Sunday, April 11, 2010

Back from the USA, visitors from abroad and a trip to Segovia, a disaster in Poland and other stories.

Bernard, Adele,me and Eladio outside Cándido in Segovia with the Roman Aqueduct

Hi again another Sunday in Spring

The weather has changed for the better and the sun is shining. So I saw fit to change the design of my blog, thanks to the new Blogger templates of course. I hope you like it.

My main headline this week is “Back from the USA” in reference to the famous song but of course to our trip and actually we are still under its influence. The jet lag remained with us for some days and was not helped by the fact that the clocks in our house were a total mess as a result of our not being here when the clocks went forward. So most of the week I didn’t really know what date it was and was mixed up with what time it was too. We keep talking about our trip and looking at the photos and on Friday I took a huge selection to be printed as I’ll be doing a special album on our trip as I do with most and which includes lots of the memorabilia.

We are enjoying all the things we bought and I have been wearing my pink Converse boots with my pink hooded New York sweat shirt which I adore, my I love New York t-shirt with my red Keds as well as the lovely spring cardigans I got from Banana Republic. Eladio has been wearing his Levi gear too and the girls their Abercrombie t-shirts. My Father, of course has been enjoying his Hershey’s American chocolates. When I asked him what he wanted us to bring him from the States that was what he asked for. I had never heard of them but they were everywhere, perhaps one of the few American brands which haven’t crossed the Atlantic.
Me in my pink hooded New York sweat shirt
No longer had we got back then we were to receive our visitors from abroad, Adele and Bernard on Sunday morning. I went to University with Adele and recently met up with her and Sandra and their partners in Brussels. So this was the second time we were meeting in two months after 25 years or so. Adele is a teacher of English at the University of Orleans (I think that’s right) and Bernard is her delightful artistic husband (he copies original masters painstakingly and beautifully) who earns his living as a psychiatrist. I don’t know if I told you their story. To cut it short Adele met her first husband whilst studying French at Nottingham University with me in the late 70’s. They married and she went to live in France where they set up their home and had 4 boys. Some years ago the marriage went sour out of no fault of hers and my darling Adele went to see a psychiatrist. The rest of the story you can guess. Bernard and Adele have now been married some 9 years and emanate happiness and love. They make a wonderful couple. They were visiting Madrid for their Easter holiday and had stayed in a hotel in the centre but were coming to stay as soon as we returned from New York and would be with us until last Thursday.
Bernard and Adele
We went to pick them up on Sunday, Easter day and I made a roast chicken lunch followed by of course the huge Easter egg I was given by my events agency. Thanks girls it was great. In the afternoon we went for a long walk in Boadilla where we got lost and ended up walking for over 2 hours!!! I suppose that might have helped work off the excess chocolate except that we had some more for dinner after the Spanish potato omelette we made for our visitors from abroad, commonly called tortilla here.

We love having visitors and many of them seem to be international which definitely befits this household. Last year Amanda and Andy from the UK came to stay and more recently Pernille and Thomas from Denmark. In July, with great excitement, we will be hosting Oli’s Indian friends from her Erasmus year, dearest Sandeep and Sumit. That is going to be a rollercoaster visit from abroad I just know it.

On Monday we took them to Segovia via the scenic mountain route and they were amazed to see the snow topped mountains outside Madrid in the Sierra de Guadarrama with peaks over 2.000 metres. You can ski there in the winter and it is a popular destination for a lot of Madrileños at the weekend. That amazes most people who probably don’t know that Madrid is actually the highest capital in Europe.
The Peñalara peak in the Guadarrama mountains outside Madrid.  It is 2.428 metres high.
Segovia is a pretty little town outside Madrid famous for its aqueduct, one of the best preserved monuments left by the Romans in the Iberian Peninsula which crosses right across the town and is absolutely spectacular. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and certainly deserves to be so.
The Roman aqueduct in Segovia.
But Segovia also has a magnificent gothic cathedral and 15th century castle which looks like it’s straight out of a fairy tale, both of which we visited of course with Adele and Bernard.
The Gothic cathedral in Segovia.

