Thursday, September 24, 2009

A sporting nation, La Parra revisited, Eladio’s birthday and playing with fire.

The four of us in the patio of the hotel in La Parra, from left to right: Eladio, me, Maricarmen and Roberto
Hi again
In this new post congratulations go to Spain for once again demonstrating it’s a real sporting nation. In just one week, it was top in tennis, cycling and basketball. The Spanish team beat the Israeli’s in the semi finals of the Davis Cup and will now meet the Czech Republic in the finals in December. And they did it without Spain’s number one, Rafa Nadal who, although injured, is still number two in the world seedings.
The Spanish Davis cup team, happy after getting through to the finals.
In the same week, the Spaniard, Alejandro Valverde, once again showed Spain’s fighting spirit by winning one of the toughest races on the circuit, the Tour of Spain. This means too that the 3 big races, the Tours of Italy, France and Spain have been a hat trick for Spain this year. Cycling is a sport close to my heart and it’s great to see how the sport is making a comeback after the unfortunate doping issues of the recent past.
Alejandro Valverde, this year's winner of the Tour of Spain.
The amazing week was completed by the Spanish national team winning the European Basketball championship. They beat the Greeks in the semi finals and thrashed the Serbs, the best nation at the sport in Europe, in the finals.

All I can say is well done Spain and I hope Madrid gets elected for the 2016 Olympic Games. It certainly deserves it. Madrid’s opponents are Chicago, Paris, Rio and Tokyo and the decision will be made next week in Copenhagen. Keep your fingers crossed, mine are.

And, now on to the next subject of this post’s heading. Last weekend we went with our travelling friends, Roberto and Maricarmen, to stay at the Hotel Hospedería La Parra in a small village of the same name. La Parra is a small whitewashed village in the province of Badajoz in Extremadura, We had been there before last Easter and loved the place.

Maricarmen outside the Hotel in La Parra, very austere but at the same time very alluring and peaceful. I love the decor of wood, white paint and stone.
As I wrote in the entry then “it is an old convent, turned hotel which was built in the 17th century. It is a refreshing white washed building with an orange tree patio in the centre of the cloisters. It supposedly maintains the spirit of a convent in that it is a haven of peace and a place to get away from it all” They stick to that claim and purposefully do not offer television or an internet connection. I didn’t mind as I had my Yoigo internet usb stick and there was no time for the tv. I’m not sure Roberto and Maricarmen were impressed as they are more town mice than we are.

We had a grand time, except for 3 unfortunate incidents. The morning after we arrived we found that some local hooligans had scratched the bonnet of our car and made a “drawing” of a face on it. This hotel definitely needs its own private car park as we had read in Trip Advisor that one guest’s car was stolen in the vicinity.
The "drawing" the hooligans from La Parra scratched on our car bonnet, one of the black points of our weekend.
The second was a fine of 60 euros for parking in the wrong spot in the nearby town of Zafra and the third was the strange disappearance of the little silver horse medallion that Eladio had bought for me in India at Christmas.

I had prepared a special programme where our time was dedicated to resting (that oh so lovely other Spanish sport called “the siesta”), reading, eating great meals at the hotel’s restaurant, walking (sorry Maricarmen for dragging you on a 2.5h walk in that rather dry and colourless countryside!), visiting interesting nearby villages and of course buying ham; the local speciality.
On the long walk in La Parra.
As you can see in the selection of photos I’ve posted on Facebook, we visited Zafra where we also had lunch at the Parador, Salvatierra de los Barros where we bought some lovely local pottery, as well as the pretty town of Jérez de los Caballeros. And on our way back we also visited Oropesa in the province of Toledo where we had tea at the Parador too.
Eladio enjoying his dish of oxtail at the Parador in Zafra.
The girls, meanwhile, enjoyed having the house to themselves and invited lots of friends round as they usually do when we are away. They also went to the Majadahonda fiestas, something they look forward to every year.

This week has been marked by Eladio’s birthday, Wednesday 23rd September. Can I dare write that he was 65? I can hardly believe it as for me he looks as young and as handsome as ever. He’s my George Clooney, my Sean Connery in that he never seems to age, yet I’m sure he’s a far better husband. Those of you who know him will agree with me, I know. We have now known each other since the summer of 1980, nearly 30 years. He was 35 and I was a girl aged 23 and I have never looked back.

This birthday, as with all our birthdays, was celebrated together as a family and Oli came specially to spend the morning with us. Of course there was a home-made cake (joint effort between Suzy and I), cards and nice presents.
Eladio with his girls on his birthday on Wednesday.
Here you can see the set of photos of the “cake moment” on Facebook. Notice how Norah tried to get a look in, hahaha.

