By Ashley Kolumban
On a neighborhood walk one evening with tour manager Mauricio Macarron Larumbe, we walked through Madrid’s main square: Plaza Mayor. Located right in the center of the city, the square is filled with outdoor cafes and eateries that serve classic tapas and glasses of native wine.
Three-story buildings, some with original façade, create the square shape was once where Plaza del Arrabal market. But just a few blocks away Puerta del Sol is located.
We walked through Puerta del Sol and found illusionists in the middle of it, showing off their talents. Both of them were dressed in elegant middle-eastern garb of sort. One sat Indian-style with a short pole in his hand and the other sat atop the pole also sitting Indian-style with his legs crossed. It was an incredible levitation trick.
The square, which received its name from the eastern positioning from which the square faced, was flooded with people and was clearly a magnet for tourists and Spaniards, especially during the holiday season and New Year’s Eve.
Similar to the iconic celebratory gathering in Times Square where many spend the end of the current year and the beginning of the next, Puerta del Sol holds an event to ring in the new year.
A building called the Real Casa de Correos was originally home to a post office, but now it serves as the headquarters for the President of Madrid’s Autonomous Community, according to gomadrid.com. Gated and guarded, the building stands front and center with a clock tower several stories up. Those who come to celebrate wait for the clock to strike midnight and follow with a night full of celebrating and of course, drinking.
Spending New Year’s Eve waiting for the 12 chimes at Puerta del Sol is one of the three main traditions the Spanish like to do. Other popular outings include spending time at a family home while sharing a late dinner waiting to watch the 12 chimes be televised or celebrating in a restaurant.
A tradition that the Spanish have adopted for ringing in the New Year with luck is eating 12 grapes or raisins at the stroke of midnight. Then it’s off to the discos.
In the square, there’s a statue of a bear standing on his hind legs climbing a small tree. The 20-ton statue is one of the most iconic symbols of Madrid. Named el oso y el modrono, Spain had a heavy population of the animals during the Middle Ages. In an attempt to stay true and keep a remembrance of the old country, the emblem of the bear stands as a reminder of it according to madridtourist.info.
Outside of the old post office inlaid into the concrete is a place marker representing the very center of Spain. Originally placed in 1950, the current marker is the replacement that was set in the same exact place in 2009, according to gomadrid.com. This point in the sidewalk is where Spain’s six national roads have their start, Macarron told us.
We all took our turn standing at this milestone. That was the point when it actually felt as we finally traveled across the ocean and into Spain.
After the endless days of preparation, what felt like endless hours traveling, and still in the process of kicking the tiresome feeling of jet lag, this was the official marking that we were in a new country and ready for new adventures.
Nice work here, Ashley. We made a few adjustments, mainly for readability and some grammatical and punctuation issues that needed to be fixed. We trimmed it just a bit, too. Look at how we adjusted the close in particular to capture that “we were finally in Spain” feeling.