Friday, 15 June 2012

MADRID: Warmth Of The City Is Equal To The Warmth Of The People

This year's summer in England is quite short and so me and my friends decided to go for a short trip to Madrid. I lived in Barcelona before and loved the Spanish mentality and hospitality. Barcelona is still different compared to Madrid as they define themselves as Catalan and have their own vocabulary. We arrived late Thursday in Madrid and the first thing you recognise is the vibe and the heat of the city. People are on the streets, chatting and laughing, a lot of promoters are advertising bars at each corner. 

The next thing you notice is the eating time. Spain’s starts at 10pm, at the earliest, and for going out it is even later. They usually start going out to a bar around 1am and enter the club around 3am earliest and stay out until 9am or continue even until 12am. 

We had a drink at the Urban Hotel which is a stunning luxury hotel with a roof garden and a nice view of Madrid. The city itself is not huge, so you can reach every area easily by foot. We were very lucky with the weather. It was about 32 degrees, so we walked down to the “parque del buen retiro” which is a very beautiful park with a lake in the middle where you can row. 

People arrive to lie in the sun on one of the green spots in the park. Our hotel was very close to the metro station El Sol. On our way there we passed ‘Plaza de la Cibeles’. On our way back we walked through ‘Plaza de Colon’ which is one of my favorite places and buildings in Madrid. 
Art Centres in Madrid: Reina Sofia Museum, The Botanic Garden-Museum, Caixaforum Art Centre, Thyssen-Bornemesiza Museum, El Prado Museum (one of the best art galleries in the world, depicting beautiful pieces from Velazquez, Goya, Tintoretto and Rubens), Plaza de La Cibeles, Palacio de Comunicaciones, Puerta de Alcala, Bank of Spain, National Library and Plaza de Colon. In case you end up in the El Prado Museum, get a lunch at Cafe Prado, the cafeteria & restaurant inside El Prado Museum.

The next day we walked towards the west side of Madrid and passed ‘Plaza Mayor’, ‘Catedral de la Almudena’, the beautiful garden of ‘Jardines de Sabatini’ and ‘Plaza de Espana’. We finally ended up having a lie on the ‘Parque de la Montana’. On our way back we had a Sangria and green spiced olives in the Saint Miguel Market which is not an open market, but a glass building which keeps the food fresh. You can get fresh vegetables, fruits, sweets and ready-made tapas. 

Next we walked towards the metro station, Tribunal, and arrived on the shopping street. We wanted to get some patatas bravas in a bar named ‘La Tita’, but they did not serve the food in a traditional way. The Sangria and Tinto de verano was in a can and the patatas bravas also looked more like chips rather than the traditional dish. For dinner we were invited to a friend's house who prepared us paella in a huge pan.

The cook told us that the idea came actually from the musulmans as they used to eat from one big pan or plate. Next we went to a bar called Barbarum in Churruca 3 who served Mojitos in huge glasses. We finally ended in the Pacha Club which is not far from the bar. The next morning we walked down the Calle de Postas where they had a very nice bakery and pastries in all different varieties. For lunch I can recommend a cool terrace in Paseo de Recoletos (in front of Plaza de Goya), or more traditional El Paraguas Restaurant (Calle Jorge Juan 16) or a brunch at Embassy (Paseo Castellana 12). 

I had a delicious salmorejo cordobes con jamon y huevo for lunch which is similar to the soup gazpacho. Next we went to the airport by metro. The metro system is very simple in Madrid and tickets very cheap compared to other countries. All in all I loved spending my time in Madrid and would love to come again some time!

Friday, 8 June 2012

DERBYSHIRE: Download Festival - First Muddy Experience

I wanted to try something new this year and go to a big music festival. Download Festival is a very well known three-day metal music open-air festival taking place in Donington Park, in Derbyshire. I started playing guitar about a year ago now and was introduced to some rock songs and would like to listen to them live as it is always different and more enjoyable. The name Download Festival comes from 'downloading' which is a dirty word for the music industry as it is forbidden to download music illegally and because rock is seen as a rebellious music genre. 
The logo includes the Download dog which is the mascot of the festival. The highlights of the event were without doubt Metallica, Black Sabbath, The Prodigy, Soundgarden, Chase & Status and Tenacious D and all the crazy dressed up people. Some of them were wearing clothes you would never even see in Soho.. loud colour combinations or even in completely in black! 

