Where’s Autumn?!


Dear Autumn,

RE: Where Are You This Year?

I write to you with a grave concern I felt compelled to express. I am consumed with sorrow, because of your absence.

May I enquire, why have you decided not to visit Madrid this year? What have we, the people of the city, done to offend you?!

It is the MOST horrible thing about living in Madrid, the fact I rarely have the opportunity to enjoy your company.

There has been this year, as last, a distinct lack in seasonal change, which is once again intolerable. In fact the only season that seems to last the duration here is summertime. Summertime never knows when it is polite moment to leave!

Snow, well, that too would be some kind of miracle. I think I saw some last year, but it was similar to someone with bad dandruff shaking their head nearby. Madrid’s version of snow sucks, just like their version of ‘Autumn’.

You Autumn are merely Autumn in name alone, and you should be ashamed of that fact!

The sun is unashamed, it remains fixed in the blue sky, mocking anyone who wants to feel a cold northernly wind scratch at their face! The temperature still hovers around 25 degrees, even though everyone walks around in coats, with runny noses, colds, and coughs. They, like me are willing you to put in an appearance and offer reprieve. Yet, regardless of this, you Autumn, are NOWHERE to be seen!

This for me is sorely disappointing. I mean, how can I truly enjoy Halloween, the highlight of your season, without a chill in the air, without a sense of the eerie or melodramatic?

It is unnatural, celebrating Halloween in a tee-shirt, and probably shorts. It sucks!  This suckiness is something YOU Autumn, are responsible for!

I want the cold, the rain, the icy mornings, the crisp evenings, the purple and red leaves, the thick wooly hats and scarfs, the coats, the extra socks and cold nose, seeing my breath in the air and feeling winter is on its way!

What is extra odd though, whilst mentioning the changes in leaf colour, or absence of such; that even if you Autumn are confused about the date, the tress aren’t. OK there are no dramatic leaf colour changes, because of your late arrival Autumn, but nevertheless the leaves vacate their branches. I feel deprived when leaves merely fade from green to brown, as here in Madrid, they just curl up and die! Every leaf on every tree falls by the wayside, they slowly just decide to give up the ghost! They realise it is October and they should be shed already, they hurry in their departure.

You see the trees know the seasons, even if the weather does not! Yet, you Autumn haven’t been involved at all, shame on you for shirking your responsibilities!

What I want, what I miss is the cold, is the sign Summer is over. So, please, please, please Autumn let it be cold soon!! I have had enough of the heat, the dry scorching air, the dusty roads, the parched vegetation, the hardly there attire!

You know what, to add insult to Autumns injury, today I saw a butterfly flutter past me whilst I was walking to the university! Yes, there it was as bold as brass, basking in the afternoon sun. It was just like summertime, summertime in the very nearly middle of October! Despicable! Absolutely despicable! What do you think Autumn? Are you now fully shamed into making your appearance?

Anyway, if you are by chance reading this, belated Autumn, get your bottom in gear and hurry up and arrive! Better late than never!

Yours sincerely,
A frustrated city dweller.

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Día de los Muertos y Dia de Todos Los Santos


This will be my first year experiencing Day of the Dead, All Soul’s Day/All Saints Day in Spain. Funnily enough I haven’t spoken to any of my friends here about what is usually done to celebrate in Madrid. So consequently I have done some research, and this is what I have come with.

Oh, an interesting note to add before hand; Día de los Muertos has an uncanny resemblance to original Celtic celebrations, which were also celebrated on November 1st. The Celtic peoples honoured their dead; believing that November 1st was a day of transition between the old and the new. The people made offerings to their dead of fruit and vegetables; as those who had died (the spirits) would travel to the land of the dead together.

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) it is traditionally a Mexican holiday on November 1st; family and friends come together to pray for, and remember friends and family members who have died.

Traditions connected with this holiday include building private altars to honour the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, along with favourite foods and beverages of the departed. Visiting graves with these as gifts is part of the celebration too. They also leave possessions of the deceased at the grave.