The 15th century castle in Segovia
Once in Segovia we chanced upon an outdoor exhibition of photographs representing the history of Spain in the last 100 years from Spain’s news agency, Efe. We enjoyed it thoroughly and couldn’t get away. In this photo you can spot Eladio, Adele and Bernard walking around the exhibition.
Adele, Bernard and Eladio at the outdoor exhibition of photos of a 100 year's of Spain's history in Segovia
It was magnificent with some stunning photographs such as this one of 3 nannies competing in a nanny competition in the 1930s.
One of the photos in the exhibition: a nanny competition in the 1930s
What dragged us away eventually were an empty stomach and the lure of our lunch date. It was at Segovia’s equally famous Mesón de Cándido where the speciality is suckling pig. Below is a photograph of Mr. Cándido himself cutting the pig with a plate, a tradition in these parts. Most tourists think paella is Spain’s national dish but here they are wrong. Paella is a regional dish from the Valencian region but I would never put it in my top ten. Spain has many culinary delights which vary from region to region, many of which are “spoon eating dishes” (platos de cuchara) made with chick peas or other types of pulses. But Spain’s best kept culinary secret must surely be its suckling lamb and pork, both of which are Cándido’s star dishes especially the latter.
Mr. Cándido cutting the suckling pig with a plate, a tradition in Segovia.
We were given a privileged table right by one of the windows overlooking the Aqueduct. Here is a photograph to prove it.
Tuesday was back to work and Adele and Bernard commuted into Madrid to enjoy the delights of the Prado and Thyssen museums. They loved them both but especially the Thyssen Bornemisza which Bernard thought was the best museum he had ever visited. I must go back there then. We had a last night dinner at a favourite Spanish (well Basque) place in Pozuelo with the unpronounceable and impossible to write name of La Txitxarrería. Here we laughed ourselves silly and drank a glass or so too much of Rioja wine and even cider, but hey life is good and a few excesses every now and again do no harm or so Bernard the psychiatrist commented. I totally agree. It was great having them and I really hope we meet again soon. We certainly won’t be leaving it another 25 years hahaha.
Eladio and Bernard outside La Txitxarrería where we went for dinner on their last night.
On Friday, the day after they left, both Suzy and I resumed our diet (the up and down one) and I returned to the gym to start swimming again. I now have to work off all the excesses and get into even better shape for the summer, poor me. The weather, as I said at the beginning, has been so good that we got some of the garden furniture out and we have been sitting outside reading. In fact right now I am writing from the table on the swimming pool terrace listening to Eladio and Suzy talk in the background as I write. Suzy in fact is waiting for her friends and they will be spending the afternoon sun bathing!

New York was great but it's nice to be home. The weekend has been quiet with no visitors, just doing domestic chores including a lot of homemade cooking, mostly soups of various kinds. I make them and freeze some a lot so's there's a big supply for my Father's dinners and ours of course. Here is the pumpkin soup I made today. It's made of pumpkin, carrot, cabbage and potato with a splash of olive oil and skimmed milk as well as salt, pepper and parsley and tastes just great.
The pumpkin soup I made today
I had to do some food shopping yesterday which is something I don’t usually do as that's my Father's and Eladio's responsibility. However we had run out of nearly everything so off I went to the local gourmet store (not the local Mercadona supermarket for me which is where they go).  I combined it with coffee with Fátima, her daughter with the same name and her mother. Her mother lives on and off in Marbella and is always inviting us to use her flat. In fact I think we will maybe in May. I don’t know if I've ever told you but our plan is to retire there; yeah a great big pad within walking distance of a nice beach and shared garden and pool and fabulous views. It has to be big to fit our daughters and their eventual husbands and kids. Staying at Gloria's place in Marbella may well give us a feel of what our plan turned true could be like.

Whilst I was having a coffee with Fátima, a disaster for the people of Poland had already taken place. Yesterday morning President Lech Kaczynski and his wife and scores of other senior Polish figures were killed in a plane crash in Russia near Smolensk. Ironically they were on their way to an event in Katyn to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the terrible massacre there of 20.000 Polish officers by the Russians in the Second World War. More than 95 people were killed in a terrible tragedy for Poland and according to Prime Minister Donald Tusk, the worst the country had experienced since the war.
The air crash that killed the President of Poland and his wife as well as other top politicians in Smolensk Russia yesterday
The worlds' leaders sent their condolences and even in yesterday nights “el clásico” match between Madrid and Barcelona the players were wearing black ribbons and a minute of silence was held before the match in honour of those who lost their lives in the crash.

The “clasico”(derby in English) is one of Spain's most important sports events of the year and there is a lot of hype around it all sparked by the eternal rivalry between the 2 cities. I of course always want Real Madrid to win even though the matches themselves interest me a lot less than other sports such as cycling or tennis. It was not to be though and the duel between Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo was won by the former who scored the first of Barcelona's 2 goals to Real Madrid's 0.
Messi, the Argentinian player for Barcelona who scored their first goal in their victory against Madrid yesterday
Sunday, the day after the clásico, has been quiet and filled with the domestic tasks I mentioned above plus dealing with lots of laundry. After writing my blog I am looking forward to a bit of reading in the shade and to our friends, Roberto and MariCarmen, coming to join us on our walk this evening. In sum the kind of Sunday I needed after coming back from the USA.

And that's it for this week. Hope you all have a good one,

Cheers for now Masha
PS You can see the full set of photos of Adele and Bernard's visit here.

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