Sunday, July 30, 2017

The end of our stay in Montrondo, home again to receive more Airbnb guests, Oli and Miguel home from Thailand, 34 years of marriage, off to Montrondo for the Santa Marta fiestas and other stories.

Sunday 30th June, 2017
With my younger daughter Olivia and little Pippa in the mountains on our walk up to the birch tree forest on Saturday evening.
Hi everyone.

I am writing this post again from Montrondo as I did last Sunday. Since then we have been home and now we are here again. So, let me tell you what the week has been like since my last post.

Sunday last was another lovely day in our village. Eladio joined Pippa and I on our walk to Senra and back. On the way we stopped to admire the donkeys. They are, by the way, real donkeys, not mules. I just adore them and this time I had Eladio there to capture me on camera with these lovely animals I became fond of when I was a child and used to ride on them on the cold English beaches. I wonder if that still happens in the UK.

With the donkeys near Senra
After a cup of coffee at Cumbres de Omaña we walked the 4km back to Montrondo for lunch of roast chicken. After my siesta I suddenly had lots of messages on Twitter, FB, email, etc and realised of course that the Undercover Boss programme I had featured in for Yoigo in September 2015, had been broadcast again for the umpteenth time. It's a bit ironic as later the company fired me.  As usual people wrote to say they loved it or asked for a job or even money as if I were in a position to help. 

Later in the day we went up the mountains again on what was becoming our daily early evening walk to the birch tree forest (El Abedular). This time we were joined by Eladio's next brother down. And here they are enjoying being together, probably remembering their youth in the village and how hard the work was on their parent's farm.
The two brothers walking in the mountains
An hour or so later we were back in the village and it was time for dinner. We take our meals really seriously here as, probably because of the mountain air, everything tastes better and we are always hungry at meal times hahaha. After dinner we formed what is known in Montrondo as a "calecho", meaning a cozy sort of gathering, with some of Eladio's family members before we retired inside to watch another episode of Hostages on Netflix. 

Whilst we were having a quiet Sunday in Montrondo, Chris Froome (UK Sky team) had just garnered his 4th Tour de France, no mean feat. From my times with Motorola when I was in charge of the sponsorship of their cycling team, I have been involved with the sport, but latterly lost a lot of interest so this year, possibly for the first time, I did not watch one single stage. Back in the 90's when I was first introduced into professional cycling, it would have been unheard of for a British cyclist to win the most coveted of all races, Le Tour. Well Froome has now done it 4 times and no doubt there is a lot more interest in the sport  now in the UK then when for example Miguel Indurain was dominating the sport. Oh those were the days. 

On Monday, our last day in Montrondo, once again we walked to Senra and back (just under 8km) but this time we went through the "Bao" fields. We passed one of the villager's , Jenaro's vegetable patches and it is a treat to see as it is so beautifully tended to.
Jenaro's vegetable patch
The walk through the "Bao" fields was glorious, a huge expanse of green with full views of the village. The grass had been cut and it was a joy to walk through. I just had to have a picture and here it is.
Walking through the fields in Montrondo (El Bao)
After coffee at Senra we walked back on time to make an early lunch as we were leaving in the afternoon. I made braised and roasted beef ribs which were delicious and Pippa had a field day with the bones, haha. 

We were sad to leave. I wanted to stay but we had obligations to attend to at home, especially as our Paraguayan guests had arrived and our new Finnish guests would be arriving that afternoon. Apart from receiving them, we had to clean the pool for their use and mow the lawn. It's amazing but the main attractions of our house on airbnb are the pool and the barbecue. I cannot believe we have now had nearly 40 sets of guests since I started in March. At the beginning I would never have believed it. It's now nearly a full time job and a great way to supplement the missing income from my job loss. 

We left at 4.30 and were home by 8.30 except for a few loo stops. The house would be full that night, with 10 people sleeping in it. I greeted the Paraguayans who turned out to be a middle aged Spanish man who worked for the EU and his younger Paraguayan mistress. Of course as Lucy, our home help, hails from the same country, she sussed out their relationship fast. She told me that lots of young Paraguayan women come to Spain in search of an older (richer) man to better their status in life. After their holidays they were going to live in Burkina Faso of all places where he would be stationed and I learned from Lucy that his mistress had left her 3 young children under the charge of her Mother. That was something that made my stomach churn. 