I have now reached the third part of this post: “playing with fire”. Of course I refer to the book I am reading, “The girl who played with fire” which is the second in the trilogy called Millennium by Stieg Larsson. I couldn’t put the first one down, “The girl with the dragon tattoo” and now I am nearly finishing the second one. I have ordered the third, “The girl who kicked the hornet’s nest” but it won’t be for sale in English until the beginning of October. I wonder what I am going to do without my dosage of Lisbeth Salander for 3 weeks. She has me totally hooked. But then of course you know as you’re probably one of the millions who are hooked on the Stieg Larsson books like me. Seriously, the second novel is probably even better than the first; just “jaw dropping” as the front cover promises. I have about 40 pages to go to the end and am rationing the pleasure as I don’t want to finish reading it. I’m amazed at myself as the detective genre was never my favourite but this is different. I know my dear Mother who was a great Agatha Christie and John le Carré fan would have loved Lisbeth Salander too.
I am thoroughly enjoying the second episode of the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson and wished he had never deceased.
I’m now at the end of this entry and am wondering whether to include the fact that I have a sebaceous cyst on my back. Well I have but I’m not worried. Right now I am doing all the tests necessary for its removal which I hope will be soon.

A much nicer thing to tell you is that tonight we will be going out to dinner with our friends Ludy and Pedro. Pedro is Pedro Delgado, the famous Spanish cyclist but then of course you probably know that. We will be going to Quënco, the restaurant we celebrated our wedding at 26 years ago. We have only been back once and that was in the summer with our dear friends Gerardo and Irene as you may have read here.

And that’s it for the moment folks. I leave you as I finish writing here by the swimming pool in the cooler sun of the end of September with Norah at my feet.

Till next time

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A quiet week in September

Me, all ready to go to work one day this week.
Hi again

It’s time I got back to updating my blog at the weekend. So here I am this cooler Sunday afternoon on the 13th September sitting at the table by the pool. I am joined by my Father who is, naturally, reading, as is Eladio. Norah goes from of one us to the other hoping we will pay her some attention but we are all too absorbed. Suzy has just taken a break in her studies to come and have an apple and as I finish this sentence, she has gone. Tomorrow is her last exam for this year. If she passes the two she will have taken in September it means she will only have one subject left to pass. The exam for that will be in February, quite a way off.

After her exams, as you may have read from my entry this week, she will be going to India with Oli and Rocío, a school friend of Suzy’s. It’s all very exciting. Rocío has started a blog on their adventure, “3 girls in India” which I will be following avidly. So far the plans are to go on the 12th October and see Delhi, Agra, Varanasi, then go and stay with Oli’s friend Sumit, her Erasmus friend, in the Punjab and after that possibly visit some of the towns in Rajasthan like Johpur, Jaipur and Udaipur.

We are sitting just where the new outdoor 3 piece suite will be and which we madly bought in the sales last week at El Corte Inglés. Hopefully it will come on Tuesday. The summer is nearly over we know but it still gives us a kick to have finally found something. You can see it here; not the best in the world but perhaps the best priced for what it is.
The new furniture for the swimming pool porch
Eladio is reading his third book in English. Being an academic he was never a great reader of novels, but he has decided reading in English will help his knowledge of the language. I carefully choose the books for him and none are novels, they are all biographies or similar. The first one was the riveting Klara’s War, the story of a young Jewish girl who survived the holocaust in Poland. Last week he finished The Bookseller of Kabul and now he is reading Eva’s story, another Holocaust survival story. He has a notebook next to him to write down new words and I am, more often than not, his living dictionary.

I am impatiently waiting for the next 2 books in the Millennium trilogy but meanwhile went to see the film, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo yesterday with Eladio. My expectations were low as usually films of books you read are disappointing. Not so this time. The film was excellent and the main character, Lizbeth Salander, played by the Swedo Spanish actress, Noomi Rapace was perfect for the role.
Lisbeth Salander played by Noomi Rapace, great characterisation.
So what else is there to report this week? It has seemed very quiet and thankfully the heat has remitted. We have even had a spot of rain. So, yes what else? I’m back to work at full speed and this week moved into a new office in Yoigo. My previous one was coming down so’s to build more open space for one of the departments. Nothing very remarkable except that two women from work, Angeles and Carmen moved every single item for me and also decorated it with great care. I had imagined entering an office with loads of boxes, but no, they had done all the work for me. I was flabbergasted and extremely grateful.

I was also in and out of the office this week as my pc had to be updated. Basically they were encrypting , removing Windows Vista and installing Windows XP. Nothing very extraordinary but it has taken quite a few days to get everything up and working as before. Thanks Alberto but had I known the pain, I would never have entrusted my pc to you!

