Saturday, August 20, 2016

33 years ago, farewell Montrondo, home again, more on the Rio Olympics, Suzy moved to Hoxton, holidays in Santa Pola, the boy in the ambulance, visit of Toño and Dolores, the Queen of Badminton, shopping with Jackie and other stories..

Sunday 21st August 2016
Eladio and I on the lighthouse cliffs at sunset on Friday evening
Good morning all.

Today is a very special day.  It is our 33rd wedding anniversary.  We are here at our beach flat in Gran Alacant near Santa Pola which we bought 17 years ago.  We don’t come often but when we do it is like a home away from home. It badly needs some redecoration so I have thoughts of things I need to bring next time from Ikea to spruce it up a bit.  Also there is a lot of old junk, tins of stuff and general clutter that I really must get rid of.

Now back to our anniversary today.  Little did I know 33 years ago, the day I married my Spanish husband and ex priest, Eladio from the modest rural village of Montrondo high in the mountains of North West Spain, that I would have such a happy married life.  Of course we have our ups and downs, who doesn’t? But on the whole I really think I won the lottery of marriage.  All I can say is that I look forward to many more years together, maybe not 33 but who knows as Eladio, who is 12.5 years older than me, is in very good shape and just doesn’t look his age. 

Here we are on our wedding day on 21st August 1983
On our wedding day 33 years ago today
And here we are 33 years later, a month or so ago at Miguel and Claudia’s wedding.  We have aged of course but I like to think that we have done so gracefully.
Eladio and I 33 years later
Happy anniversary my darling, let’s celebrate in style tonight as we do every year.  One thing I learned very early on in marriage is that you have to keep the flame of love forever burning and one way of kindling the fire is going out for romantic dinners together.  I have booked a table tonight at a famous restaurant in Alicante that I have always wanted to go to.  It’s called Nou Manolín. I hope it lives up to our expectations.  Well, I shall tell you whether it did or not in next week’s post.

Last week’s post was published the day we were leaving after our 2 week stay in Montrondo. I spent most of the morning washing sheets and clothes, ironing, cleaning and making our lunch. We had Pili and Eladio’s mother as guests that day which was unusual but very pleasant.  We left at 5.45 with a heavy heart.  We have never spent so long there before building our house; a house we have both fallen in love with.  This was the last photo I took of the village just before we got into the car.  It was to be farewell Montrondo and not goodbye as we shall be going back again and again.  Our next trip there is scheduled for September.
Montrondo last Sunday the day we left
We were home by 9.30 p.m. and found everything in perfect order.  It’s very reassuring to have someone like Salud, our home help, who is more like a house keeper really as she runs the house and looks after my Father as if the house were hers.  It was much hotter in Madrid – over 30c at 9 in the evening and our room would have been like a sauna but dear Salud had switched on the air conditioning for us.  The best thing about being home was sleeping in our own bed (I find the mattress in Montrondo too hard) and watching House of Cards seamlessly on Netflix!

Monday was a bank holiday in Spain (Santiago).  Oli was in Valencia with Miguel and there was no news from the girls. I was awake at 6 but thankfully fell asleep again until 7.30, quite a record.

It was great to see my Father again and to hear from him how well he had been looked after by Salud.  As soon as I had fed the dogs and had my first cup of coffee I printed out my two last blog posts for him to read.  He was waiting for them, I knew, and later he told me he was impressed with my climb up the Tambarón Peak.  When I was a child, he used to call me his “little Moors’ girl”, when he would take George and I every weekend to climb Ilkley Moor.  I think I used to go more for the sweets afterwards than anything else hahah.  But being a walker and climber himself in his younger days, I know he was happy to hear about our trek up the mountains last week.

On Monday Andy Murray won the gold medal at the men’s single tennis final in the Río Olympics.  That’s his second medal.  England is doing so well in the medal rankings, second after the US with 66 medals, 27 of them gold.  In the London Olympics in 2012 they had a total of 65 (29 gold) coming third in the medal table.  This has been a great achievement for team GB. Well done little England! 
The medal table on Sunday morning

I’m very proud of Great Britain.  However, my sympathies lie more with Spain my adopted country where I have lived since 1982; more than half my life.
Andy Murray after winning gold at the Olympics at Rio in the men's singles tennis final
I wanted Rafa Nadal to win.  He won the Men’s doubles but was drained and lost the match for the bronze medal.  Meanwhile Usain Bolt was the fastest man in the Games. It was history for Usain Bolt who this week claimed  gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay races for Jamaica, adding to the those won in Beijing 2008 and London 2012.  He thus completed, I think, an unprecedented Olympic “treble triple”. Afterwards he said, “I am the greatest” which reminded me of Cassius Clay (sorry Mohammed Ali).

Usain Bolt - happy after his treble triple win at Rio
Michael Phelps though is the King of the Olympics. He announced his retirement this week after winning 5 gold medals and 1 silver in this year’s edition.  The American swimmer is the most decorated Olympic athlete of all times with a total of 28 medals.

Being back home meant back to routine.  So on Monday morning we went for our walk with the dogs.  Norah and Elsa were in much need of the exercise. 

After lunch with my Father, I spent the afternoon by the pool.  It was so hot I was in and out of the water most of the time. When I was out of it I spent my time reading a book about Cliveden, a stately home near Windsor built by the Astor family.  I read the biography of Rosina Harrison, a young girl from Yorkshire who became maid to Lady Nancy Aston, the American born and Britain’s first woman member of Parliament.
A book I enjoyed this week
“The lady’s maid; my life in service” made fascinating reading.  The Astons were part of the “Cliveden set” (The Cliveden Set were a 1930s, upper class group of prominent individuals politically influential in pre-World War II Britain, who were in the circle of Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor. The name comes from Cliveden, the stately home in Buckinghamshire, which was then Astor's country residence) later known for their involvement in the infamous Profumo – Keeler affair (sex spies and political scandal) in the early 60’s.  I was a child when it happened but I remember my Mother naming the pigs she had at our home in Ruskington (Lincolnshire) after the two call girls Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies. She even called one of them Nikita after Nikita Khrushchev, saying he looked like a pig anyway hahaha.  That was my Mother’s great sense of humour.

