So far in this blog, I have devoted a lot of attention to famous sights and the delights of Spanish food and the shortcomings of the education system. I am yet, however, to give much of an insight into how I spend that time that is not spent teaching the past simple or visiting noteworthy places; but two unexpectedly strange and memorable weekends have prompted me to start recording the one-off experiences and random encounters which can easily slip off the year-abroad radar, despite often providing the juiciest anecdotes.
Two weeks ago, my friend had a weekend visit from her friend from university (another language assistant living in Asturias) and we decided to do something fun on the Friday night, to show him the infamous Madrid vida nocturna. Feeling domestic, I had made myself some fishcakes and planned a quiet dinner before meeting my friends later. But it wasn’t to be. That evening happened to coincide with my friend’s Spanish flatmate’s last night in Madrid. She had got a job in Dubai and her new boss had flown over to Madrid to pick her up, offering to take her and her friends out to dinner to celebrate her final evening. I received a last minute phone call asking if I wanted to come along and – as I’ve never been one to turn down free food – I quickly got dressed up and hopped on the metro to my friend’s apartment, where the champagne was already flowing freely. I got stuck in and waited for my friend’s boss to turn up.
When, after nearly an hour, the boss finally arrived -he will henceforth be known as the boss, as his name has completely slipped my memory, if I ever knew it at all- he was a middle-aged, unremarkable looking Turkish guy, who was apparently a multi-millionaire with a finger in a lot of Middle Eastern pies (he later invited my friend and I to Dubai claiming that he owned a travel agency and a 5* hotel, so we wouldn’t have to pay for a thing). Not quite was I was expecting. We went to eat at a restaurant across the road, which looked pretty average, but which apparently does the best seafood in the city and was covered in the signed shirts and photos of the many footballers that frequent the place. Dinner was pre-ordered; first enormous platters of assorted sea creatures covered the table, and my friend and I bravely attempted to tuck in, managing to consume a single prawn in the time that the Spaniards around the table had deftly de-shelled an entire platter. This was followed by meat (we were never able to identify exactly what it was, but it tasted good) and chips, and then plates of cakes, all washed down with white wine. It was no-fuss Spanish food as its best and pretty delicious. At the end of the meal, the boss coolly removed a couple of bank notes and paid for the entire thing, waving aside our expressions of gratitude.
When we left the bar, we piled into a couple of taxis – I had no idea where we were going at this point, but clung to my friend’s arm and went along for the ride. We pulled up at Ramses, the Moet & Chandon bar in the posh Salamanca barrio. Needless to say, I had never been there before. The place was swarming with suited and booted older men and well-groomed women, all immaculately dressed. I immediately became a little self-conscious about my very much non-designer outfit, and was glad I’d put on heels to come out (I’m usually a flats girl). The boss insisted on buying drinks for all of us, including champagne at €10 a glass for my friend and I (Moet, naturally) and a triple whisky for himself. This was a new experience for me; I’ve never been the kind of girl who goes out with very wealthy men, simply for the (free) glamour of the experience. But I decided to brush aside the slightly uncomfortable thoughts in my head and enjoy the adventure, just this once. The bar was very dimly lit with candelabras and low, thumping music. Even the bathrooms were expensive looking – individual cubicles were arranged in a circle around a huge marble sink. The whole place stank of money, but also, I realised, as I glanced around at the older men leering at the many short skirts and false eyelashes on display, a little of desperation.
A couple of hours later, we couldn’t find the boss, and eventually discovered him sprawled across a table outside the bar, after one too many triple whiskies. My friend and her flatmate decided to take him back to his hotel, whilst the rest of us went on to wait for them outside the infamous Gabana, a very expensive and exclusive club nearby. When they eventually turned up, my friend revealed that the boss had tried to kiss her before throwing up on her shoes. It seems that money can’t buy class. Amusingly, the boss had given his new protégée his wallet to look after before he’d got blindingly drunk, and she was perfectly comfortable with using one of his €500 notes to acquire a VIP table for us in the club. We went in and had fun for an hour or so, but by this time it was about 5am, I was exhausted, and the glamour and novelty of the evening had started to wear off. I waved goodbye to my friends, forced my way passed the many Ralph Lauren-clad bodies and went home. I loved the novelty of the experience, but at the end of the day, I can have just as much fun in my flat with a €3 bottle of vino tinto, some iPod speakers and a pair of matching pyjamas.