Sunday, July 03, 2011

Another big party and a special performance and so to England. Good news for Olivia.

Our performance at the Yoigo midsummer party, amazing.
Hello everyone,

Here you have me writing on the London King’s Cross to Leeds train this sunny Sunday afternoon in England, going past what I would call “England’s green and pleasant land”.   Eladio is reading El País, the Spanish Sunday newspaper but my head is full of memories of the past, when I was a child and our countless journeys from Lincolnshire or Yorkshire to London, to that vibrant and exciting train station, King’s Cross. It means so much to me.  I remember as a child that the trains we would travel on were steam powered and as they came through dark tunnels into the station they would make a hideous noise and my Mother would cover my ears.  Even so they fascinated me and part of the travel bug I have in me was probably forged then.
But let me start from the beginning of the week before I tell you about our journey to England for this year’s summer holiday.
The week before leaving for England last Friday was one of the busiest of the year.  We were launching with Blackberry, so I had lots of meetings to finalise the press release and on Wednesday we had the annual Yoigo Summer party for employees and partners.  Some 240 people would be attending and everything had to be perfect.  My parties are not ordinary parties with just drinks and dinner; no, they carry my seal and are full of fun activities to surprise the guests and they need a lot of attention to detail and creativity.  As I left the house on Wednesday evening I reflected on how many parties I have been responsible for since I started in the PR business back in 1990 with Motorola.  Since then I must have organized over 200 events, big and small, in Spain and abroad.  Still the adrenaline is there before they start and the nerves never go away until they finish as you are always worried about potential problems.  I have learned over the years that only I usually see the faults, not the guests and there are always plenty of them.  I have also learned that you cannot always please everyone as I would like.  It’s just not possible.  And do I enjoy my own parties?  Not at all really, until they are nearing their end and I can relax and be happy that everything has gone ok. And always, always, I am very tired the next day.
This year’s party was supposed to have taken place in Ibiza but in the end we had to downsize it.  Therefore we maintained the Ibizan theme and everyone came dressed in white.  It was held at an estate by a lake on the road to Valencia, some 20km outside Madrid, the perfect setting with its wildlife and lovely views.  There were plenty of surprises the main one being a performance by our management team made up of 7 men and just 2 women.  We had prepared a mixture of songs (Imagine, Mama Mía, You’re in the Army Now, YMCA, …) with Yoigo lyrics and, dressed up as the original singers, we made an amazing video clip.  I couldn’t believe how I looked dressed up as the dark haired member of the Abba group. 
Me and Cristina doing our Mama Mia performance
We then performed live on stage, arriving in a hippy bus (Ibiza style) dressed in white tunics and coloured wigs and sang and danced in front of the video.  I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw the public laughing when they saw us representing these songs on the video.  We were the stars of the show.  The end result was fantastic although as I cannot dance for toffee and my voice is not what it was, I did not enjoy the rehearsals, unfortunately. 
Another highlight of the night was the “foam moment” when foam was sprayed out of big tubes, covering whoever wanted with the white wet substance by the outdoor discotheque.  This I decided was an activity for me.  I fell of course and got completely stained and wet but the experience was well worth it.  Here is the best moment of the night for me!
Me coming out of the foam at the Yoigo summer party, the highlight
You can see the full set of the photos from the party here and a short video here too.
So, yes another good party.  I wonder how many more I will be responsible for in the coming years!  The next day I was exhausted as usual but had to go to work for a media interview and then a meeting with the sales department about social media.  The latter went on for nearly 4 hours and my mind was not on it but on all the things I had to do before we left for England the next day.  One of these things was to go and buy a new camera as very stupidly I had left my lovely Canon Ixus 990 (or was it 970) at the party on the table I had dinner on.  I never remembered to go back for it and only thought about my camera the next day when of course it was too late. Thus I invested in a new one, another Canon but this time the Power Shot SX 230 HS.  So far I’m pleased (about its quality, not about losing my IxusL) but very stupidly left the charger at home and will now have to scour camera shops in Yorkshire in search of one. 
On Friday we were up at 6, ready to leave in a taxi just after 7.30 and arrive at Barajas airport on time to catch the 9.55 BA flight to London Heathrow.  We arrived pretty much on time and made our way into central London on the tube.  We bought the very useful Oyster card for travelling around and were soon at our stop, South Kensington.  We realized later it should have been the next one, Gloucester Road which turned out to be nearer to our hotel, the Bentley in Harrington Gardens. 

