Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A busy week, good news for Oli, a Government reshuffle in Spain, a weekend in Barcelona and a happy Monday for Yoigo.

Me in the Plaza de Cataluña in Barcelona this weekend

Hi everyone

I’m late with my blog this week but that’s because we came back from Barcelona late on Sunday evening which is when I normally write.

Last week was busy as this week will be too. It started Monday with good news for Oli and if it’s good news for Oli it’s good news for us. In her time with RTVE she realised that she really wants to work in television as a journalist. Thus, spurred on by colleagues, she applied to do the RTVE (Spanish national TV station) master degree in television journalism at the Universidad Juan Carlos 1 in Madrid. The entrance exam was very stiff. There were some awfully difficult questions on today’s political scene and general knowledge. The candidates also had to do a news story on camera after reading just a press release. There were 16 places for 80 candidates so it was no easy feat to get accepted. The good news came last Monday afternoon that she had been accepted. She will start this week on Thursday and the master degree will take about a year and will include 3 months unpaid practice with the RTVE news programmes in the summer. We are thrilled for her. Meanwhile she has gone to Marrakech with Laura and 2 other friends for a nice holiday break. The only thing we have heard so far is that they keep getting lost in the souk which doesn’t surprise me as I did too when I was there.

My beautiful journalist daughter Olivia who was admitted to the RTVE master degree in TV journalism. 
I'm so happy for her.

Monday for me was not so good. I had a dental appointment with my favourite dentist of long ago whom I can now visit as he is on the list of our new medical policy, Cigna. It was nice to see Dr. Garralda again but not so nice to hear that I will need 2 implants and that the treatment will take some 6 months, not to mention the cost. To top the bad news I scratched my recently painted Volvo company car trying to get out of a heavily congested car park in Majadahonda. So, no Monday was not my day, but it was Oli’s.

The week was busy work wise but there was time for lunch with an ex Nokia friend Susana at De María in Majadahonda on Tuesday and on Wednesday with Susana and Mauricio from the PR team I used to have at Llorente y Cuenca. After lunch with them at Laray in Hermanos Bécquer I went to have coffee with my sister and brother in law, Dolores and José Antonio who live nearby. I hadn’t seen them since August. I don’t know why but we no longer see each other as often as before and I miss seeing them. Ah and I also had a girly lunch with the girls on Thursday, the only negative thing being I had to be in a conference call with Sweden at the same time.

José  Antonio and Dolores with their new pet Nuba.  It was lovely to have coffee with them last week

Wednesday was a big day for Spanish politics. It was the day I also realised that daily newspapers really do not bring fresh news anymore. Whilst my whole family were reading The Daily Telegraph, El País, El Mundo and Que, I was at my computer. And it was on Facebook that I found out that José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero was to announce that morning a major cabinet reshuffle in his government. His number 2, the Deputy Prime Minister, the austere mature lady María Teresa Fernández de la Vega was to leave her position and be replaced by Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba who would combine the job with Home Affairs for which he was already responsible. The latter was also a minister under Felipe González. One of the main reasons behind the reshuffle seems to be a need for better communication from the Government especially with the new reforms taken because of the financial crisis. I like to hear that as I am a communications professional. There were many other changes but this was the biggest. I rushed upstairs to the dining room to inform my family reading the papers that the real news was on internet and of course both Eladio and Olivia rushed off to their respective PCs to find out more.

María Teresa Fdz de la Vega leaves the number 2 position in the government after last week's big cabinet reshuffle

Soon it was Friday and Eladio and I went off to Barcelona for a jolly weekend. I use the word jolly as the hotel we were to stay at were offering us a free weekend because of appalling service when I last stayed there. A friend of mine, dear Julio, when I told him the story, urged me to write a letter to the Manager saying I may get some compensation. So for the first time in my life I wrote a very exaggerated letter of complaint and low and behold the manager responded and offered me 2 nights free whenever I wanted. The hotel in question is the new W Barcelona built by Ricardo Bofill. It is located at the end of the Barceloneta beaches right by the port. It is a bit far from the city but you can walk to the Rambla in about 45 minutes, so good for exercise.  The hotel building is quite spectacular and is in the shape of a huge sail with some 26 floors with magnificent views. Once again however the service was lacking in professionalism. However I was not going to look a gift horse in the mouth and complain again.

The amazing Hotel W where we stayed in Barcelona this last weekend, great place but very badly organised

The drive was long, some 650km which felt like it took forever. The highlight was lunch at Asador La Brasa in Calatayud on the way. The worst part was driving into Barcelona in 1.5hrs of dense Friday afternoon traffic. Once we had checked in, we walked to the Port Vell to the Palau de Mar area and decided upon dinner at one of my favourite places in Barcelona, Cal Pinxo. Here I was able to keep to my protein and vegetable diet by ordering excellent crayfish and sole.

On Saturday we were up early and after a protein breakfast, at least for me, we made our way into the city. We walked to Port Vell and from there to the Paseo de Colón until we reached La Rambla.

Eladio at La Rambla in Barcelona this weekend.  We had a great time.  As you can see the weather was great.

