We left towards Spain expecting a cold weather in Madrid. As expected, Madrid was colder than Belgium - the dry weather of the city and the wind make it pretty chilly.
Though, the most strong impression was the sun. Suddenly, after months in Belgium we had a high sky sun (relatively to winter) and the light was much warmer. It was a real treat and we enjoyed every moment.
Iberia's flight took of late as expected and the pilot was in a rush to get to Christmas dinner, so the flight took about 25 minutes less than planned. The noise in the plane left no doubt that we are going to cross a cultural boundary. The PA system clearly said in Spanish, English, French and Dutch that people sitting in rows 27-30 are requested to board first. It was useless, everyone pushed in and no one of the boarding crew even cared to check the people's sitting place.
Madrid's airport was gloomy in Christmas night, empty and non festive. Everything changed as soon as we met Juan who came to pick us. Meeting a brother after years feels you with joy. There is no way around.
Before leaving airport we faced a HUGE Belen full with baby Jesus, biblical landscape and a castle with crusaders.
Arriving to Juan's parents place was great. The children were thrilled to see us, the warm receptions of our Spanish mother and father was as always, Pilu looked the same and sweet as always and above all (after all one should have clear priorities in life) only one bottle of Leffe Noel was broken. All the rest 8 litters of beer we carried in the suitcases arrived intact and with them the 4 Kilos of fresh Dutch Zeeland mussels.
The Christmas dinner served was amazingly tasty and big (lobsters, various kinds of shrimps and traditional morteruelo de Cuenca among others, pulp a la Gallega). A great cava was a perfect for us, while the boys enjoyed the beers we brought. The night ended way after midnight when we were all dead tired.
The day later (Dec 25) we had a welcoming and tasty lunch with the huge family of Pilu's parents and enjoyed a great conversation.
It would probably come to you as a shock, but the Christmas market in Madrid was open even after Christmas eve. How crazy this people are, right? Why the hack don't they close their markets a week before Christmas like in Leuven? And later people would say that Spaniards are lazy.
Another observation is that the square which was taken by the "indignados" (the social protesters in of Spain) was again taken, though this time by a huge crowd of consumers spending money in the occasion of Christmas. Social Protest 0 : Capitalism 1 :-(
In the next days we visited downtown Madrid (w/Cuban lunch) and Avila with its very well preserved early middle-ages' wall and a cold respectful appearance of a Castillian administrative center (w/ local meal of beans, known in Spain as Jewesses white and green and beef stuffed little red peppers).
A quite day in the middle allowed us to rest, visit the botanic garden, have a macrobiotic lunch and visit Juan's parents again and doing a short bar round with J+P's friends.
Our last day trip was to Manzanares el Real. A very well preserved and reconstructed medieval castle with a great nearby natural reserve. Both adults and children enjoyed the castle with the 3 Magi posing for children.
In the morning of Dec 30 we woke up with a clear will not to leave our family in Madrid, the great sun and return to Leuven for what will be our last visit together in our Belgian home. We enjoyed the trip to Madrid a lot, but it filled us with sadness leaving and knowing this is the beginning of the end of our time in Europe.
It's probably needless to mention that Iberia's flight was again taking off with a significant delay.
This is the time to say once again how much we dislike the EU bureaucracy which makes us have to separate in a week.
Just to end this post with a bit more encouraging spirit, we'd like to extend our eternal gratefulness to Iberia which delivered our baggage in the same flight.