Moving on to the next leg of our trip, Madrid was on our sights. It was my first time in Madrid and I was truly excited. This post is the second part of the New Year Euro Trip Series, following on to our Lisbon gallivants. I suggest you visit the first part of the trip to keep things flowing!
It’s New Year’s eve and our 1 hour flight from Lisbon landed at Barajas Airport at around 9pm which left us with 4 hours to get to our AirBnb and head out into the Spanish capital’s New Year festivities. As soon as we got through immigration, we caught a convenient airport shuttle bus straight into the city which took just over half an hour. A quick ten minute walk, with a detour to a shop to get some grapes, and we arrived at our place. 10pm – freshened up and changed in to a more appropriate clothing, then out we went. Prior to the trip, I had done my research on how the Madrileños celebrate on New Year’s eve. Everyone headed towards Puerta del Sol, the central meeting place in Madrid. Everyone crowds around the city hall and counts down with the clock and the usual fire works light up the sky; the usual celebrations but with one notable tradition. When the clock strikes 12, the Spaniards eat 12 grapes, each grape symbolizing each month of the year. All grapes are eaten within the first 12 seconds of the year, with consuming a grape at every gong of the clock. All this, in hope of a lucky 12 months ahead of them. An interesting way to celebrate, to which we were excited to be a part of!
‘Everyone singing songs we couldn’t understand, laughing with their friends and family, both young and old. It made a chilly night, feel a whole lot warmer.’
One thing was noticeable, it was a few degrees colder in Madrid compared to Lisbon. Greeted by huge crowds, they were forming and waiting to get in to the plaza. Queues up to 300 yards long, we couldn’t wait in line and we refused to. We walked around the grand square to the rear entrance, we quietly pushed in to the crowd gaining some advantage, and by putting on our innocent ‘I don’t know where anything is, I’m a tourist‘ face, we won. We established a firm position. Everyone was merry on cheap wine, and no one seemed to care. Typical, laid back Spaniards.
15 minutes until midnight. Tried talking to the locals and admired their attempt at speaking English while drunk on Rioja. Everyone singing songs we couldn’t understand, laughing with their friends and family, both young and old. It made a chilly night, feel a whole lot warmer.
Countdown was on – the crowd starting from diez, thankfully I can count in Spanish thanks to my ability to speak Filipino. We joined in. I had grapes and the SJCam capturing moment and when uno came:
The fireworks launched and the confetti rained. Crowds cheering whilst downing their fruit. Determinedly scoffing 1 grape every second, it was a lot more difficult than I first expected. By August, I had a mouthful already! By the time I had swallowed all my grapes, the confetti subsided but the fireworks continued. The chants continued to roar but a lot louder, the crowd was electric. After the fireworks died down, we grabbed a bite to eat. We were absolutely shattered after a hectic couple of hours. We would have loved to party all night but our bodies was slowly shutting down. One of the more memorable New Year’s eve moments, 2018 – here we are.
Woken up by the sun peeking through our window. It was another day. Another year. We had 2 and a half days in Madrid and we decided to take it slow and opted to see everything within the city’s perimeter. Sampling one of Spain’s specialties, we had to try authentic tapas with a drop of sangria. To no surprise, it blew us away. Cuts of the world famous jamon iberico and blood sausage to fish fillets on lightly toasted bread was a taste of quintessential Spain. Tapas was soon to be the food of choice for the next couple of meals, could you blame us?
Intrigued by the Spanish influence in my home country the Philippines, Madrid had museums showcasing its colonial power in times past. I took particular interest in the Naval Museum. A nation boasted its maritime and naval prowess in search of the new world. A steal at 3 Euros each, it was an insight in Spain’s arsenal on the seas and it’s expeditions. Well worth a visit.
Buen Retiro Park was close-by and as the weather was on the cold side, it seemed a lot more sparsely populated. I could only imagine the amount of people in the park during the summer. A paddle in the lake is also a must.
The dusk came and the city slowly came to life. This was my favourite time of day to gaze at the city.
Our last full day in Madrid was an even slower one. The city was quiet, still recovering from it’s New Year’s celebration as we took advantage of it’s sights. A walk on the other side of the city brought us to the:
Royal Palace of Madrid
Plaza de España
I must admit, there were a lot of things we missed out on. We were on a tight on budget and on time. Our Euros were slowly depleting and we have the most expensive city yet to visit. Our Euros were mainly spent on food as we traveled on foot for all of the trip. A central accommodation was definitely an advantage!
The next day had us packing for Amsterdam. I felt like there was a lot more of this wonderful city we could have experienced – the gripes of multi city trips. The grandeur of Madrid was hard to ignore; the history, traditions and it’s people. Being a part of the New Year’s celebration was definitely a highlight of my travels so far, just seeing a different perspective in another country’s tradition and simply being a part of it. It was almost like the whole city become your family for an hour. One for the memory books.