Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Spring is definitely here and brought with it an active social life

Hi there,

Last week and weekend brought the Spring finally and the Spring weather, all of which means spending our time in the patios and garden rather than inside.

I had spent a hectic week of meetings and an evening event on Thursday – believe it or not for a “Blogger night out”, the only social part of which was a lovely lunch at Gino’s with Jill on Wednesday. She was looking lovely as usual and she was very obviously happy in her new job. I must say I envy her travelling.

The weekend was bringing guests which had Eladio and I sprucing the house ready for eating outside on the terraces. Also on Friday we had a new awning or canopy put in the kitchen patio which is where we had installed the new barbecue too and which we were going to use for the first time this weekend.

The new canopy
On Saturday our guests were Marivi, Francisca and Carmen Burgos, former colleagues of Eladio’s from his time with the Spanish Administration. They are three lovely ladies who are obviously good friends too. We spent a lovely lunch and afternoon together where they mostly chatted about old times.

Round the table are Carmen, Marivi (standing up), me, Francisca and Eladio
In the evening we went to Madrid to have dinner at José Antonio and Dolores’ house because Isidro – Eladio’s youngest brother – and Yoli were there to take back Sophie, my cousin Masha’s daughter from Paris who had been on an exchange with Alicia our youngest neice and also my God Daughter. Dolores put on a magnificent spread of sea food.

And Sunday was our quiet day. Susi went to a “Capea” or bull fighting party (actually with a medium sized calf!) and we put our barbecue to use for the first time.

My Father posing by the barbecue. He realy enjoyed the chorizo sausages!
This next Thursday my Father, Eladio and I will be off to the UK to visit Olivia for 4 days. We will be staying at a lovely hotel in Falmouth on the Cornish coast and are really looking forward to going to the UK again. So Boots, Marks and Spencers and Waterstones HERE I COME!.

More about that next week.

Cheers my friends till then,


Friday, April 20, 2007

Susi and the puppies


My daughter Susana just sent me this priceless picture of herself and the new puppies, Elsa and Killo. I could not resist posting it on my blog and hope you laugh when you see it, just as I did!

She was bringing them into the kitchen in their travelling box after a visit to the vet and just look how Killo is thanking her! Well he is a male after all.

All the best

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A weekend in April; good weather at last, Oli going again

Hi again,

This weekend was a family affair. It was also Oli’s last weekend with us before going back for the final term of her Erasmus University exchange year in Cornwall. She will be off tomorrow but Eladio and my Father will be going to visit her at the end of this month and she will be back again permanently at the beginning of June. So we will hardly have time to miss her really.

On Friday evening we got a take away (Turkish food) and invited Roberto and Mari Carmen to watch a film at home with us. They came loaded with 3 bottles of wine and of course half way through the film Roberto, at least, was fast asleep. Upon Olivia’s recommendation we watched Nikita – a sort of cult French action film with a super hero woman. Suffice it to say it was ok.

On Saturday the girls were having a goodbye party for Olivia (there have been so many this year!) so Eladio and I thought it politically correct to go out. So out we went, after our constitutional daily walk of course, to see a rotten film by Robert de Niro called The Good Shepherd. It’s a very difficult to follow film about the CIA the plot of which revolves around the Bay of Pigs attack on Cuba but it has too many flash backs to possibly understand what the real story is. We were told the film would last 2 hours but it turned out to last 3, which of course made us lose our favourite number 7 table at La Alpargatería and had us having a very slowly served dinner way past 11 o’clock. So last night was not the best of nights out frankly.

Sunday had us having lunch outside for the first time this year as it was the first time the weather really permitted it. Lunch consisted of the girls’ party food left overs, all of which was pretty tasty. The best thing about left-overs is not having to cook! The puppies joined us; for company I mean. And while we were enjoying our lunch, they were enjoying Eladio’s shoe laces, as you can see in the picture.

The girls with Elsa and Killo
Sunday was also a day of chores, one of which was cleaning out the deep freeze in the pantry. I could not resist taking this one of Eladio with half his body inside it!

