After a 6-hour final exam and many hours spent on my consulting project with Wharton, I was desperately anticipating the weekend. The weekend was full of Christmas festivities and dinners. Friday evening, my German friend, Svenja, and I decided to head to the city center to visit some of the Christmas markets and to see the lights. For weeks, Christmas lights have been strung up on main streets through Madrid, but I had yet to see them lit up at night (read: I live at school). Luckily, I’m not the only one who loves this time of year, so Svenja and I decided to head to the center to soak it all in. Nearly every plaza, or square, has a Christmas market at this time of year. Some are full of junk, some are full of Christmas trees and decorations, and others are full of food. Along the way, we ran into Kshitij (another classmate) and convinced him to join us. Our first stop was Ópera. This was the plaza full of food! Success! We did a walk around and decided to pass on the turrones and bombones, and we went straight for the churros con chocolate (chocolate was given to us for free, score!)…which we subsequently dripped all over ourselves.
We then walked to the next closest plaza where we found lots of gifts. We didn’t really have the patience to shop, so we continued walking in the direction of the biggest plaza, Sol. There was a massive amount of people, so we took a few pictures of the giant Christmas tree and wiggled our way to Plaza Mayor. Here, we bought some decorations and a Christmas tree hat for the following evening. I needed a Christmas-themed costume as well, but I wanted something a little more complex than a hat…I wanted to be a gift wrapped present!
I kept thinking and thinking about where I could find a cardboard box for my costume and then suddenly we came upon a store that had just done some restocking. And then 5 more stores! I had piles and piles of boxes right there in front of me to choose from, out on the sidewalks of Madrid. So of course I recruited Svenja and Kshitij to help me find the perfect one. They were good sports.
Svenja then headed home (as she is still recovering from a cold that she’s had for weeks) and Kshitij joined me for dinner plans that I had made with some ladies from another class: Anna, Katie and my roommate, Lydia. We had some delicious Greek food and then visited some classmates that live in the neighborhood. It was a short evening (only 1 am! – which is early by Madrid standards), but I was exhausted from such a busy week.
The next day, I did some school work then joined Kshitij to help him find a costume and to buy some gift wrap for my box. To my surprise, I found Hallmark gift wrap paper! I quickly ran home, made my box and headed to a mulled wine and mince pie party, hosted by my Londoner classmate and her husband. Rachel and Martin don’t live very far away, so I decided to walk to their flat. Walking down the streets of Madrid, standing inside a gift box, is quite a sight. I had cars waving at me and little old ladies laughing at me as I paused at each crosswalk. I quickly called Miko and Kshitij to join me, so that I didn’t have to go through that on my own. So Miko joined in his elf costume and Kshitij in his Rudolph antlers and red nose. Whew!
Once we arrived, I was chatting with Jungmin from South Korea. She had picked up a mince pie and asked me what it was. I responded, “I think it is filled with meat. But I’m not sure.” She bit into it and gave me a face that I’ll never forget. To her dismay, it was filled with fruit and spice. I asked another American standing near me what they are and he thought they were filled with meat too. Wow, were we wrong. I think, in our minds, we assumed mince = meat and pie is probably similar to Shepard’s pie or pot pie? I’m not sure. But the Londoners had a good laugh at us.
I only stayed a few hours, because I was invited to a Christmas dinner at the home of my Northern Irish classmate, Lisa, and her husband, Andrew. Andrew is also a student at IE, so he had invited some of his classmates. It was nice to hang out with folks that I rarely see anymore. We shared stories, talked business (you can never escape entrepreneurial discussions here), and talked about our goals for the future.
Next on my agenda is to study for the last 3 final exams of the term, finish packing my suitcase, participate in our end-of-term awards event tonight, and host a Love Actually watch party. 6 days and counting!