Sunday, February 22, 2009

Barcelona, the MWC, parties, men in black and meeting old friends. Culture, Catalán and home again.

Me on the rooftop of Casa Mila (La Pedrera) by Gaudi on Paseo de Gracia in Barcelona.
Hi again

This time a week ago I was writing my post on the high speed train to Barcelona. The week went by really quickly and I came home exhausted but happy on Thursday evening.

So what did I get up to in Barcelona.? Well, of course, I went for the MWC and most of my week was taken up with activities around the congress but I did a lot of other things too.

The trip started with the TeliaSonera get together on Sunday evening at the Reunion Café near the Rambla. Thankfully that was a quiet start which meant an early night. Here I met up with my European colleagues over tapas and wine.

Oli joined me on Monday and we shared a room at the Hesperia President Hotel on the Avda. Diagonal which is very central. As I walked out on Monday morning I realised it was just across the road from my favourite night club (well actually the only one I know) called Luz de Gas; quite a coincidence. As a treat for Oli’s arrival I organised a massage for her and for me in our room on Monday evening and a very nice Colombian lady did a great job of relaxing our muscles and also giving us tips on how to keep fit.

On Monday evening we went out to dinner with Grainne and her son Marcel. Grainne and I go back a long way as we went to school together. She lives in Barcelona so every time I go we make a point of meeting up. We went to Agua, one of my favourites and had a very spirited night where we spent most of our time laughing.
Grainne and Olivia
Meanwhile the MWC was going on. Here I saw lots of old and new colleagues and made a point of visiting the Nokia Siemens Networks hospitality suite which is always my point of reference. I also visited the Nokia press outfit and greeted old colleagues and the Golla stand (great Finnish designer of mobile phone and pc bags) where I picked up a lovely pink camera case for my new Canon (unfortunately dropped by Oli in Amsterdam and remarkably still working!). I also visited Palm to see Xavi as well as Genaker to see Miquel. MWC for me is about seeing people. It’s actually quite difficult to see the people you want to as everyone is busy and the place is seething with people. I never managed to see Claire despite our numerous phone calls and was distressed to hear she had been robbed on her last night in Barcelona! The crisis has affected the congress in that fewer people went this year. Each taxi driver had a different estimate but overall I think there were about 10.000 people less than last year when approximately 60.000 attended.

On Tuesday morning it was the TeliaSonera press conference which I went to just in case there were questions on Yoigo which of course there were. I was also busy with final touches to our press materials for our own press conference the following day. But before that there were some parties to go to.

The first party was the Ericsson splash out at the Fira itself. Wow was that big. However it started at 18.30 with dinner which was far too early for me. I didn’t really know many people so soon made my way back to the hotel to join Oli and wait for Gloria and Ana from the events agency as we were going to another party and then on to dinner. We went to Miquel’s bash at the Xalet de Montjuic, a wonderful location with great views of Barcelona “la nuit”. We caused a bit of a sensation, 3 pretty girls and I walking into a male dominated party and they would hardly let us leave. I always call the MWC “Men in Black” and if you went you would understand why! When we finally got away we made our way to another great restaurant in Barcelona called Nichel where once again ours was the only all female table.

