December 31, 2018
Family Traditions in Spain

Family Traditions in Spain

December 31, 2018
In a few hours we'll be welcoming 2019, I can't believe how fast time flies! My husband and I are joining our families to celebrate with a traditional Spanish holiday dinner at home. We are very family oriented, like the vast majority of people in Spain. Spanish families have strong ties, much stronger than in most countries, I believe. Since it's still holiday season, which is our favorite time of the year, I want to tell you about family traditions and customs in Spain.

Most young people don’t leave home until their late twenties. Mainly because of the lack of job opportunities and extremely high rent prices. But staying at home this long also shows how important family life is for us. Many families gather together nearly every weekend and most of us talk on the phone daily with our mothers or fathers. Family comes first.

Many people are reluctant to move somewhere else across the country even though many people our age have had to move to a big city like Madrid to find good jobs. Those of us who are "far" from our families, visit them once or twice a month.
So, what are some examples of family traditions and customs in Spain?

Copious meals during the holidays
We have a big dinner on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve and big lunch on Christmas Day and January 1. Apart from the holidays, our moms make sure they stuff us with delicious food every single weekend we visit.
spain family traditions holidays customs baked brie dry fruit nuts
Chocolate con churros
An extremely popular winter activity is having chocolate con churros with family or friends, either at home or outside. If you are in Madrid you must try it at Chocolateria San Gines, it's a must for locals and tourists alike.
chocolateria san gines madrid spain family traditions holidays customs chocolate churros
Twelve grapes
On on New Year's Eve we cook a dinner that's pretty similar to the one on Christmas Eve. After the NYE dinner, we eat 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight. It is believed that whoever eats their 12 grapes as the bells chime (one for each of the twelve chimes) will have a lucky and prosperous year. And let me tell you something, this is not an easy task!
spain family traditions holidays customs twelve grapes nye new years eve
Children wait for The Three Wise Men
Nowadays things have changed and many children get present from Santa too, but traditionally it was The Three Wise Men who left gifts by the Christmas tree. On every Spanish city and many towns there is a "Three Wise Men Parade" happening on the evening of January 5. Kids leave their shoes, sweets and glasses of water for the Kings and their camels before going to bed. The following morning they open presents if they have been good or they get charcoal if they have been naughty.
spain family traditions holidays customs three wise men
Games
We have a specific deck of cards, known as Baraja española (Spanish deck), which is different from the deck used for poker. It was designed and published by Heraclio Fournier in 1889. Some examples of popular games are mus, chinchon, brisca or escoba.

Domino is also a popular game to play with your grandparents.

Meal times & food
Food is extremely important for us, it's part of our culture.
Spanish families have a big lunch around 2-3 pm. Unless you live in a big city, you go back home to have lunch and then go back to work. Dinner is light and happens around 9 pm.
If you go out to have dinner with friends, you will meet between 9-10 pm and come back home around 12 pm or 1 am. If you go partying, nobody will expect you to be home before 4 am. If you are having a blast, you will get home at 7 am and maybe you've even had breakfast.

Read about how you can host a tapas feast here

What are some examples of family traditions in your country?

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December 24, 2018
Christmas Lights in Madrid

Christmas Lights in Madrid

December 24, 2018
madrid christmas lights alcala metropolis gran via luces navidad
UPDATED NOVEMBER 2019
Chrismas Lights will be lit on November 22 2019 at 19:30
It's the most magical time of the year and Madrid is spreading that Christmas cheer with warming Nativity scenes, beautiful decor and jaw-dropping illumination. Last night I set off to find the best Madrid Christmas lights equipped with my camera, tripod and an extremely patient husband. Madrid may not be famous for its Christmas markets like other European capitals but still has a lot to offer. Join us on our tour to see the capital of Spain shine like you have never seen before!
madrid christmas lights puerta alcala luces navidad

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS IN MADRID: THE SCHEDULE

The Christmas lights switch-on happens every year at the end of November, in 2019 it will be on the 22nd. The major activates the switch and the magic invades the streets of Madrid. From then until January 6, the lights are on every day at 6 pm.

The times for the Christmas lights are:

  • Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday: 6 pm to 11 pm
  • Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and the night before national holidays: 6 pm until midnight
  • Dec 25, Jan 1 & 6: 6 pm until midnight
  • Dec 24, Jan 5: 6 pm to 3 am
  • Dec 31: 6 pm to 6 am

madrid christmas lights puerta alcala luces navidad

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS IN MADRID: THE MAIN STREETS

There's a bus called Naviluz that tours the most emblematic streets in Madrid to see their Christmas illuminations. Tickets are quickly sold out so you have to book them as early as you can next year.

