Sunday, September 01, 2013

A visit to Peñacaballera, Olivia came home, off to London to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary and visit Suzy and back again.

With Suzy in Whitechapel
Hello again

I last wrote two weeks ago and now it’s time to tell you all about our travels since then. 

On Sunday 18th August we left home early for Peñacaballera, a little village in Salamanca just on the border of Extremadura, the nearest big town being Bejar.  We were going to see our friends Ana and Javier and their wonderful family and extended family and friends: Jorge, Maria, Emilia and co.  They have so many I’m afraid I can never remember everyone’s names. We often visit them in the summer and this time was to be sweet but short as we could only manage a night away as we had to give Fátima time off before we were off again, this time to London. It’s just over 2 hours by car so we arrived a bit before lunch.  We were looking forward to seeing our friends but were also keen to see their house which I think will be an inspiration for the makeover we want to do of our house in Montrondo.  So Eladio snapped away at every nook and cranny to show the builders the sort of style and ideas we want to create in Montrondo.
Javier and Ana's lovely house in Peñacaballera

First things first of course and as soon as we arrived our hosts organized drinks and snacks on their terrace where we chatted in the shade before lunch.
With our friends in Peñacaballera
The afternoon was spent at Jorge and María’s pool.  In the photo you can see me enjoying a short swim in my new M+S bathing costume. 
Swimming in Peñacaballera
Later we headed back to the house and got ready for dinner.  Dinner was organized outside in the patio between Javier and Ana’s and Jorge and Maria’s houses.  As is usual, there was a table for the younger generation and another table for the older generation.  For the record the dinner was superb Spanish omelets made by Emilia’s son.

In the morning after a relaxed breakfast in our friends' cozy kitchen, I had to collect our things together before saying our goodbyes and heading home.  It was great to see Javier and Ana and their daughters Laura, Cristina and María.  Ignacio, their son was not there this time.  I do hope it won’t be another year until we see them again.

You can see all the pictures of our stay at Peñacaballera here.

On Monday 19th August we were back in time for lunch with my Father, lunch made by our wonderful living in Moroccan home help Fátima who is fast becoming another member of the family and whose Spanish is improving in leaps and bounds. 

Olivia meanwhile was still in Cataluña reporting for her TVE programme, La Mañana de la 1.  That morning she reported from the beach in Salou, Tarragona, about the increased influx of tourists to Spain; some 7.9 million in July.  Here her English came in handy when she interviewed Russian and Irish tourists to demonstrate how people from these countries make up a large percentage or tourists in that area.  Later I asked her how she managed to persuade people to talk live on TV, not something many people want to do. Her answer was that she had to go down on her hands and knees and beg them to do so. You can see the report here if you fast forward to 13.25.
Oli reporting from Salou
The day was completed for us by going for a walk in the evening followed by a moonlight swim when we came back. Swimming at night in our own private pool is a real privilege in the summer months.

Tuesday was spent getting ready for our trip the next day to London.  I went into Centro Oeste (our local shopping centre) to buy some hair products to take to Suzy so’s she can keep her red hair shiny and looking nice.  It was from Centro Oeste that I watched Olivia on the TV at 12.40 via my mobile (app RTVE) reporting on a Spanish civil war bomb found in the sea near a town called Port de La Selva in Gerona.  It was a big news item that day and I heard more about it later on the TV.  
Oli reporting on the bomb from the Spanish civil war found in Gerona
In the evening Olivia arrived exhausted from her reporting away from home.  With her came Miguel her lovely boyfriend.  It was great to see them and we had dinner together on the kitchen terrace.  We were soon joined by Fátima who came back from her time off but in a sorry state as she had a sore mouth from a wisdom tooth which was growing the wrong way.  The next day we were off to London so couldn’t help her.  However Miguel came to the rescue and took her to a local dentist for the tooth to be removed.  Olivia had to go back to work, something she wasn’t looking forward to as she had hoped to have a few days off.  Fortunately she would have the following week off and she was going to Menorca with Miguel for a week.  Menorca is an island I have never been to but would love to visit.  She will be coming home today and I can’t wait to see her.
Oli in Menorca last week
And Wednesday 21st August finally came.  It wasn’t until after breakfast that I remembered it was our 30th wedding anniversary and one of the reasons for our trip to London.  Fancy 30 years of marriage and a happy marriage too.  Each year on our anniversary I post the same picture of the two of us at our wedding, so this year I thought I ought to post another one.  It was difficult to choose, but here they are; one of us together and one of me on my own.  Note I didn’t need glasses in those days and the colour of my hair is the original colour, a sort of light mousy brown, not the Marian Monroe blonde I am today.  I was 26 and Eladio was 39; a difference in age which has never mattered and still doesn’t as Eladio only gets better over the years.
Eladio and I on our wedding day on 21st August 1983