Wednesday morning was the Yoigo press conference breakfast which we held at a great little Catalán bar cum restaurant called Matamala on Rambla de Cataluña, not to be confused with La Rambla which unfortunately some people did! The turn out was amazing, some 24 journalists and the atmosphere created was very us, in that it seemed more like a meeting of friends. So much so was this that some of the journalists stayed on to write their news wires which we were to see published on line whilst we were still clearing up!
Behind the scenes, Gustavo and Carlos removing the photo call after our press event
I wasn’t free until midday but when I was I went with Oli to the Port Vell for lunch with Martita, an old friend from my Nokia days who happened to be in town on business. We went to a great place recommended to my by Julio called El Merendero de la Mari. It was good to see Marta in great form and happy in her new job. We were lucky to be able to eat outside and enjoy the Barcelona sun. Marta and I
In the afternoon Oli and I had time for culture. We walked from the Port Vell all the way to the Casa Mila (also known as La Pedrera) in Pº de Gracia and visited this gem of a building built by the famous Catalán architect Antonio Gaudí.
Casa Mila or Pedrera on Paseo de Gracia by Gaudi.
I had visited it before but was equally fascinated. Here we visited every nook and cranny and took photos of nearly everything we saw, specially on the roof top with its incredible mosaic encrusted chimneys and view of the unfinished cathedral, the Sagrada Familia, also by Gaudi and perhaps his most famous building.
Oli on the rooftop of Casa Mila
Wednesday evening brought with it the party I had been organising for weeks for my ex Nokia Networks colleagues from our stint together from 2000 to 2004. And here I had help from the girls at Quinta Esencia with the activities. Thanks to Marc, we went to a great place called Raco d’en Cesc, recommended by the Michelin Guide and frequented by local politicians and football players. What a great find it was too. If you ever go, be sure to ask for the duck canaloni with foie sauce which is heavenly.
The ex Nokia Networks party - group photo, oh such fun!
The girls had made a great poster and badge for everyone based on the Cartoon Networks logo and characters. Also we held the ex Nokia Network awards where we voted with giant hands for all sorts of fun categories, such as “the most missing person”, “the person who sent the longest e-mails”, “Mr. most suitable bachelor 2000” etc. I was very surprised and flattered to win the Miss Nokia Networks 2000.
The Cartoon Networks poster where each one of us was a cartoon character!
The evening was such fun and we all made speeches on what our time with the team meant to us and remembered all sorts of things which had us all laughing endlessly. But the evening had to end and when it did we of course went for a night cap. And where did we go for the night cap? To Luz de Gas of course. A good time was had by all and we have all agreed to repeat the experience next year. We shall certainly be going back to Raco d’en Cesc.

Thursday was ours for the taking and we had all day to enjoy Barcelona as our train wasn’t leaving until 5 in the afternoon. After a leisurely breakfast and packing, we left our suitcases in reception and made our way on foot to the Picasso Museum in the old quarter (el barrio gótico). On our way we visited the Palau de la Música, a singular and very beautiful building in itself. We both enjoyed the Picasso museum and learned a lot about him and his work. He was very prolific and started painting seriously from the age of 15 going from a classical style to his own type of impressionism right through to cubism, including his blue and pink periods. He was pretty obsessed with the Spanish painter Velázquez to judge from his copies of the old masterpieces to over 50 versions of the Meninas. He sure was prolific! He was also obsessed with women and was married several times. What an amazing guy!!!
The Picasso Museum
The reference to Catalan is a must for me in this post. In Cataluña the official language is Catalán and, mainly for political reasons, Castilian Spanish is slowly being eradicated. You hear both languages in the street but in the state schools Catalán is dominant, so much so that many parents complain. As a Spanish speaker I can understand a lot of Catalán but cannot talk it. It is like a mixture of French, Spanish and Latin. In Spain you are supposed to respect it and it is politically incorrect to criticise or laugh at it. However a lot of people living in Cataluña are immigrants from South America or Spaniards from other areas and do not speak it. I was in stitches when I saw a sign saying “Pis en venda” which actually means “Piso en venta” (flat for sale) but which could be understood as “pee for sale” in Spanish!! That’s a very strange business I thought to myself. I asked my Colombian masseuse what she thought of the language and she didn’t hesitate to say “Español mal hablado” (Spanish spoken badly). I heard similar remarks from two taxi drivers. This is the last thing that Catalan politicians want to hear but they are blind to the fact that this is actually true.

From the Picasso museum we made our way to a very popular restaurant called Bestial right by the sea and next to the famous Arts Hotel. We had a quick lunch and an even quicker walk on the beach before we rushed to our hotel to pick up our luggage and drive to the train station only to find out that our tickets were for Wednesday and not Thursday!! So we had to get another ticket and take the next train. In 2.5h hours we were at Atocha station in Madrid and half an hour later at home and in time for dinner with the family.
Oli on the Ave, the high speed train, going home. She was watching Slumdog Millionaire on her mac.
It was lovely to be home again, to see the family but most of all to see my lovely puppy Norah. She is now completely recovered and has grown a lot.

On Friday I got back into the swing of being at home, caught up on my work and had lunch with the family. In the evening Eladio and I went to see Slumdog Millionaire, a film from the British director, Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) which is nominated for the Oscars tomorrow and which I really wanted to see as it is set in India. I loved it. If you haven’t seen it, this is what it’s about:
Jamal is an 18 year old from the slums of Mumbai who against all odds is on the brink of winning the top prize on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. He’s accused of fraud but then tells twelve stories which piece together his life, explain how he knew the answers and finally uncover the reason why he went on the show in the first place (from the Slumdog Millionaire fan club in Facebook).
The enchanting Jamal as a small boy in Slumdog Millionaire
Afterwards we went to a new Lebanese restaurant near home in Boadilla called La Cachimba. It was great, inexpensive and superbly decorated. We will be returning.

