Monday, April 13, 2009

Semana Santa, women in government, off to Montrondo with Anne and all good things come to an end.

Semana Santa in Spain - a very typical sight, probably in Seville.
Hi again,

Well today is Easter Monday, officially a working day and the end of Semana Santa as Easter is called here. Holy Week in Spain is all about tradition with their world famous processions, such as the ones in Seville. This is what De Brasa y Puchero which has great home made country food on its menu and where they make you feel very welcome.

Last week was a short working week and the pace was very slow. Perhaps that’s why Zapatero, Spain’s premiere, chose that time to announce the reshuffle in his cabinet. Unfortunately for him some of the changes had filtered to the press the week before during his highly awaited for meeting with Obama in Prague which overshadowed the news of the meeting itself. In any case, whatever the timing, the changes are quite significant as is the fact that over half of the cabinet are now women and in some of the most important posts such as Finance a big issue in Spain due to the financial crisis.

I, for one, am all for more women in top government positions and in politics in general as well as in other walks of life. No one ever made a commen when the governments were all male. Will there ever be a day when cabinets are all female? I understand some people’s thinking that it should be the best person for the job irrespective of their sex. However if example is not made, change will probably never happen. Things like this take time in a highly male dominated society like Spain.
Zapatero and his new cabinet, more than 50% are women.
Where they are second nature is in Finland, the opposite end of Spain in Europe, where my dear friend Anne is from. Anne who came to stay with us for Easter and is a great fan of Spain would be happy to know that there are now more women in the Spanish government.

Anne came on Wednesday night for her half yearly jab of Spain (sun, friends, jamón, wine, shopping,…)and we took her with us to Montrondo, my husband’s family village and to see the one part of my life she was not familiar with.

On our way we made the usual stop at the Palacio de Bornos wine cellar in Rueda and here we enjoyed a glass of great wine wine (Colagón) and plate of ham and chorizo. In case I haven’t told you before, Rueda is where the best white wine comes from in the world. Anne was duly impressed as we expected her to be. We stopped too on the way back to load 2 crates of the lovely liquid in the car.

Anne in Rueda
As we left Madrid and drove north the weather got worse but then that was to be expected as the weather is always bad in Spain in Semana Santa, although no one ever learns that.

We were the first to arrive in Montrondo as the rest of the family was arriving on Friday. We arrived on Thursday afternoon and settled in to the very cold and unkempt house which we never really got warm until the next day. As I had told Anne in my Facebook message: “there is no central heating but there are great views”!

Eladio stoking the fire in the aga cooking range in the kitchen in Montrondo
Despite these obstacles we enjoyed our time and went for a very long walk up the mountains and through snow to reach an area called “la solapaña”. Every stone, hill, path, fountain, rock or valley has a name in Montrondo and if you were not born there they are not easy to learn.

Anne and on the walk to La solapeña. We got drenched
We slept in extremely cold beds with hot water bottles and a building brick heated in the kitchen fire which was covered in newspaper. They certainly helped to keep the cold away. Breakfast was a quiet affair in the big family kitchen.

Anne and I enjoying breakfast before everyone arrived
After that I started on the cooking as I had offered to make “cocido madrileño” for lunch on Friday. This is a very typical winter Spanish dish consisting of chickpeas, potatoes, cabbage and many different sorts of meats and bones, the first course being the broth it’s all cooked in. We were to be 26 people so calculating quantities was quite difficult.

Me making the cocido in the kitchen in Montrondo.
Very soon the family arrived as they had travelled together. It was amazing how the peace and quiet turned into total mayhem, but happy mayhem. The member of the family I was most pleased to see was Lian, the latest addition and the very youngest member. He is the first great grandson in the family and was the centre of attention. In fact there were queues to hold him and I never got a chance. Here is a video I took after lunch where you can see him close up, as well as his proud Mother, Bea, and grand father, Alejandro who is Eladio's brother.

Ernestina, the great grandmother of Lian.
To work off the cocido a lot of us made our way up the mountains again and stopped many times for impromptu snow ball fights or group photos.

The group walk to La Solapeña to work off the cocido and enjoy the mountains of Montrondo. There was also time to catch up with each other's news.
On Saturday morning I showed Anne the village and we walked to Murias de Paredes the next village to get bread at the local bakery. It was also an excuse for another walk and more photography. Montrondo is really off the beaten track and a very authentic rural and remote village in the north west of Spain, in the province of León. It has just 15 or so permanent inhabitants but many more in the holidays as ex residents return.

On the walk to Murias. I love the sign of Montrondo.
If you have been born in Montrondo it is in your blood as I have learned over the years. There is a saying there which they all firmly believe and which goes like this: “Londres, Paris, Granada, como Montrondo, no hay nada”. I can’t equate with this as I was born in Cambridge and not Montrondo. But I have really grown to love the place.

We drove back to Madrid on Saturday, in part to escape the holiday traffic but also the cold. We also wanted to get back to check on my Father and, of course, our animals, our cats Phoebe and Joe and darling Norah. Thankfully all were safe and sound and had survived our absence uneventfully.

The girls came back yesterday, just in time for a family lunch to celebrate Easter day. And as an end to the holiday, Anne, Eladio and I went to see the Clint Eastwood film everyone was recommending me, The Gran Torino. Anne and I loved it but Eladio had his doubts.

Anne relaxing with Norah by the pool on Easter day. There were a few rays of sunshine my Finnish friend could not resist.
And now it’s all over. You spend so much time planning and looking forward to events and all you are left with so soon after are the memories. As they say in England “all good things come to an end”. So thank God for the photos (here is the full album of our trip to Montrondo on Facebook) and for the new events coming up. But then that’s life, one event or activity rolls into another as one ends and another one starts.

So yes, all good things come to an end, but a good time was had by all.

Until next week

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