Posts Tagged ‘spain’

Flying Visit

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Sincere apologies everyone. I have been particularly slack with my entries lately due to many factors – mostly just laziness. But I have been very busy with weddings, family visits, trips to Spain and then packing my bag once again to fly home to Australia. I am currently filling in time before I venture to the airport to stand in lines and wait and wait and wait until I can then get on a plane and wait and wait and wait some more. What fun awaits!!

I am heading home for two and a half weeks to celebrate my grandmother’s 90th birthday. It isn’t every day that someone special turns the big Nine-Zero so a plane flight across the world is worth it. However I am currently wishing teleportation had been developed to a much greater extent so that I could avoid the next 24 hours. I should probably stop complaining and be grateful that it is possible for me to fly home… Nar.

So a quick catch up on things I promised I’d write to you about but never have.

Did I find a dress?

The answer to whether or not my shopping adventures before my cousin’s wedding resulted in the WORLD’S BEST DRESS is both yes and no. No, I didn’t find an amazing dress that was stylish, sexy and slightly ‘unique’ which was quite disappointing. None of the general fashion stores in Paris seemed to have ‘wedding appropriate dresses’. However, at the wedding I discovered that most of the Parisian attendees were less formally dressed than the foreign guests.

I did, however, find a dress that was ON SALE at Esprit (Esprit never fails me) that I wore on the Friday to Freya and Mark’s civil ceremony. It wasn’t what I was looking for but it filled a need that I didn’t even know existed. Clearly it was some sort of sign that I what I really needed was a new dress for the civil ceremony and that I should wear my trusty blue (and super cool) dress to the wedding. And so I did.

The wedding was wonderful with the catholic ceremony held in St Clothilde basilica. The basilica was just astonishing – a huge space with beautiful stained glass windows and light grey stone. The sun came at the end of the ceremony, just in time for photos and an apero in the garden of the Maison d’Amerique Latine. The reception was a lot of fun and absolutely delicious with great food and matching wines and it was so lovely to spend time with my Dutch family. A wonderful, wonderful evening.

For those of you who are interested, you can see photographs of the wedding (and my dresses) on my flickr site.

Did my new printer cartridge work?

Yes, thank goodness.

Was the Guggenheim as awesome as I hoped it would be?

Yes. It sure was. In fact, it was beyond amazing. There have been a few moments in my life where I have felt my jaw drop and then a big, tooth-filled smile spread across my face as I realise what I am seeing. Seeing Times Square for the first time at dusk was one of those moments, and now I can add driving into Bilbao and seeing Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim museum as another. I spent the weekend in Spain and most of Saturday wandering around and through the Guggenheim museum and was completely overwhelmed at how much I loved the space. And then to discover that one of my favourite installations – work by Richard Serra – filled the largest gallery in the building made me literally jump for joy. It was an eye opening and inspirational experience and I came away from it full of excitement about how maybe one day I will be somehow working in a space like that – either as an artist or as part of the gallery staff.

Did I eat good food and drink good wine in Spain?

You bet I did. I was a little disappointed with some of the things I ate but I put this down to my inability to communicate, my dislike for mushed up seafood (lots of the pintxos included this in some form), and my lack of confidence at entering very busy and clearly social places on my own. Eating in Spain is a very communal thing and I felt quite alone when it came to dinner time. However, I got by and managed to have a few conversations and was offered some fried peppers from one friendly couple. But my memories of the food in Madrid are still calling to me and Bilbao didn’t quite match up. That’s ok – it just means I need to go back and try again.

And for those of you with some time on your hands, why not look at my 341 photos of Bilbao and San Sebastian? I can promise you lots of images of the Guggenheim, food and Jesus.

Have I finished packing? 

Not quite. I should do this. And then get some lunch and then go to the airport. So next time you hear from me I will be upside down in the southern hemisphere, joining my fellow Perthians complaining about the weather. Oh, meanwhile yesterday in Paris it reached a rather impressive 33 degrees. It was hot. Everyone was complaining.


Monday, June 4th, 2012

I am very, very, very excited because I have just spent money on plane tickets and budget accommodation – I am going to Bilbao! I have been craving Spanish sunshine, wine and cured meats so I decided to be carefree and crazy and booked a weekend trip. I leave in two weeks! Anyone else wanting to see Frank’s awesome building should meet me there.

Gehry Guggenheim

Soon I will have my own version of this photograph

Madrid Part 6

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

The Bulls

The reason we had to leave the art gallery was because we had bought tickets to see a bull fight. As I write this I know there will be people tut-tutting under their breath and preparing a speech about animal rights and how I shouldn’t actively support bull fighting as a sport. I wasn’t sure how I felt about watching the spectacle but was curious to see why the Spanish have been so passionate about it. For centuries they have dedicated themselves to bull fighting and matadors are highly regarded within the culture. On one hand it is the deliberate killing of an animal for the enjoyment of spectators, and on the other it has been deeply embedded in Spanish culture and is part of their way of life.

