Arcticterntalk.org

The blog of a travelling psychiatrist and football lover. Who happens to be a halfway decent photographer. Takes a cynical view of the world

Archive for the tag “strawberries”

Reflections on 24 Hours in Madrid


Central Madrid is a fascinating place and full of fascinating people. In some regards it is like Amsterdam in that one can walk to most places with a little bit of planning. Despite daytime temperatures being as high as 16 degrees celsius, many locals dressed in warm coats suggesting that Madrid was a suburb of Antarctica. Smoking was it seems obligatory with no actual need to buy cigarettes as breathing the air in certain places would contain just as much nicotine. I am surprised that there these many cigarettes left in Madrid. Getting from Madrid Barajas Airport is painless taking around 20-25 minutes and costing in March 2016 a fixed fare of €30 and the taxi drivers do not seem to expect a tip.

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Epidemic of smoking in Madrid

The one thing to get used to very quickly is that Spanish locals tend to push and shove more than other Europeans and I doubt a word exists for ” to queue” in the Spanish dictionary. A nice facet was that many locals did not or chose not to speak English, meaning that it was essential to at least try and convey questions in Spanish. I like this. Why should we expect the world to speak our language and make little attempt to speak theirs?

The day seems to start late for most citizens of Madrid and the streets and parks are almost empty at 11 am which makes early visiting a good option. A downside is the plethora of mostly dreadful accordion players and other “musicians” making a fearsome noise totally unwanted, then waving various sized containers in your face for money. I would happily donate to stop them playing but that seems a little mean.

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Parque Del Buen Retiro

Madrid is a busy city and most pavements and walkways even in the parks are crowded and  do not expect the Spanish to be fast walkers. Plenty of cafes and bars, and various eating places. There is another curious Spanish habit, in that they do not like their food hot in temperature. Even when food starts hot it is often served on cold plates, such as my omelette in the hotel this morning.

Madrid does seem to be divided into two very different parts. The city centre shopping area in and around Gran Via is incredibly busy and in fact I can only recall the pavements of Hong Kong being busier and almost impassable at times. Everyone carries it seems a dozen shopping bags and the entrance to Primark looks like a football crowd. In contrast the parks may get busy but are essentially beautiful places to walk and very relaxing. At the end of Gran Via however one reaches Plaza Espana with some interesting monuments and areas of grass to relax on. One statue has to be seen from a couple of directions to avoid giving the wrong impression of what is intended to be conveyed, which is the pouring of water!

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Very easy to get the wrong impression of this statue in Plaza Espana

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Plaza Espana

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The Dark Horses look like Ring Wraiths from Lord of the Rings with reflections

 

There are so many places to visit that a simple article cannot begin to make many recommendations, however I would make two specific ones:

  1. To avoid Gran Via, in the day unless shopping or the need for food outlets like KFC, MacDonalds and Burger King, are on your Madrid agenda, as the place is packed. Nightime it becomes a place where there are lively bars, with many choosing to sit out on the pavements.
  2. Spend a morning walking around Parque Del Buen Retiro on the Eastern side of central Madrid. This is a huge park with many avenues and monuments, and a large lake, making it popular with walkers and runners. The earlier you visit the less crowded it will be, and with a plentiful supply of cafes a few coffees and ice creams may get consumed. It may be a better and cheaper option also for breakfast, as I paid 19 euros for my hotel breakfast ( which was a less than astounding meal option, and in my opinion an extortionate price).
  3. Take a nighttime walk to see some of the many monuments lit up

There are three things that almost automatically appear on the table here in restaurants. An ashtray, orange juice (freshly squeezed) and a bowl of crisps. What appears less often is a waiter to take the order, it is true that a certain degree of Mañana does pervade Spain, and such thing as a ” quick meal” almost certainly also will have no specific word in the Spanish dictionary.

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Essential Spanish Meal Ingredients

Just walking around you will see many curious sights, and the price you pay in cafes is generally mostly determined by the ” people watching” quality of where the cafe is sited. While having lunch today a young well dressed male, maybe 18 years, stopped at one of the lunch tables and tore out the middle pages of the drinks menu. It occupied me for 10 minutes trying to fathom what his purpose was, and in fact I will never know as he scurried off in a furtive manner clutching his piece of paper. Small kiosks exist to sell drinks and sweets generically all over Spain, but here in Madrid there are also specific kiosks to sell cigarettes. An older woman was inside and when a customer came up she opened a small window to conduct her business, the window was maybe the size of a cat flap. Curious behaviour.

The general feeling of Madrid though is of a happy and relaxed place with no immediate visual sign of any work actually going on. Are there things I do not like about Madrid? The plethora of the fast food restaurants in nice areas is a little irritating.

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KFC along Gran Via. Not the pavement cafe of choice for everyone

On the other hand prices are mostly very low by UK standards, for example this beer at a pavement cafe in a street just off Gran Via cost    €1.65

IMG_2387Two favourite places emerged to visit when I return to Madrid. Parque Del Buen Retiro is an essential walk and stop for coffee, and Plaza Espana at the end of the day when the sub starts to set to see the monuments and the water grace the views. The reflections are simply astonishing.

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One of the many walks in Parque Del Buen Retiro

Night time is when Madrid really seems to come to life with numerous bars and restaurants and a good time to take a walk to see some of the sights by night when they convey totally different impressions.

