Monday, July 26, 2010

An important visit from India, more good news for Spanish sport, a sad affair in Duisburg and other stories.

With Sandeep and Sumit at the Escorial Monastery and Palace on Sunday
Hi again and I hope you are all doing fine. 
This last week has been great because we were blessed with the visit of our Indian friends Sandeep and Sumit.  But  before I get to that first let me start from where I left off last week and that was returning from our flying trip to Santa Pola.
If you will remember, we went there to change the curtains and bed linen which we had inherited from the Norwegian couple we bought the apartment from in 1999 and which were in dire need of a new and refreshed look.  It took nearly 2 days of hard work but the effort put in was really worth it.  Here you can see what one of the bedrooms looks like now.  In fact they are all decorated very similarly in cream with a splash of colour coming from the embroidered cushions, all from Ikea of course.
A great new look in our apartment thanks to the change in curtains and bed linen we made during our trip last week.
On Sunday we came home and on the way had lunch at a cheapo favourite in between Alicante and Albacete called El Cruce.  It’s a real roadside café with lots of lorries outside.  I learned many years ago in Spain that that is a sure sign of good and cheap food.  They offer an extensive menu of the day at 7 euros each including a very appetizing 2 course meal with wine, bread, coffee and a desert.  If you ever go that way, it’s a great place for a quick and low priced nourishing home-made meal.

A good place to stop off for a quick, tasty and low cost meal on the road between Alicante and Albacete. That's Eladio in the car in the picture.

Once again we came home to the mains water pipe burst in the middle of the garden.  This has been going on for a while now and as I write, Guillermo, our Ecuadorian gardener cum handyman is outside changing the whole pipe this time, instead of fixing it partially.  Meanwhile, of course, the water has been switched off which is rather inconvenient when it’s so hot.  Hopefully Guillermo will solve the problem permanently this time.
Monday was a down day and also a dentist day as my new crown had fallen out the day before we went to Santa Pola.  My dentist put it back in temporarily and I was to come back this week to have it put in (hopefully) permanently.  The joy of having my tooth back, albeit a false one and temporary, didn’t last long as it fell out again the next day. Let’s hope she makes a better job of it this week.  Meanwhile the feeling of a hole in your mouth and only being able to eat properly on one side is most inconvenient.
Tuesday was the longest working day of the week.  It began with the TeliaSonera Q2 results and I was happy to hear in the 8 am conference call that Yoigo had 1.8m customers at the end of June and was the company that contributed most customers to the group.  Results days are always a bit tense.  We have to write and send out both an internal and external release with the main news about Yoigo and figure out what that is of course.  After the conference call and sending out the releases I rushed in my car to the office for 2 meetings.  The whole day was a bit hot and bothered and of course in the afternoon I had another of my famous headaches.
Wednesday was the most important day of the week, the day our Indian friends, Sandeep and Sumit were coming to stay until today.  I think I wrote before that they are Olivia’s friends from her Erasmus year in 2007 at University College Falmouth in the UK.  There they formed a fast knit international group of 3 Indians (Sandeep, Sumit and Shalini), 2 Spaniards (Oli and Rafa) and 1 Japanese girl (Shino).  Eladio, my Father and I met them all when we visited Olivia in Cornwall.  We had a memorable dinner at their hall of residence, Glasny Park at Tremough (pronounced Tremo) Campus. 
The memorable  Dinner at Glasny Parc, UC Falmouth, in May 2007 from left to right: Sumit, Rafa, Shalini, me, Eladio, Shino, Sandeep and Basha
Since them we have been in touch via Facebook and I feel they are now our friends as well as Oli’s.   The girls had seen Sumit during their recent trip to India as he now lives in Mumbai working in Bollywood.  However it was to be the first time in 3 years since we had seen Sandeep, who, by the way, lives in Plymouth in the UK and works for the Twofour media group as an assistant editor.   Both boys had predicted thunder and lightning when we met again.  There were certainly great sparks of joy as we hugged and welcomed them.   It was their first time in Spain and they had arrived in Barcelona on 12th July just in time for the World Cup Final.  From Barcelona they travelled to Granada and Seville before ending their trip with a 5 day visit to us.
Dinner on the first night of Sandeep and Sumit's visit
The days were filled having wonderful meals together where I taught Sandeep how to make Spanish tortilla (omelette) and he taught me how to make real chicken curry,  going for walks where they enjoyed using walking sticks from Eladio’s collection, chilling out by the pool and partying with the girls and their friends.

