Sunday, November 13, 2011

To Barcelona and back, a holiday in the middle of the week and other things

With Grainne in Barcelona

Hello again, 

I hope you all had a good week. Mine was fine, spiced with a trip to Barcelona on Monday and Tuesday.  In my previous jobs I used to travel a lot; sometimes as much as once a week and often to far off locations such as Shanghai, Cape Town, Santiago de Chile, Mexico City, Marrakech, many times to Helsinki or to Chicago and many other places.  These days, I am lucky if I get two or three trips to Stockholm or somewhere else near or in the Nordics once a year as well as a couple of trips to Barcelona and one to Santander.  The travelling was great and even if it was a bit too much I have to admit I miss it sometimes which is why the trip for work purposes to Barcelona this week was so special than it would have been before.   I was attending a course on social media on the Tuesday and on Monday I had a lunch date with two women journalist friends, Carmen and Toñi who have set up a great new technology website for women.  It’s called “gadwoman” and I love it!. 

With Toñi and Carmen, the Gadwomen, in Barcelona this week

Being hyperactive, organized and a great lover of life, I planned the trip with care so as to cram in as much as I could, both work and pleasure.  I took an early high speed train which got me in to Sants Station in the centre of Barcelona at midday.  I must admit I enjoyed every moment of the ride, including a little bottle of red wine at just after 10 in the morning with some forbidden nuts! From the station I took a taxi to my favourite hotel, 1898, on the Ramblas.  Once I had checked in and unpacked (oh yes I even unpack even if I’m only staying one night!), switched my computer on and connected to internet (can’t live without it), I was on my way to meet Carmen and Toñi at Toc Barcelona nearby; Carmen’s choice.  In fact, most of the places on my list of favourite restaurants in Barcelona are recommendations from her over the years.  I have known them both in their caliber as technology journalists based in Barcelona for many years.  Many a press trip with them in my previous job with Nokia served to forge our good relationship and we share many good and interesting moments together.  Toñi reminded me of one in particular.  It was on one of my last trips which was to St. Petersburg after a day in or two in Finland, and actually my first and only visit to Russia.  She reminded me how I had to persuade the guide to visit a church and how we finally managed it and how I shed quiet tears whilst lighting a candle and praying at an icon whilst the astonished journalists looked on.  I later had to explain what visiting a church in Russia actually meant to me with my Slav background. It was good to see Toñi and Carmen again and I wish them lots of luck with their new project.  

I walked back to my hotel via the fashionable Born district which Carmen recommended.  Not for her the H+Ms and Zaras of Puerta del Angel, Barcelona’s most commercial street.   However, just one look at a price label in one of the shops in the Born, had me scuttling off to the global brand stores I’m afraid.  At H+M I bought a lovely woolen striped long cardigan and another one for Grainne who I was meeting that night, for a fraction of what the dress I saw in the shop in the Born cost.  In any case it was nice to walk freely through the streets of the old town, wondering to myself whether I felt like a tourist or a local.  I suppose a bit of both.
The Born district in Barcelona.  It's supposed to be very trendy but I didn't really see whey.

I had a dinner date with Grainne later.  Those of you who know me personally will know that she is a very dear old school friend who lives in Badalona, on the outskirts of Barcelona and who I make a special effort to see every time I go and this time was not going to be an exception.  You might wonder where her name comes from and how it is pronounced.  Well it is of Irish origin; both of her parents were from the Republic of Ireland.  As to how you say, it’s not easy.  You say: “Grawnia”!  Anyway I had made a reservation at the legendary Los Caracoles just of the Ramblas, so a stroll away from my hotel.  As it was never recommended to me by Carmen or anyone local and only by English friends it sounded suspiciously touristy.  It turned out to be so, offering paella, a dish, which comes from Valencia and which no Spaniard would ever eat for dinner as it is so heavy. It was full of tourists and touristy food and a Tuna group came in singing corny Spanish songs such as “Amapola” which my Father actually loves.  Having said all that, I can understand why it is so popular, the food is good, the décor is great and even better is the old time quality atmosphere the whole place emanates, as you go up the stairs and past the huge open kitchen where the food is cooked in public. In Madrid its counterpart would be Botin, just off the Plaza Mayor which I have always admitted is touristy but loved.
The kitchen at Los Caracoles is open to the public.  The place has great atmosphere