On Saturday we took Norah for her second vaccination and she behaved beautifully. She loved the outing even though it was in my arms. The thing is she cannot go out of the house or for a walk until she has had her third vaccination and that isn’t for another two weeks. So she’s getting a bit frustrated all cooped up in the kitchen. We try to make up for this by supplying her with all sorts of toys or holding her whilst trying to read the newspaper which is not easy. Today she had another bath. I’m not sure she’s very keen but she sure looked lovely afterwards!
Norah, posing at the vet
And that’s about it for this week. It has been a very full week but, as always, it’s great to be home. Tonight we are going out to dinner with Roberto and MariCarmen but more about that in next week’s post.

PS you should be able to see more photos of Barcelona here:

Sunday, February 15, 2009

George’s birthday, Oli in Amsterdam, Suzy in London, Norah fell ill, St. Valentine’s and off to Barcelona to the Mobile World Congress.

Norah who fell ill this week.
Hiya again

This week was St. Valentine’s but it was also my brother George’s birthday except that he has not been here to celebrate it since 2001 when he died aged 46 of melanoma. I can never let this week pass without thinking of him and on the 12th February he was in my thoughts all day. I remembered especially how we used to celebrate our birthdays when we were kids and how my grandmother would always send us a cake, except that it always arrived after my birthday! But we used to love the birthday cards with the one pound note in them.

The girls have been away, Oli to Amsterdam with her school friend Miad and Suzy to London with Gaby. It was Gaby’s first trip abroad and his first trip on a commercial aeroplane. They both went for a well deserved break and will be home tonight. Only Oli will be joining me tomorrow in Barcelona as Suzy has to contribute to a team project to be given in this week. This will not make Oli very happy.

On Monday dear little Norah, my two month old birthday puppy fell ill. She was sick with a bad stomach and would not eat. These were the sure signs of that deadly puppy disease, parvo virus, one we know so well from our times as breeders. We immediately took her to the vet and our suspicions were not unfounded as the test turned out to be positive. I read later that this virus is the cause of 75% of puppy deaths so it is a disease to be taken very seriously. Norah had obviously contracted the virus before we bought her as the incubation period is between 7 and 14 days so the breeder is responsible for the veterinary costs. Luckily we had caught the disease on time and within 3 days of hospitalisation, Norah was on the mend. She came home on Thursday and after intense convalescent nursing, she seems completely recovered. We are all absolutely nuts about her, except my poor Father who is not to keen on having to shoo her away whilst he tries to make his breakfast in the morning! Today I gave her a second bath and she looks simply adorable. I am going to miss her in Barcelona.

As I said at the beginning this week was St. Valentine’s. I didn’t really expect any flowers from Eladio but was secretly hoping he would as last year he had broken our life time record by giving me a bunch for the first time. That was when we came to pick me up at the airport from Barcelona. But no, this was not to be. However he did reserve a table at a surprise restaurant. It wasn’t difficult for me to suss out which one it was as he had used my phone contacts to look up the number. So, yes, he took me to La Leyenda. It never was my favourite place, perhaps because of some negative connections, such as my farewell dinner when I “left” Nokia. However the cuisine has improved dramatically and we got a very nice corner table and so enjoyed our quiet St. Valentine’s dinner together. St. Valentine’s is supposed to celebrate love and so we celebrated ours, the cornerstone of our lives and upon which everything else is built, our family, our home, our whole existence.

Talking about love, on Friday Eladio and I went to see the much acclaimed film, “The Reader” with Kate Winslett, Eladio’s favourite actress. I rather liked the young boy who played her 15 year old lover actually!!! I much preferred this to “Revolutonary Road”. It is a torrid love story set in Germany in the late 50’s and has a Nazi angle which are two very strong ingredients for a film.

And as this week is coming to its end, here I am on Sunday afternoon writing from my seat on the high speed train to Barcelona, the so called “Ave”. It is the first time I have taken it as I have always travelled by air on the shuttle or “puente aereo”. It takes 2.40h so is very fast. The added comforts, of course, are the absence of the ever increasing stifling rules of air travel, the fact that you can get on 5 minutes before departure and of course, getting off in the middle of the city.

I am going to Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress, the biggest global event in the telecoms industry. I will be quite busy there going to press conferences, etc but will have time for networking which is what I and probably everybody else, likes best about going. I have also planned a reunion dinner party on Wednesday night for my ex Nokia Network colleagues. I have asked them all for photos and they are most intrigued. But more news about that in next week’s post.

And this is where I end this week’s post. Cheers and have a good week,


Sunday, February 08, 2009

Camino and the Goya film awards, birthdays, a birthday puppy and a family celebration.

Nora, the birthday puppy
Hi again

This week’s blog post starts with a mention of the Spanish “Goya” film awards, as one of my favourite films, Camino, got 6 awards including the most important ones such as, best film, best director (Javier Fesser) and best actress as well as best supporting actor, and best new actress, the stunning 12 year old Nerea Camacho. In his speech Javier Fesser said that his family was built on love, affection and a good temper, three things that were also fundamental to his job. How true I found his words.
Nerea Camacho receiving her Goya.
This week has been dominated by our new puppy Nora. I had lunch with Fátima and Julio on Monday and Fátima showed me the photo of her sister’s new beagle puppy. We used to have beagles and in fact were breeders for some years until Eladio’s job changed and we could no longer cope. Since then we have only had cats and are now the proud owners of Joe and Phoebe. The girls have always campaigned for a new puppy and up till now we resisted. Until, I saw that photo.

One thing led to another and the three of us persuaded Eladio that it would be great to have another beagle and as my birthday was coming up (today), what better present could there be than a puppy. As soon as Eladio agreed we searched the Segunda Mano website and soon came up with beagle puppies for sale. It took just a few phone calls and one visit the next day to a breeder nearby to find Nora.

And voilá Olivia and Eladio came home on Tuesday morning with an adorable 2 month old tricolour beagle with whom we all fell in love immediately. It took a few days to agree upon a name and now it or she is finally called Nora.
Nora on Eladio's shoulder
You can see her here on her first day at home in a video I uploaded to You Tube. You will notice she was called “Lucy” on the first day. Nora is hyperactive but lovely. The cats, of course, are petrified and disappear for hours on end and hide at the other end of the house. It will take time for them to be friends but that is our hope. I am taking endless photos of her, although she is a very slippery subject as she moves so fast and so often. You can see a small selection here.

The weather has continued to be wintery and, according to what my Father has read, it is the coldest winter in 60 years and believe it, as my Father is a weather expert. We didn’t get the snow that fell in London, but we did get quite a snow storm on Friday evening just as we were taking Nora to the vet. The snow stayed for one day only, but enough to make snow balls and throw them at Eladio on our daily walk.
It snowed on Friday again.
We have recently installed yet another DVD in our house, this time for the TV in our bedroom and we used it for the first time this Friday to watch the Woody Allen film Vicky Cristina Barcelona with Javier Bardem, Scarlet Johansson and Penelope Cruz. These 3 people are what are known as “beautiful people” and it’s very nice to see them on screen in Barcelona but the storyline is absolute rubbish and the music rather irritating.

I got a friend request from Katya on Facebook on Thursday. Katya is my cousin Sophie’s (or Zuka) daughter whom I think I have only met once or twice in my life. It was such a surprise and lovely to be able to "see" her and her family, including my Aunty Valya in her albums.

Then on Friday I got a surprise phone call from my Aunty Valya who is Zuka’s Mother, the wife of my Mother’s brother Nicolas, or Dyadya “Kolya” as he was known. I hadn’t spoken or seen my Aunty Valya since 1999 when my Mother died. Unfortunately the news was not good as she was ringing to let me know that Masha Stachovich, my Mother’s first cousin and mother of my cousin in Paris, also Masha Stachovich, had died the night before of respiratory problems. I had met her once a few years ago in Paris and found her to be a lovely aristocratic elegant and gentle woman who spoke beautiful English. I know very well that my Mother and her were very close and kept up correspondence for many years. In fact when I met her my Mother had already died and for me the encounter was deeply emotional. My thoughts are with you dear Masha and girls.

