Sunday, June 24, 2012

“Something to look forward to”, summer came and the semantics of Midsummer, football and the difference between a French and Spanish omelette, lunch at Suzy’s and more.

Sunday 24th June, 2012

“Something to look forward to”, summer came and the semantics of Midsummer, football and the difference between a French and Spanish omelette, lunch at Suzy’s and more.

Lunch at Suzy's flat on Saturday was the highlight of the week

Hi everyone

It’s Sunday morning.  This time last week we were travelling back from France, a trip that we were looking forward to for months and that is now over.  You look forward to things for so long and then they are so quickly over.  Someone once said to me, Javier a sports journalist friend, that actually there is more joy in the planning than in the event or activity itself.  There is a famous quote: “focus on the journey not on the destination” but I don’t remember the author. They are probably right and Eladio and I always say how nice it is to have “something to look forward to, however small.   Having something to look forward to gives you a good positive feeling which I suppose is a taste of happiness. So here you have me planning more things, another “something to look forward to”, such as a trip to London in August and savouring the idea.  But more about that later.

The week was quiet, dominated by the Euro Cup quarter final matches, something which my Father especially is enjoying. The matches, for him are just that; “something to look forward to”.  For him watching the football is a change in his routine, adding a bit of spice to his quiet life.
The quarter final matches took place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday interrupting our daily walk but even I didn’t mind.  When I wasn’t interested in the matches, I continued reading the Fifty Shades trilogy, very thrilling.  I finished it on Saturday morning and now look forward to another book by the now famous English woman author, E.L. James who I think will now write the book from Christian Grey’s perspective rather Anastaia Steele’s.  So I hope, “Meet Christian Grey” comes out soon.

EL James, the author of the  Fifty Shades trilogy

The men enjoyed watching the Czech Republic play Portugal on Thursday.  Portugal, with striker Cristiano Ronaldo on a winning streak, won by 1-0 taking Portugal through to the semi finals.  On Friday they watched Germany beat Greece by 4-2, much to the Greek’s chagrin who chanted things like “you may have the euros but we have a heart” to the amazement of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who put forward preparatory meetings for the European Union summit, to attend the match taking place in Poland.  

The next quarter final match was yesterday, between France and Spain and was to be held in the Ukraine where no authorities from either country were to attend in protest against the former P.M. Timoshenko being in prison in suspicious circumstances.  This match was by far the most interesting for us of course, as Spain is our home country.  Spain had never beaten France in an official match so the statistics were against us.  However La Roja, played a great game last night with Real Madrid’s, mid fielder, Xavi Alonso, making his 100th appearance for Spain, garnering 2 goals to take Spain through to the semi finals. It will be against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, a player the Roja know well.

Xavi Alonso celebrating his first goal against France in the Euro Cup Quarter finals last night

There was much emotion behind this match and many jokes on internet, as well as a spirit of Spanish retaliation against French criticism in the recent past about doping in Spanish sport.  One I particularly like is a photo of the difference between a Spanish omelette (made with eggs and potatoes), much bigger than its French equivalent, the plain omelette which in Spanish is always called a “French omelette”.  The caption has a double meaning and says “No nos dopamos, lo echamos más huevos”, a rough translation being: “we don’t dope, but put in more eggs” (eggs also meaning guts).  I personally always prefer a Spanish omelette.

The French and Spanish omelette joke that circulated on internet before the match

So yes, Spain beat France in a great match for Spain by 2-0, making the Gauls leave the Ukraine with their tails between their legs.  It was a great moral victory for Spain against their upbeat neighbours.  We now look forward to Spain doing the same with their other neighbours, Portugal next Wednesday and playing Germany and either England or Italy in the final.  England plays Italy tonight, so that remains to be seen.

England play Italy tonight in the Euro Cup Quarter Finals

I was pleased to read a twit from England’s former striker Michael Owen after the match vs France which said: “Nothing I’ve seen has made me change my mind.  Spain to win it beating either England or Germany in the final”.   If he’s right, I only hope it’s Germany they beat and not my other homeland England.      

