And so the last day of 2009 rolled on, as last days of a year are wont to do.
Most of the day passed with lots of global online chatting, listening to fireworks being set off pointlessly in broad daylight, and much staring from the balcony at the sheets of torrential rain which obscured the other side of the road, and didn't bode well for a terribly welcoming midnight in Sol.
However, the skies were kind and by the time I left to go to Richi's place for his party (sorry, NOT party, I keep forgetting - little gathering), it was dry. I travelled on a near-deserted Metro down to Atocha where I met Debbie who was still in search of cava for later. Thanks to the convenient opening hours of the Chinos, she was soon to be cavaed up!
And off to Richi's we went. The little gathering was in full swing with a flat full of people I'd never met, but who all turned out to be lovely, friendly and a lot of fun. Of course, I should have realised that - they're Richi's friends, after all! Several hours of chat, drinking and nibbles followed. My beer, which I'd carted halfway across Madrid, didn't even get a look in due to the lethal Cosmopolitans he insisted on plying us all with all evening. Really, Richi? You're absolutely sure you had the recipe right? 2 parts vodka, 1 part Cointreau and a splash of cranberry juice? Not that I'm complaining but I hadn't planned to be quite so smashed by 9.30pm!
11pm arrived and we donned coats, hats, scarves, gloves, grabbed cava, plastic cups and way too many grapes and headed for Sol. The closer we got, the busier the streets became until we finally hit what appeared to be an impassable logjam, just in sight of the square. Undaunted, we formed a human chain and dragged eachother through the crowds, only to find that once we actually made it to Sol, there was plenty of room. Weird. Perfect timing - we arrived at 11.45 and formed a terribly English circle (a la 1980s dancing but without the obligatory handbag in the middle), and set about dishing out the cava and the grapes. Hands duly filled with the requisite comestibles, we waited for the hands of the clock to click over to midnight. I hadn't realised that there aren't actually any chiming bells to time the grape-eating to, so once the big hand had hit 12 we were reduced to simply stuffing 12 grapes into our mouths and washing them down as quickly as possible with the cava. I think Richi and I tied for first place on getting all 12 down! Wish I'd gone for the seedless variety though!
Something approaching a firework display ensued - London and Sydney have nothing to worry about though! There was a lot of clinking of glasses (or whatever noise it is that plastic glasses make), wishing of Feliz Ano Nuevo to all and sundry and more photo taking. I've never been to Trafalgar Square for New Year but I have a feeling that Sol was a damn sight friendlier, with complete strangers hugging and "Salud"-ing all over the place.
Debbie decided she needed someone to kiss, and I was tasked with finding a suitable participant. The first victim was a guy in a group next to us, who was only too happy to be dragged over and worked his way round us all. Victim number 2 I don't really remember, mainly because number 3 was my piéce de resistance! See the final photo to see what I'm talking about! Yum.
So 2009 was officially over, and I'd survived the best part of 9 months in Madrid. And what a 9 months they've been! Fingers crossed, there'll be many more.
So Happy New Year, everyone, and here's to you all getting everything you hope for in 2010.