 The great chicken curry Sandeep made for 10 on Saturday

On Thursday and Friday the girls took them to Madrid to visit the city.  I think the most relevant site they visited was the Real Madrid Bernabeu stadium.  Oli told me she had read it was the most visited place in Spain after the Alhambra.  Can that be true I ask myself?  What about all the other historical sites and monuments?  They were joined by Rafa, their companion during the Erasmus year and other friends of Suzy and Oli’s including Rocío who went to India with the girls and had already met Sumit and of course both boys’ families who had hosted them so well. 

From left to right: Olivia, Sumit and Sandeep at the Real Madrid Bernabeu stadium

On Sunday I organized a family outing to El Escorial, the famous small town some 50km from the centre where Philip II built a palace in the 16th century.  It has since become a monastery and also houses a Basilica (cathedral).  It is here where most of the Spanish Kings are buried as well as the Queens who gave birth to boys who became kings.  The visit itself is rather long and some parts are boring.  For me the most interesting part is the royal pantheon, the chamber and bed King Philip died on, the Basilicia and most definitely the amazing library.
From L-R Sandeep, Oli, Sumit and Suzy waiting to go in and visit the Escorial Palace.

Hungry after visiting the palace, we made our way to the Charolés restaurant, supposed to be the best in town.  The boys don’t eat meat or fish except for chicken so the choice on the menu was a little limited.  However they have enjoyed gazpacho and salads throughout.  The meal together was our last and had to be the best.  We have so much enjoyed their company and were all feeling a little sad yesterday knowing it was their last day.

Sumit and Sandeep and my girls at the Charolés restaurant yesterday in El Escorial.

This morning we were all up early to say goodbye as they were leaving at 8 am.  Eladio drove them to the airport and there was a flat feeling in the house when they had left.  They are Indian and we are European but all of us share a similar joy for life and sense of fun, as well as basic good family values. Hopefully we will see them again in the not too distant future. As they were leaving Sumit invited us to visit them in the Punjab and maybe we will one day.  Who knows?  Meanwhile you can see some more photos of their visit here.
This week was also the week Spain continued to excel in international sporting competitions.  Not only has Spain won Wimbledon with Nadal and the World Cup but yesterday, Alberto Contador won the Tour de France, possibly the hardest sporting feat in the world.  Spain has now won it for the last 5 years in a row, 3 of those wins coming from Alberto Contador, a modest 27 year old from the working class town of Pinto outside Madrid.  He has been much praised but also criticized for his fair play strategy.  This has been his hardest TDF which was tainted by the controversy produced when his rival Andy Schleck had a technical breakdown and he didn’t wait for him in one of the mountain stages.  He took over the coveted yellow jersey and went from being 31 seconds behind to 8 seconds ahead.   There is no rule in cycling that you have to stop for a rival in distress but there are voices for and against.  I agree with my friend and ex TDF winner, Pedro Delgado, who compared cycling to motor cycling racing and said that when a rider falls or crashes in motor cycling, no one stops to wait for him so why should they in cycling.
Alberto Contador celebrating his third Tour de France win yesterday at the Champs Elysees in Paris.  Well done Alberto, well done Spanish sport.
The Tour ended yesterday, Sunday, with a great win for Spain.  But it wasn’t the only sporting success of the day.  Fernando Alonso won the F1 German GP too and Jorge Lorenzo won the US Motor Cycling GP.  So, all in all, yesterday was a hat trick and a great day for Spanish sport.
This was happy news for Spain.  However news from Germany was all but happy.  At the weekend the famous music festival, the Love Parade, was held in Duisburg and a terrible accident occurred killing some 19 young people.  Apparently there was only one access which was a tunnel that turned into a terrible trap for the public when it produced a mass stampede in which people were trampled under-foot.  2 of the victims were Spanish Erasmus students, vivacious and fun loving Clara Zapater and Marta Costa from Tarragona.   My thoughts are with all the families who must be going through hell right now.
The Duisburg Love Parade disaster this weekend where 19 people were trampled on and died including 2 Spanish girls.

