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June 17th 2008
Published: June 23rd 2008
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Our final visitors to Spain

Well, there isn't long left before we leave the land of sun, sangria and siestas...but there was still time for another set of visitors in early June. Cue the arrival of Phil and Lisa - two dear old mates from Leeds. When we lived in Leeds we could oft be found nursing a pint in The Angel with these two and they clearly missed it, as they booked a flight to visit for an extended weekend - Wednesday to Sunday...

Up until the weekend we met up with them - they stayed in a hotel near the centre - in snippets due to work. 1st I met them Wednesday night (taking them on a speedy walking tour of the main central attractions) ...Kate met us later...then Kate met them for lunch on Thursday..(taking them to the cathedral and dropping them at the palace before work)... Then, at last, work finished for the week I met them by the famous Madrid strawberry eating bear statue at the edge of Sol early Friday evening. From there it was a swift drink and then on to visit our flat - dropping by the supermarket on the way. Lisa was particularly keen on this part of the trip. Not sure why. She even wanted to buy a relatively expensive bottle of wine (6 Euros!!!)...but luckily, Phil talked her into buying a carton of sangria instead for less than a Euro.

Anyway, a few drinks and some ham, cheese and bread later and it was time to hit the town. We headed by Metro to Lavapies...where many a photo was taken and many a beer was imbibed.

Art and nudity

Saturday! We headed directly to one of Madrid's most famous attractions which me and Kate also had yet to see - the famous Prado Museum - renowned as being the largest art gallery in the world (apparently - indeed it is large). Home to the masterpieces of El Greco, Goya and Velázquez - to name but a few. It's definitely vast and the collections are never ending - sculptures and paintings as far as the eye can see. We had a wander through the huge halls for a good 2 hours and realised we'd only seen a fraction. If we'd been art purists we'd probably have pressed on - but we were tired and our feet ached - so we decided to save it for another visit. Plus, the sun was shining outside and we decided, it being Spain, we should make the most.

From the Prado we headed to Retiro Park (conveniently located nearby!) and wandered through the crowds to relax in the shade of a tree by the boating lake. Then something rather surprising happened. I was lying flat on my back, staring at the sky through my sunglasses and momentarily lapsing into a snooze when I heard Kate say.....

"There are some naked women over there"

...and there were. A little distance a way a gaggle (a collective of naked women..?) of women - some in pants, others completely nude, all daubed in body paint were making their way through the part, seemingly handing out leaflets. "Fancy that" we thought. I was tempted to tell Phil and Lisa that this happened all the time in liberal Madrid...but that'd be a blatant lie, wouldn't it? Not one of my Spanish students has ever turned up for class naked (crazy eh? Was Eurotrash lying to me about carefree European ways all those years...??). On cue, a mob (collective of coppers..?) of police officers surrounded the liberal ladies and much protesting took place. In the midst of all this, a load of people (mostly men) went for their cameras to immortalise the scene. As did professional photgrapher, Phil. Alas, "professional photographer" doesn't necessarily mean "stealthy photographer". Phil gradually produced his enormous shiny, expensive camera from his bag and set up the perfect shot. Unfortunately, his extra big zoom lens was then filled with the image of a cop walking straight to him. The policeman barked "No photo!" and ensured Phil had deleted the offending image. Crikey! If I'd known that was going to happen I would have implored Phil to make a run for it. Just for a laugh. But I'd have felt bad if the officer promptly took him down with a leg-shot.

....As aside, we did wonder how funny it would be if the police, after talking to the naked women in the distance and out of earshot (plus in a language I still haven't mastered), suddenly nodded agreement and got undressed too...

Anyway, after being forced to don the relative frigidity of bras and pants, the women continued to give out flyers/leaflets (well, not until after they'd had a weird little sing-song and hippy dance. I expect the lyrics had something to do with being able to get naked in the park. Dunno). So we were still puzzled what they were giving out...and they weren't heading our way. So we had to act! While myself and Kate waited, camera in hand, we sent Phil and Lisa nonchalantly wandering into the fray. See pictures. The woman who spoke to them said something at length in Spanish then handed them the bit of paper...all will be explained we thought. As it turned out it just had something handwritten which both a little obscene and a little surreal - in Spanish obviously. Confused, we decided it was all too much for us and it was time for something more wholesome. A boat trip on the park lake!

British sea (pond) power

We hired out a row boat on the pond and all piled in, myself and Phil (being men, right?) took the oars. If my memory of my Royal Navy Sea Cadet Corp (Hartlepool branch) serves me well, I believe I was stationed on the port side, with Seaman Phil on the starboard. Kate and Lisa manned the stern and had little to do other than tell us which way to paddle.

As it turned out, the latter responsibility was very important with Phil and me rowing blind (i.e. our backs to the bows) and the boating lake a veritable English Channel of aquatic traffic. But clearly it was too much for Lisa and Kate. Maybe I ask too much, myself a trained seafarer between the ages of 10-11 (yes, I can tie a reef knot though a sheepshank always defeated me - as an aid to memory there was some bizarre story about a rabbit running round a tree and down a hole or something...?). but Kate and Lisa's commands of "This way" and "That way" were confusing and ambiguous to say the least. On several occasions it seemed that my "this" was Phil's "that" and as a result we weren't the well oiled rowing machine we thought we'd be. If Kate or Lisa re-tell this story to you, they'll no doubt blame our incompetence. Tut. They would.

Nevermind, right? It was just a friendly paddle on a park lake? Well it would be except we saw a new side of Phil. Phil the
Phil the barmanPhil the barmanPhil the barman

in the bar where you can serve your own beer
control freak and adventurer. As he barked orders and I stopped rowing and we paddled round in circles, we wondered what had got into him. By the end of the "journey", as we disembarked from the vessel Phil continued to bemoan the fact that we didn't "get anywhere". Hmm. Understandable had we been in the Pacific or Atlantic, but we were on a large square lake in a park. We suggested we could just walk to the other side of the lake, if he really wanted to see it, but he was inconsolable.

So we went to the pub.

And we all love Vindaloooooo...

To cheer Phil up we had some beers in a bar where you pour your own. It's cool. You sit round a table made out of a barrel and in the middle is a beer pump. You get glasses from the bar and fill up as you please. The volume and price of booze is displayed on a digital LED screen just like at the petrol station. But probably cheaper. Good eh? But I find it hard to see the system not being abused in Britain...

Anyway, after that we headed back
Life with Phil the photographerLife with Phil the photographerLife with Phil the photographer

#1 Holding his equipment while he takes a photo
to Lavapies for a quick meal of curry. Yum.

Sort of.

It took ages. The restaurant was clearly overrun with customers and we waited a good hour after ordering before someone came and asked if we'd ordered yet! We ordered again. Then we got random food that we hadn't ordered, without rice. All the time, sitting outside, the once balmy Madrid night was turning colder and colder. By the time the food arrived we just wanted to eat it all and leave quickly. Which we did. Hmm.

Sorry about our restaurant choice guys...

Hold the fort..

And that was about that! We headed home soon after and Phil and Lisa had a flight on Sunday morning so, as sad as we were to see them go....we stayed in bed. THANKS for coming!!!!! It was great to see you!! See you next in England. Keep the home fires burning and all that stuff.

We still have half a carton of Lisa's sangria in the fridge. Does sangria go off? Dunno.

Additional photos below
Photos: 17, Displayed: 17



holding all his camera equipment while he goes to the loo

laughing at the pictures he has taken of you looking horrible

revenge, taking photos of him
Kris bought a flashing pink ringKris bought a flashing pink ring
Kris bought a flashing pink ring

from a bloke in the pub. no, I don't know why
Kris and Phil rowingKris and Phil rowing
Kris and Phil rowing

#1 "right, both together....row"

" are we going in circles"

"well I'm rowing"

"and I am. So why are we still going in a circle"

"oh we give up, lets just float"

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