Sunday, June 29, 2008

Olé Olé Spain


Just in case you don't know (and I'm sure you do), Spain has just won the European Cup final and is the European football champion. The Spanish team goes down in history for winning the cup for the first time in 44 years apparently.

The match was won in the first half with a glorious goal from Torres (El Niño). No more goals were scored or needed and Spain was very clearly the superior team.

Interesting to see such illustrious spectators as the King of Spain, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, the Spanish President Zapatero and the likes of Fernando Alonso and Plácido Domingo to name just a few.

Congratulations Spain, Iker Casillas, El Niño Torres, Luis Aragonés and the rest of the team.


Joe chilling out in the Spanish sun!

Hello again

Well he finally got a name and after a lot of discussion, it is going to be Joe. The other possibilities were Teddy (cos he looks like Mr. Bean's teddy) and Joey (which of course in Spanish would turn out being Yoey).

Poor Joe was pretty ill in his first week or so here with either a virus or a cold but is now better and getting adapted to his new surroundings and Phoebe who, naturally, is pretty suspicious of this new playmate.

Of course, we love him to bits and can't stop taking photos like this one of him "chilling out" in yesterday's heat. He seems to like the bottom of the garden chairs for some reason.

Cheers again

Anne Marjut and Jupe came to stay and I wasn't there!

Hi again

I just have to record the fact that my Finnish friend, Anne Marjut and her son, Jupe came to stay last week. Unfortunately I was away in San Sebastián and La Rioja (more about that in my next post or so).

They came to chill out a bit after so much work and exams but they were hit by a huge heat wave. Even so I think they enjoyed themselves driving to El Escorial, seeing Madrid and going to a Bodega, in between buying ham at the local supermarket, bathing endlessly in the pool, making a Finnish dinner for the family as well as seeing Spain beat Russia in the European Cup semi final.

Sorry Anne darling you weren't here but at least you get a mention in my blog with a picture of the Finnish dinner you prepared, the remains of which Eladio and I finished off when we came home last night from La Rioja.

Cheers and hope to see you soon, maybe in Finland.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Family party, all the secrets are out, Anne Marjut came, in San Sebastián again and off to La Rioja. Olé, Olé, Olé, Spain is in the Euro Cup Final.

Hello again

So does the title seem exciting? It really is as life is fast and full this month. I have 5 events this month. 4 are over and I’m in the middle of the last one, here in San Sebastián (with Oli) for the company employee and partner Summer party which is a great place to have a party.

The most important of all the events was the party I created for Oli to celebrate her triple graduation at home with her friends, our friends and the family. She knew who was coming but didn’t know about the surprises. For the surprises big thanks go to Cristina and Bea from QuintaEsencia. With their help and creativity we created an album and video of her life in images since the day she was born (yes, I scanned over 200 photos from 28 albums and dug out loose photos from all over the house!). I also have to thank Rafa for providing us with 3 photographers!, 1 for photos and 2 for a video would you believe. Furthermore Cristiana and Bea got Emilio to do the sound and image. When they arrived at the house at around 7 to set everything, up that’s when Oli got her first real surprise. Maybe I should mention also that at one point there was a bit of wind and the screen fell in the swimming pool! Luckily it did not affect the show later.

We also did a graduate kit with all sorts of fun things inside such as pink glasses to see “la vie en rose”, a Miss Graduate bow, etc, etc, as well as some more serious things like a serious dictionary (after all she is a journalist now). The kit had a picture of her as a child in her school uniform but with a graduate mortar board on her head.

The graduate kit
We made a badge for everyone with their names and there were place names at the tables as well as printed menus.

The badge and the menu
The organisation of food was thanks to Zena (our Ukranian home help) and her niece Ludmila. I must say the food was excellent and as usual there was enough left over for the next 3 days. There were speeches from her friends from school, from University and from her God Father, José Antonio and from Marta, her oldest girl cousin. Oli was bowled over by all the surprises and I was relieved that finally everything went according to plan and that I no longer had to keep any secrets.

Oli's spontaneous speech.