Talking about PCs, all the employees in Yoigo have been given one from an excess stock at point of sale and I picked mine up this week. I was going to buy Eladio one for his upcoming birthday (yes he will be 65 on 23rd October and still looking like a boy) but now he has this one. You should see our kitchen table, it has 3 portable pcs on it, mine, Suzy’s and Eladio’s now.

This week I had lunch with María, our Terminal Director (the person in charge of purchasing the phones we sell). I don’t have many friends at work as I don’t go in often enough to build up many personal relationships, but María and I make a point of having lunch on a regular basis. We went to Aspen again in La Moraleja. They do a great home-made hamburger which we had with spinach.

So I didn’t tell you I started a diet again did I? Well, I hardly dare as it’s nothing new in my life. I started on Friday 4th September as I finally dared to weigh myself. Of course the figure is a state secret but it is shameful. Since I started at Yoigo (3 years on 1st October) I must have put on 10 kgs and I wasn’t exactly slim at the time. This time I hope the diet really works out. So far I am happy to say that I have lost 2kg. Cross your fingers please for it to continue that way.

The diet doesn’t stop me going out for meals or making nice ones at home; I’m just careful that’s all. So on Friday we went out to dinner with Roberto and Maricarmen to De Brasa y puchero in Boadilla. Next week we will be going with them to stay at the lovely ex convent hotel, La Hospedería La Parra, in Extremadura. We stayed there with my Father at Easter and adored the place. We are much looking forward to enjoying the installations, going for walks and buying another great ham.
The patio at La Parra

Oli came on Saturday for lunch, so the five of us were together for the first time in a while. She has news in that they have renewed her contract at work ( but she has also been given a new job. Up till now she has been a news writer for the news section of the website which was a great but rather stressful job because of the constant deadlines. Now they want her to work in the programmes’ section of the site which will be a new world but I think a challenge too. I wish her all the luck in the world. Well, of course, I do, I’m her Mother.

And that’s about if for this week except to say happy birthday to my dearest and oldest friend Amanda. I know, as we have been chatting on Facebook, that she’s having a great day. Cheers my friend, any news of your moving to Spain???

But I can’t end without at least mentioning that this week was the anniversary of the 11th September attacks. It will never go unremembered, at least not in my lifetime. I remember exactly what I was doing the moment I found out what was happening and got to a TV set. Who could forget?
Who could forget this?
On that sombre note, I leave you till next week.

Cheers till then

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The girls are going to India


Just a few lines to publish the link to the girls' blog on their trip to India. Rocío, Suzy and Oli will be going on 12th October and returning on the 29th of the same month. Right now they are planning the trip.

Here is their blog

Follow it, I'm sure their trip is going to be great.

Cheers till later

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Santander and post Santander, Norah's first social outing and other news

The wonderful Sardinero beach as seen from our hotel room
Hi again,

It’s true, I haven’t written for some time. Mostly that’s because I’ve been busy in Santander with Yoigo’s participation in the annual telecoms conference but also because this weekend I’ve been engrossed in “The girl with the dragon tattoo” by the now arch famous and recently deceased Stieg Larsson or “Men who hate Women” as it is called in the original Swedish version. If you haven’t read it yet, you are one of the very few and I urge you to get going. I have now ordered the next 2 books from the trilogy, more commonly known as “Millenium”. When they arrive I already know I will say good bye to my friends, my family, my work and, of course, my blog for a week at least.

Meanwhile I must update my blog with my stay in Santander and what has happened since we got back. I say we, because, of course, Eladio went with me, as he does wherever I go. I can hardly imagine life without him. This year was my third with Yoigo but actually I have been going since 2000 with the odd exception.

I had a big party to put on for 200 people and an amazingly new and risky presentation at the conferences. Yoigo is different and so is its way of communicating. I have spent the better part of the last 2 months preparing for it and Santander was actually a dark cloud on my horizon that stopped me feeling completely free during my long holiday. What we did was an interactive video where we even gave out popcorn and t-shirts with the main message of our presentation, “Refarming now”.
Pop corn was certainly a first at the Santander telecoms conference.
We actually managed to wake up the “men in black” in the audience who even clapped. This was certainly a team effort and a lot of the credit goes to my PR agency, Ketchum and the fantastic production agency, Goodnews. Thanks guys, you know who you are.
The Ketchum, Goodnews and Yoigo team at Santander showing the t-shirts we gave out.
Needless to say the sailor theme party went really well too, thanks, once again, to my events team at Quinta Esencia. They went all out as usual and everyone had fun. People were kitted out with sailor hats and tattoos at the entrance, there was a tug of war, a punch ball machine which was forever in action, messages in bottles to be fished out of a pool, photos that could be taken with your friends in the Yoigo boat with a live parrot, arm wrestling with a strong man and strong women and of course lots to drink, all accompanied by a great DJ. The party went on till the early hours but I escaped, hopefully unnoticed, as I had to be up early and fresh and ready for our spectacular presentation the next morning.
The Yoigo sailor part was just great
Some of the journalists at our party, with me in the Yoigo boat.
I have been organising parties in the telecoms sector for nearly 20 years and have come to the conclusion that although they are great and my trade mark, I don’t actually enjoy them myself. Frankly I prefer smaller groups of people and would far rather be invited myself. I promise I would never criticise anything either!

