A new year kiss from a stranger in Sol
I had to be in Sol for the new year and was worried it would not be possible as surely everyone in Madrid would want to be there? Apparently not. It helps that there is a dress rehearsal the night before - can you believe it - and there is also a family-friendly event at midday on the 1st of January.
I was also worried I would be on my own hanging around with a handful of grapes and a small bottle of cava and a straw. Thanks to an invitation from Emma and her mate Richi, I was at a pre-Sol gathering and warmed up with chorizo and red wine before a group hike into the city centre. In the end there were nine of us - most of whom had taken risks to come here in 2009. I was in fine company - a theatre makeup artist, an actress, a photography teacher, three English teachers, a German teacher and a Spanish man called Angel. We waited in keen anticipation for Big Ben-like bells but this is Madrid. We had to guess it was midnight and gulp our grapes as well as we could.
Grapes. Yes in Spain and Portugal it is the done thing to eat 12 grapes in time to the 12 chimes at midnight. Why? Well it seems this tradition is a twentieth century invention and a product of good old fashioned marketing. Apparently there was a glut of grapes in 1909 and so everyone was encouraged to eat twelve for new year and the practice has remained. I hope it brings me luck as it was hard work chewing those grape skins.
Grapes were followed - or washed down - with cava. Lots of toasting and then we had sparklers and grinned inanely at the loveliness of being in Madrid! There were some fireworks which were nice and heartwarming rather than over the top and expensive. There was good humour and lots of hugs and even some new year kisses from strangers - thanks to Em who "found" and photographed the lovely Italian above.
We stayed on in Sol an hour so we could do it all again for GMT and then we managed a quick "auld lang syne" before we drifted off to find metro trains. I chilled with a new friend, drinking real tea and chatting, until I walked home from Ventas at 530am. It was a lovely morning and the Christmas stars on the bridge looked stunning. I must photograph them before they disappear at the weekend.
Festivities are not over yet in Spain as we have a national holiday on 6 January for the Three Kings. This is the traditional time for children to receive gifts. There is a Kings parade where sweets are thrown into the crowds and an event in Cibeles to look forward to.
I made some resolutions for 2010. The first one is to sort out my debt problems, the second is to learn Spanish and the third is to do a CELTA - though that might have to be a 2011 project. My adventures in teaching are definitely not over forever but it will be a relief to get back to a proper job in London in May and start saving up for my next adventure.
And what about the resolutions from 2009? I DID IT! I came to Madrid and have been living here for seven months now and teaching English and getting paid to do it. It has been a great year!
Photograph (c) Emma Ryan 2010