The Bentley Hotel where we stayed in South Kensington.
The Hotel and room were up to our expectations and we loved the quiet location in the “posh” borough of Kensington and Chelsea.  After all, Lady Diana did live round the corner from here! 
London is full of tourists like us, but mostly full of Asians, crow dressed ladies in their integral burkas, so foreign to me, yet fascinating and a far cry from my childhood visits to London. 
As soon as we had settled in and Eladio had had a little “siesta” (nap in England of course), we hit the streets eager to take in as much of monumental London as we could on foot that is.  We walked all along Gloucester Road and then turned right on Kensington Road, past the famous Great Albert Hall and then decided to walk into the world famous Hyde Park.  Here we watched families, mostly Asians, and school children and the mounted police all doing their own thing until we came to the Serpentine lake where people were seated on the very English striped deck chairs.
Eladio in Hyde Park
 From this gorgeous green park we walked towards Hyde Park corner.  It must have been past three and we were hungry so I  invited Eladio to try the food at one of the restaurants at Harrods nearby.  We went through the marvelous food hall and then up to floor 4 but unfortunately the buffet at the Georgian restaurant had just closed.  We could only get a table at the Terrace bar.  Here I decided on that very British tradition, “afternoon tea”.  It was served to me by a girl from the Spanish town of Burgos.  I was a little disappointed in the sandwiches, or with their fillings.  There was no beef or pork, but turkey instead.  I was explained that this was because of the demand from the Asian guests of which the magnificent dining room was full of. 
Afternoon tea at Harrods, a lovely thing to do in London

Once outside we took photos of the beautiful building that the world famous Harrods store is housed in, in Knightsbridge.  Amazing to think that it is no longer owned by the British, as other icons like Rolls Royce isn’t today either.
Eladio outside Harrods

From Knightsbridge we walked back to Hyde Park corner and across to the Wellington Arch.  From here we walked through the leafy Green Park until we reached our destination, Buckingham Palace. And the Queen was at home as the British flag was flying.  When I was a child there were the red coated and bear skinned guards outside the gates but today they are far away from photographers’ prying eyes.  Here we took photos from the Victoria memorial in the square in front of the palace which only a few weeks ago was packed with wedding enthusiasts.

Outside Buckingham Palace.  Notice the flag flying, it means the Queen is at home.
From Buckingham Palace, we continued our tourist trail up the Mall to Trafalgar Square.  It was full of noise created by Canada Day so we skipped on photos with the lions.  From here we walked up Whitehall hoping for a glimpse of Downing Street.  Again when I was a child you could go right up the front door of number 10 but that was before terrorism.  Today the entrance to the street is heavily guarded.
Downing Street is heavily guarded these days
 We walked past official buildings and ministries and past war memorials and statues of Englands greatest men like Monty, until we reached the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, otherwise known as the Palace of Westminster.