Our Finns had arrived too, a young married couple, Susana, an operations manager for a big chemical company, her husband Tony, a chef in a restaurant in Helsinki (Lehtovaara) and their beautifully behaved children, Anthony, aged 12 and Kira, aged 10. Kira looked like an angel. I was tickled pin to receive our first guests from Finland as it is a country I came to love during my 6 year stint with Nokia. We would get on like a house on fire. I have to say, they were our best guests ever for many reasons. They were so courteous, respectful,  well behaved, clean and tidy but also great company. I felt at ease in my own kitchen as they made their dinner and we made ours. Being Finns, they of course walked around the house barefoot. They were also partial to our Rioja wine. But, not, contrary to folklore,  did they spend their time drinking vodka hahaha. They made a barbecue while we had some leftovers I had brought back from Montrondo. When I gave them our sophisticated salt seller Anthony said "oh cool" and then went on to say that everything about our home was "cool". It was a lovely compliment. 

We were in bed straight afterwards and managed one more episode of Hostages on Netflix until we fell asleep. 

I had the best night's sleep on Monday in a long time and nearly slept all the night long, which never ever happens. Oli and Miguel were flying home from Bangkok via Doha via two long hauls. They would be travelling all day, arriving at past 9pm on Tuesday. Once they landed in Qatar, we got this lovely photo of the two of them.

Oli and Miguel after they landed in Doha
It was lovely to be home again although I missed Montrondo. Of course we took all 3 dogs for a walk that morning. Once home I enjoyed a cup of coffee which I drank in one of the Emma Bridgewater mugs from my collection.
It was lovely to be home again.
My Father was pleasantly surprised that morning when he received a post card from Olivia which she had sent from Cambodia and which had taken nearly 3 weeks to arrive. She always sends him post cards from her travels and they always brighten up his day. 

That day I discovered a new book to read: Ants Among Elephants, an Untouchable family and the making of modern India by Sujatha Gidia. Books about India and the Raj ad its demise always interest me, especially after our visit there for our 25th wedding anniversary. I read it after lunch on the kitchen patio in the company of Norah, our lovely 8 year old beagle. 
Reading with Norah.
While our Finns were having their evening barbecue, we left to pick Oli and Miguel up from the airport. I couldn't wait to see her after her 3 weeks of absence. Eladio drove and when we got to the pick up point of Terminal 4 the police were there shooing the cars away as it's not allowed to be there for more than a few minutes. Thus I got out to meet Oli and Miguel while Eladio was supposed to drive around and come back. That's when the trouble started as I had the key to the mini and its a modern remote key. So when he stopped at a kerb nearby, the car would not start as he didn't have another key. He was approached by the police who found the situation strange plus my husband had no ID on him. There was no other option, I had to find a taxi to drive to him and the taxi drivers hate waiting for a pick up at the airport only to drive somewhere very near. I finally reached Eladio and the policeman and we both had some explaining to do. Thankfully we were not fined and were able to drive on to T4, after a long ticking off. Finally we were reunited with our daughter and her boyfriend, although a little shaken by the whole episode. In the future we shall have to park at the airport car park unless we want a fine or another ticking off. From now on, too, we have left the second key to sit permanently in the car. 

Once home, Oli was keen to give us the presents she had brought us from her travels and there were loads. I got 2 little bags, a pair of elephant patterned loose summer trousers and a silk dressing gown. Eladio got a white shirt, a panama hat and a blue t-shirt. As soon as I put the dressing gown on, Eladio got out a similar one I had bought for him in Shanghai many years ago when I went on a trip there with Nokia. And here we are the crazy couple with our silk dressing gowns on playing the fool for the camera.
Eladio and I in our silk dressing gowns hahaha
It was lovely to have Oli and Miguel back and I even had breakfast with them as, due to their jet lag, they were up early on Wednesday morning. Here they are happy to be home too.
Oli and Miguel having breakfast on Wednesday morning after their return from Bangkok
Soon our Finns were up too and it was on Wednesday that my Father met Tony. He told him he had visited Finland for the first time in 1949, pointing out the exact dates of the Winter War with Russia and its Independence. I am always amazed at his memory. Finland is a country he loves and he told us he had been there 4 times. 

After my walk with Eladio and the dogs, I was to drive Oli and Miguel back to their flat. On our way we stopped for a coffee and had churros. I actually had a "porra", the larger kind and of course was not very hungry for lunch later on.

On my way back from their flat, I stopped at the gourmet supermarket, Sánchez Romero. I went in search of large juicy black cherries but the season is over. I had a good look round though and was delighted to find the Rekorderlig Swedish pear based cider  and bought lots of cans to take to Montrondo. I had first discovered it thanks to Suzy on our last trip to London in May. 
Delighted to find this Swedish cider in Spain 
Eladio pointed out it had lots of sugar but who cares about a few cans when we hardly ever consume sugar. I bought the only variety they had: mango and raspberry flavour and I have still yet to try it. I also bought some cold sliced very raw roast beef which is a real find in Spain.

