Monday, August 06, 2012

Our summer holiday in Galicia and Asturias, this year’s family gathering in Montrondo and home again.

Monday August 6th 2012

Me on our last night in Sanxenxo by the port after dinner.  I felt so happy at that moment and remember it well.
Hello everyone,

I hope you can forgive me for such a long absence, but I have been on holiday and was just too lazy to take the time to write one of my posts whilst we were away.  However we are now back and as I have written down everything we have done and today is Sunday, there is no excuse but to stop procrastinating and get on with it. Mind you this is going to take at least two days, as it is a bumper edition, so probably won’t get published till Monday.

Let me start from where I left off.  The last time I wrote was Sunday 8th July and it was the day of the Wimbledon final when Murray was playing Federer and British hopes were pinned on the Scot to win the first men’s title at the All England Club since Fred Perry.  Well it didn’t happen.  Believe it or not though, today, one month later and one week into the London Olympics, Murray, is playing Federer again on the same court in the tennis finals, after having beaten Djokovic probably spurred on by coming from the host country – and boy are the UK garnering more medals than in all their history.  So fingers crossed for the Scot.  However, even if he doesn’t win, he will still get a silver medal.  Meanwhile, Spain who normally does so well at tennis, cycling, football and basketball are having their poorest Olympic Games in history by not even getting medals in these sports.  

It was the week before we went on holiday and my mind was more on our holiday than on anything else.  Of note that week I attended the annual CMT (Spanish telecoms regulator) yearly report at the Spanish Senate and what a grand building that is. It was great to meet up with my communications counterparts from the other operators and of course the telecoms journalists.  It was also good to listen to how well Yoigo had done in 2011.  Things look pretty good this year too as we later heard in the Q2 report published by our majority shareholder Teliasonera in the middle of July.

By the Spanish Senate with my communications colleagues after the CMT report

It was Oli’s last week at work as her programme has resumed until September.  But who knows what will happen then as there are many changes going on in TVE thanks to the change in management which has happened because of the new government.  That week she reported from Valencia but I didn’t see her as my week was so busy. In fact I hardly saw Susana either, except for a family dinner I organized on Friday night before our holidays.  That night they went to an Ibizan party, all dressed in white and this is what they looked like; gorgeous as usual.

The girls and their friends dressed in white at an Ibizan party in Madrid

Finally Saturday 14th July came, the day we were to go on holiday.  Olivia was leaving too, going on an inter-rail trip.  Not for her, the train ride all through Europe, she chose to fly to Amsterdam with her friend and from there visit  Luxembourg, Cologne, Hamburg, Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Bratislava and finally Budapest from where she flew back two weeks later. 

Olivia and her friend Bea on their inter rail trip in July

She travelled with her friend from TVE, Bea and they were joined by Rocío in Berlin.  They spent quite a while in Berlin and seemed to have a grand time judging by the photos.  I particularly liked this one of Oli and Rocío by the Brandenburg Gate being kissed by phony German and American soldiers. 

Rocío and Olivia in Berlin!

You may remember from one of my recent posts that I was interviewed recently by the TVE daily news programme for a report on the 40th anniversary of interrail.  I had travelled in the north of Europe in 1973 when I was just 16 and Olivia’s friend and journalist, María, from TVE came to interview me about my experience.  It so happened, the report came out on Tuesday 17th July when Oli was on interrail. When I mentioned this to María she asked Oli to send a photo of herself with a rucksack, to add to the TV report, saying that my daughter, following in my footsteps, took the journey some 40 years later.  It was also to make a contrast with my own photo in 1973 where I have a rucksack on outside the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen.  You can see the clip here.  So many people have told me they had seen me and I must say I enjoyed the whole experience enormously.

Me on my inter rail trip in 1973

Oli on her inter rail trip nearly 40 years later!

We left the house in capable hands.  Ivanka was joined by her husband of an unpronounceable Bulgarian name.  They were to look after my Father, the house and garden and of course the dogs, Nora and Elsa.  The girls would be there occasionally but only on and off, so for the most time Ivanka was fully in charge.  When we got back yesterday we questioned my Father on how good a job she had done and his response was that he couldn’t have been better looked after.  So, ten out of ten to Ivanka, who today and tomorrow, is enjoying a break with her husband, at her son’s house near Guadalajara.  She will be back again on Tuesday when we will be off again, this time for a few days to Santa Pola.  We are so lucky to have found her.

