Monthly Archives: January 2015

Snow in Madrid

There are times, albeit so rarely, when it’s perfectly fine to be roused from your sleep at one in the morning. One of them is when it snows in Madrid. The banging knock and loud commotion got me scrambling out of my bed and rushing straight to the front apartment window, jostling with everyone else just to get a good peek.

What do you know? It was snowing indeed. A light one, but heck, it’s still snow. And they say it doesn’t in Madrid.

Getting some good shots with my mobile phone camera wasn’t easy, especially if you’re trying to brave the icy wind and snowy flake bits forcing their way in. With hands I can’t stop from quivering, I asked someone else with a steadier grip to make the shots and video instead, lest I wind up with inferior results.

I’ve always imagined snow to be flakes descending floatingly, in a drifting manner, until it settles to the ground. But that night I realized that it actually fell straight and hurriedly. Nonetheless, it was an amazing sight; a dreamy, almost surreal experience.

Not content with somewhat dreary pictures, I went down the apartment with my phone hoping to take shots worth saving for posterity, which I did.

My first taste of Madrid snow
My first taste of Madrid snow. Principe de Vergara

Finally, I went back to bed, totally dazed from sleepiness, and eyes almost shut. Still, I managed to hope for the snowfall to continue as the city sleeps.

For while in most probability, everything will have melted away after hours later, it must be awesome to wake up to a morning where everything is snow-covered, and Madrid is transformed into its own glimmery white, winter wonderland.

Bidding Madrid Christmas Goodbye

Have you ever wished you had that extra space in your apartment, so that after placing your Christmas tree atop a platform cart – with lights, balls, star, and trimmings still in – you just slide everything inside it? I’m certain that not a few on Earth have been doing this all along.

I am not being mean-spirited. I am not even lazy to undo the decorations.

The thing is, I have trouble with the holidays ending. It’s like doing away with the best days of the year. The child in me does not want it to end. To this stubborn child, Christmastime means joy, fun, adventure, play, and he doesn’t want to part with all this.

As a grownup, I love the season because it lifts up my spirit. And now that I had the chance to witness and experience it in Madrid for the first time, I have to say that I enjoyed it wholly. It’s low-key compared to Manila’s shameless Christmas extravaganza, but it’s fascinating, nonetheless.

You should see Christmas in Madrid at night as beautiful lights are not wanting. Everywhere you look is a sight to behold, and something for your eyes to feast on. Needless to say, Madrid’s illumination at this time of the year is captivating in its own way.

The trees draped in bluish white lights lining up the paseos and calles, the giant digital display of El Corte Ingles, the gargantuan trees of sparkling yellow, blue, or red hue that litter the plazas of Madrid – all are enthralling. You will be spellbound by these lights even if subtly and help you imbibe that Yuletide feeling.

Up to this point, I still consider Madrid as a strange land, and the Spanish language as a saccharine, romantic music that I have yet to play beautifully. To put it simply, everyday is a big struggle.

Fortunately, being in Madrid at the time when the city is in the midst of the festivities buoys me up and helps me sustain my desire to stay – despite all odds.

Yuletide here has given me hope and emboldened me to look forward to the new year with great anticipation. Definitely, I’ll celebrate Christmas again in Madrid next year.

Here are some more photos (of Alcala and Cibeles places) to remember Madrid Christmas 2014 by:

Imposing buildings at night. Metropolitan, along Calle de Alcala and Rolex Building at Gran Via, as viewed from Calle de Alcala
Imposing buildings at night. Metropolitan, and Rolex Building at Gran Via, as viewed from Calle de Alcala
Banco de Espana
Banco de Espana
Palacio de Cibeles is a grand spectacle during evenings of Christmas 2014. Location, Plaza de Cibeles, Madrid
Palacio de Cibeles, a Christmas spectacle. Standing at Plaza de Cibeles, it easily dwarfs other edifices around the vicinity. I can compare its grandeur to that of Paris’ Notre Dame.
Chariot of Cibele, major landmark at the Plaza de Cibeles
Chariot of Cibele, major landmark at the Plaza de Cibeles. In the middle of the Plaza is the fountain also named Cybele, one of the city’s most important symbols.
Don't you wish it's always Christmas in Madrid? Portion of Calle de Alcala that connects Plaza de Cibeles and Plaza de la Independencia
Don’t you wish it’s always Christmas in Madrid? Portion of Calle de Alcala that connects Plaza de Cibeles and Plaza de la Independencia
Puerta de Alcala stands in the middle of Plaza de la Independencia. Madrid, Spain
Located in the midst of the Plaza de la Independencia, Independence Square, is the Puerta de Alcala. An architectural masterpiece, the structure evokes neoclassical art, and is popular for its five arches. One of the Symbolic gateways to the City of Madrid, Puerte de Alcala boasts of equal, if not greater, significance to the Palacio de Cibeles.
Puerta de Alcala as seen from Retiro Park, at the southern portion of the Plaza de la Independencia
Puerta de Alcala as seen from Retiro Park, at the southern portion of the Plaza de la Independencia

