Sunday, July 26, 2015

More heat but please don’t go to Benidorm, Olivia reporting on sharks, a Finnish Swedish dinner, three Spanish journalists missing in Syria, final stages of the rebuilding of our house in Montrondo, a wild fire nearby, a new look I now regret, Spain the best country in the world for food and other stories.

Sunday 26th July 2015

My new look - I now regret dying my hair dark
Hi again,

It’s Sunday, blog day and it’s another scorcher.  The temperatures are in their high 30’s and today we are expecting 37ºc maximum and an unbearable 24ºc minimum. At least it’s a reprieve from the 40ºc we have been experiencing but that won’t be for long as another heatwave is on its way.

While I’m on the subject of heat in Spain, I read the other day “the number of overseas visitors to Spain has hit a new high, with 29.2 million in June – 4.2% more than the same period in 2014”.  Very many of them are British and they flock to Benidorm, that mega resort on the Costa Blanca that they have turned into a sort of Blackpool but with sun and made their own.  As I wrote on Facebook, “Sorry but I've always hated Benidorm the Blackpool of Spain. It's like  England in Spain with all the worst of Britain”. If you haven’t been, this picture of the crowded Levante beach should put you off going forever.
The crowded Levante beach in Benidorm
It’s a far cry from the lovely little fishing village it was in the 50’s when only locals used to go until package tours were invented in the 60’s.  I know what I am talking about because my parents bought a village house 18km away in Callosa de Ensarria high in the mountains in the mid-seventies. My parents didn’t drive and there were only 2 buses a day so often I would hitch hike there past orange groves with my brother or my friends.  The beaches were not so crowded in those days but it was already a haven for drunken, tattooed Brits and Germans.  My mother used to say that it was the worst class of people from Europe who went on holiday there.  It’s full of fish and chip shops and British pubs, so un-Spanish. 
Benidorm in the 50's before the age of package tours
However Benidorm holds a special place in my heart because, believe it or not, it was where Eladio and I fell in love in the summer of 1980.  We preferred the “Poniente” beach which is much quieter and we still go there sometimes to remember those heady days of first falling in love.  So, if you do go to Benidorm, then please avoid the Levante beach and head for the Poniente.  The bar we used to go to when we first fell in love was the Vimi bar which still exists and which we often go back to although the owners are not aware of its significance for us.  It’s nothing special but then at the time we were in a world of our own. 
Eladio and I a few years ago at the Vimi bar on the Poniente Beach in Benidrom
A Finnish friend who wants to book a holiday in Spain wrote to me after my comment on Benidorm and asked for recommendations as to where to go.  My advice to her was to avoid the Costas (Costa del Sol, Costa Brava and Costa Blanca) and either to go north to Santander, Galicia, Asturias or the Basque Country or to Huelva or Cádiz.  I have given her some tips; such as staying at a Parador, the state run hotels often located in beautifully restored palaces or casteles as I want her to see the real Spain which I promise you is not Benidorm.

Talking about the sea it was on Tuesday that Olivia had to do a TV report for her programme Aquí en Madrid for Telemadrid.  It was about sharks and was to mark the 40th anniversary of the film Jaws.  I always hated that film.  It made such an impact on Suzy when she was a child I hated it even more after that.  For her report Olivia interviewed Karlos Simón a scuba diver who knows more about sharks than anyone else in Spain.  He told her that Jaws did an awful lot of damage to the image of sharks and that in reality they are not the man-eaters the film made them out to be.  He has swum many times with sharks so he knows.  Even so, I would never ever dare to do so.  Here is a photo of Olivia with Karlos.

Olivia with Karlos Simón
As it has been so hot, Olivia also had to do a live TV report on ways to avoid the heat; such as using an umbrella when walking in the streets or pulling the blinds down at home and drinking lots of water.  One man’s advice was to put a t-shirt in the freezer for a while and then put it on.  He swears it keeps you cool for a couple of hours. Here she is talking to the man with the t-shirt.
Olivia reporting on the heatwave
It’s the holiday season too and Olivia did another report on that too.  This time it was about a travel agency that cheated its customers.  They would reserve their tickets, take the money and then cancel the reservation.  The deluded customers would turn up at the airport only to find they did not have a seat on their flight.  The fraud amounted to over 45 thousand euros.  Here she is on her way to the show the spectators the travel agency.
Olivia reporting on fraud by a Madrid travel agency
Olivia often complains that the reports she does are not very newsworthy.  Sometimes that is true and sometimes it is not. I’m sure she would have preferred to report on the main news item of the day in Spain.  It was sad news.  Three Spanish war correspondents were reported missing in Syria and feared kidnapped by ISIS.  They were last heard from on 13th July in Aleppo, one of the most dangerous towns right now in the world for a journalist.  One of them, Ange Sastre, was a colleague of the journalist (Jesús) from La Razón who was to interview my boss the next day.  Jesús told me the newspaper knew about the missing journalists but that the government had asked the families and colleagues to keep the story secret whilst they negotiated.  The news was leaked by the Spanish newspaper ABC and since then it is common knowledge.  I can only hope their fate will be a quick release and give thanks that the Spanish government is less strict than their American or UK counterparts the fate of whose kidnapped journalists is often the worst there can be; beheading on video by ISIS for the world to see.  The last photo of the three of them seen together was posted on Facebook by their interpreter.
The 3 missing Spanish freelance journalists, left to right, Antonio Pampliega, Angel Sastre and Jose Manuel Lopez
It was on Tuesday that the Spanish telecoms regulator the CNMC published a resolution in favour of Yoigo in a plea we had made.  We were delighted to read that the CNMC had decided that Yoigo under its contract with a big operator in Spain would be able to resell its network to virtual mobile operators.  It was my business to come up with a statement on our opinion on the resolution.

That night, running out of ideas of what to make for dinner, I decided to make some Finnish Karelian pies I had left in the deep freeze from my last trip there as well as my favourite Swedish dish, the open prawn sandwich the Swedes call “räksmörgås”. This was the result.  I got lots of compliments that night from Olivia, Miguel and Eladio.
The  Finnish Swedish dinner I made this week
On Wednesday I was busy.  I spent part of the morning at the office because the chief editor of economy for the La Razón newspaper was coming to interview my boss.  It was to be a long interview on the situation of the telecoms market as well as the part Yoigo plays in the business.  A photographer came along too and took some great shots of my boss in our iconic cafeteria where we have billiards, table football, a darts board, a TV, sofa type swings as well as very well frequented bar.  Here he is by the billiard table.
My boss during the photo shoot
In the afternoon Eladio and I went to Ikea to finalise the lists of furniture and equipment we have ordered for our house in Montrondo, including the kitchen. Our builders told us we could now have the kitchen fitted but we did not factor in that Ikea will take 2 months before they install it.  Well if we have waited for this moment since the rebuilding started in May 2014 I suppose we can wait a couple more months until it is really finished.  The house has been painted inside and this week they will be putting in the floorboards, the doors, the railings and staircase.  Yesterday they sent us photos of the painting of the bathrooms.  I had told them I wanted pastel colours but instead they used darker colours.  I was a bit cross but actually think it looks ok.  What do you think?
The painting on 3 of the bathrooms in Montrondo
On Thursday I worked quietly from home.  I have a very big project on my hands at the moment. I am organizing the annual Yoigo summer party for employees and partners, some 270 people to take place in the middle of September.  This year we will be going to El Rocío, a beautiful little village in Huelva in the middle of Doñana, Europe’s largest nature reserve.  El Rocío is famous for its pilgrimage and we will be doing our very own pilgrimage; 10 km in horse driven carriages and on gypsy caravans.  I have to ensure the sponsorship of our partners, some 28 companies and get together the guest list, organize the transport on the high speed train to Seville and a hundred other things.  I am very lucky that I have the best events agency in Spain to ensure the event goes off without a hitch and to ensure a “wow” reaction from my guests or at least that is my objective. 
Beautiful El Rocío
I was busy in the morning but in the late afternoon I spent the time by the pool with my kindle.  Alicia, my goddaughter and her boyfriend Chema came to join me.  Not long after Olivia and Miguel returned from Madrid.  I caught Olivia, Chema and Alicia on camera as they were talking together.  See if you can spot little Pippa who always has to be where people are.  
Oli, Chema, Alicia, Elsa and little Pippa this week by the pool
Just after Alicia and Chema left, they sent us a photo of a fire nearby.  We could even see it from our bedroom balconies.
The wild fire as seen from our house on Thursday evening
We weren’t sure where it was and later Alicia sent us another photo, this time close to the fire and told us it was at the entrance to Campodón.  There are many wild fires in Spain at the moment owing to the high temperatures but usually they are forest fires.  The fear is when they are near people’s homes like this one on Thursday. 
A close up of the fire
On Thursday I spoke to Suzy on the phone.  I was worried about her health.  I think I wrote in one of my recent posts that she has had and has pains in different parts of her body.  She has been to the A+E and to her GP and has done a few tests but the whole process seems very slow.  So on Thursday I advised her to come to Spain as soon as possible where I know they will do all the tests in a day or two and we won’t have to wait 3 weeks for the results.  Thankfully, she is coming on Monday at midday and we will be going straight to the hospital where her friend Rocio’s father is a doctor.  Juan is a darling and I always turn to him when we have a health issue.  He will open all the doors for her and put her in the hands of experts. Health comes first and if that means coming to Spain and paying for the flight, well then so be it.  The Spanish health system is one of the best in the world and if she had gone to A+E here 3 weeks ago, she would have had all the tests done there and then, not like the UK where from A+E she was more or less told to go her GP and she still doesn’t know the cause of the pains.  Keep your fingers crossed for Suzy.

On Friday I finally found the time to go to the hairdresser and have my roots seen to.  My hair seemed to have got blonder probably because of the sun and it looked nearly white.  I asked Cristina to dye it two tones darker and that was my undoing.  Once my hair was washed I saw in the mirror just how dark it was, even darker than my natural light brown colour.  I saw another woman in the mirror.  Cristina assured me it would be lighter when she blow dried it and that after a couple of washes at home it would get lighter.  This is what it looked like:
The selfie I took when I got back from the hairdresser.  I'm smiling but I'm not feeling very happy
When I got home Eladio said he liked it.  When I posted the photo on Facebook I got mixed reactions.  The truth is I now regret what I have done and didn’t realise that 2 tones darker would make it so dark.  I keep washing it with shampoo but the dye is not resisting. If it doesn’t get lighter by the middle of next week I shall go back to the hairdresser and have some highlights put in. 

In the afternoon Eladio went to Ikea again to grab the kitchen sink we want installing Montrondo and of which there are very few units.  It’s made of porcelain and has a country style look.  This is what it looks like.
The Ikea kitchen sink for Montrondo
Meanwhile I had an hour to myself by the pool before I had to go off and do the weekly shopping.  As always, I was joined by little Pippa who is a bit like my shadow.  Our miniature chocolate coloured dachshund is nearly 8 months old.  She remains small but is very long, a true “sausage dog” as you can see from the picture below. 
Little Pippa is very long now!
It was sometime this week that I read with interest an article about the country with the best food in the world. This is the article and it is written by a travel and food journalist from Australia called Ben Groundwater.  He starts off saying that most people think the best food in the world is either French or Italian and goes on to tell his readers in The Traveller, that actually the best country is Spain and that for a funny reason this country is under the radar whilst it has some of the best restaurants in the world, including Can Celler the world’s number one restaurant.  He is right when he explains that the Spanish staple dish is not paella. 

Olivia and Miguel would later say that Ben Groundwater was totally right after their dinner on Friday night at Dstage, Madrid’s top restaurant where dishes are so creative you just have to take a photo of each and every one of them.  If you don’t believe me, here is a collection of photos of the dishes I ate there recently and which I posted on the chef Diego Guerrero’s twitter yesterday.  Dstage is very special and if you haven’t been there yet please put it on your to-do list! 
Food at Dstage - unbelievable

Eladio and I were to eat well too that night.  We went out to dinner with our friends and neighbours Elena and José Luis.  The photo illustrating this week’s post is of me all dressed up and ready to go out.  I had hoped that a nice outfit and makeup would enhance my new look but it didn’t really did it?

The restaurant we chose was El Lago set by a lake in the middle of a country club in Boadilla called Las Encinas.  I have been past the club countless times but had never been in.  Elena and José Luis were members of it for many years and when we drove in they took us on a tour of the club.  It has every sports facility you can imagine including an ice rink and is enormous and beautifully kept.  El Lago restaurant is right by the lake and is a very romantic setting.  It was a great evening and the food was good too; not Dstage standard of course, but great barbecued steak which was so big I couldn’t finish it.
Dinner was at this romantic setting at El Lago in the Encinas Club of Boadilla on Friday night
Saturday started like every day this week with an early morning walk with Eladio and the dogs.  Olivia and Miguel were home and whilst they were finishing their breakfast I made our lunch.  Salud our home-help is away for 4 days as next weekend she will have to stay here whilst we are in Montrondo for the annual family gathering.  It was my opportunity to cook then and I enjoyed making one of my specialities, chicken korma curry.  Everyone loved it.

After a siesta yesterday the only place to be was by the pool.  It was not quite as hot as other days so I was able to read my kindle happily under the parasol.  Eladio doesn’t often swim in the pool but yesterday I caught him on camera.  He always was good looking and I marvel that he is 70 years old but still has film star looks.
My drop dead gorgeous looking husband in the pool yesterday afternoon

And today is Sunday.  After writing and publishing this post I shall once again make the lunch – chicken again; this time a Sunday roast and then more time by the pool in the afternoon.  I need to recharge my batteries for next week. 

Wishing you all a great week ahead, cheers till next time


No comments: