So now that I was in Spain what did I get up to? In a word, or rather two words, not much. I went shopping. Shopping for the kind of nice European food that is extremely hard to find on this impoverished island, so now we have all sorts of goodies available for the festive season - if they last that long.....
Spanish supermarkets are wonderful. I am kicking myself that I did not take any photos of the fish counter, the incredible range of fruit and veg, or the special jamon section. Suffice it to say that every time I go to Europe I realise how impoverished we are here, and how much delicious food we miss out on with our narrow view of what constitutes nourishment. Not in this house, that is all I can say, and certainly not for a while after my little raid on Carrefour in Hortaleza.
I think it is the seafood, so easily obtainable there, so hard and expensive here. Unfortunately I couldn't bring much of that back, but my next trip to Europe is in the car and I hope to do a somewhat better job. I've studied all the new regulations post Brexit regarding what you can and can't bring back, and actually there are almost no restrictions provided that it is all for personal use. What is restricted is wine, which is a huge shame, but I hope that I can use my 24 bottle allowance wisely. Anyway, back to Madrid.
I filled a large rucksack with goodness, and then headed to my nearby hotel. I hadn't landed until 7pm, so the plan on paper had been to quickly buzz round the shops before they closed and then head into the centre of Madrid for some tapas etc. Unfortunately I think I am still recovering from the virus, so what actually happened is that I had a shower and then fell asleep. By the time I woke up it was too late to bother heading in, so I just had a bite to eat locally and went to bed again. Rock and roll.
The next morning, refreshed, I was up before dawn. I was going birding! I had identified a number of large local parks that were between where I was staying and the airport, researched their potential on eBird, and worked out my route. What I hadn't really taken into consideration was that I would be carrying a large rucksack of food - it was exhausting - ie exactly how I remember most of my holidays being. I cracked on.
I spent most of my time in the Parque Juan Carlos I in the north east of the city. It was fantastic - loads of Iberian Green Woodpeckers, flocks of Monk Parakeet feeding on the ground in the olive groves, and Tree Sparrows everywhere. A pair of Egyptian Geese were a Spanish tick, as were the numerous Siskins. Black Redstarts and migrant Song Thrushes flitted about, and generally everything was extremely pleasant other than the massive weight on my back. There is not much to say really, I just went birding and I really enjoyed myself. Nothing spectacular, no huge rarities, just run of the mill birding with no great expectations in a place unfamiliar to me and therefore fun. This is the kind of thing I used to do pre-pandemic, and have not done for months and months. I have missed it more than I knew, and to be able to get back to it no matter how briefly just felt really good. Furthermore I have proved to myself that travel is possible, painful but possible, and that moping at home need not be the default. I can't sit in Wanstead forever. I suppose that for much of 2020 and 2021 there was a lot less certainty and planning trips was far more fraught, and that along with being unvaccinated is why I didn't even attempt to travel for nearly a year and a half. But things are a bit easier now, I've had both jabs, I've sensibly topped them up recently with the real thing, and a booster is now on the horizon too. This is not over, not by a long shot, but I can see some light.