Saturday was a very happy day as Eladio’s brother, José Antonio and family came for lunch to celebrate Juan’s and my birthday which is actually today. We hadn’t been all together for more than I can remember; possibly over 2 years. Sara lives in London and we see her even less. But finally we made it and they were coming for lunch. I made a very typical English meal of roast beef and all the trimmings, including Yorkshire pudding!
José Antonio and family. It's not often you can photograph all five.
The table laid for the family celebration
Unfortunately Dolores and Sara couldn’t come until really late and by then Oli had to leave for work, so we never actually got to be all together. After lunch, the “kids” (aged between 23 and 30!) all went their own ways and Dolores, José Antonio, Eladio and I spent the afternoon together, talking about India, going for our walk and having tea in the candle lit lounge to a background of Indian music. Later in the evening we went to Mood in Majadahonda for dinner which proved popular with us all. You can see some of the photos of yesterday here.

And today, Sunday, was my birthday. Wow, 52 and going strong. The day has been very quiet and spent with the family and my new birthday present, Nora. It’s amazing how times have changed the way people send birthday greetings. I got some phone calls, text messages, emails as well as greetings on Facebook from many people I know but I also got them from entities such as my bank, my cinema club card, Cortefiel (a clothes’ store), the FB “team” which of course is part of how society works these days but it is a bit strange and rather impersonal. You are sent these messages via some anonymous server because you are on all these entities’ lists and it’s the cool thing to do these days. Funny! I am however very grateful to all the people who rang and sent messages. I love receiving birthday greetings.

This week promises to be another one of preparations, this time for the Mobile World Congress coming up in Barcelona on 16th February and to which I am much looking forward to going. The girls will be off travelling, Suzy to London on Wednesday and Oli to Amsterdam on Thursday. The three of us will then meet up in Barcelona on Monday 16th and will make our very own Olivia, Susana and Masha Barcelona film which promises to be fun.

Cheers till next week

Sunday, February 01, 2009

History in the making, the Cow Parade, Mt. Everest, Ruth Lorenzo, a make up session, Valkyrie, snow again and planning new excursions.

One of the shots of Suzy from the make over session. Isn't she beautiful?
Hello again,

Another week has passed and once again I am writing my blog to record what’s happened and how it’s been. I print each month’s posts and now have two full files holding the diary of our lives since I started writing in September 2005. I spent some time this week adding labels to the posts on all the different things I write about. They are on the right but at the very bottom. It’s now an important part of my life and one of my weekly tasks is updating it. I can imagine my grandchildren reading excerpts of it one day in the future and it being, hopefully, an important part of the annals of our family history.

History in the making in this week’s title refers not only to my blog but also to Rafa Nadal’s achievement in winning the Australian tennis championship, a first for Spain. To get to the final, only the 4th time a Spaniard had reached it, he had to play another rival from Spain, Verdasco in the semi-finals. Together they also made history by playing the longest match ever in this tournament.

Today he beat Roger Federer who has been the top seed since Rafa started in the circuit at the age of 17. Federer who had hoped to win his 14th Grand Slam today and equal Pete Sampras, could only cry at the end of the match of emotion, defeat and I suspect exhaustion.

Rafa Nadal has now won 6 Grand Slams (4 French Opens (Roland Garros), Wimbledon and now the Australian Open). The only Grand Slam missing now is Flushing Meadows, the US Open in September. If he wins this championship he will make history again and join the select group of only 6 men in the history of tennis to win all 4.

This week has been full of events. I had lunch with my dear Finnish friend Viivi on Wednesday and we went to the restaurant that is fast becoming one of my favourites, Enriich in La Moraleja.

This week brought with it the birth of a wonderful PR project which was actually killed the next day. I had some doubts but others had more, so I didn’t go ahead with it. I think the whole thing affected me quite a lot and kept me awake for a few nights. I always involve myself heart and soul in my work and this kind of thing still keep me awake.

I was in touch this week with Grainne who lives in Barcelona, well rather Badalona. We went to school together (St. Joseph’s College) and Grainne was the older sister of one of my best friends, Brenda. Grainne has been doing some translating for me and I have to say they are some of the best I have seen in all my time in Spain. Hopefully we will meet up in Barcelona when I go to the Mobile World Congress in a couple of weeks.

Amanda also enters my blog this week. I hadn’t heard from her since Christmas and was a little worried as her husband’s company went into administration very recently. So it was good to hear that, despite this set back, they are faring well and even planning a trip to Prague.

On Thursday I went to the annual Nokia press lunch to welcome the New Year and present the year end results. It was held at Oui, a new events venue which is part of the Madrid sports pavilion in Calle Goya. This was the third one I was going to and I quite looked forward to it, despite some of the bad memories this branch of the company in Spain conjures up for me. But I put on my best smile, put all those thoughts out of my mind and enjoyed greeting journalist friends and acquaintances as well as ex colleagues. I sat next to Solange, my successor who was the perfect hostess.