Me as a bride on 21st August 1983, I was just 26

We left just after 9 in the morning to have plenty of time to catch the mid morning Easy Jet flight to Gatwick.  We arrived earlier than expected, at around 13h London time and then and there started the typical obstacle race to get through customs, pick up our luggage, catch the train to Victoria and from there take the tube, lugging our huge cases up and down the steps, to Paddington Tube Station.  Using public transport in England is only something the truly fit should attempt.  Understanding the London Underground is usually pretty simple – it’s a case of following a colour and a name scheme but can get complicated as it does with the Yellow Circle Line, the line we used most.   We had to find out the hard way that from Paddington it stops at Edgware Road rather than carrying on and you have to get off and change platforms.  One seasoned London traveler explained that that is to stop homeless people spending the night going round and round in circles. We travelled all week using the wonderful Oyster card.  Eladio couldn’t understand why the transport card is called that until I explained to him the expression: “the world is your oyster”.  London, or the world that week, was certainly our own particular oyster and London was ours for the taking.
Me at King's Cross, the station of my childhood and which was always the gateway to London from Yorkshire for me.
It was a quick walk to the bed and breakfast we were staying at in Sussex Gardens and we soon found it in a row of similar houses.  I had booked a room at the Balmoral Hotel, a small establishment in the centre of London with good reviews on Trip Advisor.  It lived up to my expectations being above all very clean.  Wifi and breakfast were included which is unusual for hotels in London.  The drawback about breakfast was the queues in the morning which it served far too early from 7-8.30.  However it was our home for a week and we only really used it to sleep as we were out and about all day.
Arriving at our home in London
The weather was fantastic when we arrived and would be so for most of the week except Saturday but I’ll get to that later.  After we had unpacked and settled in, it was time to explore the terrain.  We took our first long walk that afternoon which took us through Sussex Gardens (5 mins from Paddington, 5 mins from Hyde Park, 30 minutes from Oxford Street) down Marylebone Road, past Baker and Harley Streets and Madame Tussauds and up or was it down Marylebone High Street to the bustling St. Christopher’s Place and then right on to Oxford Street.
Walking down Oxford Street
We were to meet Suzy and Chati at Great Portland Street Tube station and wow was the reunion wonderful.
My first encounter with Suzy in London - lovely
I had booked a table for our 30th anniversary dinner at Villandry, a restaurant I had been to the year before with Sandra, Adele and Jayne and which I loved.  It’s full of enticing dishes and all very healthy.  But first we decided to have champagne at a pub nearby.  I insisted as the occasion deserved it.  So we ordered a bottle of Moet Chandon and drank it outside with the proverbial packet of pub crisps.  We took photos and with so many things in my hands I managed to smash the screen of my beautiful Samsung Galaxy S4 (that’s the fourth case I know of in the past few weeks – gone are the days when at Motorola we would throw our phones against the wall to show journalists how indestructible they were).  But I refused to let the incident put a damper on our celebrations; after all, the phone still worked and I could get a new screen when I got home. And here is the photo of Eladio and I making a toast perhaps for the next 30 years although that’s probably stretching it a bit. 
Eladio and I drinking champagne on our 30th anniversary in London
Dinner at Villandry was exceptional and I think the girls enjoyed the meal as much, if not more than us, as they do not get to go out to dinner in London, living on a shoe string as they do in Whitechapel. As we were to do most nights, Eladio and I walked back to our hotel.

