Charlotte Jee

Charlotte is a journalist specialising in politics and technology.

She is editor of Techworld, a website that covers startups, developers, security and everything new in the world of tech.

Charlotte has been interviewed for BBC Radio Four, the Spectator podcast and has written blog posts and features for the New Statesman.

She has experience organising, hosting and moderating events, in particular ‘the techies’ awards.

Charlotte Jee

Previous speaking engagements include Web Summit, techUK, GeekGirl Meetup and the Institute for Government.

Web Summit

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the techies 2017

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GeekGirl meetup

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Charlotte was previously senior reporter covering government, politics and the public sector for tech magazine ComputerworldUK.

Before that she was reporter then assistant editor for Government Computing, a magazine about IT, digital, data and technology in the public sector.

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We all need to talk more about mental health

Hello. I’m Charlotte. I’m 27 and I edit an online technology magazine. I apparently have ‘adult ADHD’. This isn’t the only thing I have been diagnosed with (see below if you’re interested).

At least, that’s what I was told by a top psychiatrist when I was 18. I have never spoken about mental health issues openly, but I’ve got a few friends going through their own crises and it has inspired me to be more open. I never bothered to get the ADHD diagnosis made official, because someone would inevitably have tried to persuade me to take medication. Having taken medication for insomnia, anxiety, disordered thoughts etc for nine months, and gained a load of weight, I didn’t much fancy that.

So here I am now, coincidentally awake on my sofa because I can’t sleep, even though it’s 5.45am. (PS: for anyone asking after, I did manage to get back to sleep, until 8am)

I’ve realised in the last few days and weeks, thanks to a lot of research and a bit of thinking, that ADHD has in fact been the bane of my life, in some ways. I will list them. If any of this confuses you, please Google the symptoms associated with ADHD and it may make more sense.

– People often cannot follow my thought patterns, so they sometimes assume I am crazy, manipulative or stupid, or some combination of the above. They can find me quite threatening. This means when people don’t like me (often because they don’t understand me), they despise me. One particular manager I used to have springs to mind. I really like her. She absolutely hates me. This feeling, of being constantly misunderstood, can be the most isolating thing in the world. This is why I value having time to myself so highly.

– It regularly means you have difficulty sleeping and/or you’re physically restless, because you are too excited or anxious, or both. This makes you feel worse, and it really affects your health. Sleep is my number one health priority in life, plus exercise, specifically running and stretching type stuff like yoga or pilates. They both help. A LOT. So much so that I stupidly trained for and ran a marathon last year. Lol. At least I raised money for Mind and for Refuge I suppose.

– If you’re an adult and never had an official diagnosis, you have the capacity to self medicate to the nth degree. This can be food, smoking, alcohol, coffee, pharmaceutical drugs, sleep, shopping, spa days, baths, seeing friends, sewing, exercise, literally whatever makes you feel better. Because honestly, managing ADHD symptoms can really leave you feeling down. Thankfully these days it tends to mainly be the last seven 😂 (and food to be fair, I will never not be greedy).

– It can be bloody awful for people around you. I can often behave like a teenager. I am forgetful, impatient, disorganised, easily distracted and I have a really short temper. I have the capacity to feel sadness or rage uncontrollably. I don’t even have time to go into everything my husband has put up with. He is a saint. And that is before I even bring up my family, you’ve dealt with it all with kindness and sympathy for AGES.

However. There is also a plus side, and that is basically everything I have ever learned from adapting to cope with my symptoms. Which is, even if I say so myself, a lot of stuff, both personal and transferable.

– I am now REALLY organised. Because I have to be. Otherwise I’d go mad, along with everyone I know and love

-Superfocus. It’s like a magic power. Read more here.

– I am confident but I have a lot of empathy for others. I know what it feels like to be underestimated, patronised and overlooked, because quite frankly, I have let that be the case for too much of my life so far. I also relate to weight issues, mental health problems and people who experience systemic discrimination. People are often really resistant to the idea they could learn from me, probably because of my age and gender. I really try not to let that bother me these days. But it’s a tad ignorant on their part.

– I am emotional, but I am logical. My brain is basically a computer. It has to be gradually woken up and shut down. It must not be left on for too long. It will overheat. But on the plus side it can compute lots of information fairly quickly.

