Sunday, May 27, 2007

Another wet weekend, Local elections, Quillo and Elsa are leaving and something to look forward to.

Quillo and Elsa just before they left
Hi again

This weekend has been wet yet again. Would you believe that this May has had the highest record of rain in the last 50 years? It has been incredible, storms with heavy rain 2 or 3 times a day most of this month. Thankfully the better weather is supposed to be around the corner and soon we should be able to make use of the pool.

On Friday Eladio and I ventured out to a new restaurant, believe it or not. We were a bit tired of La Alpagatería, La Vaca Argentina, Ginos or Mood. So we tried to book at Ars Vivendi in Majadahonda and for the umpteenth time it was full. Then, however, I cottoned on to the fact that they have a branch in Pozuelo called Ars Pasta. And this is where we went. Funnily enough it was here that Oscar and Juana had their goodbye dinner some 3 years ago. And, by the way, we highly recommend Ars Pasta and will certainly be going back. Just everything we tried was delicious.

On Saturday we had the first family lunch together, without the boyfriends, and with both girls for a long long time and I made my famous “Cocido Madrileño” as it was wet and nasty outside. In the evening the girls had a dinner and drinks party for their friends to celebrate Oli’s birthday. So we decided to have a cozy night in with a Turkish take-away and a good film. The good film which was “World Trade Centre” was not actually that good but at least it was entertaining.

Today we got up pretty late to find very few remnants of the party – thanks girls for clearing up so well. Apart from the normal Sunday chores and having to prepare the roast for lunch, we had to go and vote as today are the local elections. For my Father this was the first time he was voting in Spain and he was a little worried about the procedure which actually turned out to be very simple but completely different from the UK of course. He and I were only able to vote for the Mayor of our town, Villaviciosa and not for the President of the Community of Madrid as we are “foreigners” so voting today was no great deal.

This weekend will mostly be remembered though as the day the puppies Quillo and Elsa left. They are going to Susi’s boyfriend Gaby’s new house in Brunete where he and his family are moving this weekend. Quillo is going forever and Elsa is going for a while only as it would be a crime to separate them so young. Eladio is the person who will be most relieved as the number of “crimes” they have committed in the garden would not fit in my blog, there have been so many. So bye bye Quillo and farewell Elsa till we meet again.

Maybe you will wonder what I meant by “something to look forward to”. Something to look forward to for Eladio and I is generally a big event coming up in the family but more often it is a trip we have planned. So trips we have looked forward to in the recent past have been our weekend at the Senda de los Caracoles or our week in Cornwall.

What we are planning now is a week’s holiday at the beginning of August with my Father in the Rías Bajas (Rias Baixas) of Galicia. They are sort of fiords and are part of the southern part of the Galician coast. Galicia is on the north west coast of Spain. They are absolutely spectacular and their beauty rivals both Cornwall and Scotland in the UK. However, the food is 100% better as you can imagine. The famous Albariño white wine is also from this region. We shall certainly be tasting a lot of that!

The location of the Rias Baixas in Galicia
And this is the hotel we have found after 3 weeks of searching the web. I love the architecture and it faces a lovely beach and the rooms have great sea views. So what more could we ask for? So now we have a little something to look forward to and a new dream in our heads again.

Cheers till next week my friends.

Friday, May 25, 2007

22 on the 22nd May, Happy Birthday Olivia

Hi again

Just a quickie to include Olivia’s birthday in my blog.

On Tuesday 22nd May Oli turned 22. It was her second day of work as she started on Monday as a trainee journalist with Mía, the Spanish equivalent of Woman’s Own. She’s working from 9 to 2 from now till the end of September which will be a great plus for her empty curriculum. However that meant that her birthday celebration was reduced to a very late lunch with the family, as she doesn’t get home till past half past three.

At least that gave us plenty of time to arrange her lunch. Actually Susi did most of it as I was working too. Thanks a lot Susi.

And here you can see the presents we had waiting for her as well as the birthday lunch table.

And here is the birthday girl, opening her presents.

Susi and Oli and the birthday cake

And laughing with her Father

Happy belated birthday darling and many happy returns.

Love from Mummy

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Montrondo again; thanks Antonio. Ulpiano and the potatoes

Planting potatoes in Montrondo

Hi again

Today is the anniversary of Eladio’s father, Antonio, who died 2 years ago today. The family has introduced the tradition of holding a memorial mass for him each year in his adopted home village of Montrondo and so yesterday the family were once again reunited in his name.