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Plaza de la Independencia at night

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Plaza de la Independencia

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Plaza de la Independencia in daytime

At the entrance to Parque Del Buen Retiro is Plaza de la Independencia, as seen above in the day and by night. For Spain it is surprisingly easy to cross these huge wide roads around the Plaza without too much fear of death.The Plaza de la Independencia is a central square in the Spanish capital, Madrid. It sits at the intersection of Calle de Alcalá, Calle de Alfonso XII, Calle de Serrano, Calle de Salustiano Olozaga, and the Paseo de Mexico, making it the single biggest area for busy traffic that I came across. One word of warning is that the restaurants around the Plaza seem enticing but are highly priced in comparison with those even 50-100 yards away, and of course in Madrid as in most of Spain, the price you pay relates mostly to the views and people watching and has little correlation with the food quality or service. To pay  €17.50 for an average hamburger is excessive. As this was one of my favourite areas adorning the entrance to Parque Del Buen Retiro , a little history seems reasonable. The square was opened in 1778 during the reign of King Carlos III and has survived rather well in the interim.

Eating fruit in Spain is always a good option and the small shops that sell frozen yoghurt with toppings always have a good selection of kiwi, strawberries, pineapple and mango.

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Fresh Strawberries in Spain

 

Strawberries, Ducks and Opium. What next?


With a little bit of sun gardens are coming to life. Some plants are already dieing off, Poppies and Chives for example. Strawberries however are making a grand appearance but a badly behaved duck is inclined to spoil the party!

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The Farmer provides local homegrown produce


It is all rather silly really but we do try and grow a few things in the garden and are spectacularly pleased when this proves successful. We have a Strawberry plant which gives fruit each year and we do battle with the squirrels to get the fruit before they do, a Redcurrant tree/bush which for some bizarre reason has provided one string of reducrrants this year and some potato sacks. Today we picked our potatoes and there was a nice crop. Furthermore they tasted delicious. So although there is no chance of us going into competition with Tesco, it is a little bit of fun and we can eat the rewards! The real problem we have comes from the squirrels but also I suspect the urban foxes of which we have many culprits.

Potato Crop 2012

50% of the potato and farming fraternity

 

Cake and other Food things


One good thing about having an 11 year old is that they constantly surprise you. For example I would never have surmised that baking would become an integral hobby for her and certainly not so young. Monday night we were treated to cheese and onion pasties of a decent standard and yesterday a large Caramel Cake was born. It is now half eaten and delicious. Another strange happening is that our strawberry plant , about 3 years old, and producing fruit until nov 25th , is still growing leaves. This is despite frost and cold temperatures. Curious. I dont know much about these plants but growth in December and January must be a little unusual.

A tasty Caramel Cake

Oldham 0 Brentford 2


An interesting week but one sadly that ended with me getting up at 4 am to travel to Heathrow and head for Dublin for a day of work. Why saturday? good question but the Irish often hold meetings then and I agreed to give a lecture on ADHD. Actually it all went well over there, nice audience and nice people. but to be waiting for a taxi booked for 5 am when it did not turn up was not idyllic. the guy rang me and said where was I, to which i replied outside my house. He was somewhere else, anyway then he arrives and the next piece of joy when he tells me in a very foreign language that this is his second day in the job and he has no idea how to get to Heathrow! now at 5 am i am cutting it quite fine timewise, thinking who else would be on the road. Well it all worked out. security at Terminal 1 did their best too to make me late. They stopped a sikh guy as he had what looked like a keyring and instead of just pulling him to one side and getting on with it, they stopped the whole security queue from moving. Anyway got picked up in a nice Mercedes limo and whisked off. Central dublin was so empty.

Return flight  in the middle of the afternoon meant no football for me today and that is painful, so no photos to upload. The tannoy announcer at Heathrow made me laugh as he sounded just like the ” compare the meerkat, compare the market” voice. Flights both ways on BMI who have that look of an airline in freefall. The staff are all generally morose and they seem to stop flying to where I want to go (Glasgow, Leeds, Durham Teeside) and initiate flights to where no-one in their right minds would want to go, places with Kazakstan, BAKU and tripoli, all come to mind. flight was maybe 60% full at best.

Brentford seemed to have played well at Oldham. They were 1-0 up and Llera got sent off for two yellow cards, but then Weston got a second. Season is looking good. If we can win a few home games then things could be interesting.

Kim may have reached Honduras by now. she had a wretched flight series with a 8 hour stop over at Newark, amounting to overnight and then a 2 hour delay on the final flight out of Houston but still seems happy on her blog.  www.seniorbushe.wordpress.com. We will see her in about a month when she has qualified as a trained Scuba instructor.

The last produce from the garden was eaten tonight, before you get excited, they were 5 small strawberries from the eternal strawberry plant. We leave it out each winter where it gets rained on and snowed on and frosted, yet comes back stronger the following year. Our potatoes also seem to be growing somewhat, so homegrown charlotte potatoes for xmas are planned.

During the week had a few nice meals out. Red Peppers in Esher is worth a mention and Reds in Wimbledon and using my lovely Taste card getting 50% the food bill, it is quite cheap to eat out except when wife decides to have copious quantities of vanilla vodka………….

Finally work has been busy this week. I took part in a debate over ADHD at the UKAAN meeting at a venue that was next to the Savoy hotel, called IET Savoy Place. Great venue. Old fashioned lecture theatre with modern frills. Loved it. Am becoming increasingly fascinated with ADHD and things will be interesting next year when more adults start getting diagnosed with ADHD.

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