My terrace view

Scared like a baby to go home, this is the first time I’ve felt estranged from Europe and especially the uk. This trip has been such a forceful experience that it’s immersed me and controlled the here and now. I’ve had to think on my feet and watch my back. Now I’m back just spitting distance from home I feel truly fearful. Or reintroduced to Europe after three months of the Americas.

TopTip: Always prepare yourself for the journey home. If you’ve been away for months it can be very emotional returning to old stomping grounds. The reason I stopped in Spain was to smooth my return to Europe and finally the U.K. however I hadn’t counted on injury and huge fatigue to add to the mix. I felt very odd and out of place and think I should have expected that they were not supposed to welcome me with a fanfare and fiesta. It was a jolt to be back with such a whimper and not the bang I expected. Calm down. Lower your expectations, and if you feel a little weepy it’s normal. Stress is a killer, have a good cry then go out after a kip and take baby steps at the last section of your adventure. xxx

Sofia Museums drenched courtyard

A cold shock and speaking Castilian Spanish again. A new type of Spaniard from the Catalans that I’m used to. Fabulous art and museums. Tapas bars ambiente. Strangely hostile hotel staff (has my Spanish become too Mexican?) And rain. Lots of it.

Beautiful galleries at Sofia

I arrived here after a gruelling journey from Mexico via Bogotá and although slept fitfully on the long haul felt weak, and well, strange. I met a lovely lady who was doing the same weird combo and was sat next to me so when our flight was late arriving in Bogotá, ran round the airport with me worried about making our connection, it was deja vu for me but she was super worried. We called to each other “it’s over there” and “bloody hell why don’t they help….” dropping things and waiting for each other at each new left or right decision with panicked faces. My foot by then was agony, when at the gate we found the flight was delayed anyway so, At the gate a last, I bought a freshly made sandwich and two miniatures of vodka. Cramming food down and battling for the charging stations before the ten hour flight I felt my old vigour come back for a last surge before exhaustion set in on arriving at my seat.

My favourite baby

When all you’re doing is trying to protect your things, buy food (the absolute dog food served on previous one made me determined to get some kind of nourishment from my last stop in beloved Colombia) get a drink and charge your crap all with just one shoe on, then you know solo travelling at its most hardcore

Princess Sofia have a fine modern art section

Anyhow, when I arrived in Madrid got my cab to the hotel, I literally lay down on those pristine sheets with my clothes on and slept for four hours. I dragged myself up at around 8 and went down to the restaurant ate and went back up finally disrobed and slept through til the next day.

Madrid is a funny old bird, half loving and exuberant and half aloof and snooty. The hotel I stayed at was just snooty. I love some proper elegance not this sort of weird nouveau riche arrogance that they must feel makes the hotel better. They were arseholes at the reception and I was in no mood for it, reacclimatising as I was to my first bite of Europe for over three months. So I got my best haughty eccentric game on and out snooted them. It of course worked, they were no longer sure if they should be hostile to this woman who arrived as dishevelled as a tramp and with a limp like she had just been on the bad side of a bar brawl. Was she maybe an undercover heiress? They behaved then for the few days I stayed unsure now of this strange creature that spoke Spanish but with some strange South American lisp and a smattering of slang thrown into the mix.

After the storm a positively apocalyptic sky

Princess Sofia Art, and Anthropology Museums

It was bloody cold and the first day rained heavily. I was grumpy and only a small amount placated by the Princess Sofia Art Gallery which I luckily lived round the corner from so got there for early doors. Lucky indeed as it filled up rapidly and I was relieved as I limped around on what later I discovered was indeed a broken foot. The art was sublime so I persevered onto the Anthropology Museum After I found a tapas bar opposite the Central station and had a very fine slab of tortilla and crusty bread washed down with a frosty glass of Estrella. Again to that bed of crisp white sheets for a siesta and calm.

The place I enjoyed best though to re enter Europe was a Spanish ham bar a couple of doors down. The atmosphere was joyous and smelling sweetly of the succulent Iberico hams hanging above the bar. The array of Spanish cheeses and tap beer along with the huge collection of wine was very impressive as was the cheery crowd and bustling staff. This was more the Spain I remembered and loved and it was to be the place I went for food and solace chatting with people at the bar and eating tasty bits from their fine charcuterie.

The Sofia is massive and it was wonderful but it was exhausting after only arriving the previous day. I limped on bravely but to be honest I was glad when I got to the Anthropological as it was smaller and everything in bite sized pieces that didn’t overwhelm. It had skeletons of giant and malformed men and outfits of indigenous tribes and a whole section on India and the places I had been to. I loved it, it sort of validated me in this new cold city.

Archaeological Museum, and Decorative Arts and Prado.

The next day the sun shone and all was well with the world. I had had a good dinner the previous night and slept superbly so was not so much of a moaning Minnie. I had laid on the bed the previous night and planned today’s outing. I had organised myself and that is always preferable to lurching around, as I had the previous day, muttering about the driving rain (freezing cold) and the Madrid peoples attitude (fucking rude). I, of course, warmed to it all but you have to remember I had always spent my time in Barcelona with the Catalans, so was a little alarmed by the very different people here. I would find out, when I stayed overnight in the little town by the airport, how warm and lovely they could be.

Canopic jar

My start on that bright and beautiful morning was to cab it up to the Archaeological Museum and then walk on to decorative arts. Going up in this direction on the Paseo Del Prado was a much prettier part of town and the spiteful, fretting baby of the previous day, became the cooing happy child, all memories of a bad day gone. I was a little early, so soaked up that winter sun and was quietly happy sitting at a small cafe, having a cortado before starting my lovely day.

Cool dude of ancient times

When I got in it was magnificent, and I was in my archaeological element. I would go through methodically in this wonderful space and enjoy it properly. If you go to Madrid I would say this is one of the highlights as is the Decorative Arts. As I was there at the end of November it was quiet and you could wallow in the history and absorb the sacred atmosphere.

The Lady of Elche

Revered Women of Iberian History, Funerary Statues.

The Lady of Elche

The Lady of Elche is an icon of Iberian Archaeology. They believe this unknown aristocratic woman who was deified after death by her descendents. She is absolutely beautiful and not to be missed….. but still an enigma! Continuing in that theme we have more funerary art with another high status woman, also unknown but her grave intact showing an array of weapons, pots and jewellery alongside her cremated bones. Iberian women enjoyed their matriarchal status where they were almost worshipped. Us old birds could do with a bit of that blimey!

Anyone who knows me will understand my delight at having a large collection of funerary sculpture and grave goods not just from the mainland but from the Balearics. My dad used to own a primitive house in the Old Town of Ibiza which he bought in the sixties. It was cut into the rock and had two windowless caves and a well at the back. It was a very spooky place. What I remember very vividly was often going to the small necropolis near the back gate and ‘doing’ archaeology. We would climb down holes and peer around hoping to find some marvel but of course these tombs had been long since plundered. I think this is the reason I’m so in love with it to this day. Anyway here, there was a display from a very impressive Ibizenco burial so someone got lucky and did find some wonderful things.

Lady of Ibiza
Bulls from Costitx

Having seen how much I’ve blathered on here I will save the next two places for a seperate post tomorrow. There will be a walk in the park as well so join me on the epic next section of my Madrid experience.