We have all been looking forward to summer too and it finally came on 21st June.  The Scandinavians look forward to what is called “Midsummer” more than anyone as this festivity is for them nearly equal to Christmas.  Here you can see a great video of how the Swedes celebrate.  Midsummer is the longest day in the year, after which the days get slowly shorter.  It is also called the “solstice”.  I have never understood why it is called “Mid” summer if it actually falls at the beginning of summer.  The semantics here are strange.  But they were unraveled by my linguist friend, Andy who explained that the word “mid” actually comes from the German or old English “mit” meaning “with” and not “middle”, so Mid Summer means “with summer”.  Now I understand.  In the north of Spain and in many other countries it coincides with St. John (San Juan) and is often celebrated with bonfires.  In the Nordic countries, where it is called “midsommar”, the maypole (symbolizing fertility) always makes its presence.

A maypole is always present at Swedish Midsummer festivities

At our home, the summer weather had already come, but you know it’s really here when the hydrangeas are out.  Eladio planted many of them when we first came to live here and they always bloom at this time of year.

When the hydrangeas are out you know summer is here

The week has been full of planning for me, or rather last minute preparations for two big events I have coming up next week.  On Wednesday we have a press conference together with Spotify and fittingly it will take place at the Hard Rock café in Madrid.  It’s something we have been working on for a while and hopefully will bring us some good PR results.  Personally I think that the Yoigo and Spotify brands make a great fit.

Yoigo and Spotify will be holding a joint press conference next week.  I think the brands fit so well.

And then on Thursday we have the annual Yoigo summer party, the origin of which comes from the Swedish roots of the company, something I used to do at Nokia too, what with the Finnish roots.  This project or party is huge, in that I have to gather as many sponsors as I can through my colleagues, to finance the party.  Some 20 odd are on board now.  They get to send representatives, making up more than half the numbers.  Actually this year the list of guests is about 320, the mail address list being a total nightmare.  This year we are doing a typical Spanish “fiesta” in a village outside Madrid in the mountain area called Hoyo de Manzanares.  We will have bumper cars, a village band, a waltzer, churros, you name it, it will be there.  I only wish I could enjoy my own parties.  I tend to enjoy them when they are ending and everything has gone ok. Then I can relax but boy am I tired the next day.  You may think that’s because of the late night or alcohol but actually at my own parties I don’t usually drink.  Besides I am being strictly Dukan these days before our holidays in July.  The reason has more to do with after the event tension I am sure.

It'll be the Yoigo Summer Party next week too

The highlight of this week was Saturday when we were going for lunch to Suzy’s new flat.  That was certainly something my Father was looking forward to, because he hasn’t been out of the house for a long time but also because it would be the first time he was to see Suzy’s cozy little pad.  Oli couldn’t join us as she had end of season lunch with the colleagues from her TV programme.  In the end most of the food was brought by us, but Suzy did make some splendid Russian “pelmeni” with “Smetana” for my Father and herself. The photo illustrating this week's post is of the lovely lunch at Suzy's house.

Her friend and neighbour Eladio had given Suzy some Swiss chocolate for my Father, knowing he has a very sweet tooth.  These were quickly finished off after lunch with coffee as was the pistachio nougat I brought back from France.  My Father was impressed with Suzy’s neat little flat which is perfectly equipped and very modern.  Whilst we were there, Eladio put some finishing touches, fixing things she needed putting on the wall for which he had taken along his handy black and decker.  

Today too has been a day to look forward to as we were expecting guests for lunch. Eladio’s recently operated brother, José Antonio, his wife, Dolores and their little dog Nuba were coming for lunch and to spend the afternoon with us.  Juan, their youngest son joined us too, but unfortunately there were no “girlies”.  Suzy had a very late night and was tired and Olivia left in the morning for Galicia where she will be reporting for Spanish TV all week until her return next Friday evening.  I look forward to seeing her on the television.  That will probably be the last time for a while as her programme will be suspended in the summer until 1st September, although there is a small question mark as to whether that will happen or not.  In any case, I know she will thoroughly enjoy this last week and then she will have two full months of time off.  She has plans to spend part of it on inter rail with a friend from the programme, Bea, a producer.  That will be exciting. 

The afternoon was spent by the pool and I must say today has probably been the hottest day of the year so far.  I saw someone put up a picture on FB of a thermometer in Madrid that marked 42ºC.  So I was in and out of the pool all afternoon.  We could only sit under the trees in the shade and even then if it was very hot.  In the early evening I prepared an afternoon tea tray for everyone with my favourite Emma Bridgewater pottery.  Here you can see José Antonio and Eladio around the table, just before we poured the welcome cups of tea.