Our holiday this year was to be divided into one week in Galicia, staying at the Hotel Rotilio in the fashionable resort on the Rias Bajas, Sanxenxo and another week at La Casona de la Paca near Cudillero in Asturias.  We love both regions so decided to visit both.  They are in the north of Spain so we were to escape the extreme heat of Madrid.  Temperatures were mostly in the 20ºcs, such a difference from the 33ºc we came home to yesterday! We had been to the Rías Bajas with my Father in 2007 and 2008 and you may remember we also went there in May with José Antonio and Dolores on a sight-inspection trip and it was on that trip that we fell in love with classy Sanxenxo.  We had stayed at the lovely Indiana Colonial style boutique hotel in the tiny village of El Pitu near Cudillero last year at Easter.  We fell in love with it too, as we did with the whole area and were happy to choose it again as part of our holiday destination this year. 

As Galicia, or rather the Rias Bajas, is quite far from Madrid, we decided to break the trip by staying the first night at the Parador in Verín (near Orense and the Portuguese border).  We had done that with my Father in 2008 and loved the place.  You may have noticed that once we like a place, we always tend to go back to it.  That, I suppose, comes from the conservative part of my character which I can assure you does exist.  The very first lunch of our holiday was at another Parador, one on the way, at Puebla de Sanabria

Eladio outside the Parador in Puebla de Sanabria (Zamora)

We arrived at Verín just after lunch and booked into a room overlooking the quiet garden and swimming pool.  There we spent a great afternoon reading our books and enjoying the views of Verín from our sun beds.

Relaxing by the pool at the Parador in Verín

In the evening, before a delicious dinner at the Parador, we went for a walk to the nearby ruined Castle, “el Castillo de Monterrey”, as we had done on our previous visit.

View of the Parador in Verín as seen from the Castle of Monterrey nearby

On Sunday, after a sumptuous breakfast and a read of the papers, we checked out and made our way to Sanxenxo.  The journey was about 2 hours long and we arrived just before lunch.  Here we booked into room 345 of the friendly and family run Hotel Rotilio with its own terrace and great views of the port and sea. 

Eladio on the terrace of our room at the Hotel Rotilio in Sanxenxo

We had a quick lunch at the famous Taberna de Rotilio (not as good as I had heard), bought two chairs and a parasol and walked a short way to the lovely town beach. 

Buying beach chairs and a parasol on the first day in Sanxenxo

The Silgar beach is in the middle of town with very enticing clothes shops across the way which I was to patronize nearly every day.  The beach was very near the hotel so it was the one we went to mostly. It’s a great beach but the downside is that it gets quite crowded.

The Silgar beach in Sanxenxo

We had just been there a couple of hours when flying ants started to appear.  And then suddenly we were in the middle of a plague and everyone vanished, ourselves, included, from the beach.  I was worried it would happen again but fortunately it was a one off event.  The next day, though, another unpleasant experience happened.  On one of my bathes I felt a terrible pain in my left foot.  As I hobbled back to our chairs it got worse but neither Eladio nor I could see any sort of bite or swelling.  We had to return to the hotel, me hobbling all the way.  Fortunately within the hour the pain had gone.  After that experience I was a bit wary of bathing and was careful where I put my feet but thankfully it never happened again.

We spent most of our days and nights in Galicia in Sanxenxo itself, which has plenty to offer the visitor.  In the mornings we would go down to the Silgar beach until lunchtime and then after Eladio’s siesta we would return until the evening.

Me on the Silgar beach in Sanxenxo

In the evenings we would mostly walk along the busy Playa de Silgar enjoying the cool of the evening and the culinary offer of the town.  

The evenings in Sanxenxo were wonderful

 Often I would have a plain frozen yoghurt as my dessert at a little place called Molom and enjoy it on the wall by the beach.

The frozen yoghurt parlour on the seafront in Sanxenxo

One night we also walked to nearby Portonovo. We went for meals in Sanxenxo to places recommended to me by a friend: El Carmen, La Taberna del Naútica, Marlima II but also discovered our own favourite, A Goleta by the port.  

