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  1. Last October I was for a couple of days in Madrid, a city I hadn't visited for a long time. Even though it was a work trip, I had some free hours, which I spent mostly revisiting places with fond memories. One new thing I did was visit Julia Gusano's store. Late one morning, with a Spanish-speaking friend in tow, we entered the quiet streets of a rather pleasant residential neighbourhood. It wasn't difficult to find the address but once there, we encountered a closed door and our knocking it or ringing bells seemed to elicit no response from inside. Thankfully, a tradesperson came to the same door and somehow a doorman opened it for him. While my friend was explaining to the doorman the purpose of our visit, I walked on: I had caught a glimpse of Julia's store in the courtyard of the apartment block and it was exactly as in the photograph on her site. From the outside, the store looks like a cheerful shed; from the inside, it was a veritable treasure cave, filled with vintage fountain pens and related items that brought the broadest of grins to my face. Soon I was talking to Julia (in English) and browsing through her stock. She gave me a few tips and a piece of abrasive sheet for my nib smoothing but I hadn't come for a chat; it was an opportunity to find something special. But what does one with so many pens miss? Well, I asked her for something really tough: a larger pen with a smooth, flexible nib, preferably not too fine. The search for the pen took some time, with Julia producing one pen after another and me dipping it in ink and trying it. In the end, we narrowed it down to a shortlist of three great pens, out of which I chose a pretty, green Diamond Point with a 14K nib marked with an <8>. Since then, the pen has seen almost daily use. The combination of the right size for my hands, a really flexible nib and good ink flow is hard to resist. The moral of the story: Madrid is a great city, with lots to see and enjoy, but a visit to Julia's store is probably worth the time for a fountain pen enthousiast.

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