Paula, Miguel and Susana at the party
The family from León came for the occasion and brought with them the Abuela, Eladio’s Mother who is now staying on for 2 or 3 weeks.

Eladio's sisters, Adela (left) and Pili (right) with Ernestina, his mother.

Last minute touches to the tables.
The next day we had a great “left over” lunch together, had a lovely lazy day and thoroughly enjoyed the swimming pool.

The family lunch the next day
Soon the party was over and I was left emotionally and mentally exhausted after so much planning, but then I had another huge event to go in San Sebastián, prior to an opening of our first shop in Sagasta number 8 on Tuesday night.

But on Sunday night something amazing happened and that was that Spain beat Italy (for the first time since 1920) in the European Football Cup and actually got past a Quarter Final which is something they haven’t done since 1984. This means they meet Russia tonight in the Semi Final. It also means it coincides with my employee Summer party tonight as we will all have to watch the football whilst having dinner.

Before I get to the San Sebastián part, I must also tell you that yesterday, as Oli and I were leaving, Anne Marjut and Jupe from Finland were coming to spend a few days at our house in Madrid. Unfortunately I won’t see them but really hope they have a good time. Well they are in good hands, aren’t they? I mean, Eladio is the perfect host, isn’t he?

Oli and I came to San Sebastián yesterday to be here to greet the guests today. 150 company employees and partners are arriving to celebrate Midsummer and there are all sorts of fun things planned, such as a gymkhana around the old town. We were able to grab some free time yesterday and actually managed a swim on La Concha beach, that most wonderful stretch of water on the Basque coast and which is an integral part of the city.

Oli in San Sebastián by the Concha yesterday
We also had lunch in the port at a lovely little place called Bar Igeldo and in the evening, prior to checking the Guia de Campsa, Spain’s equivalent to the Michelin guide, we tried our luck at Urepel Restaurant
and wow was it good. The food was fancy but not too fancy and absolutely delicious. We needed an hour and a half walk afterwards to work off all the days excesses and here I introduced Oli to the delights of the walk from the Zurriola beach to the Port. What a lovely place San Sebastián is.

Enjoying the desert at Urumel last night.
And now I must go and greet the guests and get on with today’s event. It has taken so much preparation that secretly I want it over and done with, specially as tomorrow awaits something I have been looking forward to for a while.

Tomorrow when I return to Madrid, Eladio will pick me up and we will be going to La Rioja for the night as invited guess by the Spanish association of Communication Directors (Dircom). We will be staying at the most wonderful of places called Hotel Marques de Riscal. But more about that in next week’s post.

And that’s all for this week.

Friday, June 20, 2008

My new picture.


Just wanted to share a picture of me that a blogger friend did for me. Does it look like me? Well, it's fun and I like it.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Helen’s story, Oli's graduation, Yoli and Isidro came and so did “It”

"It" came to stay, the kitten with no name.
Hi again

I have been up to my eyes in it so to speak this week. This month I have 4 events and two of them were yesterday so I am a bit stressed at the moment. I am sort of beginning to understand that I actually enjoy the preparations more than the events themselves and all I want to do is to get them perfectly prepared and executed and then out of the way and on to the next thing. I also seem to be glued to my pc at all hours and am quite obsessed about organising my files, photos and e-mails. I suppose if I didn’t I wouldn’t be able to find anything.

Anyway yesterday is over, so now I can sit and write and post an update on this week’s happenings for this blog which has become a complete diary of my life and a very important part of my life too.

The most important piece of news to include here today is that my friend from school Helen King has survived! I haven’t seen Helen since I left school some 32 years ago but I have never forgotten her. She was larger than life and the brightest girl in our class, she was also great fun. Helen knew when she was 14 that she wanted to be a lawyer and a lawyer she is today. Helen missed the school reunion because she had broken her leg but, thanks to Brenda, I spoke to her on the phone on that very occasion. We vowed to organise a get together in Manchester soon which is where quite a few representatives from our school days live.
Helen King revising for her A levels in 1974. She always made that face then. I wonder if she still does now.
Helen King in 1974 at school (second from the left)
Helen fell very ill a few weeks ago and was diagnosed with a blood clot on her lung. Her kidneys collapsed and she became so ill she had to be connected to a life support machine and her life was very much feared for. At a distance I suffered for her and could not get her out of my head. There is a story I heard from a friend that I would like to believe. It seems her brother who is a priest gave her last rights and put a medal in her hand. Since the medal was placed in her hand Helen slowly began to recover. Whether that was due to the medal or to Helen’s fighting spirit we will never know. But what do know today is that Helen eventually woke up, spoke and ate and has been getting better ever since and this weekend she will be going home to her family of 3 children to start her life again. I vow now that that reunion in Manchester will take place.