The book about life at Cliveden and with the Astors has inspired me to visit the gardens there with Suzy when I go to London next week.  It’s very near Windsor and looks a fabulous location.
Cliveden Stately home and gardens in Buckinghamshire
On Tuesday I went for a walk on my own, leaving Eladio to mow the lawn which was in dire need after 2 weeks away. 
A selfie on my walk on Tuesday morning
When I came back he had nearly finished and I must say the garden was looking great. Thankfully the irrigation system gave no problems during our absence.
Eladio mowing the lawn on Tuesday morning
That morning I did the food shopping as the cupboards were getting bare at home and also I had to shop for our trip to Santa Pola the next day.

In the afternoon I accompanied Eladio to the hospital.  In recent blood tests a high level of ferritin had been detected.  That is the protein that contains iron.  He has had a scan which showed all his organs are ok and now he is having a gene test done.  Meanwhile the doctor prescribed him therapeutic phlebotomy (extraction of the blood). That afternoon they were to extract 400ml of his blood. The idea behind this is that the new blood that is formed will use the extra ferritin in his body to do so. 
Eladio's phlebotomy session on Tuesday afternoon at the Quiron Hospital
I drove him back as he might have felt weak after the bloodletting session but he was fine.  The whole thing was a little scary because it took place in the cancer ward where we saw so many people receiving chemotherapy.  It made us feel so blessed.  I do hope we get to the bottom of why his ferritin blood level is so high soon.  We shall get the results of the gene test in a month’s time after which he will have an appointment with the doctor to see what the final diagnosis is.  Cross your fingers ok.

The whole process took a while and we were home in the early evening.  At 8pm an Ukranian lady called Natasha came for an interview.  We are looking for someone to take care of my Father and the house whilst Salud goes on holiday in September.  This 53 year old elegant looking Slav lady was 1.85m tall and reminded both Eladio and myself of my Mother.  We immediately gave her the job. I look forward to her working with us as she seems a very interesting woman. 

It was on Tuesday afternoon that Spain garnered another gold medal. It was for canoeing again, this time sprint canoeing. 21 year old blonde and blue eyed Marcus Cooper Walz, who is actually half English and half German but raised in Mallorca, came first in the Men’s Kayak single 1000 metres.  I wondered why he was in the Spanish team. In his interview with TVE he looked completely English or German but spoke perfect Spanish.  Later I read in an another interview that he said his heart was Spanish as although he was born in Oxford he has lived in Spain since he was born. In a way I feel a bit like him; more Spanish than English after living more years of my life here than in the country where I was born.  I was happy both for him and for Spain.
Marcus Cooper Walz - victory sign after wining the 1000 metre canoe sprint for Spain at the Rio Olympics
There was yet another medal for Spain that day.  It was for another adopted Spaniard, Orlando Ortega from Cuba. He won the silver medal in the 110 m hurdles.  I read he defected from Cuba at the last Olympics.  Funnily enough when he won the medal he was handed a Cuban flag and he had to hurriedly look for and find a Spanish one to celebrate the first medal in athletics for Spain.
Orlando Ortega sprinting  for Spain - the Cuban athlete won a silver medal for Spain in the 110 m hurdle race.
Meanwhile in London, Suzy was moving from Camden to the East End.  A sort of move down but I hear the East End is getting very fashionable these days.  She is moving to a new flat in Hoxton near Hackney of Hackney Cab fame I wonder? Here she is with all her stuff.
Suzy moved houses again this week - this time she will be living in Hoxton near Hackney
I will see the flat when I go to see her next week. She has now lived in Whitechapel, Canada Water, South Bermondsey and Camden and this will be her 5th move. 

On Wednesday Eladio and I set off for Santa Pola at 10 in the morning with our car full of beach stuff and food to last for a while (I hate food shopping when I am here). With just one stop on the way, we were here by 14.30. 

After a quick lunch of heated up leftovers of “spag bol”, we were interrupted by the gas man.  He comes every year (a different one hahaha) to check it out and we always have problems with the pressure of the water for the hot water to work. I don’t really care as it is so hot in August I am happy with a cold shower.

It was great to be here again. As I said at the beginning it is a home away from home.
The view of the bay of Alicante from our flat in Santa Pola
I spent that afternoon writing this post whilst Eladio rested.  I also dealt with my emails.  I was surprised to get a threatening one from Club Kviar an online restaurant booking service which said that if I didn't use it in in the next 10 days they would automatically unsubscribe me.  I often use Trip Advisor and The Fork and have never received threatening emails from them. Whoever runs the service has a bad strategy; especially warning people in the month of August when many of us are on holiday.  Well I won't be using the app anymore which, by the way sucks,  and will happily continue to use The Fork. 

At 7 pm when most people are leaving the beach after a whole day there, we made our way to it.  We try to avoid the midday sun and crowds, preferring to go when it is cooler and when it is easier to park. The beach we go to is in Arenales del Sol and belongs to Elche.  Recently there was news of a man bitten by a suspected shark on that very beach, our beach; fancy!  We didn’t see any sharks fortunately but I have to report that during our first bathe of the summer Eladio was bitten on his arm by something we never saw.  We suspect it was a jelly fish.  It didn’t seem to affect him much and said it felt like a nettle sting.  That made me a bit wary afterwards.

The beach was full, as full as I’ve ever seen it.  Of course this is high season.  That didn’t stop us going on a long walk to the end where people go fishing. Here is a selfie to record the moment.
On the beach with Eladio on Wednesday evening
We left the beach when the sun was about to go down, just before 9pm.  Eladio came up for a shower but I always like to go to the pool after swimming in the sea and before coming home.  That evening I had it to myself which was a luxury.
I had the swimming pool to myself on Wednesday evening when we came back from the beach
We watched more of House of Cards that night, this time on my pc using a Yoigo 4G modem which gave great reception.  We must get a smart TV adapter for our television set one day. Meanwhile the pc is the perfect alternative.

