Sunday, July 23, 2017

Wimbledon Champions Dinner, a Zara outfit fit for a Queen, snorkeling with a shark in Thailand, fire in our neighbourhood, to Montrondo and other stories.

Montrondo, Sunday 23rd July, 2017

Happy to be in cooler Montrondo. Here on our walk up the mountains on Friday evening.
Good morning all,

Here I am writing from our beloved village Montrondo where we have come for a holiday and to escape from the unbearable heat in Madrid. As I write early in the morning, it is just 11c here and mercury will rise to about 21ºc maximum today in sharp contrast to the high 30ºc or even 40ºc back home.

When I left off last Sunday, Roger Federer, aged 35, was playing the Wimbledon Men's single's final against the 28 year old Croatian Marin Cilic. The latter had problems with blisters on his feet so the final was somewhat disappointing. The Swiss tennis ace beat the Croatian in 3 straight sets 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 to make tennis history. On Sunday he became the first man to win Wimbledon 8 times and he also reached his 19th gram slam win.  I would of course have preferred to see Rafa Nadal winning the final but if any other tennis player had to do it, then I was happy that it was Federer. 

Most people thought the final was disappointing. However, there was fun on another court as Kim Clijsters, the ex Belgian tennis player was in the throes of an invitation women's doubles match for veterans, including Spain's Conchita Martínez, the first  Spanish woman to win the Championship before her protege Garbiñe Muguruza won it last Saturday. Before serving a point, Kim asked her partner how she should serve and a man from the public, a portly Irishman called Chris Quinn, shouted from the crowd that it should be a "body serve". There and then, she invited the man to come and take the shot. But before playing, she made him dress in white, in a nod to Wimbledon rules. She made him wear her tiny white tennis skirt which he actually managed to get on. The moment was absolutely hilarious and had the Belgian player in stitches on the ground. You can watch the moment here. Needless to say, he wasn't a very good server. 
Kim Clijsters putting her small white tennis skirt on the portly Irishman. 
Meanwhile back home, Lucy had visitors. 2 of her sisters, Gloria and Lidia and a nephew came to visit. 
With Lucy, her sisters and her nephew last Sunday

She is working a 7 day week as she is filling in for our weekend carer, Zena, who is in the Ukraine on holiday. So it was nice for her to have visitors who brought food which they ate together and then they sat by the pool. Both Lidia and the nephew bathed in the pool and I heard they were joined by Elsa our labrador who is not allowed in hahaha. When they left and while Federer and Cilic were on Centre Court, I took Lucy to Ikea with me to get more towels for my Airbnb guests and many other things which were not on my list which is what happens when you visit Ikea.  

We had a very modest dinner compared to what the guests at the Wimbledon Champion's dinner at the Guildhall in London would have had that night.  The Spanish women's single winner, Garbiñe Muguruza had to go out and buy a dress for the occasion. No doubt she never brought one with her, not thinking she would get to the final. That night she glittered in a long Alexander McQueen white dress with gold embellishment which matched the Venus Rosewater dish and was white again maybe in a nod to Wimbledon playing rules. I had thought she would dance with Roger Federer and maybe she did too as she invited him to do so on Twitter. Disappointingly I read later that the tradition was scrapped in the 70's. In any case the two champions looked radiant that night and here is a photo to prove it.
Federer and Muguruza the two Wimbledon Singles winners at the Champions Dinner last Sunday

I don't know what they ate but I'm sure they were both delighted to be able to take a break from whatever food regime they need to follow to be tennis  champions. But I know what we ate. Inspired by my visit to Ikea, I made the Swedish skagen prawn toast dish which Eladio and I enjoyed that night. Whenever I am in Sweden I always order it. I embellish the dish by adding avocado which I am not sure is  orthodox or not but I think  adds a lot.
"Skagen", prawn on toasts basically, a delicious Swedish dish I made for Sunday's dinner. 
Although our dinner was not so glamorous, I was also wearing my "evening dress", aka my nightie hahaha.  

On Monday morning I got a photo from Olivia who is still in Thailand with Miguel. They were on the famous Maya beach where the film, The Beach, with Leonardo di Caprio was filmed. She said she still preferred the beaches on the small Spanish island of Formentera.

Olivia on the Maya Beach in Thailand last Monday
It was on Monday that I ordered a new outfit from Zara online. It was the same dress I had read the Queen of Spain, Letizia, had worn quite recently. I'm not normally a "royal copycat" but I did like the outfit. It's not my style but the frills are much in fashion. It is available in green, light pink and in black and the Queen wore it in pink, one of my favourite colours.
The Zara outfit fit for a Queen
It was apparently very much in demand and I had to wait a few days for my (new) size "S" to become available. 

As is the norm lately, it was hot again on Monday and there would only be a slight reprieve in the high temperatures at the end of the week. Thus our siesta was always with the air conditioning on and of course Pippa always joined us. 
Pippa enjoying her siesta with us with the air conditioning on.

Tuesday came and as I fed the dogs in the morning, I thought you might like to see part of the action; especially how Elsa wolves her food down in under a minute hahaa. This is the short video I took.  Labs are notorious for their bottomless appetite or rather the gene which lacks their ability to know when to stop eating. 

On Tuesday our next set of Airbnb guests arrived. This group were from French Canada. There were some issues as about 11 people arrived including loads of kids when only 5 people had been booked. They thought they had booked the whole place which of course wasn't the case. It was a very awkward moment and a difficult situation to deal with. Thankfully there was consensus and only 5 people stayed. I'm not sure what sort of review I will get from them but we shall see. I think the lady who had booked didn't realise that you have to book accommodation that says "entire house" rather than "private rooms" which is what we offer. Later she apologised. I am glad it happened when we were there as if the 11 had arrived when only our housekeeper Lucy was at home, who doesn't speak English, no doubt they would have invaded the house. Anyway, all's well that's end's well was the final outcome, thank goodness. 

In the morning before the Canadian's arrival, I had a coffee date with an ex colleague of Yoigo, another one of them who has been more or less forced to leave since Másmóvil bought the company just over a year ago. My ex colleague and I commented just how different things would be now if it had been the British venture capital company that had bought us instead. This week they got listed on the Madrid stock exchange and made a big buzz about it but my colleague told me their summer sales were not doing well in the absence of a good seasonal campaign. We were just 100 people one year ago and they were 400 but now there are 700 people working in the same offices, squeezed together like sardines. I can't understand why they are hiring new staff if they have excess personnel and are laying off the best of the original Yoigo workers . It beats me and it's sad to see the demise. I don't often think about it anymore but of course a coffee date with an ex colleague brought it all right back. 

On Wednesday over my early morning coffee I had heard from Olivia in Thailand that she and Miguel had just had a huge scare snorkeling on a beach. Miguel cut his finger on a rock and it bled and then a shark appeared, obviously attracted by the blood. Oli said she literally pounced on top of Miguel in sheer panic and that they had never swum as fast in their life as they swam away from the shark to the shore. What a scare. 
Snorkeling with a shark like this in Thailand. What a scare for Oli and Miguel.
On Wednesday my "Zara outfit for a Queen" had arrived. I had asked for it to be delivered to a store so that I could try it on. I was glad I did later, as after advice from my friend Jacky, I also tried it on in black and preferred it. I love pink but already have a pink dress and pink top with frills. I am thinking of wearing it to my cousin's wedding in France in August. I had my qualms about wearing black at a wedding but shall jazz it up with a shocking blue and pink Moroccan silk scarf and matching shoes and bag. Regarding wearing black at a wedding, in the past it was considered gloomy and funereal but no longer I think. This is what it looked like on me when I tried it on for Eladio. Hopefully it will look better on the big day when I have make up on. 

My black pant suit from Zara
Whilst there and for the lark of it, I tried on another royal outfit from Zara, a black and white polka-dot dress that Kate Middleton had worn too. According to the British press it has "flown off the shelves" of the high street store. Isn't Zara popular?  The wife of the ex Spanish premiere, Aznar, once said, "nearly every woman in Spain has at least one Zara item or more in her wardrobe". I must be above average then hahaha. This is the dress which did not look good on me as it was far too short.
Kate Middleton's polka-dot dress from Zara
I was back home on time to do the food shopping with Eladio. In the afternoon, believe it or not, as I looked out from the balcony in our bedroom, I saw smoke and heard police sirens and then saw at least 3 helicopters. Oh my goodness, I thought, there is a fire near our house. Indeed there was a fire and it was in my best friend Fátima's street which was cut off by the police and the fire brigade and I couldn't get her on the phone. So I rang her Mother to warn her. Thankfully I heard from the policeman that the fire was both under control and was on a patch of dry land and had not affected any houses. I can't begin to tell you just how worried I was. Thankfully the nightmare was soon over but it could have been worse. There are so many forest fires in Spain at this time of year precisely because of the heat and the dry land.  

Thursday came and we had decided to go to Montrondo for a few days as our next Airbnb guests were Spanish and Lucy could host them. The following guests who are Dutch would not be arriving until the following Thursday. However, little did I know, that in between time I would receive 2 more bookings, for a couple from Paraguay (that should make Lucy happy) arriving today and for a family from Finland (oh joys, love Finland) arriving tomorrow. Now we shall have to go home tomorrow to receive them. Then, hopefully, we can come back to Montrondo until our next guests (a French family) arrive on Monday 31st. We really have had a full house this month and Airbnb is, as I said earlier, my current job and business and I have to look after it.

So that morning, instead of going on my walk, I had to make all the preparations for leaving, including packing a whole load of food as there are no shops in the area. We drove in the Mini and of course stopped at the Palacio de Bornos in Rueda for the traditional glass of wine and plate of ham. Oh how I adore that place. Here I am offering the plate of ham to Eladio. Pippa got some too hahaha.
The obligatory stop at Rueda on Thursday
We got to Montrondo at around 2.15 and set about unpacking and making a light lunch (left over lentils) as we were not hungry after the stop in Rueda. It was much cooler in the village than in Madrid with a temperature of about 19 or 20ºc when we arrived which we much appreciated. 

We both had a siesta afterwards and mine was on a sun bed in the front patio (el corral). We had coffee at Eladio's brother's house and that day there was no walk for us. I was just too tired. My sister-in-law was making Spanish tortilla for their dinner so I copied her and made a delicious one for ours Here it is:
The Spanish tortilla I made for our dinner on Thursday night in Montrondo. 
Afterwards, as always, we watched the news. That day there was news that on Wednesday morning a famous banker, the corrupt ex chief of the Bankia savings bank (our bank), Miguel Blesa, had committed suicide at an estate in Córdoba. The 69 year old banker who was facing jail for embezzlement and other corrupt activities shot himself dead with his hunting rifle. Spain was in shock. 
Miguel Blesa the banker when he was head of Bankia
But the interesting news that day was that of the exhumation of the famous Spanish artist, Salvador Dali. A woman tarot card reader, María Pilar Abel Martínez who was born in 1956 says her mother had an affair with Dalí during the year before her birth and after a long court case a judge ordered the exhumation to settle her claim. Many say that the claim must be false as Dali always said he was impotent and had no  children. One curious fact came out of the exhumation and it was that the artist's famous moustache was still intact. The whole thing was surreal but then of course so was Dali. Let's see what comes of the paternity tests. If María Pilar is right, she will be able to claim a big part of his estate which at the moment belongs to the state. 
A paternity case - left Dali and right the woman who claims she is his daughter.
On Friday it was amazing to wake up to an unbelievable 7ºc in Montrondo. What a shock. That morning I went with my sister-in-law and her son Miguel and his Cuban wife, Claudia, to Villablino for more provisions and to visit the Friday market. There I bought a lovely bathing suit for just 12 euros. It was the stripes that attracted me. Well, you know my fondness for stripes. 
The bathing suit I bought at the market in Villablino on Friday.
At the market I also bought thick black juicy cherries (the last of the season), a home made meat and vegetable pie, local walnuts as well as home grown onions and garlic. 
A selfie shopping at the market in Villablino on Friday morning. 
After all our shopping we went to have a cup of coffee. For 2 people it cost just 2.10 euros and included two plates of free donuts and pastries. This is what we were served and I wondered how the cafeteria, Selene, could make any money out of us. Normally I don't eat fattening pastries and donuts but I was hungry and very tempted. Who wouldn't be?
Coffee and free donuts and pastries in Villablino on Friday
Once home, I set about preparing a quick and easy lunch of steak and salad. It was followed by a siesta after which I made a cake I had seen on Cookist. You can see both the recipe and how it is made here. It is basically a sponge cake with pineapple to which I added stoned cherries.  This is what it looked like. The next day I would slice it in half and add whipped cream and  fresh pineapple and cherries. 
My pineapple and cherry sponge

