Saturday, August 17, 2013

Sad news, Oli reporting from Galicia, Andalucía and Cataluña, an agreement with the competition and so to Montrondo, Suzy’s surprise visit, the end of Ramadan, photo from the past with my brother George, a weekend with the girls, off to Santa Pola, Elsa finally took the plunge, still in love 33 years on and other stories.

Looking good 33 years on at the Vimi Bar on the Poniente Beach in Benidorm
Hi everyone

I haven’t written since Sunday 28th July.  Sorry about that, but to make up here is a bumper edition of my summer holidays so far.

That Sunday we were alone at home.  Olivia had stayed in Santiago to cover the aftermath of the worst train accident in Spain in the last 70 years.  Her friend Dave was there to accompany her and I advised them to have lunch at the Parador.  The state run monumental hotel chain owns perhaps its prize building in Santiago de Compostela.  It is only the rich pilgrims who probably stay there when they arrive at the end of the famous Jacobean Way known here as El Camino.
Dave and Oli having lunch at the Parador in Santiago
On Monday morning I had sad news.  There was a whatsapp message in my phone from Juan Manuel which he had sent the night before but I wasn’t to see it until early that morning.  It was to tell me that his dear wife Amparo had passed away after many months of terminal cancer.  I could hardly believe my eyes which began to brim with tears.  I felt so sorry for my colleague.  I well remember last seeing them together when Amparo seemed so healthy in Santander last September.  Along with other colleagues I went to pay my respects at the funeral parlour at the hospital she had died at in Sanchinarro.  She leaves behind a 9 year old little boy which seems so unfair.  

On the bright side that day, Olivia reported on a happy story, one of the few, of the train accident.  It was about a whole family, including a tiny baby, who had all survived unscathed even though they had been travelling in one of the worst hit carriages that derailed just outside the Galician capital.  The story was dubbed by the press as the survival of the “miracle baby”. Olivia loves reporting on babies and here she was in her element as you can see in the picture below.
Oli holding the miracle baby, the youngest person to have survived the train accident in Santiago.
The next day Tuesday I attended the funeral for Amparo together with my boss.  It was held at the famous Almudena cemetery in Madrid which is said to be as big as the provincial capital of Segovia.  Thank goodness we were chauffeur driven as I would never have found the place where the funeral was to be held.  We walked into the cemetery and I was amazed to find myself amongst the tombstones of Spain’s illustrious left wing such as Dolores Ibarruri, the legendary Spanish communist or Pablo Iglesias, the founder of the Socialist party.  I had expected a civil ceremony but there was a priest who conducted the very intimate family send off. Juan Manuel and his little boy looked so forlorn and my heart went out to them.

When it was over and we had said the customary “le acompaño en el sentimiento” to some of the family, we had to leave to get back to the office for a big staff meeting, baptized by me with the name of “Yoigo Mornings”. Here we were to communicate our recent launch of 4G, the second quarter results and listen to our new colleagues introduce themselves.  It was to be the last till after the summer holidays.

The next day, Wednesday 31st July my holiday was to begin.  However I wouldn’t feel free mentally or otherwise until the much expected announcement of our agreement with Telefonica was communicated by a mid morning joint press release the next day. Amazingly for both, the announcement was basically that they, the biggest operator in Spain would be offering 4G mobile data services using our recently launched network and that we, the smallest mobile network operator would be offering fixed (adsl and fiber) services via their network.  I can’t begin to tell you the amount of work that went into this from both sides but it was my job to announce the news, the news of the agreement with our biggest competitor.  It was sort of vox populi but of course until the official news went out no one could believe it.  I was on the beach at Santander giving instructions for the release to go at midday on Thursday which goes to prove how you can work anywhere these days.  I was so relieved when the news was finally official and I wouldn’t have to brush off journalists’ many questions.  And, now, after compiling the extensive media coverage report I could really begin to concentrate on my holiday.
It was nice to read this piece of news the next day at breakfast on the agreement between Telefónica and Yoigo.  There were many more articles.  This was just one.
We were in Santander on a quick site inspection trip.  This year at the telecoms conference in September, I had decided it was time to change the venue of the Yoigo party and needed to see the possible choices open to me.  I was lucky in finding one right across the road from the hotel we always stay at.  Now I just need to see if the budget is reasonable.

