Friday, January 04, 2008

Visit to El Escorial, New Year’s Eve in León, snow, lunch in La Moraleja, surprise visit from Pili, visitors from Moscow plus birthday greetings

Hi again

Well it’s still Christmas and there is one festivity to go still which is the Three Kings' day on Sunday 6th January. Unfortunately after that we will have to take down all the decorations and get on with cold and non festive January which is always difficult.

The day before Eladio’s mother, Ernestina’s visit came to an end, we took her and my Father to the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caídos) where Franco is buried and to El Escorial nearby for lunch and a visit to the famous monastery. Her visit has been full of outings in contrast to her other visits and this is because she is so much more mobile after her hip replacement operation in the Summer. We all had a good time on this outing. Even though Eladio and I are very familiar with both locations they represent such important times in Spanish history that they are forever fascinating.

Eladio and his Mother in the sun at the Valley of the Fallen
New Year’s Eve was spent in León, as it has been ever since we married with NO exception. As I write the “NO” in capital letters something in my mind tells me maybe next year we will do something different!! We went on our own this year as the girls preferred to party in Madrid and their staying behind was an excuse for my Father to rest at home quietly which is quite understandable as he is 88.

The journey was pleasant and we had lunch on the way at the Parador in Tordesillas. I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you. I think it was Eladio’s Mother’s first time and I know she enjoyed it.

Mother and son at lunch in Tordesillas
The New Year’s Eve dinner was held at the same restaurant as last year, Zuloaga in the heart of downtown León. This year we were far fewer than usual; the girls were missing as were Roberto and Marta and their partners. However my crackers, masks and annual present raffle once again cheered up the party. Two things though were amiss, one was the lack of heating on a minus zero centigrade night and the other was the poor quality food. Somehow I think we won’t be going back to the same place next year.

Primo and Isidro with my Christmas market (Plaza Mayor) disguises

Toño and the reindeer hat

Sara, Laura and Paula

Alicia and Juan, great glasses!
One always looks forward to New Year’s Eve but in a way, after the “grapes” at midnight things tend to become a lot less fun and I, at least, only really want to go to bed. However one is expected to go out for drinks and “party” and I never really want to. We managed to get to bed at about 3.30 and slept till 11, on time to have breakfast with Alejandro and Marisa in front of the wonderful New Year concert from Vienna. That for me is always a New Year’s Day must and this year was to be no exception.

I woke up to yet another message on my phone to see a friend (Lars) from Sweden had sent me a photo of himself in the snow in Stockholm. So I could hardly believe my eyes when I drew the curtain to find it had also snowed in León. I quickly took a photo of myself to send it to Lars for him to see that it had also snowed in Spain!!!!
Before leaving León, we had lunch with Eladio’s younger sister Pili and her husband Andrés. Their daughter Paula who is nearly 20 obviously has a different view of New Year’s Eve as she returned home at 10.30 in the morning!!! Thus we did not have the pleasure of her company for lunch. Neither did we have their son’s Mario who had gone to Mérida to play in the Spanish youth handball championship. The bus taking the Castilla León team had left at 10 in the morning; Mario had been partying till 5 but some of his team mates went straight from the discotheque to the bus in their suits and ties!!!

Thursday brought a lunch with a long lost colleague, Eusebio, at my favourite restaurant Aspen in La Moraleja, that oh so posh area of Madrid! Eusebio and I had both worked at Motorola but had not seen each other for 10 years!! He now works for the competition and is a grandfather - a very young one at that. Thanks Eusebio for a lovely lunch and it was lovely to bitch about you know who.

As I was in La Moraleja I dropped into the delicatessen called Embassy and bought a traditional Roscón de Reyes (sort of round sponge cake) for the Three Kings' day plus some great home made turrón as we were having guests from Moscow at home the next day.

Just after that we got a surprise phone call from Pili to say she and Andrés were coming to stay the night on their way to Mérida to see Mario playing on Friday morning. That meant a few preparations such as heating their room, making their beds and, of course, preparing a nice evening meal. Pili and Andrés were to be in luck in that respect as we had done the weekly shopping that very morning.

It was lovely to have them and the evening was quite magical; a beautifully laid table and then drinks in the candle lit lounge with Christmas lights and great Diana Crall music playing in the background.

They were off pretty early this morning and we got up to prepare them a nice breakfast but also to start more preparations, this time for lunch for my cousin Sasha and his Moscow family, Masha, Sasha, Edward, Ana and Ana. Wow, we were gong to be 10!!!

I spent the morning cooking “cocido madrileño” (sort of stew made of chick peas, potatoes, carrots, cabbage and various types of meat – you drain the broth and make a soup out of it with vermicelli and serve the rest without any liquid as the second course). Eladio drove to Madrid to fetch them as even though it was Sasha’s second visit here, he would never have found our place. He is a very clever chap but as he himself admits, has no orientation skills, despite being a professional tour guide! I think he just needs a sat nav.

He brought with him his step daughter Masha whom we had once met when she was a teenager some 15 years ago, her husband Edward, their 4 year old daughter Ana and their accountant, another Ana. They brought with them a host of Russian goodies including caviar!! Lunch was a melée of eating, conversation, mixed languages, going out to smoke (at least 6 times) and chasing the cats as Ana the little girl was far more interested in Henry and Phoebe than in her soup which is understandable for a 4 year old. I think my Father thoroughly enjoyed himself and was able to practice his Russian. Masha, who had never met him, said his Russian was perfect, completely accent free and that she had never heard a foreigner speak such good Russian. I must say I was proud to hear that.

Visitors from Moscow
And all too soon the visit was over as they were going out in the evening to a Flamenco show.

And so now we are alone, as I write, but not for long because tomorrow Alejandro and Marisa will be coming to stay and on Sunday, the Three Kings’ Day (Reyes) José Antonio and Dolores will also be joining us for lunch. So, as you can imagine, I will be cooking again soon ………………….

Just before I finish this post, I must congratulate my niece and nephew Sara and Roberto whose birthday it was on 31st December as well as Mari Carmen whose birthday was yesterday 3rd January. We have yet to celebrate the latter.

And that’s all for the moment folks.

Happy New Year just once again,


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