I was home for lunch and it was so hot I took a dip in the pool after my short siesta. Soon our lovely Finnish guests were back from their trip to the Valley of the Fallen where Franco is buried and we spent the afternoon chatting. Tony, the father and chef, made their dinner again using the barbecue. I have many friends whose men partners are the main cooks in their families, but that is not my case hahaha. When they finished their typically early meal, we started on ours and stayed chatting to our guests until quite late. They were leaving the next morning just as we had got to know them. We drank wine together and for some reason it's not been giving me headaches lately. That could be because of the type of wine which is Luis Cañas Crianza 2014 from a case Eladio's friend, Roberto, had given me for my birthday. We love it so much that the next day I ordered 10 bottles on line. 

Thursday came and it was another scorcher. The temperature rose to 37 that day and I couldn't wait to get away from it by going to Montrondo. But we couldn't leave until Friday evening until Oli had finished shooting a promotional ad with her fellow reporters of the programme they work for, "Madrieños por el Mundo".

Our Finns left that morning, no doubt arriving in Helsinki to 15 or so degrees and we spent the morning preparing for our new guests, a family of 5 from Holland. There was one guest I didn't want though, an American lady and her family who had booked for the first half of August but had been corresponding with me since May. She was the typical needy, nitpicky type and was insisting on inviting lots of her Spanish husband's family to be with them here as visitors during their stay. She knew from the start that no visitors were allowed but kept insisting. In the end I got her to cancel, as I knew she would be a troublemaker. According to forums run by Airbnb hosts her kind always are. On the other hand, though, the calendar is empty for the first half of August and it may well be too late to get more bookings. What a waste of time this woman has been. 

I made lunch for the family that day which would include the pleasure of the company of Oli and Miguel. For the occasion I made one of our typical family dishes, meat loaf, accompanied by salad and sauteed potatoes. 

My Dutch guests arrived soon after, a young couple with 3 daughters aged about 7, 11 and 13. They soon settled in and told us they adored the house and pool and barbecue of course. The latter are the main attractions.  I knew from the start that these guests wanted their independence with not much interaction from us. That's fine by me as I always adapt to the different types of guests. They had been travelling from Holland through France and came perfectly equipped, even bringing their own Nespresso machine! 

They had the kitchen and barbecue to the themselves that night as Eladio and I went out for dinner with Oli and Miguel. We ended up going to La Vaca in Las Rozas for a rather heavy but very pleasant meal.  

Friday came, the day we would be going to Montrondo. But we couldn't leave until Olivia had finished shooting the programme commercial. She was there all day, having started at 6 in the morning.  It would be a long day for her which started with a pick up taxi early in the day, followed by a make up and hair dressing session which she was to enjoy thoroughly although she was conscious we were all waiting for her to finish to be able to leave for Montrondo. She would send us photos during the day like these. 

Photos from Olivia's promotional ad shoot on Friday
It was Facebook that reminded me on Friday that it was our 34th wedding anniversary or rather the anniversary of our registry wedding as we had to do one for legal reasons until our Church wedding 3 weeks later. I remember it as if it were yesterday and although it was our official wedding I wasn't happy as I didn't want a registry wedding. We made no fuss whatsoever that day, only having Eladio's parents there as witnesses and going out for lunch. I didn't make much effort with my clothes either, preferring to wear an old dress as for me the real wedding was to be the church wedding on 21st August. So that's why I look a little sad in the picture.
Eladio and I at our registry wedding 34 years ago
Believe it or not, that night Suzy, our older daughter was conceived. I had no idea then that I was pregnant until a week after our church wedding. Of course I was delighted but as you see there was no family planning involved. That day and at our church wedding I had no doubts and never have any since. I can only say that when it comes to marriage I got the winning ticket. Love you Eladio, always have and always will.

That morning another lovely Yoigo employee  was fired by the new management.  I chatted to him on the phone and once again felt sorry about the whole situation and what Yoigo has turned into. The new management have completely killed its spirit. What a pity. 