This year all that's left to do is walk and this is the tour I recommend:
Start in Calle Serrano. You can get there via metro (line 4 or line 9 stopping at Nuñez de Baloboa or Principe de Vergara) or cercanias (stop at Recoletos). Serrano and nearby streets like Jorge Juan are full of luxury stores, restaurants and cafes which are also beautifully decorated this time of the year.

Puerta de Alcala (pictured above), one of the most important monuments in Madrid, is at the beginning of Serrano. You will always see people taking pictures in front of it. With its spectacular decorations, it’s one of the walk’s highlights.

Follow the lights on calle Alcala (the longest street in Madrid) to the City Hall and Cibeles fountain. Right here you can also see the jabreath-taking lightning of Banco de España and Casa de America.

Continue straight on and you'll get to the iconic Metropolis building at the start of Gran Via. Worth mentioning is the beautiful Circulo de Bellas Artes, an impressive building with beautiful painted walls inside (think of a mini-Sistine Chapel) and a rooftop that offers jaw-dropping views of Madrid.

Final stop is Puerta del Sol, the heart of Madrid and Spain because it’s the center of the Spanish road network. This bustling square is all always full of people ans especially during Christmas time. Every year, there is a huge metallic Christmas tree. This is also the place where many Madrileños welcome the new year. The strikes of the clock in Puerta del Sol mark the traditional eating of the 12 grapes that give way to a new year.

You can also end your tour with the Christmas market in Plaza Mayor or have chocolate con churros in Chocolateria San Gines but bear in mind that these places are overcrowded during the holidays.

Read more about how we celebrate the holidays in Spain here.
Find more ideas of what to do in Madrid this holiday season here.
madrid christmas lights alcala luces navidad
madrid christmas lights alcala cibeles city hall ayuntamiento luces navidad
madrid christmas lights alcala casa america ayuntamiento city hall cibeles luces navidad
madrid christmas lights puerta del sol luces navidad

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS IN MADRID: MAP


Have you been to Madrid during the holiday season? What your favorite place in the world to see Christmas lights?

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December 17, 2018
Holiday Outfit Ideas: Pom-poms and Bows

Holiday Outfit Ideas: Pom-poms and Bows

December 17, 2018
christmas holiday party outfit look ideas inspiration pom-pom bows neutral pastel color hue
It's party time!
Let's take a break from travel posts to talk about fashion. Many fashion-related questions come up during this holiday season. I'm sure we all have a bunch of Christmas parties to attend and we want to make an impression with our look while wearing something appropriate for the occasion/code, am I right? Today I'm going to try to answer some of those questions.
christmas holiday party outfit look ideas inspiration pom-pom bows neutral pastel color hueDazzling Holiday Outfits for Any Dress Code
I wear pretty much the same outfits for work and play. My style is feminine and sweet and my closet is full of timeless pieces. I believe that less is more and that it's all in the details. This outfit sums it up very well, it combines pearl earrings with bows and pom-poms. Plus, there's a mixture of pastel and neutral hues. Finally, it's perfect for any dress code.

Related posts:
How to dress if you are a teacher
Pom-pom scarf and neutral tones
Bows for the Holidays

christmas holiday party outfit look ideas inspiration pom-pom bows neutral pastel color hue
christmas holiday party outfit look ideas inspiration pom-pom bows neutral pastel color hue
How do you dress for an office holiday party?
In December, it’s common for companies to hold holiday work parties. Some of these are simple parties during the work day at the office, while others are more elaborate events after hours. Here in Spain the later is more common. You normally meet your co-workers for dinner and drinks around 9 pm.
If the party is during work hours, wear what you'd normally wear at work but dress it up a little or add some sparkle so that it's not the same old thing.
If the holiday party is after hours, let your hair down but not too much. At the end of the day, you are still going to see those people again!