This holiday has its origins dating back hundreds of years; Aztec festivals for the Goddess Mictecacihuatl were the inspiration.

Day of the Dead has connection with the Catholic holidays of All Soul’s Day on November 2nd.

In Spain Dia de Todos Los Santos (All Saint’s Day) is celebrated on November 1st. In Madrid the 1st has been declared as a holiday, and most businesses will be closed.

Ofrendas (offerings) are made on this day to the dead. Friends and families visit the graves of their loved ones; to pray for them, leave candles and flowers. People will travel back to their home-towns, and villages to offer their respects also.

Presents are often given to children too; usually sweets and toys (similar to Halloween).

Streets are congested with cars heading to the cemeteries, out of the city. Florists sell more flower arrangements than at any other time of the year. Bakeries produce special orders of specific pastries like Hueso de Santos (Saint Bones). This pastry is traditional and made of marzipan, egg and sugar syrup.

People in Spain are frequently named after a saint. As is the case in many other Catholic countries; consequently people have their birthday, as well as their saint day, in honour of the saint they were named after.

Another little fact to add is that the play ‘Don Juan Tenorio’ is also traditionally performed during this time in Spain. In fact, once a year for over a century this tradition had taken place!

Copy Right Notice:
© Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Cold Comfort – Welsh Ghostly Tales


It is Halloween tomorrow, and as a confirmed paranormal and supernatural fanatic I absolutely revel in all things strange and spooky! As it is a time to traditionally fear the undead that cannot rest easy in their graves; I want to relate some spooky tales to celebrate the occasion.

I am Welsh born and bred, so I thought what better tales to tell than some original Welsh ghost stories and legends.

I have selected only a handful of spooky tales, as there are just too many to note here! However, these stories hold special significance to me as they are my personal favourites; some of which I was told as a child. I have even visited some of these haunted locations myself, and can say they are quite unnerving places!

Legends:

Canwyll Corph (Corpse Candle)
Tradition dictates this was a pale light moving slowly above the ground, following a route from the house of a dying person to the Churchyard. Sometimes it was supposed to be possible to discover who would die, as the intended victim would appear as an ethereal form within the flame.

Other indications of the victim came in the form of the strength of the flame and its colour. If the flame glowed red it indicated the death of a man; a white glow indicated the death of a woman and a faint light indicated a child.

If two corpse candles were seen at the same time this was taken to indicate that two deaths would occur in the same household, at about the same time. If the corpse candle was seen early in the evening this indicated that the death would take place within a few days.

Gwyllgi (Dog of Darkness)
These terrifying apparitions took the form of a huge hound with a heavy fur coat and great glowing eyes.

The favourite ‘haunt’ of Gwyllgi were lonely Welsh country roads, of course at night-time.

These dog spectres were believed to be the devil himself chasing down his victims.

These ‘Devil Dog’ stories have been documented in many villages across Wales. In fact some lonely Welsh lanes are actually named after these legends; ‘Lon Bwbach Ddu’ (Lane of the Black Spectre) is one located outside a village called Marchwiel, North Wales.

The Devil Dog

Pwll-yr-Wrach (The Witch’s Pool)
Located on Flint Mountain, North Wales.

Legend has it that wraith like beings live under the waters of this pool, and wait patiently for their next unsuspecting victim.

In years gone by there have been many mysterious deaths associated with this particular area, most notably many drownings. There have been many strange appearances of ghostly apparitions documented too. Seemingly the spectres just appear from nowhere, and beckon people over to them as though they are lost and require help. Of course by going to help them, you in turn seal your own fate!

Beckoned to your death……

Devil’s Bridge
There are many local Welsh tales relating to ‘Devil Bridges’. In fact there is one such tale about a bridge near to where I used to live, but the story that follows is one of the oldest of such tales based high up in the hills of Aberystwyth, North Wales.

An elderly woman struck up a concord with the Devil himself one winter’s eve. Distressed that she had lost her cattle, which were stranded across a gorge, the Devil appeared to her and offered a solution.

