Sunday, March 03, 2013

And so to Barcelona for this year’s Mobile World Congress, the Oscars, Olivia reporting on the snow in the north of Spain, Goodbye from the Pope, Suzy went to Berlin for the weekend and lots of other stories.

With two of my all time favourite colleagues, Jesús and Gonzalo at the Yoigo Cabaret party on Monday night in Barcelona.
Hello again my friends

It is Sunday again and it seems so quiet in contrast to my very active week. There is lots to tell, so let me begin.

I left off last Saturday and just have to include here the story of a 30 year old Spanish girl called Carolina Ruiz Castillo.  On Saturday 23rd February she made history for Spanish sport by winning the Alpine ski world cup in the women’s downhill race in Meribel, France.  Winter sports are not big in Spain, as you can imagine, so Carolina’s win last weekend was extra special and goes to increases Spain’s amazing reputation as an ever increasing sporting nation.  You might have noticed too this week that Spain’s leading athlete, the one and only Rafa Nadal, is back in action after injuries this year and is winning matches in Latin America.  So watch out Federer and Djokovic.
Carolina Ruiz Castillo who made history for Spanish sport last Sunday
On Sunday morning I was up early to catch the 10.30 high speed train, known as the AVE, to Barcelona.  This was to be my 6th consecutive visit to the annual Mobile World Congress (MWC), the sector’s biggest event worldwide with some 72.000 visitors, an increase on last year.  Every time I go, I wonder if it will be for the last time, so each time I get to go I never take it for granted and realize what a lucky individual I am.  What I like most about going is meeting people I know from the sector, many of whom are ex colleagues, so it was a delight to bump into Jesús (ex Motorola) who now lives in Miami and his wife Renata on the platform before boarding.  On the same train as me were many familiar faces, including a big group of telecoms press who were being hosted by Telefónica.

I always enjoy the high speed train which takes under 3 hours to reach the Catalan capital.  But I enjoy it even more now that I have an iPad to keep me entertained.  There was snow on the way and I caught it on my mobile phone camera.  The morning before it had snowed in Barcelona, something pretty unheard of and instead of the usual 15-20ºc, we were in for a very cold week at the MWC. 
Snow on the way to Barcelona, as seen from the train last Sunday
Once at the Sants train station I took a taxi to the hotel I was staying at, the Renaissance Hotel on Pau Claris, just off the chic Paseo de Gracia and where I had been booked in by TeliaSonera, Yoigo’s “mother company” and where I have been staying now in the past three or four years.  I just had time enough to settle in before I was off to the first engagement of my stay, lunch with dear Grainne and her son Marcel at Agua, a restaurant by the beach in the Barceloneta area.  We ate outside in the sun but as it was cold the restaurant staff turned on the outdoor gas heaters.  Ours needed a new gas bottle and just as they were changing it, the huge metal heater fell and hit Grainne’s head.  I sort of saw it in slow motion but was so shocked I was unable to warn her.  Thankfully no damage was done, except for the shock.  Later we were rewarded with free starters, drinks and dessert by the anxious restaurant.  We enjoyed a lovely long meal and talked about old times – Grainne and I went to school together.  Marcel remarked once again how he thinks I look like someone called Lidia Lozano.  I didn’t know who she was but later in the week looked her up and found out she is a Spanish celebrity journalist who appears in a chat show on Telecinco.  This is her, do you think I look like her?
Marcel says I look like Lidia Lozano the Spanish celebrity journalist.

As I was entering the door of my hotel later, I literally bumped into some of my TeliaSonera colleagues, including my ex boss Johan.  It was great to see him and Mette, Soren, Oyvind and August, so I joined them on their quest for either lunch or dinner – Scandinavians eat at unearthly hours for me – but could only stomach a cup of tea after my lunch at Agua.  They then went on a sort of pub crawl but I went back to my hotel to have a hot bath – did I mention it was freezing all week in Barcelona? My next engagement was the TeliaSonera Sunday evening get together.  We met in the lobby and walked to the Hotel Petit Palace Opera Garden.  I was the guide for Ingrid, Philip, Anna, Monica, Linda, Urban, Peter, Nicholas and co.  They all had out their sat navs on their phones, but it was my Spanish that helped us find the place on a tiny little street off the Rambla.  I noticed how my Nordic friends were able to tuck in again after huge tapas shortly before but I could hardly swallow a bite.  I suppose it is age that reduces your appetite. 
Some of the people at the TeliaSonera get together on Sunday night, not a good photo but a nice evening.

Unlike a Spanish party, this Nordic gathering finished around 11 and I walked back in the freezing cold with Anna to get my only early night in.

Once back at the hotel I read that Bradford City had been beaten to the ground 5-0 by Swansea at their first appearance in decades at Wembly for the Cup Final.  I thought of my friend Geraldine’s sister who came all the way from Australia to watch the match and who appeared in the local Telegraph and Argus and felt a bit sorry for her.  

On Monday I woke up to read about this year’s Oscar awards, now called just The Oscars, the word awards having been officially chopped off.  I was not surprised to hear that Argo had won best picture award.  It was a good film but I don’t think worthy of an Oscar.  It was no surprise that Daniel Day-Lewis was voted best actor in his role in Lincoln and neither was it a surprise that Anne Hathaway won the prize for best supporting actress in her role in Les Miserables, or rather for her interpretation of the wonderful song “I dreamed a dream”.  The life of Pi got best director award and that was one film I wouldn’t have give an Oscar.  Mine would have gone to The Impossible, Les Miserables and Zero Dark Thirty. 

I also woke up to a whatsapp message from Olivia.  She had been sent to Vitoria in the north of Spain to cover the snowfall for her TV programme.  I missed her that day as I had to leave for the fair so was thankful for a photo she sent from a mountain pass called Opakua.
On Monday Olivia was sent to the north of Spain to report on the snow for her TVE `programme

She spent three days in Vitoria and Cantabria covering the story of the snow.  Monday saw her in the mountains and on Tuesday she was in the town of Vitoria.  I was able to watch her on Tuesday interviewing passersby and even eating salt.  You can see her here if you go to 12.40 and 13.51.  Funnily enough another TV channel, La Sexta, found the clip about eating salt funny and included it in their programme of humorous clips of the week.  You can see it here if you go to minute 6.30.
Oli reporting live on Tuesday morning from Vitoria
On Wednesday she was in Cantabria, in Fresno del Río and Reinosa. Again I missed her but was able to see her later here. I loved the first report on dog sleighing(10.20h). Apparently it wasn’t easy to film as the dogs often get entangled, but she was lucky they behaved for the report. And here she is with her colleague and one of the dogs in the snow.
Oli had a grand time reporting on the snow in the north of Spain this week.  This was with her colleague and one of the dogs from the dog sleigh in Reinosa

Her last report that day was one I would have loved to see live.  It was of the dog sleigh owner’s young daughter Alejandra who looks after the family’s ponies.  You can see that here at 12.40h.  To do the interview Alejandra had to leave school for a while but I’m sure she enjoyed her moment of glory.  Later Olivia had some quiet time enjoying these wonderful animals.  We adore animals in this family, so I too would have liked to be in this picture of her with the ponies her colleague and little Alejandra.
In Fresno del Río with her colleague from TVE after reporting on the little girl who is the owner of these delightful ponies.

Olivia certainly enjoys her job and had a great time reporting on the snow in the north of Spain last week.  Good for her!

Meanwhile I had my own job to concentrate on in Barcelona.  A few years ago the girls used to come along with me, but not anymore.  So while Oli was on the television, I made my way to the new congress venue, further out of town in Hospitalet de Llobregat and much bigger than before.  I found it daunting, just too big and too many people with queues everywhere.  However I was impressed with the new NFC badge to enter the fair.
The nifty NFC badge to enter the MWC

