Monday, April 28, 2014


    San Isidro is the patron saint of the peasants and laborers and is also the patron saint of Madrid. Tradition has it that on May 15th the people of Madrid are to make a pilgrimage to San Isidro's meadow to celebrate his day and to drink the holy water of his fountain in his hermitage's patio. Madrid's biggest "fiesta" is celebrated yearly starting on the Friday before the 15th and running until the following Sunday, 9 days of Saintly jubilee throughout the Comunity of Madrid.

    You can visit the church of the same name on calle Toledo - built over the site where the miracle purportedly took place - about two blocks from the Plaza Mayor. The church holds a small museum with exhibits including the famous well along with a small collection of archaeological findings excavated in the region of Madrid.

    Like most in Spain, this Madrid festival has largely lost its religious character. Instead, the city government uses San Isidro as a platform to represent the best of Madrid culture, old and new, from bullfights to break dancing. You'll enjoy a full calendar of concerts, plays, parades, fairs and special art exhibits, most free of charge.
Gigants (people on stilts) with "cabezudos" (big, satirical papier mache heads) parade around the city center, usually on the first Saturday afternoon of San Isidro.

    Legend has it that San Isidro was a poor peasant farmer and he and his wife Santa María de la Cabeza,were very popular, due to their generosity and always donating food to the poor. So, although the tradition and background of San Isidro is religious and rather mellow, as per usual, it did not take much arm-twisting for the Spaniards to turn it into a veritable bash. Long live the fiestas of Spain!
    Weekend partying is centered day and night around the Plaza de las Vistillas, Plaza de San Andrés and Puente de Segovia in the Austrias neighborhood, near the Plaza Mayor. At night, bars set up shop on the street, or "chiringuitos." Good luck elbowing your way through the hordes to get a "mini," the Spanish term for a huge plastic cup of mojito, beer, cocktail or mixed drink

    Many revelers still dress up in the traditional garb of the period called "Chulapo or Chulapa" which is Madrid's national dress. "Chulapa/o" comes from the word "Chulo" which means "a bit full of oneself" or "very dapper" and since the Madrileños consider themselves the most audacious, the name stuck. They pride themselves on being true Madrileños and the men wear a checkered cap, waistcoat and handkerchief around their necks while the women's getup is composed of fancy lace ridden dresses complete with a headress and elegant wrap around shawl.

    Snack venders with "Barquilleros", "wafer barell organs", can be found everywhere selling their "Barquillos" or "angel?s bread", some dipped in chocolate and others just plain wafery! These snacks are traditional of festivals in Madrid but you can find them all year round as well. San Isidro is also the ultimate bullfighting festival. Scoring tickets to the hot "corridas" or bullfights can be next to impossible unless you have contact.

    San Isidro is without a doubt Madrid's most melodious fiesta. The main stage is always in the Plaza Mayor and during every day and night of the 9 day festival, one can enjoy various concerts and traditional dancing. Most opening acts kick off with a "Hevia", a rather popular bagpipe and wind instrument player from Asturias. The another even bigger venue in the Casa de Campo which features rock concerts.

    San Isidro has been an official festival in Madrid since 1947 and while technically the festivities run from May 8th to the 15th, like good Spaniards they stretch the fun and always start earlier and end later. The festival actually begins with the Mayor's speach on the Friday afternoon prior to the 15th and ends with the ever popular Cocido Madrileño or public Cookout.



I pinned this pin last year from “bethany actually” but it was too late to make it for Christmas gifts.  So this year, I was determined to remember to make this in time so it would be ready for Christmas.  I was so excited to get started.

Only three things are needed.  Bottles, vanilla beans and Vodka.  So easy!
I  bought my bottles online from Specialty Bottles for .74 cents a  piece, and the vanilla beans atAmazon.com.   I have never bought Vodka in my life so felt a little unsure of what I was supposed to get, but it all looked the same so I just got the cheapest that I could find.   While purchasing the Vodka, the cashier did the RUDEST thing!  I had gotten my I.D. out to prove that I was over 21 and old enough to purchase liquor and SHE DIDN’T EVEN ASK FOR IT!  Sigh. Note to self.  Time to dye my hair.
The directions from the pin said to use 2-3 beans for 4 oz of vodka.  I just used two and that worked out fine.  I cut the vanilla beans in half and then cut each half all the way up the middle to expose the fleshy inside of the bean.

Into the jar it goes and pour the 4 oz. of vodka in.

After capping the first fifteen bottles,  I looked at them and it appeared that at the bottom they were already starting to “steep” and the vodka was turning a beautiful amber color. How exciting! The bottles are supposed to steep for at least a month before using so I have made these in plenty of time.  And one of the best things about this is that when the hectic-ness (is that  a word?) of the holidays hit,  I will have these all ready to go to give to neighbors and friends.  What a stress reliever!  In fact, I think this might turn into a yearly tradition for me.
This made me so happy today and I would definitely say that This Pin Rocks!
UPDATE:  Here is a quick pic of my vanilla after a week of steeping.  This is so fun to watch and I can’t wait to give them out as Christmas presents.