Plaza de Toros

Plaza de Toros

We bought cheap seats in the top section of the stadium but could easily see the show. The stadium is a beautiful building in itself and it was worth the ticket price just to see inside. However, as soon as the first bull was released into the right and the matadors started their thing, I wished our seats were a lot further back.


Nice stadium

I was able to form a very definite opinion of bull fighting within the first 15 minutes. Here’s what happens: A bull is released into the ring and three or four guys wave pink capes at it to get it fired up. This is apparently to test how aggressive the bull is and how it is going to behave. After a few minutes, trumpets sound, and two guys on horses come into the ring. The bull charges at a horse (since the 1930s the horses wear protective armour but I still don’t see how they don’t get hurt) and the guy sitting on the horse stabs a sharp pole into the back of the bull, making it bleed. This was when I stopped enjoying myself.

Bull fight

Annoying the bull

The bull is stabbed twice before the horses are taken off and the main matador comes out with colourful spears which he waves at the bull before stabbing them into the bull’s back. This is probably the only time that I could see any element of danger for the human as it is just the matador versus the bull and not a lot of space between the two creatures.

Once the bull has four or more spears in his back, the matador gets a red cape and a sword and waves the cape at the bull for a while, getting the animal really annoyed. Plus he has spears in his back and is bleeding so if I were the bull, I’d be pretty damn annoyed. Eventually the matador gets another, bigger sword which he eventually attempts to stab into the bull. Apparently he is aiming to get between the bull’s shoulder blade and through its heart. He generally missed and had to try again, basically making the bull bleed more and get generally more disgruntled. Once the bull eventually falls over, another guy shoves a small knife into the bull’s spine, apparently killing him instantly, and everyone cheers and the matador bows.

Bull fight

Out goes the red cape of death

It was awful. It was a display of man’s ability to control, tease, hurt and kill defenceless animals. At no point did the bull have a chance. The humans were always in control and unless the matador did something really stupid or the bull made a sudden, unexpected move, the matador is never really in danger. I was shocked by the pointlessness of it and will never watch it again. I’m not even sure I am pleased I saw it once – I felt sad for the animals and hoped they would charge into the audience and maul all of the stupid cheering spectators. Well, not really. No death of anything or anyone would have been nice. And it wasn’t just one bull who was killed – we stayed for 1.5 hours and watched four bulls being killed. I suggested we leave when the fifth arrived.

Madrid Part 5

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

The Galleries

The art galleries in Madrid are internationally renown and we managed to visit the Prado to see Goya’s work and the Reina Sofia to see Picasso’s Guernica. Madrid went to near the top of my favourite art gallery cities (following London who lets you in for free at all times) as they open the galleries for free every day for a few hours. We stuck to the free opening hours, as that fit with our time schedule and we could therefore spend more money on food, and I was surprised at how few people were there. Considering Madrid is one of the biggest cities in Europe, I never felt overwhelmed by people or tourists as I do in Paris. In fact, I kept seeing the same people over and over again. That never happens in Paris.

The Prado is a very impressive gallery but I can’t say I was overwhelmed by Goya’s work. Not my cup of tea but then I’m more a contemporary art person. I did particularly enjoy seeing Bosch’s triptych Garden of Earthly Delights. Considering it was painted in the late 1490s, the imagery used on it is quite extraordinary. It looked like something from a Doctor Who show. I could have stood in front of it and stared for hours.

Garden of Earthly Delights

The Garden of Earthly Delights

The Reina Sofia was wonderful – some of my favourite artists beautifully displayed in a very nice building. Guernica was impressive and deserved the attention and the rush to find it. However, I wanted to explore more of the gallery but we ran out of time. Oh look, a reason to go back!

Madrid Part 4

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Free Tours

We went on two tours run by New Europe Tours while in Madrid – the first a free three-hour walking tour that was run by a hyperactive Pom called Colin. Col showed us around Madrid with much enthusiasm and told us about the endless number of kings who ruled Madrid. It was so informative that we decided to go on the Tapas Tour that took us to four tapas bars where we had beer or sangria and sampled tapas while learning about the Spanish eating habits. It was a great way to discover the city while learning a bit of history. I always feel like such a tourist sheep on guided tours but they’re usually very enjoyable. I am thinking of applying to be a guide in Paris. Lots of people’s names and random dates to learn!

Madrid Part 3

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

The People

The staff in restaurants were always very friendly and helpful and joked about our lack of Spanish speaking abilities. The first night though I think we managed to find every single grumpy Madridian. No one seemed happy to serve the stupid tourists and we thought we’d be doomed for the entire trip. Until the next morning we had breakfast at the bar next to our hotel and were served by a welcoming and friendly young guy. His name was Junior and he spent time each morning teaching us Spanish. He was 27, worried about turning 28, married and showed us photos of his son. He started the trend for friendly Spanish people who looked after us, gave us good food and even gave us free drinks. I wanted to give everyone hugs.

