Yesterday we took the kids into town to see the Christmas lights – the first year they’ve both been old enough to appreciate them. I was expecting to see the half-million-euro illuminations burst into brilliant life at 6pm, as night fell, and was so desperate to find out what time they’d be coming on that I asked a policia, who gave me a hard stare and said “Estoy ocupado” (I’m busy). He was – Prince Felipe was in town for the Davis Cup, so security was tight. Or at least, the policemen were feeling important.
Suitably chastened, I took the kids off for the inevitable loo visit, and when I came out bling! they had been switched on (6.30pm, in case you’re interested). We walked up Avenida de la Constitucion, which was packed, trying to avoid trams and horse-and-carriages. Plaza Nueva had my favourite – trees with lights around the trunks. Not sure what it is about these, but I’ve always loved them. Something fantastical and fairytale-ish. In total, nearly two million bulbs have been used on 96 streets, the majority LED ones – for lower electricity consumption, as the Ayuntamiento has to be green and watch its centimos too.
Pink, blue and white stars; Christmas trees; snowflakes; globes – it was all there, but sadly my camera wasn’t, as I left it at home. Such a professional, organised, well-prepared blogger, I know. So these are Instagram images, largely blurry and out of focus, taken on the iPhone, while trying not to lose children who kept running into zapaterias and demanding 30 euro Hello Kitty Crocs (“Let’s wait and see what Father Christmas brings, shall we?” Fat chance, honey, but she fell for it.)
Some other streets had different designs, but by this point I was too knackered to manage a decent photo, so I’m afraid this is all you’re getting of Mateas Gago, the tapas street by the Giralda.
And, of course, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the belen stalls – packed in the area next to the Archivo de Indias, these are stocked with every conceivable figure you might need for your Nativity scene: animals, craftsmen, stable, well, and Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.
They have clear panels just above ground level, at ideal small-child height, and my daughter was transfixed by all the mini-scenes with their little sheep, chickens and pigs. (What she doesn’t know is that I have no plans to have a belen in my house – sorry, Lola.) Anyway, my attention was drawn to this little fellow.
In spite of the dire economic circumstances, the atmosphere was very jolly – the smell of chestnuts roasting, the chatter of excited children, the slow, deliberate walk of the smartly-turned out elderly couples, arm in arm. This week is the perfect time to can enjoy it as there are two holidays, tomorrow (Tuesday) and Thursday. And there’s also a book fair in Plaza Nueva. So there’s every reason to head into town, have a leisurely stroll and take in the lights. And let yourself get transported into a fairytale wonderland.