Santander wasn’t all work though as one of my mottos is “all work and no play make Masha a dull girl”. So I combined both which is what I always try to do. Besides I love Santander, so going there just for work would have been a crime. Eladio and I, then, drove up the Saturday before and were joined by Andy and Amanda for their last weekend in Spain. They have had such a great time in Salamanca on their Spanish course they are seriously thinking of coming to live in Spain and most probably in El Bosque. That was a lovely piece of news.

We stayed where we always stay at the Silken Río Hotel just across the road from one of Spain’s best beaches, El Sardinero. That area is apparently Spain’s golden mile in expensive property so any plans of retiring there have now gone out of the window.
El Sardinero, as seen from our hotel room, one of the most expensive areas for property in Spain.
We were lucky with the weather as that part of Spain is touch and go, and spent as much time as possible on the beach, sunbathing, trying to swim in the waves and of course walking the beach from end to end many times. Santander boasts some of Spain’s best cuisine and so we introduced Andy and Amanda to the delights on offer at the Río Restaurant next to our hotel and to Zacarías, perhaps the best in town.
The four of us at Zacarías.
In a similar league, some say better, is La Bombi and La Posada del Mar. I love them all. However this year, we Eladio and I fell in love with a new place, Deluz, a British type mansion of the 50s, just up the road from our hotel where it feels like dining in the past. A most romantic place I must say.
Deluz restaurant in Santander, a spectacular house.
Andy and Amanda were very impressed by the Zacarias’ tomatoes, his trademark and grown exclusively for his restaurant. They cost the same as the best fillet steak but are so good Andy asked for some for his dessert!!
Very special tomatoes can be found at Zacarías
My dear friend Julio joined us on Sunday. We used to work together at Nokia and I first came to Santander with him in 2000. Every year we go we have photo taken and this is this year’s
This year's photo of Julio and I.
Now that we don’t work together we have to find moments during our stay to see each other. He came to the party, of course but my true celebration was on the last day with Julio and Eladio at La Bombi just before we drove home, exhausted but happy.
Eladio and I at the Bombi on the last day in Santander
On our way home which is now only a 4 hour drive thanks to the recently completed motorway, we stopped at Rueda for a drink but mostly to fill up on the excellent white wine at el Palacio de Bornos.

The first few days at home after Santander were a bit of an anti climax which is nearly always the case after a big event. It was nice though to be home again. We came home to big news from the girls. They are going to India in October on holiday! I’m delighted for them but worried about how much we are supposed to fork out for this jolly. We went for the first time this last Christmas and it was a big effort financially. I am excited for them though too.

Last Friday was quite a social day. I met my friend Elena for a coffee in the morning. She needed some cheering up. Looking for a new job at this stage in life is not easy. The important thing is to remain positive and that I know she is. In the evening we went out to dinner with Oscar and Juana who have just come back from 5 years in Mexico where they also formed their family. It was good to see them in person after reading about their lives virtually in Juana’s blog.

Saturday was a big day as we went to Colmenarejo for the long awaited barbecue reunion with Pili, Gerardo and their families. Unfortunately the girls couldn’t go (Suzy is busily studying for some of her final exams and Oli had gone to Barcelona to see Cold Play perform). Norah, our dog, was invited too and turned out, as expected, to be the star attraction with all the children. Norah had a bath before the visit as you can see here.
Norah getting ready for her first social outing. She didn't protest at all.
It was her first social outing and I was worried about her behaviour in the car and at their place. But she behaved perfectly. She was played with constantly all afternoon and never complained and she was also given a huge plate of left overs which she is never allowed and which made it a perfect party day for her too.
Norah enjoyed her day at Colmenarejo as much as we did but was utterly exhausted by the end of the day.
It was lovely to see these guys again and so good that we have found each other again. A good day was had by all and you CAN witness this by the photos I have posted in Facebook.

Sunday was a true family day as we had the pleasure of Olivia’s company. She took an early train from Barcelona and was home just as we were having breakfast. I am still getting used to the idea that she has left home but as it happened in the summer and was a gradual process it still doesn’t really feel as though she has gone.

And that’s about it for this post. It is now Tuesday 8th September and this week is looking good. But more about that in my next post.

Cheers till then

PS here are all the photos from Santander