Sunday, February 16, 2014

A bread and butter letter, birthdays and deaths in February, snow in Montrondo, Oli reporting from Zaragoza and Toro, life is full of wonderful surprises, St. Valentine’s weekend in Soria, home again and other stories.

Sunday 16th Feb 2014

Eladio and I at the Natural Park Cañón del Río Lobos this Saturday in Soria
Hello again my friends

It’s strange to think that it was only a week ago that Suzy left after coming with Gabor for my birthday and Copi’s. The house felt flat and empty without her.  It rained and we were robbed of our walk.  Of note last Sunday the Spanish Goya filma wards took place.  Best film was Living is Easy with Eyes closed which I don’t think I will be watching – some story about a teacher who was mad about the Beatles.  No, not my thing.

That night after the awards I got a phone call out of the blue from our neighbour at Heaton Grove in Bradford where we used to live.  Susan called to tell me she had been to a funeral and that the vicar turned out to be Brandon J., the man who married Eladio and I thirty years ago and who had been important to me when I went through my religious phase as a teenager in Yorkshire.  He was keen to get in touch and gave her his contact details to give to me.  I have written him a long email summarizing the last 30 years in about 25 lines but have not had a reply yet.  I wonder if he uses his email. It will be very interesting to see his reply.

On Monday of course I fasted.  I should mention too that on Monday  I got a bread and butter letter from Suzy’s boyfriend, not the old fashioned letter kind but a private message on Facebook. Well that was good enough for me. I was surprised that a friend from Yorkshire didn’t know what a “bread and butter letter” was; so I had to explain.  I was brought up by my parents to write thank you letters to relatives when they sent me gifts on my birthday or at Christmas.  My parents referred to them as just this “bread and butter letters”.  Really they are letters sent to thank people for hospitality; bread and butter being the food or hospitality.  Thanks Gabor, much appreciated.  It shows you have been brought up wellJ

On Monday I heard the sad news that my dear Finnish friend Anne’s Mother had died suddenly and unexpectedly that day.  We had a long chat on the phone and Anne explained that at only 73 her mother had died of aneurysm.  All I could do was to express my sympathy; not much more.  But I know very well what she will be going through as I also lost my Mother in 1999 and know what it means to lose a Mother.  You are never prepared in life for your parents’ death as parents are never prepared for the death of their children.  Anne my heart goes out to you.  Love you, you know that.

I had to take my car into work for it to be serviced and whilst I was there I did a few errands.  Snow was forecast that day as it was the next but it never came.  Where it did snow heavily was in Montrondo.
The huge snowfall in Montrondo this week.  It looks magical.
On Tuesday, Toribio died. He was one of the few elderly people left  in Montrondo. As always happens when someone from this group passes away, as many people as possible go to the funeral.  In Spain the funeral is nearly always the day after the person dies; unlike England or Finland when it can be up to 2 weeks or more. The snow was to be an enormous problem as the funeral procession would not be able to reach the church.  Eladio’s sister Pili and her husband Andrés attended as did his brother Isidro and Adela’s husband Primo. The attendants and villagers (only 10 people live in Montrondo) all made a human chain to clear the path of snow which must be at least 1km long. 
Clearing the snow in Montrondo to clear the path to the church for Toribio's funeral
Meanwhile back home I had a lunch in town that day.  My PR Agency, or rather the team that heads up our account there, Ludi, Carlos and Isabel, invited me to lunch.  We went to El Cocinillas in the heart of Madrid where we spent all lunch talking shop. Well that’s natural I suppose.

That evening I caught Fátima, our home help making some delicious biscuits for my Father.  This is what they looked like.
Fátima's home made biscuits
Entering into the spirit she had created I decided to make Russian food for dinner, for Olivia and Eladio, both of whom were out; Oli still at work and Eladio at his UNED University tutorials.  As Olivia comes back too late to join us for dinner, I left her a tray in the kitchen.  She later posted a photo of it on Facebook.  This is what it looked like.
The dinner tray of Russian food for Olivia
For the record I made or rather baked already made frozen “perushki” (meat pies) and “pelmeni! (Russian ravioli) with “smetana” (sour cream).

Wednesday 12th February would have been my brother, George’s 59th birthday.  I always remember as a child celebrating both birthdays which were so close in time.  Now it is only I who has a birthday. I thought about my brother that day as I’m sure my Father did too.  I quietly had breakfast with Olivia but kept my thoughts to myself; not wanting to dampen the atmosphere.  You see Anne, my Mother and my brother live on in our hearts as I know your Mother will live on in your heart.  But you will always miss her; as I always miss them, but especially on their birthdays like this last Tuesday.

That day, Oli went off to work as normal but a few hours later rang to say she was coming home to pack as she was being sent to Zaragoza.  Her TVE programme wanted her to cover the story the next day in the small village of Alagón, about a married couple in their 80s who had been made homeless. A car came to pick her up in the afternoon to take her to the station where she was to catch the high speed train to Zaragoza.  There were no hotel rooms to be had there so she was sent to nearby Tudela which I think is in Navarra.

That night Suzy was excited to be out in town with her new English girlfriends who she works with at the Oxo building.  One of them had secured invitations to a new fashionable spot in London called The Fable.  All I got from her though were pictures of the drinks when I wanted a photo of her for this week’s blog post.

Thursday of course was my second and last fasting day of the week.  It saw me again at Yoigo most of the morning which coincided with Olivia reporting from Alagón on the old couple’s plight.  However I was able to watch nearly all of her appearances on my mobile phone.  Did I ever tell you I love technology?
Olivia reporting from Alagón on Thursday
The story was complicated but from what I understood, the patriarch, Paco, signed a contract in 1960 whereby he “bought” the house but also continued to pay rent (very strange).  His mistake was not only agreeing to pay rent but for buying the house not from the owner but from the beneficiary.  And now the original owners have proved their ownership and Paco and his family have been made homeless. You can see Olivia’s reports on this link if you go to 10.16 and 11.21 and again here if you go to 11.52.

Whilst at Yoigo a stone fell from my Mother’s engagement ring which I often wear.  Thus instead of coming straight home I went to Centro Oeste (shopping centre) to have it mended. Whilst there I couldn’t resist a very quick little entry into Zara where in under 10 minutes I had happily bought a light blue dress, a pair of blue trousers and a black and white dress.  I am particularly happy with the blue dress which will match my birthday coat, the blue one I got for myself from my Father. This is the dress.  Lovely isn’t it?
My new blue dress from Zara
Oli was back in the afternoon and had good news.  She had received an email from the organizers of an EU educational unit called Etwinning who had asked her to be the MC again this year at their prize giving ceremony.  It will be in April in Brussels where my great friend Sandra lives.  I immediately contacted Sandra who said she would be delighted to put us up.  You see I want to go with Olivia as does her boyfriend Miguel.  That day I posted on FB that life was full of wonderful surprises; that was the wonderful surprise I was referring to.

And Friday came and it was St. Valentines.  Early that morning Olivia had been sent off to the north of Spain.  They wanted her to cover the story of snow in villages there.  So on Thursday night Eladio and I were in touch with our family in León but wherever we thought of it was logistically impossible for Olivia to get there on time to be live on TV by 10 in the morning.  In the end they asked her to cover the story of flooded rivers and sent her to Toro in Zamora. Talking about the weather,  England these past few weeks, has had the worst floods in many many years.  

By then Eladio and I were on the road on our way to our romantic St. Valentine’s weekend in Soria.  However, again I was able to watch Olivia on my mobile and you can too if you go to this link and fast forward to 11.30.  
Olivia reporting from Toro on Friday on the nearly flooded river there

Eladio and I were heading to a small village called Almarza in the north of Soria where we had booked a room at a small hotel and spa called El Morendal
Almarza is in the north of Soria some 22km north of the capital on the road to Logroño.
We loved the place as soon as we got there.
Just in front of the spa hotel El Morendal in Almarza
As soon as we had settled into our room called “Fanega” (a measure used for flour – apparently the hotel used to be a flour factory!) we went for a walk to explore the village.
Our room "Fanega" at the hotel
Almarza is quite big as far as villages go in Soria and has some 100 inhabitants, more than some of the emptier villages we saw in the area. 

In Almarza upon our arrival
Then it was lunch time where we were alone in the dining room and sat at a beautiful table by the window (we managed to sit at the same table for every meal we had at El Morendal).  We were very impressed with the small rural hotel and got lots of ideas for decorating the house in Montrondo we will be reforming soon.

