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February 10th 2008
Published: February 12th 2008
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So how long have we been here now? Almost 6 weeks maybe?? Doesn't time fly? Well, here's a blog about what we've been up in our spare time. You know you're fascinated...

Arty Farty...

Now, when it comes to art, I'm more of a Tony Hart or Neil Buchanan (from Art Attack - "This is an Art Attack, This is an Art Attack - this is...Art Attack!") sort of a bloke than a Damien Hurst or Monet appreciator. But being in one of the arty cities of Europe and, perhaps also because the gallery had a free entry on Saturday afternoons, we found ourselves the other week in Madrid's modern art gallery - The Reine Sofia. Here we found a range of expensive pieces - including the thought-proving and beautiful...and then the ones that, you know, look like someone spilt some paint while carrying the canvas to the wall and thought - "sod it, it'll do" and put it up anyway. There's also a huge collection of Picasso paintings dominating an entire room. One is enormous and was allegedly highly controversial due to it's depiction of the Nazi German bombing of a place called Guernica in 1937 during the Spanish civil war. Hmm. Well it sort of looks like an odd-shaped bull and horse and some flying heads. If you don't believe me, Google - "Guernica" and see for yourself. I can imagine Picasso in consultation with the artistic heavyweights of Buchanan and Hart now. "No, you've gone and bollocksed-it again Pablo. You've drawn the nose on her cheek. Concentrate for god's sake!" exclaims Buchanan. "Try drawing an oval and then a cross over it to get the eyes and nose positions correct" offers softly spoken Hart, helpfully.

I apologise to all art fans out there for my disgraceful remarks. I'm just uncultured. Anyway, we went and saw some Dali paintings and watched a snippet of a black and white arty film that seemed to be about a man shooting a small boy and a posh house burning down. It was again controversial in its day, being symbolic of something or other. To be honest I was slightly disappointed largely because I went to the modern art museum in Frankfurt once and it was full of pictures of naked women. No such luck in Madrid. The prudes! So we decided it was probably time for the pub and off we toddled.

Casa de Campo and beer vending machines

On the edge of Madrid there is an enormous area of parkland. In fact, "parkland" doesn't do it justice. That makes me think of a park, perhaps with some swings and a slide and people playing frisby. This is more like a national park almost. It's huge, it's called Casa de Campo and it houses a zoo and a theme park as well as umpteen acres of open space. Even more exciting - you can get there by cable car!! Which we did. Look at our exciting photos. It was my 1st time on a cable car and I was surprised at how scary it was at 1st. I soon calmed down though, lulled into a sense of security by the calming tones of Phil Collins piped into the car through a stereo system. I wonder if he receives royalties.

When we arrived at the centre of the park we were surprised to find that you could buy beer from a vending machine. I knew it! I seem to remember that when I was on holiday with my parents in Spain when I was a kid I saw a beer vending machine - but then figured I might have dreamt it. No! They're real! I even tried to buy a drink from the one here but it was knackered and wouldn't accept my money. Oh well.

Incidentally, that reminds me - can anyone remember an advert on TV years ago for San Miguel beer that involved a song that went - "Si, si, San Miguel!!". I think it showed lots of jolly people on a beach drinking the stuff. I remember it but no one else does. Did I dream that too?

Anyway, we spent several hours on Saturday in glorious Madrid sunshine (yes, it's always sunny here - even in February) wandering around the parkland and scouting out the available attractions of zoo and theme park for a potential future visit.

Musicians on the Metro

Madrid has a huge resident population of wandering musicians who like to entertain you as you ride the city's underground. Some of them hang about on corners in the stations to catch your eye as you change lines, others actually clamber onto the trains dragging portable sound systems on trollies. Some play classical violin, others strum electric
The Casa de CampoThe Casa de CampoThe Casa de Campo

huge areas of scrub land
guitars, while others play panpipes or accordions. It can be surreal. Not long ago I was standing by the door of the train when a woman boarded carrying a guitar. She then proceeded to literally belt out a loud song while thrashing the hell out of her Spanish guitar and standing just a few feet away from me. I was a little scared. However, by far the most impressive sight I've seen was the whole band - dashing for the train at a particularly busy time of the day lugging accordions, a saxophone and even a double bass!

Do you flamenco?

So do Spanish people all flamenco dance on their weekends or not?? I'm confused. I was teaching a woman the other day cos I was standing in for another teacher. In idle chit-chat I asked her what music she liked. "Flamenco!" she declared and asked if I was a fan. Being polite I said I wasn't sure and she immediately produced her mobile from her bag and started playing MP3 files from it of loud flamenco music. It was surreal. She sat there clapping along. Obviously being British and inhibited I shifted uncomfortably in my seat and
Kate hiding in a treeKate hiding in a treeKate hiding in a tree

slightly unsuccessfully. At the Case de Campo.
hoped she wasn't going to ask me to dance. Anyway, she genuinely flamenco-ed at the weekend. When she revealed this I almost laughed out loud. Sorry, but it seems a bit of a cliché. I wondered if her boyfriend bullfights. Then last Friday I had a lesson with another woman I teach and we were discussing favourite Spanish pastimes. She struggled thinking of the top 3 and so I helpfully and slightly pee-takingly offered flamenco. She was not amused. She muttered something about "not everyone in Spain flamenco dances and fights bulls you know!"
"but some do.." I thought. Oh well... To defuse the situation I told her about Morris dancing and told her to look it up on the internet. Now she may assume everyone in Britain Morris dances...

We have a local!

Last weekend we finally went out to some bars near where we live. It was very exciting. Particularly as no one understands our pronunciation of "beer" in Spanish - i.e. cerbeza. Anyway, the bar we settled in was amazing. The barman was clearly over the moon that some non-SPanish speakers had turned up and fed us loads of tapas. Then, when we went to leave he served us a free drink each - something that's usually reserved for when you've bought a meal, not just had 3 drinks and a load of free tapas. He even offered to quote our bill for us in English. Funnily enough, numbers are what we understand in Spanish - it's all that other fast talking that confuses us. Oh well. We'll be going back there again!

Additional photos below
Photos: 13, Displayed: 13


What the hell is that? What the hell is that?
What the hell is that?

How big is that bird?
It appears to be an enormous storkIt appears to be an enormous stork
It appears to be an enormous stork

there were loads of these flying around near the zoo at the Case de Campo. We couldn't work out if they were wild or something to do with the zoo.... anyone shed some light on it? They made a really loud clicking noise with their beaks.
Beer from vending machines!Beer from vending machines!
Beer from vending machines!

When you get off the cable car at the Case de Campo, there's a vending machine that sells beer! Surely that's an underage drinkers paradise??
In one of our favourite bars near SolIn one of our favourite bars near Sol
In one of our favourite bars near Sol

posters advertising bull fights. Because Spanish people really do watch bull fights. And look, one of the famous bullfighters is called Enrique Ponce! Haha
Kris entraced by the pig legKris entraced by the pig leg
Kris entraced by the pig leg

It was on the bar! It's abit weird sitting having a beer with a pigs foot in front of you. Spanish people think its delicious...
Beer in pint glassesBeer in pint glasses
Beer in pint glasses

rather than tiny glasses.... with Walkers crisps. It was a Scottish bar mind you....

23rd March 2008

Ha Ha Ha
I like beer too. How are you.

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