So on Friday morning we cut short our trip and decided to go to Montrondo one day early and thus spend more time with the family who were all already arriving for this year’s mammoth gathering. It was a much quicker drive than we thought and we arrived in Pandorado (meaning golden bread!) by lunchtime where we decided to try our luck at the pretty looking hotel come restaurant. We were disappointed with the meal but not with our surroundings.
A Sound of Music type photo of me at Pandorado on our way to Montrondo
In less than half an hour after lunch we arrived in Eladio’s village, Montrondo, high in the mountains in the north west of Spain.  Everyone was asleep except dear darling Pili, Eladio’s youngest sister. She was waiting for us in the “corral” or front patio, excited to see us, as we were excited to see her. I just had time to greet everyone else, unpack and make our beds before I was off again.  Dolores accompanied me to Ponferrada where Olivia and her boyfriend Miguel were arriving by coach from Santiago.  It was to be Miguel’s first time in Montrondo – quite an ordeal for any newcomer as we are such a big family.  The road to Ponferrada from Montrondo is tortuous but the views are breathtaking.  It’s not so far in distance – some 60km but as the road is so bad the drive took nearly 1.5h. We arrived just five minutes after the bus and were delighted to greet Oli and her boyfriend.  Thankfully he is what is known as an “alpha male” and did the driving back in my 4x4 tank of an automatic BMW car.  We were back in Montrondo just in time for dinner. I don’t know how many we were – possibly over 20 of us crammed in the kitchen for a makeshift simple dinner.  The next day we would be 30 for lunch.
It was lovely to have Olivia and Miguel with us in Montrondo
By lunchtime on Saturday 3rd August, we were all there.  Everyone was enjoying themselves and looking forward to the big roast lunch of lamb to be eaten in the old cattle shed known as “el pajar”.  There was time too for a coffee in Senra with some of brothers and sisters in law.  There was also time for church, the only social event that happens in the village.  Before the service Olivia and I took Miguel down to the church to see the belfry and of course to visit my father in law’s grave. 
Walking to the church in Montrondo with Olivia
The spare one above him is reserved for his wife, Ernestina, my mother in law.  It’s funny how in Spain, especially in the villages, people buy their graves before they die.  It’s often said that they spend more money on their death than on their life.  There is some truth in that as I know from the experience of Eladio’s Father’s mother who died at nearly 100.  Her house in a village in Lugo, Galicia, was like a hovel but her tombstone had golden lettering on it!
With Olivia in Montrondo. Thanks Miguel for the lovely photo
After the church service I was amazed and so was Olivia to see how many people from the village watch her on television.  It was a bit like having a celebrity for a daughter with people wanting a photo with her.  But it’s also nice too to know that the villagers are proud of her.  

On the short walk back we stopped off at Adela’s house.  Olivia and I were excited to meet the latest addition to the family we hadn’t yet seen.  I am not a one for babies but fell in love immediately with Lidia, the 6 month old baby girl belonging to Roberto and Ana.  Roberto is the oldest of the 13 nieces and nephews.  Below is a photo of him with Olivia and baby Lidia.  People in the family always say that Roberto looks like Eladio. That is true but I also think Olivia looks a bit like her cousin too.  In the photo below you can judge for yourselves.
Oli with Roberto her oldest cousin and his baby Lidia, the youngest member of the Freijo family
Once back at the house we all gathered in the “corral”.  Music was playing care of Eladio’s musical brother Alejandro, some people were drinking wine but mostly we were talking and taking photos. You can see all the photos of our stay in Montrondo here.  I particularly like the one of all the women below where you can see four generations from the “abuela” (grandmother) to her daughters, her granddaughters and her great granddaughters.  When the photo was being taken I was painfully aware that the only other woman missing in this photo was my daughter Susana who was in London and was not attending the family gathering this year (or so I thought as you will read later).
All the women in the Freijo family (just Suzy missing) - 4 generations in the photo
Lunch was ready when the roast lamb was brought back from the local bakery.  This is what it looked like.
Delicious bakery roast lamb in Montrondo for the annual family gathering
And this is what the tables for lunch looked like when we were all sitting down.
We were 30 this year for the annual family lunch in Montrondo
The afternoon was spent lazily in the corral where Alejandro organized a makeshift joke contest which was a lot of fun.  To Olivia’s chagrin I told my famous “women’s orgasm” joke and which I always regret doing  afterwards! Later that night the village party to celebrate Santa Marta didn’t start until past midnight.  We normally never go but this year, in order to accompany Miguel and Olivia I went and funnily enough immediately got into the spirit of things.  I then went back home to drag Eladio, Pili, Andrés, Yoli and Isidro with me.  I even drank an vodka and orange which Miguel treated me to.