The Devil said she should return the next morning, the bridge would be built, and he would then claim the first living thing to cross it. The woman agreed, and returning the next morning with her faithful dog as companion she couldn’t believe what she saw, a bridge.

The Devil eager to claim his own prize waited, but the old woman was wilier than he reckoned on. Throwing some food across the bridge her dog ran to retrieve it, the Devil then had his wish; but instead of the woman’s soul he had to make do with the dogs.

Haunted Inns:

The Skirrid Mountain Inn, Llanfihangel
The Inn also acted as the local Courthouse.

First entry relating to this place was in 1110 when a thief was hung for his crime inside the Inn.

In the next 800 years that followed a further 182 criminals met the same fate there.

Now it is the scene of many a paranormal investigations, it is supposedly extremely haunted. Visitors have reported feeling a noose being placed around their necks; the invisible rope actually leaves its mark around the new victim’s neck!

Haunted Graveyards:

St Mary’s Church, Minera.
This church was rebuilt as it stands today in 1865, but a place of worship existed on the site from 1577.

Supposedly this site is synonymous with black magic rituals and witchcraft; apparently a witch is buried within the grounds. There has also been reporting’s of people hearing a phantom train pass the churchyard; once the steam train ran adjacent to it. Local people have also seen ghastly apparitions dancing amongst the graves at dusk.

Manor Houses:

Plas Cadwgan Hall, North Wales
Built during the 16th Century by Welsh gentry.

This location had history of intrigue and violence from the first.

The area the Hall was eventually built on runs close to an old Roman burial site, and is located near the 8th century Offa’s Dyke, which is a site where many battles took place between the Welsh and the English. The site is also part of the old motte and bailey castle placed there as an English system of defence.

Once the actual Hall was built, the original inhabitants were part of the plot to place Mary Queen of Scots on the throne of England. The subsequent owners of the Hall were then involved in The English Civil War (actual tunnels were carved out underneath the property running underground as escape routes). There were many murders and suspicious deaths from the first.

Consequently this Hall was notorious for being haunted. Unseen coach and horses would enter the courtyard, people would run into the Hall in haste but there was no one to be seen, people could be heard walking and talking in the rooms, cries would be heard in the night; so on and so on.

This Hall no longer exists as it was demolished in the 1960’s; however a farm house now occupies the location. All that remains of the original Hall are the outbuildings, and even in modern times there have been deaths upon the site. In the late 1980’s a group of young boys were killed in one of the outbuildings in a freak accident.

Cadwgan Hall before being demolished in the 1960’s

Baron Hall, Beaumaris
Derelict and deserted, situated amid countryside. This house has a history of vampirism.

Apparently one of the young daughters from the ancestral Bulkeley family met a sinister death, and her spectre still roams the grounds.

The spectre is supposed to be a terrifying sight to behold, actually capable of scaring the observer to death. So much so that the area around is still unoccupied, and even to this day no one ventures near there at night.

Within the grounds there is the tomb, where the daughter’s body was interred; even today it is guarded with a sturdy door, bared, locked and bolted. The ruins of the house have been vandalised, but this tomb remains strangely untouched. Why?!

Baron Hall

Rofft Hall, North Wales.
Margaret Blackbourne of Rofft Hall was said to have been murdered in 1713 by her husband. She is often now referred to as “Lady Blackbird”.

The woman’s spirit was said to have been restless, the people believed she had become a vampire. This uneasy spectre was said to haunt the village of Marford, rapping upon the windows of the houses, begging to be let in.

Interestingly, the windows of the houses in the village dating back to this time, were all constructed with inbuilt crosses specifically designed to ward off Margaret’s uneasy ghost.

The spirit of the troubled Margaret – vampire perhaps?

Candelson Castle
Central to a lost village called Treganlaw (the town of a hundred hands).

Not much is know about what happened to the inhabitants of Treganlaw, although it is claimed that the village was buried under the sand dunes of Merthyr Mawr.