Thursday 22nd August was our first full day in London and we lived it to the full.  We made a classic mistake waking up an hour early as we hadn’t changed our watches. Thus we were one of the first at breakfast, ahead of the queue and soon out in the street when it had just stopped raining.  We were meeting the girls at Embankment later that morning and decided to take a walk first.  Our feet took us through Hyde Park on a walk around the Serpentine.  But first for a photo of Eladio in Hyde Park next to his like fictional character,  Peter Pan; which must be one of the most photographed statues in the park.
Eladio next to Peter Pan in Hyde Park
The idea was to take a boat with the girls from the Westminster to Hampton Court but we decided against that method of transport as a round trip is 3 hours long.  Well advised, we walked to Waterloo station and took the train which takes 40 minutes to get to Hampton Court, the home of King Henry VIII.

Before taking in the culture, we thought we should prepare our stomachs and thus opted for lunch outside the palace at a place called Riverside which is what it says, a restaurant on the dirty Thames River. 

With Suzy at the Riverside restaurant in Hampton Court
Everything was sticky as is normal in London because of the humidity.  This was to be our first but not last meal of fish and chips.  And afterwards I opted for an ice cream, a 99 flake from the van outside.
Enjoying a "99" flake from the ice cream van in Hampton Court
And then we walked through the gates of Hampton Court Palace and bought our tickets.  Our first stop was the wonderful maze, the biggest of its type in the world.  It’s about ½ mile long and you certainly do get lost which is a lot of fun.  As I walked around I realised I was following in the footsteps of past English Kings and Queens and felt awed at the fact.
Eladio in the maze at Hampton Court
After that it was time to visit the palace, the home or party place of King Henry VIII and it is a marvel.  
At the entrance to Hampton Court
We wandered through the courtyards, visited the royal kitchens and bedrooms and chapel of the Tudor and Stuart royal houses.  But what we liked most perhaps were the extraordinary gardens and fountains and beautifully cut hedges and we were overawed by the enormous pond which is more like a long lake.
By one of the fountains at Hampton Court
By the time we reached our hotel that evening it was 7ish and Eladio was exhausted.  However I still had some energy left and didn’t want to let the girls down, so made my way to Whitechapel to see their flat and invite them and their flat mates to dinner purchased at the nearby Sainsburys.  All I can say about where they live is that there is nothing white about Whitchapel in the East End of London.  It is not called “Little or New Bangladesh” for nothing.  I had prepared myself for the worst before I visited their tiny flat which they share with 11 fellow Spaniards and Italians.  I think that was wise as in the end it didn’t seem quite as bad as I had imagined.  It’s bad enough though and I do hope sincerely that they will find a proper job soon and move up in the world.
Dinner at Suzy and Chati's flat
After a fight at breakfast on Friday when the staff tried to bring two unknown Japanese girls to our table, we spent some time in the bedroom reading and writing post cards to my Father (not one has arrived yet one week later – so much for British Mail). We had plenty of time that morning before meeting the girls for lunch in Camden Town so decided to do our shopping that morning.  Really I should say my shopping as Eladio had nothing to buy as usual.  My list for the record was this: Savlon, Tooth picks,Mini and giant Johnson’s Talcum powder, Giant Johnson’s ear buds and Shower caps from Boots; coconut liquid soap and hand cream and underwear from M+S and these chocolates and sweets: bounty bars, millionaires chocolate caramel shortcake, aero mint chocolate as well as polos and other sweets.  Funnily enough I bought hardly any clothes this time, just some denim jeggings for Dolores and the same pair in black for myself to replace my ageing and graying pair back home.