Outside our favourite restaurant in Sanxenxo

Thursday was the first day we ventured out of Sanxenxo and it was to meet up with dearest Keka from my Nokia days who now lives in Galicia.  We met up in Vilanova de Arousa and she took us to dinner to a little restaurant on the Illa de Arousa by the port and what a lovely place it was.  I should add that we were joined by Guillermo, Keka’s Argentinian friend and also thank him for treating us all to a great sea food meal.

With Keka at Illa de Arousa

That night, unbeknown to me, a journalist friend, Juan Castromil and his partner Carolina, were taking photographs of the demonstrations in Madrid after the recent cuts.  I have known both of them for many years, especially Juan who travelled with me on many a press trip with Nokia.  So I was astonished to hear later that he had been detained viciously by the anti riot police and unfairly accused of throwing stones, something he would never do.  Juan was later “imprisoned” in a police cell until he was finally let out some three days later.  The whole story really shocked me.  You can read about it here (in Spanish).   Of course all his friends, most of them journalists too, rallied around and a huge protest took place on Twitter where his cause @freecastromil became a trending topic.  

Juan Castromil leaving the courts after 3 days of unfair detention.

On Friday we had a lunch date with Pili and her daughters Julieta and Lucía and her granddaughter Paula.  Pili has a little flat in San Vicente Do Mar near O Grove overlooking three small and very typical beaches of the area with extremely cold water I must say.  Poor Pili who is blind, had broken her foot on a fall and thus was either hobbling about or stuck in a wheel chair.  That, though, did not dampen her spirits and she gave us a very warm welcome. They took us to lunch at a nearby restaurant which Pili’s departed husband, Gerardo, used to like.

Lunch with Pili and her family at San Vicente Do Mar.

After the leisurely lunch they took us around the peninsula to see the various beaches, one of which is where they took Gerardo’s ashes.  It was a poignant visit.  Later we spent the afternoon on one of the three beaches with Lucía and Paula, after which, upon Pili’s recommendation, we went on the nearby walk.  And what a walk it was across the beaches and rocks, overlooking the Oms Island.   

On the lovely walk near San Vicente Do Mar
 This walk with breathtaking views took us to the Playa de las Camelas where I bathed alone in this wonderful unspoiled beach.

Bathing in the empty Camelas beach on the walk from San Vicente Do Mar.

It was getting late and instead of heading back to Sanxenxo I persuaded Eladio to drive to Carril. I wanted to have dinner at the Loliña Restaurant I so loved and which we used to go to nearly every night when we stayed in Carril in 2007. It didn’t take much persuasion.  Before dinner we took a walk around the little port, remembering our stay there and delighting in the views of the Ria de Arousa.

Eladio in Carril

We were the first into the dining room of this delightful old restaurant full of atmosphere and old time formality. 

The Loliña restaurant in Carril, my favourite restaurant in Galicia

Here we ate what we always used to eat at Loliña, the runner beans with ham and scallops cooked in onion in their own shells.

The scallops on offer at the Loliña Restaurant in Carril

Saturday 21st July was our last day in Sanxenxo and we decided to spend it on the fantastic Lanzada beach we had gone past when we went to San Vicente Do Mar.  We had also visited the Lanzada beach with my Father in 2008 and I was longing to sunbathe there and enjoy walks along this huge beach, some 2.5km long.  For the records we walked both lengths but in two goes.  It’s superb not just because of its size and lovely dunes, but also because it is so clean and has great services, including a very well run, clean and organised beach café serving gourmet food which we had for lunch.  And that included grilled sardines for Eladio, his favourite!

Playa de la Lanzada where we spent our last day in Galicia

So quickly it was our last night in Sanxenxo. We were brown and happy and my suitcase was bursting with wonderful new summer clothes, mostly bits and bobs bought from the local boutiques, such as “La gatita presumida” and “El Armario de Marta”.  The photo illustrating this blog is of me on our last night by the port of Sanxenxo, wearing a Vero Moda turquoise top from one of the shops.

As was fitting we had our last dinner at A Goleta and this is a picture of Eladio by the port looking as brown as a berry and as happy as a sandboy.

Eladio on our last night in Sanxenxo

These holidays were all about food too, as you will have noticed.  I got a bit embarrassed after posting so many photos of our lunches and dinners on Instagram, Foursquare, Facebook and Twitter, until after popular demand I resumed the activity.  After all, the best food in Spain definitely comes from Galicia and Asturias.

