Life is feeling a little chaotic at the moment. Our house is half-packed and we are surrounded by towers of boxes and piles of stuff waiting to be packed. I'm looking forward to the end of the current limbo-state! I did however manage to fit in a little trip to Madrid last weekend with my wonderful university girlfriends. Safe to say we had a hilarious/chaotic/exhausting/

food and alcohol –filled/ very loud and altogether wonderful time. We all have such busy and diverse lives and so many commitments and demands on our time these days that it felt very special to have more than a few hours to spend together. We basically chatted non-stop for about 48 hours. With a few brief breaks for food (a lot of this) and sleep (not enough of this). Oh and we saw some of Madrid. Perhaps we should have seen more, but I feel like we soaked it up in any case.

After a horrendously early morning start and a plane journey during which everyone except me slept (guess who ended up next to the stag party?) we arrived in a slightly rainy but glorious Madrid. The smell of cigarette smoke hit us, taxi drivers shouted, and we felt the warm embrace of continental Europe. It was lovely to be abroad again. Truth be told, it felt a little indulgent to be on holiday for the second time in 4 weeks but I got over it.

We stayed in an apartment right in the centre, in the same block as our friend’s sister who is teaching English there and was our tour guide for the weekend. After dumping our stuff we wandered out for some Mexican food for lunch (3 courses for €12 – a-mazing), and then after a little siesta we headed to the Reina Sofia to see the Guernica. The art galleries stay open until 9pm, such a good idea. I wish they would do that in London.  

I'd wanted to see Guernica for so long, but I really wasn’t sure what it would be like to see it in the flesh. I was worried that the hype would overtake the real thing, and I would be a little disappointed. But honestly I could have stood in front of that picture for the whole day. We used to have a print of it in my parents’ house when we were growing up, and I remember being mesmerised by it then. But to be in front of it in its full sized wonder was breathtaking. Sadly photos weren't allowed!

Afterwards we mooched around the Dalis and some Miros which were also rather wonderful. There was far too much to do the gallery justice, and I’m already planning a return trip. We also got lost a few times as it is organised by theme rather than artist or period – a challenge that was somewhat beyond us in our sleep-deprived state!

I loved this beautiful face -

Gypsy Woman's Head

by Isidre Nonell

This one had me seriously perplexed -

The Enigma of Hitler

by Salvador Dali

Madrid looked like one pretty lady at night. 

I don't know what this group of chefs was up to, but they found me taking pictures of them very amusing!

All the art inevitably made us very hungry so off we headed to Santa Ana for some dinner and happened upon an incredibly buzzy and friendly tapas place with a manic open kitchen churning out all manner of delights. We started with some beers and olives, then moved on to the most delicious Sangria and tapas. We had: abondigas, tortilla, gambas pil pil, croquettes, patatas bravas, calamari, pimientos de padron, and lots of other things. We planned to move to a few other tapas places afterwards but we realised that we had eaten so much (and it had got so late) that we didn’t really need to! 

After dinner we headed to a couple more bars and then ended the night in a slightly strange bar with a sand floor, a bit like a giant sandpit. There we enjoyed several mojitos and (shamefully) one or two tequila shots until we decided we’d better call it a night.

The next day, with rather sore heads (oh dear), we headed to El Rastro for a spot of bargain hunting. Needless to say, this made me very happy. 

El Rastro is clearly the place to be on a Sunday morning in Madrid. It was so busy! But there were lots of pretty things to look at, and uber stylish Madrileños, and smells of churros and empanadas and sounds of violin players and excited dogs. 

Among the usual market stalls there were a few interesting bric-a-brac shops and stalls that I enjoyed a lazy wander around. I was tempted by a couple of things, but the prices were a little steep (and I was thinking of how proud R would be of me if I resisted!) My friends were also keeping a watchful eye on me – my love of junk is (of course) a running joke. 

But I couldn’t resist buying a few beautiful little hand painted bowls for olives or trinkets for my sisters and a tiny weeny pressie for R.

We had a leisurely lunch nearby. We were amazed by how cheap eating out was. I had a little starter of paella, followed by a plate of very tasty lamb chops and then pannacotta, all for €15. Mmm mmm!

Very full (again), we then made our way at a very gentle pace (and stopping to do a bit more shopping along the way), to the Plaza Mayor. It was so beautiful and had such a strange and almost magical feel to it that we all had a little moment (I suppose that could have been the red wine at lunch). 

The sun came out and it really did feel rather wonderful. We did a circuit and then enjoyed a some people-watching and coffee/beer/more wine, breathing sighs of pleasure to feel the warmth on our sun-starved skin. We stayed until it got chilly. 

After that, the plan had been to go home for a siesta (I was a BIG fan of that plan), but somehow, through a strange coming together of events, that didn't quite happen..... 

Instead, we ended up in a nearby shisha bar where we stayed, puffing on shisha, sipping (far too many) caipirinhas, reminiscing, over-sharing and getting increasingly emotional until the early hours. 

When we eventually emerged, blinking in the street light, Madrid was weirdly quiet (I suppose it was a Sunday night). We went in search of some much-needed food (please don’t ask me where) and ended up doing ill-advised karaoke in a rather seedy bar near Plaza del Sol. Finally we stumbled into a taxi and headed home. Except we didn’t. We ended up on the wrong side of Madrid with a taxi driver with a broken sat nav. All because I’d pronounced the name of our street completely wrong. Uh oh. After much confusion, some terrible Spanglish and a lot of gesturing we finally got there. We proceeded to drink a cup of tea and collapse into bed, feeling old and happy and very proud of ourselves.

Monday was a complete write off. Getting up late, feeling terrible, laughing about the night before, making fun of each other. After a rush to get the bus to the airport (of course), the girls waved me off (I had to come home a day earlier than them) and I headed home, smiling, feeling lucky, munching on my empanada-picnic. When I got back R took one look at my sleepy head, raised his eyebrows, gave me a cuddle, ran me a bath, fed me my dinner and sent me straight to bed. All in all a brilliant weekend! X