Cheers till next week friends,


Friday, April 13, 2007

An unexepected midweek trip to Montrondo, goodbye Virginia and and how mourning unites the family

The church in Montrondo
Hi again

Just as we had all settled into our routines after the Easter break, we received an unexpected phone call from Eladio’s younger sister Pili on Tuesday morning to say that Virginia had died the night before at the grand old age of 94.

As I write these words, a shiver goes down my arms. So who is Virginia you may ask? Virginia is Primo’s Mother. And who is Primo? Primo is my brother-in-law and husband of Adela, Eladio’s sister. Very far removed you will say and yes of course she is. But Virginia was a very special woman and it’s difficult to describe what I mean.

Virginia was born and is now buried in her beloved native Montrondo. And where or what is Montrondo? Well, Montrondo is to Eladio’s family a bit like what Macondo is to Gabriel García Márquez – the town that figures in “Cien Años de Soledad” (Hundred Years of Solitude). Montrondo is Eladio’s family village – a small place tucked away in a remote area of the mountains of León in north west Spain. Nowadays there are only 20 inhabitants but once upon a time it was a thriving village of approximately 300 people. Montrondo means everything to Eladio’s family and it is where they were all born. And Virginia was from Montrondo and lived there all her life. I met her the first time I visited Montrondo when I was Eladio’s bride and I always remember her hospitality and smiling face. Whenever I saw her that smile never left her face. She had the face, even in her 90’s of a good looking but naughty urchin or rascal who was never happier than in her old house in Los Palacios of Montrondo or digging potatoes in the orchard with Primo. Virginia was in a way a symbol of Montrondo and for me at least, now that she has gone, Montrondo will never be the same again. The Palacios will seem completely empty without her.

"El Campo" - the centre of Montrondo
And on Tuesday night she died in the arms of her beloved son Primo, as a “fish when it leaves the sea” which is how he described it to me. So, of course, we had to go to her funeral to bare her our final respects. And the day of her departure could not have been brighter. The sun shone brightly on Montrondo as José Antonio, Eladio and I arrived just on time for the funeral on Wednesday morning. I think I have never seen so many people or cars in the village as I did that day. The funeral car was surrounded by her family and friends from near and far, all gathered together outside the lovely little church in Montrondo. That church also means so much to all of us and it is where we all gather together in the good moments and the bad. The men sit at the back and the women at the front and even though today is 2007 the tradition is never broken.

It was worth going to pay our last respects if only to comfort Primo and his family at such difficult moments for them. I seem to have been to so many funerals recently, my own Mother’s, my brother’s and then Eladio’s father’s not so long ago and each funeral brings back the memories of the last.

But the best thing about Virginia’s funeral was how it united our family. Thanks to her we met up with all Eladio’s brothers and sisters and even had lunch with his Mother whom we hadn’t seen since New Year’s Eve.

After the funeral we drove back to León and José Antonio, Eladio and I were invited to lunch at Pili’s house with Andrés, her husband and my favourite brother-in-law and their children, Paula and Mario who are hardly children anymore. Mario is about 17 and is 1.95 cm tall and of course plays handball nearly professionally. Paula is studying audiovisual communication at Salamanca University and is delighted at her newly found independence. Ernestina, my mother-in-law was also there and it was great to see her. And after lunch we were joined for coffee by Adela and Primo and their son Roberto and girlfriend Ana who are soon to be married.

Here are some pictures of the lovely lunch at Pili and Andres’ house. Thanks Virginia for reuniting the family and cheers forever. Keep smiling up there.

Lunch at Pili's


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A rather wet Easter 2007. Easter eggs and oranges

Hi again

So last week was Easter week and a holiday for us all, at least from Wednesday last. Eladio and I weren’t actually sure what we were going to do as the girls had asked for the apartment in Santa Pola. We were going to stay at home but at the last minute the girls decided to go to Benidorm to Copi’s flat which left Santa Pola free for us – I have to admit after some pressure from us! So as soon as I got back from work on Wednesday we quickly packed and got everything ready to leave, that is, my Father, Eladio and I.

