Sunday, November 25, 2007

What is there to tell this week? Plaza Norte, Oliva Negra, shopping for tablecloths, wine glasses, a new mattress, ....

Hi again

What is there to tell this week? Well off the top of my head, not much. What have we been up to? And now when I start to write, I realise that, actually, quite a lot.

The week was full of interviews and preparations for some big Christmas events and activities I am planning. There was time, though, for lunch with a colleague, Kike who took me to the shopping centre near work which I had never visited since starting this new job last October. It’s called Plaza Norte and actually I was not impressed. It’s just another of those huge characterless shopping malls with the same high street brands you see anywhere in the world. Sometimes I hate globalisation. One good thing though is that there is a Fnac, that great book store which we browsed round together. However I only usually read in English and my bookshop is, so there was not much there for me really.

The weekend brought some good family time with home cooked lunches. But it also brought a nice dinner out on Friday with Eladio to the Oliva Negra which I can highly recommend. The food is great, original, creative, tasty and not too big portions. We shall be going again. It is fast becoming the girls’ favourite too.

Saturday had Eladio and I shopping at Zara Home for wonderful colourful Indian print tablecloths and wine glasses. A few years ago I acquired some 25 great balloon shaped glasses which have slowly dwindled to about 6. So it was time for some new ones.

One of the places we went to, to look at glasses was El Corte Inglés, Spain’s biggest department store. Yes, we got the glasses, but we also bought a new mattress for our bed. Is that news you say? Well, for us it is, as ours is 25 years old and was getting rather saggy. Of course, we bought the best the shop had to offer because, I argued, this was going to be the last one we ever bought, specially if it has to last another 25 years. My daughter Susana gasped when I told her what it cost and she told me quite wisely that her Ikea bed complete with mattress had cost a tenth of that and that she slept fine on it. She can only imagine we will sleep like babies or angels on our new mattress. Well, I’ll let you know when it comes.

Last night, after so much shopping, we stayed in, after our daily walk that is. Susi stayed in too and we got a McDonald’s take away and watched a Spanish film called “Ladrones” (robbers) with that great boy actor, Juan José Ballesta. It was not a bad film, if a bit slow.

Today, Sunday, has been a typical Sunday at home in the winter. I made roast lamb for lunch, English style with all the trimmings, including mint sauce.

In the morning we had our upholsterers in to change the fabric on our dining room chairs and bay window cushions. The idea came about after we realised how badly they matched the Zara home table cloths. Truth to say though that the fabric was rather old hat and the chairs needed a fresh look.

So all in all this has been quite an expensive weekend!

The week ahead brings with it all sorts of different activities including a course on corporate blogging by Enrique Dans, a course on event protocol, a team building dinner at Casa Lucio and finally the Finnish Chamber of Commerce annual Christmas dinner on Friday at the Velázquez Hotel in Madrid.

Sounds fun!

I wish you all a great week.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

A quiet week with not much to report. Spain beat Sweden 3-0 and classifies for the Euro Cup.

Hi again,

Well this week has been very quiet and very busy workwise. One of the highlights at work was a meeting held at my offices between the Communications managers from all 4 mobile phone operators in Spain. There may be a lot of competition between the companies but we, as communications professionals, get on famously. I suppose it’s because we have so much in common in our jobs and very similar challenges both internally and externally.

Monday we went to see Roberto, our nephew, who had his knee operated in Madrid. Poor chap won’t be walking again for 2 months or playing sport for another 6. I wish him a quick and easy recovery from here.

This week was also Juana’s birthday. As she’s very obviously still in her 30’s I can happily wish her a “happy birthday” also from here. I know she’s thriving in Mexico city with her lovely family. I don’t see much of them though, unfortunately.

Midweek I had lunch with a journalist friend Ana from the Spanish news agency Efe. It was a working lunch but even so great to catch up with her.

This weekend Eladio and I went to the cinema twice; once on Friday night to see José Luis Garci’s latest film, “Luz de Domingo” which is highly recommendable. And last night we went to see Elizabeth, the golden age. It was also very good, although full of inaccuracies and the Spaniards, specially Felipe II were portrayed a little too pathetically.

We actually had tickets to go the Spain Sweden match last night played at the Real Madrid stadium but Eladio chickened out as he was a bit worried about possible violence. I think the match live would have been a great experience. The good thing though is that Spain thrashed Sweden 3 – 0. There should be a few laughs about the result tomorrow at work as my company is mainly Swedish owned!!

And the week coming up will be equally busy full of preparations for Christmas related activities. It’s so funny to be thinking and planning already for Christmas but it’s actually only a month away.