La Rambla was bustling with tourists and was as fun as always. There were lots of living statues, one more spectacular than the other. This was the one I liked best.

La Rambla is lined with living statues competing for tourists' money.  I thought this one was especially good

From La Rambla we walked to the Plaza de Cataluña and then on to Puerta de Angel, the street they say is the most commercial in town. Here I ventured into Cortefiel and to Zara (keep buying new clothes as I lose more weight-:) whilst Eladio waited patiently outside. Then we walked towards the Cathedral in the Gothic old city and went inside for a quick look. It really is magnificent. What I didn’t like were the semi professional gypsy beggar women outside who give a terrible image of Spain to the tourists who flock to Barcelona in their thousands.

The semi professional gypsy beggar women are not a pretty sight outside the cathedral in Barcelona

We had a coffee in the square by the cathedral to gain some renewed energy before continuing our walk, this time back to the Port Vell and for lunch at Cal Pinxo again. Eladio was very happy to order black rice whilst I kept to my diet by ordering cockles and sole once more.

Eladio enjoying black rice at Cal Pinxo in Port Vell this weekend in Barcelona

It is at Port Vell where the black immigrants sell imitation branded handbags illegally. The bags are attached to strings and then to a blanket so that they can run off fast if the police come by. I always buy a handbag from them that I don’t really need and this time I got the latest Prada model in brown for 13 euros after a very small haggle. The guy who sold it to me was a good looking immigrant from Senegal. I could only imagine the drama that must have gone on in his life for him to arrive and be selling illegal faked goods in Barcelona.

I'm always a sucker for imitation fashion bags at Port Vell sold by black immigrants.

Before going back to the hotel, we went to a market in the town to buy flowers and some produce to take to Grainne’s that night. I went to school with Grainne who has lived in Barcelona or rather in Badalona nearby for many years and I cannot every go Barcelona without visiting her. This time we invited ourselves to dinner. That’s how good our friendship is.

We spent the afternoon lazing and enjoying the hotel. Eladio had a siesta in our room whilst I read the newspaper on the swimming pool terrace which was a magnificent place. For one moment I thought I was in paradise. Later on we visited the small but well equipped spa before dolling ourselves up (well me at least) and taking a taxi to Grainne’s place.

The swimming pool terrace and complex at the W Hotel by the Barceloneta beaches is a sort of paradise

Dinner at Grainne’s is always a pleasure as I feel so at home there. It was Eladio’s first visit but I know he did too. We were joined by Pepe, Grainne’s best friend and a shoe repairer for the record as well as by Marcel, Grainne’s adorable son who is the same age as our daughters. Grainne is a superb cook but I didn’t get to try her great chicken casserole and lemon soufflé as I was determined to stick to my diet and had an omelette and some cooked ham, washed down by caffeine free diet coke (how sad).

With my dear friend Grainne at her house for dinner on Saturday night in Badalona.  We go back such a long way.

And suddenly it was Sunday and the weekend was nearly over. We had a leisurely breakfast and I packed whilst Eladio read the paper by the enormous window overlooking the city and the sea. I must include a picture of the view from the room because it is simply spectacular and one of the salient points of the W Hotel.

The view from our room at the W Hotel in Barcelona

Thus we checked out at midday but before hitting the road decided to do that day’s walk along the Barcelonata beaches towards the Hotel Arts at the other end of the beach from where our hotel was. The walk was splendid in the sunshine with people enjoying themselves on the beach, walking, on bikes, on skates, skate boards, playing bowl and generally enjoying their Sunday morning by the sea.

On our walk on Sunday morning from our hotel in the background, all along the Barceloneta promenade

So with a heavy heart we left, only cheered by the news of Fernando Alonso winning the Korean GP and taking leadership of the Formula One championship. The drive back was long and tedious and lunch was at a pretty nasty roadside cafe near Lérida. We got home late thanks to heavy traffic coming into Madrid but were happy to be home again and welcomed by our lovely daughter Susana who joined us for a makeshift Sunday evening dinner.

Monday was a happy day for Yoigo and deserves a special mention in this week’s blog. It was the TeliaSonera Q3 results and there were glowing references to Yoigo’s performance. We have reached over 2 million customers and look forward to being positive in the last quarter of the year. On top of that we had excellent results in the EPSI customer satisfaction surveys within the countries of the group. If you don’t believe me, just look at this chart of how we are doing in Spain vs our competition.  To think that we have done all this in such a short a time is quite amazing.

According to EPSI Yoigo has the most satisfied customers of all mobile phone operators in Spain!!!

And on that happy note, I leave you until next week. Hope you all have a great week, me too of course. Cheers till next time


PS Here is the full collection of photos of our lovely weekend in Barcelona


Ana said...

WOW Masha, you look awesome!!!!!!
A big hug from NYC!

sam rice said...

i can't believe you weren't tempted by what Grainne prepared. you really are very much disciplined with your diet. try this recipes out: http://www.blackrice.com/recipes/ it won't hurt your diet. you'd still be in shape even after indulging with the recipes. i've tried it for myself.