Sunday, November 21, 2010

A family reunited, farewell Katty, Tony, Luc, Sam and Ruby. We will never forget you.

Luc, Ruby in the flamenco dress and darling Sam, Katty and Tony's children, our new found family

Hi again

This week has been truly memorable for us and for my Father and I especially because this week we received the wonderful visit of my cousin Katty, her New Zealander husband Tony, a quantity surveyor and their delightful children, Luc (9), Sam (6) and little angel Ruby (2). But before I go into detail let me tell you about the run up to their visit, so as to keep a chronological order as I always try to do in my blog. After all this is supposed to be a diary.

On Wednesday I went away with the Management Team to a small hotel tucked away just outside the village of Roa near Burgos in the prestigious wine making area Ribera del Duero. It’s about 2 hours away from Madrid. We stayed at the Raiz Hotel owned by one our distributors which can only be described as the perfect location if you want to get away from it all.

The Raiz Hotel in Roa, Burgos, a great place to get away from it all.

Here we were looked after by Myriam Jimeno Calleja, a young and successful sommelier who served up great food that because of my diet I was hardly able to taste. So no delicious suckling lamb or fried pig 's ear for me I'm afraid. The hotel also has a great winery called Páramo de Guzmán where we were given a fantastic wine tasting session at the hands of one of Spain’s best sommeliers, Luis Miguel Martínez. I would have loved to drink all the glasses put in front of me but just couldn’t because of my diet but also because wine no longer seems to agree with me which is awfully sad. The get away with the team was great and very productive but it was rather frustrating not to be able to enjoy any of the local gastronomy.

The wine tasting session which I couldn't enjoy:-(

We returned the next day after lunch and I was very eager to come home because Katty and her family had already arrived the night before in my absence. I had left them in the capable hands of Eladio and my Father but I was just dying for us all to be together. As I drove home I began to feel the emotion of meeting up with my newly found family and that emotion remained throughout their visit as we all bonded, each and every one of us on both sides of the family. It was amazing.

You probably know I don’t have much family. On my Father’s side I only really have him now. On my Mother’s side I have 4 cousins who are dispersed around the world and one of them is Zuka, Katty’s Mother who although she was born in France now lives in England. Zuka is the daughter of my Uncle Kolya (Nicholas), my Mother’s beloved younger brother who after the war lived and died in Paris where his wife, my Aunt and Katty’s Grandmother, Valya still lives. I had seen Katty twice in my life only and this visit to our house was to be the third occasion and the occasion we would become firm friends and family for life. My Father on the other hand knew Katty much better as she would often visit him and my Mother when she was young. Katty was very much attached to them both and was extremely happy to see him again as I’m sure he was too. The sad thing is that Katty and her family who have lived in England (Bolton in Lancashire) for the last 7 years are now returning to live permanently in New Zealand. Before they left however they wanted to see more of Europe, so 4 months ago they embarked on an incredible adventure. They bought a second hand camper van and took off with their children to visit places like Belgium, Holland, Germany, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Italy and Spain. When they reached us this week they were on the last leg of their journey.

Katty and Tony's wonderful camper van in which they have travelled round Europe for 4 months with their children

When I walked into my house on Thursday to meet them I immediately recognised Katty as she looks just like her Mother Zuka. Luc and Ruby also have similar traits with the same smile and teeth as my dearest Dydya (uncle in Russian) Kolya. They all called me "Aunty Masha", a true honour for me and something that felt really good.  Aunty Masha for me was my Mother's adored sister and it was nice to be called the same as her.  Katty and I immediately made a cup of tea and sat down and quickly tried to catch up on our lives and both of us were very soon in tears telling some of the sadder stories: the death of her dear Father Bruce, the death of my brother George and then his sweet and sad Serbian wife Sanya. We cried many times over the weekend but we also laughed and had an intensely happy time together. This morning when Katty and I went food shopping for their departure, we managed a last cup of coffee together and vowed never to lose touch. I also told Katty that I recognised myself in her in that we have very similar personalities and an identical joie de vivre and she totally agreed.