Thus, on our journey on Sunday 22nd July from Sanxenxo to Cudillero, we stopped for lunch at the Parador (another Parador you will have noticed, we can’t resist them) in Ribadeo in Galicia but on the border of Asturias.  Here sitting in the magnificent dining room with views of the River mouth or is it the “Ría”, we enjoyed our first and last “lacón con grelos”.  

The view from the dining room at the Parador in Ribadeo

This is the most famous dish from Galicia and one I adore but it was totally unavailable on our travels apart from here. Lacón con Grelos is a dish that includes chorizo, boiled potatoes, cooked ham and a green vegetable which I think is actually cauliflower leaves or something similar.

The lacón con grelos at the Parador in Ribadeo

We had last been in Ribadeo in the early 80’s when we rented a holiday flat with my parents in Figureas de Castropol when the girls were just one and two. It was a lovely holiday and  nice to be back in the area.

After lunch we hit the road again, saying goodbye to Galicia and hello to Asturias.  Asturias is the rainiest part of Spain and it was decidedly cooler.  We were lucky though as it had rained the day before we arrived in Asturias but it was sunny throughout our stay until the morning we left.  We arrived in the early afternoon in El Pito, the little hamlet above the popular pretty fishing village of Cudillero which always reminds us of Robin Hood’s Bay near Whitby in Yorkshire.  We knew our way to the lovely Casona de la Paca mansion painted red and parked our car in the ample grounds. 

The Casona de la Paca where we stayed in El Pito (near Cudillero).  Our room was on the first floor - the one with the 3 windows on the left, the window in the middle being open.
We then lugged our enormous suitcases and bags to the reception where we were greeted by Mónica.  Soon we were in our beautiful room, the special room on the corner of the first floor with a huge terrace and views of the garden. 

Our room at the Casona de la Paca, the "especial" It was number 15.

After unpacking, our immediate destination was the steep walk down to Cudillero to explore the port and walk all around it and that must be at least 4 or more kilometers. 

By the port in Cudillero

Walking down to the village is pretty difficult as it is so steep but walking up again is a killer.

The steep walk down to the village of Cudillero

After the exhausting walk all around the port, we had to negotiate our way back, through the winding little streets up and up to the top of the village until we reached the top, which I suppose must already be El Pito.  Here we walked on the level road until we reached our destination, El Pescador restaurant.  I remember from our last visit here ordering the wonderful sea food salad “salpicón de marisco” and it being wonderful but far too big for one person. 

The "salpicón de marisco" (sea food salad) is incredible at El Pescador restaurant

Eladio ordered the “fabada” the famous bean stew typical of Asturias and again it was far too much for probably even two people.  We were to go back again to El Pescador but wiser than the first time, on those two occasions we ordered one bean stew only and shared it as we did the sea food salad on our last night in Cudillero.

Nearly as incredible was Eladio's "fabada" (bean stew) at El Pescador restaurant in Cudillero

While we were enjoying our dinner at El Pescador, no doubt Bradley Wiggins was celebrating being the first British cyclist to win the Tour of France.  Also Fernando Alonso was probably savoring his win of the German GP putting him well in lead of the F1 general classification.

Breakfasts at La Casona de la Paca are outstanding but weren’t served until 9am. 

Breakfast at La Casona de la Paca

Thus I used to get up at around 8.15, leaving Eladio to sleep and creep down the noisy wooden stairs and go outside to the garden where either Mónica, Montse or the other lady, whose name I cannot remember, would serve me coffee on a wonderful tray.  Then they would bring me the morning newspapers, El Mundo and El País which I would read quickly later to hand over to Eladio after breakfast for him to read at leisure.

My mornings always started like this at La Casona de la Paca

On Monday we spent the whole day on the magnificent Playa de Aguilar, just two or three km from La Casona.  We got there early and it was easy to park.  It seemed we had the beach to ourselves but in the afternoon it got quite crowded but nothing like the beaches on the Costas in the Mediterranean. 

On our favourite beach near Cudillero, the Playa de Aguilar

That night we walked down to the village again as we had decided to have a seafood platter which many of the restaurants in the square by the port in Cudillero offer at 60 euros for two.  We only did it once as eating seafood in Spain is quite a sticky business as you have to shell everything. 
The sea food platter at Isabel in Cudillero

We chose the Isabel restaurant recommended by Montse at the Casona and which we had been to on our last trip here.  We didn’t regret it and thankfully the seafood agreed with our stomachs, as often it can be dodgy, but no, we woke up feeling fine the next day.