We took the tube back to our hotel to leave our purchases in our room before venturing out again to meet the girls. This time we had a date in Camden Town of market fame which I don’t think I have visited since I was in my teens.  When we got there it was Suzy’s idea to have lunch at a Greek place she had found, Andy’s Tavern.  We seemed to be the only guests.  The food was good but the service was so slow we had no appetite for our second course and ordered a “doggy bag” for the girls to take back to their flat mates.
Lunch at the Greek Restaruant, Andy's Tavern in Camden Town
The girls had brought us to Camden Town to have our photos taken at a fun photo studio where you could dress up in various styles and buy the photos on a CD for what turned out to be an extortionate price.  However it was great fun and we enjoyed every moment of it.  You could choose between four styles: Far West, Gangster, Victorian or Tudor.  The girls went for Victorian which would have been my choice but Eladio was  determined to dress up as Henry VIII which I went along with for his sake.  He made a magnificent King and I think I made a magnificent Queen although we are still not sure which one I am, Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Kathryn Howard or Katherine Parr.  Someone said I looked like Elizabeth I.  Well I certainly felt like it in the Tudor gear I was wearing.  This is one of the photos of us dressed as the King and Queen of England.
Eladio and I love dressing up
The girls looked equally good in their pretty Victorian outfits.  I particularly like Suzy’s green dress.
The girls in their Victorian outfits
London is a very big place so we were astonished to bump into Lucía and her new boyfriend, dressing up for photos in the studio at Camden Town.  There and then we took a photo together and then rang Pili, Lucia’s Mother to tell her we had just met.  It was great to see Lucía there and Suzy and I are still reeling from the coincidental meeting.  As you can see from the photo Lucía also chose the Victorian style, by far the most romantic choice.
With Lucía and her boyfriend at the photo studio in Camden Town
The markets in Camden Town deserve a special mention.  Being there is really not unlike being in a market in Istanbul, Jerusalem or other exotic places except that you are actually just in London.  However we didn’t find anything  of interest to buy as these days markets of this kind all sell the same kind of junk.

That evening Eladio and I tried out a little Indian restaurant, Moghuls, on London Street a few yards from our hotel.  We were bowled over by the quality.  At curry houses we always ask for the same menu: popodoms with mango chutney, onion bhajis, chicken tika masala (Eladio), Lamb korma (me), rice (Eladio) and chapattis (me – from my Bradford curry house beginnings).  It turned out to be possibly one of the best curry meals we have ever had, so much so that I wrote a raving review this morning on Trip Advisor.  We shall certainly be going back on our next trip to London.

On Saturday it rained and rained and rained for most of the day. But of course come rain or shine we were going to go out.  Before leaving however I had a little accident worth recording here. I had stained my jeans and decided to wash the stain away in the tiny basin.  What I didn’t realize was that my iPhone was in the pocket having water poured all over it.  When I saw the phone in the basin I burst out crying thinking it would die immediately.  But joy of joys it didn’t, possibly because it had a cover on it which protected it from the water.  I was so thankful and remembered painfully the S3 that fell down the loo and died at Adele’s house in France and the S4 whose screen I broke on our first evening in London. 

Another problem that day was I didn’t have any suitable footwear to wear in the rain as I had only brought sandals and white plimsolls which were what I wore of course. We had no plans for that morning except for meeting the girls for lunch at The George pub in Temple where one of their flat mates worked.  Thus chance had it that we took the tube to Tower Hill to see the Tower of London and walk along the river bank towards the Millenium Bridge.  We hadn’t been to the Tower of London since Eladio’s first trip to England in 1980 – 33 years ago.  We were put off by the long queues and decided to see it from the outside.  I really think it is my favourite monument in London.  I tried to catch a photo of one of the Beefeater guards but he hid behind an umbrella.
The Tower of London or a part of it
From the Tower, we walked to Tower Bridge, another wonderful monument in London and remembered how we had walked across it all those years ago.
A lovely picture of Eladio with the Tower Bridge in the background
From here we spied the HMS Belfast ship, the famous naval cruiser which was built for the second world war and which was decommissioned in 1963.  It is now moored by London Bridge and has been turned into a museum by the IWM (Imperial War Museums).  Here I let Eladio visit it on his own, as ships are not really my thing.  I rested in the warmth of the café there and sheltered from the rain. And in the gift shop I spied some interesting articles for my Father; a book of Second World War propaganda posters, as well as a naval officer’s handbook which I can only imagine my Father would have had when he was a First Lieutenant in the Navy in the war.  Eladio later bought him the guide book.  Actually when I saw Eladio’s photos of the inside of the ship I regretted not having gone in with him.
HMS Belfast the 2nd World War ship which is now a museum on the Thames
When Eladio came out we continued our walk in the rain by the river, passing Shakespeare’s Globe theatre and various bridges until we came to the Millenium Bridge.  By then my feet were soaking and holes had appeared in my American Ked plimsolls – sneakers I think they call them on the other side of the pond. It was not a good day for visibility as the views from the bridge are much better on a sunny day. What is perhaps best about the bridge is the view of St. Paul’s all the way across
Me on the Millenium Bridge with St. Paul's in the background
Thus we arrived at that most magical cathedral which features in my favourite childhood’s film, Mary Poppins (who doesn’t remember the wonderful song: “feed the birds tuppence a bag”?) and where Princess Diana was married.  We went in but were put off by the crowds and didn’t think the entrance fee was really worth it.  Truth to say we were tired and wet from walking and my poor soaking feet needed a rest.  Thus, after hearing from Susana that the girls would be late, we decided to meet them at the pub, The George rather than wait for them at the Temple tube station.
The George pub in Temple, opposite the Royal Courts of Justice
The pub is beautiful on the outside and is of mock Tudor style built in the 18th century.  No one seemed to know which King George it was named after although when I looked it up it seems it was either named after King George III or a man called George Simpkins. Here we were waited on by Suzy and Chati’s Spanish flat mate, Mónica.  She confessed she was a lawyer and that her ambition would be to work across the road at the Royal Court of Justice, her favourite building in London.  I didn’t really want to tell her that until she got a degree in English law rather than Spanish law that wouldn’t be possible. 
The Royal Courts of Justice
I think it was the first time I had seen the courts for real but they were very familiar in my mind from television news about court cases when I lived in England.

