Monday, May 05, 2014

Suzy’s 30th birthday visit, this year’s top restaurants, an all-Spanish Champions League final, my Father’s 95th birthday, Finnish Vappu, off to Montrondo again, Mothers’ day in Spain, Olivia in Galicia reporting for TVE1 and other stories.

Monday 5th May 2014

Celebrating Suzy's birthday last Monday with a selfie
Hello my friends,

Wow last week was probably the best week of the year so far.  That was mainly because Suzy came to celebrate her 30th birthday but also for other reasons which you will find out about if you carry on reading.

After I left off last Sunday, Suzy was continuing her pre birthday celebrations with a dinner party at home for the girls’ friends, commonly known as “la manada” (the herd).  It was on Sunday too that a young girl called Carolina Marín became known as the Spanish queen of badminton.  A star in Asia but literally unknown here, she “wrote her name into Spanish badminton history books” by winning the women’s singles gold medal in the European Championship.  This was yet another sporting victory for Spain.
Carolina Marín, Spain's queen of badminton
Sport and sports’ victories are the norm these days in Spain but what is not the norm is a racist incident in sport in this country.  So when a “fan” threw a banana at FC Barcelona player Dani Alves, last Sunday at the game against Villarreal, he decided to eat it to the astonishment and applause of the public.  The episode quickly turned into a worldwide anti-racism campaign after his team mate Neymar posted a picture of himself on Twitter with his son and a banana. 
Neymar posted a photo with his son after the racist banana episode
Monday came and finally it was Suzy’s official 30th birthday.  I was up early to make a wonderful breakfast for everyone, including the girls’ boyfriends Miguel and Gabor. This was what the table looked like. Unfortunately for you Olivia vetoed the photos of us at breakfast as she was wearing pyjamas.
The breakfast table on Suzy's birthday

After breakfast we gave her our presents.  The star present was an album I had made for her with a significant photo of each year of her life so that she could see how she has developed through the years. The idea was mine but I have to publically thank Beatriz, Cristina and Gloria for making it happen.  Thanks girls, without your help the end product would not be the same.  You can see the video of the album here.
The inside cover of Suzy's special 30th birthday album I made for the occasion
But of course the main event of the day would be lunch which would be outside because of the glorious weather.  I had to work so ended up buying a take away lunch from the superb Mallorca gourmet shop.  I had bought the cake too, one of our favourites, made of pastry, cream and raspberries.  Olivia inspired us to take a super selfie photo of all of us, including my Father and the cake which I have chosen to illustrate this week’s blog post.  We had such fun taking it.

In the afternoon I spent time with Olivia and Gabor by the still covered pool after which I did two consecutive hour long walks.  Dinner that night was just the two of us.  That day I was especially pleased to announce our agreement with the Spanish College of Telecommunications Engineers which came about thanks to my ex colleague and friend Julio.  Here is a photo of us all when the agreement was signed.
With Julio, far right, after signing the agreement with the COIT
It was on Monday that the new list of the world’s best restaurants was announced.  Last year’s best restaurant El Celler de Can Roca was “relegated” to the number two spot being overtaken by Noma, the Danish restaurant.  But Spain faired extremely well, being the only nation with 3 restaurants in the top ten.  Thus Spain continues to dominate the food world when it comes to top restaurants.  Interestingly there was not one French representative, the nation that used to dominate this list.  For the records, these are the top 10: 1) Noma – Denmark 2) El Celler de Can Roca – Spain 3) Osteria Francescana - -Italy 4) Eleven Madison Park - United States 5) Dinner - United Kingdom 6) Mugaritz – Spain 7) .O.M. – Brazil 8) Arzak – Spain 9) Alinea - United States 10) The Ledbury - United Kingdom. I have only ever been to one of them; Arzak in San Sebastian and forever remember the amazing gourmet experience, although you will be interested to hear Eladio was not particularly impressed!

Tuesday was Suzy and Gabor’s last day so I decided to spend as much time with them as possible.  So did Olivia who actually took last week off as a holiday.  We went to Villanueva de la Cañada to close Suzy’s old bank account in the morning and here is the last pic of Suzy and I together.  Typically we are both looking at our phone screens.
The last photo of me with Suzy during her visit - last Tuesday
I made lunch for everyone but didn’t eat as I was fasting instead of Monday.  I would also fast on Wednesday so as to be able to enjoy my Father’s birthday meals on Thursday.  Fasting two days in a row is no easy task.  Oli and I took Suzy and Gabor to the airport where we said our goodbyes not knowing when we would meet next.  All I can say is that a great time was had by all.  Suzy’s birthday and birthday visit were a complete success and filled our hearts with joy.  I reflected on this when I went on two consecutive hour long walks in the evening.

That night Eladio and I and most of Spain watched a decisive football match.  Real Madrid was playing the second leg of the Champions League semifinal against Bayern Munich in Germany.  The Spaniards beat the Germans a crushing 4-0 and got through to the final in Lisbon in May.  We wouldn’t know until the next day whether their opponent there would be Chelsea or Atlético de Madrid.  Madrid will be looking to win “la décima”, their 10th victory after 12 barren years of never making it past the semifinals.