That brings me to today Monday which may well turn out to be important in our lives  as this morning we interviewed a 35 year old single Argentinian woman, Olga, to come and live with us to help with the domestic chores but also to be here for my Father, especially when we are away.  She was recommended to me by Laura and we liked her as soon as we met her.  Olga will be starting on 10th August.  Having a home help living in may take some getting used to but I’m sure there are more advantages than disadvantages.  More about that once she is with us.
Today is certainly important for 33 year old Raúl González, the striker legend of Real Madrid who announced this morning that he is leaving the club.  He has been with RM for 16 years and is one of the most iconic and emblematic players in the history of the club and I somehow cannot imagine it without him.  Goodbye Raúl!
Raúl González, the legendary Real Madrid striker, announced leaving the club today.  He will be sorely missed.
And that more or less brings me to the end of this week’s blog post.  Before I finish, however,  I just must mention to you that my nephew Miguel, an expert in finance in general and the stock exchange has started writing a blog which you can follow here.  He works for IG Markets and is now working 3 weeks out of 4 in Montrondo.   His main job is PR actually and he spends much of his time being interviewed on financial programmes advising people about the financial market.  The blog is called “Nueva Era” or New Era and refers to his new life, working and living in Montrondo, that remote village of León where my husband’s family is from.  In his first post Miguel says he will be writing every day for the first 8 months at least.  I know I will be one of his most avid readers and if you can read Spanish I’m sure you’ll find it interesting too.

Miguel, my nephew, who has just begun to write a blog which you can follow here.

That’s it for this week.  Hope you have a great one.  Hopefully mine will go past quickly as next week I will be taking a week or so off to go to Montrondo for the annual family gathering and then on to Santa Pola with Eladio and my Father.  Our real holiday though will be in September when we go to Israel and Jordan on the 4th September for 2 weeks, the next big trip on our travelling agenda.
Cheers till next week

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Spain won its first ever World Cup, the psychic octopus Paul, a visit to Montrondo, a TV appearance, legal again and a trip to Santa Pola

