It was a holiday. H-O-L-I-D-A-Y. We’ve all been on them. Just because your trip was longer than two weeks and you rode on an elephant doesn’t mean your life has to change.

- ARENA magazine’s 16 things that just aren’t true‘s cynical take on whether
traveling broadens one’s mind

1155hrs, London Gatwick
i woke up on time this morning but was somewhat delayed by e-mails and the morning shower with only 15 minutes to spare before the cab arrived to take me to the station. almost a recipe for disaster. however, due to a problem near beeston, i missed my connection at luton. no harm done, here i am in gatwick – still way ahead of time. typical me, not really a last-minute person when it comes to travelling. with it being a friday in the summer, gatwick is packed with families and noisy / pissed secretary-types donning pink stetsons going away on hen weekends. never liked crowds. i had always travelled at non-peak times. got myself a short history of tractors in ukrainian to help pass the time.

2205hrs, Plaza de Santa Ana, Madrid
hot just doesn’t describe this place. think jalan tuanku abdul rahman at noon – as in waiting for the intrakota in the sun in front of globe silk store. anuar and ninie picked me up from barajas and we took a cab to huertas with no aircon. dang. after a quick cold shower, we nipped around the corner from anuar’s apartment for some tapas. calamares, gambas al ajillo, tortilla española and loads of pepsi con hielo (by the way that was sotong goreng, udang in garlic, telur dadar and pepsi ais). plaza de santa ana is also known as the literature district (barrio de las letras) with its theatres and bustling cervecerias (bars).

day (half of) one of playing tourist is pretty fun. we stopped at kilometre zero (the centre of spain itself) in puerta del sol. for good luck, one should leap on the spot itself (well-demonstrated by our host). this part of madrid is stuffed with people. reminds me of piccadilly circus – with a lot of melayu-looking central and south americans!

it actually rained when we were passing through plaza mayor. typical spanish rain is pretty light and lasts for like 15 minutes. i was only too happy to walk in it! after a short stop for photos at plaze de la villa (a spot where napoleon’s brother chopped a few heads off), we headed to our first cathedral of this trip, catedral de nuestra señora de la almudena. apart from admiring its neoclassical interior, i just needed some shade and a rest on the pew. the choir was rehearsing when we were there. the side of the cathedral facing the plaza de la armeria was pockmarked with plaster which covered the bullet holes from spain’s civil war in the last century.

the sun was setting and we savoured some outdoor orchestral music at the plaza de oriente in front of the palacio real before heading back for huertas. this afternoon was simply non-inspirational, photography-wise. i guess as qisti told me before i left that i shouldn’t be too obsessed with the shots. just enjoy the experience.

now i’m back for the second refreshing shower of the day, ready to go out. again.

trying to be like a madrileño, i guess.