Thursday, August 24, 2006


It was another good day at work today. The whole morning got taken up by a meeting with the local IT support contractor, then it was lunchtime and the office insisted I join them for Paella (a tradition on Thursdays, apparently!) so I invited Brett along too and he got to meet about half of the staff in the office over an enormous lunch.

The afternoon was all about documenting my work from yesterday. (Well, all about that and trying to stay awake after consuming so much paella and tortilla!) The office had heard about our lack of guidebook over lunch and really rallied to our support in the afternoon. I eventually left work laden down with tourist guide printouts and no less than seven restaurant recommendations for the remaining two dinners in Madrid!

Before dinner we took the Metro down to Puerta de Atocha (the station from which we travel on Saturday) to collect our tickets. (The first time you use a credit card to book tickets with RENFE over the Internet, you have to collect them in person: Some kind of anti-fraud measure I suspect.) The station is huge and we went to no less than three ticket offices before we found the correct one. The queues were frighteningly long and were all of the ‘take a ticket and wait despairingly for your turn’ variety but it turned out that I was the only one in the queue for collecting Internet Bookings, so in the end it was quite painless.

We ended up having a tapas dinner at one of the restaurants Enrique had recommended and it was very pleasant and very filling. The fine cured ham and chorizo was definitely the highlight. Then we wandered home via the Chueca district (kind of Madrid’s equivalent to London’s Soho) stopping off in a couple of bars along the way but, alas, I am not on holiday yet so we didn’t linger.

Two things struck me about the city tonight. Firstly, because so many locals go on holiday in August, it seems to be the month when all of the road works and municipal renovations go on. Secondly, this is a REALLY beautiful city. It has all of the wide boulevards and grand architecture of Paris, but without the attitude of the Parisians – and some of the government buildings are truly spectacular, with dramatic bronze statuary erupting from the roof of each point of the porticos. I would like to live here a while I think.

Tomorrow (Friday), I hope to only be working in the morning and then escaping for an afternoon in The Prado with Brett before we leave for Sitges on Saturday morning.

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