Giangrossi Helado Artesanal – Madrid’s Premier Gelato (and Coffee)

Salamanca is like any other distrito in Madrid – reeling in the biting coldness of winter that officially started third week of December. But this doesn’t stop gelato-loving Madrilenos from trooping to Giangrossi Helado Artesanal, Madrid’s premier ice cream shop, located along the district’s Calle de Velasquez.

Beautifully decorated Velasquez Street during Christmas Season, Salamanca, Madrid
It’s Christmas in Calle de Velasquez, Salamanca District, Madrid

Why wouldn’t they? Giangrossi’s ice cream is such a yummy delight. It is considered as one of Madrid’s best ice cream brands. Madridenos’ dedicated patronage of its gelato fare has helped Giangrossi establish a respected name and attain success in its industry.

Actually, there’s more to Giangrossi than just gelato. While ice cream easily takes the spotlight (with classics like Turron and Helado de Vainilla as two of the best-sellers), its coffee gets a good share of attention as well.

Colorful balls and cone-shaped decors hang by the window of Giangrossi, aptly decorated for the Christmas see wason
Silvery Yuletide balls and cone-shaped decors hang by the window of Giangrossi

And knowing how delicious coffee is at Giangrossi, we decided to take a break when we passed by it. (Actually, we chanced upon Giangrossi by accident, unaware that it is located along Velazquez, which we visited along with Calle de Goya for their high-end shops, like Zara, Benetton, and H&M.)

But I didn’t order ice cream, despite the inviting presentation at the counter display.

Since that evening’s temperature was 7 degrees Celsius, I had to pass up on the frozen treat. (Even if you buy me one, no gelato por favor – thank you very much!)

Understandably, everyone else settled for coffee instead.

View of the dining floor from  Giangross's mezzanine area
View of the dining floor from Giangrossi’s mezzanine

The group had either café con leche or Americano, both of which are affordable at 1,50 euros a cup. Checking the menu, I see that everything is reasonably priced, considering that the shop has an upscale location.

My friend found the Americano quite strong, so he went to the counter and requested for more water to be added. Just right is how he described his coffee afterwards.

Mine was really good, almost perfect in taste. Giangrossi’s con leche is hot enough (might be that the milk was amply heated) to warm myself up after hours of stay outside the freezing cold streets.

Care for Con leche and Americano? Giangrossi, Velazquez, Madrid
Care for Americano and con leche? Deliciously-hot coffee at Giangrossi

There were a number of appealing cakes and pastries on the menu, but we opted not to, having decided that coffee is enough to cap the evening. Next time, for sure.

Plan it now. Cool down your summer days with naturally-made gelato, and for the rest of the chilly winter season, enjoy some piping hot, flavorful coffee – all at Giangrossi.

Getting there: 41 Calle de Velazquez, Madrid

From Colombia, Principe de vergara, take autobus 29 and get off at Calle de Goya. Walk up to the third block where Goya traverses Velasquez.

Via Madrid Metro, nearest stations are Velazquez and Goya. If you’re coming from Plaza Puerta del Sol, take the Vodafone Sol at Line 2 and get off at Goya. Transfer to line 4 and alight at Velazquez.

Thank You, and More Please

It’s 2015, and like everyone says, it’s a new year to look forward to.

But the pessimist in me feels it’s just another bleak year to get by.

Evidently, being in a new city somehow dampens my spirit, and the feeling won’t dissipate.

