Sunday, June 20, 2010

Barcelona again, a Hawaiian Barbecue, a Swedish royal wedding, the girls in Copenhagen and more

The "girls" in Hawaiian dress at yesterday's Barbecue. 
 Good morning my friends,

Another week has passed and here I am writing this sunny Sunday morning when thankfully the brightest star in our lives has returned. It wasn’t like this all week but gradually it made its appearance again.

Let me start from last Sunday if I am to be faithful to the chronological spirit of this blog which is actually my diary. We were joined by our friends Roberto and Mari Carmen on our walk in the late evening. Afterwards we went to dinner to a place we all like but don’t go to that often, La Txitxarrería, somewhere we often take our visitors from abroad. It has such great Basque food I don’t know why we don’t go more often. Mari Carmen, who is a pharmacist, brought me the pills I had ordered from her for my headaches and which you can only get under prescription unless you have a pharmacist friend like me. Thanks my dear. Let’s see if the new stuff works!

I haven’t tried them yet but hardly needed them this week as I only had a few light headaches. Luckily I didn’t have one on Tuesday which was my debut in the Management Team at work. I am the only woman in the team which I suppose has its added difficulties. I was a bit daunted but in the end all my fears went away as everyone was so welcoming. Eladio says I belong to the G8 now which is sort of fitting as the team now has 8 members with me.

The meeting went on for hours and I had a train to catch to Barcelona which I was afraid of missing but didn’t want to leave the meeting early on my first occasion. Luckily I caught it by the skin of my teeth. So why was I going to Barcelona mid week? It was to attend what I thought was an international PR conference but turned out to be the annual meeting of the PR measurement industry. Luckily there were other people like me; customers of that industry and I was really interested to see how social media and digital news was impacting all our work. The best thing about the three days was the networking and being at an international conference with people from all over the world. I made great friends with Audrey and Susanne from Germany and Tim from the UK.
With Susanne and Audrey at the Amec summit dinner at the restaurant Miranda del Museu overlooking the yachting club in Pau de la Villa.  Amazing place but the food nothing special.
The conference had its interesting parts but some of it was a somewhat technical and you heard people talking about automated measurement of sentiment, human analysis and machine analysis. I was interested to listen and see a guru of the industry called Katie Paine who everyone was telling me not to miss. She is an American lady, larger than life and extremely full of herself and someone you cannot miss in a crowd. You only have to go to her Twitter page to find out why. Here she says: “I've been called The Queen of measurement, but I prefer Seshat, the Goddess”. She was certainly no goddess to me, more of a pain to excuse the pun. I actually interrupted her presentation to ask her what she meant by “kick butt indicators”, such an Americanism I was sure more than half the audience didn’t understand. I think I might have floored her but maybe she has such an ego that that is impossible.
Katie Paine at the conference, the so called "queen" of PR coverage measurement.
We stayed at the Meliá, a supposed 5 star hotel just off the Diagonal and round the corner from a great shopping centre, La Isla (L’Illa in Catalán). It was fine but nothing special and I am no fan of modern sky scraper hotels with very masculine décor and furniture. The best thing was the bar and the big screen TV which was transmitted all the World Cup matches. Here they made the best mojitos I have ever come across, but then I haven’t been to Brazil.
The great  mojito I had at the Melia Hotel bar after the Amec summit dinner.  Tim called it the alternative to mint tea! 
In Barcelona I also had time to see my great friend Grainne and her son Marcel. One night I was invited to dinner at their place in Badalona and the evening was like something out of a comedy. We were joined by Grainne’s “boyfriend” Dan, a gorgeous looking Rumanian and Pepe a lovely man in his 60’s who has been Grainne’s friend for years. He had been married to a Scottish woman but his English was limited. I asked him what he did in life and when he said he was a “cobbler” I thought I didn’t understand. But yes, he is a traditional shoe maker and what a lovely guy he is. Dear Grainne made us all some very hot goulash at which even Dan complained. However we filled our plates with potato and salad to counteract the paprika and the lovely homemade Florentine tart did the trick in the end. In essence we spent the whole night laughing and I was made to feel part of Grainne’s group of friends even though I was meeting them for the first time. I think it all has to do with our going back so long ago to our school days but then again without the marvelous chemistry between us, the feeling wouldn’t be the same.