José Antonio and Eladio by the pool this afternoon

I have come to the end of the week now but before I sign off, I must tell you about the trip I have planned to London in August, another trip to look forward to. It will be another reunion with my friends from Nottingham University, Sandra and Adele whom we were with in France last week.  But this time we will be joined by Sue Chappel, another friend from University who I haven’t seen since our mide 20’s.  Sue is now living in Australia!  It all came about after an exchange on Facebook where I heard that out of coincidence both Sandra and Sue would be in London around 15-18 August. So I proposed that Adele and I go out to London too and hold a proper reunion, just the “girls” that is, without our husbands or partners.  And the idea was accepted immediately and now both Adele and I have booked our tickets and we all have something great to look forward to.

In actual fact, I’m a lucky lady as I have lots of trips to look forward to this summer.  In July Eladio and I will be off to Verin and then Sanxenxo in Galicia.  From there we will go to Montrondo for the annual family gathering.  In Montrondo we also look forward to a visit from our friends Kathryn and Phil from Keighley.  Then of course, after a quick return to Madrid, Eladio and I will spend a few days at the beach in Santa Pola.  London will be straight after Santa Pola.  It promises to be a great summer.

On that happy note, my friends, I leave you until next week and of course, meanwhile wish you all a great summer too.



Monday, June 18, 2012

Olivia reporting from Galicia, The Coupe des Mousquetaires is Spanish, the Motorola press conference, a reunion in Orléans and home again.

Monday June 18th 2012

Olivia reporting from Galicia, The Coupe des Mousquetaires is Spanish, the Motorola press conference, a reunion in Orléans and home again.

Me enjoying our visit to the Cheverny chataeu in the Loire Valley near Orléans this weekend.

Hello everyone

Sorry I didn’t write yesterday, Sunday, but it was the day we got back from our trip to Orléans and I was too tired to write so have left it until today.

Last week was a great week in many ways.  On Sunday Olivia left for Galicia where she would be reporting live most of the week.  

Oli worked from TVE Galicia this week

I actually only saw her on Monday which found her in the province of Lugo reporting on a derelict convent which was endangering the buildings around it.  You can see the report here at minute 12.12h

Olivia reporting live from Lugo on Monday

Monday was when Spain took the Coupe des Mousquetaires, the men’s trophy of the French Open, commonly known as Roland Garros.  On Monday the best Spanish tennis player of all times, the 26 year old Rafa Nadal, garnered his 7th win in Paris, after the match was delayed by rain twice on Sunday.  His rival was the number one seed, the icy Novak Djokovic and for the records the Spaniard beat him 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5. on the famous Court Philippe Chatrier.

This seventh win made tennis history as he beat Bjorn Borg’s record of 6 wins.  Djokovic was hoping to win his first French Open, in order to have the record of winning all four grand slams, but it was not to be.  He will now have to wait until next year. Rafa Nadal’s win was a great antidote on Monday to the news of Spain’s bail out.

Rafa Nadal and his 7th Coupe des Mousquetaires

Monday ended happily too when Phoebe, our cat made an appearance after several week’s absence.  She is, of course, put off, just like Joe, our other cat, by Elsa and Norah.  Joe, unfortunately has been missing for even longer.

It was lovely to see Phoebe again

Needless to say we fed her as we have done now for several days.  She was thin but not scrawny and we suspect she has another home where is probably fed too.

Tuesday was a special day for me.  I was to attend my first Motorola press conference since I left the company as their PR Manager in 1999.  It was to be a joint press lunch with Yoigo on the launch of their latest smartphone, the Motorola Razr Maxx, which boasts the longest battery life of any smartphone on the market and will only be available with Yoigo, for the moment at least.  Some of the press, who were the same as when I worked for Motorola, were there too and the occasion was rather historic.  Lunch was held at a nice little place in town called El Qüenco de Pepa.

With my journalist friend Ana at the Motorola press conference on Tuesday

Wednesday was a quiet day. I worked from home most of the day, only stopping to read by the pool with Eladio in the early evening and going for a walk after dinner, which seems to be our routine this month.  You may be wondering what I was reading and here I hesitate to tell you.  Recently I read an article about the English woman write E.L. James and her very popular trilogy called Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.  I was astonished to learn that millions of women around the world were enjoying or rather devouring this new genre, which in short is erotic literature but with a wonderful romantic story as the backdrop. I must say   I devoured the first book in less than two days and am now on the last book riveted with the story of ex student Anastasia Steele and the man who fascinates her, CEO Christian Grey with his mysterious and disturbing past.  It’s not my usual genre, but I must say I am smitten with the story.  When my friend Sandra told me she was reading it and asked whether our friend Adele in France would like it, my answer was “any woman would”.  So if you are a woman and my friend, I highly recommend it.  Please men steer away as it’s not your scene.
Women all over the world are reading the Fifty Shades trilogy and I wasn't to be left out. It's steam stuff.

