Adventure Travel McColls (ATM$) 2017-2018 travel blog


I was so excited to visit a European Christmas Market, after we left Cyprus, I planned a few days layover in Madrid before returning to Edmonton.

First up, I dragged Duncan back to Plaza Mayor, the site a long-standing outdoor holiday market reported to have 100 booths or more. It was very disappointing, because with booth after booth of the same kinds of goods it appeared to me as if the entire place was set up by some importer of Made-In-China trinkets and trash.

Several of the booths presented various styles of mass-produced wreaths, and often the same ones as the booth two stalls over and scattered among these were booths full of novelty gift items like fidget spinners & reindeer horn hairbands - and weirdly enough several booths of what I recognized as Halloween masks. Perhaps there is a dress-up element to Spanish fiestas in December and January.

On the upside, when I checked a booth selling holly and mistletoe bunches to determine if the plants too were Made-in-China (aka as plastic as they looked) I was surprised they popped – real mistletoe has berries are just as white, shiny and opaque as the artificial versions common to me.

The only redeeming thing about the Plaza Mayor Christmas Market was that there were also numerous booths filled with innumerable styles and sizes of nativity scene bits and pieces, from barns to camels, infant to wise guys, including accessories such as straw and baskets of fruits and vegetables.

The best of these was – and is - the unique-to-northern-Spain figure of the Caganer. Crouched behind a building or a tree in the corner of the nativity, this bare-bottomed, pooping figurine is considered by many in Catalonia and neighbouring areas with Catalan culture (Andorra, Valencia, and in southern France) an essential feature of the traditional nativity scene. This despite attempts by the government to remove the caganer from public nativities causing widespread controversy.

If you care to learn why the pooper is super important you can read more at https://bnc.lt/gtCg/EtC1hb4PPS

Later in the week I found two markets far more to my taste. The Black Cat market with clothing, jewelry and accessories was held in a hotel not far from our own, but not stellar. On the other hand, the blocks-long Madrid Artisans Holiday Market near the Cibeles fountain was fabulous – with impressive hand-made products along the lines of the Butterdome Craft market - but outdoors and free to enter. I bought myself a gorgeous hand-felted wool cloche hat

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