Oli holding the World Cup the Spanish team won.  It's for real.  It was at TVE for the news programme.  Lucky Oli.
Hi again,
Sorry for the 2 week silence, owed to being away last weekend and being too busy during the week to catch up with my blog.  But here is a bumper edition and very important too as it includes Spain’s first ever win of the World Cup where they joined the elite winners’ club which now has 8 members and includes: Brazil (five times), Italy (four titles), Germany (three), Argentina (two), Uruguay  (two, including the inaugural tournament), France,  England and now Spain.  That’s not many countries is it so to be one of them is really something.
But let me start at the beginning from where I left off when I last wrote on Saturday 3rd July.  That weekend Spain beat Paraguay in the Quarter Final which absolutely made our weekend.  The truth is Spain has never got past a Quarter Final in the World Cup so this was history in the making.  At home, Spain’s success offset England’s poor result, at least, for my Father and I but neither of us believed it could win.  Spain’s next rival was Germany, a hard team to beat who had sent England home with a 4-0 score.  However Spain proved to be the better team and got through to the Final where they were to play Holland, another tough team and one who has played the final 3 times but never won so would be incredibly hungry for victory.  When Spain started out in the tournament it was one of the favourites, having been unbeaten in all the qualifying matches and also the reigning European champion.  However, given its past performance in the World Cup, no one in Spain believed in their chances.  The great Maradona said that the favourites never win and I, at least, thought he was right.
Meanwhile, a “psychic” octopus called Paul from an aquarium in Germany was becoming famous in its correct predictions for the winners in the all the matches of this World Cup, held in South Africa.   It was a bit of a joke but when the aquarium staff placed the Dutch and Spanish flags in boxes each with a mussel in it the day before the final the worlds’ cameras were there to see which box it would choose.  Believe it or not it chose the box with the Spanish flag as you can see here.
Octopus Paul predicted Spain would win the final and it was right.
I watched the match in Montrondo last Sunday night with Eladio, Sara and José Antonio.  Dolores, my sister-in-law, only came in at the end and must have been one of the very few people in Spain not to watch the historic match.   I had brought a Spanish flag to show our patriotism, something you would consider a normal thing to do.  However the Spanish flag in Spain is a controversial issue.  For historic reasons it has always been associated with the old Franco regime and if you use it privately there is political connotation attached, denoting you as a right winger.  Hopefully now and thanks to football that might change and the use of the flag may become a normal patriotic act as it is in the rest of the word.
The Spanish flag used to support the football but a bit controversial in Spain because of its right wing political connotation.
The final against Holland was Spain’s toughest match of course but it was also rather brutal as the Dutch played for their lives and used the roughest of tactics to outwit Spain’s creative play.  A total of 14 cards were handed out by the controversial English referee, Howard Webb, a South Yorkshire police sergeant, who later described the match as the worst 2 hours of his life. 
The heroic midfielder, Andrés Iniesta, who is from Albacete, La Mancha (Quixote land), but plays for Barcelona, as do the majority of the Spanish team, scored the winning goal at the end of extra time, four minutes before what would have been a terrifying penalty shoot out. 
Andrés Iniesta, the Spanish midfielder who scored Spain's golden goal.
But that wasn’t to be and Spain beat Holland 1-0 and won the Cup deservedly, making its countrymen delirious at such a feat for Spain.  
The Champions - The Spanish national football team.
The victory put Spain at the top of the world’s league in brand image and awareness, something I think it desperately needs.  The Empire State Building, for example, perhaps the most famous building in the world, lit the top in Spain’s national colours of yellow and red for 2 nights in honour of the win. As I keep saying, Spain is a top sport’s country and this year is the winner that takes it nearly all.  I mean they, or should I say we, are winners or are in the top league of tennis, (Rolland Garros, and Wimbledon), Motor cycle racing, golf, Formula 1, cycling (watch out for Contador at Le Tour de France) and of course football.
Spain's glory reached all the corners of the world and even the Empire State Building was lit up with its national colours.
Meanwhile the whole country partied.  The team returned as heroes and went through the main streets of Madrid on an open topped bus displaying the cup as well as meeting and showing it to  the Prime Minister and Royal Family.  Later on there was a huge party for thousands of fans. Amazingly one day last week when Olivia was at work, the World Cup was at the TVE where she works as it had been used for the news programme.  I couldn’t believe it when I received a multimedia message from her with the picture illustrating this blog.  She actually got to hold the cup which is probably the dream of many Spaniards. 
Their win has certainly been a great antidote for the recession the country is in and has injected a wave of enthusiasm and morale, so necessary in these times.
Spain partied all night and all day after the team won the World Cup.  For a time people forgot the recession.
We were in Montrondo for the event but had actually just gone for the weekend to stay with José Antonio, Dolores, Sara and Miguel who had my mother-in-law staying with them.  Montrondo was at its best as it always is in June and July.  The view from our room never tires me.  When we arrived there were cows grazing outside and the next day some of Guzman’s horses.  Montrondo is a great place to get away from it all. 
The wonderful view from our room in Montrondo.
On Saturday we were joined by Pili, Andrés and their delightful Dalmatian dog, Trébol and by Isidro and Yoli and we had a great day together.  Eladio and the other men spent most of it mending a burst pipe in the orchard and got extremely muddy but I suppose that’s part of the fun. 