We had a great dinner together as always, catching up on each other’s news and talking about our respective families and friends.  Grainne loved the cardigan dress I bought her. You will see in the picture illustrating this blog that I was wearing mine for the occasion.

 Afterwards we walked back to my hotel from where Grainne was to take a taxi home and in that short stroll we realised just what a dodgy place the Ramblas is.  It is teeming with tourists but also with suspicious characters and it is overall a dangerous place to be especially at night.  One young man who was covered in piercings asked Grainne for some money to which she replied she was out of a job.  He commiserated with her as if they were in the same boat so to speak and it was a bizarre moment.  I only felt safe when I was back in the lobby of the hotel.

On Tuesday I was up early for a scrumptious Dukan forbidden breakfast.  I had checked out by 8.30 and was on my way to the IESE Barcelona Business School to register for the social mediaconference.  There, in the same queue for registration I met Erika, Suzy’s school friend from early childhood at St. Michael’s.   Erika, who is half Swedish, is a clever and beautiful young lawyer who is fascinated with the world of fashion.  So much so that she did a master in fashion journalism with Conde Nast and is now working as a trainee reporter for Vogue Spain.  It was a lovely coincidence.  It was great to see you there Erika.
It was lovely to bump into Erika at the social media conference in Barcelona

The Social Media conference was more like a one day long presentation by the same person.  This was Charlene Li.  I had never heard of her but she is supposed to be big in social media and very influential in Silicon Valley but of course I have never been there.  She is an American Chinese woman probably in her 40s who knows her subject well but didn’t really inspire me.  Maybe I was expecting more or maybe I know enough about social media not to be surprised.  I spent the whole session on Twitter, tweeting some of her sound bites or re-tweeting tweets from other people in the audience who seemed more impressed.  I must say the room was jam packed and there must have been some 400 people there.  The conference was so packed they ran out of food after the first ten minutes at lunch and it felt like feeding time at the zoo with people desperate for their share. 
The social media conference with Charlene Li

I took the 18.30 train home and it wasn’t till nearly 9pm that I was trailing my suitcase, heavy handbag and pc up the drive and into our house.  It’s always great to be home. Whilst I was away I had missed Oli on the television on Monday morning.  It had snowed in the mountains outside Madrid and she had been sent to Navacerrada to cover the story.  Needless to say she left the house in normal clothes and had to borrow gloves and a scarf from the producer.  You can see the clip in this link.  Whenever Olivia is on the television, or rather, whenever she tells me she is going to be on, it’s still a novelty for me and I get very happy and excited for her and tell all and sundry. Thus Grainne saw her too and was suitably impressed as was Pili in León who watched it in a bar in her coffee break with her work colleagues.

The next day, Wednesday, was a holiday, the Almudena, the patron saint of Madrid.  That meant we were all at home for once.  I had to check out a restaurant for an event in December, so took the family along with me as there seemed to be no other free day in my agenda to do so.  The meal was great and the restaurant fine and there and then I booked it for our event on 1st December which will be to celebrate Yoigo’s fifth anniversary.  Fancy, five years in the market.  For me it seems like yesterday and here we are now with nearly 3 million customers, 1000 shops and over 90% brand recognition and going strong.  
Lunch with the family in Madrid on the Wednesday bank holiday, killing two birds with one stone in a way

Thursday and Friday were really busy and I went to the office on both days.  I also had a meeting at the Zielo shopping centre with Elena who runs a great cake and pastry business with a view to ordering this year’s Christmas gourmet gift as well as the birthday cakes for 1st December.  She does some amazing cakes.  This is her blog, if you want to see some of them.  