The restaurants in the square by the port in Cudilero.  Isabel is the white one on the left.

On Tuesday we decided to change beaches and upon a recommendation from Mónica, went to the Playa de la Concha de Artedo, some 4km away.  It was a less popular beach than the Playa de Aguilar and partly made of stones. Also when we arrived the tide was in and there was hardly any beach but soon it went out and the sand appeared. What wasn’t so nice was the tar we found on our feet later in the shower, so we didn’t go back, preferring the cleaner Playa de Aguilar.

Me on the Playa de la Concha Artedo near Cudillero

Once we got the tar off our feet and flip flops, we ventured out again, this time to visit a beach but not swim or sunbathe.  Besides, the sun had gone by then.  We wanted to revisit the beautiful and remote Playa de Silencio (Silent beach) on the same coast line and reachable via the small village of Castañeras.  The road there is frighteningly narrow but thankfully you take another road to go back.  As soon as we had parked we rushed out to take in the wonderful view of this marvelous beach and surroundings.

The Playa de Silencio

It’s a steep climb down to this small pebbly beach which is best seen from the top.  I was disappointed to see lots of rubbish brought up by the sea.  I wanted to walk from the top along a wonderful path we had taken last time, but Eladio wasn’t up to it, thus we missed the sunset, which I remember as a fantastic experience.  Instead we went back to El Pito and had yet another great meal, this time at the nearby Arbichera which serves great food and cider but is rather noisy.

Asturian cider as served at the Arbichera restaurant in El Pito

The sun seemed to disappear on Thursday and Eladio insisted on giving our skin a rest.  So we took the car and decided to visit the Brañas Vaqueiras region inland. This is a very mountainous area where cows used to be farmed and legend has it the villagers in this remote area intermarried and were not in the good books of the church.  Our journey started at San Martín de Luiña and took us on winding and very steep roads to Brañaseca and Busfrío where it seems there are very few farmers or cows left, although we did see some.

In the Brañas Vaqueiras area in Asturias

We drove down the treacherous roads again towards Soto de Luiña and suddenly realised we were near the Cabo Vidio (Cape Vidio) we had visited on our last trip here.  So of course we went again but we did so because the views of the coast are fabulous.

At Cape Vidio near Cudillero

Our stomachs were rumbling by then so we made our way to a restaurant of the same name as the cape “Cabo Vidio” which had been recommended to me.  It lived up to my expectations and is a magnificent little place with amazing food.

The Cabo Vïdio restaurant and hotel, a wonderful culinary find.

Here is one of the few photos of the two of us together, waiting for our meal at the restaurant Cabo Vidio.

Lunch at the Cabo Vidio restaurant, one of the few photos of us together.

After a siesta for Eladio at the Casona de la Paca, we spent the afternoon exploring another inland area which was new for us, the Faedo Valley.  In our drive through the valley we went past the pretty villages of Faedo, La Tabla or San Agustín. To do so we drove along some very steep and narrow roads. The countryside was very like England, green and lush.

In the lush and green Faedo Valley near Cudillero

That evening our destination was the port village of San Esteban de Pravia.  It had once been the biggest coal port in Spain, but has gone a bit to seed. On our way through Muros de Nalón, we came across a fabulous mirador, the Mirador del Espiritu Santo with some breathtaking views of the coastline all the way to Cabo Vidio.  We then realised there was a coastal walk from there all the way to Playa de Aguilar.  That evening we walked part of it, deciding to go back the next day, our last day in Asturias, and walk the whole way from Playa de Aguilar to San Esteban, an amazing walk with viewpoints all the way of the coast but with some very steep climbs.  It would take us 2.5hours but that night we just walked a couple of kilometers.

At the Mirador del Espiritu Santo near San Esteban de Pravia

The best view of San Esteban de Pravia is on the road approaching it. So we stopped for me to take this great photo.

San Esteban de Pravia

In the port village we had dinner at Puerto Norte, again recommended to us by the ladies at La Casona. Their recommendations were always good and we enjoyed a great dinner.  I had, for the record, the best seafood fideua (sort of seafood paella but made with pasta) I have ever tasted.