We knew we were not in for particularly good weather as the forecast for the Costa Blanca was pretty dismal, but we thought that “a change was as good as a reset” and actually it was. We had to “weather” the traffic though as in Spain everyone goes on holiday and hits the roads at the same time which makes travelling at holiday time a bit of a pain. We kept being reminded by traffic authorities, through signs on the way, that last year 110 people had died on the road at Easter. That’s an awful lot of people! It made me worry about the girls who were travelling in 2 cars with friends at the same time as us, so I was constantly texting them to make sure they were ok!

We had a good 3 days together, generally relaxing, reading the papers, walking on the beach or making meals together. On Saturday we went to Benidorm to visit my Aunty Masha whom we hadn’t seen since last May. Aunty Masha was my Mother’s youngest and most beloved sister and now she is the only one left of the 6 brothers and sisters. She was house bound because of an infected toe, but, always up to an adventure, we covered the foot with a big sock and got her out of the house and to a restaurant by the beach for lunch. She was very happy to see us again and so were we. Aunty Masha will be 80 in September but to me she will always be my Mother’s glamorous and beautiful younger sister.

During a pretty disastrous lunch which took the waiters more than 2 hours to serve, the girls came from nearby Copi’s flat to see us. It was past 2 and they had just got up! What a wonderful life they lead! Saturday was the sunniest day and so afterwards we walked and my Aunt hobbled to the Vimi cafeteria – famous for where Eladio and I forged our relationship some 27 years ago!

Susi and Oli at the restaurant in Benidorm

Me smiling at Eladio at the Vimi Café

Aunty Masha
Once back in Santa Pola we took our evening walk on the beach and in the middle of it with a 30 minute walk to get back to the car , it began to rain and we got completely soaked; my poor Father too. And when we woke up on Saturday morning to even more rain we decided to return to Madrid. Actually we knew the girls were returning that day and it was an excuse to get back home for Easter day together.

Meanwhile I had got in supplies of English Easter fare from the local English shops: the typical Hot Cross Buns and chocolate Easter eggs mainly. We also bought about 15 kgs of local oranges from the outdoor market at 0.80 eurocents a kilo! They taste so delicious as they come straight from the trees to the market with no refrigerator storage or whatever happens to them till they get to the supermarket. You can tell from the picture here, just how fresh and natural they are.

Oranges straight from the tree

And here is one of the lovely chocolate Easter Eggs
The best thing about going away is actually coming back. Poor Henry (our cat) was missing for a while but came looking into the sitting room window on Sunday morning as José Luis (Oli’s boyfriend) was watching Fernando Alonso win the Malaysia Formula 1 Grand Prix. He has been a bit put off also by the presence of the new puppies too and probably feels a little unwanted. But now the puppies have been relegated to the garage, owing to their non stop “doings” in the kitchen which had become intolerable!

Easter day was a long lazy family day with a big roast meal for lunch. After lunch Susi and I watched the Nun’s Story with Audrey Hepburn, one of my favourite films ever. Anyone who knows me well will know that my favourite genres are hospitals, convents and prisons. There must be something about institutions that attract me and I bet a psychiatrist would have a field day analysing why.

And now it’s back to work but very soon we will be off travelling again as we have a trip planned to Cornwall to see Olivia at the end of April.

Hope you all had a good break at Easter too.
Till next week. All the best

Monday, April 02, 2007

Weekend away at La Senda de los Caracoles

Picture of me outside the hotel on the first day - all dressed up for the cold and rain!

Eladio pictured near the village on our first walk from the hotel.
Hello my friends,

This last Friday Eladio and I went away for our long awaited weekend to the Senda de los Caracoles (http://www.lasendadeloscaracoles.com). In English it means: the snail route, not that we saw any snails though. It's a rural spa “hotel” in a very remote part of Segovia called Grado de Pico which is actually on the border of both Soria and Guadalajara. It’s about 150km from Madrid so only takes about 2 hours to get to. The weather forecast looked grim with rain and snow but in actual fact, although it was cold, we got quite a lot of sun and only a bit of rain.