– I think that’s it so far. I’ll add more to this as and when I have more to say.

Thanks so much for reading, and please, share any thoughts or questions at all. I am very happy to answer anything.

Further reading here, specifically ADHD plus PTSD and women and ADHD (please feel free to message me so I can add to this).

Diagnoses I have been given, largely all at different points in my life: anxiety, depression, acute psychosis, insomnia, ADHD

Medications I have been prescribed: 

  • Zopiclone, for about a month or two, and then as required. Hate it.
  • Aripiprazole, for at least six months. Risperidal for about three months. They were okay, Aripiprazole was the ‘lesser evil’. It made me feel stupid and fat though. Basically just appeared stoned most of the time to others.
  • Diazepam and antihistamines, to help me get to sleep. Took this for a few months. It did the job. Makes you feel really drowsy the next day though. I can only describe this as a medication hangover.

Medications I prefer, in descending order:

  • SLEEP
  • Time with my other half
  • Writing
  • Exercise, specifically running
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Seeing friends and family
  • Being pampered (getting my nails done, a spa day, a bath, etc)

I have to shout out to my wonderful friend Elizabeth Woodward (she’s just finished a PhD in sleep and PTSD at Oxford and had her first paper published). She witnessed me basically experiencing a mental breakdown at university, and knew something was wrong where no one else did ❤ Here we are in 2011…

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Update: the response to this post has blown me away. 1000 page views and 800 reactions on Twitter. I’ve also had, at a rough guess, at least 50 people contact me directly. Which is lovely. It also confirms my suspicions re mental health.

Goodbye Croatia, hello Prague

I haven’t posted in a while. Partly because I’ve been busy, but also because my husband has very gently reminded me I am actually on my honeymoon 😂 got to relax and enjoy it!

Croatia was utterly fascinating. I won’t go into all of the details here, that’s for a longer post for another time, but I loved it. I now have a tan and a lot more jewellery than when I arrived. I bought this t-shirt before we left, it’s a joke about the local dish cevapi (which is delicious by the way).

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Turns out wearing it through the airport was an (accidentally)  inspired idea. The Croatians all found it so funny. We got great seats on the plane, we were let off being three kilos over and even the passport officials smiled.

We landed in Prague in the afternoon and headed straight to our hotel.

Prague is a stunningly beautiful city. It is bang in the centre of Europe, so it’s a bustling mix of people going to and from everywhere. But it’s worth stopping here for a while in its own right

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It is lovely to be in a comfortable environment with no need to worry about cleaning (or anything, for that matter).

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It is called Motel One and it’s part of a chain. I stayed in another of their hotels in Vienna and it was absolutely wonderful so I booked it again here. Highly recommend them.

We settled in, freshened up a bit then went to U Zlateno Tygra, a really atmospheric pub here. It’s where the president Vaclav Havel brought Bill Clinton for a pint in 1994. Pic is blurry but you get the idea.

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They have great beer mats, I obviously had to nick one.

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We passed the famous mechanical clock and watched it do its thing.

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You pick up on references to the communist past here immediately, in the buildings, trams, and sometimes more explicitly…

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This is a good example of communist architecture. It is the Czech People’s Bank.

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We went for dinner at Cafe Imperial.

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It is a great example of the ‘grand cafes’ you find in this part of the world, with wonderful service and delicious food.

We started with a glass of the local bubbly, called Chateau Radyne. As good as any champagne I’d say. Dan got this spectacular photo of me drinking my glass. I wasn’t pissed. I promise 😂

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To eat, we had soup (onion for Dan, chicken in broth for me). Then cucumber salad, schnitzel and a delicious prawn and avocado tian. We shared some strudel after. It was all absolutely fantastic and we’re already planning to go back before we leave.

To finish, let me tell you: Czechs love beer. It’s one of the biggest beer drinking nations in the world. They have a beer spa here. I don’t think the woman is included.

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If you need any more evidence just see below. They literally put beer on a pedestal.

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Breo with a view

I got up early and headed into town to get coffee and have a little explore. It’s a great time of day to sit and people watch as traders set up their stalls and elderly locals trade gossip. Also the shops open but are dead, so it’s a good time to check those out too.