Lunch was once again fish and chips, this time followed by one of my favourite desserts, fruit crumble.  Wow was it delicious.   

After lunch, the only place for me to go was to Oxford St. to find proper walking shoes or thick trainers.  The girls walked us for miles before deciding to take the tube whilst my feet felt like they were walking in a constant puddle.  Luckily I found some suitable trainers at John Lewis.  They turned out to be a bit painful but better than broken plimsolls.  From there we joined the girls at M+S where we were to buy them underwear, the best articles to be bought at that wonderful store.  

Whilst it was raining in London, Olivia and her friends were basking in the sun at home by the pool.  Juli sent me a photo of Elsa once again in the water.  It seems she loves the pool but only when he and Inda, Rocio’s black Labrador puppy, are there.  Here is the photo for the records.
Elsa swimming in the pool with Inda in our absence
From M+S we decided to make an end to the day and shelter from the rain and rest after so much walking back at our hotel.  It was our only evening in at the hotel.  We slept a siesta or rather Eladio did whilst I uploaded photos.  We had no room in our stomach for dinner and decided on going out to buy some fruit to eat in our room in lieu of supper.  The next day our stomachs were grateful for the choice.

On Sunday we were going to Greenwich, of Greenwich meantime fame, to have lunch with Susan and her girls Adele and Izzy.  Sue and I studied Spanish together at Nottingham University.  She is now living in Australia but was back in the UK for a month or so and as were going to be in London around the same time, it was the ideal time to see each other again and for our girls to meet.  Eladio had met Sue many years ago when she first married Glen and they stopped off in Madrid on their honeymoon trip around Europe.  I wore my heavy trainers which I regretted as it was sunny when we stepped off the train from Charing Cross in Greenwich.  Sue was soon there to meet us and show us around the pretty village.  We walked through the market to the Cutty Sark and enjoyed the views of London from the riverside.
With Sue in Greenwich
Adele soon showed up and we took a walk around the Royal Naval Colleges which are no longer anything to do with the Navy. We stopped for a drink at a pretty little pub with views of the Millenium Dome now called 02 (that’s Telefónica these days) until Izzy joined us. From here we walked along the river again until we reached our destination, or rather The Old Brewery where we were to have lunch.  We were joined also by Izzy’s boyfriend Jim from Yorkshire (he went to school in Giggleswick!) and two friends of the girls who were passing through, Joe and his girlfriend Hazel who are from Scotland, studied at Edinburgh University and now work as doctors in Manchester.  They were on their way to Paris travelling on the Eurostar for the first time.
We made quite a big group as you can see from the photo below.
Lunch in Greennwich
The Sunday roast meals on offer were great and I could not resist ordering roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, as most of us did.  The others ordered roast pork, because, as Joe said, it had more “things” such as pork crackling and apple sauce!
The roast beef and yorkshire pudding lunch at the Old Brewery in Greenwich was superb
After lunch the young people disbanded each going off to do his or her thing and the three “oldies” were left.  Sue kindly took us through the Royal Greenwich Park to visit the observatory and see the views from the top of the hill of London or more importantly see and step on the Meridian Line which separates East from West as well as visit the place where time is measured.  It was humbling to be in such an important place.
The Royal Observatory Greenwich
My husband who is a philosopher and is very knowledgeable of the origins of the place from his studies, was more impressed I think than me and enjoyed looking at the old telescopes and other instruments which didn’t make much sense to me.  There were huge queues to stand on the Meridian Line itself, so we skipped doing that and then found ourselves at the beginning of the line and here I took a great photo of Eladio and Sue crossing it.
Sue and Eladio standing on the Meridian line
My feet were killing me in the ridiculous trainers I had bought the day before and I regretted wearing them all day as it didn’t rain. We walked back down into the village on the long walk through the park and I was happy to rest my feet  at Sue’s flat where she offered us a refreshing cup of tea before we headed back to London.

Once back at our hotel we rested for a couple of hours and then decided to do some more walking, this time in my sandals.  Luckily for me it never rained again during our stay.  The decision to walk from our hotel to Notting Hill was not the best as it coincided with the end of the first day’s Carnival and the throngs of people heading home.  But the walk there and back made us hungry again.  That night we tried a local Lebanese restaurant, “Ya Hala” which I think means welcome.  The food was great which is why perhaps the place was so crowded.

Our trip to London was nearing its end.  We still had two days left and were determined to enjoy them to the full again.  On this trip to London the idea was to visit places we hadn’t visited before, thus I proposed to Eladio that we visit the Churchill War Rooms, the wartime bunker where the famous statesman and his government sheltered during the blitz on London and throughout most of the war.  To get there we had to take the tube to Westminster where of course we took the traditional photos of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

For me the visit to the war rooms was one of the highlights of our trip.  I was so interested I lost Eladio who was waiting outside hours later wondering where I was.  Well I was visiting everything there, the cabinet meeting rooms, Churchill’s private rooms – apparently he only ever slept in this bed there 3 times, preferring to risk his life outside in the blitz – as well as the rooms of many of his staff and see so much memorabilia of the history of this unique place, including a corner where you could see the different types of hats (bowler, top and other) he used to wear or videos of people who had worked there and are now very old or probably dead. Their testimonies made me understand better what it must have been like to work there.  I especially was interested to listen to the memories of one of his secretaries. She said that he would dictate direct to the typewriter and would do so smoking his cigar and either be behind the woman typing or in front and that it was difficult to understand some of his mutterings. For me and for most British people Churchill is one of Britain’s greatest people.  He certainly had an enormous personality.  I remember the day of his funeral in 1965 when I was 8 years old.  It was a very important affair and I remember buying a souvenir booklet for what was then half a crown, possibly the whole amount of my weekly pocket money.  I do wish I had kept the booklet.
The entrance to the bunker, the Churchill War Rooms
I felt a chill down my spine as I walked outside into the sunshine to find Eladio.  From there we walked towards the Houses of Parliament, hoping to go in but of course it was closed as Monday was a bank holiday.  Instead we went into Westminster Abbey where most of England’s illustrious people are buried.  Of interest to me  were Queen Elizabeth I and Lord Baden Powel, the founder of the Scout Movement.  Eladio, on the other hand, was more interested to see where Isaac Newton or Charles Darwin was buried.

On Monday we had a lunch appointment with my old marketing boss from Motorola, Keith and his wife Lorraine and their now grown up daughter Becci.  I hadn’t seen them since I left Motorola in the late 90’s.  It was a first for Suzy and Eladio too since they had visited us at our previous home around that time too.  They had chosen a pub in Victoria, The Phoenix, which we thought was a grand choice because of the lack of crowds for once and because of the superb food.  I am embarrassed to say I had fish and chips yet again!