It is said that the castle and surrounding areas are haunted. Many old artefacts have been mysteriously found near the castle, and ghostly appearances are said to be frequent.

One of these artefacts is called the ‘Goblin Stone’. It is said that this object is haunted by a ghost that entices people to embrace it, thus entrapping them for all eternity.

Plas Teg, North Wales
A Jacobean Manor House, built by Sir John Trevor, a descendant of ancient Welsh gentry. He was Secretary to the powerful Lord Howard of Effingham at the court of the ageing Queen Elizabeth.

The house and the grounds have seen plenty of drama and violence. Not surprising that over the years tales of ghostly activities have been reported.

Paranormal investigations take place here regularly, and I have visited this house myself on many occasions. I can therefore say from personal experience, it does have an unnerving atmosphere.

Plas Teg ghosts include a drowned woman, a heart broken youth, a murdered wife, a vengeful husband, and the victims of hangings from the end of Judge Jeffries noose; even the oak staircase has a story. It is supposed to have been constructed from the timber remains of a ship from the Spanish Armada.

Plas Teg hall

The ‘Red House’, Denbigh Moors, North Wales
The ruin of a former hunting lodge, known as Gwylfa Hiraethog, situated close to a lonely pub called ‘The Sportsman’s Arms’.

Apparently ghostly spectres are seen wandering the ruins. Dark hooded figures with skull faces have been reported. People venturing there to look at the ruins have also reported feelings of hopelessness, suffocation, extreme panic and terror.

The Red House

Haunted Asylums:

Denbigh Asylum, North Wales
This building was built in 1848 with room for over 1,500 patients and 1,000 staff and it closed in 1995.

Supposed to highly haunted, and many paranormal investigations take place here.

The usual disquieting tales of spirits are reported.; crying, screaming, falling objects, rapping, banging, throwing of debris and so on and so on.

Denbigh Asylum

Wishing everyone a………

Copy Right Notice:
© Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The ‘Real’ Madrid Experience – The Halloween Extravaganza


Now I know traditionally Halloween is not a Spanish past time. In fact, check the internet for ‘Ghost Tours’ or ghostly anecdotes regarding the city, and you won’t find any! Well, maybe one, regarding the haunting of the Casa de América on Paseo de Recoletos. In fact even making enquiries with people from Madrid about ghosts, and such like, produces strange and quizzical expressions, often followed by; ‘Don’t those type of things scare you’?

Me encanta (I love) Halloween!!!! It has been my favourite time of the year since I was a child. In fact I wasn’t certain what celebrating Halloween would be like in Madrid, so it is now that I find myself missing the UK most; well, at least the part of the UK I was raised anyway. Now there is a place where autumn truly is autumn! This dramatic change of season, for me, adds a touch of atmospheric dark romance to the run up to Halloween. The fragile trees, the colder weather, heavy clouded skies, the rugged scenery and the dark nights all lend their hands perfectly to the Halloween theme.

Madrid is not rugged, not surrounded by old graveyards and churches, cobbled streets, ancient houses, dark forests, rivers, valleys, mountains or fields; so then how can I celebrate Halloween here?!

Well, I may not be going the whole nine yards and re-decorating the house as a scene from a Hammer House of Horror film, but I have managed to find one concession towards making my Halloween feel like home. It is the humble Pumpkin! Don’t laugh, it may seem pathetic and childish, but I love carving Pumpkins for Halloween. It’s a ritual I have held onto for seven years, and I don’t intend to let it slip this year! This one little thing gets me in the Halloween ‘spirit’; so I say thank you Carrefour for stocking them!

Anyway, so what else does Madrid offer with Halloween in mind, well, seems like the other element missing here is ‘the’ party. Of course, on this front there is no need to worry; Madrid does parties probably better than anywhere else!

So, today I have been hunting high and low, not for ghosts and goblins though, but for the locations of these suitably scary parties and themed events.