I found an AMAZING place called Little House art atelier.

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I bought some gifts, it’s going to be hard not to go back and get myself something. Everything​ is handmade by local artists, it’s all slightly offbeat but beautiful to look at.

While we’re on the topic of artists, I also passed this tribute to a famous local artist called Ivo Grbic, who is celebrating his 85th birthday.

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He looks like he’d be a fun guy to hang out with, here he is in front of his house which is apparently on FIRE during the siege of Dubrovnik in 1991 (which I’m planning to learn a lot more about, though I know I’ll get a very one sided story from most Croatians).

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Also I love this motto, which is inscribed on Lovrijenac fort, dubbed ‘Dubrovnik’s Gibraltar’.

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The jewellery shops here are incredible. I went into this one and immediately had to leave before I made any foolish decisions.

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I headed back to the flat to meet our friend Breogan, who had just flown in from London.

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We went for a coffee in the town overlooking Onofrio’s fountain, which is amazing. It was built in 1438 as part of a water-supply system to bring water from a well 12km away, and still works today.

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I got my gel nails fixed (one had chipped, you can take the girl out of Essex etc 💅). Then we went to get the cable car. I can see why the taxi driver recommended it, it’s an absolute must see and just 130 kuna each (£15). Here is the view from the top.

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We got a late lunch up there at the highly rated (and expensive) Panorama Restaurant.

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Totally worth it. I had beef tagliatelle and Greek salad. Didn’t need another meal for the whole day!

We also tried some local wine that the waiter had recommended. It was lovely.

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The waiter also told us about the local winds: Jugo and Bura. A bit like le mistral in the south of France. Jugo is warmer and comes from the sea, bringing storms and humitidy, while Bura comes from the north and is cool and dry. The good one, basically.

I found this tribute to Robert Ivušić at the top. A bit of googling tells me he was a Croatian army hero who died after stepping on a landmine in 1992.

We walked back down the hill. Got quite a lot of exercise going up and down steps yesterday!

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By then it was nearly 5pm, so we went to the square to do a bit of drinking and people watching. It was great fun. Then we went back to our flat to prepare to go out for the evening. In the end we ended up hanging out with our new American next door neighbours, who are from Chicago, plus our Northern Irish and Canadian friends. The Americans are absolutely fab: Craig and Sue, in their late forties. Craig works in UX, though he used to a be a pot washer in a restaurant. He has a great taste in punk music and enjoys grappa. Sue works for the local educational authority. She is very interesting, outspoken but thoughtful, and well travelled. So we didn’t go into town until 10.30pm! It was hilarious. We did a lot of dancing, the Canadian guy (who is married) tried to be Breogan’s ‘wing man’. He got some American girls to come and chat to Breogan but he was pretty unbothered about them and essentially just carried on what I can only describe as twerking in a corner. We then nearly went clubbing with some Irish gay guys but then all had to admit we were​ too knackered like a bunch of old gits. Apart from the Canadian who took his pint with him and kept trying to get in the sea. And also kept offering to carry people into the sea (he’s an officer in the army so super fit). It was all utterly ridiculous. Great fun though. I stuck to the local 2% lemon beer so I’m fine today. I haven’t spoken to any of the others yet 😂

Islands and saints

We were up early yesterday…relatively speaking. We had to get down to the harbour for 9.40am to get a boat for a trip we had booked to three of the Elafiti islands, an archipelago northwest of Dubrovnik. The boat was called Kufinova.

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There are 13 in total but we just went to Šipan, Lopud and Koločep which are the biggest. They’re about 17km from Dubrovnik by sea.

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Once we’d boarded the ship, which the Croatian sailor was VERY proud of (it’s new and much better than the last one apparently), we set sail. Well, set sail with an engine but let’s not be pedantic. We got some amazing views of the city on the way out.

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There was a really cute older Irish couple on board who kept cuddling, look 🤗😍 They wore comfy shoes and got well stuck into the booze 😂

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There was also a calm and quiet Finnish family, a few Brits and some French people who spent a lot of the time complaining about the fact people were speaking to them in English, amongst other things. Oh, and some Australians with a toddler who both looked and behaved like Dan did when he was little (from all accounts). A cheeky monkey, basically. Dan is still like that today.