It was great to see them again and to catch up on each other’s news, although we had been in contact sporadically since we last met, especially via Twitter and Facebook, the new ways of keeping in touch. 
This is a photo of all of us around the table at The Phoenix.  I think the girls hit it off and I do hope Suzy and Chati keep up with Becci as it would be great for them to have English friends in London. It seems silly but it’s not easy to find them if you live in a sort of Spanish bubble like they do and don’t yet have a job. 
Lunch with Keith and his family at The Phoenix in Victoria on Monday
I mentioned to Lorraine that I was looking for a commemorative mug of the birth of  Prince George and she suggested I look in the Buckingham Palace gift shop which was right next door to the pub. My luck was in and I bought this beautiful mug to add to the collection of royal mugs started by my Grandmother with Edward VII. It is the blue one in the middle of the front row of my lovely royal collection which graces our dining room.
My royal mug collection enhanced with the Prince George mug (blue - front row in the middle) bought at the Buckingham Palace gift shop last week
After lunch everyone had to leave but it was such a beautiful day Eladio and I fancied another walk.  Keith suggested we visit St. James Park nearby which turned out to be a great recommendation.  It was another new place for us in London.
A photo I particularly like of myself taken at St. James' Park on Monday
That evening we went on yet another walk, necessary to build up an appetite for dinner.  On Monday night we walked to the end of Marylebone High Street on James Street I think and it was here that I happened upon a lovely Turkish restaurant I had been to before but didn’t remember the name of.  It was my niece Sara who took me there in November 2009 when I went to London for Sanya’s funeral.  I remembered how pretty it was with the Turkish lamps hanging from the ceiling and how good the food was.  So in we walked into The Grand Bazaar delighted to try out food from yet another country.  Eladio loved it too and we enjoyed the mezze special which includes all the little hot and cold middle eastern dishes we so love but I’m afraid we couldn’t even eat a quarter of what was on our table.  The pièce de résistance for me, at least, was the wonderful bread in the shape of a balloon.  I do wonder how they make it.  Needless to say we walked back to our hotel which took another 40 minutes.
The food we had at the Turkish restaurant in St. James' St, The Grand Bazaar
Tuesday 27th August was to be our last full day in London and once again we were to do something we had never done in London. I suggested to Eladio that we visited Kew Gardens, the Royal Botanical Gardens.  I am not usually very interested in Botanical Gardens but it was a glorious day and we wanted to be outdoors.  Also I remembered my Mother talking lovingly about them, so off we went.  We topped up our Oyster cards to use the tube on Zone 4 and by 09.30 we were at Kew tube station, ready to visit what turned out to be about 10% of the huge gardens in the four hours or so we had until we met the girls at Liverpool St. Station for lunch.

The gardens are over 250 years old and include 120 hectares of gardens and botanical glass houses and I think you would need to spend a month here to see them all.  We asked at the entrance what route we should take for the time we had and were directed to the Princess of Wales glass house which is just amazing.  It recreates 9 or so different types of flora, from desert to rain forest or lotus flower ponds and is just wonderful.  Eladio was ecstatic when we left and made our way past ancient oak trees or Chinese pagoda trees to our next stop, the Orangery where we enjoyed a cup of tea and a wonderful slice of homemade bakewell tart.  We walked under gigantic trees which felt like a wood inside and past people having picnics on a glorious sunny day in England.
Eladio happy to be at Kew Gardens
From the Orangery we made our way to Kew Palace a beautiful house which was bought by George III as a retreat when he was ill.  We loved the house but also the gardens outside known as the Queen’s Gardens.  We also visited the Royal Kitchens which were surrounded by a kitchen garden where produce was grown for the King and still grows – we saw pumpkins and artichokes as well as the usual vegetables such as tomatoes, cabbages, sweet peas etc. We even saw his bath in the kitchens which I was surprised to see there.  The staff, dressed in 17th century outfits, explained that he didn’t think it was fair for the staff to have to come to the palace to bathe him and preferred to walk on foot to the royal kitchens for his bath!
Kew Palace George III's residence in Kew Gardens
From Kew Palace we walked towards perhaps the most famous hothouse at Kew Gardens, the Palm House which you see in all the photos that illustrate the gardens. 
The Palm tree hot house at Kew Gardens
Just outside and similar to the mad hatters’ tea party, there was a long table set for tea in an extraordinary manner.  Each cup and saucer had the plant of a different tea in front of it.  I loved it and felt like sitting there and taking in the beauty all around me which is what I was doing in the picture Eladio took of me at this original “tea table”.
A tea table with teas from the world at Kew Gardens
The Palm House was our last stop at Kew Gardens, apart from the gift shop of course, but we have vowed to go back on our next trip to London, if it’s in the summer.