Related posts:
3 Holiday Party Outfits
Holiday Inspiration:Sequins & Tassels



christmas holiday party outfit look ideas inspiration pom-pom bows neutral pastel color hue
Why you need a 10 piece capsule holiday wardrobe
Every year I try to incorporate a new timeless piece to my holiday wardrobe. That way you end up with lots of different combinations and therefore options.  This is what the perfect 10 piece capsule holiday wardrobe should include:
1. Invest on a coat that you save for special occasions. Capes and faux fur coats are my favorite at the moment.
2. A white silk blouse
3. Sequin skirt/dress
4. Cashmere sweater
5. Black pumps
6. Small bag
7. Velvet blazer
8. Suit pants
9. Something tweed
10. A dress/jumpsuit. I love dresses with lace details like this one.

Related posts:
Faux suede dress and faux fur coat
"Cape" Town
Is your closet holiday ready? What are you wearing to Christmas parties? If you have pics or a blog post, leave the link below. I'd love to see them!
December 10, 2018
The Complete Guide to Visiting Leon

The Complete Guide to Visiting Leon

December 10, 2018
cathedral leon spain
It was high time I wrote a post about the place I've called my hometown since I was 10. Leon is a city in the North-West of Spain and belongs to the region of Castilla y Leon. It is a magical city that draws visitors from across the world because of its combination of stunning historical architecture and delicious food. The main attraction is the cathedral which is considered one of the most beautiful in Spain, but there's much more to do and see.

Welcome to The Complete Guide to Visiting Leon. Today I'm taking you around my hometown showing you what to do, where to eat and stay.
winter travel outfit non-touristy
cathedral leon spain
Leon was founded in the 1st century BC by the Roman legion Legio VI Victrix. In the year 74 AD, the Legio VII Gemina settled in a permanent military camp that was the origin of the city. Its modern name, León, is derived from the city's Latin name Legio. After the Roman Empire collapsed, Leon changed from Muslim to Catholic hands a few times. In 910, the Kingdom of Leon was born. Nowadays it has a population of 126.000. Being a small city, you can walk pretty much everywhere so you don't have to worry about transport.

If you visit Leon in summer you will find lots of pilgrims with scallop shells dangling from their backpacks on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Leon is a very important stop in Camino de Santiago.

WHAT TO DO
In Leon you can find a plethora of grand monuments and Catholic heritage. The 13th-century Cathedral takes your breath-away with its soaring towers and margnificent stained-glass windows (vidrieras) which are considered the most beautiful and best preserved in Spain. Other treasures include a silver urn containing the remains of San Froilan, Leon's patron saint, and the magnificent choir stalls. You must also visit the cloister and museum around the corner.

Running from the Cathedral to Santo Domingo Square, you can find the city’s main pedestrian street which is constantly bustling with people: Calle Ancha. It's full or vibrant restaurants, cafés, gourmet shops and a fun nightlife.
stained-glass windows vidrieras cathedral leon spain
cloister museum cathedral leon spain
non-touristy travel outfit winter
Palacio de los Guzmanes and its patio are examples of Renaissance architecture. Nowadays it's the seat of the provincial government of Leon but it admits visitors.
palacio guzmanes patio leon spain
Hostal de San Marcos (a.k.a. Parador de San Marcos) is a former monastery turned hotel thanks to Paradores, a hotel chain run by the Estate that preserves heritage by turning monuments into lodgings. The plateresque exterior is superb decorated with medallions and statues from the 16th century. It's even more beautiful when they light the facade at night. Unfortunately the place is currently closed for renovations, it's expected to open again in March 2020.
parador san marcos leon spain iluminado night
parador san marcos leon spain
Real Basilica de San Isidoro is older than the cathedral. This Romanesque church was founded in 1063 to house the remains of the saint, as well as the remains of other monarchs. Sadly, Napoleon's troops sacked San Isidoro in the early 19th century. Attached to the basilica, the stunning Panteon Real houses royal sarcophagi, beneath a ceiling with some of the finest Romanesque frescos in Spain. They are so spectacular that the place is called the Sixtine Chapel of the Romanesque.
Basilica San Isidoro Leon spain
basilica san isidoro leon spain
colegiata san isidoro leon spain non-touristy winter travel outfit
colegiata san isidoro leon spain
Gaudi designed a few buildings outside Catalonia and Leon is lucky to have two of them. One in Astorga and one in Leon itself. Casa Botines is a neo-Gothic, castle-like building that houses a museum and a recently opened champagne bar called El Modernista. A statue of Gaudí sits on a bench outside admiring his own masterpiece.
casa botines leon spain
casa botines gaudi leon spain night iluminada
Plaza del Grano is a beautiful cobblestone square in the heart of the city that used to be a market. It's a great place to sit outside and have a glass of wine with tapas in summer.
plaza grano leon spain
MUSAC (Museum of Contemporary Art of Castilla y León). The museum of comtemporary art stands out because of its colorful facade. The coloured glass was inspired by the pixelisation of a fragment of one of the stained-glass windows in León's cathedral.