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Our first step was Koločep, a small fishing community. There were lots of nets hanging out to dry and in piles.

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We went off the beaten track a bit and found a gorgeous little 11th century chapel dedicated to St Anthony of Padua. The church bell is from 1586 and they have mass here several times a year. There were churches on all the islands but this was the most interesting in my view.

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They also have a big feast on 15th June for St Anthony. It is a public holiday. He is the patron saint of fishermen, and Lisbon too, you may recall. Also pregnant women, the poor and the oppressed. We aren’t religious but lit a candle for good luck anyway. Why not.

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So St Anthony seems a top bloke basically, if you go in for that sort of thing, which they clearly do here in a big way. This was taken in Dubrovnik in the evening…

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There were lovely flowers all over the three islands.

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The houses were wonderful too. Slightly delapidated but more charming for it.

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It was very remote and rural. There was a man chopping some food in his little brick and wood house. He had tomatoes growing in the garden. There were also some ants eating a dead mouse nearby but you know, that’s nature.

After looking round Koločep, we went back to the boat, first passing a few fishermen on their day off, who initially looked suspicious but were more smiley when I tried saying hello in Croatian.

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Once back on the boat we had a picnic of pickled cabbage and barbequed whole fish. It was delicious. Once everyone was finished we threw the leftovers to the seagulls who went mad for it.

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The next island, Šipan, was equally beautiful but perhaps a little more developed. Still pretty remote mind you…

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There were petals and baubles scattered around for St Anthony’s day.

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The final island, Likud, was the most developed and largest, and where we had the longest to explore (two hours). We found a park called Dordic Mayeri which had been built for a local noble family in the second half of the 19th century.

DSC_0756.JPGIt had clearly seen better days; the sign at the front explicitly said it needs major investment. It did look like a paid gardener wouldn’t go amiss. That said, it had a lot of charm and character regardless.

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We found another little church called the chapel of St Gerome.

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We also walked past the grand hotel, which has the dubious honour of being the first concrete hotel on the island, built in 1927.

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Then we stopped off in a cafe by the sea. The inside was cute with lots of pretty ornaments, a piano, trinkets and family photos.  We met a man from Ilford who was travelling alone and had some beer and tea with him. He works for a courier company and was interesting to chat to, not least as he’d had a total saga on his way here and lost his passport in Germany (!) Poor bloke.

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We set sail back for Dubrovnik.

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We passed a few local boys on the way in a boat, who had just caught a huge fish and were proudly displaying it for everyone to see.

In the evening in Dubrovnik there was a procession for St Anthony. There’s a snap included earlier but here is another anyway.

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We went to a restaurant called Azur for dinner. I had Thai prawns and white wine, it was really good. Dan had curried meatballs in broth.

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Dubrovnik at night is utterly beautiful. It’s like a whole new city from the day time.

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We saw this sign, clearly some locals sick of tourists disrespecting their homes.

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We got an early night as our friend Breogan is joining us from the UK tomorrow, but not before I did a bit of sewing and fixed my swimsuit strap which I am totally smug about. I was going to buy a new one, but it seems silly to waste the money when I’ve got one I like already. I think this means I am becoming an old git. That and the shoe recommendation I asked for off a 70 year old on the boat 😂

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I feel a bit bad having such a wonderful holiday when there is so much awful news back home: first the attack then the Grenfell fire. I donated a bit of money to the dispossessed fund for the families, and would urge everyone who can afford to donate to do so. They have just had their lives devastated and I’m willing to bet most of them can’t afford insurance. Please help if you can.

https://campaign.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/londoncommunity/grenfell

Omg Croatia 😍

Up at 4am to fly to Croatia on Tuesday 😰

This meant we got treated to the sight of some very pissed people staggering about near our hotel 🙈 We got a good look at the Puerta de Alcala on our way to the airport in Madrid. It is the oldest triumphal arch in Europe, even older than the Arc de Triomphe in Paris or the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

I got a bit bored on the flight. I realised my iPad has a bit of my Dad’s classical music collection loaded onto it so I listened to some of that, between bits of Joy Division. I actually quite enjoyed the Wagner, some of it me feel weepy (certain types of music and films have this effect on me, more than sad real life situations in some ways). Sort of worried this means I must have some subconscious fascist tendencies 😰😳

Well anyway, we got a glimpse of the islands near Dubrovnik from the plane as we descended. Exciting!

