I went to Madrid last month with Milla. I had always imagined when I finished up my cancer treatment, had my last Herceptin injection and was told I was in remission, that I would want to throw a party. Or celebrate with friends over dinner, perhaps even go with the girls to a spa. But when it ended, all I wanted to do was look at art, lots of it and pretty much from every period of art history. El Greco, Rubens, Singer Sargent, Goya…oh GOD yes Goya! But I also wanted to chill, get some sun and peace. One morning in the shower I shouted “MADRID”! à la Archimedes. Although I didn’t run naked through the village.
I live and breathe art, woven into the fabric of Suzie. There’s always a sense of purpose, an arty intention.
Madrid was just the place for arty intention. But while I find travel to be a wonderful thing and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to do so, it can also be quite demanding and problematic at the best of times. Milla and I limited what we did, we both understood my exhaustion threshold and decided to only do what was walking distance of our flat. At times I felt overwhelmed by the noises, smells, people and sensations that a city offers. I had trouble resting in our very noisy flat and the vegan food, while plentiful in Madrid, relies too much on fake meat and dairy while I prefer lots of veggies, pulses and wholegrains. Ordinarily I’d be adaptable and fine but given everything I’ve been through the past year and my compromised health it was perhaps a little too soon and ambitious.
All that having been said, I don’t want to sound like a crybaby and it is a beautiful, laid-back, super friendly city and we had great stay. I did my best to not get cast too adrift by making careful choices with what was available to me, accepting the challenges and going with the flow. Also, thankfully I have a disability card which entitles me to queue jump at the museums. Perhaps in a later post I will explain much more about the art we saw; Madrid being home to the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza. There are countless other galleries, museums and exhibitions.
But for now, these are the pictures I shot on film.
The city’s “lungs” apparently are Parque del Buen Retiro with it’s Palacio de Cristal. Vibrant with blossoms and spring flowers and home to turtles, black swans and sweet green parakeets. I kicked off my shoes, lay down to people watch. My aching feet loving the cool grass and soft daisies, feeling the earth’s energy and listening to the bird chatter over the roar of traffic.
On our last day Milla went to meet her friends who live in Madrid. We split up for a couple of hours and so I went off to explore alone. I suddenly realised it was the first time I’ve been on my own for over a year. And here I was, in a strange city. So I did the very thing I do so well – wandering the side streets and poking in corners, looking up, down, sideways. Tuning in to the rhythm and musicality of Spanish chatter, inhaling the strange smells, stopping to allow my silent thoughts. Bliss. I’d forgotten how much I love it.
I turned a corner in a side street and found myself in a community garden. A couple of women working there told me it was the site of an old factory disused for 30 years. The locals got together to create a place of calm and beauty they can share. Using reclaimed materials, rubble, old plastic and bricks they have created an space full of cacti, veggies, pollinators and herbs. There are tables and chairs, play areas for children, graffitti and funny kinetic sculptures. Everything repurposed, recycled and completely delightful. I happily wandered around in the April sunshine, feeling hope and joy rising again.
You can watch a little film about the garden here
Canon EOS 500 | Fujifilm Superia 200