Finally Thursday 14th came, the day we had been looking forward to for months, the day we were going to France for another reunion with Sandra and Adele and their partners Jeffer and Bernard.  The last time we had all been together was in June 2011 when we stayed with Sandie in Brussels.  This time we were going to Orléans, the home town of Joan of Arc, some 1.5h south west of Paris, to stay with Adele and Bernard.  We flew to Paris Orly where Adele met us and where Sandie was arriving by train from Brussles via Paris.  We were all together at about midday and excited to see each other again.  Adele and Sandra, as you may remember, were my great friends from Nottingham University and I lived with them both before we left in 1980. 

With my two great friends Adele (left) and Sandie (right) in Orléans this weekend

The great thing about our renewed friendship is that our husbands and partners get along just as well.  So there you have English Adele who is now very French, Italian and Hungarian but Indian born and English bred Sandra (a real mixture), myself, with my Russian and English blood and Spanish habits and our husbands, each from a different corner of the world.  Eladio my husband is a Spanish philosopher, Bernard, Adele’s husband is a French psychiatrist and Jeffer, Sandra’s partner, is an American marketer, amongst many other things.

Our three men, the Spaniard, the American and the Frenchman

Adele drove us to her delightful home in the centre of Orléans, an old town house with three floors, wooden stairs and beams and lots of nooks and crannies.  The house is full of all sorts of objets d’art, some modern, some old and oozes character. 

Adele and Bernard's house in Orléans

The nicest part of the whole house is the little patio they call “le jardin”, full of flowers and plants.

Adele and Bernard's delightful little garden

We commented the house looked like something out of a house and garden glossy magazine and I’m sure you will agree from the picture below.
The front room of Adele and Bernard's house

As soon as we had settled in, Adele took us out on a walking tour of the pretty town on the Loire and here we were to see lots of medieval tudor style houses, cobbled streets, and pretty squares, as well as take a walk by the majestic river Loire of chateau fame. 

By the statue of Joan of Arc in Orléans
We must have walked for over two hours and were rewarded at the end of the afternoon with a nice glass of local white wine at a typical French bar in the centre of the town.

At a lovely little bar in Orléans
On our way home, we bumped into Bernard who was returning from work.  I might add that the lucky man’s consultancy is 1.5 minutes walk from his home.  So we were now only missing Jeffer who was not joining us until Friday evening when he would drive from a project he was doing in Luxembourg to join us.  Once home, we sat down to a lovely meal prepared by Adele at their beautiful dining room table.  

Adele is a great cook and always has been.  I well remember her preparing dinner parties when we were students at Nottingham.  In those days her most famous meals mainly consisted of homemade pizza and cheese cake. 
Adele cooking in her little kitchen

The whole weekend was to be about food, laughter and some culture and shopping.  Thus Friday morning started off with a great breakfast before we set off for a day in the Loire Valley.  It was to be just the three “girls”· and Eladio again as Bernard had to work in the morning and wouldn’t be free until the late afternoon.  Adele was to take us to two lovely chateaux in the Loire Valley, on a drive through the impeccable and pretty French countryside.
Our first stop was the magnificent Chambord Chateau, a feast for our eyes.  I’m sure Adele has seen it many times but we were bowled over.

The four of us at Chambord Chateau
Here apart from strolling round the chateau and enjoying the parkland, we stopped for a wonderful café au lait and of course for a bit of tourist shopping of local biscuits and other fare.

Café au lait with Adele at Chambord
From Chambord we drove to nearby Cheverny, another beautiful castle and apparently the most beautifully furnished of all the Loire castles as we were to find out when we visited it.  The photo illustrating this week’s blog is of me outside the Cheverny Castle.

The Chateau at Cheverny
It is apparently famous for being the castle that inspired the Tintin story, Le Moulinsart, but I was much more interested in the huge pack of fox hounds kept there for hunting purposes.  Feeding time was quite disgusting though as was the smell.  But I forgave these beautiful animals as they are the just like big beagles, like Norah at home.

The fox hounds at Cheverny
I also loved the kitchen garden where vegetables like Jerusalem artichokes grew next to the finest roses which were used to decorate the chateau.