Katty and I, happy cousins reunited.

So let me tell you what we all got up to. On Thursday night I managed to organise a family dinner with no one missing. We even had some extra guests as Olivia and Susana’s newly-wed friends, Merce and Josema from Yecla in Murcia were also staying. That meant we were all of 11 for dinner. Olga made a massive meal so I think no one went hungry. The chatting round the table was fantastic with so much to talk about. I brought in the fruit and realised I was serving my newly found “Kiwi” family kiwis which made us all laugh. The children, the boys at least, are amazingly well brought up or at least we thought so as we were probably comparing them to the average typically badly behaved Spanish children. So when Luc and Sam asked if they could leave the table we could hardly believe our ears.  They repeated the request after every meal and the words were a joy to hear. 

The families reunited

On Friday I took the day off and accompanied Katty, Tony and little Ruby to Madrid to see the sights, or at least that was the intention. The boys preferred to stay behind watching dvds and chilling out in the big house which must have been a nice change for them after so long in the caravan. We left the car at the train station and took the metro into Puerta del Sol.

Katty and Tony with baby Ruby and her inseparable doggy toy on the metro going into Madrid.

I managed to show them the Kilómetro 0, the centre of the country where all roads are measured from in Spain but that’s about where the tourism ended as clothes shopping seemed to be high on their list of priorities.

The Kilometre 0 in Madrid at Puerta del Sol.  The centre of Spain and where all roads are measured from.

Well I didn’t mind at all as I’m game to buying lots of new clothes for my now slimmer figure. Tony didn’t seem that keen but soon got into the swing of it at the men’s section of Zara. Ruby on the other hand got rather tired, unsurprisingly (well she is only 2)  as you can see in this photo of her asleep in the dressing room.

Ruby flat out in the Desigual changing room

Our next stop was the Catalán designer store Desigual and we happened to enter the biggest one in the world in Plaza Callao. Here both Katty and Tony had a field day. After probably 2 hours there I had to drag them away to lunch nearby at De María with a promise to return afterwards. They had discovered Desigual in Barcelona before coming to stay with us and now Katty is seriously thinking of setting up a franchise store in New Zealand where Desigual still hasn’t landed. All in all I think we spent 3 hours in the place. Here you can see them coming out of the shop with all their purchases which now have to fit into their camper van!

Tony and Katty leaving Desigual after 3 hours shopping there!

Determined to show them something of Madrid we walked up the Preciados street (the most commercial  one in Spain or so they say) to Puerta del Sol again. The place had livened up enormously and was full of people buying and selling the “El Gordo” Christmas lottery tickets. There were street bustlers of all kinds and even a live Mexican Mariachi band. From here I dragged them to the Plaza Mayor past all sorts of fun living statues until we came to the beautiful square. Once again shopping prevailed and rather than exploring the square we went into a souvenir shop to buy football t-shirts for the boys and more importantly a wonderful flamenco dress and matching red and black shoes for little Ruby. She would not take them off after trying them on and was thus an immediate hit with our fellow travellers on the metro back.

Ruby in la Puerta del Sol in Madrid this weekend.

Once home, Eladio was waiting to take Tony to the Barber’s. Katty and I had our own plans, a little bit of clothes shopping at the small boutique near home where I always seem to find lovely pieces for a song. Here Katty and I had our own field day and found lots of things we just loved. We even bought the same dress, just as Kathy and I had in the summer. That night I wore it for our dinner at La Txitxarrería in Pozuelo, again the same place we took Kathy and Phil.

My happy cousin with her lovely New Zealander husband Tony at La Txitxarreria with us in Pozuelo on Friday night.

On Saturday morning we had a bit of added fun when 2 beagle dogs visited us. The gate was open because Katty and Tony were clearing out the camper van, so in they walked. Norah was utterly knocked out which had us all in stitches. It happened just as Merce and Josema were leaving. It was a kind of nice bedlam moment you don’t often experience. Poor Norah felt a bit left out of all our fun actually because the children were rather frightened of her. However towards the end some sort of reconciliation took place and soon she was walking through the kitchen to her favourite place, the cats’ food bowl and the kids didn’t even notice her anymore.