Our hotel was run by a lovely, short Spanish lady who must have lived in the apartment block where the hotel was located. She spoke no English and we spoke no Spanish yet we managed to understand each other. She insisted on carrying our bag to our room before giving us a map, explaining the three different keys we needed to get into our room and then leaving us to enjoy the city. The hotel was great – Coup found it on Hostelbookers for just 20 Euros a night for private rooms with ensuites. The hotel was located in the centre of town, close to everything, and was situated in a dodgy looking apartment complex that had weird looking people living in it. The room was tiny but amazingly clean and despite having walls as thin as paper we managed to sleep like babies.

Madrid Part 2

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

The Food

It was impossible not to involve yourself in the buzzing night life – at 6pm head to Bar Number 1 and have a glass of delicious Spanish red wine (so much better than French wine but don’t tell them I said that) or Sangria. Your drink will be served with some form of tapas – chips, chorizo, olives. Still hungry? Order from the tapas menu something small to nibble on. Then head to Bar Number Two where you’ll do it all again.

Tapas hall

A large tapas hall in Madrid serving a wide range of high quality food


That's good tapas.

At around 10pm you will settle in one place, order a bottle of wine (for no more than 10 Euros) and a carafe of sangria, fill the table with fried mushrooms, spanish ham, potatoes with tomato sauce, omelette, olives, oxtail, cheese, or whatever excites you and eat and drink the night away. Before you know it, it is past midnight and you’ve eaten some of the best food of your life.

I believe Madrid has more bars than any other city in Europe – how they all survive, I don’t know. We managed to find some brilliant places to eat, full of locals enjoying themselves. It was amazingly cheap and therefore very dangerous to our livers and arteries as we stocked up on somewhat excessive amounts of alcohol and finger-lickingly good oily food. Everything was deep fried, coated in oil or served with cheese. I don’t know how the Spanish people aren’t a bunch of fatsos. No green-age on the plate, which made it a tad tricky for our vegetarian travel companions. Thankfully everywhere did patatas – fried potato with tomato sauce and/or garlic mayonnaise.


Sweet, sweet Sangria

The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly at Night

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

I am back from a six-day trip to Madrid and am ready to jump back on the plane and jet back to that amazing city. On the plane trip home I wrote a 12 page entry in my diary that I am now going to type up in sections and post on here so that you can see why exactly I am now obsessed with Madrid. Ready for some reading? GO!

The City

I am writing this on the plane from Madrid to Paris. It is a Ryanair flight and so far neither wing has detached.

Ryan air

Safety First.

I have so much I want to say about Madrid. It has made a big impact on me. I always love discovering new cities but there was something really special about Madrid. It has always been on my list of places I must visit in my life time and now it is on my list of favourite cities for entirely different reasons. I expected a bustling, busy, hot, crazy city where people rush around, honk horns, yell and party hard. Instead I found a relatively peaceful city that you can walk the length of (the main central city area at least) in less than an hour. The people were generally relaxed and ridiculously friendly. The architecture was colourful and eclectic – a mix of new and old with a lot of blue, white and orange tiles left over from when the Moors were in charge.

A building in Madrid

A building in Madrid


Pretty tiles

It was easy to walk around and navigate – everything joined to the next square and it was easy to work out where you were. People rose late in the morning and went to bed in the wee hours – the day seemed to operate between 10am and 2am.

The Letters of Paris

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

At the end of this week the Mairie de Paris is hosting a writing festival with conferences, discussions, performances and talks called Paris en Toutes Lettres. It looks like it would be an amazing event if I could understand what was being said AND if I wasn’t going to Madrid tomorrow. TYPICAL. Something interesting happens as I am leaving. Of course, this would be more of a problem if going to Madrid wasn’t going to be a fantastically amazing experience! Madrid sits high on my list of “must visits” largely due to the rumours I have heard about amazing art galleries and delicious food. Tom and I are spending five days there and our friends Rom and Coup are joining us. It is going to be much fun and we are preparing ourselves for the Spanish lifestyle of long sleep ins, late lunches, afternoon naps and then tapas, drinks and dinner until the wee hours of the morn. Sounds all a bit exhausting really… I’ll let you know how I go.

The last week has been a lot of fun – Mum and Dad came to visit and I showed them around my favourite Parisian haunts. We avoided most of the tourist sites and instead explored the outer areas where most tourists dare not venture. A highlight was discovering (thanks to Tom’s current obsession of markets) a world food market that is held in Belleville twice a week. It is HUGE. It stretched at least three blocks down the main road of Belleville and there was stall after stall selling fruit and vegetables, spices, cheap clothes and even toiletries. Bargain prices and plenty of “ALLEZ! ALLEZ! ALLEZ! KILO DE TOMATES! UN EURO! UN EURO! UN EURO!” By the end it was all a bit exhausting and I was quite pleased to get out of there. Tom and I have purchased a wheelie trolley to take to the markets so we’re now true blue market goers.