Something Different:

Parque de Atracciones – Casa de Campo, Madrid
http://www.parquedeatracciones.es/

This theme park throws annual Halloween-fests which run on until 4th November. The park and grounds have been suitably redecorated and is hosting a wealth of Halloween treats such as; music, street entertainers and shows. Also, ensure you take a stroll through Zombie Town, and pay a visit their four interactive fright night experience ‘Haunted Houses’; Horror Circus, Necronomicon, Hospital of the Dead and The Old House.

Extremauncion – outside of Madrid on the A5 (Highway) passed Navelcamero
http://www.extremauncion.com/

A themed weekend of scary events in a remote location; Halloween dinner, drinks, a tour to set the ghostly scene, passage of terror in abandoned mansion, actors dressed to scare and camping out in a ‘haunted’ cemetery. It appears to be the complete Halloween experience in one, for a price.

The Halloween weekend will cost anything from; 70 – 80 Euros. Far cheaper if you just limit the experience to the passage of terror, seems to be roughly 6 Euros.

They do open every Saturday however, and the entry prices are not as steep ordinarily.

For their extra special Halloween-fest the dates are: 31st October to the 4th
November, and the price will be that bit extra.

In the evening the events are not suitable for children.

Enigmatium – Somewhere near to Plaza de Castilla
http://www.enigmatium.com/halloween-madrid.php

I say somewhere near Plaza de Castilla not to be facetious, but because two days before you are due to honour your reservation at the restaurant, you will receive the first clue as to where this restaurant is actually located.

The special Halloween events in this restaurant will be run 31st October / 3 and 4th November.

Check out their website for further details of the evening’s entertainment.

The Walking Dead Live (Zombies Laser Combat) – Esquivias which is 35km from Madrid A42 towards Toledo. http://www.iberikapaintball.com/paintballmadrid/paintballmadridhalloween.htm

There are limited places and ensure you wear Halloween costume as they have prizes for best dressed.

The price 49 – 69 Euros; this includes real-life zombie laser tag combat, open bar, dinner and extra after dinner surprises to test the attendee’s nerves.

Clubs and Festival:

Thriller Music Festival – Madrid Arena
http://thrillermusicpark.com/

Line-up:
Steve Aoki, Autoerotique, live PA by Army of the Universe, Ed is Dead and Julien Leik.

Tickets 22 Euros. Free drink for all who go in fancy dress, also competition for best dressed and the winner will receive 3,000 Euros.

Mondo – Calle Arlaban, 7, Madrid

31st October – DJ Hell

Siroco – Calle de San Dimas, Madrid

Music is usually; breaks, Electro-Pop, House

31st October – Fort Romeau, Hyman Bass, plus other guests.

Sala Lujuria (Creepy Halloween Party) – Leganitos, 7, Madrid

Music; Dubstep

31st October – Ruben G / MadBass.Madrid, 1st Degree / HDK.Madrid
Nubdub / HDK.Madrid, Skaar / HDK.Madrid

Puerta del Sol and Irish Bars:

27th October Halloween Pub Crawl – pick up point Plaza Mayor
http://www.getyourguide.com/madrid/skip-the-line-madrid-halloween-pub-crawl-t15281/

Start time is 22:00 at Tourist Information at Plaza Mayor.

Price is 24 Euros which includes; visit 3 bars and a club, free alcohol, VIP entry to the club, costume prizes.

Most Irish Bars in Madrid are holding some special event or another over Halloween; including fancy dress prizes, drink offers and special cocktails. Here are some of them below.

Dubliners – Espoz y Mina, 7, Madrid

O’Connell’s – (address as above)

O’Neills – Principe, 12, Madrid

Final Note:

I’m planning to do an updated version of this post, once I have sampled the fright night on offer here in Madrid. So with the Madrid party ethos in mind I intend to make the most of Halloween here this year, which will include donning the fancy dress, and taking a stroll around the streets to frequent the many bars. Then and only then will I truly know what my favourite day of the year is like in this crazy city!

!!!!!!Wishing you all a wonderful and happy Halloween!!!!!!

Copy Right Notice:
© Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.