The next day Sunday, the family gathering began to wind down.  Olivia and Miguel had to leave as that night she was travelling to Seville from where she would be covering news in Andalucía for TVE the following week and Miguel would be returning to Valencia where he works for TVE as a cameraman. They went back with Juan and Cristina who also had to work on Monday.

So there I was bereft of my daughter, quietly sitting in the “corral” with the women in the family when we heard a car hoot its horn.  I mistook it for the bread van.  The men were outside mending a water pipe and they called me to say a friend had come to visit.  I didn’t believe them as I wasn’t expecting anyone.  So I lazily got up to take a look.  I walked through the great big gate and just saw the back end of a red car. Then I saw the letters on the registration plate: “FFF”, the same as Suzy’s car and then I saw her, I saw my beautiful daughter Susana who had planned a secret trip to Montrondo to surprise us.  I hugged her and cried nonstop out of joy of course but also from shock.  I truly had no idea she was coming.  She had decided on the spur of the moment on Friday to come – although too late to be with us on Saturday or to see Olivia before she left – Alicia, my dearest goddaughter and youngest niece, was in the know as was Paula.  They in turn had told others but only that very morning.  I can’t tell you how pleased I was to see darling Suzy whose surprise visit made up for what had been until then an incomplete family gathering.
It was wonderful to have Susana unexpectedly with us in Montrondo this year.  Here on the "Peña de Dios" on the old road to Murias with Nuba.
So one daughter had left, but luckily for me another daughter had arrived.  She was to stay in Spain for a week and we would be together in Montrondo until Tuesday.

All the cousins left that day except for Sara.  Sara is José Antonio and Dolores’ daughter who we don’t see very often as she is currently living in China.  It was great for her to catch up with Suzy and vice versa and I loved seeing them together.
Suzy and her cousin Sara relaxing in Montrondo.  Love this pic.
The rest of our time in Montrondo was far quieter.  I would go on walks to Murias in the mornings with Dolores, Adela and Carolina and in the evening with Suzy, Sara and Dolores.  The walks were essential to burn the food we ate as we all tend to eat too much in the mountain air. We all had good quality family time.  It’s not often the six brothers and sisters are together and so when I saw them sitting on the bench by the kitchen table, I just had to take a snap.  Here they are.
The six brothers and sisters in Montrondo this year
From left to right: Adela, Pili, José Antonio, Isidro, Eladio and Alejandro.  From age downwards though, the order is: Eladio, José Antonio, Adela, Alejandro, Pili and Isidro.  Would you have guessed that?

On Tuesday it was time to leave for Madrid.  Suzy and Sara left too but drove faster and were back before we were.  Meanwhile Oli was in Seville, travelling around Andalucía each day to report on different items of news.  She is so happy in her job as you can see in this photo of her and a colleague outside the TVE building in Seville.  The only thing she complained about was the heat but that’s normal in Seville in the summer.
Olivia, happy to be working for TVE from Seville last week
It was nice to be home again and Wednesday was spent enjoying having Suzy with us.  She decided to hold a dinner party that night for her friends and Fátima and I did the shopping. Fátima was delighted to have the house full again and was enamoured with Suzy’s friends as they were with her.  Here is a photo of them with our lovely Moroccan home help who now seems like another member of the family.
Fátima posing (the smallest and in white) with Suzy (far left) and her friends last Wednesday
Luckily for Fátima, the next day Thursday was the end of Ramadan. After a month’s starving during the long daylight hours of summer, finally she was going to be able to eat again normally and the palour of her face would turn to her normal pink colour.  She went home to celebrate Eid ul Fitr with her sister Ashouak and her children.  I have been witness to just how hard it is to fast for a muslim and I was glad to see her tucking into breakfast that morning before she left.