Anything after Helen’s story seems pale, but life goes on and so do the stories of this week.

It was Oli’s graduation ceremony at the UEM University on Friday for which she decided to change her look. A bottle helped to change the colour of her hair from platinum blonde to what we think is her “natural” colour brown. As you can see from the photo she looks spectacular, whatever the colour.
Oli's new look
Suzy helping Oli get ready for the University Graduation Ceremony.
This year’s ceremony was much better and shorter than last years and I at least was interested to hear the GM of Microsoft Spain, Rosa García, address the students. She is something of a personality and I sort of identify with her as she also hasa blog, is a Mother and an executive and has similar challenges with her work life balance.
Oli with her "tog"
On Saturday Yoli and Isidro (Eladio’s youngest brother) came to visit us to pick up a garden table they had bought on internet like ours. So it was a great excuse to have a family barbecue to which we also invited José Antonio and Dolores. We had a good time together and went out on Saturday to a tasting at a hotel I was doing an event at this week.
The family barbecue
As my work life balance is pretty good at the moment, I had the girls working with me at the events yesterday. It makes them so much more pleasant for me and is excellent experience for them too. And here we are the 3 of us next to some lovely Mini cars we used to take the journalists in.
Mummy and the girls "working"
Also this week we have taken into our home a new member of the family to replace dear Henry. It is a little black and very frightened boy kitten who still hasn’t been baptised. The girls got him from the Spanish equivalent of the RSPCA. You will be seeing more of him in my blog as he grows, unless, of course, he runs away which is quite probable as he is so scared. He “lives” in a box in the kitchen, or rather hides behind it most of the time and we have to have the kitchen door closed to stop it escaping. But will we all remember to keep it shut the whole time? I wonder. Anyway there will be more news about “it” in my next post.

With news of “it” that just about rounds up our news for this week and I say “our” as Eladio says this blog is not just mine but ours as the posts are all about “us”. Of course, he is right.

Before I finish, I must say Happy Birthday to dear Sandie whose birthday it was on 10th June.

Cheers till next time when there will be news on the friend and family gathering this Saturday to celebrate Oli’s multiple graduation, preparations for which are well underway.

All the best

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Back to San Sebastián 15 years on, Covarrubias and home again

The bay of La Concha and San Sebastián as seen at sunset from the Ondarreta beach
La casa de Doña Sancha, the most emblematic house in Covarrubias. Now owned by a school teacher who bought it a few years ago for a song.
Hi all

This week I had coffee with Elena. It’s the second time now and we shall be meeting once a month. Elena lost her job recently and it’s sort of comforting to share experiences. I also had lunch with Miguel Angel Muñoz, one of the most famous people in the sector and my friend of many years. We had a good chat to catch up since we last met and also a good gossip about the sector in general.

I have been very busy preparing the company summer party which is going to be in San Sebastián. I am also preparing 2 events mid June plus Oli’s graduation party; so yes, 4 parties or events in one month. The one in San Sebastián is for about 140 people so I just had to do a sight visit and of course, I took along Eladio, my official inspector for this sort of events. His opinion is always invaluable, as well as other things. As most of you know Eladio is my husband of course but he is also my friend, my partner, my chauffeur, my gardner, my valet, my doctor, my nurse, my psychologist, my teacher, my electrician, my plumber, my …, well yes, everything. So now that he has taken early retirement, he can come with me everywhere. We hadn’t been to San Sebastián since my Motorola cycling days in about 1995 so this was going to be another trip down memory lane.

Unfortunately I took a headache with me which I wasn’t actually able to shake off until today, Sunday. But even so I was determined to enjoy myself. Sometimes my work is a real pleasure but not always as there is an awful lot of planning involved that people don’t see. They only see the glamour which of course there is but there is much hard work put in to obtain the final result and in events nothing is ever perfect because it is not a science and depends on many many factors. So, yes, whatever I do, there is always some criticism.

The trip down memory lane began with lunch on the way at the Hostal Landa which is just before Burgos. It is one of those musts when you travel on the N1 north. It hasn’t changed and is lovely as ever.

Apart from a headache, we also took the rain along with us. It rained on and off throughout our trip with the temperatures never rising above 18ºC which is extremely low for Spain in the month of June. Definitely the weather is really weird this year in Spain. We are all dying for a heat wave which just doesn’t seem to come.

Despite the weather, we found San Sebastián as beautiful as ever. It is one of those majestic Spanish cities with a huge plus of being surrounded by the sea. Its only rival for me in Spain is Santander and I can never choose between the two.
Me by the Concha on one of our walks.
San Sebastián is famous for its gastronomy. As one taxi driver told us, “people come here to eat”. How right he was because that’s what we did throughout our stay. The province has more Michelin stars per inhabitant than any other in the world I think, and is the home of one of Spain’s most famous restaurants Arzak.

There were no rooms to be had in San Sebastián but we were lucky that our agency has good contacts and came up with the lovely Hotel Villasoro which must have had a last minute cancellation. What a lovely place, a small hotel on the outskirts of the town which was more like a home than a hotel.
Hotel Villa Soro
When we were not sight visiting, we spent nearly all our time walking and just taking in the breathtaking views of La Concha (the bay and main beach of San Sebastián.
Eladio by the Concha
We hardly ever went further inside the town than El Bulevar so mesmerised were we by the sea and views of the city and its surroundings.
Eladio in the Bulevar, full of people on Saturday
By the María Cristina bridge (I think - well it's one of the most beautiful bridges anyway)
Sometimes our walks were over 2 hours long which in the end gave us a few blisters. They took us along the Zurriola beach, around the Monte Urgulll, along the Concha, of course, and on to the Ondarreta beach where you can find the famous statues by Chillida (El Peine). The long walks were also a strategy in working up an appetite for the wonderful food.
The surfers' beach, Zurriola.
The walk round the Monte Urgull
Me on the Ondarreta Beach
Apart from its Michelin stars, San Sebastián is famous for its pinxos which are really tapas. I can’t begin to describe how varied and good they are so you will have to judge by this photo. You can have them in most bars in town but the place to go is the old town near the port.
Eladio in the port
The port is a fascinating place too with its colourful fishing boats and oldy worldy atmosphere.
The pinxos, see what I mean?
On Saturday the day was ours for the taking and we decided to drive to the top of the Monte Igueldo to see the famous view of San Sebastián from there and to take the coastal road across the mountains to the picturesque fishing and sea side villages of Orio, Zarautz, Getaria and Zumaia. We were unfortunate with the weather as it poured down when we got to the villages. However the views on the mountain road were fantastic and a big bonus point of the whole day was coming across a field full of donkeys, one of which was just a few weeks old. You might think Spain is full of donkeys. But that’s not so any longer so it was quite a rare sighting. I love donkeys. You may wonder why and I think it is because of my English childhood experience of riding on them on the English beaches.
The view from the Monte Igeldo
My lovely donkeys
Very soon we had to leave San Sebastián but our trip was not over as we had planned to visit a well know medieval town in Burgos called Covarrubias. Eladio had long been wanting to take me there and when I saw it I understood why. It is a beautifully kept Castillian village with typical architecture of the times. We booked a table at De Galo restaurant recommended both by the Michelin Guide and the Campsa guide and we were not disappointed.
Me at the entrance to Covarrubias
Then after a walk round the village and by the river Arlanza and several tens of photos later, we drove on back to Madrid, tired but content with our adventures.
Eladio posing in one of the doorways that took my fancy
The river Arlanza that goes through Covarrubias
It was nice to see the girls and my Father again and to be home. Ironically there is nothing better about a trip than coming home.

Cheers till next time

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Celebrations, Oli’s last week at University, the wild boar again, a new Blackberry and a new found author.

Hi again

This week there have been quite a few celebrations. In first place, I have to include Oli, my younger daughter who, as predicted, finished her studies this week. She has now officially got 3 degrees and all in 5 years. Well done darling. We went out to celebrate as a family on Friday to the Vaca Argentina (of course) and bigger celebrations are to come.
Suzy (left) and Oli (right) at the family lunch
Suzy at the family lunch.
As this was Oli’s last week studying, I took some photos of her and, Susi, of course, who has a little way to go till she finishes, to record the studying moments as something special in our lives.
Oli's last day studying at home
Suzy with some more time to go. She takes it with a smile.
Miguel, my favourite nephew and I say that with authority (an Aunt can have a favourite, it’s legitimate – I actually have 13 nieces and nephews and have many favourites among them, Miguel being one) was 30 this week. That is quite something and for me is a bit of a symbol. He was 4 months old when I first came to Spain and now he is 30. So much has happened since then.

Another celebration was lunch with Julio and Fátima to celebrate the former’s 40th birthday. I first met Julio at Nokia in the year 2000 when he was not yet 30. We hit it off immediately and have been best friends ever since. Buying birthday presents between the 3 of us is always a bit complicated and Julio had asked, once again, for a white Lacoste polo shirt. Being his 40th birthday I refused and insisted on being original. And the originality was a success to judge by his reaction to the dinner for 2 voucher at Fortuny we gave him. It’s a great idea and if you live in Spain, I highly recommend this service which you can find here: Cena Shop

Other things happened this week too such as dinner with our friends Eduardo and Graciela at, yes, guess where? La Vaca Argentina. How we love that place. Apart from great chats about all and nothing, Eduardo showed us Blackberry’s latest secret and actually let me take a photo. It seems Blackberry will be finally targeting the consumer market and now have a clam shell prototype which one day will be available in daring colours like pink or red and not only black. Good for Blackberry, what a cool brand. It can’t be too much of a secret if he doesn’t mind me posting it on my blog!

This week was also the final episode of La Señora. However, what we all want to happen, for Angel and Victoria to finally get together did not happen so it has left the door open for a new series with lots of things unresolved still. It will be back in September.

On Friday I had a live interview with the “Protagonistas” programme of Punto Radio, well at least with the Galicia edition. I used to hate radio interviews, especially live, but these days, the same as the TV, I have sort of grown up and no longer feel nervous. I just treat it as if I’m having a private conversation. However, I hate listening to myself afterwards so when my PR agency sent me the tape I just deleted it.

I must also mention that this week we spied the wild boar again on one of our daily walks. It was quite peacefully eating berries from a tree. It did not look at all wild.

Another thing I must mention this week is that I have found a new woman author (yes I nearly always read books by women, don’t ask me why). “She” is Cath Staincliffe and was actually in my year at school. I had completely lost contact with her but at the St. Joseph’s College reunion someone mentioned that she had become a famous author in the UK. I was intrigued and so wrote to her and got a lovely reply back. Meanwhile I ordered “Trio”from which is a book by her about adoption by Catholic mothers in the UK in the 60s. She told me it was a sort of one off as most of her books are crime mystery. I think it is brilliant. It is written so humanely and realistically but with very little sentimentality. I am enjoying it tremendously.

Today could be Spain’s opportunity to win the Giro for the second time in history with Alberto Contador, last year Tour de France winner. He has a 4 second lead and today, the last stage, is a time trial. As I am writing, the race will be beginning soon. Cross your fingers. The last time Spain won the Giro was with Miguel Induráin, Spain’s best cyclist in history who won the Tour de France 5 times in a row. Good luck Alberto.

So what will this week bring you may ask? One thing for sure, will be a trip to the Basque Country with Eladio on Thursday. I have to do a site inspection for an event so, of course, will be taking Eladio with me. He does not need asking twice as San Sebastián is one of our favourite cities in Spain.

More about that next week.

Cheers till then