Hope you all have a great week.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Trip to the Cazorla National Park in Jaen and the route of the Paradors.

Hello again

Well here I am writing from our bedroom on Saturday evening before dinner at the Parador in Cazorla, the biggest natural park in Andalucía and one of the biggest in Europe; some say the biggest. This is really a beautiful place and has some history too. It seems this was where Franco used to hunt and the Parador was built for him to stay at or so rumour has it. It has a heliport which he must have used to come here. The views from the hotel are spectacular. It is about 1.600 m high and is 23 km away from the small town of Cazorla on a winding road overlooking the sheer mountains all the way and takes nearly an hour to drive to. We arrived on Friday night in complete darkness but woke up this morning to see what a paradise we had come to.

Yesterday, Friday, we left Madrid quite early in the morning for us and drove to Jaén first. We have come with our travelling companions Roberto and Mari Carmen. One of the objectives of the trip and the reason we came to this area really, was to see Mari Carmen’s friend’s chemist shop in Jaén to see how the new billing system she had installed worked. It was a great excuse to have lunch with her in Jaén and to visit the castle of Santa Catalina (also a Parador) to see the spectacular views over Jaén. She was a great host too. The best thing about Jaén which is the olive capital of Spain, was the temperature: 24ºC for the middle of November was lovely.

And now I am writing from home on Monday afternoon and trying to remember all the things we did.

Saturday was spent exploring the Cazorla National Park both by car and on foot. Nature was at its Autumn best as you can see from some of the photos. In the morning we took the route to Tranca where we came upon a great hotel called Coto del Valle which is where we ended up having lunch. One of the highlights of the trip was finding a herd of wild boar after lunch. Children were feeding them bits of bread and I had a great time taking as many shots as I could.

In the afternoon we visited the small town of Cazorla which has 8.000 inhabitants and like many towns in Jaen has a castle with amazing views of the omnipresent olive fields.

All too soon it was Sunday and the day of our return but not before visiting Ubeda, a lovely medieval town in the province of Jaen. The second highlight of our trip happened here and it was the horse driven carriage ride around the town by a most cultured local guide who had the most charming Andaluz accent. His pretty white horse was called “Goloso” and very much decorated the already beautiful streets of Ubeda.

Our cultured guide also gave us some succulent figures about olive oil when he showed us what he called the Mirador al Mar de olivos (vantage point of the olive tree sea). The description was perfect as it was like looking out to a sea as the only thing you could see for miles were olive trees. Apparently Jaen produces 20% of the world’s olive oil and 40% of Europe’s olive oil. They even count the trees and Jaen is supposed to have 60 million! It looked like 600 million to me actually!

From Ubeda we drove to Bailén en route to Madrid and here, surprise surprise, we had lunch at the old Parador, Hotel Bailén.

This trip apart from being a visit to the Cazorla National Park has also been a bit like a tour of Paradors as we have been to the ones in Manzanares, Jaen, Cazorla and Ubeda all in one weekend. It has also been a study in local gastronomy too and food, as usual, has been an important part of our trip. The main element of the local gastronomy is what they call in Jaen, golden liquid which is non other than their wonderful olive oil, plenty of which we have brought home with us of course.

Cheers for now and have a great week.

PS If you follow this link (or click on the red cross) you will find the Jaen trip photo album posted in Facebook where you can a pretty big selection of those I took over the weekend.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Oh my God I reached 10.000!


I just had to include a post to celebrate 10.000 visits to my blog today. I love writing and keeping it up to date but really the content is actually quite mundane and domestic that so much interest in it surprises me a lot. I have a map at the bottom of my blog to see where the visitors are from and it's amazing to find people from Australia, China, India as well as other parts where I don't think I know anyone. Is what I do so interesting to the outside world I often ask myself?

When I write I have certain people in mind, mostly girlfriends who now live far away. And this blog is a wonderful way to keep them updated on my life. You know who you are girls; I don't have to name you. Some of you have blogs too.

I have now been writing since September 2005 and the blog has become a complete graphic record of what we've been up to. A lot has happenend in that time, the most important of all being my Father coming to live with us, me finding a new job and, of course, our moving house.

But the most wonderful thing of all is that we are all fairing well, are in great health and have some of the greatest family values I know. One day in the future when I am an old lady I will probably reread parts of my blog and miss this happy stage of life we, as a family, are going through today.

So I will continue to record our doings and hope you continue to enjoy reading them too.


Rubbish on our walk - my photo published in Qué! today


Just a quickie to let you know a photo I sent to the newspaper Qué! got published today.

