Monday, August 23, 2010

Picking your own fruit, visitors from Yorkshire, a trip to Salamanca, our 27th wedding anniversary and all together again.

Eladio and I on our 27th wedding anniversary in Peñacaballera

Hi again this last week in August,

I hope you are all fine. This week has been hectic but thoroughly enjoyable and I have lots to tell you.

Oli was back from Aranda de Duero on Monday where she had been sent to cover a music festival by You can see some of her videos here. I think she did a great job but you must judge for yourselves.

The highlight of the beginning of the week was the picking of a basket full of delicious greengages from a tree in the back garden. It was the biggest crop in all our time at this house and I enjoyed the activity immensely.

This year's greengage crop. Not many but they were delicious.

There is something enriching, romantic and bucolic about picking your own fruit. Just because you know it is yours enhances the taste.

Eladio picking the greengages.  A lovely moment.
On Tuesday we were expecting visitors from Yorkshire. Kathryn Lindley (now Cobrey) from my Kappa class at St. Joseph’s school in Bradford had found me some time ago on Facebook and we have been corresponding. She is a teacher, lives in Keighley, has 4 grown up boys and is now married to Phil, a teacher of Spanish we were to discover. So when she told me she and Phil were travelling in France and Spain this month, I immediately invited them to come and stay. They said they would arrive on Tuesday at “five-ish”. Most people get totally lost when they come to our house even with a sat nav. However Phil and Kathryn who are seasoned travellers but use a map instead were here on the dot and did not have to ring us to find out how to get here. I still don’t know how they did it.

Kathryn and I had probably last seen each other in the mid 70’s, nearly 40 years ago. She is looking good and we had lots to talk about to catch up on so much time, which meant we nattered for the 3 day duration of their stay which we thoroughly enjoyed. My father was “tickled pink” to have visitors from Yorkshire where he lived from the mid sixties until 5 years ago. He of course was a teacher as was Eladio so we all had a lot in common.

We had endless cups of tea together, went on walks, had lovely meals (thanks Olga), swam and sunbathed, read and drank pacharán in the evenings accompanied always by dear Norah who was a complete hit with our guests, especially Phil. We also laughed nonstop together especially when Norah was playing with her new noisy toy; a boxing kangaroo!

Norah and the noisy boxing kangaroo which she loves so much.
One of the meals was fish and chips, very fitting for the occasion you would probably say but actually they were made by Olga who is Argentinian so there is some extra merit there. The household for those 3 days was a little like the United Nations. We were joined at times by Oli and her friend Juli, or should I say our friend Juli, who is Colombian. This delighted Phil who had learned his Spanish there when he taught at the Anglo Colombian school in Bogotá some years ago.

Oli and our Colombian friend Juli.
On the Wednesday Phil and Kathryn went into town to discover the delights of Madrid and that same evening we took them out to dinner to a Basque place which is very popular with our foreign guests; La Txitxarrería. There was also time for some girly shopping and I took Kathy to a little boutique I frequent nearby and we both came home armed with bags of summer fashion garments and big smiles on our faces.

Dinner with Phil and Kathryn at La Txitxarrería in Pozuelo.

Their visit was short but intense and unfortunately soon over. On Friday they were moving on to La Rioja at our suggestion and we said our goodbyes that morning now firm friends. You can see the full album of photos of their visit here. Eladio and I were going to visit friends at a village in Salamanca called Peñacaballera. Our friends are Javier and Ana and their family who we visited in New York in March. This was our second visit to Peñacaballera and you can read about our first one last year in this post.

Peñacaballera is a small village near Béjar and the Sierra de Francia mountain range and about a 2 hour drive from home through the province of Avila. We were there in time for lunch and were welcomed by Javier, Ana and their beautiful younger daughters Cristina and María. Ignacio was away in Murcia and Laura would be back later that night from a short holiday in nearby Portugal.

Javier with his delightful daughters Cristina (in white) and María.  No wonder he looks so proud.

It was good to be back in peaceful and rural Peñacaballera, to see Javier and Ana and of course their friends, Jorge, María and their family as well as many visitors and friends some of whom we had met last year and some of whom were new to us. There were so many people it was difficult to remember names and to know who was related to whom. I gave up in the end.