By the Houses of Parliament
From here we crossed the Thames by the fittingly called “Bridge Street” where the ugly but interesting new London Eye big wheel is situated.  I well remember the Nokia game phone, the ghastly N-Gage being launched here and how we showed the journalists the phones in the capsules of the contraption whilst sipping champagne and admiring the night views of London.  Today we were not going up.
By the London Eye, a bit of an eyesore really
We then walked back along Whitehall, to Trafalgar Square, the names I learned as a child when I played Monopoly with my brother George and Aunty Gloria.  From here the natural route to follow was to Piccadilly Circus and when reached this emblematic site, our feet just could not take any more walking on our live Monopoly board.  Thus we used our Oyster card again to take us “home” to our hotel near Gloucester Road.
Good old Piccadilly Circus, a bit like New York's Times Square
A nice hot whirlpool bath was waiting for us when we got back and our feet and bodies were very grateful.  Later on we got changed and made our way to a nearby Indian restaurant we had spotted in Gloucester Road called Little India.  It was small and the food was great.  We had what we always have: onion bhajis to share, tika masala for Eladio and lamb korma for me.  I also had some delicious pistachio Indian ice cream afterwards.
We heard the news later that Rafa Nadal had beaten England’s (or rather Scotland’s), great hope, Andrew Murray, in the semi finals at Wimbledon.  Wimbledon is the world’s greatest tennis grand slam and an institution in England.  Well done Rafa and good luck in today’s final against that most challenging rival, Djokovic. 
Saturday started for me with a coffee and the newspaper at a lovely little bakery called The Paul boulangerie on Gloucester Road.  At the kiosk I was able to buy El País for Eladio for him to read over breakfast at our hotel.
Gloucester Road became quite a familiar street during our stay.
There are 4 things you can do in London as a tourist; walk and see the monuments, shop on Oxford Street, Knightsbridge or Kensington High Street, go to a show or to the theatre or visit the museums.  We had done the walking, we didn’t have tickets for a show and Eladio was not interested in shopping so we decided on museums.  Our hotel was very near the famous Exhibition Road where you can find the Victorian and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum.  Amazingly they are all free. We chose the Natural History Museum as our first course.
The Natural History Museum, just as I remembered it.
 I had been there once many years ago as a child when my Aunty Gloria took us there and I have remembered the visit always, specially the dinosaurs at the entrance of this very unique building which at times reminds you of a cathedral.

Eladio in the entrance of the Natural History Museum with the famous big dinosaur
Eladio loved it, as did I, although I didn’t want to see the “creepie crawlies” or anything like them.  I was much more interested in the evolution of man, as was Eladio.  Of great protagonism at the museum was of course, the instigator of this theory, Sir Charles Darwin.
The giant dinosaur in the entrance of the museum which I remembered from my visit so long ago.
Charles Darwin, you can feel his presence everywhere in the museum
After nearly three hours in this fascinating museum it was time for some food, so we made our way to Harrods again, to the buffet at the Georgian Restaurant on the 4th floor.  I remember this place from another Nokia trip to London and it was thanks to the director of the Mia magazine, Ketty Rico, that I got to know it.  I remembered the head waiter, Pepe, from Galicia and the old fashioned décor.  What was   not quite as good was   the food as some of the delicacies I had then were no longer there, such as fresh and shelled lobster.  We were served by yet another Spanish waiter (from Galicia he pointed out) and an Egyptian one.  The latter told us that Harrods was no longer owned by Mohamed Al Fayed but had been sold to a holding from Qatar and that the employees of Harrods cried when they found out. He told me that Mr. Al Fayed was extremely kind to them and also mentioned that he gave hand outs to both him and the Spanish waiter every month, on top of their salary.  I found that an interesting piece of news in general.  I never got to see the Diana monument,  unfortunately because Harrods is literally a maze.
Lunch at Harrods again was a delight
After lunch we walked back to our hotel via the long and famous Cromwell Road to our hotel.  Eladio remarked that the English had indeed dedicated an important street to the man from British history who killed its King,  Charles I.
After Eladio’s giant siesta, we ventured out again, this time to Kensington High Street and then to Kensington Gardens where we saw Princess Diana’s late home, Kensington Palace.  On 1st July she would have been 50 and there were quite a few cards from anonymous people.  I felt sad for her.
Outside Kensington Palace two days after Lady Diana's 50th birthday
Afterwards we carried on walking in the park and went to see the so called Round Pond and then through the Flower Garden where there were many grey squirrels.  In England they are referred to as tree rats, whereas their red cousins in Spain are much prized.  They were being fed by some burka clad ladies who offered us some of their peanuts to feed the squirrels.  I tried to talk to them but only got as far as that they were from Qatar, always dressed like that and please, no, do not take any photos.  Thus I only got one from behind.  These integral burka clad ladies do indeed fascinate me and Hyde Park was full of them.
Just too many ladies in burkas for my liking in London. These ones were in Hyde Park
We then walked towards the Serpentine where we saw a man swimming in the filthy water and from there we walked to the Diana Memorial fountain.  It was nice to see children paddling in the water.  Princess Diana would have liked that I’m sure.  We walked back to Knightsbridge but this time took the tube to Gloucester Road as our feet literally could not carry us anymore.  Dinner was wonderful fish and chips at the local Stanhope Arms served this time by a Spanish waitress from Segovia.  She was in fact a graduate in journalism who was learning English but was happy to talk to us in Spanish.

The next morning, our last, we left our luggage in reception and decided to visit the other museums as our train wasn't leaving until 2 0'clock.  We were disappointed  with the Victoria and Albert museum. We which loved the magnificent building it is housed in was becaubut are not really into objets d’art or design or architecture or jewelry.  We had hoped to see the British Galleries but they were closed due to electrical problems.  Therefore we decided to leave and go and see the Science Museum where I did not have high expectations.  However I was very pleasantly surprised. It is fantastic with its exhibition of engines and space objects and the history of technology, cars and airplanes and all the objects that have developed through the years.  It was a truly wonderful find.
Eladio at the Science Museum this morning. 
But all too soon we had to leave and make our way back to our hotel, yes another long walk. We have walked so much in London that we have to leave some energy for our walks in Yorkshire.  We picked up our heavy luggage and made our way to the underground our destination being the famous King’s Cross railwaystation, another stop on the Monopoly board.
King's Cross today
Here we picked up our pre booked tickets and made our way to the station lobby.  Here I left Eladio with our luggage and ventured out to find some food for our journey.  I found some wonderful produce at Pret a Manger, a great English food chain you see all over the place these days.  Soon we were making our way to platform 7, just as I used to as a child with all the excitement that getting on a train to Yorkshire still has for me.  We got onto coach B, the “quiet coach” and made ourselves comfortable and then began our marvelous meal. I started writing my blog with my laptop, fittingly on my lap and very soon we were going past Grantham and then Doncaster.  When we reached Wakefield I closed my pc as just 15 minutes or so later we would be arriving in Leeds.
In Leeds we changed trains and boarded the train going to Blackpool where we would get off some 15 minutes later at the Bradford Interchange.  Here we caught a taxi which took us to Nelson Street to the Europcar office where we picked up our little previously booked Hyundai.  Very soon we were on the Keighley Road driving in the direction of Gargrave.  Under an hour later we arrived in Gargrave, a little village just 4 miles after Skipton and on the Kendal road towards the Lake District.  Soon we found the cottage, The Arbour, where we had booked to stay for 15 nights and were greeted by the friendly couple, Hugh and Janet who have us an excellent welcome.  The cottage is clean and meets our expectations.  The owners, Hugh and Janet, had stocked us up with tea and coffee, strawberries, tomatoes, milk, butter and biscuits in the very well appointed little cottage.  As soon as we had unpacked we went next door to the co-op to buy some food for dinner and very soon we were enjoying a meal of carrot soup, cold meats, prawns and salad. Dessert was the lovely strawberries and some meringues and cream we got from the co-op. 

Outside our cottage in Gargrave, The Arbour. It is lovely.
We very much look forward to our stay here.  Waiting for us was an envelope with free tickets for the Great Yorkshire Show I had booked in advance.  As we are “overseas visitors” we are entitled to free tickets and a free parking space. But more about that when we visit the famous agricultural show next week.
Meanwhile back home we have some good news.  Olivia is doing work practice with the Spanish TVE 24hours news programme as part of her master’s degree. Well last week she got a call from the head of programmes offering her a 3 month paid internship with the TVE morning programme (las mañanas de la 1).  Hopefully she will be able to stay on afterwards.  She will combine both jobs and now has a foot firmly in the door of the Spanish TVE broadcaster.  We are so pleased for her.  Who knows, one day she may make a name for herself with Spanish TV.  I certainly hope so.  Well done Oli, we are very proud of you.
And now my friends I have come to the end of this week’s bumper packed blog post.  I will have a whole load more to write about next Sunday, but meanwhile I plan to enjoy the week thoroughly.  This is a true trip down memory lane and I look forward to seeing all the familiar places near here and enjoy being in England, something I seem to need more and more as I grow older.
I hope you too have a great week, that’s all for now
PS You can see the full set of photos of our weekend in London here.

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