I didn’t sleep badly on our first night. Thankfully the apartment is quite cool as it is on a cliff overlooking the sea and there is always a breeze.  I was up at 6.25 on Thursday morning and decided to go for a sunrise walk to the nearby light house.  The walk there and back takes about 1 hour.  I had the place to myself again.
On my sunrise walk to the lighthouse cliffs early on Thursday morning
I always admire the views from the high cliffs overlooking the beach and the sight of the small island of Tabarca on the horizon.
The view from the light house cliffs - you can just spot the small island of Tabarca on the horizon.
I came back to find Eladio cleaning the windows.  That is a job I hate. I got on with making breakfast and let him finish the job hahaha.  On my walk I had spied the local market being set up just across the road from here so later we would visit it to buy fruit and veg.

At around midday we went to take a tour of the market.  There were the usual Chinese made fake shoes and clothes and the same stuff you see in markets the world round. None of this really interested us.  However this market sells excellent local fruit and veg at budget prices and it's well worth shopping for it here.
The fruit stall at the market in Gran Alacant where we bought some excellent local  produce
That was the stall we bought most of our fruit and vegetables at and here is Eladio standing next to it.
Eladio at the market on Thursday morning
From the market we went to have a coffee at a new ice cream parlour opposite our block of flats, Antiu Xixona, a local brand which I have always loved.  We also stopped at Quicksave, the British supermarket next door to get water and sundries.  Here I spoke to the British owner who after many years in Spain still does not speak the lingo. However he has multilingual staff and it was nice to talk to a Russian girl who is married to a Moldovan and speaks great English and Spanish.  As usual when I meet a Russian out come some faltering words from me as I try to connect and tell him or her that my Mother was Russian. I do regret her not having brought me up to speak the language.  It's very frustrating.  

Once back at the flat we put all our purchases away and I washed the fruit and put it in a bowl.  I must say the thick black cherries make it look most appealing.  The fruit at this time of year in the area of Alicante is superb.
The fruit from the market
Just as we were having lunch on Thursday there was more good news for Spanish sport at the Olympics.  Carolina Marín, the Queen of badminton, was through to the final which guarantees this country another medal, hopefully a gold one.  Then there was another gold medal for canoeing again.  I had no idea Spain was good at this sport which I used to practice pathetically with the Girl Guides. This time it was for the K2 200 sprint doubles and the champions were Saul Craviotto and Cristian Toro.  
Another gold medal for Spain in canoeing. 
The news that day at lunchtime was all about Spanish politics and whether the parties can come to an agreement for the conservative party led by Mariano Rajoy to form a government, albeit a minority one or whether we will have to suffer a third general election in the autumn.  I didn't really listen to the newsreader. But I did listen when I heard about the "boy in the ambulance", a story which touched my heart and most of the online world too.

The image of 5 year old Omran Daqneesh covered in dust and blood and sitting in an ambulance, after a bombardment in the sieged city of Aleppo in Syria, shows the horror of the war there, a war we are no longer interested in but a war that goes on and kills and maims people daily. 
5 year old Omran, the boy in the ambulance
He looks so bewildered, lost, scared and alone, he is the epitome of the suffering of innocent men, women and children in this war torn country.  My heart goes out to him and I hope his family survived and he is reunited with them soon. 

José Antonio and Dolores were coming to stay with us on Thursday and would be with us for dinner.  They arrived at about 9pm and we greeted them with open arms.  They hadn't been to our flat since 2000 the year after we had bought it.  I made a Swedish dinner for everyone; salad made with lettuce, avocado, smoked salmon, prawns and boiled egg garnished with mayonnaise.

It was lovely to have company and after dinner we sat on our breezy terrace chatting until midnight.

On Friday our regime changed. We all agreed to get up early and head off to the beach after breakfast.  We were there by 8.15, the best time of day.  Below are Eladio and Toño walking down the wooden walkway to the Arenales del Sol beach.

The two brothers Toño and Eladio walking down to the beach on Friday morning
The beach was practically empty and we were the first to place our chairs and parasol.
The beach at 8 in the morning, the best time to go - our flat is above the cliffs in the distance
Eladio and I had a quick bathe and then the 4 of us marched along the beach for a morning walk.  We love this natural beach with dunes and thankfully no ugly buildings.

We stayed for an hour or two, reading and bathing again until we decided to leave before the hordes came and the sun became too hot.
Dolores and José Antonio on the beach on Friday morning
Dolores who is a great fan of Lidl wanted to shop there.  So we left Toño and Dolores shopping and we came back. I went straight to the pool to get rid of the sand and enjoy the water.  
Enjoying the pool after a bathe in the sea on Friday morning
The pool was practically empty; I had it almost to myself again.  I also sat on the grass in the shade taking in the lovely view.
The view from the pool
I came home to have a proper shower and then we set about making our lunch. It was to be bacalhau a bras, my new dish.

We spent the afternoon idly.  I carried on reading my book about the history of Cliveden. Meanwhile at the Olympics, 21 year old Carolina Marin of Spain was playing the women's badminton final against India's Sindhu Pusarla after having beaten Li Xuerui the Chinese former gold medalist in the semi final.  Carolina Marin is the current world champion (2014 and 2015) and the top player in the world.  If Michael Phelps is the King of the Olympics and Usain Bolt the fastest man in the world, this young girl from Huelva is the Queen of Badminton. For the record she won 19-21 21-12 21-5.  
Carolina Marin the Queen of Badminton
Ok so badminton is not swimming or athletics you may say. But her medal and status in the sport is extraordinary as there is no tradition for badminton in Spain and it has always been dominated by countries from South East Asia.  Carolina broke that tradition quite a while ago. She is not a prophet in her own land.  In Spain she can walk the streets unnoticed, but in China for example she is a famous sportsperson.  Well done Carolina, your gold medal is a huge victory for all the effort you have put into this sport.  Now you are famous in Spain.  It took a while eh?

