New Years in Spain

Old Jun 2nd, 2009, 10:41 AM
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New Years in Spain

My daughter will be spending the next year studying in Madrid. Since she can't come home for the holidays, we will be going to her. We have never been to Spain, so we are looking for suggestions on things to see. In additon to my wife, we will have a 16 and 12 year old along.

We arrive in Madrid on Dec 26th, and return on Jan 4th.

I am concerned that many things will be closed during this time due to the holidays.

I look forward to getting feedback!
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Old Jun 2nd, 2009, 01:41 PM
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I have family in Madrid and also lived there for a year (2004-2005). Coincidently my family came to visit me for the entire month of December, but with no kids as young as yours. Typically we usually try to avoid the tourist spots and usually spend a lot of time with the family.

I wouldn't be too concerned with finding everything to be closed. Madrid will close most sights of significance on the 25th of Dec. and on the 1st of Jan., as well as the 6th of January. Otherwise, most everything should be operating on regular schedules.

On New Year's Eve be sure to go to the center of Madrid (Puerta del Sol)and bring in the New Year spanish-style (very similar to New York's Time Square)with a bag or cup of 12 grapes; for every chime sounded from the "Casa de Correos " clock at the strike of midnight you eat a grape, gulping one down per chime to ensure good fortune in the new year. Get there early so that you can catch the "Corte Ingles" (shopping center)sponsored musical production seen from the streets below it. The crowds of people, kids and all, that jam pack the streets are incredible!! Keep all belongings secure as well as little kids. Keep this in mind in the subway as well. The local gypsies have a reputation for being extremely gifted pickpocketers. I saw it with my own eyes. Fortunately, there was surveillance and the local police were on hand to apprehend the two gypsy men as soon as they got off the subway.

Be prepared for very cold weather; max. 60 degrees F. Long wool or down or insulated rain coats, knitted scarves and hats, and a good pair of insulated gloves are advisable. Definitely check the weather forcast before leaving.

As for things to see...so much...where to begin: 1)museums (ex. Prado Museum), 2)palaces (ex. Royale Palace(before the 1st of Jan.; closed between the 1st-6th),

3)walk through Retiro Park (activities closed for the season but still can enjoy a walk during the day; exercise caution, can site vagrants regularly),

4)visit Gran Via and all around Puerta del Sol if you like to shop,

5)top-off with a stop in Historic Plaza Mayor: here, eat a 'bocadillo de calamar'(a calamari sandwich) with a 'clara'(a glass of beer mixed with Fanta de Limon esp. appealing if you're not a big beer drinker or drink simply a 'chato' (small glass) of wine),

6)go visit a variety of cafes and bars to eat 'tapas' (appetizers); go to the infamous "Casa Labra" situated near the entrance of El Corte Ingles near Puerta del Sol. They're known for their deep fried cod...delicious with a glass of beer or wine. At the cafes enjoy a cup of thick and rich chocolate and dip your 'churros' or 'porras' in it for a special treat at the infamous "Chocolateria San Gines" just down one of the side streets surrounding Plaza Mayor.

7) Enjoy a good lunch representative of the north (Asturias) at "Casa Mingo" (very family friendly)after spending a morning enjoying the "Museo de America" (Museum of the Americas)and later, getting a spectacular 360-degree panoramic view from the top of "The Faro de Moncloa"(Moncloa Beacon).

8)Or spend a day at "Casa de Campo"; there are attractions such as, an amusement park, zoo-aquarium (largest collection of animals in Europe), opened from 10:30-6p.m. There is also a "teleferico" (cableway) that connects the "Parque del Oeste" with the "Casa de Campo". You can get a nice view of Madrid, but you also may get a little bit more than you bargained for...at least during the warmer seasons I can say I witnessed this, you may get a glimpse of women offering their services to passing motorists.

Remember to plan on eating lunch as your biggest meal of the day before 3p.m. 'Siesta' (nap time) after 3p.m. and most shops close until 5p.m. Order the 'menu of the day' for a bargain lunch.

9)Attend a performance at either the "Teatro Real" across from the Palace or the infamous "Teatro de la Zarzuela" (copy of La Scala in Milan),it's home to the Spanish light opera.

10)Perhaps catch an early flamenco-dinner show (9 or 10p.m.)at "Corral de la Moreria".

There is so much to do, even day trips outside of Madrid, especially now with the availability of their bullet trains; buses are reliable as well and the least costly (i.e., Aranjuez, Escorial, Valle de los Caidos, Toledo (Spain's original capital city before Madrid).

I hope some of this information helps. I can give you more specific information, esp. if your concerned about location, but I thought I would end this now before I gave you a tour books worth. Triple AAA or my favorite Fodor's Travel Guides are excellent. Enjoy your stay!
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Old Jun 2nd, 2009, 02:14 PM
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I think your daughter will want to show you her favorite parts of Madrid, but I would also encourage you to think of traveling to places she might like to see, and your other children and you would enjoy. I quite love Madrid, but mainly for its museums and its sophisticated night life. If I had youngsters with me, I would want to head out to Toledo (a day trip), perhaps even spend nights at Granada.

Since it is such a long time away, you would do well to pick up a book like Fodor's Spain (they don't pay me to say this!) and look at the possibilities. There are fast trains and cheap air fares in Spain -- although, during Christmas week, you will need to book in advance.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 01:32 AM
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Bmysunshine writes: >

True, but the Puerta del Sol thing is something I would go out of my way to avoid: too many pickpockets and other unsavory characters in the crowd. You can see it on TVE in your Hotel or hear the bells in almost any Bar or Restaurant in Spain.

As for daytrips, Segovia is nice with its Roman Aqueduct and a couple of outstanding restaurants to enjoy its specialty, cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig).

In Escorial there's Franco's Monument to himself & there's the San Lorenzo Monastery. I would concentrate on the latter.

In Madrid, be sure to tour the Palacio Réal. It costs a few bucks but is well worth it. I took Videos of Tapestries and Frescoes there, some by Francisco de Goya; they allowed it!

Florida Park Nightclub (just inside Retiro Park c/O'Donnell entrance) has an early show in which they dance Sevillanas (similar to Flamenco) and Jotas.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 02:35 AM
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suggesting you avoid puerta del sol because of pickpockets etc is plain wrong. take precautions if you go, don't carry bags etc (i had a small camera nabbed from bag there one new years eve but it was still one of the best ones i've had). just use common sense and you'll have a blast. and don't plan on ending your bar trawl before 5/6am. no one else will! if you want a hotel, the NH close to Atocha station is a really good bet - we had a corner room a few years back and it was very reasonable. as for guide books - all have their merits but TimeOut is fantastic on urban guides...gives a diufferent insight from normal sightseeing-led guides. still, your daughter will be your best guide
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 07:14 AM
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Thanks for the ideas! We have planned on doing a few day trips, so I appreciate the suggestions.

We have a 3 bedroom apartment rented for the time we are there, so will have to sort out plans for new years eve itself. With a 12 year old along, we are somewhat limited in how late we can stay out.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 08:16 AM
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sorry to jump in - what is the weather like in Madrid at that time?

( I know it is unpredictable... but some general idea...
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 08:24 AM
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danon,
Last year it was in the 40s-50s F during the day. At night you'll need gloves and a scarf, and of course, a thick wool coat.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 05:42 PM
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thanks, it is fine with us. We are used to -25C!
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Old Jun 14th, 2009, 10:04 PM
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Don't forget a hat and possibly an umbrella. It's my understanding that this year's winter has been very cold and the spring very wet...even as recent as last month.
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