In the evening we went to the nearby picturesque village of Hervas (in the province of Cáceres in Extremadura) to visit the old Jewish quarter and to have dinner at a wonderful little place called Nardi. The meat there was out of this world we’ll have to go back one day.

A pretty street in the Jewish quarter of the picturesque village of Hervás in Cáceres Extremadura.

On Saturday we explored the village which that day was to witness a wedding, quite a coincidence as it was our own wedding anniversary.

A wedding in Peñacaballera on the day of our own anniversary.  I hope they will be as happy.

Fancy, 27 years together and life couldn’t be better. A happy marriage is something of a lottery in life but you also have to work at it. However the secret behind its success comes from mutual respect and admiration which cannot exist if there is no love. Yes, these are our ingredients and they are still going strong after so many years. We have yet to celebrate but Javier bought some nice cakes for us to have after the superb paella prepared by Nacho for lunch by the swimming pool that day for no less than 24 people!

Big paella lunch in Peñacaballera, lovely.

We enjoyed our time with our hosts, going for walks, having nice meals, long siestas and even longer conversations. We had differences of opinion on how to bring up children. You can guess who was the liberal one of course and I naturally sided with the younger generation on the time to come home in the evening (or should I say early morning). Javier and I vied for points on Foursquare and we all laughed when I became the Foursquare mayor of the village. Not for long I imagine!

Javier and Ana's house in Peñacaballera

Very soon it was Sunday morning and Eladio and I decided not to overstay our welcome and take the opportunity to visit the nearby Peña de Francia, the highest point in the Sierra de Francia mountain range as well as the medieval cathedral town, Ciudad Rodrigo on the border of Portugal and also in the province of Salamanca.

We had a great day, despite the intense heat. Last year we had visited some places in Salamanca with our friends Andy and Amanda but didn’t get to Peña de Francia. It is just beneath 1.800 metres high and has awesome views. The road leading up is some feat of engineering and at times I couldn’t look out it was so scary. The mountain top is also a sanctuary and there is a statue of a virgin which is much venerated there by pilgrims. In fact there is even a monastery there but we saw very few monks.

At the Peña de Francia with its spectacular views.

From the Peña de Francia we made our way down the steep and winding road and on to Ciudad Rodrigo some 50km away. We had both last been there some 30 years ago when we went camping in Spain, Portugal and Morocco just after we met in the summer of 1980. It was a trip we have always both considered our honeymoon as we were so in love. In fact when we married we were as poor as church mice and could never afford one so we have always thought of it as our honeymoon.

And yesterday we were once again in Ciudad Rodrigo, a superb cathedral town next to Portugal with many medieval monuments and churches and with a city wall which you can still walk around. We made a beeline for the Parador for lunch, something we could not have done 30 years ago of course. Later in the intense heat we explored the nearly empty town. It is never advisable to visit any town in Spain in August in the early afternoon and we should have known better. Even in the heat though Ciudad Rodrigo is a jewel of a town to visit and we will be back but this time will probably not wait another 30 years!

In the gardens of the Parador at Ciudad Rodrigo.
We drove home through Salamanca and Avila remembering the time spent last year with Andy and Amanda and were home in the early evening. Norah and my Father were there to greet us but so was Suzy whom we hadn’t seen since she went to Ibiza. Dinner together, albeit cereal and milk, was a treat. Just as we went to bed Olivia came in to say hello after her weekend trip back from Malaga. Thus we were all together again for the first time in two weeks. Today, Monday, was the first time we were together too for a family lunch. It was prepared by Olga who is proving to be such a great cook she is upsetting my down days. This week we will be all together until of course we get on the road again and that will be to Santander on Saturday.
Oli at the Feria de Málaga this weekend.  Isn't she beautiful?
Before that happens though, I have a few preparations to make for our participation in the annual telecoms conference there where everyone who is anyone in the Spanish telecoms sector goes. But more about that in my next post.

Cheers till then
PS you can see the full set of photos of our trip to Peñacaballera, Peña de Francia and Ciudad Rodrigo here.

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