A bit of bedlam happened when 2 beagles visited Norah.  She was a bit stunned.

We had a great family day yesterday. After the beagle visit, the boys went off to a games arcade and we girls went shopping (yes shopping again!); Katty, Ruby, Oli, Suzy and I. We went  to the nearby Tres Aguas shopping centre where we all seemed to be concentrated on buying boots. There was also time for a coffee and for Ruby to go on all the kiddy attractions in sight. After a super speedy lunch for 10 (thanks Olga again) we all went off to the zoo, recommended to me by Juana where we hadn't been for years. We wanted to go out with our lovely new found kiwi family and of course we all love animals so the zoo was a great idea all round. Well I love four legged ones but  I’m not keen on birds and fish and absolutely detest reptiles and insects. November is not the best month to visit the zoo but thankfully the sun shone. We were limited by time because it closes at 6 but it also gets dark then. So Eladio and Olivia grabbed the zoo map and we charged behind them to follow the African route which we all thought has the most important animals; the lions and the tigers, the leopards, etc. 

We couldn't resist this photocall at the zoo.

Of course we made a detour at the Chinese section to see the zoo’s main attraction, the twin male panda cubs which were born in September after artificial insemination. I think they are the only panda cubs to be born in captivity outside China. They are still in an incubator but were a lovely sight.

The attraction of Madrid's zoo, the twin male panda cubs born in September.

In the evening we had a final dinner together and again we had 2 extra guests; this time Rocío and Juli. Dear Rocío brought us a beautiful red Christmas plant and Juli did most of the washing up so their contribution was much appreciated.

And today we had to say our goodbyes after a very long morning of preparations. I couldn’t persuade them to stay any longer, mostly because Katty has a doctor’s appointment in Biarritz on Wednesday. I spent a lot of the morning on my computer downloading and copying photos for them and did something dreadful by deleting half of them permanently. I then had to download some software to recover them. All of this took me ages as well as  precious time  from being with them which was quite frustrating. Equally frustrating is that all the photos I took of them just before they left are unreadable for some stupid reason. This now means I don’t have the family portraits. Hopefully Katty can send me the similar ones they took on their camera.

The goodbyes were very emotional but a bit of fun too as at the last minute Oli had the ingenious idea of getting out some of the wigs we have in our fancy dress chest. You should have seen Ruby in green wings and a pink curly wig! The fun could not last as they had to go. Both Katty and I cried which got dear Luc crying too. I had a huge hugging session with both Luc and Sam and made them promise never to forget us. I am not their Mother so can openly say that Sam was my favourite. He is such a special sensitive child with the most beautiful little face imaginable. Just before he left he gave Oli a little toy vehicle and said it was for us never to forget him. How could ever we forget such an adorable little boy?

Sam who captured our hearts so much.

Just as I am writing this I have received a text from Katty on their way to Burgos to say they have left behind Ruby’s “essential accessories”, her doggy soft toy and blanket, both of which she cannot sleep without. I will be sending them to Paris but hopefully meanwhile she can be persuaded to live without them.

And so the lovely kiwi family who came to see us, departed in equal haste and we have all been left in a very empty emotional state. The family with their children had filled the house with joy and it feels now so  forlorn without them.

Now we have been reunited it seems so unfair to be separated again and New Zealand is so far away; a 36 hours flight they tell us! We shall just have to save up and go and visit them one day in the not too distant future before these charming children grow up. Thank goodness for Facebook through which I can keep up with their lives, albeit at a very virtual distance.  I wish them a wonderful future and will carry them forever in my heart. Goodbye darling vivacious beautiful Katty, Tony, Luc, little Sam and princess Ruby. Thank you for touching our hearts.  Please don't forget us either now that we have found you.

Au revoir

PS Here is the full selection of photos of their visit (minus the ones which are unreadable) and also a charming video of the 3 children.

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