Monthly Musings (December 2019)

Greetings from Madrid! It’s December, the Christmas holidays are within sight and it’s very, very cold.

So for the last time this year, join me for a quick recap of what I’ve been up to in Madrid (and beyond) over the previous month.

Where I’ve Been

As I published the last update, I was about halfway to Zaragoza where Sarah and I would spend the 1st November puente weekend. Despite some occasionally unpleasant weather, we did have a nice time exploring a new to us city.

My highlights were definitely seeing the view of the city from the tower of the Basilica del Pilar and paying a quick visit to La Romareda. As I explained last month, the La Liga kick off time lottery failed me, meaning Real Zaragoza’s game kicked off well after our bus back to Madrid had departed, but it was nice to see the area around the ground, take a (very brief) look inside and of course, buy another scarf for the collection.

After that trip, the rest of the month was spent in the Madrid area, with trips further north (Alcobendas) and south (Leganés) for football. The day I went to Leganés v Barcelona was also the day where I managed to get free tickets for the Davis Cup semi final between Great Britain and Spain at the Caja Magica. Despite Andy Murray being unavailable through injury, Britain put up a great fight against the hosts and overwhelming favourites, only losing the deciding doubles match in two tie-breaks.

The new Davis Cup format (partly masterminded by Gerard Pique of all people wasn’t without its hitches, daytime sessions for group stage matches were poorly attended and there were scheduling issues – one group match finished at close to 4am – but it was a promising first edition and I’ll hopefully get to go back when it returns to Madrid next November.

Game of the Month

For most people, getting to see Messi and Barcelona would be the undoubted game of the month and yes, Leganés v Barça was good but I kinda expected more than the visitors winning through a header from a free kick and a scrappy goal from a corner that only stood because of a massive deflection playing Arturo Vidal onside. That game did witness probably the goal of the month though, Youssef En-Nesyri’s curling opener for Lega, which ultimately counted for nothing.

Lega celebrate En-Nesyri’s stunner against Barça

But for the real game of the month we have to head back a week earlier to Villaverde’s fantastic comeback from 2-0 down to grab a draw against Flat Earth.

Part of Día del Fútbol Modesto (more on that later) it was a cold, wet evening at Castroserna, but the football did its best to distract everyone present from that fact.

Bottu are struggling at the foot of the Tercera this season but there’s no way they should have gone in 2-0 down at the break. Both Flat Earth’s goals came against the run of play while their goalkeeper made a couple of outstanding saves to keep them in front.

The second half was a different story though, Botti made the break through early on and piled on the pressure until they got a richly-deserved late equaliser. In fact, had the game lasted any longer, there’s no doubt in my mind that they would have won it.

Most Popular Post

Who’d have thought it? My post looking at the Madrid Tercera’s controversial conspiracy theory peddlers Flat Earth FC was the most-read post on the blog last month. It has gone on to become one of the biggest posts of the year so far, amassing more views than anything I wrote about the Champions League Final.

I will be doing a countdown of the year’s most popular posts before the month is out, I wonder if Flat Earth can break into the top ten? Or maybe something published this month will…

Kit of the Month

I may have said it when it was released during the summer, but the Barcelona away kit is a thing of beauty. Inspired by their away kit from the 1970’s, the yellow with blaugrana sash design is an absolute classic – who doesn’t love a sash on a football shirt?

Away from matches I’ve actually been at…

One game I could have gone to was Real Sociedad’s trip to the Bernabéu to face Real Madrid. This was one of two matches where they wore a special edition kit to celebrate the renovation of their Anoeta Stadium.

Not only does the kit look stunning, the new stadium is a vast improvement on the ground I visited back in 2015. However, the shirt designers have definitely underplayed the distance between the city centre and the stadium. I speak from experience, having walked there and back!

November is a pretty busy month kit-wise as a lot of international teams use their final fixtures of the year to premiere the new kit which they will be wearing in the forthcoming tournament – assuming they qualify of course!

Northern Ireland’s new kit in action against the Netherlands

Northern Ireland aren’t quite at Euro 2020 yet (thanks to the small inconvenience of being drawn in a qualifying group with the Netherlands and Germany) but assuming they overcome Bosnia and then either Slovakia or the Republic of Ireland in March’s play-offs, then Michael O’Neill’s men (assuming Stoke City haven’t forced him to give up the gig by then) will be taking on Europe in a pretty classy outfit.

I really like the darker green colour and the abstract pattern on the body of the shirt, which classic kit launch waffle says is inspired by the shadow pattern on NI’s Mexico 86 kits. I don’t see it personally, but I’m just glad there isn’t a repeat of 2015’s Blue Stripe-gate scandal which split the nation in the build-up to Euro 2016.