Pili, my sister-in-law, with Trébol last weekend in Montrondo.
You can see more of the photos here and a video I took to capture the spirit of the weekend which was heavenly.  We actually stayed till after lunch on Monday.  I had some urgent work to do and now that there is internet (thanks to Miguel who is installed there semi permanently) I was able to stay and do it there.  It was lovely working from Miguel’s office with the view of the mountains and village and the thought crossed my mind that maybe we could go more often now that I can take my work there. 
Once more we came back home to another burst pipe, this time in our garden.  It seems to happen every time we go away.  On Tuesday I went into the office for an interview with Spanish TV (TVE1).  They were doing a piece for the lunchtime and evening news about consumption during and after the world cup final and luckily we had done our PR homework and prepared a press release on the increase in voice and sms traffic.  Actually from Iniesta’s goal onwards sms traffic for Yoigo increased by 600% compared to the same time the week before.  Traffic always increases with big events and usually we are prepared with our figures. 
The graph that showed the increase of Yoigo sms traffic during and after the match, the one I explained on TV
They came and went within less than 20 minutes.  I must admit the TVE camera makes you nervous so there were about 3 tries until both sides were happy.  Big TV stations often try to ignore brand names but this time that was impossible.  Often too they film something and it doesn’t get broadcast because there is other bigger news and not enough space or time.  But that was not the case last Tuesday.  It was my day and believe it or not I came out on both news programmes explaining the chart, short and brief but there I was, with the company logo and my name and job title  on the screen.  Yoigo was the only company interviewed, which is a bit of a feather in our cap as we are the smallest operator in the Spanish market. Later I got the clippings and the evaluation and I was amazed to see out that between 4 and 5 million people will have seen that piece on Yoigo represented by me.  It’s certainly a big thing in PR to come out on the national news.  Often media coverage is measured in terms of equivalent advertising spend but you cannot buy advertising space on a news programme which in a way makes its value priceless.  So, yeah, Yoigo and I got our bit of glory too out of the World Cup win.  You can see the clipping here
The shot of me on the TV.  Fame at last, hahaha.
On Wednesday I was working from home when I suddenly realised at 11.30 that I should be in Madrid at 12.00 for my appointment with the Immigration Police for my new European Residency Certificate which replaces the old Residency Card which had actually been stolen from me when my purse was robbed in Santa Pola in May.   For some reason I was convinced the appointment was for the next day but I was wrong.  So I grabbed the forms and photocopies I had prepared and rushed by car to Madrid.  In the end I was only 5 minutes late.  I was given a number (95) and was told there 23 people ahead of me which gave me a bit of a breather.  I have been renewing my residency and work permit papers every 5 years since I came to Spain in 1982 and each time I do it the system has changed but each time I feel equally nervous.  If I am married to a Spaniard and have lived and worked here for nearly 30 years, it seems a bit silly to me to keep having to renew my papers.  The alternative would be to adopt Spanish nationality but to do that I would have to give up my British citizenship and that is something I don’t want to do.  This time the system worked fine (excluding the appointment which is given to you 3 or 4 months in advance!) and I walked out of the Immigration office once again a legal resident.  I did not get a Spanish residency card but this time a certificate of registration in the European Union which is actually a green piece of normal paper which is supposed to last you 10 years.  It seems a silly piece of paper to have if you already have a EU passport.
The Immigration office I went to last week to get my new Certificate of Regiestration.  Legal again!
And yesterday we came here to Santa Pola which is where I am writing from.  Eladio and I have wanted to change the curtains and bed linen for ages at our apartment here and on Thursday afternoon we made a special journey to Ikea to buy everything we needed.   Everything we needed turned out to be a lot and it completely filled our car.  So there was a need to come immediately to bring and install it all here, in time for the family holiday after Montrondo in August.   Immediately meant yesterday as we will be tied up for the next two weekends and wouldn’t be able to come until the family holiday and of course all the stuff would not fit in the car with the people and luggage.   Coming on our own is a joy and for the first time in all our trips here since we bought the place 11 years ago, we decided not to bring any food or to cook and that we would eat out even for breakfast.  True to our promise we had lunch on the way at the Parador in Albacete and a delightful dinner last night at our favourite place in this area, Restaurante María Picola.
Restaurante María Picola on the road from Santa Pola to Elche, our favourite around here.
At María Picola we ordered their delicious “arroz a banda”, one of our favourite dishes and typical of the area (a type of paella with no “bits” in it). You can see what it looked like here.
The Arroz a Banda we had at María Picola last night.  Delicious, specially with ali oli.
I was in charge of the bedding and general cleaning and finished my job pretty soon.  Eladio is in charge of the curtains which is a much bigger job.  Thus this morning I was able to sneak away to the hairdresser’s downstairs to deal with my roots (yes the grey area the dye no longer covers when your hair grows when you are middle aged!).  So whilst most people were on the beach or at the market in Santa Pola, there I was having my hair dyed and cut.  It was in great need and I have had no time recently to go to my usual hairdresser’s where we live so this was a good opportunity.  It cost about half the price here but Eladio says it doesn’t look as good as usual at the back but I think it looks fine.
Our block of apartments in Gran Alacant, near Santa Pola and Alicante, just recently painted.  It was in dire need.
We have yet to go to the beach for our first bathe of the season and for a nice long walk.  Hopefully Eladio will finish the curtains in time enough for that to happen.  Tomorrow we should have time too for another bathe before making our way back to Madrid.  Next week we have the visit of Sumit and Sandeep to look forward to.  They are the Indian friends Olivia made when she was on her Erasmus year in Falmouth in the UK.   They landed in Barcelona last Sunday, the day of the World Cup final, and are visiting Granada and Seville before coming here.  It’s going to be great to see them again.  My only worry is food, as they are vegetarians and like hot and spicy food.  Maybe gazpacho with curry powder could be in order.  There will be news on their visit next week of course.