That day we read that the biggest baby ever to be born in Spain was given birth to by an English mother and Colombian father in Denia in the province of Alicante.  The baby girl weighed 13lb 7oz (6.2kg). Amazingly the birth was completely natural. I remember Suzy and Oli weighing half this baby’s weight and you can see in the picture just how chubby it is.
The biggest baby ever to be born in Spain was given birth to last week in Denia to an English mother
I am sure Olivia would have loved to report on the story but she was not in Alicante so it was not to be.  However she  got her share of baby stories that morning when she reported from Huelva on the reunion of two policemen with the baby whose life they had saved when it was born and the mother couldn’t get to the hospital.  You can see the report here if you fast forward to 12.26h.
Olivia reporting from Huelva on the reunion of two policemen and the baby they saved
It was that day that I finally opened the pen drive of some old photos that had been scanned for me. They were photos my University friend Adele had shown us in London last year during our girly weekend and one of them was with my brother.  I have very few photos with him.  It is not good quality but the moment is beautifully captured.  We were both feeling very happy and it was taken at Adele’s 21st birthday in December 1979.  I was 22 and George was 24 at the time.  This is the photo.  I don’t look very good myself with my thick eyebrows and permed hair but George looks great.  He was so good looking, tall and talented and I am so happy to have this photo now.  Thanks Adele for the photo, thanks Miguel for the scanning and remastering.
The photo of my brother George and I in 1979
On Friday I made a spectacular lunch in honour of Suzy being with us.  Also Fátima, my ex Nokia and Motorola friend was joining us although it was to be after we had eaten.  Finally she turned up at 5 o’clock, the excuse being she had to finish things off at the office before going on holiday.  I know my best Spanish friend very well and she is a lovely person but has a huge defect in her total lack of punctuality. But it was nice to see her and I know she enjoyed the tray I prepared for her and which she ate by our swimming pool as we caught up on each other’s lives.
The spectacular lunch I made for Suzy and my friend Fátima
Just after Fátima left, my darling daughter Olivia arrived exhausted from her week’s reporting in sultry Andalucía. Thus we were all together at last.  Again I prepared a spectacular meal for our dinner that night.  The girls’ friend Rocío, very much a part of our family, joined us too.
Dinner with the girls and their friend Rocio.  It's not often that we have meals together these days.
It was to be a weekend with the girls which I enjoyed immensely very aware that the four of us at home at the weekend is now a luxury.  As I enjoyed their company I wondered when we would be together again; perhaps at Christmas but I hope it’s earlier.  Maybe we can escape together with Olivia in the autumn to see Suzy in London.  Now that would be nice.

The girls had some quality time together too and that night went out on the tiles.  Here is a great photo of a group of them partying in Madrid on Friday night.
The girls partying in Madrid when they were both here a week or so ago.
On Saturday we were joined by Juli for lunch as well as Rocío who brought along her delightful black Labrador puppy “Inda”.  Inda thoroughly enjoys the water and was in the pool swimming with us.  I just had to take a snap of the moment for this week’s post.
The girls in the pool with Juli and Rocío and her adorable puppy Inda a black labrador
On Saturday evening Suzy left to return to London.  Oli took her to the airport in the car and there was a funny feeling in my stomach as we waved them off in the heat of the evening in the street outside our house.  However the goodbye was not to be for long as on 21st August Eladio and I would be travelling to London to see her.  It was great having her for the week and her surprise visit was very much appreciated.  Love you Suzy, thanks for coming.

And on Sunday it was time for us to leave too.  We were off to Santa Pola after breakfast and said goodbye to Olivia who would be leaving later that day for Barcelona from where she would be reporting on local news in Cataluña until Tuesday 21st August.  We also said goodbye to my Father who would be looked after meantime by Fátima.  I should add that we also said goodbye to our lovely dogs Norah and Elsa who would probably miss us most as in our absence they would not get their daily walk.

As is customary we stopped for lunch at the Parador in Albacete.  It was wonderful to be sitting in the air conditioned dining room in sharp contrast to the dust and heat outside.  We arrived at our apartment at around 4 in the afternoon.  We hadn’t been back since last August and it was just the girls who had been there in the meantime. We spent the first two or three hours doing a thorough spring cleaning as the place was in a mess.  That’s the worst thing about owning an apartment by the sea, you have to clean it when you arrive and when you leave.  Later I wondered down to the communal swimming pool for a dip to cool off after the exertions of cleaning the flat. 
A panoramic view from our apartment in Santa Pola
It was while I was at the swimming pool that I received a video via whatsapp from Olivia’s friend Dave.  I was amazed to see it was of Elsa, our two year old Labrador who had finally taken the plunge and was swimming in our pool at home.  Being a Labrador she should take to water like a duck but she never has until that day.  She was definitely spurred on by Juli but also maybe by Inda who is in the pool too in this wonderful video which you can see here.  

Our treat that night was an Indian meal for dinner.  We had noticed that in the row of shops opposite our apartments a new Indian restaurant had appeared, the New Royal India.  It is two doors away from the British supermarket, “Quicksave” that I always patronize when at our apartment as it’s got all sorts of British products I cannot get in Madrid or usually have to buy online.
The row of shops across the way from our apartment.
The meal was very good and the two Indian boys – cousins from The Punjab – were very friendly.  We told them we had been to India and that we had friends, Sandeep and Sumit who were from Chandigarh in the Punjab.  The curry house of course caters for all the British people on holiday at the apartments and the only Spanish spoken was from Eladio and I and the Indian waiters. They spoke perfect Spanish as they had arrived in Spain when they were teenagers.  As we left I remembered my Indian manners and closed my palms together and said “Namaste”.  I think they liked that.

Monday was spent on frustrating but necessary errands such as buying a new door handle for one of the bedrooms, or visiting the electrical appliance store where we had bought a faultily installed gas cooker the year before and which we had to get mended during our stay this year. 

It was only in the afternoon that we finally went to the beach. I think it was the fullest I have ever seen it.  Eladio spent more than half an hour trying to find somewhere to park whilst I grabbed a spot on the beach.  The water was balmy and not very refreshing but we enjoyed reading, swimming and then going on a very long walk.

That night we went out to dinner again as we were to do so every night during our 5 day stay in Santa Pola.  Our choice was María Picola, a restaurant off the tourist track and on the Elche road which is our favourite in the area.
The María Picola restaurant in Santa Pola
We love the outdoor dining room and the fact that the waiters always remember us.  Here is a photo of Eladio in green anticipating his lovely meal as the cuisine at María Picola is really outstanding.  He is also admiring the new plates.
My good looking husband Eladio at the María Picola restaurant in Santa Pola
Tuesday was possibly the highlight of our stay at Santa Pola.  We had a date with our friends Benito and Loli in Benidorm, the half way point between our place and their apartment near Denia.  We had arranged to meet on the Poniente Beach and to have lunch there at a restaurant recommended to us by Copi called El Barranco.
The Poniente beach in Benidorm - it is the quieter of the two long beaches there
This beach means a lot to Eladio and I as it was where our love was forged in the summer of 1980, some 33 years ago.  As I write that, shivers go down my spine with a warm feeling of love.  It is amazing to think that we have now been married for nearly 30 years (our anniversary is on 21st August) and that we are still in love.