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Given my fondness for languages, I been trying to learn a few Croatian phrases. Some of them aren’t too hard to get my head around as they are close to Russian – most obviously the word ‘da’ for yes, ‘ne’ for no being somewhat similar to ‘niet’.

Some are random, like ‘dobar dan’ for hello, ‘hvala’ for thank you and ‘zovem se’ for my name is. And others seem to make Dan laugh.

He keeps referring to the Croatian currency as ‘kuna Matata’. He finds the word ‘bok’ (hello) very amusing and has been singing ‘bee ba ba bada BOK’ to the tune of Scatman. And he enjoyed the word ‘oprostite’, meaning excuse me, pronouncing it as ‘oh prostitute’. What else 🙄

We landed at 10am on Tuesday and got a taxi to our Airbnb flat, can’t have been more than 30 minutes in all. The driver was really friendly, waxing lyrical about the local food and sights the whole way. He recommended visiting his village and some islands by boat. Thanks are quite a few to choose from: over 1,000 in total off the coast of Croatia. The closest to us is called Lokrum. It is ‘very beautiful for relax your head’ as the driver endearingly put it. It’s an (admittedly not easy) swim away or short boat ride. There is a rudey nudey beach there apparently 😏 😂  The driver recommended an island called Korčula which the Croats say is where Marco Polo was born. This pisses the Italians off a lot because they say it was Venice (this is what most scholars think too to be fair). He also had a lot of good things to say about a local dish of lamb and potatoes called Peka, which is cooked under a dome.

Lovely guy. He even understood my attempts to speak Croatian. I think.

We were greeted at our apartment by Mrs Dangradovic, a friendly elderly lady (everyone here seems to be friendly, you will see) who do the cleaning and hosting. Her husband does the gardening and repairs. I suppose Theresa May would call this boy jobs and girl jobs 😷. The Dangradovices are very sweet. They don’t speak much English but we can figure each other out okay.

We got into our new home, did a ton of clothes washing and unpacking then set off to explore round the city. The flat is just a bedroom and bathroom really, but it has a little kitchen section plus dining areas inside and outside.

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There’s also air conditioning and a TV you can watch from bed. Now I’m describing it, it’s better than a fancy hotel.

First impression is just: wow. It’s utterly utterly beautiful here. Such a gorgeous medieval city.

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The best part, besides the buildings and weather, is being close to the sea at all times.

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We got lunch at Konoba Lanterna (konoba means taverna – local restaurant, basically). Had a Greek style salad with a nice cold beer.

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Then we had some Croatian coffee, which they call ‘cooked coffee’. It’s similar to Turkish coffee but a tiny bit sweeter. Then I tried a little ‘tulumba’. It’s something between churros and baklava. Very sweet but tasty!

We got the bill (‘račun molim’). Cue trying to figure out the local currency, kuna, which makes you feel like you’re spending tons of money (£1 gets you 8.35 kuna).

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In the afternoon we discovered our new neighbours, a very friendly middle aged couple from rural Northern Ireland. Cue lots of jokes about politics. They find it amusing that the DUP can extract lots of demands from May now. They are very generous too, offering us drinks and a ‘slice’ as they call bread and jam. Our neighbours on the other side are Canadians, both engineers in the army based in Kansas. They seem nice too, though very jet lagged unsurprisingly, so less keen to socialise.

In the evening we got a quick bite to eat – pasta with seafood for me which is very popular here. It makes sense given Italy is so close.

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Then we went to check out some of the local nightlife. We ended up in a bar which seemed to have some sort of David Bowie theme. The music was great: Madness, Rolling Stones, Blondie, the Clash, the Ramones, Boney M (and some Bowie, of course). We spoke to some British people who were travelling and also a pair of Indian couples, one of whom is a lawyer who went to UCL (exactly what Gandhi did, funnily enough). Dan got a white russian. Channelling the Dude in The Big Lebowski perhaps. It was yummy.

Turns out it looks as amazing here at night time.

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Today we had a lie in, then I went off to explore the city. There was an open air market where I bought cherries, and I also got myself a light, long Indian top for the beach.