Eladio, my Father and I set off early in the morning for the 4 hour drive in pretty sunny weather with just the odd cloud on the horizon. The girls had stayed behind to study as the exam period is approaching. The reunion was to be mainly of the older generation of the family.

We were the last to arrive and parked our car next to the village common known as “El Campo”. We walked up the small street called “Eladio Calzada” after Eladio’s grandfather who had been the mayor of Montrondo, to the family house to find all of Eladio’s brothers and sisters with their partners and of course his mother, Ernestina. From the younger generation the only representatives were Mario, Roberto (soon to be married), Marta and her football player and gym teacher husband, Fernando, but commonly known as “Ministro”.

At around 12.45 the church bells started to peel and we set off on the short walk to the village church, that place that was once again to reunite the family. Montrondo was at its best with the late Spring blossom and nature flowering. The poppies were at their reddest and the lilac at its most fragnant. Some of the locals were planting the new potatoes and I couldn’t resist taking a picture of Guzman doing just so with his shire horse. The picture was just so bucolic.

And of course, just before entering the church, we wandered into the cemetery. If any of you have seen Pedro Almodóvar’s film “Volver”, you will understand what it looks like. In Spanish villages the tradition has been to invest in your grave in life and families are buried together generation upon generation. In the case of Virginia, Primo told me that in her grave there were 3 or 4 levels for her and the people in her immediate family who lived before her. Somehow today that tradition is being a lot less adhered to and probably Eladio’s generation will not continue with this timeless custom. Marta said she would prefer for her ashes to be scattered freely on the mountains of Montrondo.

Marisa, Yoli and Eladio at the door of the church
The mass was very short and the congregation mostly made up of our family members as there are so few inhabitants today in the village. Afterwards we made our way to the family home and then on foot and by car to the next village Murias de Paredes where we had booked a table for lunch at a lovely country inn called “El Holandés Errante” or the “Wandering Dutchman” because it is owned by a Dutchman, Hans and his wife.

Lunch was held on two tables and consisted, at least in the first course, of typical local fare, such as cecina (cured beef) which actually was probably the best I have ever tried. I was happy to sit next to my oldest niece Marta who lives in Ponferrada and whom, unfortunately, I get to see a lot less often since she has married. It was great to catch up on each others news and to see her so radiant and with a lot less headaches.

Around the table at lunch in Murias
The afternoon was spent walking and chatting, for the women at least as the male members of the family took the opportunity to cut the grass which had grown to enormous proportions this Spring.

Soon it was time to leave as we had a 4 hour drive to get home but before saying goodbye we went to buy some potatoes and eggs from one of the village inhabitants, “Ulpiano” who lives in El Campo. Ulpiano who went to school with Eladio has never left the village and has continued to live and work just as his parents did before him, tending his cows, hens, raising rabbits and growing potatoes and all in exactly the same way as 100 years ago. Modern life doesn’t seem to have affected one iota his way of living, at least outwardly.

So visiting his small farm was quite an occasion, at least for my father who later remarked he had not been standing between hens since my mother raised them when I was a child back in Ruskington!

The pictures talk for themselves. Here you will see Ulpiano preparing the eggs and potatoes for us to take back to Madrid, Eladio holding the box of potatoes, Andrés helping Upiano and the rest of us standing around enjoying the scene. One very clear symbol from the past is Ulpiano’s footwear. Notice he is wearing clogs (madreñas). They also look as if they were made 100 years ago!

Eladio and Pili

Eladio with the potatoes

General view

Andrés helping Ulpiano
So with the boot full of potatoes and eggs, we said goodbye to everyone and set off back home to Madrid. A good day was had by all and it is very much thanks to Antonio, my cantankerous but affectionate and well meaning father-in-law. Keep smiling up there Antonio as I know you will have loved seeing us all together in your beloved Montrondo today.

Today will be a quiet family day, just the 5 of us. And the highlight will be the lovely barbecue my husband will make for us for lunch with a little bit of help from his wife; me, of course.

Hope you all have a great week.

All the best

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Back to Helsinki and the Eurovision Song Contest

Hi again my friends,

What with our trip to the Senda de los Caracoles quite recently and then to Cornwall just 2 weeks ago, I had hardly got over travelling when I had to pack my bags again to go to Helsinki. In my new job I travel so little that this was quite an occasion for me.