Till then,
Cheers Masha

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Fireworks, Valencia and the Yoigo Mid Summer Party, a celebration, more on the World Cup 2010, good news from Wimbledon, Hennie Kuiper at the Tour of France and sandals from Menorca.

The Yoigo family at the Mid Summer Party this week in Valencia cheering on Spain in the World Cup

Hi everyone

I have just noticed I have more than 40 thousand readers. I love writing my blog but it’s the number of readers that often inspires me to continue. I am amazed to see where they all come from. Blogger has just launched something called real time blogger stats which give you an insight on the traffic to your blog. My top 5 countries in order of readers are India, Spain, Germany, US and UK. I often wonder why people who don’t know me find my blog interesting and I don’t have the answer. Hopefully this week’s post meets with their approval.

It starts where I left off, last weekend. On Sunday, we had a barbecue and in the evening, after another World Cup match (when humble Ghana beat the USA) we went out to dinner with Anne, my Finnish friend, to nearby Boadilla.
The only team from Africa to make it through to the Last 16, Ghana who beat the USA.

Oli joined us and we finally decided on Las Tres Nueces where we could eat outside and Anne could enjoy local tapas. As we were leaving we were able to witness and enjoy an amazing firework display put on by the town hall to celebrate San Juan, Spain’s Mid Summer fiesta. Anne commented how in Finland fireworks are going out of fashion because they pollute the atmosphere and also because they are very costly something people don’t appreciate during the crisis. Apparently the modern alternative is laser. Anne who now works for a town hall herself (Salo in Finland) obviously knows what she is talking about and estimated that Boadilla had spent more than 100.000 euros on the display. She is possibly right but I have always enjoyed fireworks, probably from the celebration of Guy Fawkes in England every 5th November when I was a child in England, and wouldn’t like to see them disappear.