The gold medal that most impressed me this this week came from 58 year old Olympic veteran Nick Skelton who won the individual show jumping for Great Britain on Friday. Wow, he is the oldest participant in the GB team and must be one of the most senior in the Games. Skelton is the oldest Briton ever to have won a gold medal.  His win in this discipline is also a first for GB.  But I was more interested to know about his horse Big Star; after all show jumping is a sport for man and his equestrian companion. 

Nick Skelton wearing his gold medal after winning the individual show jumping race for Great Britain
Big Star, described by Horse and Hound as the "run away train", is a 13 year old stallion who loves his job.  He "neighs" and "whinnies" as soon as he spots a fence and apparently just loves what he does.  His happy owner said of him: "He is an absolutely amazing horse. He has all the right attributes and he is the best horse I am ever likely to have. Asked whether he would retire after his triumph, he replied: "I only ride Big Star at the moment. When he stops, I will stop. For definite. I hope Big Star gets to celebrate too with more than a few lumps of sugar hahaha. 
Big Star Nick Skelton's winning horse
Life continued in Santa Pola. We stayed on the terrace in the afternoon to avoid the heat. Just before sunset we took Toño and Dolores on a long and strenuous walk to the lighthouse cliffs and far beyond.  It was an amazing evening.  The photo illustrating this week's post is of Eladio and I by the cliffs overlooking the island of Tabarca. 
Eladio, Dolores and Toño on the pier near the lighthouse 
On Saturday Dolores and I had a girly date.  Jackie, my friend from years back when we were children in Yorkshire (Bradford), who lives not too far from here was coming to pick us up in the morning.  She arrived at 10 on the dot and after greetings in our flat, the 3 women went off to Guardamar.  My dear friend took us to the port (La Marina) where we sat having coffee and chatting for a good hour and a half.  It's always great to see her and we had tons to say to each other I think we must have felt like machine guns talking to my sister-in-law Dolores.  Whilst at the port we had to have photos to record the reunion. Dolores kindly took this one of the two of us.
With Jackie at La Marina (Guardamar) on Saturday morning.
From there Jackie drove us to the English shop she wanted to show me; "Pick 'n' Pay" (next to the crematorium hahaha, as is printed on their business card). But first we spied a second hand shop with English goods.  Dolores is a sucker for such establishments and we just had to go in.  
Dolores at the second hand shop in Guardamar on Saturday
Most of the stuff was so kitsch it was just fun to look at.  No we didn't find anything there that we fancied. But we did find lots of things to stock up on at the English supermarket.  Here Dolores and I bought boxes and boxes of meringue nests.
The English supermarket in Guardamar
Apart from the meringue I bought imperial leather soap, Indian naan bread, polos (for my Father), "utterly butterly" low fat butter, Paxo sage and onion stuffing as well as some glittery birthday cake candles. 
From left to right: Jackie, me and Dolores coming out of the British supermarket in Guardamar on Saturday
As we drove back to Gran Alacant past Santa Pola I couldn't help but admire the views on either side of the road of the salt mines and lagoons with pink flamingos. The latter was like a scene out of Africa. We must go back there one day and take a proper look and some photos of course. 

We were home at 1, just as the two brothers were back from shopping for fruit and the newspaper.  We said our goodbyes to Jackie, hoping that soon she and John will come and visit us in Madrid. Jackie, please make that happen.  Ah and thank you so much for taking us out.  It was a memorable reunion and wonderful "girly" morning. I hope you enjoy featuring in this week's post:-) 

After our siestas and reading sessions, it was time for another trip down to the beach for a bathe and a long walk.  We went at 6.30 and it was overcrowded.  After all it was a Saturday in August!  But we still enjoyed a bathe and a long walk on the beach.

Last night was our fish and chip night. We wanted to introduce Toño and Dolores to "Darby's Chippy" in Gran Alacant. It is run by a delightful Scottish couple and John the husband is a reader of my blog.  We asked for normal sized portions and this is what we got hahaha.
Fish and chips at Darby's Chippy last night
The quality of John's fish and chips is equal to any such top establishment in the UK; the equipment coming from Leeds!

"Pudding was a mini magnum each on our terrace at home; the perfect end to a perfect day!

And today is Sunday and I was awake at 6.20.  It's going to be another great day; our 33rd anniversary as I mentioned when I started this post.  I look forward to our celebration dinner tonight at Nou Manolin

I was delighted just now to read that Spain had garnered another gold medal and this time for athletics.  37 year old Ruth Beitia had won gold in the Long Jump.  Wow that is a big achievement as Spain does not usually excell in athletics.  Here she is celebrating her amazing victory at what will be her last Olympics. That is a great end to her Oympian career!  
Ruth Beitia wins gold for Spain in the high jump at the Rio Olympics
And now I will love you and leave you and get on with making breakfast for everyone as this morning we want to go down to the beach early, ahead of all the people.

Wishing you a great Sunday and week ahead, all the best


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Last week of our holiday in Montrondo, happy birthday Mr, President, first medals in the Rio Olympics, a new walk, Miguel and Claudia’s wedding celebration with the family, I climbed El Tambarón peak and other stories.

Sunday 14th August 2016

At the peak of El Tambarón which stands at 2.150 metres high. I never thought I could do it but I did.
Good morning all,

How is your day, your Sunday or your holiday going?  Mine is quiet in Montrondo.  We shall be going home today after a wonderful fortnight here..  I look forward to seeing my Father, the other dogs and mostly sleeping in my own bed but I shall miss the peaceful life here in our lovely little house we are so proud of.  Building it was one of the best decisions we ever took.

But let me wind back seven days to last Sunday.  I have to include that on 7th August it was Barack Obama's 55th birthday.
Happy birthday Mr. President.
It will be his last in office.  I think not only the US but the whole of the world will miss him and that one day he will go down in history as a the first black president but also possibly one of the most charismatic ever; down to earth and a loving family man.  I like the guy and always have. If you are a supporter of his, then you will like this video made for the occasion.

Ironically that day the first gold medal to come out of Rio was for a young teenage American woman who got it for rifle shooting.  Barack Obama never managed to control the use of guns; one of his pet hates.  The same goes for closing Guantanamo.  He couldn't do that either.  A President has so much power but not enough for the big things such as prohibiting guns.  It will take many more years for that to happen if it ever does as the right of personal use of firearms is part of the country's constitution. I sigh as I write that.