The destination was Helsinki and those of you who know me will understand what Helsinki means to me. It was the home town of the company I used to work for and when I left them I really thought I would never go back. I must have been to Helsinki more than 30 times but then stopped going so it has meant so much to me to return.

And Helsinki was at its very best. The sun was shining and as it was May the days are long and light. The city had prepared splendidly for its most important event since the 1952 Olympics. And the city was full of Eurovision participants and tourists from 42 countries; so very very multicultural and also so much good feeling. Wow, wasn’t it lovely to be back.

And why did I go you you may ask? Quite a simple reply really: I had a PR meeting with colleagues from other countries related to activities we had done around Eurovision and also to host our customer 100.000, Natalia and her delightful boyfriend, Paco who wore a T-shirt which said “I’ve got the Peter Pan syndrome” – that just about summed him up. So out I went on Wednesday night and stayed until Sunday.

Then there was the great coincidence to add to the trip of being accompanied by my best friend Fátima. Fátima had gone to Helsinki for a training course which finished on Thursday afternoon and was staying on to keep me company and of course go with me, Natalia and Paco to the Eurovision Song Contest. As I said to Oli on the phone “how lucky we are”. And yes we were because a good time was had by all:

Wednesday 9th May

I travelled out alone but soon made friends with my neighbour on the friend, Luis, a lawyer from Vigo who was going to the Eurovision Song Contest, something he did every year. He turned out to be my teacher on how the ESC works or doesn’t work as we saw was the case with the voting on Saturday night.

I arrived at the very familiar Vantaa airport mid afternoon and made my way by taxi to my hotel, the Radisson SAS Plaza, one of my favourites in Helsinki ( I soon settled into a lovely room on the same corridor as the hotel sauna which we were to use often during our stay. Fátima soon joined me and after a bit of e-mailing (I am an addict Fátima decided later) off we went for a walk round the city, through Mikonkatu to the lovely Esplanadi. At the Esplanadi there were cabins from all the different countries participating in the ESC but there was also an exhibition of Manolo Valdes’ Meninas statues which made the park in Esplanadi look even more beautiful than ever.

Me on the busy Esplanadi

With the Meninas on the Esplanadi
Later we met up with my friend Anne-Marjut (hi darling) who we were to see a lot of during our stay, at our favourite cafeteria/restaurant/bar in Helsinki, the legendary “Strindberg”.
There over a couple of glasses of cool white wine we relaxed together and caught up on eachother’s news.

And the evening turned out to be a ladies night as we then headed off to Sasso on Market Square for dinner with Maija my old boss. Maija is now working for a very successful PR agency called Drum in Helsinki. It was great to see her again (hi there Maija) and I talked so much I ended up leaving most of the amazing spaghetti on my plate. Even so the food is great and I highly recommend Sasso.

Dinner with Maija at Sasso
Thursday 10th May

I was up early and soon off to the office where I had to pick up the ESC tickets and then round the corner to the office where we were to have our meeting. There I met up with my colleagues from Lithuania, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland whose names and voices I already knew but whose faces I was seeing for the first time. Our meeting took place in the board room offices which were quite something. To go to the loo you had to go next to the board room sauna where I couldn’t resist having a picture taken of me to put in my blog.

Me in the Board Room Sauna!
The very productive meeting ended with a visit to the ESC village in town just off the Simonkenta Hotel. And this was where I said goodbye to my new colleagues and headed back to the hotel for my emailing session of the day. Fátima then joined me as her training course had finished. Then after a cup of tea and a very refreshing sauna we set off for our daily walk. Just as we walked out of the hotel we found a ESC branded tram where we took some photos, inside and out and met a lovely Finnish girl called Hanna who said she would be visiting Barcelona the following week. Hi Hanna from here!

Me and the driver of the ESC tram

Photo with Hanna the ESC tram hostess
That evening we were to be the hosts of a group of Fátima’s colleagues from Nokia Siemens Networks, 4 of whom were originally from Siemens and for whom this was their first trip to Helsinki. When I heard that, I decided that they had to experience the best Russian restaurant in town, Saslik ( When I say “best”, the adjective is for me because of the pre revolutionary decoration, the food of course, but also the live singing. I think I have been to Saslik on nearly every trip to Helsinki and each time they sing “Ochi Chornie” (black eyes), a few tears are shed from my eyes.