So we walked happily back to the tube station and made our way to Liverpool Street Station where we were meeting the girls.  They were taking us to lunch at Piccolino, a pseudo Italian business restaurant nearby where their Italian friend and flat mate Lorenzo works as a waiter. 
Chati and Suzy with their flat mate Lorenzo, an Italian waiter at Piccolino where we had lunch on our last day
We were served beautifully by Lorenzo and his fellow Italian waiters but they piled our plates too high and Eladio and I couldn’t manage even half of what they had served us.  But we enjoyed the meal with the girls which we had outside as the weather was glorious.  Afterwards it was time to walk to Whitechapel for Eladio to see  “little Bangladesh” and the girls’ flat.

Eladio was equally amazed with Whitechapel and agreed with me that’s it like being in India except for the cows.  I think the photo below illustrates it quite well.  It’s of the girls with Eladio buying cases for our phones.  No more comment is necessary
Whitechapel, the girls buying phone cases.  This photo says it all
Eladio was equally depressed with the flat but put on a brave face as if he were sitting in the nicest lounge in the world. One thing in the girls’ favour however is the company they have there, some very nice people and they all feel like they are a family.  I still do hope that they will move somewhere nicer soon.

I said as much to my friend and ex colleague, Antonio later when we met at St.Christopher’s Place.  Antonio who lives in London and is the CEO of a big outdoor advertising company is helping Suzy find a job and I am very grateful to him.  Since we have come back I heard from her that she has a job interview he has arranged for her with an events catering company that I think belongs to the group of companies he works for. So keep your fingers crossed for next Friday.

Later that evening we had dinner nearby at The Fishworks where Antonio had taken Suzy out to dinner recently.  It was a great fish restaurant and a great end to our trip and it is where we said goodbye to the girls, after giving them a bit of advice on how to live their lives in London which I’m not sure was very much appreciated.  In any case it was great to see and be with Suzy and her friend and I look forward to visiting them again, hopefully before Christmas.

And the next day was our last day in London or rather our last morning as I had to pack everything and we had to leave at about 09.30 if we were to catch our 12.50 flight from Gatwick comfortably.  We thought we had plenty of time but of course the obstacle race back was stressful and we ended up with only half an hour or so to play with.  The flight home was uneventful and I spent most of it asleep.  It was great to land safely in Madrid.  I had expected hot weather but thankfully the temperature was only 30c or so.  We had to pick my car up at work but soon we were home in the middle of the afternoon and happy to greet my Father and Fátima and the dogs of course.  In our absence Nuba, José Antonio and Dolores’ mongrel, had come to stay whilst they were on holiday in China visiting Sara.

We were so exhausted after so much walking in London that we have not yet gone on a walk, but that will be remedied today, Saturday. Since coming home, we have relaxed, I have caught up on my work and life is gradually getting back to normal.

Back to normal means going out to dinner on Friday nights, which is what we did last night and we chose to do so at La Vaca Argentina in Las Rozas.  Here we made a toast to Suzy wishing her luck in her interview next week.

And today is Saturday and Olivia is back from Menorca but we haven’t yet seen her as she was picked up from the airport by Copi and went straight to Dave’s house to join her beloved group of friends commonly known as “La Manada” (the herd!).  I look forward then to seeing her tomorrow which is one of the reasons I have written my blog today, so as to be free on Sunday.
And that my friends is the end of the tale of our holiday in London which as you will have read above was a blast and a holiday to remember, a holiday where we celebrated our 30th anniversary, met friends, saw a lot of Suzy and also saw and did things we had never done before in London.  

And now I will leave you until next week when I will come back with the story of my trip to Santander to this year’s annual telecoms conference where Yoigo will host a Great Gatsby party for all the participants.  

Cheers till next time

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

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