On Wednesday I was expecting Juan Carlos the dog trainer to come.  He was to help us make the dogs keep to heel on our walks but I’m afraid he failed to turn up.  Eladio was not at all in favour of hiring his services so I’m afraid I have given up in this area. 

At lunchtime Olivia and I went to Madrid to visit the new Zara flagship store in Madrid’s most prestigious shopping street, Calle Serrano.  We had a lot of traffic to confront and it was difficult to park.  We both remarked we far preferred living outside the city after the all the effort of getting there.  Once inside I think our inspiration for shopping had waned but we felt obliged to buy something.  I was not particularly impressed with the size of the store, having hoped it would be something like M&S at Marble Arch but it was much smaller.  I ended up buying a lovely blue bag but nothing else. 
The blue bag I bought at Zara's new flagship store in Calle Serrano
After lunch Olivia was off to stay with her boyfriend in Valencia where he lives.  She was looking forward to time on the beach.  I spoke to her yesterday and she told me she had a great time but that there was a lot of wind.  Unfortunately she never took any pictures for me to include in this week’s post. 

It was on Wednesday that The Local (Spain) published their article on whether it was time for Brits to leave Spain or not.  If you read my post last week you will know I wrote to them to tell them I would not be leaving and why.  So I was very “chuffed” to see they included most of my comments.  You can read their article here.

That night we found out who Real Madrid would be playing in the Champions League final in May.  Amazingly Atlético de Madrid beat Mourinho’s Chelsea 3-1 at Stamford Bridge.  This will prevent “the special one” from having his revenge on Real Madrid which he left on ugly terms.  For the rest of the football world the final will be the first time two teams from the same town meet together.  May the best team win and here I mean Real Madrid, our team.  The outcome will be on 24th May in Lisbon.  Cross your fingers for Real please in this all Spanish final.

Thursday was 1st May, Labour Day and was a holiday in Spain and in most of the world. Most importantly to us it was my Father’s 95th birthday.  This year the girls couldn’t be with us but I made it as nice a day as I could for my Father.  First there was a splendid breakfast with “chocolate and churros” followed by the traditional birthday card and presents.
Giving my Father his presents at the special breakfast I prepared for him on his 95th  birthday on 1st May
For lunch I made lasagna which I think is one of his favourite meals.  We had it outside as the weather continued to be pleasant.  The main moment of the day of course was the birthday cake.  Here is a photo of my Father blowing out his candles.  I can only hope and pray that we will continue to celebrate his birthday for many more years. 
My father blowing out the candles on his birthday on 1st May
1st May was also Vappu day in Finland.  I asked my Finnish friends to send me photos of them in the traditional white student caps and Timo obliged.  He also told me that the Finnish festivities of the 1st May are celebrated in Helsinki, at least, at a big open air picnic at a place with the unpronounceable name of “Ullanlinnanmäki”, a hill in the Kaivopuisto park by the sea.  Vappu celebrates student graduations but student or not everyone seems to participate.
My friend and colleague Timo wearing the customary white cap on Vappu Day in Finland on 1st May
After lunch Eladio and I left for Montrondo where we would be spending the 1st May bank holiday with some of his family.  Friday 2nd May would also be a holiday for “madrileños” like us. We weren’t just going for fun as we had important tasks to complete in our path to rebuilding the old house we have “inherited”. We were to meet builders and discuss estimates as well as clear out the old house for when the refurbishment happens, hopefully this very month.

We arrived in the late afternoon, just on time for a walk to Murias with Dolores, Juan, Cristina and Sara.  Meanwhile Eladio met one set of builders who I was able to talk to when I came back from our walk.
At the "peña de dios" with some of my family walking to Murias on Thursday evening
That night we didn’t get a good night’s sleep.  The alarm went off at home and Fátima our home help didn’t notice. So the security company tried to ring Eladio.  He didn’t take the call at midnight as the number was unknown.  Then we heard from Olivia who was away in Valencia and who they had called too but of course she couldn’t help.  They tried all our numbers to no avail.  We eventually got through to Fátima but she wasn’t much help either.  It was worse for Olivia who got phone calls from the company until about 3 in the morning.  We can only imagine that Fátima left the garage door open and the dogs went in, but we shall never know.  It’s a bit worrying to think what would have happened in our absence if instead of a dog in an open garage, thieves really had got in.  Well thank goodness they didn’t but we shall have to be more cautious next time.

The forecast for weather in Montrondo was pretty bad with lots of cloud and rain but thankfully the “weather people” got it wrong and we had glorious sunshine throughout.  Spring is now much more noticeable there and everything was green.  On Friday morning I went for a pre breakfast walk to Murias and back as I would every day until we left on Sunday.
Taken on my walk to Senra with Sara - notice the beautiful blue sky. There is no pollution here.
We came home, had breakfast, made some preparations for lunch and then I was off again, this time with Sara, Dolores’ daughter, to Senra (the village after Murias) and back, some 8km all in all.  On our way we bumped into Pili, Eladio’s youngest sister, and my mother-in-law Ernestina, as well as Pili’s lovely dalmation, Trébol who were driving to Montrondo from León.  They joined us for a cup of coffee at the only bar in Senra, Cumbres de Omaña.  It was only later that she asked Pili who we were and if we were from the area.  It’s sad her memory is going.  She realized her mistake later, so all is not lost, she just has occasional relapses.