Later I went for a walk with Eladio and Pippa up the mountains to the "Abedular" (birch tree forest) which at a fast pace takes 30 minutes there and 30 minutes back. On our way up we encountered a herd of cows, some of them on the path and Eladio had to hold Pippa on a very tight leash. Two of them got separated from the herd, walking fast ahead of us, but thankfully they eventually went into a field and left the path clear. I felt very safe with my husband there, who, after all, was brought up in the village and knows how to deal with cows. 
Eladio and Pippa on the walk and the encounter with cows. 
The encounter with cows on our walk up the mountains on Friday evening
We came home, happy from our walk to eat a lovely dinner of gazpacho and pie, followed by cherries and walnuts. Afterwards we continued watching our current series on Netflix; Hostages. 

Yesterday, Saturday, I was up at 6.15. By 10.45 I had written some of this blog, made breakfast, turned the sponge cake into a full blown cake by adding whipped cream and fresh fruit, washed my hair, put the washing machine on, hung out the clothes and left the lunch; oxtail, simmering and then set off on my walk with Pippa to Senra and back (8km). 
My cake. I was a bit worried the sponge hadn't completely baked inside. 
What a productive morning I thought. It was a glorious sunny day with a nip in the air and I adore the scenery at this time of year. The highlights were seeing a group of donkeys (or were they a mixture of donkey and mule?) just before arriving at Senra and a well deserved cup of coffee at the Cumbres de Omaña bar where I shared a small biscuit with Pippa. I stopped to feed the donkeys the sugar from my coffee which I never take on our way back and funnily enough they weren't interested. I especially loved the small donkey/mule which is just a few days old.
The group of donkeys in a field approaching Senra. 
I just had to look up on internet what a group of donkeys is called as I don't recollect the name for it. Well for the record it is a "drove", "pace" or "herd".

I was back by 1 o'clock to find more of Eladio's family had arrived. After greeting them I had to attend to the simmering oxtail. The dish I was to make comes from the famous Spanish recipe book called 1080 recipes by Simone Ortega and is always a hit with Eladio. This is what it looked like when it was on my plate:-)
Oxtail, chips and carrot and onion sauce for lunch yesterday
After a short siesta, we joined Eladio's family for coffee and tea in the patio outside our houses which we call "el corral". I contributed the pineapple and cherry cake. The sponge was a little strange, tasting more like pastry but I must say it was quite delicious.

Another walk was due afterwards to work off the lunch and cake, so I persuaded Eladio to join me and Pippa again on another walk up the mountains to the birch tree forest, El Abedular. It was on this walk I received the confirmations on Airbnb of my new Paraguayan and Finnish guests. No doubt Lucy who is from Paraguay will be delighted and I was delighted to have my first Finnish guests as I love Finland and Finnish people from my time working for Nokia. 

Once again there was a herd of cows on our walk and this time we also had Nuba with us and Eladio had to use his walking stick as a leash hahaha. When we got to the birch tree forest we saw men cutting hay in the field opposite; one of them was a brother-in-law of mine. It was a beautiful and bucolic scene and I stood mesmorised watching them cutting the hay with the combine harvester which spat out beautifully packed stacks of hay.

Cutting of the hay in the fields in the mountains and the stacks of hay
No doubt Eladio was reminded of the summers when as a young boy and man, he had to help his Father when they spent days and days cutting the grass in their plots of land. 

We got home a bit later than usual having stopped so long to watch the villagers cutting the grass.  I  made a simpler dinner last night but equally delicious, salad and smoked salmon once again followed by black cherries and walnuts and all washed down by a glass or two of Ramón Bilbao Rioja wine. We finished another episode of Hostages on Netflix and went to be at about 11pm. 

Suzy, meanwhile, was enjoying the sun in London and went to Victoria Park, This weekend the girls had a visitor, Mónica, who used to live with them in Whitechapel. There was no news from Oli that day. I look forward to her return next week. 
Suzy having fun on the boats in Victoria park with her friends.
And today is Sunday and blog day of course. I have  finished recounting the stories of this week, so will leave you now to publish this and then get on with the day which will start with another walk and back to Senra. Yesterday my fitbit was very happy with me as I had walked all of 17km in one day!

I wish you all a great week ahead and you will hear more from me next Sunday.

In the meantime, cheers from me from Montrondo,

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