Dinner at Saslik
The meal started off with a glass of vodka each which I instructed them had to be drunk in one gulp! As usual the “zakuski” (hors d’oeuvres) were spectacular and the Spanish visitors were amazed to try the bear sausage amongst other exotic dishes.

The Zakuski
After the Ivan’s sword and the delicious baked Alaska, on came the 3 singers. Soon I had the Spaniards clapping to “Kalinka” and other Russian songs, the piece de resistance being Ochi Chornie of course.

Russian singing at Saslik
We decided to walk back to the hotel with such full stomachs but soon came across a great Finnish night club called Kalle where we just had to stop for a nightcap (
I had a vested interest in the place as I knew Kalle, like a lot of Finnish bars, has a Black Jack table to which I headed immediately. It took me an hour to lose 20 euros whilst the others followed the semi final of the ESC over yet another glass of vodka!

Playing Black Jack at Kalle

Outside Kalle after a night to remember
Friday 11th May
Friday morning, after the usual e-mail session was dedicated to shopping. We had wanted to visit the usual Stockman and Lindex but then discovered the best women’s clothes shop we have ever seen in Helsinki called Pierre Cavallo and boy did we do some serious shopping there. I just love the Nordic look, blues, whites and stripes. My suitcase was bursting when I tried to close it on Sunday of course.

In the afternoon our super customer 100.000, Natalia and her boyfriend Paco arrived. They soon settled into their room at their hotel and then went on a tourist trip of the city where they also learned lots of facts and figures about Finland – how many lakes, etc.

On Friday Fátima and I were invited to Anne Marjut’s home for dinner. For me this was my third visit to a Finnish home (the first was to Maija’s and the second to Anne’s) but for Fátima it was a first and we were very much looking forward to it. Susa, Anne Marjut’s beautiful and extremely blonde daughter came to pick us up in her Mother’s car to take us to their house in Malmi (is that the right name and spelling AM?) for dinner with Anne Marjut, Susa and her Mexican boyfriend Milton and her ex, Heikki who is the General Manager of Stockman – the biggest Finnish chain of department stores. Juppe, her son joined us for a while in between the 18th birthday party of his best friend. That was very much appreciated Juppe!!

Round the table at Anne Marjut's

Milton and Susa
Their house, a lovely white wooden one nestles amongst similar houses in a wood with great views. The house inside is very Nordic and of course includes the omnipresent Finnish sauna. AM had put on a great dinner, the main course being Elk, hunted by her Father!! It was accompanied by Finnish mushroom sauce and Lap blackberry bramble. If the Russian experience had been great, the Finnish one was even better as apart from the food we spent the whole night laughing and drinking, of course. It was lovely to have a Mexican with us to share the Spanish. He was such a sweetie and told us the story of his name and how he hated it as a child and wanted to be called Pedro, Paco or Pepe. His brothers are called Marlon and Alain and probably have the same bad memories. The funniest thing was when he told us he met another Milton in Mexico but that as this Milton was a baby, they “couldn’t hang around together”. Thanks AM and all for a great great night!

Saturday 12th May

On Saturday we had a pretty full programme which included a meet and greet with the Spanish contestants, the 4 boy group called D’Nash. This was part of Natalia’s programme and included a photo of her and the group.

Natalia and D'Nasha

Group photo with D'Nash
Later we each went our own way shopping and walking around Helsinki and Fátima and I met up again with Anne Marjut for a coffee at Fazer’s café. The Fazer brand is Finland’s best kept secret. It is actually a make of wonderful, wonderful chocolate. So when you go there, don’t forget to get a box or tablet. For chocoholics like Fátima and me, it is truly a great brand.

Lunch was with Natalia and Paco and I took them to Strindberg, my favourite Finnish restaurant in Helsinki. Of course we all had salmon or meatballs which are Finland’s most traditional dishes.

The afternoon included the last sauna which was an absolute must if we were to survive the long night of the ESC.

And at 19.15 we met in the lobby to make our way by taxi to the Hartwell (Ice Hockey ) stadium where this year’s ESC was to be hosted.

As soon as we arrived Fati and I bought a Spanish flag each. Thanks to the sponsors we had VIP tickets which we only realised after 30 mins waiting in the “normal” queue. The VIP entrance included a red carpet which we laughed at and said had been put there for our customer Natalia. From there we went to the hospitality lounge for an early Finnish dinner which once again included salmon.