After the lovely lunch at El Barranco we went to have coffee with our friends at the Vimi bar two doors away. 
With Benito and Loli at the Vimi bar on the Poniente Beach in Benidorm
It’s a non descript sort of bar, one of many on the coast but to Eladio and I it means a lot as it was where we used to go when we were falling in love.  For the records it took us under a week to feel committed for life.  The photo illustrating this blogpost is of the two of us at the Vimi bar last Tuesday.  I posted it on Facebook and got lots of wonderful comments, such as what a good looking couple we make and I think that’s true.  I mean we are now 56 and 69 respectively but I think we look great for our age.  In fact I knowI look a lot better today than when I was 22 as in the photo with my brother.  Living in Spain, having two young daughters and working in PR obviously contribute to my feeling and looking so good.  It’s funny how at this age one is much surer of oneself.  I would never have written anything like this when I was in my 20’s but when you’re in your 50’s it doesn’t seem to matter.  Anyway, judge for yourselves.

That night we had another food appointment, this time fish and chips at Darby’s chippy in Gran Alacant, the urbanization where our apartment is located.  We discovered this authentic British (or should I say Scottish as the owner is from Scotland) fish and chip shop in 2009 and have been going back ever since. When we walked in the lady owner, a large friendly woman, commented that her husband had been wondering when we would pay a visit.  He reads my blog and told me that night how much he enjoys reading about my family. God bless him.

We enjoyed a fantastic meal of fish and chips complete with “mushy peas” for the paltry price of about 30 euros which included an “oyster filled ice cream” which had me reminiscing once again about my childhood.  Eladio had the large portion and mine was the medium one which even I couldn’t finish for once if I was to be  to tackle the ice cream afterwards.
Eladio about to enjoy his fish and chips at Darby Chippy in Gran Alacant last week

Olivia meanwhile was reporting all week from Barcelona.  She reported on a missing albino python from Gerona on Monday, an illegally occupied holiday flat in Tarragona on Tuesday, a Spanish man and German woman who met up 30 years after a holiday romance in Sitges and the beach in Sitges on Wednesday.  In the latter she involved three lovely Dutch girls enjoying a day on the beach. For the record they spoke perfect Spanish.  Olivia loves doing reports with children and here is a picture of her with the Dutch girls, one of whom was called Olivia by the way.
Olivia with 3 Dutch children she involved in a TV report from the Sitges beach near Barcelona last week
On Wednesday we had another date, this time with Julio in El Campello, a resort town near Alicante where he has a holiday home.  We spent part of the morning on the lovely beach, much quieter than the Poniente one in Benidorm and then strolled down the seafront to the restaurant where Juli had booked a table, Cavia.  We had been there before as in September 2011 and 2012 we had spent a weekend with Juli and Fátima in El Campello as we will do again this year. We ordered “fideua” which is like paella but made of thin noodles (vermicelli) and which we adore.  It was just delicious. 
Eladio and Julio in El Campello last wednesday about to devour a beautiful dish of "fideua"
The rest of the day was spent on the beach, once again bathing, reading, sun bathing and walking until the sun went down.  We returned to Julio’s apartment to get our car and pack our beach equipment, said our goodbyes and left for Santa Pola.  A good day was had by all.  

Thursday 15th August is a national holiday in Spain to celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin. Eladio explained it is celebrated in remembrance of the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her earthly life. The difference between the Assumption and the Ascension is that the former was thanks to Jesus Christ who lifted her up and the latter is when Jesus went up to heaven of his own accord.  The assumption is not recorded in the bible but comes from religious tradition and is celebrated by the Roman Catholic and Orthodox believers and some Anglicans. Whatever, it means that most of South Europe is on holiday and the shops are closed.  It also means that everyone flocks to the beaches.  So we decided that day to skip the beach after so much sun the day before and because we just didn’t want the hassle of parking and all that going there entails on a very hot and busy day. 

So we chilled out at the flat, reading, beginning this blog, ironing and generally lounging around.  On Thursday too we had an appointment with friends. I was much looking forward to the yearly reunion that evening with Jacky and John and their sons Rafa and Tal who live in a village in Murcia just 3km from the Alicante province. If you know me well you may  know that Jacky and I go way back to when we were children living in Bradford in Yorkshire.  We were to meet at a bar in Pinoso, near where they live, which has just been opened by British friends of theirs.  Called Corcho y Copa it is the most fashionable place in town at the moment.  Here Jacky and John treated us to superb local wine and some tapas.
It was great to see Jacky again this year.
Jacky is looking great after shedding lots of weight and cutting her hair and is as smiley and lovely as ever.  