Friday was the 11th of the 11th month of the 11th year, a really special date.  The date is a perfect palindrome and apparently happens only once a century.  Internet was full of it.  I had hoped it might bring me some special luck but didn’t notice anything different to any other Friday. 

Suzy spent Friday evening making a sort of swiss roll, from her boyfriend Gaby’s mother’s recipe.  It looked very fattening, made of rich tea biscuits dipped in syrup and then covered in a chocolate butter spread and sprinkled with coconut.  Here is the finished product which we didn’t get to try till the next day.
Suzy is a great little cake maker.

The weekend has been quiet.  As Olga has the weekends off, we have to look after my Father and cannot leave him alone in the house for more than an hour or so.  That’s not normally a problem though as there is usually one of us at home.  So on Saturday morning, after leaving lunch ready, Eladio and I went off to Centro Oeste a shopping centre in nearby Majadahonda, with the excuse of picking up his trousers from Massimo Dutti.  It was such a sunny day we decided to have a little something at a bar called La Gitana where we had been with Adele and Bernard recently.  Later in Centro Oeste, we got more than Eladio’s trousers, I can tell you; this time a furry coat and striped woolen dress from Zara.  I can only admit that I have far too many clothes.  My excuse is that I making up for all the years I couldn’t buy any because of my previous figure.

That night I wore the new dress (yes you’ve noticed I like stripes) to dinner with Eladio at La Alpargatería. The girls stayed in as they had guests for dinner, so we decided to go out at the last moment.  Here I am wearing it on table number seven, our favourite.  
Eladio and I on our favourite table at La Alpargatería restaurant in Majadahonda on Saturday and me in my new dress from Zara

Today, Sunday, was another quiet sunny day with not much to report.  I made a lovely roast chicken in the morning to the sound of British hymns from Spotify on my pc in the kitchen.  I was listening to “Immortal, invisible, God only wise which I adore and Olivia and Eladio thought I was listening to Christmas carols!  There and then I was so moved listening to my collection of hymns that I decided that when I die I would like to have them played at my funeral ah and that I would want the service to be held in an Anglican Church.  I told Olivia, there and then just in case it never occurs to me to tell anyone before the event.  

Well I’m not going to end on the note of my funeral, that’s for sure.  So what else is there of interest to report this week that I haven’t  included above?  Yes, I know, I’ve changed my mobile phone and not only that, I’ve changed brands.  I’ve stopped using my fancy Samsung Galaxy S because the battery wasn’t lasting me more than a morning, even after getting a new one.  So what am I using now you may ask?  Nothing fancy, the HTC Desire S.  It’s an ordinary Android phone but the battery lasts more than the iPhone or the Galaxy and it works perfectly.  This time I’ve gone for functionality rather than brand and I think I’ve made the right decision.  For the time being I am delighted with it.

The only other thing I could report on is politics and as you know I’m not keen on the subject.  However I am bombarded with it in the Spanish news.  One good piece of news is that Berlusconi has finally stepped down, rather like a dictator and everyone seems to have heaved a huge sigh of relief in Europe.  And in Spain the news is dominated by the up and coming general elections on 20th November.  The two candidates, Rubalcaba from the socialist party and Rajoy from the conservative party just do not inspire me as I guess they don’t inspire many people here.  In any case as I am not a Spanish subject I cannot vote but will be looking on with interest to see if whoever wins is able to get Spain out of the crisis, and improve the unemployment figures, the highest in Europe.  That does interest me ……….

Cheers folks till next week.  Hope yours is a good one.

PS You can see more photos of my trip to Barcelona here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Having a crush on Apple, I still stick with, yes correctly HTC. Guess functionality being the operative word. Hope you'll have yet another good week I can read about next Sunday. All the best! /MIca