Fireworks, Dancing and Madrid – and it’s only half of November!

Hello again my devoted readers (if you’re out there)! I am sure you must have enjoyed the well earned break from my daily ramblings but I think you’ve had enough peace and here is your next dose of disruption.

The end of October, beginning of November started at a snail’s pace with Mrs FOMOist and I catching our breath after our 10-day tour. Once we were well recovered, it was time for bonfire nights around London. Many of you may or may not know this, but Guy Fawkes Day is fondly celebrated in New Zealand as well. I know! New Zealand of all places! It’s on the other side of the planet! But then again, we get a bank holiday for Queen’s Birthday as well, which England sadly doesn’t.

Sorry for the brief digression. Coming back to the topic at hand, Mrs FOMOist and I were extremely excited about Bonfire night fireworks at our local Southwark Park. It is a free event so we thought we could just walk up and walk in, right? WRONG! Even though it’s free, it is a ticketed event to control the number of people, apparently last year over 20,000 people congregated at Southwark Park to enjoy the fiery skies.

We literally found out that we couldn’t go while we were getting our shoes on. But since our shoes were on, we thought we’ll walk to the park anyways and try our luck, and I am glad that we did. On the way to the park we came across a number of little community based fireworks, where people within a block decided to light up the sky in multi-coloured fountains. Once we made it to Southwark Park, even though we couldn’t get inside the park, the view of the sky bathed in festive lights was mesmerising. I am sure everyone likes fireworks but for me personally, fireworks really make me happy while making me nostalgic about my good ol’ days of Guy Fawkes night fireworks in New Zealand.

Determined to not waste any more time, Gee and I had booked to go watch Billy Elliot the next day. I had been waiting to watch this musical for weeks because everyone who had watched it said that it was the best show they had seen. Since I am a very trusting guy, I tend to hype things up based on other’s recommendations and often end up disappointed when I go watch something for myself. So this time around, even with the great reviews, I made sure to keep my expectations in check. Once we settled into our stall seats with a great up-close view of the stage, the show began.

Billy Elliot LondonOverall the play was good, I would give it 3.5 star out of 5 (I feel so critique right now!). The first half was extremely engaging and entertaining, whereas the second half felt a bit dragged on to make up for the promised 3-hour performance. Rather than talk more about the plot (which I am sure most of us know), I want to talk about the talent on the stage. It was truly captivating to see 4 to 12 year olds that were good at everything imaginable – singing, dancing (ballet and tap dancing) and acting – all while engaging the crowd. I have seen adults fail more than once deliver on such a hard ask, but these kids did it with the flair and serenity of a swan. Needless to say, at some point when you’re watching these kids being the best at everything at such tender age, you do feel the want to reach out for a knife and slit your wrists for your lack of talent (or it could just be me).

Just before I move on to our next adventure, I would like to send a shout out to the lady in the crowds at Billy Elliot. Without knowing who she was, I can only imagine she was middle-aged and had a few too many wines during the first half of the show. During the second half, this lady took it upon herself to provide the much needed support for little Billy to keep on dancing. The screams of support entailing “Dance Billy, dance”, “You can do it”, “Let him go Daddy” could be heard towering over the applause and laughter. Mrs FOMOist and I were definitely getting entertained by the show while spitting out bouts of laughter at this lady’s comments. Thanks for a great night lady, I can only assume that your passion was ignited because you must have not seen the movie.

After a couple of “late school nights”, it was time to unwind with a long brunch with friends over the weekend. The following may lead you to believe one of the following two things:

  1. Our friends and us really know how to brunch
  2. Our friends and us really know how to push the boundaries of brunch

Brunch - Caravan Kings CrossLet me explain the background to the above claims. So we started our Saturday morning at 10.00am, meeting Matt and Dan outside the Borough Station, headed to Caravan King’s Cross for brunch. If you haven’t been to Caravan, I urge you to go. The coffee is decent, the menu is compact yet strong, cocktails are deliciously potent and price is just right! After spending a few hours working our way through the food, dessert and cocktail menu, we decided to head into Covent Garden for half price martinis at Dirty Martini. In hindsight, somebody should have suggested a more tame outdoor excursion, but it gets better! After a couple of £4.50 martinis, a different somebody suggested that we should go out dancing. At that moment, someone should have been the voice of reason and put a stop to it, but with our heads heavy with the comfort of delicious martinis, we all agreed and stayed out dancing till wee hours of the morning. Mrs FOMOist and I stayed at our friends’ place overnight and have since decided that if someone need pointers for an 18-hour brunch, we are the people to contact.

After spending just over a fortnight in Londontown, it was time to pack our bags and head to elegant boulevards and expansive, manicured parks of Spain’s central capital, Madrid.

