July 14, 2010 - Posted by Erin in Culture, Madrid, Spain, Traditions

I lay in bed at 3AM on Sunday morning staring straight at the ceiling of my hotel room in Valencia contemplating whether the horns and chanting would ever end. Would they stop at daylight? Sometime the next day? Maybe a week from now? “Yo soy español, español, español” , “a por ellos, oé, oé, oé”….and then at some point I started hearing “Go bananas, B.A.N.A.N.A.S.” and realized that I was no longer actually hearing people outside, but had officially lost my mind after hours of unrelenting horns and cheers celebrating Spain’s World Cup win.

That night my friend Heather had brilliantly reserved us a table for dinner at an outdoor terraza with big screen TVs. In the warm, sticky Valencia evening weather, we watched the game with hundreds of strangers, who felt more like family given how we all rallied behind our team (except for the random Dutch folk who were proudly bedecked in orange). Every few minutes, our small crowd would begin chanting, and when the game was finally won, we all flew out of our seats cheering and knowing that this was only the beginning of the celebration. We headed down to town hall square where what must have been thousands of people gathered, all covered head to toe in red and yellow and fanatically waving Spanish flags of all sizes.

If Valencia was wild, then Madrid would be pure pandemonium. A part of me was sad that I missed being at home with all the madrileños to celebrate the big win. Fortunately, with the team’s return home on Monday, the excitement of the win would be as electric the following night, if not more so, considering the players would be parading through the Madrid streets.

On Monday evening Jacobo and I headed downtown, parking just outside of the city center and then cabbing it about a mile or so to where the parade would be passing. We eagerly sped walked past the famous Puerta de Alcalá and down the middle of the street where we were greeted by the expansive view of the people-filled Plaza de Cibeles and junction of Gran Vía and Alcalá. Walking in the middle of the usually chaotic Madrid streets and seeing those same streets overtaken by more than one million people in red and yellow was nothing short of emotional. I couldn’t help but wonder what in the US could ever possibly unite us in such a way, patriotically or otherwise? All of these people, so proud of their country, so proud to be Spanish…I felt just a little jealous that we don’t come together that way back in the States. Hmm, maybe we need a little more fútbol in our lives.

We weaved our way to the Cibeles fountain (my favorite in Madrid) where the Goddess Cibeles brightened up her outfit of stone with a Spanish flag cape. It is there that we managed to stake out a spot in front of a police van and then devise our plan – when the team’s bus arrived, I’d hop up on Jacobo’s shoulders, bracing myself on the van, and capture it all on video. Genius!

We waited for an hour during which time our friends Manu and Tito arrived and joined us. They came on their motorbikes (the only way to really get around Madrid efficiently), but not without a hitch – Tito’s beloved Spanish flag got jammed in the spokes of his tire, delaying their arrival. Fortunately, Manu was able to represent though – below is a video that Tito valiantly took of Manu during their drive into the city. Thankfully, Manu’s flag didn’t see the same tragic fate as Tito’s.

Despite the wait, the crowd was so full of enthusiasm that the buzz of excitement kept my adrenalin at full throttle the entire time. We watched the junction of Gran Vía and Alcalá carefully, waiting to see when the onlookers would begin to grow more animated, signaling the arrival of the team. Right as we started to see the first police cars parting the crowd, seven fighter jets flew overhead trailing red and yellow smoke behind them. What an introduction!

As the team approached, I climbed (ungracefully) up onto Jacobo’s shoulders and took it all in. The crowd continued cheering, fireworks went off, and confetti burst into the air showering the already red and yellow crowd with flecks of patriotic paper. My heart raced as I balanced filming, keeping my red dress down, and not completely falling over onto the van behind me. Before we knew it the team had passed and the crowd began to separate. Below is the wobbly video I took as I nervously juggled filming vs. tumbling down, or God forbid, flashing everyone.

Back at our house about a half an hour later, we watched the remainder of the parade (which lasted six hours in total!!!) hardly able to believe our eyes even though we’d seen it all for ourselves.

Today, the Wednesday after the game, Spanish flags still hang from everyone’s balconies (I can count 12 just looking out from my apartment!), and stream from the windows of people’s cars. They are proud to be “campeones,” but even more proud to be Spaniards. I’m so lucky to share in it all.

As many of you may know, I will be getting married to my very own Spaniard next week. My father arrives tomorrow, followed by the trickling in of another 40 American guests. My guess is that I will be signing off for now, although I hope to start posting again from our honeymoon in Southeast Asia. So, until then, adiós and wish me luck! Oh, and que viva España!!!

To see all of the pictures, please visit the La Tortuga Viajera Facebook page.

June 23, 2008 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Traditions

Who doesn’t love paella? And a good homemade one at that! But let me keep your mouth watering for a little bit and start earlier in the week.

The week began with more cold and rain but it seems to have finally turned into a Spanish summer – the last few days have been hot, hot, hot. The week brought more English classes and exciting developments in the progress of my residency here. On Thursday I headed to another cata de vinos, but this time with Jacob’s sister Paloma as Jacob was in Paris on business. Afterward we headed out with a friend of hers and had dinner outside on a terraza and enjoyed the perfect Madrid evening weather. Nothing beats having dinner outside on a terraza during these warm summer nights. On Friday I traveled into Madrid to meet up with Jacob’s aunt Ana Maria to take a walk around Retiro Park and go for lunch. It was a hot day, but Retiro was beautiful – all of the trees were so full and lush from the ridiculous amount of rain we’ve had (since the minute I arrived here!!!). Saturday Jacob I headed to Plaza Mayor in central Madrid to again enjoy the amazing evening weather and dinner outside in the busy Plaza.

So, the paella! Yesterday Jacob and I headed to his parents house for lunch. Lucky for me, his mother cooked my favorite – tortilla! Her Spanish tortilla is the best, hands down. If you haven’t had the pleasure of enjoying Spanish tortilla, you are missing out. Just to clarify here, Spanish tortilla in no way resembles a Mexican tortilla, they aren’t even closely related – Spanish tortillas are more like omelets consisting of egg, potato and onion. As if the tortilla weren’t enough, Jacob’s mother cooked an amazing seafood paella as well! I am pretty sure it doesn’t get much better than authentic homemade tortilla and paella!

The weekend ended with the quarter final Euro Cup soccer game between Spain and Italy. Soccer is obviously a big deal here, but the quarter final of the Euro Cup is pure pandemonium (especially when it’s against the Italian world champions). Jacob and I opted to stay in and watch the game rather than going out. After a full game and overtime with no scoring they finally had to make penalty kicks, resulting in Spain’s win!!! At the end of the game you could hear the entire neighborhood and city yelling and cheering. There was so much excitement that Jacob and I headed into downtown Madrid to see the festivities. It was nuts! If you were in Madrid last night and in your car, then you were incessantly honking your horn – literally the whole city was consumed by horn honking (even hours after the game). The streets were covered with people proudly displaying the Spanish flag in one way or another – cars, motorcycles, you name it, everyone was waving their flag proudly and screaming. I knew this country was proud before, but last night that became brutally clear. You truly haven’t seen fans, or country pride, until you’ve seen Spain after an important soccer game. Thursday will be the semifinal game against Russia….I can’t even begin to imagine what will happen if Spain wins that one.

We are off to Amsterdam this weekend and then I will be returning home to the States after that for a month and a half. The adventure continues!