The kitchen garden at Cheverny
Lunch at the beautiful Orangery was a disappointment but the surroundings made up for that, as did the visit to the chateau afterwards.

The nursery at the Chateau de Cheverny
After so much beauty, we were quite tired out and ready to go home and we were looking forward to being joined by Bernard and Jeffer so that our sixsome would be complete.  That night we were happy too to see both France and England win their respective matches of the opening rounds of the Euro Cup. I should add that Spain beat Ireland 4-0 the previous night and we are now all waiting to see the outcome of the final match which will be against Croatia tonight. If they do well, then Spain may well meet England in the Quarter finals. 
Dinner, once again prepared by Adele, was cooked to perfection. The piece de resistance was her Delia Smith pavlova, which I know I will try and make at the next opportunity I get. 

Adele's amazing pavlova
Saturday was the most important day of our visit and the one when we would be all together.  The day started off with this splendid breakfast.  Just feast your eyes on these delicious French croissants.

A true French breakfast
On Saturday it rained most of the day, but it didn’t dampen our spirits.  In any case we stayed at home, as there was to be a family party for lunch. We were to be joined by Bernard’s 86 year old mother, Michelle, by his 25 year old daughter Diane and her friend Sara, as well as by Adele’s second son Ben who lives in Orléans and her third son Nicholas and his beautiful policewoman girlfriend Carole who live in Paris.  That day was Adele’s granddaughter Emma’s first birthday and we all joined in on the skype session with her Father Johathan, Adele’s oldest son and his Moroccan wife to be Salma.  I think the whole session lasted more than an hour.  Here is a group photo all everyone around the computer wishing Emma a happy birthday.

Skyping with the family
We had a great buffet lunch together where three languages were spoken in the loud and delightful party.  Both Eladio and I had to “take our French out of the cupboard” so to speak and I was quite happy to see how my French was coming back, talking to Madame Louette and Bernard’s daughter.

The buffet lunch on Saturday
The party didn’t end until past five, after which the six of us hit the town for a bit of shopping and sightseeing.

Shopping in Orléans
Exhausted from so much excitement we went back home for a quick cup of tea before going out again. We were to have dinner out but first visit Ben’s lovely flat near the cathedral.  Dinner was at Orléans’ finest restaurant, La Parenthese. The meal was delicious, specially the crab meat salad.

La Parenthese restaurant in Orléans
Afterwards we walked down to the river to digest the dinner a bit, as we were all so full from so many wonderful meals.  And then we went home and it was time to pack and say goodbye, at least to Sandra and Jeffer.  They were staying on another day but we had to be up at the crack of dawn to take the shuttle taxi which was coming for us at 07.45.  It got us to Paris Orly at about 10 and our plane wasn’t leaving until midday.  So we twiddled our thumbs for a while and I continued to enjoy Fifty Shades Darker.

We landed just after 13.30 and were home at about 15h, when everyone had had lunch.  We unpacked and Eladio had a well deserved siesta, whilst I read by the pool, devouring my book.  Later we went out for dinner to De Brasa y Puchero and were joined by Olivia.  It was my last food foray before returning to the Dukan diet today Monday.  Suzy was on her way back from Montrondo and was too late to join us for the dinner unfortunately.  She had gone for the Corpus Christi fiestas and had a great time with the family and of course with her childhood friends from the village, such as JM.

Suzy with her friends and cousins in Montrondo this weekend.
And today is Monday and it’s back to work and back to the Dukan diet and back to routine and everyday life at home.  The reunion trip to Orléans was great and I look forward to our next meeting.  We are not sure yet whether it will be in Brittany in the north of France or it may even be here in Madrid when it will be my turn to host the reunion with my dear long lost friends.  

And now it is Monday night and nearly time to watch Spain play Croatia.  So fingers crossed my friends.

All the best till next week

PS You can see the full set of photos of our trip to Orléans here.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A special present and a party, wonderful Copenhagen, home again, a family weekend and a sporting Sunday.

10th June 2012

A special present and a party, wonderful Copenhagen, home again, a family weekend and a sporting Sunday.

Me in the Tivoli Gardens on Thursday this week.

 Hi again everyone, this sunny morning in June.

It is quiet.  I am writing from the kitchen whilst the men read the papers, the dogs are lying in the garden and Olivia is asleep upstairs, as is my niece Alicia who came to stay this weekend.  As to the whereabouts of Susana I can only imagine she is asleep at her new flat.  The house will come alive at midday when I expect everyone for lunch.  Meanwhile I can use this quiet time to write my blog.