And at 21.15 we all made our way from the lounge to our seats in the stadium and wow was there some atmosphere to take in.

Fátima and I waving our flags inside the stadium just before the ESC began
We learned that there are many gay fan clubs who come from all over to enjoy the ESC – there were 60 from Spain with whom we coincided in the plane going back. And, wow, are some of these people nationalistic, specially the guys from my country, Great Britain.
And here is an example, dressed from top to toe in the Union Jack, including the lenses!!!

British mania
The stadium was completely full and flags from all the countries flew everywhere. It was quite a coincidence later to remember I had seen a chap wearing a T-shirt which said “Yes I am a Serbian” because it turned out that Serbia actually won.

The show was amazing, so much colour, so much fun, so much atmosphere, impossible to describe and my pictures do not do justice to what we really saw.

With Anne Marjut at the ESC
The voting part, usually the best part on TV at home, was a bit long live as you couldn’t see the screen very well. And the voting turned out to be completely subjective, in that most nations voted for their neighbours or for countries that they had formed part of before. Thus the former Yugoslav republic countries all voted for each other as did the former Russian republics. This meant that Spain only had one neighbour to vote for it – Portugal and that the UK could only muster votes from Ireland and Malta!! I must say the Finns booed every time the ex Russian republics voted for each other. My favourite song, Il Divo type from Latvia got least votes of all, which left me feeling how old fashioned I am.

The very organised Finns had put on trains for everyone to leave the stadium from as no cars were allowed in to avoid huge traffic jams. So very soon after the late finish we were back in our hotel.

Sunday 13th May

Our plane was leaving at 5 pm which meant we had plenty of time for getting up late, having a late breakfast and packing all the Pierre Cavallo, etc, stuff we had bought. It also meant we could visit the Lutheran and Russian Uspenski cathedrals which would both be open because it was a Sunday. And they are a must to visit in Helsinki.

The Uspenski Cathedral on a small hill across the way from the harbour and market square, is often not mentioned in the Helsinki tourist trips as the Finns are not so keen on the Russians. But actually it is the biggest Russian Orthodox church outside Russia and is extremely beautiful with its red brick walls and golden onion domes. Coming from a Russian Orthodox background the icons and the smell of incense inside bring back memories from my childhood. I know my Mother loved this church when she visited Helsinki so every time I enter it I light a candle for her and for my dear brother George the anniversary of whose passing away is today 15th May. And of course I shed a few tears for them both inside the lovely Uspenski church this last Sunday morning.

The Uspenski Cathedral
Our visit ended on a musical note because when we went to check out of the hotel, the Finnish boy’s choir was singing in the lobby in rehearsal for a sung service to take place at the Lutheran Cathedral that very afternoon. It was really a lovely end to our stay.

Finnish boys choir
And soon we were speeding in the taxi to the airport, little knowing that we were carrying by mistake an extra suitcase belonging to an English guest from the Radisson Hotel, a one Mr. Dutt. The mistake was hit upon as we were checking in but luckily the Information desk from Finnair dealt with the problem quite swiftly.

Once we had checked in which was quite a battle with enormous queues as most of the ESC delegations were leaving Finland too, we made our way to the duty free Stockman shop for the usual purchases of salmon, Fazer chocolates, black bread and cloudberry jam which were the items I always used to buy to take home on my previous visits to Finland.

The plane was chock a block with the Spanish participants, D’Nash, their families, Spanish TV personnel plus the gay fan club – some 60 people. This was quite an experience and quite different from a normal flight from Helsinki to Madrid. The Finnish air hostesses had a royal time with the atmosphere created and so did Fátima and I.

And then we were once again at Barajas airport and it was all over. Natalia and Paco had had a great time and so had we. It was time to part, say goodbye and promise to send photos,………… and home again.

As I said at the beginning, a good time was had by all.

I love you Finland, I love you Helsinki and I hope to come back soon.

Love to you all


Sunday, May 06, 2007

The garden in Spring. A quiet weekend and nice to be home.

Hi again

This week has been all about back to work and back home after our wonderful sojourn in Cornwall.

It has been raining for weeks which is pretty unusual for this time of year in Spain but yesterday and today, Sunday, the sun came out. Eladio took the opportunity to mow the lawn and I must say the garden is now looking spectacular.