The picture is of a load of rubbish dumped on our daily walk, right by a sign saying no dumping. It's spreading all over the fields and is becoming a huge eye sore. The cleaning department of the local town hall hasn't bothered to do anything about it and probably never will.

I love this country but cannot tolerate the lack of solidarity with the enviroment. Spanish houses are impeccable inside, cleaner than any other in the world. The problem is the outside. My conclusion is that when the area doesn't belong to anyone, then noone cares what it looks like.

Cheers for now
PS the link to the pdf of today's Qué! is:
My contribution is on page 10.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

All Saint’s Bank Holiday

Hello again

It is Sunday today and here I am writing from my pc at home and the 4 day long bank holiday starting last Thursday is now nearly over; over but not quite. There is still time for putting on more washing machine loads (the 7th I think!), time for some reading, for our daily walk, for making a vegetable soup out of the left overs from lunch and for updating my blog of course.

This has been a nice quiet holiday at home with the family except that we hardly saw the girls as they had their own plans. Merce from Yecla had come to stay and their new found friend from the Scout days, Laura spent a lot of time with them too. For them it was Halloween and turning night into day most of the holiday. They would get up at lunch time and have breakfast and the day would go in the same way, lunch turning into dinner, etc. Their normal time of going to bed was between 4 and 5 a.m! But who can blame them? They are young and entitled to enjoying themselves this way.

Our plans were more mundane and most of the time was spent doing what we like best: watching dvds, reading, walking, making meals and spending time on the computer. We did, however, take time to go on an excursion with my Father on Saturday.

This time we went to Chinchón, a pretty medieval town on the outskirts of Madrid which funnily enough we had never been to. And where did we have lunch? Well, the Parador, of course! Going for lunches to Spanish Paradors is becoming something of a habit as well as a gastronomic cum cultural interest. The quality is always superb and the buildings are generally of monumental standard. The one in Chinchón was once a convent and as is usually the case, we had a very good meal.

Chinchón is famous for its main square (plaza mayor) with beautiful balconies all the way round. It is also famous for its Goya painting housed in the main church of the Assumtion and of the same name (Virgen de la Asunción) and which, unfortunately, we were not able to see as it was closed just as we arrived. One of Goya’s most famous paintings is of the Countess of Chincón but of course that is in the Prado.

As usual Eladio bought a walking stick and I bought a plate. We seem to have quite a collection now and are in the habit of buying these items on most of our trips.

Next week will take us to another Parador, the one in Cazorla (Jaen) but this time to sleep. Friday is another bank holiday and we will be going away for the weekend with our usual travelling companions, Roberto and Mari Carmen. Let’s just hope we get the same good weather we have been having for so long now.

Have a good week.

PS here is the link to my album of photos in Facebook of our visit to Chinchón. Clink on the link or red cross to see them. If you cannot open it, cut and paste this link and put it into your browser: (all together without spaces)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The day we went a bit far with the bubble bath.


I'm spending a lot of my free time today at the computer and putting more posts than usual on my blog but that's because I took some great shots yesterday with the girls. We had a superb day together yesterday. They were my hostesses at a press conference I organised in Madrid. On the way we stopped off at the Vicente Rico disguise and joke shop where we got some great stuff for their Halloween night out. In the afternoon we generally relaxed at home and here are two great pictures of Oli enjoying the jacuzzi. She had asked me to prepare it and I'm afraid I put too much bubble bath in. Doesn't she look sweet?

Halloween Oct 07. Is this my daughter Susana?

Hi again midweek.

Today is All Saint's Day and we are at home with a full house as the girls invited Fergus, Merce and Laura out last night for Halloween. They will be staying for the bank holiday too.

The girls spent most of yesterday planning and preparing their Halloween evening out. Most of the effort went on designing their outfits; well their's plus Fergus'. They also had a little help from a great shop in Madrid called Vicente Rico where Oli bought her "seductive devil" disguise. Susi went as a "femme fatale" but actually looked more like a call girl as you will agree from the pictures. Laura used one of the great wigs I got last Christmas at the Plaza Mayor and went as a strict schoolmistress. Fergus was dressed as a spooky doctor and I know Merce was lent one of the other wigs but never got to see how she was dressed as the girls were picking her up last night at midnight off the train from Murcia.

Here below, if you click on the link (or red cross if that's what appears on your screen) you can see the photos I posted in Facebook. However I couldn't resist illustrating this post with the best shot of the lot, Susi in the blonde wig and all made up. Is this really my daughter??

Cheers for now/Masha