The week has been good, with lots to tell, especially my trip to Wonderful Copenhagen.  So let me start from the beginning as always.

Monday saw me at a small village in the mountains of Madrid, to site inspect the main square “plaza mayor” of Hoyo de Manzanares as the location for our splendid summer party to take place at the end of this month.  I commented to Bea and Cris from my events agency, QuintaEsencia, over a cup of coffee across the road from the Plaza afterwards that it was the perfect place.  We are planning to hold a typical Spanish fiesta there for our employees, that promises to be different and a lot of fun.

The Plaza Mayor in Hoyo de Manzanares

On Tuesday I went into the office for the weekly management team meeting but first went past reception to pick up a parcel that had arrived from Motorola.  I was curious to know what they had sent me, Motorola being the company I worked for first in the telecoms sector, from 1990 to 1999 when mobile phones were just taking off.  Lo and behold it was their latest smartphone, sent to me personally by their new General Manager.  In a way I was tickled pink and very pleased to receive this unexpected present, it being the first Motorola phone I had in my hands for many years.  But it came too late.  If they had sent me one just after I left or even later I maybe would have used it.  But I’ve gone past both my Motorola phone phase as I have my Nokia phone phase. Right now my favourite brand is Samsung which probably doesn’t surprise you.  Even so, I felt very appreciative of the gesture. 

The present from Motorola, a lovely gesture

Later I was to receive an invitation to a joint Motorola Yoigo press lunch to be held next week on the announcement of this new terminal which will be part of our portfolio.  That will be one funny occasion for me, having been Motorola’s communications manager and now the communications manager for Yoigo.  I can only imagine it will be curious too for the press, many of whom have known me in both roles and of course in the same role at Nokia.  But, more about that next week.

That same night, Yoigo held a party to celebrate our new tariffs.  The event was my responsibility and thanks to my great agency, everything went really well, the best thing being the atmosphere we created. 

The atmosphere we created at the Yoigo party on Tuesday was electric to say the least

It was held on the roof terrace of a fashionable market, Mercado de San Antón right in the centre of town.  We had invited press and bloggers as well as staff and partners.  The latter included the mobile manufacturers and thus Tuesday night for me felt like a reunion of my Motorola colleagues and my ex Nokia colleagues, especially the latter.  It was great being together for the first time since we left; César from Samsung, Isidro from Sony Mobile, Eduardo from Blackberry and Mikel still at Nokia.  Here is a picture of that happy moment.

Tuesday was a true reunion with my ex Nokia colleagues, Mikel, Isidro, César and Edu

It was also nice to have the girls work with me that night, as they have been doing in many of my events over the years, since they were about 16.  We didn’t get home until very late, nearly 3 in the morning and despite sticking to the Dukan diet and having absolutely no alcohol, I had a splitting headache.  I think they can sometimes be provoked by stress.  A colleague of mine observed that I was not my normal self at the party and I think he is probably right.  It all boils down to being tense and worried that everything is going ok, so I never really enjoy my own parties.  However, this was one was very special.

My beautiful girls at the party on Tuesday night

You can see the photos of the event here on Flickr.  The Photographer, by the way was new and very good.

On Wednesday I was up bright and early as I had to catch the flight to Copenhagen.  I was going for a team meeting on Thursday but had the late afternoon and evening free to meet our dear friends Pernille and Thomas and their delightful daughters Julia and Alberte aged 10 and 7.

I had coverage problems in Denmark throughout my stay as well as visa issues, as taxis only use swipe cards and mine is a chip card.  Also I was only able to use one of my cards at a cash point.  The disadvantage of Denmark of course is that it doesn’t have the euro.  However the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.  I have been to Denmark many times, my first visit there being in 1974 on my famous inter rail trip which you will have read about in my last post and the last one being 7 years ago, just before I left Nokia.  The Danes are considered the “Latins” of Scandinavia and are definitely more outgoing than their Nordic neighbours.  The city is a walking fairy tale city with beautiful buildings although this time the city seemed to be undergoing a very big upheaval, with lots of renovation going on.  

My hotel, the Clarion Collection Mayfair, well praised on Trip Advisor, was very central; a stone’s throw from the train station and the world famous Tivoli Gardens.

My hotel in Copenhagen was not in the best area of the town

 It is however in the wrong district, Vesterbro which turned out to be the red light district with a sex show club bang opposite the old hotel.  Frankly that was rather off putting and next time I will be more careful in the choice of my hotel.  On the plus side it was clean and comfortable and the staff was very accommodating. 