Friday was our last day in Cudillero and the day we had chosen to visit the beautifully restored palace in El Pito a few hundred metres from La Casona.  We had seen the Palacio de Selgas from the road but couldn’t imagine just how wonderful it was until we stepped into the grounds.  The staff was rather rude and unfriendly and gave us a list of ridiculous rules, one of which includes absolutely no photos whatsoever.  I could understand they didn’t want us to take photos inside the palace but could not see any harm in taking photos in the garden which I did, although very surreptitiously.

A forbidden photo taken of the Palace of Selgas in El Pito near Cudillero.

The palace was built by a family at the end of the 19th century.  Apparently they got rich from their shop in Cudillero and by saving their money through the right channels in banks in Madrid of the time.  The family, two brothers who married two sisters were very enlightened for the times and also built the local church and school where the most up to date educational theories were put in place.  Sadly they had no heirs and the estate was donated to the Spanish government. 

Our last afternoon in Cudillero was spent on the walk along the 9km Espirtu Santo coastal path I mentioned earlier.  As I said it took 2.5hours of hard walking and climbing up the steep paths but it was well worth the effort for the magnificent views.

On the coastal walk on our last day in Cudillero Asturias

We were perspiring  and so tired afterwards that we headed straight back to the Casona for a well needed shower. Afterwards we walked to El Pescador for our last dinner in Asturias.

And so Saturday arrived and our last breakfast at La Casona before leaving for Montrondo.  I told our lovely hostesses that it had felt like being at home and that we would of course be back again.

We left in the rain at about 11.30 and were in Montrondo in time for the annual family lunch. We stopped at Senra (4km from Montrondo) to pick up the lamb that had been roasted for our lunch at the bakery there.  Thus we arrived with a very full car smelling of roast lamb.

The whole lamb that was roasted for us at the bakery in Senra

Every year since my Father and Mother in law celebrated their golden wedding anniversary the whole family meets in Montrondo on the last Saturday of July or the first Saturday of August, depending on the year.  The whole family consists now of Ernestina, my Mother in law and her six children, Eladio, her first being my husband.  The six “children” come with their husbands and wives and their now grown up children plus the great grand children.  Some people are always missing and this year it was Alvaro and his two children, Miguel and Olivia.  Thus we were 26 people in the “dining room” which is really the old stable.  Here the younger generation sits on one table.

The younger generation at the table on Saturday for the family gathering

And the older generation sits on another table

And this is the table of the older generation

The meal is nearly always the same.  The first course is cold cuts (ham, cecina, chorizo, etc) with potato salad and the second course is roast lamb and salad.  All of this is accompanied by local bread and wine.

After lunch most people lounge around in the “corral” or take a siesta.  Later I persuaded a big group to walk to nearby Murias via the old path and back.

A stop for a photo at "la peña de dios" on the walk to Murias on Saturday, the day of the family lunch.

The annual family get together also coincides with the fiestas of Santa Marta.  There are all sorts of activities, the most popular being the dancing and drinking until the morning.  The latter is most popular with the younger generation.  This year there was also some traditional regional dancing.

Regional dancing at the fiestas in Montrondo

Dinner on the Saturday is always the same; pie and left over potato salad. In fact we seem to eat leftovers for quite a few days until we are sick of the sight of the same food.

On Sunday the older generation is up at normal times but the younger generation does not appear until about lunch time.  Lunch these days on the Sunday is always a barbecue and here is a great picture of Eladio and his brother José Antonio making it.

Eladio and José Antonio taking care of the bbq on Sunday

Suzy had been out till late but was to leave early as she was going to Portugal on holiday with Olivia and their plane was leaving at 3pm for Lisbon.  She was to be joined also by Rocío, Dave and the two Elenas.  They were to spend the week in an apartment in Peniche on the famous surfing coastline north of Lisbon.  They had a cracking time and were back last night, tired and brown but very happy.

The girls on holiday with their friends in Peniche (Portugal)

After the bbq on Sunday in Montrondo, people began to leave.  In fact people left in dribs and drabs all week and by Wednesday when my friends Phil and Kathy arrived in their camper van, we were far fewer. 

Kathy and Phil in Montrondo

The week was quiet and the weather sunny though cool in the evenings.  I went for walks either on my own or accompanied by Dolores most afternoons all the way to Senra and back which is roughly 8km.  I loved these walks and they were not just for enjoyment but to burn the calories from the enormous amounts of food we always eat in Montrondo.  I would often go for a walk with the rest of the family after dinner to Murias and back too, so many days I was doing 12km a day!