I had arranged to meet my friend Julio and visit the stands together, much more fun than on my own. The place is so huge bumping into people you know is hit and miss, so I was delighted to come across my nephew Juan and his boss, my friend Jorge.  They work for Lewis PR, a UK based public relations agency that specializes in technology accounts. 
Bumping into my nephew Juan and my friend Jorge at the MWC was one of the highlights
The stand I feel most at home is Nokia Siemens Networks where I know I will meet up with some of my favourite colleagues.  When I joined Nokia in 2000 it was with the network division (yes the part that makes antennas for mobile phones) and everyone there secretly wanted to work for the mobile phone division.  I later migrated there and ended up doing communications for both divisions, as the corporate communications manager for Nokia Spain.  My experience there was very different, yes the phones were far more fun but the office atmosphere was very different; it was cut throat and bullying was widespread, in enormous contrast to the atmosphere of companionship and goodwill that was the norm at the networks division. Some of my favourite colleagues in all my years in the telecoms industry are from my times with Nokia Networks, including dear Julio of course, but also Augustin, Pepe, Miquel, Pentti, Cristina, Paloma, Felix, Emilio B, Pedro, Pelo Pincho (you know who you are), Jill, Anna, Susana, Oscar, Juana, Nestor, Carlos, Luis, Paco, Roberto, Raul and many more.
Cristina and Paloma manning the NSN stand, the stand I feel most at home at.
After a cup of coffee with some of the colleagues mentioned above who still work with thecompany, we visited some of the other gigantic stands: Samsung, Huawei, Motorola and others and generally marveled at everything going on around us.  Tired of walking around, we took a taxi into town for lunch at one of my favourite places in town, Niechel, a lovely little Relais and Chateaux restaurant where whatever you eat is just delicious.  The owners are a chef from the German part of France, Alsaçe and his funny wife from León, like my husband, who need to be reminded they know me each time I go – that’s my only criticism.

I was then free until the evening. I spent some of my time walking around the main shopping streets of Barcelona but it was so cold I was not tempted by the new spring range of clothing on offer at Zara or H+M. I did however find a lovely piece of clothing at Desigual which is omnipresent in its home town of Barcelona.  It’s a black and white long sleeved t-shirt.  I was flattered that my daughter Olivia loved it and wore it later in the week.
The Desigual top I bought whilst in Barcelona

However, for the Yoigo cabaret party that night I wore my new H+M black and white checkered dress and I have to tell you I felt a million dollars.  The party was at Ikra in the centre of town and was for our bloggers and shopkeepers but also for lots of Yoigo friends, including many of my colleagues from Nokia or Motorola.  I don’t usually enjoy  the parties that I organize but this was an exception. I loved every minute of it, but again because of colleagues who were there who mean so much to me, such as Jesús, Gonzalo, Johan, Felix, Pepe, Pentti, Viivi and many more. 
With my Finnish friends at the Yoigo cabaret party in Barcelona
It was difficult to choose a photo to illustrate this week’s blog but finally it had to be the one of me with Jesús and Gonzalo.  We worked together over 20 years ago at Motorola when mobile telephony was just catching on. In those days there were no blogs, no cameras on phones, no Facebook to share them, not even email, nor any of the amazing devices or applications on show at the MWC.  The sector has developed enormously but the important thing is that our friendship continues.  You can see all the pictures of the cabaret party here on Flickr, which again wouldn’t have been possible in the early 90’s.  

The next morning a miracle happened, I slept until 09.30, something that never happens these days as now in my 50’s I’m an early bird waker.  I woke up to lots of congratulatory messages about the party from so many nice people – thanks friends. I was so happy with the outcome of the party I decided to give credit to the people who made it happen, Bea, Gloria, Miguel and Julia from my wonderful events agency QuintaEsencia and invite them to a slap up lunch.  Only when I rang Gloria did I realize I had no voice, I was completely hoarse after the party.  Thus I went out to a nearby chemist shop to buy the remedy; a throat spray called Angiovax which works miracles and throat lozenges called Angileptol.  I was recommended them years ago by my pharmacist friend Mari Carmen and they have always held me in good stead.  Thus I was able to talk at lunch at 7 Portes, one of Barcelona’s most traditional restaurants.

 I was completely washed out that day so skipped on the MWC and Ericsson’s traditional social event where hundreds gather to eat and drink and mingle at possibly the biggest party held at the MWC.  Instead I stayed in my room working on my emails and when I had done that I watched the episode of Gran Reserva which I had missed that week.  And I did that on my neat little iPad on my soft bed with soft white pillows after another long hot bath – total luxury.

That night many of my colleagues went to watch Real Madrid play Barcelona at the Camp Nou football ground in the semi final match of the Spanish Copa del Rey.  I did not envy them knowing they would be freezing in the unheated stadium and that they would probably see Barcelona beat Madrid.  But I was wrong, in the endMadrid beat their arch rivals 3-1 and I was glad as all the Real Madrid fans were too. Meanwhile I got ready to go to La Venta for our now traditional MWC Tuesday night secret dinner with the teams from my PR agency Ketchum, the events agency QuintaEsencia and colleagues Jesús and Ana Isabel.  It is always the most enjoyable event on my agenda and this year was no different.

On Wednesday morning as Olivia was preparing to report on the snow in Cantabria, I had my most important and last event on my MWC agenda, the annual Yoigo press conference.  It was to start at 10 am and we had chosen the fashionable and Le Pain Quotidien type place, Cornelia &Co on the Calle Valencia, a stone’s throw from my hotel.  We didn’t have much news to offer this year, just our results for 2012 and three objectives for 2013 and I was worried the turnout would be poor because the venue was so far from the new congress grounds.  Each year I worry about the same things and each year I am proved wrong.  This year I was amazed to see some 50 representatives from the media and lots of interest and questions.  The last journalist didn’t leave until 12.30 as a lot of them stayed on to write their chronicles. 
During our press conference in Barcelona
You can see the rest of the photos of the press conference here.

When the last journalist finally left I made my way back to the hotel on foot (I walk everywhere when I can) to do my last minute packing and check out.  I was in a rush as I had a lunch appointment with Anna A. (head of communications at the Mobility Services division at TeliaSonera) at 13h.  Being Swedish we ate early but it was not to be a typical long drawn out Spanish lunch as she had to leave at 14h and I had to catch the 15.30h train back to Madrid.  I chose another traditional restaurant, Botafumeiro of Galician origin where I treated her to a typical dish from the area; lacón con grelos.  I’m not sure she liked it.  The place was buzzing with big wigs from the MWC.  

We parted in a rush and I’m not sure when I will see dear Anna again.  Hopefully it will be at next year’s MWC.  I forgot to take a photo at Botafumeiro but you can see all the photos of my MWC here.

And suddenly it was all over and I was on the train, exhausted but happy as all had gone well.  I was thus able to relax and listen to music on Spotify and I actually fell asleep and when I woke up there was just ten minutes to go until we arrived at the Madrid Atocha train station.

That night at home, we were to be all together.  Olivia had arrived just before me from her snow travels, Eladio would be back soon from his UNED university tutorial and Suzy would also be joining us too.  It was a joy to have dinner with my lovely family.  But it was to be the only meal together for a while as Olivia would be away for the weekend in Valencia with her boyfriend Miguel and Susana would be going to Berlin for a long weekend the next day.

Yeah, Suzy went to Berlin with her friends, the two sisters Elena and María and their boy cousin.  Elena and Susana studied together and are now neighbours in the same block of flats.  And it is with Maria (an of work Spanish nurse) that Susana will be going to London with to seek their fortune in May. They are staying at the Hotel Lebensquelle which is bang in the centre and I have been following their travels via photos from Susana on Facebook and on whatsapp. 

Suzy second left with her friends and some pretend soldiers at Check Point Charlie in Berlin on Friday

Thursday was a fast day for me, after having skipped my Monday fast day – too difficult to do in Barcelona.  It snowed that morning where we live and was cold and rainy the rest of the day, so much so I skipped my walk whilst Eladio went to his class. 

Meanwhile the worlds’ eyes were on an 85 year old man in Rome.  Thursday 28th February 2013 will go down in history as the day Josef Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI stepped down and resigned as Pope, the first Pope to do so in hundreds of years.  He departed the Vatican City in a dramatic fashion.  After saying goodbye to the crowds he was taken away by helicopter to Castel Gandolfo where he will spend his next two months before he goes to reside permanently in a monastery at the Vatican.  There he made his final public appearance as Pope.  On a balcony at the famous papal residence he said “You know this day is different from my previous days.  I will simply be a pilgrim on the last stop of my pilgrimage on this earth.  His last words were just “thank you and goodbye”. And then he disappeared.
The end of Josef Ratzinger's papacy on Thursday 28th February at his last public appearance

Afterwards at 8pm sharp, the official end of his papacy, when Josef Ratzinger was no longer infallible, church officials sealed the papal apartments which will not be reopened until his successor is chosen.  And now there will be speculation for weeks as to who it maybe. But until the secret conclave takes place where the cardinals who are under 80 years old vote we can only guess.

Friday was 1st March and finally the sun came out.  It was also St. David’s day in Wales which doesn’t mean much to me.  The highlight on Friday was dinner with our friends Pedro Delgado (ex winner of the Tour de France and a cycling legend in Spain) and his wife Ludi from León, like Eladio and their friends Enrique and Lola.  Ludi always chooses the most in places in Madrid but this time it wasn’t new to me.  I had actually been to Ten con Ten before in the heart of Madrid’s “barrio Salamanca”.  All the beautiful people congregate their and it is apparently a favourite with Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo.  But I have no idea whether he was there that night as the place was so full and extremely noisy.  I was amazed to see a stretch limousine parked outside, something you don’t see often in Madrid.  The food was great, really great but the place was far too noisy. 
My favourite dish at Ten con Ten - oxtail burger delicious and I can assure you it contains no horse meat haha

I was hesitant to talk to Pedro about Lance Armstrong’s famous interview with Oprah Winfrey but he had no problem talking about either Lance or the Operación Puerto.  He told me that what annoyed him most was when Lance said that all Tour de France winners had taken drugs to win.  And I understand his annoyance as he felt directly accused.  I have known Pedro since the Motorola Cycling team days of course when he was a famous rider himself.  Today he is a successful cycling commentator for Spanish TVE and it is thanks to him that Olivia works for TVE as he was instrumental in getting her an internship there when she finished University. Of course she had to prove herself but I will always be grateful and remember how it was thanks to him that she had the opportunity.  

The weekend has been quiet without the girls.  On Saturday after our night out on the tiles – so to speak, but we were back late at nearly 2 in the morning which is very late for us, we were up later than usual. In the morning I dragged Eladio into giving the dogs a bath.  First into the bath was Elsa our Labrador who, unusually for her breed, doesn’t really like water, but I suspect she enjoys the warm water and the attention from her favourite person, my husband.
Elsa having a bath on Saturday

Next came Norah our beagle who likes water even less than Elsa but stoically puts up with the ritual, knowing she can’t get out of it.
Norah's turn for a bath on Saturday

We had couscous for lunch cooked by our Moroccan home help Oufa and afterwards slept a very long siesta.  In between our siesta and walk with the dogs, Madrid were playing Barcelona again in a match which was unimportant for both as the Catalans are many points ahead of their rivals in the Spanish Liga football championship which is already decided.  It was important though for Real Madrid’s morale when they take on Manchester United on Tuesday in the Champions League.  When we came back from our walk I found out that the final score was 2-1 to the Whites. At last the tables have turned I thought as usually it is Barcelona who has the upper hand. Let’s see on Tuesday how they play in Old Trafford and if their luck holds.

Last night too we went out to dinner again, this time with Eladio’s beloved brother José Antonio and our sister-in-law Dolores.  They had booked a table at Nuevo Gerardo in town because of the promotion it offered thanks to Madrid Restaurant Week.  Funnily enough we had been there last year in March with our fellow diners of the night before, Pedro Delgado and his wife Ludi, where we had taken advantage of the same promotion.  It’s a nice place and the food is good, although nothing like Ten con Ten.  But at least we could hear each other this time. 
Nuevo Gerardo, the restaurant we went to on Saturday night with José Antonio and Dolores

Of course we talked about our children, all of whom are now grown up.  I was particularly interested to know how their daughter Sara was getting on in China where she travelled to in January to spend a year brushing up her Mandarin.  So it was good to know she has made her home in Xiamen, a big town in the south and on the coast.  She has also found accommodation with two girls from Germany and Holland or that’s what I think I heard and will be starting a 4 month course at the University on Monday.  I wish her lots of luck.

Today Sunday has been quiet.  The family highlight today is about Olivia who together with her boyfriend Miguel ran in the quarter marathon race which took place this morning in the town of Oliva.  She ran 10 kilometres in under an hour at a speed of 5.30km per hour.  Well done Oli.  I was happy to hear they compensated the loss of calories afterwards with a big Valencian paella.
Olivia and Miguel just before the 10km mini marathon they ran in today in Oliva near Valencia
It’s time for our walk now and soon Olivia will be back and Eladio will be picking her up at the station and hopefully we will have dinner together at home and it will be the end of this week. How fast they fly, we are now into March and soon it will be spring.

So my friends that’s it for this week and an action packed one it has been.  Next week promises to be much quieter.  Meanwhile, all the best from me until then.


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