Pepe, Grainne and Dan the Rumanian.  We had a great evening at Grainne and Marcel's
Barcelona was as at its best and despite the Catalanism I love the place. I made sure I had time to walk down the Diagonal and got as far as La Rambla de Cataluña where I bought some great espadrilles at a shop called Mar Bessas (apparently a classic shoe shop in Barcelona) and S’carpa (sorry no websites) which I am delighted with. My suitcase was  of course bulging to the limit when I tried to close it on the last day. But my good old green Samsonite always closes in the end, especially if you sit on it. You can see the whole set of my photos from this trip here:

And now I have reached Friday of this week but I have totally forgotten to tell you what happened on Monday and it was important. So here I go. Monday was an historic day for Suzy and for us as she took her very last exam which if she passes will give her a degree from the Madrid Complutense University in Food Science and Technology. She was nervous but the exam went really well. We won’t get the result until the middle of July but we are very confident. She has been working hard for the last month or so, locked up in her room and only coming out for meals. Now she can look forward to a worry free Summer for the first time in many years. Have a great time darling. Soon you will be flying the nest and I will miss our moments together.

Also on Monday Oli returned from her fascinating trip to Brazil. We hardly had time to hear from her but at least managed a family lunch on Monday after which I wasn’t going to see her again till today. She brought us a beautiful Brazilian hammock which is proudly hanging between two trees in the garden by the swimming pool. Thanks darling!

Eladio having a siesta right now in the hammock Oli brought back from Brazil.
Oli had to go to work the same day she arrived which must have been challenging. She will have found her colleagues immersed in news about the World Cup and I was happy to read this piece she did on the atmosphere in Brazil related to the event.

Oli on a boat in Brazil recently.
But back to chronological order. I was home on Friday afternoon and as soon as I had unpacked Eladio dragged me off to Media Markt to buy a big flat screen TV for our room. Why would we want another television you may ask and be right of course? We have many TVs in this house but mainly watch it from our bed at night and the one in our room is probably 20 years old and failing. It is a typical 26” Sony TV from the late 80's but my eyesight is just not good enough to see it from the bed. So of course the alternative is a big flat screen. We didn’t want to spend much money and in the end chose an LCD 47” LG set which hopefully they will be installing next Wednesday. Eladio is very excited but I am less so. When I buy something I like very much  I need to use it straightaway to feel excited and this wasn’t the case on Friday. Yeah we paid for it but won’t see it till Wednesday. For you to understand: when I was a kid and my Mother bought me new shoes, I would put them on in the shop and when I went to bed I would put them on a chair at eye view in order to see them as soon as I woke up.

From Media Markt we went food shopping for the barbecue we were having on Saturday. Part of the stuff was bought at Sánchez Romero and part of it at Supercor. Sánchez Romero is Spain’s best supermarket and I just wish I could do all my shopping there but it is prohibitively expensive. Then we went out to dinner, to celebrate the TV Eladio said. Actually we don’t need an excuse to go out to dinner so off we went to De Brasa y Puchero in Boadilla and savoured a superb Salmorejo (thick gazpacho from the Córdoba region) amongst other things.