On the walk to Senra

On Wednesday Phil and Kathy arrived and they were welcomed warmly by those of us left: my Mother in law Ernestina, Pili, Andrés, Yoli, Alicia, José Antonio and Dolores, Adela and Primo and their son Roberto and wife Ana and 3 year old daughter Diana.  However, that day, after lunch Yoli and Alicia left too.  Montrondo seemed quieter now and as we were divided into three houses, meal times were a much smaller affair.  José Antonio and Dolores have their own new house just next to the old family house and Adela and Primo have built their own cottage in the Palacios area of Montrondo where Primo was born.  But we were always together in between meals.

I cooked a lot, making country fare such as lentil stew, fabada and cocido madrileño.

My lentil stew in Montrondo.

Meals often included potatoes, onions or lettuces from Primo’s wonderful kitchen garden.

Phil holding one of Primo's lettuces from his kitchen garden.  His lettuce is delicious.

Also on the last night the tortillas I made were not only made with Primo’s potatoes and onion but also with some of José Antonio and Dolores’ eggs from their hens.  I must admit they tasted delicious.

Making tortilla on the last night with locally sourced ingredients

There are no shops or bars in Montrondo and the only source of food comes from the various vans that come on different days, some offering fruit and vegetables, others fish and then of course there is “Gelo” (Angel) who offers a variety of goods.  Here is a photo “shopping” from his van on our last day, together with some of my family and well known villagers.

"food shopping" in Montrondo.

The mornings were spent cooking, going to Senra for bread and a coffee at the Cumbres de Omaña bar and the afternoons were spent either sleeping or reading in the corral. 

Kathy at the bakery in Senra which hasn't changed since Eladio was a child and used to buy the bread there for the family.

When everyone was up, we would organize “afternoon tea” when we would all get together. Then of course I would go for my walk.

"Afternoon tea and coffee in Montrondo"

All in all it was a very relaxing week spent with our family and friends and of course our family’s dogs, Trebol and little Nuba. 

Trebol patiently hoping for a morsel of lamb

There were moments which weren’t so relaxing though.  When all the men are together, they always seem to want to work, as none of them are readers really.  Usually this means going on the roof of the house to mend a leak or something equally dangerous.  This year they decided to cut branches from one of the trees in the orchard which was leaning on a neighbour’s empty house.  Eladio went high up the tree and then Primo whilst the others helped from below.  However they had no safety rope around them and we women got very worried.  Rather Adela and Pili got worried whilst I took photographs of what I later called “the tree operation”.

"The tree operation in Montrondo" - Eladio and Primo in the tree and very high up!

Too soon the week ended and on Saturday morning, Kathy and Phil left in their camper van.  They were going on to Asturias and then back to France and to England around the 23rd August.  Right now they are in pretty Luarca on a camp site. 

Kathy and Phil in their camper van "Vera" just before leaving Montrondo

It was great to have them and we sincerely hope they visit us next year too.  When they left, we ourselves had to strip the beds, put the washing machine on and of course pack.  We left at around midday, saying goodbye to our family.  We won’t be all together again until New Year’s Eve, but hopefully we will see some of them beforehand.

And now you know the rest of the story.  We stopped at the Parador in Benavente for lunch and were home, sweet home in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday.  It was strange to be back after three whole weeks away.  It was good to see my Father well looked after and also wonderful to be reunited with our dogs, Norah and Elsa who I suspect missed us a lot.  Norah cried when she saw me which I found very touching. That evening we took them for their first walk in three weeks which they will also have missed in our absence.

And now it is Monday morning and I have told you all about our holiday and reunion in Montrondo. Since I started writing yesterday morning, you will know that Murray beat Federer to take the Men’s single gold medal at the London Olympics.  You will also know that Usain Bolt won the men’s 100 metre race and that he did so  by breaking his own world record, coming in at 9.63 seconds, ahead of his countryman Yohan Blake.  In fact 7 of the 8 finalists all finished the race in under 10 seconds!. Also since I started writing the girls came back but we only saw Olivia late last night as Suzy went to her own flat of course.  Hopefully we will all have a reunion dinner tonight.

And that my friends, is the end of my tale.  I wish you all great holidays and will be back next Sunday, hopefully when I will tell you all about our stay in Santa Pola.

All the best/Masha

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