Usually the topic of talk of life and change has its own special space, mainly in tattoos and in personal statements to get into university. But the concept came to mind because of my return to Granada, where I lived for a year as an Erasmus student back in 2011-12 (and you can read about it here if you want to). Madrid to Granada, or viceversa, is a bus journey I have made many a time, and the best part is the half-hour service station stop so that everybody can smoke.
I arrived into Granada bus station (where I have spent a stupid amount of time over the course) and jumped on a bus into town, managing to negociate my way to where I used to live. I have absolutely no sense of direction and so used GPS, which was a big change as when I lived there I didn’t even have a smartphone and so got around with a paper map, like Frances Drake.
Another change was the fact that they have finished building the metro! I mean, it hasn’t started running yet, but the stations are in place. A bit like TramGate in Edinburgh, there was absolutely no need to have torn up the city to put in unnecessary additional public transport, but there must have been some kind of Simpsons Monorail-esque board meeting to make it so.
Aside from that, everything else was much as I had left it: nearly all the same bars, same shops, same accent. It was very strange coming back after having been living in Madrid though, which felt like a world away. Most places still don’t even have card machines, let alone contactless payment, and you can forget about taking free wifi for granted. The pace of life is a lot slower, which I knew, but it was very much more apparent now coming from life in a huge capital city with a hundred gagillion people in it.
I met Ruairidh, Murray and Sean, who had spent the last few days scootering and skiing, and we went out of an evening bevving and eating tapas (which of course in Granada are free!).
The next morning I took myself off for an explore in the sunshine. Needless to say, everything was shut (because it was a national holiday, because it was early in the morning, because it was Thursday… take your pick). I went to see the view of the Alhambra from the bottom of Albaicín, the main streets by the Cathedral, and took a walk along the river with the snow-covered Sierra Nevada mountains in the background. It was very peaceful, unlike any element of walking around the middle of the city in Madrid. And last but not least, when I went to see the outside of my old flat I thought that the street looked kind of different. It turns out that they’ve knocked down the entire neighbouring apartment block.
We started the long drive back to Madrid, which is basically a straight road. Halfway through we started flagging, and decided to stop for a coffee in a village called Santa Cruz de Mudela. The only open place we could see was a one-horse bar, the kind of place where they all stop and look at you when you come in. Once given our coffees, we got speaking to the man working there, who proudly told us that this place was a casino and it is owned and maintained by the community. We received a tour, no less, of this bizarre bingo hall type thing, and a ballroom, and the “smokers’ room” (yes, that is illegal), and a room which had chicken feathers all over the floor. The dude affirmed proudly that this town sure is on the map: Franco got married nearby (a lie) and Jimmy Hendrix visited once (probably also a lie).
Last night a dude called Josh Quigley stayed with us. Josh – The Tartan Explorer – arrived in Madrid as the last stop in his 7,000 mile bike ride around the world, which has lasted for seven months and seen him go down the length of Britain, into France, through Belgium, the Netherlands, and northern Germany, up into Denmark and Sweden, and then up the entire coast of Norway (to the very top ,where I’m pretty sure they have trolls and black magic and stuff), then down into Finland, where he flew to Paris and finished up by cycling to Madrid.
I made us a mahoosive spaghetti and afterwards we went out to have a bunch of drinks; Josh is a super inspirational guy and we had top chat about politics, history, life in Scotland, the power of the mind, and Netflix series. You can read his story here, which I recommend you do (and if you skim-read my description of all the countries he has been to because it was unclear and rambling, then he has a handy map on his site).
Aside from all that, the main upcoming excitements are that Christmas is just around the proverbial corner, and I fly home next week. Next Wednesday the vending machines in the kitchen at work are giving out free biscuits along with your already-free hot beverages, and it would not be unfair to say that I am breathlessly counting down the days. And next Thursday it’s the office’s cóctel de Navidad, which really translates to ‘Christmas drinks party’ but I prefer translating it to ‘Christmas cocktail party’ because it lets me imagine that everybody will be in flapper dresses and smoking cigarettes from long holders and that there’ll be a swing band and El Gran Gatsby and everything. One can only dream.