I’m surprised at how easy it is for me to disregard the positive things I wrote in my first post – hopefulness, great opportunities in Madrid, Spain, and the burning desire to make it here.

I must shrug off this negativity and be thankful instead.

But, what should I be thankful for? Apart from family and friends and good health, it’s hard to think of anything else. Listing a few more seems a lot of work cut out for me at this moment. Damn the New Year’s day blues.

Why should I be, in the first place?

We have to express gratitude for what we receive – to God, the Universe, or anything else we believe in. Otherwise, we can’t ask for more. I watched this film, fell in love with it, and made me a believer of the mantra – thank you, more please.

So, for this post, I made a short list of things that I am grateful for. Here goes…

1. I am totally indebted to Ayuntamiento de Madrid, Casa de Baños, Calle Bravo Murillo, at Distrito Tetuan for the free beginner Spanish class. I look forward to the succeeding Spanish courses of higher level (both of which are also for free).

(I’ll be beholden to the Universe to no end if it can make my brain work like a super sponge, and suck in everything there is to learn about the language.)

hello
Spanish Alphabet, found in the manual we use in our class

2. Our professor was not able to lecture one time, and had us watch a movie instead. And so, I must thank Profesor Francisco, mi nuevo amigo, for introducing me to Volver, an amazing film which I thought was also crazy and magical.

3. Everyone at home wanted to have a Roscon on the table as part of the New Year’s Eve meal, so I bought a small one at Carrefour Principe de Vergara, near Colombia.

Roscon and the paper crown, New Year's day in Madrid
Roscon, or Rosca de Reyes, the Kings’ Ring, and My paper crown

Lady luck must be on my side because my first slice had the toy, an owl figurine, in it. The toy is a representation of Baby Jesus, and the one who chances upon it becomes blessed, and lucky for the next whole year(?).

Roscon gift for me
The white toy owl means blessings and luck has been bestowed on me by the Three Kings. The bean means that I have to buy the Roscon for next year

The next slice had me finding another toy, this time, a plastic bean or seed (either a lima or fava). A friend teases me, says getting the bean means I’ll be the one to buy next year’s Roscon. Being told of this just put a smile on my face, for I am only too happy to oblige.

Thanks to Carrefour’s Roscon for blessing me and making me king for the day.

4. I would gladly walk through this…

Deserted Madrid metro passageway and turnstile area passageway made possible because it's December 24th, Christmas Eve.
Empty Madrid metro passageway and turnstile area despite (or rather because of) the holiday, December 24th, Christmas Eve.

than be crushed in this..

Long, heavy passenger lines to Manila's Metro Rail Transit System. A daily occurence. Photo source: wheninmanila.com and Mark Balmores of Manila Bulletin
Long, heavy passenger lines to Manila’s Metro Rail Transit System, a daily occurence.
Photo source: Thanks to When in Manila and Mark Balmores of Manila Bulletin

Actually, I only have good words for Manila MRT for providing service at its best, and accommodating riders many times its capacity. Kudos!

Just seeing these photos make me appreciate Madrid Metro all the more for the convenience of travel and commuting.

When I finally get my abono (which allows holders unlimited train ride around the city for a month, all for 52 euros), it means access to more places in Madrid. Definitely, a boon to Let’s Talk Madrid.

5. Thanks to Madrid and Plaza Puerta del Sol for the memorable New Year’s Eve countdown event. It was simple, with hardly any firecracker lit. All the noise that greeted 2015 was sheer shouting, cheering, and boisterous laughing of merrymakers of mostly families and friends. Yet, frankly, it was one New Year’s Eve celebration I immensely enjoyed.

This is as near as we can go to Puerta del Sol. Still we had a nice view of the countdown celebration at Calle de Arenal
This is the closest that we can get to the plaza of Puerta del Sol. Still we had a nice view of the countdown celebration from where we stood at Calle de Arenal

Last night’s was just one genuinely heartfelt celebration.

Feliz Ano Nuevo! Happy New Year to everyone!

6. Hey, I have many reasons to say thanks after all – and I admit that there are so much more apart from this list. I’m truly happy for everything I received the past year, and look forward to 2015 and what it might bring.

Thank you, and more please.