Thursday, July 1, 2010

Madrid

We were in Madrid from May 12-16, which turned out to be a very exciting time to be there. We arrived the night Atletico Madrid won the European Cup in football (soccer in the US). We stayed off Gran Via, the heart of the city, and all around us cars honked, people shouted, waving flags out of windows, running down the street in jerseys and Atletico Madrid colors, it was pandemonium, or shall I say, fiesta!

Before I came to Spain, I greatly underestimated the significance of fiesta-in Spain, fiestas involve parades, all night parties (I'm talking coming home at 1 in the afternoon the next day), stages in the street, costumes, and firecrackers in abundance. Also, of course, dancing and liberal amounts of alcohol.

So we arrived on the cusp of not one, but THREE fiestas. Celebrating the Atletico Madrid victory, celebrating 100 years of Gran Via, and celebrating the day of Madrid's patron saint San Isidro on May 14. That day, Gran Via was blocked off and swathed in blue carpet. Crowds were immense and many dressed in traditional costumes. We saw several little girls in what we could have sworn was the same pink and white jumper-like dress. Stages were set up, and we watched Argintinean tango for a while, then backed out of the crowds and ran into a group of older dancers doing traditional Madrid song-and-dance with outfits to match. It was glorious.

Other highlights of our stay in Madrid including running into several book fairs (I badly wanted some beautiful leather volumes of Don Quixote, but they would not have fit in my backpack), various flea markets including the somewhat notorious El Rastro (our pension hostess warned us of thieves, as did all websites and guidebooks, we took care and were not robbed), and a statue of Don Quixote and Sancho, that we meant to return to and photograph and never did.

Palacio Real Madrid, the eighteenth century palace of Spain's first Bourbon king, Felipe IV.

The Bear and Tree (Oso y Arbol), the symbol of Madrid.

Lago Estanque in Parque Buen Retiro.

Palacio Cristal (eighteenth century greenhouse) in Parque Buen Retiro.


Argentinean tango that we watched from the crowds at Gran Via.

Madrileno dancers and a couple from the crowd joining in!

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