The rainy and windy weather made it uncomfortable to stand and listen, but none of the music fans cared about the circumstances and appreciated every ear 'orgasm' they got from the live performances. It was such an amazing feeling standing in the middle of thousands of people, facing the stage and being so excited to see the bands performing live. The sound system was incredible so that you could feel every beat in your body. It was actually not possible to stand there without moving. The most exciting moment was when Metallica came on stage. Fans have been waiting for so long to see the band live. They came from every where and did not mind waiting in the rain. Even I did not want to leave my well conquered space on the front and waited 2 hours in advance. I wanted to see them as close as possible and wanted to fear every note. 

First fireworks opened up the first song intro. Everyone started screaming without them getting on stage and when they got on stage everyone was so out of themselves. It was just mind blowing seeing all the crowd getting so excited and smiling. It already seemed like they have reunited with their 'father of metal rock'. There was no song they did not know the lyrics and did not sing with. Some songs animated them to bump into each other. This is for a girl, standing in a crowd with mainly men not very safe. But luckily there have been a few who look out that no one bumps into girls. Another very unique moment was towards the end of Metallica's performance. Whatever James Hetfield was saying, the crowd did it. He seems to have magical power and knows how to talk to the audience. The way he talks to them makes them feel warm and comfortable and being part of a family. Other than the other bands they do not mind playing a bit longer than they are supposed to. They want to give their fans as much as possible which we all appreciated. Even I became already a big fan of Metallica cos they just had an incredible performance and care about their audience. 

This is the 'One' song which belongs to one of my favourites and always gets me goosebumps:

Even on the first day some cars were struggling to get out of the parking spot as their car tyres sank into the mud and made it impossible to make the car move. 

On Sunday, when everyone wanted to move back home, it was a nightmare. The whole car park was a desperate place where drivers and passengers had to wait until the car in front could move. We had to wait a full 3 hours before we could move. It was an experience, but one I would not want to get involved with again! 

Sunday, 3 June 2012

LONDON: Concerts All Over London

The most exciting event on the third day took place at Buckingham Palace where Elton John, Paul McCartney and many other famous artists took to the stage. 20,000 people came to watch the concert, listen to a speech from the royal family and see the beacon lit at 10.30pm.

Me and my friends went to Liverpool Street for a “street party”. We arrived when the band had sung their last song so afterwards it was nothing more than a bunch of dressed up people enjoying drinks and a chat. 

We decided to grab a Boris bike and cycle down to the Tower of London which is beautiful by night. From there we could see one of the beacons which was very small and where there was nothing else, no music, no other fanfare, just a flame. We walked along the river and enjoyed the amazing view of that part of London. One of the bridges was lit in red and looked gorgeous. It is a great place to spend an evening and enjoy a drink at one of London Bridge's many bars.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

LONDON: Pageant Parade On The Thames

The second day of the Diamond Jubilee Weekend included a flotilla with a thousand different types of boats crossing the river and around a million spectators watching them as they began their voyage in West London before heading towards London Bridge in the east.

People came from everywhere to watch this event. Almost everyone was holding a Union Jack, was dressed in the colours blue, red and white or was wearing a mask with the faces of the royal family. Most of the bridges were closed for this event, only the Chelsea and Battersea Bridge were open for pedestrians to cross, but not stop and watch. 

Public screens were positioned in different areas so that everyone could follow the flotilla and see the Queen in her beautiful white dress. 

The Queen and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge travelled down the river on the royal barge too which was one of the most amazing and fascinating vessels, covered in gold and red. 

Friday, 1 June 2012

LONDON: Celebrating The Queen

England is going unarguably nuts for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. There are flags everywhere, special editions with the Queen’s picture on clothes, food, and just about anything else you can think of. 


Arriving at Oxford Circus you see big Union Jacks all up the street, at train stations and on shop windows. I wonder why every single store has a flag and whether it would matter if they did or didn't, but one thing is obvious, you will never forget that you are in England at this moment! 

The opening ceremony took place at the Epsom Derby, an annual horse racing event which included a parachute jump carrying a huge Union Jack. At 1pm the Queen arrived in her blue dress, to watch some of the races and award the winners. It was a fun experience analysing the horses and their riders and deciding afterwards who would win. 

You can start with £2 and go up to hundreds if you are feeling confident. We were facing the Queen’s stand, where people could sit down on the grass, bring their own food and dress up as they wanted. In the Queen’s stand everyone was more traditional and women were supposed to wear a very nice hat. There were also buses people could stand in to watch the race.