This was the club across the road from my hotel!

Thomas picked me up just past 5.30 and drove me to their lovely home some 40km away by the sea near a delightful village called Hellebaekvej.  And there was my Danish princess Pernille now aged 40 but still looking 20, the age she was when she came to Spain to be our au pair, with her arms wide open to embrace me.  Behind her, waiting patiently with smiles on their little faces were her own little princesses Julia and Alberte and I swept them up in my arms and they felt like family.

Pernille, Julia and little Alberte

These wonderful people live in a fairy tale like big wooden house in huge grounds filled with colour because of the blooming rhododendrons.  The house I knew would be wonderful inside because of Pernille and Thomas’ great taste.  The whole ground floor is one big open space including the spotless kitchen and dining room.  After I had given my presents of wine and ham and smarties in a sleeping beauty container and green linen scarf to Pernille, they showed me their home and garden and I took endless pictures.

Thomas and Pernille's lovely house outside Copenhagen

Then we sat down to a simple but delicious Danish dinner made of cooked salmon, salad and boiled potatoes.  Dessert was local strawberries which couldn’t have tasted better.  Julia is learning English so I practiced a bit with her whilst little Alberte looked on, the only word she knew being “yes” and which she used a lot. Then these perfect little girls went upstairs to bed with no trouble whatsoever and we continued round the table catching up on our news. 

Julia and Alberte sitting down to dinner

Soon it was time to go as I had to get back to my hotel and Thomas had to work and of course they had to go to bed early as they start their morning at 6am, every day.  

Thomas stayed behind to catch up with his work, whilst Pernille drove me home.  We said our goodbyes on the terrace of their lawn where we had a quick photo session before leaving.  I just wonder when I will see them again.  I hope it is soon.

With my darling Pernille

On Thursday I was up early again and this time off to the Telia headquarters in Copenhagen for our team meeting.  My colleagues from the other Scandinavian and Baltic countries were all there before me, having arrived that morning as Copenhagen is much nearer their homes than mine.  We had a good day together going over all the PR projects we are working on, only stopping for lunch at the nearby Bizarro café.  We finished at around 5 and all made our ways by taxi to our hotels in the centre.  We were to meet again outside the main gates of the Tivoli Gardens just a while later.  I got there earlier, after walking down the famous Stroget pedestrian thoroughfare, the main tourist street in Copenhagen. 

Stroget in Copenhagen

I was eager to take a picture of myseslf outside the Tivoli gates to compare with the one I have of myself there aged 17 in 1974 on my Inter rail trip.  I actually think I look better today, nearly 40 years on.  Don’t you?

Outside the Tivoli Gardens June7th 2012

Outside the Tivoli Gardens in 1974, what a difference from above.

We had a meal at a typical Danish restaurant called Groeften.  My first course was wonderful fresh Danish shrimps.  Just take a look as they are mouth watering.

The wonderful fresh and pealed Danish shrimps which I had for dinner on Thursday night

After dinner we wandered outside to explore the beautiful gardens which were teeming with people on this cool summer night.  First we stopped to take a group photo outside perhaps one of the Tivoli’s most famous buildings, a sort of splendid white Moorish palace.

With my colleagues in the Tivoli Gardens

I snapped my camera everywhere I looked as there was always something interesting to catch my eye.  I have maybe been to the Tivoli Gardens some 5 or 6 times but each time I go it feels like the first and I enjoy the thrill of the place as if I were a kid.  The picture illustrating this week’s post is of me by one of the lakes against the backdrop of one of the countless numbers of pogoda style buildings.  I would have loved to go on one of the attractions but none of my companions were willing so we parted and went to bed early, always a good idea when travelling.  That night again I had a terrible headache and it could well have been for the two glasses of red Italian wine.  Oh well.

The next day, Friday, my plane wasn’t leaving until 15.45 so I had plenty of time to further explore the city and maybe do some shopping.  But first I had a meeting at 08.30 at my hotel with Maria from the Swedish Thule Group, based in nearby Malmo, a company that makes sports gear and transport equipment.  I had been asked by a colleague of hers, Claes,  to meet her to give her a sort of pep talk on how the company should embark on social media.  I think they thought I was some sort of expert, but really I see social media as just another channel for communication, albeit a new one and one that opens up a dialogue with your target market.  