MadridEven though we’ve been travelling a fair bit around Europe, Madrid is our second city of Spain. I like Spain a lot, the people are really friendly and it helps that I can sort of understand pretend that I do what they’re saying. Our visit to Madrid was everything we had hoped for. The weather was spectacular with sun soaked highs of 19° with plenty of tapas and cervezas to go around. In line with all the other blog posts, I will avoid all the obvious main attractions as much as I can while outlining our favourite spots, activities and food:

  • As you know, we always try and do a Free Walking Tour in every city we visit and Madrid was no exception. New Europe Tours’ Free Walking Tour of Madrid was one of the best ones. It had a good mix of sightseeing and history presenting in a fun and interactive manner. The name of our guide was Edward Morrow (an Irish living in Madrid for 19 years) and he was excellent.
  • One of the things I found very interesting was the origins of the name “tapas”. I am guessing most of you know the concept behind it – to ensure the workers had small portions of food to soak up the alcohol. However the name is derived from the Spanish word “tapar”, which means cover. The name was given ion the 20th century by a bartender who wanted to save Alfonso the 13th drink of wine from the sandstorm by covering it with a piece of chorizo = genius! Disclaimer: I take no responsibility of the accuracy of dates and names, but the story is correct I am sure!
  • Additionally, if you want to stand up on a balcony and wave to the crowd like Royalty on the day of your nuptials, after confessing their eternal love for one another, couple at the Plaza Mayor wedding registry office can come out on the balcony and wave to the small family and friends congregation and hundreds of confused tourist who may take you for a local celebrity. We may or may not have been one of them.

Madrid Skyline

  • You may have heard or noticed that Madrid is known for its terrace bars and restaurants. While most of them are great, if you are really after non-obstructive birds-eye view of this magnificent city’s skyline, then pay to go up the Círculo de Bellas Artes de Madrid. It’s only €4 to get up, but if panoramic views is what you’re after, then there is no better place than this one.
  • Madrid is a very spread-out city and while we would have liked to go and see everything, we couldn’t. Everyone has heard of the infamous markets in Madrid. As touristy as they are, they are still worth the visit. The two we went to are Mercado de San Miguel and The Gourmet Experience on the 9th floor of a mall. The Gourmet Experience also has impressive skyline views of the city and for locally brewed craft beer, try the La Virgin Cerveza Pura.

Madrid by night

  • Keeping on track with the drinks, for the best Sangaria in town, a visit to Las Cuevas de Sesamo should definitely be on the cards for anyone. The little (almost hidden) bar has a very unassuming entrance. Once we walked down a short flight of stairs into this very roomy cave, we were greeted with a very sleepy waiter, who eventually showed us to our table and gave us half a jug of very potent and lacking in fruit (just the way we like it) Sangaria. To add to our already very merry night, there was a very sweet old man busting out hypnotic tunes on the in-house piano.
  • Before I move to food, I would also like to recommend to try the local liquer called Madrono. It is made out of some local very strawberry-esque berry, served in a chocolate lined wafer cone that you can eat after you’re done with your drink. It was delicious so we had two each in quick succession which may not have been such a great idea.

Madrid - Paella

  • For a centrally located authentic meal, we visited Fatigas del Querer. The service was excellent, the food – seafood paella and grilled small squid was delicious and the drinks went down a little too easy. We were sat by a lovely waiter at a very tight table amongst the locals who clearly don’t want to share this secret gem. Ha! We are onto you.
  • Hanging out with the cool hipster kids of Madrid, we also ventured out to La Taperia de la Abuela for melt-in-your-mouth stuffed squid and exquisitely rare thinly sliced steak on a hot plate covered in crispy shards of rock salt – divine.

At the beginning of our Madrid trip, Gee and I were discussing how we would love to go see a Flamenco dance performance. And on the Sunday night, that’s exactly what we did. Before this I had only ever seen bits of Flamenco dancing on TV and didn’t realise how aggressive the dance was. The dancers who had beautiful smile before and after their performances looked like they could cut you into pieces while they were performing. The other surprise was the male Flamenco dancer. I didn’t realise men did it too, but given the aggression, it’s a perfect fit. Finally, if you’re one of those people who can never figure out what to do with your hands while dancing, watch a few Flamenco performances on YouTube for tips.

Before I finish this post, I would like to briefly mention the unfortunate events that took place on Friday the 13th Nov 2015. It is absolutely gut-wrenching even if most of us were unaffected by it. Mrs FOMOist and I are living on the other side of the planet from our family and friends and sometimes find it amusing how worried they get and are always reminding us to stay safe. Me personally, I am a true believe in Life is to live, not to live in fear. If it’s time, the chances of me tripping over my own feet and cutting my head open is a lot higher than what happened on that day.

So my parting words are these –

Some may think FOMO is some kind of disorder, but it should be a way of life. We will all miss out on most things, but at least we should all give our lives a good hard go at everything. If you wish you could be in our shoes (or someone else’s), you definitely can, all you need to do is to get up and do it.

Sorry if it got a bit preachy there. Bye for now!

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