We were supposed to be going with our friends Mari Carmen and Roberto but unfortunately they had to cancel at the last minute as Mari Carmen’s elderly father was taken ill.

The weekend was spent walking, using the spa, reading, touring the area and of course, eating splendidly.

The hotel boasts being the perfect place to get away from it all and “disconnect”. However what their advertising doesn’t say is that there is no mobile phone coverage, no internet and no TV in the rooms. All this “disconnection” was a bit much for me, specially no mobile phone – which is my permanent connection to my work and no TV in the rooms was a bit of a damper in the evenings.

On the plus side, the food was great and the spa facilities very relaxing. One felt at “home” immediately as the hospitality of the family owners was terrific. It was very quiet with only another 4 or 5 couples staying there. La Senda de los Caracoles has 16 double rooms, quite small but very beautiful, specially the surroundings. You literally have to cross a river (without a bridge) to get to it and it’s 1.5km from the village where apparently only 3 people live permanently. You really couldn’t get much more remote than that!

On Saturday we visited the beautiful villa of Ayllon in the province of Segovia, a walled medieval town about 20km from our hotel (http://www.ayllon.es/). And then we drove to Soria which was about 96km from Ayllón. On the way we visited the small cathedral town of Burgo de Osma which was a jewel of a place with its lovely Plaza Mayor and cobbled streets. (http://www.burgosma.es/)Soria, although a county capital is pretty small with only 35.000 inhabitants and apart from the old town has nothing much to see. We had a great lunch in the Plaza Mayor at a typical restaurant called “Mesón Castellano”. We ate “cochinillo” (suckling pig) and “cabrito” (baby goat or kid) which tasted out of this world; the wine did too, of course.

After lunch we made a dream come true for Eladio by visiting a place called Numancia on the outskirts of Soria. Numancia was the famous celtiberian township which was besieged by the Romans for more than 20 years before it was finally conqurered. There are only ruins left, of course, but there are reconstructed examples of a celtiberian house (2 centuries b.c.) and a roman house (2 centuries a.c). I must say when we returned to La Senda de los Caracoles, we appreciated the home comforts a lot more after seeing such a lack of them at Numancia!(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numantia)

On Sunday we took the route of the red and black villages to Riaza – another medium sized town in Segovia. These villages now have very few inhabitants and a lot of the houses have turned to ruin but they are quite picturesque from the roadside with the backdrop of the snow capped mountains of La Pinilla. After a quick stop at Riaza where we visited the church which was quite full owing to the fact that it was Palm Sunday, we drove on to Sepúlveda where we had roast lamb in one of the numerous mesones. Roast suckling lamb is the most typical dish in Segovia. Sepúlveda is a beautiful small town built high up on a hill above the gorge of the river Duratón (http://www.segovia-sp.com/sepulveda/hoces-du.htm). As is usual in Segovia the streets are cobbled and most of the village life is concentrated in the Plaza Mayor.

It was great to get away and pamper ourselves but just as great to go home. So after lunch in Sepúlveda we headed home eager to see the family and newly acquired puppies, Elsa (final name I think) and Killo.

This week the girls will be on holiday and come Thursday I will too, as will the rest of Spain.

For those of you away on holiday this week, have a great time.

All the best
PS Thanks Ana (Valdivieso) and Tomy for the recommendation of La Senda de los Caracoles

Finally got my red leather patent high heeled shoes!

Hi again

For those of you who are interested, here is a picture of my new red leather patent high heeled shoes which I finally got last week after at least 5 visits to the shoe shop, Lola Rey in Centro Oeste.

The feet in the picture are Olivia's. I haven't had a chance to wear them yet as the weather has not been good at all.

Thought I'd never get them but I did.

All the best