Cooling down

Dog in the fountain

We’ve had a cracking few days weather-wise this week in London. It’s been hot hot hot. I would’ve preferred to be sitting on the beach in Brighton than sitting in the office in London, but there you go. The heat made me think of a picture I took in Madrid last month when a walker let her dog paddle through a fountain to cool off. It must’ve felt heavenly.

~ Spotted Cow


Having a drink outside

My balcony in Madrid had a view onto the outdoor tables of a bar. I loved looking out onto the street, watching the comings and goings, and spying on the people who sat down to have a drink. Looking back, I now wish that I had made a project of it as I am somewhat frustrated with the short series of unsatisfactory pictures I took. Hmph. It will have to keep for next time … and I’ll have to make sure that I have a balcony that is as advantageously situated.

~ Spotted Cow

Weekly Photo Challenge: Rare

Palacio de Cristal

Palacio de Cristal, Parque Retiro, Madrid

The Crystal Palace edifice isn’t rare like a diamond, but there are not so many of them around. Certainly, I’ve only ever seen pictures of the London Crystal Palace which was destroyed by fire, and upon which the Madrid one is modelled. It was originally built as a greenhouse – and it reminds me of the Kew Garden greenhouses – but these days it is used for art exhibitions.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but it was very hot inside when I went to have a look at what seemed a disparate set of exhibits, including a swinging pendulum that looked like an upside-down Empire State Building, a model ship hoisted at an angle and various retro electronics. The greenhouse wasn’t much respite from the heat outside, but it was a beautiful building to admire. I lingered to take some photographs indoors and had to be patient for what I thought was the right grouping and movement of people, with the right space between them. Such is the character of street photography that you can’t direct people around as you would like !

Weekly Photo Challenge: Rare

~ Spotted Cow

Detail on the Crystal Palace

Model boat exhibit

Pendulum exhibit

Weekly Photo Challenge: Morning

Cycling in the park

I’m back from Madrid and there’s just time for a quickie weekly entry. Madrid in August is a scorcher. The evening I landed, it was 34°C (or about 93°F) at midnight when I got into the hotel. Thank goodness for air-conditioning. It made sense to spend my first morning acclimatising at the Parque Retiro – Madrid’s second largest park – where there was lots of greenery and shade, while I did some people-watching … and snapping.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Morning

~ Spotted Cow

Fried pigs ears

Fried pigs ears

These aren’t fried pigs ears. Or at least I don’t think they are.

The picture was taken in the Mercado de San Miguel food hall in Madrid. I was hurrying along to catch up with The Lovely J, and took a quick snap of these snacks. I meant to ask what they were, but forgot. I think they look like baby or midget pig ears deep fried in batter, and that’s how they’ll remain etched in my memory unless someone tells me otherwise.

~ Spotted Cow

Madrid. Stinkingly hot


It was stinkingly hot when The Lovely J and I were in Madrid in early June. When you live in England, 33°C or 90°F at 10 o’clock in the morning classifies as stinkingly hot, although of course, we embraced the heat under the cover of umbrellas, hats and sunscreen.

Anyway, the point is that other than the 3 hours in the dance studio, most of the rest of the time was spent eating, drinking and gossiping in the bars. It pays to be sociable with the bartenders. You get to have interesting conversations and they may bring you specials or drinks or off-menu tapas.

One of the tapas places we liked was sitting at the bar at El Bocaito. They do wonderful padron peppers. The bartender persuaded us to try the Luisito tapa, which he described as a bit of prawn and squid with their house mayo and chilli paste, served on a bit of toast. “It’s a bit spicy”, he said as he sliced the portion. The Spaniards aren’t known for spicy food. As it turned out, the chilli paste was intense. It caught us by surprise, and it was hot enough to bring me to the verge of tears. Every time I took another bite, the heat accumulated in my mouth, building up an unholy fire. Meanwhile, the bartender thought our reactions quite hilarious, and eventually brought us some tortilla to mitigate the heat. I did like the lovely tingly feeling around my mouth. But it was stinkingly hot !

Bocaito, Calle de la Libertad, 6, 28004 Madrid

~ Spotted Cow

padron peppers

pimientos del padron

El Bocaito

Spring break. Planning trips

Guide books

March weather is unpredictable. One day it’s mild and sunny, and I’ve tossed aside the hot water bottle. The next day it’s cold and wet, and I’m wrapped up again in the duvet coat. However, there is no doubt that spring is near and I am ready to come out of hibernation.

I pulled out the diary and flicked off the dust. The following dates have been penned in:

  • Several weekends taking in the sea air in Brighton;
  • A day out at Bletchley Park to see the code-breaking Enigma machines;
  • Bank holiday city break in Stockholm;
  • And, a week visiting a friend on sabbatical in Madrid.

I’ve been couch-surfing and for recommendations. Jauntful is a crowd-sourcing site where people have compiled their travel lists with handy printable itineraries and maps. CNtraveller is the Conde Nast Traveller site that has luscious photography and helpful lists. I love the food and restaurant lists. On both sites, you type in your destination and away you go. Oh, and of course I have to get my Everyman map guide.

And not to forget my lovely friends at the Slow Pace, who will definitely get a look-in because they know Madrid well and they’ve just been to Stockholm. How handy is that! I’ve already written down their recommendation for the best meatballs in Stockholm.

~ Spotted Cow