On Saturday we were up early to prepare for the first barbecue of the season. Our friends, the González-Gálvez family, were coming and we were to be 16, 6 children and 10 adults. So a lot of organisation and preparation were in order. Tables had to be laid, fresh flowers had to be arranged in vases, the barbecue fire had to be ready to light and of course food had to be made. So what did we offer our guests? You could probably guess I made salmorejo for the first course. Then of course we had a variety of sausages and meat served with jacket potatoes and salad. The dessert I was especially happy with as it was new creation and is actually very easy to make. I served mixed fresh berries and stoned black cherries in small glasses and covered the fruit with whipped double cream which I then topped with either meringue or biscuit. and another cherry. Here you can see what it looks like.
The new Summer dessert I made for yesterday's barbecue.  Nice eh?
At 2h our dear friends arrived and we greeted them with Hawaiian party fare. We all dressed up, even my Father and Gerardo managed to take a self timer photo of all us which was no mean feat as it was difficult to place the camera. I also did a video at the beginning of the party which you can watch here on You Tube.

Group photo at yesterday's barbecue.
We all had a grand time, the kids with Norah and Norah with the kids (she must have stuffed so much that she hasn’t wanted to eat since). I feel so at home with this family, the family I lived with in Madrid when I was a student and love them all dearly. I love their kids too who all have the same bubbly personalities as their parents Gerardo and Irene and Viky and Tomas. It was great to have you guys. We will do this again next year. You can see the full set of photos here on Facebook.

The very much needed siesta yesterday at the barbecue: Norah with little Irene.
As I am writing we are waiting for a call from the girls from the airport. I haven’t seen them all week as I went to Barcelona and on Friday when I returned they had already gone to Copenhagen for the weekend to stay with Pernille and Thomas and their daughters Julia and Alberte. I will have told you many times before who they are. To recap Pernille was our Danish Princess au pair when the girls were small whom we all fell in love with and have kept up with ever since. They will be back later this morning and I am dying to hear all about their weekend.  By the way here are some of the photos from their visit.

Suzy and Oli at Pernille and Thomas' house.  In the photo with Pernille, her Mother and the 2 little girls: Julia and Alberte
Meanwhile a real Princess got married yesterday in Stockholm. Crown Princess Viktoria aged 32 was to marry her commoner fitness trainer boyfriend Daniel Westling agedc 36. All of Sweden and Scandinavia were immersed in the wedding which of course was transmitted live. Here you can watch the most romantic speech ever from Prince Daniel who is now called HRH Prince Daniel, Duke of Vastergotland. He called Viktoria “Princess of Sweden, the Princess of my heart” and told how he was not a frog like in the fairy tales but that the first kiss did not transform him into a prince. He also told the story of how Princess Viktoria wrote him 30 letters in one night, one for each of the days she was going to be away in China and separate from him. He said that said a lot about her. The speech and video transmitted pure love and I just hope that this Royal Marriage is lasting and that Viktoria and Daniel are happy for ever after as in all fairy tales.

The Crown Princess Viktoria  and commoner Daniel Westling yesterday at their fairy tale wedding in Stockholm
Who is definitely living a fairy tale is a young man called Pau Gasol. He went down in the history of Spanish sport as being the first Spaniard to win the American Basket Ball championship commonly called The NBA. Well this last week he did it again, this time with the Los Angeles Lakers team. Well done Pau, another first for Spanish sport.

The Spaniard Pau Gasol winning his 2nd NBA, this time with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Who are not living a fairy tale, but rather a nightmare are the English and Spanish teams at the Football World Cup in South Africa. England has not been able to score and on Friday drew with Algeria. Imagine! Even worse was Spain’s fate against Switzerland in their opening match on Wednesday. Switzerland is supposedly the weakest in the G Group (Spain, Chile, Honduras and Switzerland) but beat Spain on Wednesday. The next match is on Monday against Honduras but the Spanish team, as usual, will probably not make it through to the quarter finals. There were high hopes as always in this competitions which are now somewhat dashed, disappointing a nation who needed a respite from the current depression, something success at the World Cup would have given them.  I hope these are my famous last words and that Spain does indeed actually get through.

And on that note, I leave you hoping you will all have a great week. Me too I hope.

Cheers till then


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