Another museum worth visiting is Fundacion Vela Zanetti. His art is unmistakable, featuring strong lines and bold colors. He usually depicted open fields and people working the land.
musac museo arte contemporaneo modern art museum leon spain
Discover the origin of Corona beer at Museo de la Emigracion Leonesa. Did you know that one of the most popular beers around the world was originated in Leon? I recommend a visit to the museum to find more about this amazing story.

WHERE & WHAT TO EAT
Leon has been named Gastronomic Capital of Spain this year for a reason. Leon has a great variety of local dishes like cecina (dry meat), Valdeon cheese or Botillo. The city’s slogan for the competition is ‘Manjar de Reyes’, which means ‘Food of Kings’, giving a nod to the city’s royal history.

Leon is one of the few cities in Spain where tapas are free. You can go out for drinks with friends and end up having dinner for free without even realizing. Bars are pretty competitive about offering the best tapas because they know that if tapas are bad or they don't offer them, people won't go there.

BARRIO HÚMEDO & EL CID
These two quartiers are full of bars and restaurants and are packed on weekends. Traditionally, Barrio Humedo (which literally means "Wet Quartier") has been the most popular one but in recent years. El Cid has stepped up the game and become pretty popular too. By night these narrow streets are full of people, it's the most bustling area in town.

Here's a list of my favorite restaurants in Leon.

LAV
In my opinion this is the coolest and most modern restaurant in Leon. The name is an acronym for Laboratorio Alfonso V, and if you pronounce it in Spanish it sounds like "lab", short for laboratory. Read all about it here.
Address: Avenida del Padre Isla 1, Leon
Phone: +34 987 79 81 90
TripAdvisor
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lav restaurant leon spain
lav restaurant leon spain
EL PATIO
A fairly new addition to El Cid quartier. A cozy little restaurant where the dining area is a library. Food and books, two of my favorite things. More pics and info here.
Address: Plaza Torres de Omana 2, Leon
Phone: +34 987 03 33 55
patio restaurant leon spain
EL PARADOR DE SAN MARCOS
The place is currently closed for renovations, but I still recommend you read this post about it, you get an idea of what you can find in Paradores all around Spain.restaurant parador san marcos leon spain
restaurante parador san marcos leon spain
NIMÚ AZOTEA
This is the restaurant we chose to celebrate my birthday a few weeks ago. Read all about it here.
Address: Calle General Lafuente s/n, Leon
Phone: +34 987 79 81 92
TripAdvisor
nimu azotea restaurant leon spain
nimu azotea restaurant leon spain
nimu azotea restaurant leon spain
LA MARY RESTAURANT
Combines traditional food with modern touches. I love the white walls, great light and china that decorate the restaurant.
Address: Plaza Don Gutierre 5, Leon
Phone: +34 987 04 34 47
TripAdvisor
La Mary restaurant Leon Spain
La Mary restaurant Leon Spain buñuelos bacalao
La Mary restaurant Leon Spain

WHERE TO STAY
One of the most amazing things about Leon is that you can stay in some of its monuments. I don't think there's a better way to take a stroll through the history of a place.

Parador de San Marcos is the only 5* hotel in Leon. It will open its doors again in 2020.

Attached to Basilica de San Isidoro you can find Hotel Real Colegiata de San Isidoro.

Alfonso V and Conde Luna are 4* hotels that belong to the same group. They are very close to the Old Town. In Hotel Alfonso V you can eat at LAV and in the rooftop of Conde Luna you can find Nimu Azotea.

NH Plaza Mayor Hotel. It's located in Plaza Mayor, Leon's main square, which was constructed in the 16th century. Every other Saturday there's a Farmer's Market. It's only a few steps from the Cathedral and Barrio Humedo.

WHAT TO WEAR
Forget all you've heard about Spanish weather if you go to Leon. It's one of the coldest cities in Spain. Winters are cold and summers mild. Leoneses are famous for having to carry jackets around even in August.

For such a small city, Leon has no shortage of things to offer. Coming soon to the blog: Leon: Nearby Places You Must Visit.

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