Back home in Spain, one of the country's best athletes, 25 year old Mireia Belmonte won Spain's first medal; bronze in 400 style in swimming.
Mireia Belmonte won Spain's first medal in the Olympics on Sunday

Well done Mireia.  That may sound easy or so what, it's just a bronze medal but no one can have any idea what regime she has to follow to have achieved it.  I read that she has to burn 6000 calories a day with hours and hours of training.

Spain didn't do so well at one of their top sports, Basketball, losing to Croatia. Neither did the tennis star Novak Djokovic, losing in the first round very surprisingly to Argentina's Del Potro.  Let's hope Rafa Nadal gets further.

Sunday in Montrondo was very warm and a quiet day.  I spent the morning on small domestic tasks but mostly reading my kindle.  As I hung out the washing on Dolores' very efficient and well thought out washing line I marveled at the view.  The little church that morning looked beautiful with the sun on its roof and mountain backdrop. 

Eladio went off to León with Toño to pick up the latter's daughter and baby.  It would be full house that afternoon at Toño and Dolores house when their youngest son arrived too with his partner and child.  They were late back and lunch didn't start until nearly 4 o'clock.

Late too was their eldest son Miguel who had set off early that morning together with a group of mountaineers to climb El Tambarón mountain, the highest in the area.  When he got home his Mother put his feet in cold water with salt.  He also came back with a very sunburned neck and a voracious appetite. He may not have burned 6000 calories like Mireia Belmonte but not many less I think.

El Tambarón
It was very hot on Sunday and we all had a late siesta. There was no way we could venture out for a walk until 8 p.m.  This time it was Dolores and I and our 2 dogs. We went to Senra and back and didn't get home till past 9.30.  Eladio was waiting for me with a nice surprise.  I had ordered this year's Santa Marta Montrondo t-shirs, one for each of the family and they had arrived!  I shall proudly wear my blue one; Eladio his red one and the girls their white ones.

Whilst on our walk I got a message from Suzy with a photo. She was together with Vicky and Anita at Caledonian Park near where they are currently living in Camden Town.  I can't wait to see her when I fly to London at the end of this month.
Anita, Suzy and Vicky on Sunday afternoon sunbathing at Caledonian Park in London
That night the internet signal was weak and we were not able to watch much of House of Cards.  Never mind we would catch up later.

Monday was another relaxing day in Montrondo.  Each year the organisers of the Santa Marta fiestas make special t-shirts for the occasion.   Eladio and I wanted to wear ours immediately so this was how we were clad that morning.

Eladio and I with our new Montrondo t-shirts
I really liked Eladio's red polo shirt but wasn't so keen on mine which was a tight fitting blue t-shirt. I said it was too small but maybe I should have said I was too big for it (must go on Suzy's diet soon).

I carried on taking photos and as usual Pippa features in most of them like in this one below of Eladio and our eternal puppy enjoying the village

Eladio and little Pippa
We spent the morning reading on the terrace at the back of the house accompanied by José Antonio and Dolores our faithful companions here in Montrondo.  Eladio and the second brother down are very close as they were both sent off to the Seminary in León when they were very small which must have united them from early on.  Here in Montrondo they are never apart.

You may wonder what I am reading on my kindle.  Well it's not a book about philosophy like the ones Toño and Eladio read - they are so high brow.  It's actually an autobiography by Danielle Steel about her second son Nick who died aged just 19.  I haven't got to the end yet but he was a manic depressive and I think he took his life. There was nothing his Mother could do to help and help she did from the moment her extraordinary son was born.  As I read it tears streamed down my face because the boy she describes is so like how I remember my golden brother George who later in life was diagnosed with schizophrenia which was made worse by his consumption of drugs.  He took marihuana but also cocaine and LSD (speed).  My parents had very similar experiences with George as those described by the bestselling American author.  Both boys were incredibly talented, had very high IQs, were very good looking, a magnet to women,  unacceptably  impetuous, could not conform to society or to rules, were expelled from school after school but suffered from demons inside that no one could guess.  I sigh as I write this as the story of my dear brother George is something I can never get over.  I didn't do enough for him, did not understand he was ill, nor did I accept his behaviour.  Reading this book "His bright light" is like reading the story of my brother, with some differences of course, but it takes me right back to my childhood and the eternal fights between my parents and brother and our desperation about what to do with him. Thankfully he never took his own life and even found love just a year before he was taken from us cruelly by that most deadly of cancers, melanoma, aged just 46.  "His bright light" actually makes me understand now what George had to go through; something I never ever understood when we were children, teenagers and young adults.  RIP George and forgive me please.  

I stopped my reading to make coffee and tea for everyone; "elevenses", although our time for it is actually at 12.  I did not tell my companions around the table what I was reading and left off to prepare the tray.  Here are Eladio and Toño having their coffee.  They were both reading about a famous Spanish philosopher, Gustavo Bueno, who had died aged 91 the day before.
"Elevenses" on Monday - Eladio with his inseparable brother Toño
I made "cocido" that morning.  It had been bubbling since before breakfast and is a favourite meal to have here.  Then we had a short siesta.  In the afternoon we had planned to go with Primo for him to show us the right path where we had got lost the other day, the one in Murias called "El Camino Valle".  There was a misunderstanding. The men wanted to take us high up into the mountains but what Dolores and I wanted was to walk on the flat and find an alternative route to Murias or Senra where cars pass and I can't let Pippa off the lead.  That afternoon we finally found one which I know I will be going on many times from now on.  Again we got lost going down that path and returned to the road. Luckily we bumped into Eulogio; a man who walks to Montrondo from Murias twice a day.  He was the one to tell us the right route to take.  So we walked on into Murias and in the middle of the village took a right turn down towards the river by the old "lechería" (dairy farm). Here we made a couple of wrong decisions until we stumbled onto to the right route, through a field.  However our wrong decision took us to a natural pool and small beach where apparently the people from Murias bathe.  It was a lovely spot.
By the natural pool where you can bathe - near Murias
We turned back on our heels and eventually found the right path over an ancient looking stone bridge. 
On our new walk
From then on it was plain sailing and all flat through a birch tree forest.  There were spectacular views of Murias from the forest which I just had to capture on camera.
The view of Murias from our new walk
The walk took about 1.5 hours, the perfect length.  Finally I have a new walk to go on without having to go on the road or up steep mountains.