After lunch we had a siesta which turned out to be longer than we wanted.  However it was still light outside for a nice long walk in the cold evening before returning to the hotel.  We had booked the spa at 19h and had the place to ourselves for an hour before dinner – again alone. The spa was small but fabulous for two people. We mainly enjoyed the Jacuzzi but also the sauna and Turkish bath.
The spa at our hotel in Almarza
Before I continue I should tell you a little about Soria – in Castilla León and some 250km from Madrid.  It is here that part of Dr. Zhivago was filmed and when I saw the beautiful forests and hills and snow, I understood why.  When on Saturday morning after a sumptuous breakfast we made our way to the Mountain Pass called Piqueras (Puerto de Piqueras), I could just imagine the scene on the train when Dr. Zhivago was taken to Strenilkov in the middle of the white forest, been filmed in this part of Spain. Yes in some areas Soria resembles Siberia.  It is of course one of the coldest parts of Spain.
Me ecstatic to be at the snow - Puerto de Piqueras
After visiting the mountain pass, our next destination was the Laguna Negra – the Black Lagoon, the coldest spot in Soria.  Here we came across so much snow our car could no longer make it up the path.
We got stuck in the snow trying to reach the Black Lagoon (Laguna Negra)
We had a moment of crisis when I thought we would get stuck in the snow but after lots of short manoeuvres and with the help of some passersby we managed to turn the car round and go back down.  We were not to see the Laguna Negra which we will have to see if we go to Soria again. 

From here we made our way to the small ski resort called “Punto de Nieve” at the Santa Inés Mountain Pass.  Here finally I was able to enjoy abundant snow and we went for a long walk, albeit on the road where the snow had been shifted as we were not wearing the right boots.
At Punto de Nieve (skiing resort) by the Santa Inés Mountain Pass.  Wonderful very Dr. Zhivago country
We decided to have lunch in the nearest town called Vinuesa, a sleepy village with the same sort of architecture we were to see everywhere – houses made of a reddish brown stone, very pretty really – Here we came across a little place called Asador Eguren where we enjoyed bean soup followed by a huge rump steak grilled in front of our eyes on the fire place which was also a barbecue.  Eladio was delighted that the bill came to just over 20 euros!

Our next destination was the Cañón de Río Lobos (River Wolves Canyon) natural park which everyone told us was magical.  We knew what they meant when we stopped at the Mirador or viewing place high above it.
High above the Cañón de Río Lobos
It was a very steep drive down but thankfully there was no snow here.  We drove our car to the edge of the river where we spied a sign to what looked like an interesting footpath by the river and under the canyon. We just loved this walk, past caves, green fields and bridges.  It was to be our second walk of the day but we had to curtail it as I had booked a massage at the spa at 19h.  The photo illustrating this post is of the two of us at the Cañón de Río Lobos
On our walk in the River Wolves Canyon, a magical place.
Thankfully we were back on time; although I know Eladio would have preferred to carry on walking.  Natalia did some good work on the knots in the muscles of my back for 60 heavenly minutes.  Dinner that night was a small affair.  This time the dining room was full – well the 7 tables were full. The hotel has just 9 rooms.

And all too soon it was Sunday, the end of our romantic St. Valentine’s weekend away and the end of the week.  We had breakfast early and as soon as I had packed we were ready to check out and leave.  We were on the road just after 10.  On our way home we decided to stop at Medinaceli, a medieval town in Soria on the border of the province of Madrid and famous for being one of the prettiest small towns in Spain.  But my was it cold.  We walked the stony streets and the town seemed empty.  We spied just one shop and bought some bread and honey and locally made butter – Soria is famous for its butter.
In the main square (Plaza Mayor) of Medinaceli this morning on our way home.
We were home just after 1 o’clock and delighted to find Fátima in the kitchen making a fresh pizza for our family lunch.  There was time to say hello to everyone, my Father, Oli, Miguel and of course the dogs.  There was even time to unpack before we all sat down to lunch. 

And here I am now writing my blog, just before we go for our walk with the dogs.  Of note today is my friend’s birthday, Jacky from Yorkshire who is the same age as me today. Hope you are having a great day.

I have come to the end of this week’s tale but I do not want to sign off before making a reference to the announcement this week of this year’s World Press Photo.  It is a dramatic image taken by the National Geographic photographer John Stanmeyer which shows African migrants holding their phones high hoping to catch the inexpensive Somalian phone signal at midnight on the shores of Djibouti.  Mobile phones are an intrinsic part of my job and the plight of immigrants always worries me, so this photo for me at least, tells a very big story which does not need any explaining in this day and age.  Amazing photo eh?
The winner of this year's World Press Photo
And that my friends, is the end of the tale of this week.

I wish you all the best until next time,


PS You can see more photos of our weekend in Soria here.


Jesus Sardinero said...

Estuviste por mi tierra, Salas de los Infantes, Burgos. Que bien que os gusto la excursión.

Masha Lloyd said...

Pues sí ví la señal a Salas y me acordé de tí. Nos encantó la excursión. La única pena no haber podido ver la laguna negra. Next time I hope