As I left the Nokia lunch, I made a quick foray into the Corté Inglés (Spanish number one department store) and so saw part of the Cow Parade exhibition that is dotting the Spanish capital this month and next. Seeing the cows reminded me of seeing cows in India, the difference, of course, being like night and day. I had heard about the Cow Parade and so was quite interested in taking a look at these artistic and colourful statues.
One of the cows in the Cow Parade in Madrid
This week I got an email from Mr. Lama, our guide in Nepal. He is actually called Jitendra or Jitu but we always called him Mr. Lama. He wanted to know how we were. I wrote back and thanked him for looking after us so well on our trip to the Kathmandu Valley and told him that we would love to return one day to go trekking. He immediately wrote back and suggested we trek to the Everest Base Camp!!! Actually the idea has stayed with me and I have even been looking for graphic information on Sr. Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s ascent in 1953 in You Tube and have listened mesmerised to the former’s description of that historic adventure. So you never know, we may well attempt a trekking holiday there one day.

This week I also heard about a young Spanish girl, Ruth Lorenzo, who seems to be making history for Spain in the UK, except that hardly anyone in Spain has heard of her. Ruth, who has an exceptional voice, has just become a finalist of X Factor and according to the interview I heard, cannot walk 20 yards without being asked for an autograph. She became even more famous when the song she sang, Purple Rain, by Prince, was more popular on You Tube than the original version and Prince made You Tube remove it. The whole of the UK rallied to her side and she even received a letter from Gordon Brown. Funny to think that José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero still doesn’t know who she is. Ruth makes true the biblical reference, a prophet is never a prophet in his own home.
Ruth Lorenzo from Murcia Spain, finalist in X Factor
Suzy had another exam this week, “food engineering” and needed some relaxation afterwards. Copi, her childhood friend and neighbour, needed to do some make over photos for her curriculum and so she came round on Thursday evening and joined us for dinner. After dinner the make over session began. Oli joined it when she returned from RTVE late at night (she works from 15h to 22h from Mondays to Fridays on a regular basis) and Copi did a work of art on both my kids. Unfortunately I only have a photo of Suzy for this post and one of her with Copi but none of Olivia.
Copi and Suzy
On Friday Eladio and I went to see the much acclaimed Valkyrie film with Tom Cruise. I suppose there is no need to explain that it was about the famous attempt to assassinate Hitler by the young Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. There had been 14 previous attempts and this was the last. It was part of a big operation to topple the Reich and actually Valkyrie was the name of the operation designed by the Reich itself in case Hitler died. I saw the 2004 German version this week too and was quite well documented and did not really expect the American version to be much better. Also I just didn’t see Tom Cruise playing the part but I was wrong. It was superb, he was superb and the film was very well made. It’s not up for next week’s Oscars but if it was I’m sure it would garner a statue or so.

After the film we went to La Alpargatería for dinner and Oli joined us. Then, very naughtily, we went to Haagen-Dazs for our dessert.

The weekend has been cold and wet and it even snowed this morning. Thank God it was a Sunday otherwise it would have caused havoc with the traffic tomorrow. Many roads were blocked and villages cut off. It actually only lasted a few hours but was quite beautiful to witness from inside our warm house. We did, however, take our walk just as it was ending and turning into sleet. We always take our walk, come rain or shine. There is no stopping us.
It snowed today
Suzy will be off to London with Gaby not this week but next. Oli, who has very itchy feet, bought tickets to fly to Amsterdam with her friend Miad at the same time. We are also thinking about travelling again. Will it be New York, all 5 of us, will it be Yorkshire in the summer with my Father? Who knows, but meanwhile we have made use of our Parador points and have booked 4 nights at Easter in Cáceres, Guadalupe and Mérida in the Extramadura region. It’s always lovely to have something to look forward to. My Father’s eyes lit up with joy when we told him, as of course, he will be coming with us. He loves to travel with us and to get to know new parts of Spain. He also loves the Paradors and “room service” too!

And that’s about it for this week, except to send birthday greetings to Laura, my niece and Isidro and Yoli’s daughter. She will have been 26 on Thursday. Her sister, Alicia, who is also our god daughter will be 17 tomorrow. Happy birthday to you both girls.

Cheers till next week