Later we drove to their place for dinner with their good looking,  6 foot tall boys Rafa and Tal who are 18 and 17 respectively and don’t know which is their first language, English or Spanish.  We had a delightful meal in their garden and nearly everything was home grown as Jacky and John are quite self sufficient in their wonderful new life in Spain.  John’s vegetable paella was great but for me and my sweet tooth the pièce de résistance was Jacky’s banoffi pie (banana and toffee I presume) which is now popular in the UK but which I had never tried.  This is what it looked like.
Jacky's wonderful banoffi pie
It tasted like caramel shortbread with banana and cream on top.  I am ashamed to admit I had two pieces.

We spoke long into the night but had to curtail our reunion as it was a long drive back on unfamiliar and dark roads. We said our goodbyes and vowed to see each other next year and of course to continue our nearly daily contact via social media.  Thanks Jacky and John for a great evening.  Ah and John I am very much looking forward to reading your “marmite book” when it comes out next year.

And the next day was Friday and the day we were leaving.  As usual we had to clean and pack but did it super fast and were in the car ready to go by 11.30.  We had a good time as you will have read above and can see here in the full collection of photos of our visit but it was time to come home.

On the way I watched Olivia reporting on the street festival in the Gracia area of Barcelona where streets vie to be voted  the prettiest street. She had visited the area (near the Gothic cathedral) the day before with her friend from the scouts, bohemian Laura who now works and lives in Barcelona, believe it or not in an old flat above the famous Boquería market.
Olivia and Laura (the girls' friend from the scouts) at one of the decorated streets in the Gracia area of Barcelona last week
You can see the report here if you fast forward to 13.20h.

 I also heard via whatsapp during our trip home that my dear friend Adele was a grandmother again.  Adele and I went to University together and she now lives in France but we are always in touch together with our other Uni friends, Sue who lives in Australia and Sandra who lives in Brussels.  Adele’s firstborn son Jonathan’s Moroccan wife, Salma, had given birth in Dubai where they live to their second child, baby Erwan (a Breton name).  I was delighted for her but understood her frustration in not being able to see her new grandchild until Christmas.  She will of course be skyping often but it’s not the same.  I think if it had been me, I would have been on the next flight out wherever I was at the time. but that's easiser said than done.  Congratulations young Grandmother Adele, you must be ecstatic.

We stopped for lunch on the way back in the middle of a summer storm at a place we had never been to before but which we liked a lot.  It is called Mesón Los Rosales and is some 175km away from Madrid in the province of Cuenca. It’s very pretty, has great food and is one of the best roadside cafés I have ever come across in Spain.
Mesón Rosales was a great discovery on our way home from Santa Pola yesterday
We were home in the middle of the afternoon and were greeted in the extreme heat by our darling dogs.  It was good to be home and to see my Father and Fátima who I suspect feel rather lonely when we are away. I was relieved to find my new British passport had arrived in my absence; something which had worried me as I would need it to travel to London.  We spent the rest of the day unpacking, mending an irrigation tube in the garden (Eladio of course) and I took a swim in the rather leafy pool to cool off.  It was lovely to have Fátima make our dinner on the terrace outside the kitchen but best of all was sleeping in our own bed.  Also you notice the huge difference in space between this house and our apartment.  I reckon our apartment is not much bigger than our bedroom, bathroom and balcony all together. 

And I woke up refreshed today and happy to do a fast day after so much eating out.  I do suspect that I have put on some weight but will deal with that properly when the holiday is over.  Today, Saturday, will be a day at home in between travelling as, believe it or not, we are off again tomorrow.  Yep, tomorrow Sunday we are going to spend the night with our friends Javier and Ana at their lovely country house in Peñacaballera in the province of Salamanca.  It’ll be a short trip as we have to be back on Monday in order for Fátima to have some time off before we leave for our week’s holiday in London starting next Wednesday 21s August – our 30th wedding anniversary by the way.

I am now at the end of this bumper edition post about my summer holidays so far which I hope you have enjoyed. The next time I write will be after our visit to London which I am much looking forward to.

Meanwhile, I wish you all the best,