It was a very warm day again on Monday and that night Eladio and I had dinner once again alfresco on the front terrace of our house.  We managed to watch about 50 minutes of House of Cards and then the smart TV froze and we switched to watching some of the Olympic Games.  It was amazing to see the men's gymnastics.  The Chinese are apparently the best but I was equally impressed with the Japanese and the Americans. I could not begin to imagine the routine these men have had to go through most of their lives to get to that level.  I just don't know how they can make those incredible movements with their bodies. It was fascinating to watch.

Tuesday was to be a very special day.  It was Claudia and Miguel's second wedding or rather a wedding celebration for the family from León.  There was to be a lunch in a village called Sosas de Laciana, quite near Villablino.  The restaurant chosen was El Campillo described by many on Trip Advisor as the very best in the area and it was.

We had never been to Sosas even though it's very near Montrondo - about a 20 minute drive - but it's a very pretty place. It belongs to the area called Laciana where the architecture is different from Omaña which Montrondo belongs to.  You just have to see the houses to understand that.
Houses in Sosas de Lacaiana
The restaurant it lived up to its reputation.
Outside El Campillo restaurant in Sosas de Laciana on Tuesday
We were 27 around the table but quite a few were missing, like our daughters for instance.  There were all the ages, from 4 months to 94 years old and 4 generations at the lunch on Tuesday. The dishes were delicious, especially the "cecina" (dried and smoked or salted  beef thinly cut) and the calamares.
The "cecina" at El Campillo restaurant in Sosas de Laciana
Apart from the family, Miguel had invited Teresa, the mother of our friend Ludi and mother-in-law of the cycling legend Pedro Delgado.  Here she is with the bride and groom.  You would never think she was from the area with her blue and green eyes that all three of her children have inherited.
Miguel and Claudia with their special guest at the family lunch on Tuesday
The celebration didn't end until 5.30 (so Spanish hahah) when we said our goodbyes and left in all our cars.  There was to be no siesta or walk that day.

That day the Olympic Games continued.  I didn't actually see anything on the television but was very intrigued and pleased to see a photo that began circulating on social media.  It was of 2 girls gymnasts, one from South Korea and the other from North Korea taking a selfie together.  That for me summed up the spirit of the Games and probably did more for diplomacy between the 2 arch rival countries than anything the politicians from their countries could do. I do hope the North Korean girl doesn't get into trouble for fraternising with the enemy when she returns to Pyongyang.
The best symbol of the spirit of the Games in Rio.  2 gymnasts  from North and South Korea take a selfie together. 
Wednesday was the perfect day for a climb up the mountains; sunny but not too hot.  We decided there and then that morning that this was the perfect day to try and climb up El Tambarón mountain, the highest peak in the area. It stands at 2.150 metres high, twice the height of England's highest mountain Mount Snowden.  It has always been my objective to attempt it at least once in my life and that day we were going to try. Eladio has been up it many times but the last time would have been at least 30 or more years ago.  He was to be my guide but he got lost at times.  I have to admit that without him I would never have done it.  When we were climbing sheer perpendicular rock, I had to cling to his trouser belt or to his walking stick.
The Tambarón peak - left in the middle.  It looks near but is very very far.  The top is actually a plain.
If someone had told me when we left at 09.30 in the morning that we would walk 24 kilometres and not be home until past 7.30 pm with a very difficult climb up and perhaps an even worse climb down, maybe I wouldn't have set off.

But set off we did. Our first spy of the peak was at El Abedular (birch tree forest).  Here I am with Pippa who followed us all the way. She was so valiant and I am amazed she made it with her tiny little body.  She only needed help at certain obstacles such as deep heather or big rocks we had to cross.
Our first view of the mountain from El Abedular
We walked up familar landmarks I had seen on many walks up the mountains, past El Abedular, La Canalilla fountain, el Charcón and then on to Solopeña where there is a mountain cabin for people to rest. Here people write their names with charcoal and we were inspired to follow suit.
In La Solopeña cabin where we wrote our names to immortalise our trek.
From there we walked up past the big rock (la peñona) until we got to El Mular - a field high up in the mountains. Here we rested whilst Eladio tried to make his mind up as to which was the best point to tackle the climb up.
Eladio on the way up.
For a while we followed a river bed. Then the trek got more and more difficult.  We entered terrain which I thought was more suited to goats.  We crossed rivers, walked through thick heather, past impossible bracken bushes and on slippery rock and stones.
The terrain with stone and heather got steeper and steeper and more and more difficult to climb. 
At times I had to hold on to Eladio, especially when the climb got steeper and steeper.  The summit looked so near but it was deceiving.  It would take until 15.15 to make it to the top. At 14.20 we stopped for our lunch and to gather strength; ham sandwiches (thanks Javier and Ana for the ham) and a piece of fruit each.  Pippa got most of the bread as she also needed fortifying too if we were to make it up to the top.
The spot where we had lunch on our way up.
After lunch we took another hour to reach the top. The last few metres I had to climb on all fours.  No way was I giving up and I knew I would never be able to climb down the way we had ascended.  I was very careful not to slip as I knew a fall could be fatal; after all I have a tendency to do so  and not so long ago broke my leg on these same mountains.

We crowned El Tambarón at 15.15.  This is the moment we were about to reach the miradors at the top
The moment we reached the top. To get to the miradors we had to wade through more slippery stones. 
The first one to climb to the top of one of the miradors was Eladio.  He knew exactly what to do to stand on it as of course he has done it before when he was younger.  Here is happy to have fulfilled our objective of the day.
Eladio at the top.
The views were to die for.  You could just spot Senra and a tiny bit of Murias.
The view from the top where you can just see Senra
Eladio warned me it would be windy and freezing once we got there but actually it wasn't.  Most of the year round the peak is covered in snow but not in August.