We couldn't resist taking photos of some of the plants and trees in their Spring splendour, specially a plant with white flowers which I think are called "snow balls". Also the horse chestnut with its pink blossom is a sight for sore eyes.

Darling Oli will be back tomorrow a little earlier than planned and we are dying to have her back with us.

On Wednesday I will be off to Helsinki for a PR meeting and also to host a customer for the Eurovision Song Contest of all things which takes place next Sunday. Out of great coincidence, my dearest friend Fátima (She is Pin and I am Pon) will be in Helsinki at the same time so I will be taking her along with me. But more about that next week.

Meanwhile enjoy the photos.


The "snow ball" flowers from the garden in Anne's vase

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Diary of our trip to Cornwall – 26th April to 1st May 2007

Hi again

The day of the long awaited trip arrived and my Father, Eladio and I left for Bristol on Easyjet on Thursday 26th April where we arrived after 8 in the evening. We picked up our hired car which turned out to be a Fiat Punto and filled it with our 3 huge suitcases (half empty with the aim of filling them up with Oli’s stuff to take back to Spain). Then Google Map instructions in hand, plus my Father’s 1999 roadmap of England, we set off for Falmouth in Cornwall. Falmouth is 167 miles away and the drive was supposed to take around 3.5 hours.

From Bristol we took the M5 to Exeter, then the A30 to Bodmin, through Bridgewater and Taunton. Once in Bodmin we came off the dual carriageway and made our way to Truro and then on to Falmouth. It all sounds pretty easy but it was dark, we had to get used to driving on the left hand side of the road and the roads were very narrow once we left Bodmin.

We arrived at our lovely hotel, St. Michael’s Hotel & Spa on the seafront of Falmouth at around midnight, just a bit too late to go and visit Oli at her residence in Glasny Parc on Tremough Campus at the University College Falmouth.

Our hotel
Day 1, Friday 27th April

Tremough Campus, shopping in Truro, The Lizard and dinner at Asha’s in Falmouth.

After a sumptuous breakfast in the dining room of the hotel overlooking the gardens and Gyllyngvase Beach, we drove to Oli’s residence at the Tremough Campus, pronounced “Tremo”.

Breakfast at the hotel
Olivia has been in Falmouth since last September for an academic exchange year as part of her University studies. Finally we were to see her in the surroundings and room she had described and we were to meet her lovely international friends, Sumit and Sandeep from the Punjab in India, Shino from Japan, Shalini from Delhi, Rosie and Charlotte from the UK, Rafa, her companion from her University in Spain, plus a fellow student, Basha from Tanzania. Quite a cultural mix.

Outside Olivia's residence
Friday morning was spent visiting Truro and shopping at our beloved English shops such as Clarks for a new pair of sandals for my Father, Top Shop for some clothes for Olivia, Waterstones for books for my Father and me and, of course, last but not least M+S for underwear, sleepwear and odd bits and bobs. We had to leave Boots and Smiths for another day. If I had been allowed I would have spent the whole day at M+S.

Truro is the “capital” of Cornwall and is a very pretty country town with a Cathedral and cobbled streets.

My Father, Oli and I on a street in pretty Truro
Lunch was at Wetherspoons, a great new British “pub” chain with great food. Eladio, my Father and I all chose Fish and Chips which actually we ended up eating nearly every day.

Fish and Chips at Wetherspoons, the first of many

In the afternoon we visited The Lizard including Lizard Head and Lizard Point which is the most westerly point in England. It is one of the most beautiful places I have seen in England and reminded me somewhat of the Cape of Good Hope. We took loads of photos of the great views.

Lizard Head, breathtaking view

Lizard Point, equally breathtaking view
Having got up early the day proved long enough to include a visit to the Spa on our return from The Lizard, that is Oli and I. Eladio and my Father went for a Siesta. The Spa at the Hotel had a big indoor pool, a Jacuzzi, steam room, sauna and jet shower. What Oli and I liked best was the Jacuzzi and steam room. To work off the fish and chips and to work up an appetite for dinner, we did 10 lengths in the pool which was actually not enough.

After the spa, Eladio, Oli and I went to Falmouth for dinner to an Indian restaurant Oli recommended called Asha and which turned out to have the best onion bahjis I had ever eaten. The lamb Korma and Chicken Tikka Massala were also fabulous.

Dinner at Asha's, Oli and Eladio

Day 2, Saturday 28th April

Lands End, Lunch at the First Inn in England, Siesta, Spa, Walk and Dinner at the Flying Fish restaurant .

