Hands clapping, feet stomping, castanets chattering. Add a song that erupts straight from the gut. Those sounds are what I will forever associate with Madrid, flamenco, and my last night of 2013.
I quickly agreed that Madrid would be a fun place to ring in the new year. I've historically had pretty low-key New Year's plans and don't like the pressure of having to find mandatory, expensive fun on the last year of the night. So although I didn't feel the need the go all out, I did want to celebrate in a way unique to Spain.
Option one was to gather in Madrid's plaza Puerta del Sol with many others to participate in the New Year's countdown. But not wanting to deal with the crowds (and besides, it wasn't as warm as you might think in Spain), I ruled that out quickly.
As you already guessed, I went with option two: attending a flamenco show.
We arrived at Cafetín La Quimera at 9:00pm for the special New Year's celebration dinner and show. Though easily accessible by the metro, it was a bit east of the center of the city in a quite local, residential section of the city. Stepping inside we found ourselves in a small, intimate venue with tables for maybe 50 people. We would have had a great view from any table but were lucky to find ourselves seated directly off the left of the stage.
Most flamenco shows seem to offer two choices - just drinks or dinner. Because this was a special occasion, our tickets included a salad, tapas, the main course, and dessert, plus a mojito, drinks, and a glass of cava to toast to the new year. After eating for a while, the main event began.
The show was captivating. The main cast of character were these five. Two played the guitar, two dancers, and an older gentleman who I equated to a Spanish Harold Zidler from the film Moulin Rouge. The passion and soul of flamenco poured out in the performance. I have no background in the dance, but it seemed like to be lead by a spirit of improvisation. Performers clapped, stomped, and shouted words of affirmation to each other.
As the night wore on, we were each presented with a glass of cava to toast with, along with a red cup full of twelve green grapes.
A large metal anvil-like object was brought out and "Harold Zidler" came out with a hammer. We were instructed that at the strike of midnight, he would hit his hammer twelve times. For each chime, we would eat a grape. (We were then instructed to chew and be careful not to choke, being amateurs and all.) The Spanish tradition is that if you eat them all by the last chime, you will have good luck for the year.
Afterwards, the party continued on. The formal show had ended, but the music and flamenco continued. The pool of singers and dancers widened to the wait staff and perhaps family members of the owners. It was a celebration and everyone felt like family that night!
Here are some "extras" you can click through if you want to see more from the night:
PLAN YOUR TRIP:
I highly recommend seeing a flamenco show in Madrid - it was the most memorable experience of my time there. Cafetín La Quimera was an intimate, low-key venue to enjoy the show close to the action.
C/Sancho Dávila 34. 28028 Madrid, Spain
Buy your tickets in advance - the price doubles without a reservation. You can go online to FlamencoTickets.com to purchase tickets.