I do love going on tourist busses for the first day or two at a new city, it’s the best way to get to grips with where everything is. It was only after sitting on the bus for an hour or so that I realised that Madrid isn’t as big as I thought, we probably could have walked it all!
Our first stop on the bus which we hopped off at was the Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid (Real Jardín Botánico). When I think of Botanical gardens I think of tropical plants in greenhouses, but I guess when it’s as hot as it is in Madrid they don't need greenhouses. This wasn’t what I expected, it looked more of an Italian Garden, laid out in strict formal displays, but I’m no expert - Maybe I was missing something!
A nice little surprise in the middle of the botanical gardens was a little art gallery, with a beautiful exhibition of black and white photography and an art exhibit by Linarejos Moreno, combining botanical drawings with mechanical forms - an interesting merge of nature and science.
My favourite part of the gardens was a big greenhouse at the back of the gardens full of cacti. It was split into 3 rooms with different climates, tropical, temperate, and desert, going from humid to dry to create the perfect growing conditions for the different plants. Walking through the three climates, and then back again was a bit of a shock to the body!
On Friday it was back on the bus for tourist day number 2. Our first stop was at the Templo De Debod, an ancient Egyptian temple which was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid. The Egyptian state donated the temple of Debod to Spain in 1968. The temple was rebuilt in one of Madrid's parks, the Parque del Oeste, near the Royal Palace of Madrid. Surrounding the temple was a lovely park where locals were doing exercise classes, relaxing and reading.
After the Temple, we walked up to the Royal Palace of Madrid. The queue for the palace was really long, so we opted to go into the Almudena Cathedral and it’s museum instead. The interior is uniquely modern and even had some pop-art influences in the stained glass windows, which was a stark contrast to the architecture of the palace.
On Saturday we took it a little more chilled and headed to some of the areas which we had driven past on the bus which looked nice. We walked through the park by our hotel and back towards the palace where we had been the previous day. One of my favourite things from the trip was seeing the changing of the guard outside the palace, and I’m so glad that I happened to be in the right place, at the right time to see it. It was a true show - The horses and uniforms worn by the guides were spectacular, and best of all, there was a woman in charge! She was shouting out orders to the guards and getting them in line - good on her!
On Sunday, we wanted to make sure that we ended the holiday relaxed and ready to get back to work on our return. We had a leisurely walk down to the river and with no map I used my ultimate geological knowledge of ‘lets keep heading down hill and we’ll find the river’ - It surprisingly worked!
On the walk back from the river it hit 37 degrees (or so said the sign on the bus stop) I’m not sure if that was accurate, but it could well have been!