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I went to the tourist office and got lots of leaflets. They listed out all the famous people who have filmed here. This one caught my eye(!)

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I went to a bakery to get some bread for lunch but managed to get tempted by a local thing, I’m yet to learn the name but it is like borek: very thin filo pastry with cheese and spinach. Utterly delicious.

I then noticed there is a fancy beach club (think ‘luxury Essex, the closest of you will know what I mean’), so went down to see how pricey it would be to rent a sun lounger. They also have beds and VIP tents, somewhat ridiculously. Looks tempting though doesn’t it.

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A lounger didn’t cost much at all, so I abandoned homeward plans, set up my lounger and relaxed there for a few hours. Dan came and joined me and got himself a lovely lunch at the club.

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Once we’d had our fill of relaxing, reading and swimming we went home, at about 6pm that evening. We went to a restaurant called Taj Mahal (not Indian but Bosnian) and shared some meat and veg. Incredible. The food here is lovely, it’s a mix of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern to my mind.

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We ambled home after, past that gorgeous beach again.

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Getting an early night as we are up tomorrow for an all day boat trip. Can’t wait.

Goodbye Madrid, we love ya

It’s our last full day in Madrid today 😭So sad to leave, we have absolutely loved it here. Dan has been googling flat prices which tells you all you need to know.

We started our day with a walk around Principe Rio, near the royal palace. We passed Puerta de San Vincente, an arch on a roundabout built between 1770 and 1775.

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Then we walked down through a royal park called Campo del Moro.

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I assume the name is a reference to the Moors. There are indications of the Moors’ influence all over this part of Europe, unsurprisingly given they occupied vast swathes of it for centuries. We also walked past the Virgen del Puerto Hermitage.

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Given it is our final day here we thought we’d treat ourselves to a proper slap-up lunch in a restaurant we’ve had recommend to us by several friends: Casa Lucio.

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As you enter you notice smartly dressed waiters dashing around everywhere. It seems in Madrid you know you’re in good hands when you see middle aged men in white coats 😂

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We had gazpacho, padron peppers and garlic chicken. Delicious.

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We somehow managed to save a little bit of space for our last indulgence here: churros and chocolate in San Ginés.

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It’s a legendary cafe here, serving sweet treats 24 hours a day. We are still full and may never need to eat again. We went for another walk, this time to see some historical artefacts from Spain’s more recent past, again thanks to a tip off from Angela (who has been wonderfully helpful and given us a ton of advice for our trip❤️). I felt a better understanding of Spain’s history after exploring these.

The first monument is in an area named Lavapies. It is called Fuente de Cabestreros (unsure of the meaning) and is the only monument in Madrid to the second Spanish republic from 1931 to 1939 that was not removed by Franco.

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The second monument is now a library called Escuelas Pias, however it used to be a church.

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I will quote Angela here as she can explain better, with a little editing on my part:

“You will never find this in a tourist guide. When the second Spanish republic was proclaimed, many churches were burnt as response to years of abuse and lies to the general public and the first one to be set on fire in the country was here. The day the republic was proclaimed fascists locked themselves into the church armed with guns. People set the church on fire to get them out. This became a trend along the country and is now used by the fascists as an excuse for their awful actions after the war. Now it is reconverted into a beautiful library and is called Escuelas Pias.”

After looking around these monuments we had a general trek around the Lavapies barrio. We came across a poster for the March we witnessed in Saturday, which appears from my basic Spanish to have been a demonstration against government privatisation.

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We found a co-working space called utopic_US and stopped there for an air conditioning/water break (it’s 45 degrees here in the sun today apparently).

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We also saw this bit of graffiti, although we have no idea what it means. Answers on a postcard please.

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Then we made our way back to our hotel, stopping off on the way to have a quick tinto de verano in a rooftop bar at the top of El Corte Ingles. I am in LOVE with this drink: red wine, diet lemonade, perhaps a dash of rum, over ice and a slice of lemon.

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It is perfect for Madrid as it is refreshing and not outrageously boozy. I am going to be taking the idea back with me to make in London.

We are back at our hotel now and preparing for an early night. We have to be up at 4am to fly to Dubrovnik. Expect absolutely zero sympathy from anyone though!