In the afternoon, in order to kill the time waiting for Oli to finish, I made a Victoria sponge cake to take to Montrondo. I put raspberries in it and was a little worried it wouldn't rise and that they may burn but they didn't. Finally at around 6pm, Oli was able to leave. It was all hands at deck when we got the message as I prepared all the food to take. You can't believe how full the boot of our Volvo was when we left at around 7. We had dinner on the way at Rueda but no one wanted to go for a plate of ham at the Palacio de Bodegas, apart from myself. We ended up having a simple meal at a little place called La Posada del Foro. I don't know why, but I was starving and ate everything put before me for dinner that night.

We arrived in the village just before midnight.  We had left Madrid with 37ºc and arrived to 17ºc in Montrondo, 20º less and for me it was bliss although Oli complained she was freezing hahaha. The Santa Marta annual fiestas had started and we could hear music coming from El Campo where, no doubt, people would be dancing, but we had to unpack all the food and put it away. All we wanted to do afterwards was go straight to bed. Nearly all the rest of the family had arrived and it would be full house the next day; 33 for lunch!!

Saturday came and I was up at 7 instead of 6 which was a relief. After a  family breakfast prepared lovingly by me, I set about finishing the cake and this is what it looked like.
My lovely Victoria sandwich sponge cake with cream and fruit and even icing which I finished making yesterday morning. 
Meanwhile, Eladio and his brother set about cutting the grass in "la hera", the parcel of land behind our houses. It was a sweet sight to see as they were doing it the old fashioned way, using scythes which their Father and possibly Grandfather had used. And here they are in action.
Eladio and his brother cutting the grass the old fashioned way
When they had finished, Oli, Miguel, Eladio, Pippa and I walked to Murias. It was a glorious day and also rather hot but nothing like Madrid. For once the local bar, "La Palloza" was open so we had a drink and a rather disappointing tapa. I took a photo for this blog:-)
Having a drink at the Palloza bar in Murias on Saturday morning.
We came back to find everyone in throes of making lunch and setting up the tables and chairs. Oli and Miguel set about making a huge bowl of salmorejo (thick gazpacho) and I prepared 3 big salads as our contribution.  We out the tables behind my sister-in-law's house and soon they were groaning with food; cold cuts, meat pie, cheese and then a huge paella type dish, followed by cakes and fruit. We all ate far too much and after lunch I think every one of us went to have a siesta. I certainly had one, with Pippa of course, and didn't wake up until 6 pm. 

In order to work up an appetite for dinner, which would be a buffet dinner of the leftovers, Eladio, Oli and I went for a walk up the mountains at about 7.  We were joined by Pippa and Nuba. Once at the top we had a photo session and the picture I have chosen to illustrate this week's post is with Oli and Pippa. You see it's not often she is here. The only person missing that day, for us at least, was of course, Suzy. We took a couple of selfies and Oli took a lovely one of Eladio and I.

With Olivia, Eladio and Pippa on our walk up the mountains yesterday evening.
As we came down the path, we had another encounter with cows. Eladio warned me to pick up Pippa and he used his walking stick as a leash for Nuba. We were to walk behind him in single file. His words afterwards made a bit impact when he sais "the first one is a bull, walk behind me and don't make any noise". Oh my God how frightening. Then Nuba barked at the bull which sent shivers down my spine. Thankfully we walked down to safety as the cows and the bull made their way up the path. We then made a mistake, letting the dogs loose again as suddenly a single cow, who had wondered away from the herd, approached us. It was too late to stop the dogs who barked and ran after it up the hill. Oli and I did our best to call them back but didn't take a blind bit of notice. So we ran uphill too, shouting at them to come back. We were worried they would reach the herd and that they would be kicked by these giant animals as both are small, especially Pippa. It was a huge relief when Pippa finally backed off and Oli picked her up and brought her down. She was filthy from cow flap and was soon back on her lead again. In fact from now on, on our walks up the mountains, she will never again go loose.  I shall remember the incident for a long time.

We came back to find the family already having the buffet dinner outside to which we contributed Olivia and Miguel's delicious salmorejto. The music and dancing wouldn't start that night until nearly midnight so we stayed at home and watched more of Hostages on Netflix until we fell asleep.

And today is Sunday and I have come to the end of my tales of this week. I was awake "late" again this morning at 6.50 and found Oli and Miguel in the kitchen making coffee. They were up early as Oli had to drive her boyfriend to León to catch the train. As I am writing now,  I am waiting for her to return to have breakfast together.

We have nearly a week of time together with her which will be so relaxing and great for her as she only usually manages a couple of nights here. So we have lots of walks and meals to look forward to this week which you will find out all about next Sunday.

Meanwhile my friends and readers, I wish you all a good Sunday and happy week ahead. 

Until next Sunday, cheers Masha.

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