There was mobile coverage at the top and believe it or not at that moment I got a message from my boss with a problem I had to solve with our Twitter Wall in the cafeteria in the office.  I had to make several phone calls to sort it out.  So we stayed at the top for quite a bit. Apart from the miradors there is formation of rocks to sit by which is a lovely resting place.
Sitting at the top of the mountain with Pippa.
Being at the summit felt like being at the top of the world.  For me this was my Everest.  Of course the latter is 4 times higher but for my level it was probably as difficult and as satisfying for someone trying to climb the highest mountain in the world.  2.150 metres is 7.000 feet approximately and the equivalent to double the height of England's biggest mountain Mount Snowden. So Wednesday's achievement was a huge one for me.  It was a once in a lifetime thing.
A selfie at the top of El Tambarón with Pippa.
Coming down was no easy feat. Some say it is more difficult than climbing up and it was to take us 4.5 hours, just one less than coming up.  We went down a different route as it would have been impossible to climb down the way we ascended.  The descent was practically sheer.  Eladio walked but I decided to go down on my bum sliding down the heather.  Eladio thought it was hilarious.  I thought it was just plain practical although I was a little worried I'd get a hole in my M+S jeans hahaha.
Sliding down the mountain on my bum.
The way down felt endless.  We got lost at times.  Part of the route thankfully had confirmation points in rock formations like these but they weren't always apparent.
Formations made of stone to confirm the route down.
We came down via the lagoon El Pozo Llao which was actually empty.
El Pozo Llao lagoon on our way down.
Walking down or rather balancing my way down, if you looked up you got a great view of the Tambarón mountain which once again looked so deceivingly near.  But oh my how far away and how inaccessible it is.
The view of El Tambarón (left peak) on our way down.
As I said it would take us 4.5 hours to walk down to the village.  Our immediate need was water. We had run out of it and were only able to drink when we got to the fountain called "la fuente del cuadro".  The walk down was never ending so I nearly cried with joy when finally we got off the mountains and reached the path just below El Mular.  It was quite a few more kilometres more to walk down to the village and our feet were dragging and we felt exhausted. The only obstacle on the path on the descent was a herd of cows.  Eladio, once having been a shepherd boy and guarder of cows knew exactly how to deal with them.  He had no fear at all.
Cows in our way on the path down towards the village.
We continued down as best we could, resting at times and it was past 7.30 when we crossed the old Roman bridge  at the entrance to the village from the mountains. You see Montrondo is at the end of the road where the mountains start.

The family were anxious to see us. They thought we had been away for too long a time.  Maybe we were the slowest trekkers in history to reach the summit but we didn't care. Our aim was also to enjoy the scenery on the way, drink water from the springs, have our lunch and take lots of photos. All our aims that day were accomplished but crowing the peak was something I will never forget.  You can see more photos of our trek up the mountains and to the peak of El Tambarón here.

Once home we were in dire need of a shower and change of clothes.  Once showered and in our pyjamas we could rest.  Dinner was a small affair, chicken noodle soup and a piece of meat and vegetable pie.  We were in bed by 10 pm, happy but exhausted.  It would take a few days to recover completely.  The sense of self satisfaction was enormous and maybe on Wednesday I began to understand what drives mountaineers.  My fitbit was also pleased.  That day I surpassed myself by walking 36.000 steps and received 2 tropies!
The statistics my fitbit showed on the evening after our trek up El Tambarón.  24km in one day was a record for me!
The best news on Thursday morning was reading that Mireia Belmonte had won a gold medal for Spain in the Olympics.
A gold medal for Spain thanks to Mireia Belmonte who won the 200 metre butterfly swimming race on Thursday morning
It was great news for Spain.

That morning I was up at 5.50 by mistake.  When I woke up I looked sleepily at my clock and thought it was 6.50 but only realised it was one hour earlier when I was in the kitchen making my morning cup of coffee and looked at the clock on the microwave!

By midday there was another gold for Spain, again from a woman and from a water sport too; slalom canoeing.  Spain was delighted when the 32 year old Mother from the Basque Country with the impossible name of Maialen Chourraut won the slalom.  I always find it intensely emotional when a Spanish sports figure stands on the  podium and the national anthem is played.  If it gives me goose pimples I can only begin to imagine what it must mean to the athlete.  Well done Spain for its second gold.
Maialen Chourrau celebrating her win with her 3 year old daughter on Thursday
On Thursday I was tired all day and my legs and arms ached after the previous day's exertions. I went around feeling a bit like a zombie, doing my domestic tasks very slowly.  I slept a long siesta and didn't wake up until 6 when my sister-in-law Pili called me to tell me the fishmonger Susana had arrived.

By 7 p.m. I was revived and ready to go on another walk.  I went with Eladio, Toño, Dolores and the dogs and we took the route via El Vao to the Murias road then down El Camino Valle and on to Murias on an old path through a birch tree forest.  I could only imagine just how beautiful it would be in the autumn.
On our new walk on Thursday evening
This time we ventured a little further getting slightly lost in the process. We walked about 7 or 8  kilometres according to my fitbit! It's great to discover new routes.

Every time we come home from our walks the first task is to bathe Pippa as she gets so dirty on the dusty summer paths.  Here she is in our bath tub which was designed for me but only she gets to use haha.
Pippa in the bath hahaha
That night netflix or should I say the internet connection, worked well and we were able to watch a whole episode of Season 2.  We are really hooked.

