Hello and welcome to November’s Monthly Musings.
October has felt like quite a long month. I suppose that’s to be expected as Summer gradually gave way to Autumn and then suddenly last weekend gave way to Winter, or what feels like it anyway. It seems crazy that in my first match of the month, at Leganés on the 6th, I was still able to wear shorts and a t-shirt, but by last weekend, I was fully wrapped up in my coat and big scarf.
This month I managed to complete the set of Madrid grounds in the top two leagues by ticking off Leganés and Getafe. Both were extremely enjoyable experiences, I’ve already written about Leganés (more on that later) and something about Getafe will likely appear in the coming weeks.
I’m not sure if anything that happens this season will match the thrill of getting a photo with the Cucumber Knight himself, the legendary Super Pepino!
Game of the Month
Of the five games I went to this month, nothing can top the opening 20 minutes of Real Madrid v Levante for sheer bonkers brilliance. Those 20 minutes saw the away side take the lead, then extend it after a free kick was upgraded to a penalty by VAR, then be saved by VAR which chalked off a Real Madrid goal while their players were celebrating and running back to the centre circle to restart the game.
The rest of the game couldn’t quite live up to those ridiculous standards, but I thoroughly enjoyed the Madridistas’ misfortune as they tried and failed to overturn that deficit, while watching Julen Lopetegui doing his best impression of a man who doesn’t know he’s getting sacked very soon on the sidelines. In the end, he lasted two more games, eventually getting axed after a 5-1 Clasico embarrassment at the hands of Barcelona, but it’s hard to imagine the President’s mind wasn’t already made up after watching this.
Back in the summer, I actually predicted a poor start for Madrid and an early departure for Lopetegui although slightly conservatively,I thought he might last until the end of the ida- the first half of the season – before Perez swung the axe.
Given how no one really wanted the job in the summer and Lopetegui’s struggles, it looks like Zidane got out at the right time. By winning a third consecutive Champions League, it looks like he had wrung all he could out of the squad. A lot of their key players are the wrong side of 30, many are coming into the season after a draining World Cup and some, like Sergio Ramos, are just in appalling form. Then there’s the Cristiano Ronaldo-shaped elephant in the room and the fact that in the summer where they let the man who averages 50 goals a season go, they only signed a couple of back-up players and a goalkeeper who Lopetegui didn’t want.
Whoever takes on the job has quite a bit of work to do…
Back to the game in question, Levante thoroughly deserved their win – I must admit to having a bit of a soft spot for them these days, having been at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium on the night they won promotion back to La Liga two years ago – and it’s good to see them continuing to defy the odds. Lovely kit too.
On that note…
Kit of the Month
I’m a huge fan of this Rayo Vallecano away kit, which I saw them wearing away to Leganés. Sorely tempted to make a purchase next time I’m in Vallecas.
Honourable mentions for Levante and the blue and white duo of Leganés and Real Sociedad.
Most Popular Post
It was a really good month for views on the blog (my third highest since I started in fact) but nothing could compete with the allure of Super Pepino and lomo sandwiches! My post about visiting Butarque – In Leganés Dreams Come True – proved the most popular. Thanks to everyone who has read and shared it! That night was one of my most enjoyable matchday experiences at a ground in Spain and I hope I’ve managed to convince a few people to add it to their list of grounds to visit!
Non-Football Highlight of the Month
October 12 is a national holiday in Spain and to avoid the crowds gathering to watch the massive military parade through the city centre, I hopped on a train to San Lorenzo de El Escorial, one of Spain’s most important historical sites and one which happened to be free for the day.
Unfortunately photography is prohibited inside most of the rooms, so I can’t really show you the beauty of the decoration, particularly the Library, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Or go and visit it yourself. The journey is only about an hour from central Madrid via Cercanias and then the monastery is about a 20-25 minute walk from the station.
Food, Glorious Food!
One of the best things about living in Madrid is the diversity of the food available. That’s not to say I don’t miss dining out in Huelva, with its cheap tapas aplenty, but the choice available in Madrid is simply in another league, even if you usually do have to pay a bit more.
That’s not to say everything in Madrid will break your budget. One of my favourite places for a reasonably cheap meal out is Takos Al Pastor, situated between Gran Via and Calle del Carmen in the city centre.
The plate pictured above, plus two quesadillas and drinks came to something like €18 between two people, which along with how good the tacos are, definitely makes it worth waiting in the long queue which inevitably develops outside.
October was also Tapapiés month, where the vibrant, multicultural neighbourhood of Lavapiés hosts a tapas festival. Lots of the bars and restaurants in the area participate and offer a special tapa for €1,50 (€2,50 with a drink, although this only applies to bottles of Estrella Damm) so it’s very easy to spend an evening wandering around, going from bar to bar and filling up on various little bits and pieces. I visited twice, both on Friday nights after finishing work and despite the rain and in some cases, the crowds of people, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Particular tapas highlights were the Jamaican Jerk Chicken drumstick from One Love (properly spicy), the Lasagne croquetas from La Coqreta de Lavapiés (despite the waiting time in a very cramped bar) and the Argentine Empanadas from La Funda-Mental. Sadly the festival is over for the year, but it has introduced me to a number of new places which I’ll be sure to visit again, especially since Lavapiés is a short walk from my own neighbourhood.
And one more thing… After hearing a few recommendations for it, I decided to check out Hot Now, a pizza restaurant in the Chueca neighbourhood. It definitely lived up to the hype! I have a certain fondness for any restaurant where you can see the pizzas being baked in the oven as you wait and with a nice ambiance and cool box seats where you can store your coats, it’s definitely somewhere I’ll be visiting again.
What’s Up Next?
As I post this, the long weekend for the Día de todos los santos puente is well underway. With a couple of days off, I’m taking full advantage by heading away for my first trip to Salamanca this weekend. No football though, it’s purely a cultural and sightseeing visit, maybe some football next time.
In terms of football, I am looking at going to a few more obscure grounds around Madrid before Christmas. Where? You’ll just have to continue following the ongoing adventure that is 2018/19 in Pictures to find out.
I am also planning on going back to Vallecas on 11th November for the game with Villarreal, a fixture I actually saw back in February 2015. On that occasion Rayo won 2-0, a repeat result would be greatly welcomed this time, although Villarreal are in need of points themselves.
Until next time,
All the best,