In Madrid, people wear colorful wigs and huge plastic sunglasses on New Year’s Eve. And, as if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, almost every bar and restaurant is closed after about 6pm (with the exception of high-cover-charge nightclubs) and everyone just sort of wanders around in the streets looking stupid – while any other night of the year you can eat and drink in tapas bars until the sun comes up. Go figure.
For good luck in the coming year, Spaniards eat 12 grapes in rapid succession with the chiming of the clock at midnight. Also, they have their own version of champagne called cava. It’s cheaper and tastes pretty much the same to me. With regard to vino tinto, rioja is the region, tempranillo is the grape, and crianza is the age.
The arty highlights of the trip were an up-close look at Hieronymus Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights” at the Prado, an Ellsworth Kelly at the Reina Sofia, and the entire bottom floor (20th C) at the Thyssen-Bornemisza.
The two best places we ate were a foward-thinking tapas bar called Txirimiri and a rundown diner called El Brillante near the Atocha train station, where they have great fried calamari bocadillos and maybe the best cafe con leche in the world.
There’s a reason why people say “Holy Toledo!” It’s because the place is nothing but a bunch of old churches, synagogues, mosques, convents, and monasteries (that has been turned into an old-world tourist trap). Highlights of the day included a smooth, relaxing 30-minute train ride from Madrid, an exhibition of theatrical costumes designed by Salvidor Dalí, buying marzipan from a nun, and seeing the tomb of El Greco through a hole in the floor.
The rain in Spain fell mainly in the afternoon, and every single day.