24.01.23 — Journal

Madrid in Lights

Since I returned from the UK at the start of the month, it’s been a pretty quiet affair in Madrid thanks to the biting cold. This doesn’t mean that I’ve been staying too still though, with plenty of things to do before the official Christmas period ended!

Firstly, I wanted to head into the city centre and catch the festive lights before they were taken down. With two trips to England in December alone, I hadn’t had chance to see them before Christmas, so I took myself into the city to admire the colourful spectacle one evening.

I also caught a showing of Cortylandia, a cheesy animatronic show set to light and music which is put on by El Corte Inglés, Spain’s one and only chain of department stores. This iconic Madrilian Christmas tradition is always set to the same catchy song and this year was no different, with everyone dancing in the street to the refrain of Cortylandia, Cortylandia, ¡vamos todos a cantar!

My first weekend back in the capital included a quick visit by my auntie and uncle, who came up from Murcia in order to drop off a suitcase after a mix-up in the baggage reclaim after their festive cruise. Despite the sudden and rapid nature of it all, we had a lovely time. I made some meals at home, we went for a wander and some lunch around the city, and even had the chance to celebrate Reyes together.

El día de los Reyes Magos is the Spanish name for the holiday we might call the Three Kings’ Day and is celebrated on from the night of the 5th of January to the day of the 6th. It’s the day that the locals here open up the bulk of their presents, but me, my auntie, and uncle stuck to just indulging in the traditional food in the form of a roscón. We enjoyed this big ring of sweet bread topped with sugar and caramelised fruit with a mug of thick hot chocolate: the perfect way to end a cold day!

Even the sun was putting on a colourful show of lights.

That same weekend, I also headed out for some rather fancy food in a lovely restaurant for Napo’s birthday. We celebrated with some delicious dishes including Italian burrata, cod, and steak. This was all accompanied with lashings of white wine, as any good meal should be!

Just a week later and I was back in the centre once again, this time to attend something that Sara and I had booked quite a few weeks prior. Naturaleza encendida is an anual event held in the Royal Botanical Gardens here in Madrid and which is always hard to get tickets for thanks to how popular it is. It involves the installation of a tonne of lights, speakers, and various other visual effects within the gardens, so you can imagine that I’ve been wanting to go for years!

We first met for a bite to eat and a quick drink before heading down to the Real Jardín Botánico. Once inside, the spectacle and the sheer size of the thing unfolded before our eyes. The two of us had visited the gardens together last summer, but seeing it lit up in shades of pink, purple, and blue was a whole other experience.

You can see it was pretty spectacular from the photos, but there’s nothing compared to actually being there, surrounded by all of these colour-changing lights, mysterious sounds, and trees which seem taller just because the different lighting made us look at them in a different way. It was awesome!

After nearly two whole hours, our tour of the illuminated nature came to an end, but not before I’d grabbed a hot chocolate and we’d had a good snoop around the second half of the exhibition. This took us up to where we’d caught a photography exposition last time we visited. As you can imagine, it was quite different in the dark!

The week after began with a spontaneous plan that me and Napo came up with on the Monday evening. We met in Chueca, just north of the city centre, and had a drink together before heading off for some Venezuelan food at a restaurant he was keen on trying out. I was keen to see what it’d be like after the lovely Venezuelan Christmas meal we’d had together back in December!

The food ended up being absolutely delicious, with a special mention to be made to the yuca balls in honey. Even the drink was different and tasty – even if I have since forgotten what it was! Hopefully Napo remembers for next time…

Just the next day I was packing my bag ready to head off on my first little trip of 2023, and this one was to be quite an interesting one! More on that in my next post, though, as I’m currently trying to keep moving around my house and thus stave off the biting cold which has descended upon Madrid. Brr!