If you are in Cornwall one of the obvious destinations is Land’s End, the most southerly point in England. It is a very famous place and one both my Father and I thought we would never visit so it’s thanks to Olivia that we did.

Once at Land’s End we took in the breathless views and of course had our photo taken at the world famous signpost which marks the distance between Land’s End and John O’Groats – the most northerly point in the UK. As a tourist gimmick you can add the name of the town you are from, as well as the distance which for Madrid is 1055 miles!

Land's End famous signpost
There are quite a few touristy things to do at Land’s End, one of which was visiting a restored Cornish farm with small animals such as goats, sheep, calves, pigs plus one lovely Shetland pony.

The Land’s End breeze made us hungry so we decided the obvious place to have lunch was the First Inn in England in Sennen, the last (or first) village in England just before (or after) Land’s End.

First Inn in England in Sennon, Land's End.
We drove back to the hotel after lunch for a well earned siesta after which we went to the Spa, this time with Eladio. The day was long enough to include a walk before dinner and off we set, the four of us, to explore the beach in front of our hotel. There was a wonderful cliff walk past beautiful Falmouth houses overlooking treacherous rocks which took us to a small cove with beach huts.

Oli and me on the walk on Gyllyngvase Beach

Oli on the cliff pathway
As it was Saturday night, we had booked a table at the Hotel which hosts the apparently famous Flying Fish restaurant. The menu had all sorts of tantalising choices but we all ended up choosing fish and chips once again and they were delicious.

Day 3, Sunday 29h April

Pendennis Castle, lunch in Falmouth, siesta, walk and dinner at Glasny Parc

On Sunday we decided to stay closer home and visit Falmouth which was where we were staying after all. Eladio had spied the Pendennis castle in a brochure and we could actually see it from our hotel on a cliff overlooking the town so we decided to visit it.

Sunday brought glorious weather again which was against the forecast I had printed out on internet before we left. The prediction was for showers and cloudy weather the whole of our trip but it actually only rained the morning before we left, in St. Ive’s. Funnily enough it rained in Spain throughout our visit to England!

Pendennis castle had been built by Henry VIII as part of his plan to protect the Britiish coast. It was also very instrumental in protecting England from German invasion in the Second World War and there was lots of memorabilia from both times. There were also loads of guns which Eladio and my Father enjoyed but which I’m afraid bored Oli and me and sent us off sooner than planned to the souvenir shop.

Pendennis castle

Mother and daughter, view from Pendennis Castle
It was to be my Father’s 88th birthday on 1st May, the day we were leaving and we still hadn’t bought him a present, so the Pendennis Castle Souvenir shop turned out to be a blessing. So while the men were exploring the castle, Olivia and I bought a book on English Kings and Queens, some Cornish fudge and chocolate, a book on the Second World War and a Pendennis mug for my Father’s tea back in Madrid.

Once we had had enough of the castle – I must admit though that the views were spectacular – we wandered down to Falmouth and saw the harbour, the Parish Church and did a bit of shopping at Boots and then had a pub lunch. Guess what we had? Yes, you are right, fish and chips some of us and Tikka Massala curry the others. Apparently Tikka Massala chicken curry is now England’s most popular meal!

Visiting Falmouth

Lunch at Falmouth
In the afternoon we all took a nice long nap and once again we visited the spa and went for what had now become our daily walk on Gyllyngvase Beach.

The arrangement to have dinner with Olivia’s friends at their residence in Glasny Parc was made at the last minute so preparations were not the best. We ended up buying pizza at the last minute after frantic searching in Penryn and Falmouth, the problem being that most take away places close very early in the UK specially on a Sunday night. Oli’s dear friends had also done some cooking and Shino had made some delicious croquettes and Sandeep had made an oriental vegetarian concoction which we all thought was great.

Dinner at Glasny Parc, from left to right: Sumit, Rafa, Shalini, me, Eladio, Shino, Sandeep and Basha

Dinner at Glasny Parc, from left to right: Sumit, Rafa, Shalini, me, Eladio, Shino, Sandeep and Olivia

Summit and Sandeep
The impromptu dinner took place at the Indian’s flat with 8 of us sharing the food around the table. It was so lovely to have time to talk to Oli’s friends, Shino, Sandeep, Summit, Shalini, Rafa and Basha who came in later to make his Tanzanian dinner of sardines and rice. Of course, we offered him some of our pizza and it turned out it was the first time he had ever tried it. Basha, who is in his 40’s is doing a master degree in Mining Engineering, has 5 children back in Africa and has climbed Kilimanjaro twice! So quite something. We spent the evening talking about how Eladio and I had met and the pros and cons of arranged marriages, amongst other things. So a good time was had by all and we are really look forward to hosting Oli’s friends some day soon in Madrid.