A firework display, just like the one we saw in Boadilla to celebrate San Juan
On Monday I was to say goodbye to Anne as I was rushing off to Valencia with Suzy to make sure everything was in order for this year’s Yoigo Summer Party which was to take place there on the Tuesday and Wednesday for some 200 people. I left Anne in good hands and knew my two men would take care of her till she left on Wednesday morning. Later I got a message to thank me for our hospitality and the chance to rest at Sanatorium Villa Freijo Lloyd, which is what she calls our humble abode. It was a pleasure darling.

We got to Valencia in the early evening, on time for a quick meeting with the hotel manager and Bea from our events agency. I then joined Suzy for half an hour on the beach which is all the time I managed to get there in the end which is a pity as the Hotel Sidi Saler sits right on the unspoiled Saler Beach.

The unspoilt Saler Beach where our hotel was at the Yoigo Mid Summer Party in Valencia this week.
Dinner was a slightly disappointing affair at La Rosa restaurant on the Malvarrosa beach in Valencia. Afterwards we walked on the promenade and had a look at the outdoor market which sold the usual rubbish you find in similar places all over the world. The anecdote of the night was when some boys mistook Susana for a gypsy which is probably because of her intense tan as well as the bun in her even more intensely red hair.  We were walking by the beach and along came 2 boys on bicycles and one shouted: "look, what a pretty gypsy girl" pointing at Susana which we found very amusing.

Suzy with her red hair in a bun and her tan was mistaken for a gypsy in Valencia this week!

The next day the Yoigo Mid Summer Party 2010 was to begin and we were expecting some 200 guests made up of employees and suppliers. On arrival they were greeted by a local band playing the famous song, Valencia Valencia. It was such a hoot. This was the programme:

The Yoigo Mid Summer Party programme.  Notice we had more than 20 sponsors who funded the event.
One of the highlights was a regatta of 22 sailing boats in the Pobla de Farnals port, some 12km from the city. For many people it was their first regatta and from the feedback I got and the happy faces I saw, this activity was well chosen.

The regatta at the Yoigo Mid Summer party this week.  There were 22 sailing boats.  It was very professional.

In the evening watching the Spain Portugal Last 16 match was a must for everyone, even though it meant having dinner past 10.30 p.m. We kitted everyone out in the Spanish red and yellow colours and even organised a bet at one euro per person. We were joined by local distributors from Valencia. Thus some 300 people dressed in red and yellow watched the match live outside on two big plasma screens.

It wasn’t till the second half that La Roja, as the Spanish team is often called, scored and it was a happy bunch of people who went into dinner after having witnessed Spain beat Portugal and go through to the Quarter Finals. Dinner which was an outdoor barbecue or rather the party afterwards was another highlight. As we were in Valencia I came up with the idea of doing a themed party based on the Moors and Christians festivals that take place in that area of Spain. To tell the truth there were more Moorish activities than Christian, such as: fire spectacle, henna dyeing, tarot card reading, Moroccan pipe smoking, an Arab style market, belly dancers etc.

Suzy and Lucía working at the Moors and Christians dinner during the Yoigo Mid Summer party this week. 
The next day there was a choice of staying in the hotel to recover from hangovers or enjoy the pool and beach or go to the famous Oceanografic in Valencia which is actually the biggest aquarium in Spain. I chose to stay behind, have a leisurely breakfast and read my emails. We were all to meet at a small wharf of the Albufera lake to take the traditional boats on a ride round the lake before landing at the Nou Raco restaurant which was to be the last activity of the 2 day Summer Party. You can easily guess what we ate here. Yes of course it was rice which is grown in the Albufera district and it was superb.