We got lucky as Adidas have dropped the ball on some of their other kits. Spain’s new shirt looks like it was based on an old duvet cover I had when I was at university and Germany’s shirt, usually a bastion of simplicity and tradition, is unnecessarily busy with the pinstripes and sleeve trim. Still, at least the players didn’t refuse to wear it like Russia’s did

Día Del Fútbol Modesto 3

The Fondo Guiri out in force at Adarve v Trival Valderas

The third monthly meet-up of Madrid-based football enthusiasts was possibly the best one yet!

Despite the cold and the threat of rain, a total of over 20 people turned up to watch one or both of the games on the menu.

Both matches were excellent too (you can read a bit more about them here) with plenty of drama to keep everyone entertained. But the social aspect of these days is the true selling point, I’ve met some great people through the English-speaking football community in the city and DDFM has brought a lot of us together in one place. A lot of credit must go to Lester Drake for the idea and organising everything.

Roll on the next one!

Food, Glorious Food!

One advantage of moving to a new part of the city is getting to explore areas that you previously would never have visited and trying some of the restaurants there.

That’s how we found Trattoria La Forchetta, located on Calle Bravo Murillo near Plaza de Castilla. Having walked past it numerous times, Sarah and I went on 4th November to celebrate a year since we got engaged and had a great meal – good quality pasta at an affordable price and a nice chocolate cake for dessert.

And then towards the end of the month we treated ourselves to several days of cinnamon and raisin bagels from Bruja’s Bakery for breakfast. A pretty good way to start the day and from this month, they will have a shop on Calle Alonso Cano in addition to the online ordering. It’s definitely somewhere I’ll be looking to try before I head back to NI.

And further on the food theme…

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving spread. Apologies for the yellow walls.

One of the things about marrying an American is that Thanksgiving is now a permanent fixture of my life. This was my third year celebrating it, but it was a special one as Sarah and I hosted together for the first time in our new flat.

This year the preparations were made much easier by doing a little bit of forward planning. We were able to purchase things such as gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce back at home in September to avoid having to visit the Taste of America store here and pay way over the odds for them.

Along with the Turkey, Sarah prepared some traditional American dishes, a green bean casserole and a sweet potato casserole. I still remember my first experience of the latter, and being immensely confused as to why it was topped off with marshmallows. However, it is a combination that actually works surprisingly well.

The meal was finished off with homemade brownies and cream served with a mug of warm, homemade (but totally non-alcoholic) apple cider. The preparations may have been slightly stressful, but the result was all worth it!

A Christmas Market

Once Thanksgiving is out of the way, it becomes more acceptable to get into the Christmas spirit and there’s nothing quite like a Christmas Market to get you in the mood.

Unfortunately, as I alluded to in a recent post the Christmas Markets which can be found in the centre of Madrid pale in comparison to the ones I was used to back home.

Thank goodness then for the Adventsbasar hosted by a German-speaking church on Paseo de la Castellana, just up from Colón Metro station.

We went on Friday evening and although it was a bit overcrowded compared to the Saturday afternoon we went last year, it proved the perfect start to the festive season, with some mulled wine, bratwurst and apple pancakes going down a treat. The only disappointment was that they ran out of waffles and pretzels while we were queuing.

Sarah has recently written a full post on the Adventsbasar with lots more information, so if you’re reading this on 1st December and you’re interested in checking it out, be quick as it’s only open for a few hours on Sunday afternoon.

What’s Up Next?

Holidays, holidays, holidays!

The centre of Madrid is ready for Christmas

Next weekend is a long weekend in Spain with the Día de Constitución and Inmaculada Concepción combining to give some of us a four-day weekend. Which is nice. Still not sure how I’m going to spend it, but a big trip away is unlikely as money is a bit tight at the end of the year.

Then there’ll be a final flourish at work, including the dreaded end of term reports before I head back to Northern Ireland for the Christmas holidays on 22nd December. It’ll be a special holiday not only as it’s the first Christmas since our wedding but also the first time we’ve been able to spend the whole break together.

While at home I’m looking forward to catching up with lots of people and (obviously) seeing lots of football. I’m also planning a good few end of year/start of the new one posts so be sure to keep an eye out for those!

And finally, although it may seem very early to say this on 1st December, I’d like to wish all readers of this blog a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and thank you all for joining me on Mis Viajes in 2019.

May 2020 bring plenty more!

All the best,

Andrew