Afterwards I was to meet my sweet Lithuanian colleague, Indre, who would be joining me for a walk around Copenhagen.  We walked up Stroget towards Nyhavn, that lovely street with pretty colourful houses by a canal that makes you feel you are in Amsterdam. 

With my Lithuanian colleague Indre in Nyhavn

The sheer number of bicycles gives you that same feeling too.  We stopped in some of the shops but didn’t buy anything and when we reached Nyhavn it began to pour with rain.  I had a rain hood but poor Indre had nothing.  We had no option but to walk back in the rain.  We parted at one of the department stores for Indre to escape the rain and I made my way back. I did stop at a little shop to make my only purchase in Stroget, a typical Danish striped long sleeved t-shirt in pink and black and I love it.

I arrived early at the airport, in order to have time for a nice lunch at the seafood bar (crab meat salad yummy) and to buy some Danish food at the Fine Food store to take home.  Here I indulged in Danish bacon, biscuits and jam for my Father, honey for Eladio and the finest smoked salmon I have ever tasted as well as some smoked mackerel and more shrimps which made a lovely dinner when I got home.

I was home just past 21h and happy to join Eladio and my Father for dinner and give them my impressions of the trip.  It was great also to come back to good weather and a warm temperature after the rain in Copenhagen and made me appreciate even more the climate of the country I live in.  I wasn’t to see the girls until the next day as Olivia and Alicia stayed overnight at Suzy’s flat.

On Saturday I was up early to go the hairdressers and then food shopping with Ivanka. Lunch on Saturday was our first barbecue of the year.  Here you can see Eladio in his bbq outfit grilling the steak, lamb chops and sausages.   Both girls, Alicia and the girls’ friend Juli joined us, so it turned out to be a wonderful lunch together.

Eladio preparing the first bbq of the season yesterday

The afternoon was spent lazily by the pool.  Here is a great photo of Alicia sunbathing with Elsa lying adoringly next to her. 

Alicia and Elsa by the pool yesterday

Later both my daughters had parties to attend, so Alicia stayed with us.  Eladio and I went on our evening walk with the dogs and were joined by Alicia afterwards where we sat relaxing again by the pool, enjoying Nora and Elsa’s company.

And today is Sunday, so I am back where I started.  We woke up to the news that Spain has requested a bailout for its banks with a loan of up to 100 bn euros from the Euro Zone funds.  Apparently this move, which will help the struggling banks has won broad support the world around.  I’m not so sure myself.  From what I read in the papers today, depending on their political stance, this seems to be a face saving option.  But I suppose the outcome remains to be seen.

The news has come on a day when sports will be in the minds of most people. Sporting victories are so often seen as an antidote for the crisis.  Thus there are big hopes for Nadal who will playing Djokovic in the final of the French Open today at 15h.  If he wins it will be his 7th win, a major feat.  If the Serb wins, he will be one of the first tennis players to win all the grand slams. 

There's a lot at stake in today's final of the French Tennis Open

Spaniards will be hoping too that Fernando Alonso will bring them joy at the Canadian Grand Prix.  He is leading the championship and today is in the 3rd  pole position, so hopes are high.  However, it is football which is in most people’s minds today as Spain with its “Roja” tema will be making its debut in the Euro Cup in Poland playing against the very challenging Italians.  The other countries in their group are the Republic of Ireland and Croatia, Italy being, by far the more difficult of Spain’s opponents.  And tomorrow England will play France, an equally exciting and challenging match.  Spain is the favourite as it won the last Euro Cup and of course the World Cup in South Africa last year, but of course that doesn’t mean to say they will win.  In fact no team has ever won the Euro Cup two times in a row. Germany, who beat Portugal yesterday are also keen favourites.  By next Sunday most of the countries will be in their places and we will know their chances better for the final.  Meanwhile we have three full weeks of football ahead which my Father and Eladio will be the ones who enjoy most in this house.

Before I leave you, a a special mention goes here to Sandra too, whose birthday it is today.  I very much look forward to a belated celebration when we meet next weekend in France.  Of course this week too would have been my own Mother's birthday, on 7th June while I was in Copenhagen. 
My Mother and I in the 70's, one of the very few if only photos of me with her and my eyes are closed.  However I think I look very happy and comfortable to be with her.

No doubt my Father would have been remembering her too as we do always, everyday of our lives.  How could we ever forget?

Meanwhile, I wish you all a very happy Sunday and a great week ahead. 

Cheers till next time

 PS You can see the full collection of my photos of the trip to Copenhagen here.