Amongst the throngs of festival-goers carrying enormous cups of tinto de verano were locals dressed in old-fashioned chulapos and chulapas, the traditional costumes of madrileños. Like a less flamboyant flamenco dress, chulapas are typically paired with an embroidered shall and a white head scarf with bright red flowers on top, while the men’s dapper chulapos entail houndstooth flat caps, waistcoats and jackets with a red carnation in the lapel. The locals effortlessly donned their vintage attire as they wandered past the myriad of food stalls lining the bustling pathway, occasionally purchasing a steaming plate of paella, a rich assortment of meats or a greasy scoop of huevos rotos to soak up the massive portions of sangria and Mahou beer being served.
We wandered up the grassy hills, where every square inch of space was covered with picnics and botellóns. As we hiked up through the park, the paths were littered with vendors selling sangria, beer, mojitos and calimocho, a popular mixed drink made of wine and Coca Cola. The party was only just getting started. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a rickety Ferris wheel, and so we set off to explore the carnival. The repetitive rhythms of Reggaeton music echoed from rides filled with screaming children, and in a dreamlike trance we walked past the flashy rides towards the endless rows of game booths. We passed a booth packed with crowds playing Bingo, except the only prizes were giant legs of ham. Only in Spain...
At this point, I had difficulty comprehending just how sprawling this park was. The festivities were seemingly never-ending. We turned the corner to discover yet another long promenade alongside grassy knolls, besieged with food vendors and a large stage at the very end. My stomach was growling with hunger, but I couldn’t even begin to fathom the infinite number of options. Then just as fate would have it, Daniel and I passed a large pan of huevos rotos that we simply couldn’t resist. Although I typically can never resist huevos rotos – my all-time favorite Spanish dish comprised of fried eggs atop French fries and sprinkled with bits of jamón – this batch looked particularly enticing. We settled down with our drinks and began to feast upon what I now look back on as one of the most satisfying meals of my life.
Our goal was to head straight to Parque del Buen Retiro where the city was holding a fireworks show later that evening, but we got sidetracked by a concert in Plaza Mayor. As I swayed along to the music for a couple of songs, I couldn’t help but soak in my surroundings with awe and have a profound “Oh my God, I live in Spain” moment. The scenery was entirely magical. I could have stayed there for the rest of the evening, but we had a fireworks show to attend to that I simply refused to miss.
We arrived to Retiro with only a few minutes to spare. A single shot rang out in the dark, and we raced to get a good spot in front of the glistening pond and regal Monument to Alfonso XII, whimsically lit up and changing colors. Soon the majestic explosions began, bursting with bright hues and synched to the soundtrack of a dramatic orchestra. I couldn’t help but grin up at the sky as if I were a child again.
We dodged the crowds and began the long walk home, past the glowing Metropolis building and up Gran Vía. The city lights sparkled against the deep navy sky, while the warm breeze made me feel undeniably present and alive. I was buzzing with an electric happiness, immensely satisfied with our day’s many successes. It was the perfect day through and through, proving itself to be one of my favorite memories in Madrid thus far.
Linking up today for Travel Tuesday!