Not having had the chance to get away for over two years, IB and I were in definite need of a holiday. When we saw that my favourite band, the Rubinoos, were going to be playing in Spain, we decided this was our chance.
Work constraints (I don't get paid holidays, and IB had just started a new job) meant we could only make a long weekend of it, but as we were both tired and stressed even that seemed like a luxury! Our stress levels were compounded by ongoing computer problems, which made researching and booking the trip a hard slog. Luckily my Mum and Dad were wonderful and did a lot of the legwork for us on their computer, so that all I had to do was deploy the credit card and sort out some Euros! My friend Lizzi agreed to housesit and mind the chickens and goose, and as she was bringing her dog with her the cats went on a holiday of their own to Mum and Dad's.
Despite horrendous fog, our flight on Friday afternoon took off in time and we had a smooth journey to Madrid. We negotiated the Madrid Metro system to the stop nearest our hotel, only to find my Dad had done a fantastic job of research. Not only was our hotel right by the Metro station, but it was also just round the corner from the concert venue. Impressive!
Unfortunately, the slightly sore throat I had put down to recirculated air on the plane developed into a full-blown headcold overnight. I awoke Saturday morning feeling dreadful and worrying about how I'd manage the concert that evening. We spent the morning on a gentle wander around the area to get our bearings, and were delighted to find 'Artemisia', an excellent vegetarian restaurant virtually on our doorstep - IB is vegetarian, and we had been a little concerned about how easy it would be to find vegetarian food. Particularly as I wasn't feeling great it was a real boon to find good veggie food so close by!
We spent the afternoon reading and dozing in the hotel as I wanted to save my strength for the evening's entertainment. As I wrote in my blogpost about our San Francisco trip, IB and I had become friends with the bass player of the Rubinoos, Al Chan. When he heard we were coming to Madrid, Al had kindly invited us to come along early to the soundcheck - we felt very privileged! We turned up at the allotted time, only to find the venue in quiet darkness, so we retreated to a nearby bar and sat outside nursing beers and munching tapas while we waited. After a little while we noticed people carrying musical instruments and amplifiers along the street; not long after that we spotted Al and the other members of the band, and followed them inside the club.
Al is a wonderfully wam and friendly person and even though we hadn't seen him since San Francisco, we were soon chatting away with him and lead guitarist Tommy Dunbar. Just then some more British fans turned up - Peter, Matt and Mike who had made the pilgrimage from Stoke-on-Trent - and we moved our little group to a nearby bar so the band could do their soundcheck in peace!
Madrid has a reputation as a party city, and even at what was a relatively early hour for Madrilenos, the bar was packed with an exuberant crowd. We were quickly befriended by a Spanish techo-DJ who spoke almost no English yet was soon declaring his undying friendship and inviting us all to his next gig in Belgium! It turned out the Stoke-on-Trent posse could have taught Keith Moon a thing or two about hedonism, and meanwhile a passionate argument about 'cerveza' between a waiter and one of the patrons was almost coming to blows, beer was being poured in vast quantities, and there was much merriment all round. As a natural introvert this is the kind of environment that would normally leave me feeling out of my comfort zone but the atmosphere was of such good-natured, bubbling, insanity I found myself carried along with it.
After the soundcheck, Al rejoined us and we all went for dinner in the Artemisia vegetarian restaurant, along with another fan, Mercedes. The waiter who had served us at lunchtime was very pleased to see us return with such a large party! By now it had gone 10pm and we returned to the club in time to see the support band, Suzi & los Quattros, who were excellent. By the time the Rubinoos came on, the Madrid audience was a joyous riot, dancing, drinking, singing, applauding, pogo-ing, crowd-surfing and beer spilling. Fuelled myself by the wonder combination of Rioja, paracetamols and adrenaline, I enjoyed every moment, including two encores, yet almost the moment it ended my cold kicked back in with a vengeance. We said our goodbyes to friends old and new and made our way back to the hotel - I was so glad it was just around the corner! We fell into bed at about 2am.
On Sunday morning we slept in late, and poor IB awoke with The Cold. We had planned to spend the day sightseeing, but both felt so wiped out that in the end we spent the morning vegging out in a coffee shop and then going for lunch at - you guessed it - Artemisia. The staff looked a little bemused to see us yet again! We spent the afternoon back at the hotel dozing, and felt too ill to seek out an alternative food source, so rather shamefacedly made our way back to Artemisia, joking that we'd have to wear false beards if we went back again!
On Monday we packed and checked out of our hotel. We had most of the day at leisure and had planned to visit some of the city's amazing art galleries, but once again found ourselves coughing and snuffling, unwilling to stir from the cosy coffee shop we had settled in. We bestirred ourselves enough to seek out another vegetarian venue for lunch (El Estragon), as we were just too embarrassed to go back to Artemisia yet again! From there we wandered down to La Latina Metro stop, where exhaustion overcame us and we admitted defeat and headed back to the airport earlier than necessary.
Flying home I felt guilty that we hadn't really done any sightseeing and had missed out on the opportunity to visit such internationally reknowned art galleries as the Prado, but we were both too ill, too exhausted and too wiped out. I guess we both really did need a break...