The last day, Day 4, Monday 30th April.

A “Fine” day at St. Ive’s, the rain, “I’m her daughter”, the clamp, a trip to Asda, the last spa visit and dinner at Asha’s

St. Ive’s is one of Cornwall’s most popular destinations and we had been advised to go on Monday so as to avoid the traffic that can get pretty bad at the weekends. What we had not expected though, after such great weather, was the rain and it turned out that Cornwall was the wettest place in England last Monday. Just our luck. St. Ive’s is indeed a very lovely place and it is one of the prettiest seaside towns I have ever seen in England, including Robin Hood’s Bay. So we took numerous photos of ourselves by the sea front to a backdrop of quaint cottages. St. Ive’s is also famed for its artists and so tempted by the views we bought 3 lovely prints we will be framing for our new house.

Eladio posing on the Wharfe at St. Ive's

Beautiful St. Ive's
I am embarrassed to say we had fish and chips again on our last day. We are suckers for it but it tastes so good when made by the sea.

Oli and I posing in a quaint street in St. Ive's
On the way back to the car park, I was walking with my Father behind Olivia and Eladio and witnessed 3 men stop in their steps to obviously admire her looks. So as I went past them I said: “She’s beautiful isn’t she?” They looked at me and stared but answered “yes” to which I proudly replied: “I’m her Mother!” You should have seen their faces!

The day turned out a bit sour as when we returned to the car park our car had been clamped as we were 50 minutes over the time we had paid for at the infamous “pay and display” parking. The fine was enormous, 70 pounds and when we complained to the man he said he didn’t make the rules!. So as you see, it turned out to be a “fine” day.

The clamp at St. Ive's
We had planned our trip to Asda – the only big supermarket in the area – for the last day and apart from helping Olivia with her shopping we stocked up with British fare to take back to Spain such as decaf tea, sage and onion stuffing and tea cakes.

Being our last day we decided to visit the spa for one last time where we ended up relaxing after the negative clamp experience. And then Eladio, Oli and I went for our final dinner once again to Asha’s, that is after packing all our stuff for our journey back the next day.

As we were leaving early the next day, we said goodbye to Oli when we took her back to Glasny Parc after the dinner. We had had a great time with her and knew we would be seeing her soon again as she will be returning back to Spain at the end of May.

The day of our return, Day 6, Tuesday 1st May

Keys locked in the car and the AA, catching the plane by the skin of our teeth. Daddy’s 88th birthday. All good things come to an end.

Our plane was leaving Bristol at 14.20 so we had planned to leave the hotel at 09h to get there on plenty of time. So at about 8.45 Eladio and I were packing the car with the huge suitcases and trying to see if it shut. Well, it did but with the keys inside!

What a problem we had on our hands. So of course we had to ring Europcar who in turn said I had to ring the AA. So there I was ringing round and hearing that they might have to break the windows to get the keys, etc and that the AA patrol would not be with us before the hour. It was all very stressing but in fact the AA patrol arrived earlier than we thought and was able to force the centralising locking system open without having to break the window. So from here a very big thanks to one José Ramón Martín from the AA whose Grandmother was Spanish but he didn’t speak it. I must say he was incredibly good looking and I told him so!

The AA came to our rescue on the last day.
Thanks to the AA we made it to Bristol by the skin of our teeth, not without worries and losing the way a couple of times.

Then we had the hassle of returning the car, checking in our huge overweight suitcases, one of which was broken and then going through security not realising that one of the bags Oli had given to us was full of toiletries; i.e, non declared liquid. That took some explaining and some time too. But finally we made it on to the plane and set off on time for Madrid where dear Susi was waiting for us upon our arrival.

It was lovely to be home again and the good thing was that the next day, 2nd May was a holiday in Madrid and we were able to celebrate Susi and my Father’s birthdays around the family dining room table.

And tomorrow is back to work. As the saying goes: “All good things come to an end”. And as another saying goes: “A good time was had by all”