One final thought on Madrid, and I’d like help on this: there is often a separate member of staff in cafes and restaurants dedicated solely to handling money. No idea what that’s all about. I’d like to know if anyone can tell me.

Sunday in Madrid

I left Dan to have a lie in, got up and went for a stroll around the area we are staying in. I walked past a restaurant called Casa Labra, which is famous as it is where the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) was founded in 1879.
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I popped back to the hotel then we headed out together to Ardosa, a famous cafe nearby, for a bit of breakfast.
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I normally don’t ever eat first thing but we need to fuel ourselves here as we are walking everywhere – about ten miles a day. We’ve also had to drink a lot of water to cope with the stifling, sweaty 35+ degree heat.
We walked to Plaza de Espana, a famous square here surrounded by imposing buildings that features a monument to Cervantes, Spain’s most famous writer.
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I spotted these in a shop on the way and just had to buy them 😂
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We then headed up to the temple of Dibod, an ancient Egyptian temple that was dismantled and rebuilt here in the 1968.
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It was a gift from the Egyptians, apparently as thanks to the Spanish for helping to save the temples of Abu Simbel, which had been threatened by the construction of the Dam of Aswan. Angela suggests it was just an excuse to give a gift to Franco though. There is not a lot of information on Franco or the civil war here. I suspect it is too sensitive and recent. It’s a shame as I am curious to learn more.

We made our way to the Prado Museum, stopping off on our way at a vegetarian restaurant called El Fogon Verde for some salad. We tried some polenta with soy and pak choi too, which we really enjoyed.

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Refuelled and rested, we headed into the gallery.

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It is absolutely vast and stuffed with masterpieces, so we had to be a bit strategic about it and try to prioritise certain paintings. We agreed our favourite was the ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ by Hieronymus Bosch (what a name).

It is a richly detailed painting and utterly beautiful to look at. You can’t take photos in the Prado but here is a snap I found online.

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The left hand panel depicts heaven, the middle earthly pleasures and the right panel represents hell. If you look at it closely you notice there is some freaky shit going on. There is a duck feeding someone strawberries and someone stuffing flowers up someone’s arse for some reason. And that’s on the ‘earth’ section. When you get down to hell, there is a penguin just casually ice skate around. What sort of punishment is that?! Who wouldn’t want to see an ice skating penguin?!

So anyway, we enjoyed the Velazquez paintings a lot, also Reubens and his wonderfully chubby women. We liked Goya’s dark paintings, the work he’d done for the royal family less so. It’s all very twee and inoffensive. Perhaps that is why it is on the top floor.

We had a stop off in the cafe after to rehydrate then wended back to the hotel for a brief rest before we headed out for the evening. We went to eat Mexican food at Barriga Llena on the recommendation of my friend Ella, who used to live on the same road as the restaurant.

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We shared pork pibil tacos with beans, guacamole and nachos, with lemon daiquiris. Loved it. The restaurant was also really fun to look at inside and out.
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Barriga Llena is in the middle of the LGBT district Chueca, which had a lively and fun atmosphere and a real sense of a community too.

After dinner we went to the rooftop bar of Mercado San Anton.

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We met up with a bloke called Giles who I know from work. Great guy. He has lived here for 20 years and was really interesting to hang out with. We discussed Spain, his career, technology, politics in the UK, modern relationships….I think that’s about half of the topics we covered actually. Once it reached 12.30am we had to call it a night. Giles insisted both on paying and on driving us back to our hotel, which was incredibly generous of him. He’s also been providing me with useful tips for where to eat throughout the trip. If you’re reading Giles, thanks!

Incidentally that reminds me what a big thing food is both here and in Lisbon. The vast majority of tips people give you aren’t for sights to see but where to get the best grub and drinks. I really love that as a sign of how highly a country values its cuisine. I hope the UK is becoming more like this too, as we have plenty we can be proud of food wise as well, even if we are catching up from behind slightly in some ways (history of having a bad reputation has held us back I suspect).

Another random thought before I sign off: it can be hard to describe venues here because many of them do not neatly fit categories like cafe, bar or restaurant. Eating and drinking are not separate activities here like they often are in London. Most places sell a bit of both at any time of the day.