I was up slightly later on Friday morning at 7.10 and had had a restful sleep thankfully. That morning Eladio went off to Villablino very early to get the washing line poles he had bought to be cut shorter.  The old ones were tied to the apple trees right in the middle of the field making for an unsightly view from our new house.  The new ones have been tied to special poles to the left of the field and are much more discreet. He also bought green paint for them to blend more into the countryside.  He and José Antonio would spend the morning putting them up and this is what they look like now.  They had to add cement as part of the ground was rock.  Thus I would have to wait to hang up our washing until the next day.
Thanks to Eladio and his brother José Antonio we now have a much sturdier and more discreet washing line on the lawn (la era) behind our houses now.
When he was back I took the car and drove to Villablino with Dolores to do the weekly shopping. Unfortunately the open market was closed that day due to a big alpine skateboard competition.  Many streets were cut off because of it and it made driving and parking especially difficult.  Shopping in Villablino is unlike shopping in Madrid.  No one is in a hurry here and the queues are long.  We didn't get back until 2.15.  We came home to a big family barbecue organised by Dolores' sons Miguel and Juan and their partners.  They had done a great job uniting the family and we spent a long time around the table afterwards. Remember that word "sobremesa?"

The "sobremesa" after Friday's family barbecue
We spent a relaxing afternoon.  I read for a while and as usual Pippa was my shadow.
Pippa waits for me everywhere I go
Our numbers had increased on Friday and there were 18 of us including the children.  Some of us had fun playing with them.  Our first game was Mölkky (Finnish bowls) and then a hilarious hide and seek session which took me back to my childhood.

There was no walk on Friday.  I think I needed a day off.

In Villablino I had bought some "cecina" (salted beef a bit like Italian braseola).  It was of the very best variety "laciana" and comes from the area. Cecina is probably Leon's most famous culinary product. I made it in a salad with Primo's homegrown lettuce, walnuts and olive oil and it was mouth watering.
Cecina salad for dinner on Friday
Dinner was alfresco that night as the weather was so good.  In fact it has not rained once and the sun has been present every single day.  Thankfully though, because of the mountain air the temperatures are cooler than in  Madrid.
Dinner alfresco on Friday night
On Saturday I woke up to the news of another gold medal for Spain at the Rio Olympics.  This time it was for tennis.  Rafa Nadal and Marc López had beaten the Romanians Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau 6-2 3-6 6-4 in the men's doubles final.  For these men it was like winning a double gold medal all in one.  I'm so happy for them, especially Rafa who is such a splendid ambassador of this country.
It was gold for Nadal and López in the men's doubles at the Olympics on Friday night
An interesting piece of news that came out of the Olympics this week was about the Saudi Arabian delegation.  It turned out that a woman (Spanish by the way) would be leading the Saudi and other teams on a tricycle in the opening ceremony.  Why would they mind you might ask?  Well that's because women are worse than second class citizens in their strictly religious Kingdom and because they don't allow them to drive.  I particularly love the picture.  If they protest about a bare armed woman driving a vehicle at the Olympic ceremony then they shouldn't have come should they? Or maybe they should try to join the 21st century.
A bare armed Spanish woman leading the Saudi delegation at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.  Touché I would say!
Saturday came and it was to be our last full day here.  For the record that day, the Cuban dictator and revolutionary, Fidel Castro turned 90. There's no happy birthday to him from me as there was for Barack Obama; not until repression is lifted in that beautiful island. But by then he will probably not be alive!  When and if it does, no doubt he will turn in his grave. I can imagine our Cuban cousin enjoying his leader's birthday. But not me, no way.
The Communist dictator Fidel Castro turned 90 on Saturday
Finally I was able to use the new washing line that morning and I can't think of anywhere more beautiful to hang out the laundry as the surrounding scenery is so spectacular.  Once again thanks Eladio and Toño for your efforts.
Hanging out the laundry for the first time on the new washing line.
There was time for everything that morning,  I joined Eladio and Toño when they went to get fresh drinking water from La Fleita spring.  Everyone here says it's better than the treated water. It comes from the nearby mountains of course.
Getting drinking water from La Fleita spring in the village.
After the water it was time to get the bread.  The arrival of the bread van from either the Murias or Senra bakeries is always a social occasion.  I find it very quirky but it is also one of the day's most social events when you always engage with your neighbours.  I should add that the bread is delicious. I don't know what they do to make it taste so good as I can only imagine it is made from flour, yeast, water and salt like bread all over the world.
The local bread is delicious
There was to be a lot of social engagement on Saturday as it was the day of the annual village lunch to take place in El Campo (the village common) under a huge marquee.  There were preparations for the event all morning.
Preparations for the annual village lunch on Saturday morning
All of Eladio's family would attend as did most of the village.  We were some 130 people around the tables and seating was on the pews brought from the church for the occasion.  The meal was served by a restaurant called La Villa from Bembibre.  They did a better job than last year although for 20 euros a head I was not particularly impressed.  The best thing was to see the village united on this special day.
The annual village lunch
But there was plenty to drink and I think I had a little too much wine with pop (tinto de verano) and was in need of a long siesta. I didn't wake up until 6.15 p.m.when all I wanted was a cup of tea. My sister-in-law Pili wanted to try it and nearly spat it out asking how I could possibly like it.  I understood her and found it difficult to explain that most of the population in the UK has up to 5 or more cups like mine a day.  Spaniards do not like tea made the English way; far preferring coffee or lukewarm teas of various kinds and hardly ever Indian tea like the cup of PG Tips I had yesterday.

After my "cuppa" it was time for a walk. Eladio, Dolores, the dogs and I set off on our lovely new route.  On the way a calf came out of a field and both Nuba and Pippa chased after it.  There was nothing to stop them.  We were worried the mother cow would be near and the dogs could be in danger but thankfully that didn't happen.

The village gathered last night for pies and chocolate drink but Eladio and I were tired and had planned another romantic alfresco dinner on our terrace.  After all it was to be our last night here.

Today is Sunday and our last day here.  We shall be leaving this evening.  I don't really want to go as we've had such a special time.  The next stage in our holiday plans is a few days at our beach apartment in Santa Pola where we will be joined by Toño and Dolores.  Then of course I have a trip to London planned on 25th August.  But we shall be back in a month for a long weekend we have planned here with our friends Gerardo, Vicky, Irene and Tomás.  I hope the weather holds.

It is early in the morning and I have been writing this week's blog on and off during the last few days.  So now I will leave you, wishing you all a great week ahead, me included.  I hope you have enjoyed my "ramblings".

Cheers till next time,

PS You can see the full set of photos of our stay in Montrondo here.