The traditional boats we went on in the Albufera lake on the last day of the Yoigo Mid Summer party in Valencia.
By the time we got home I was exhausted and as tradition has it, pretty hoarse too. I had worked on this project for months now. It was great and then it was over and the adrenaline leaves your body and you feel exhausted.  You can see the video of the whole event here as well as some of the photos.  The full collection is here on Flickr

I was exhausted but had to be up early the next day to attend a conference on telecommunications spectrum at Unidad Editorial, the group that comprises El Mundo, amongst other publications. There I was to see familiar faces from my Motorola and Nokia years. Luckily I was able to get away early and I spent the afternoon catching up on my work at a leisurely pace.

The Unidad Editorial publication house building where the spectrum conference took place on Thursday.
Friday was a great day in many ways. The girls and I did some quick girly shopping at Centro Oeste mostly at Zara, Friday’s Project and Cortefiel. The news there is that I actually bought a summer dress, a garment I haven’t worn for years and you know what? I love it. From there we drove to La Vaca Argentina restaurant to join Eladio and my Father for a celebration lunch. We were celebrating Suzy’s graduation, of course, but also my promotion at work.

The afternoon was spent by the pool and watching football and tennis. Holland was playing Brazil in the quarter finals and very surprisingly beat the favourites. They will now go through to play Uruguay in the semi finals. As I am writing, this Saturday evening, Germany already beat Argentina 4-0 in their quarter final. Now Spain has to beat Paraguay but if it does it will meet Germany in the semi final which is rather a daunting idea. We have to remember though that Spain is the reigning European champion and actually beat Germany in that final. So who knows?

Meanwhile Wimbledon, the most important tennis championship in the world which takes place at the All England lawn tennis club, was well into its second week. Federer the reigning champion was knocked out and yesterday Spain’s best loved tennis player, Rafael Nadal was to play the Scot Andy Murray. Even though the former is not at his peak he beat Murray in 3 straight sets. On Sunday he will play to win his second trophy at the All England Club. His opponent will be no knock over, to quote my Father. He will be playing Tomas Berdych from the Czech Republic who beat Roger Federer earlier. On Sunday we look forward to yet another victory in Spanish sport.

This weekend has been dominated by sport. Today was also the start of the Tour de France. I used to be a great fan of cycling thanks to my involvement in the sport when I worked for Motorola. The Tour started today in Rotterdam in Holland and I could not help thinking what that must have meant for my good friend Hennie Kuiper, a Dutch cycling legend who used to be the Motorola Cycling Team coach. Hennie is a wonderful modest gentleman, in the true sense of the word and a sports legend in Holland.  He has an Olympic gold medal in cycling and came second in the Tour de France twice. He also won the Alpe D’Huez stage twice and was the world professional road race champion in 1975. I would have loved to be there today enjoying the start with Hennie.

Hennie Kuiper, the Dutch cycling legend who was the Motorola Cycling Team coach.  It was a privilege to be his friend.
But no I could not be there. Instead I went somewhere nearer with Eladio this morning, to the Majadahonda market to change some shorts I had bought him there last week with Anne. I also took the opportunity to buy myself a pair of Abarca sandals handmade in Menorca like the ones I had bought him last week. I must say they are extremely comfortable. Made in the Balearic Islands, which is where the Spanish Royal family spend their vacation, they have, in a way, made these sandals popular in the peninsula. In the summer you often see the King and Prince Felipe in this type of footwear.

Abarca sandals handmade in Menorca as worn by the King of Spain.  I bought some for Eladio and myself in white at the Majadahonda market.
And that my friends, is more or less it for this week. I must rush to cheer on Spain in the vital quarter final match against Paraguay now. When I write again next week the World Cup 2010 will be over and who will be the champion? It could be any of the following: Spain, Uruguay, Paraguay, Holland or Germany.

Cheers till next week

PS Just after I published this blog post yesterday, Spain beat Paraguay in the Quarter Finals. David Villa scored his 5th goal of the tournament and thanks to this Spain will play its first semi final ever in the world cup and meet a very strong Germany on Wednesday.  May the best team win.