We had been 7 for dinner the night before and on lunch on Friday the number increased to 10 with the arrival of Pili, Andrés and my mother-in-law.  We all chipped in with different dishes to share.  As usual there was far too much food.

After everyone had had a siesta – not me, I was reading my book “Mao’s last dancer” in the sun, I persuaded a group of us to go on a trek up the mountains.  By the end of the day I would have walked more than 24 kilometres!  Once you get over the first three incredibly steep ramps you can enjoy the rest of the walk.  The views are wonderful. I never tire of them.  There was still some snow on the mountain tops but a lot less than last time.  Here is a photo of us on the walk.  Eladio was the photographer.
On the trek in the mountains on Friday 
Happy to read the statistics on my Fitbit, that day I burnt nearly 3.000 calories.

On Saturday after my early morning walk with Dolores, Eladio and I hit the road destination a small village near Bembibre about 1.5 hours from Montrondo.  One of the builders wanted to show us a country hotel he was building and we took the opportunity to clarify many aspects of his estimate.  We were home by 2.30 and just on time for lunch.  Today the numbers increased to 14 as Isidro, Eladio’s youngest brother, and his wife Yoli had come for the day as had Adela, Eladio’s oldest sister, and her husband Primo.  They brought more food and we had a sort of wonderful buffet lunch. 

In the afternoon I was hoping to go on another trek up the mountains but Pili intervened.  She got us all started on emptying the old house and transporting things to the restored barn next door where we will be cooking in the summer whilst our house is being rebuilt.  We threw out so much stuff we had accumulated over the years.  There was a moment of hysteria when a mouse was found in the pantry. 

By about 7pm we had finished for the day, so bereft of the walk up the mountains, Dolores and I set off for Senra, to add another 8km to the kilometres we had walked in the morning to Murias and back.  It was sunny again and the tan on my face and arms increased.  The rest of me, though, is still white!

Meanwhile in London Suzy was continuing her birthday celebrations.  She organized a BBQ at their new house and celebrated her 30th birthday together with her new Czech friend Jane who was celebrating her 25th year.  Later they went into London to celebrate more.  Here is a photo of part of the group.
Suzy celebrating her 30th birthday for the last time, this time in London.
Sunday was our last day in Montrondo but we enjoyed it to the full.  It was only after the early morning walk and breakfast that we all realized Sunday was Mother’s Day in Spain.  So we all congratulated Eladio’s Mother.  I waited for messages from my lovely daughters which eventually came through.  Thank you darlings.

We decided to stay for lunch and enjoy the morning. Dolores and I went for another walk to Senra and back whilst Eladio, Toño and Pili removed more stuff from the house.  The “kids”, Sara, Juan and Cristina left early as they had plans that day in Madrid. I made lunch for everyone as I did most days.  We had fabulous steak with chips made from potatoes grown in Montrondo, followed by Eton Mess, my favourite dessert which I made every day when we were there and which proved immensely popular with everyone.
The Eton Mess dessert I made in Montrondo - in fact I made it every day and it was hugely popular

We were all ready to leave by just after 16.30 and set off a bit worried we might run into heavy traffic at the end of the bank holiday. But we were in luck, it was not too bad and after having left Toño and Dolores in Madrid we were home by 9pm, too late to write my blog of course.  Olivia wasn’t at home as that morning she had flown from Valencia to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia where she will be reporting live for TVE1 this week. Eladio took Fátima to the bus stop with the weekly food shopping I provide her with so her kids are better nourished and we spent the rest of the evening unpacking, making a very light dinner and falling asleep in bed with the TV on, in need of a rest after the exertions in Montrondo. By the way you can see the rest of the photos of our stay here.

This morning, Monday morning has been busy. I was up early and had a conference call with my communications colleagues. Then we sent out a press release on an agreement with a new insurance company for our customers to insure phones at Yoigo shops.

There was time though to watch Olivia live on TVE1 from Pontevedra in Galicia.  It was to be our highlight of the day.  Eladio, my Father and I watched her live at 11.46 and she was on TV for about half an hour reporting on the case of a violent drunkard who attacked people at a hospital in Vilanova de Arousa where his elderly Mother had been admitted. 
Olivia reporting from Galicia this morning
I am fasting today as I will be tomorrow.  I want to get my two fasting days over before my beloved friends Sandra and Adele come from Belgium and France with their respective partners, Jeffer and Bernard.  They will be staying until Sunday and are in luck because the temperature will be in the very high twenties and we will be opening the pool for their visit.  My blog post next week will be full of news of their visit.

Meanwhile I will leave you until next time, wishing you all a great week,


No comments: