Sunday, October 18, 2015

Spanish National holiday, the Villablino Fair (“La Feriona”), “Madreñas” (Spanish clogs), homemade apple crumble, leaving Montrondo on Tuesday 13th, lunch at the Parador in Benavente, marathon cooking and other stories.

Sunday 11th October 2015
Lunch at the Parador in Benavente last Tuesday with José Antonio and Dolores
Hi everyone,

Here I am at my desk on blog day.  This time last Sunday we were in Montrondo where we had moved into our lovely new house which makes so happy. 

I think one of the things I like about it most is that everything inside is mostly new.  I especially love the kitchen and our bedroom with the bathroom incorporated. I was to use the bathtub for the first time the next day.  It’s funny because when we started designing the house I had insisted that I wanted one which probably seemed like a luxury to everyone around me.  However at home in Bradford when I was a child we had a huge Victorian bathtub which was the only one in that huge house with 20 rooms where there was only one bathroom.  So when I sank into the warm water I closed my eyes and remembered how my Mother used to enjoy her daily bath at home.  I also thought just how much she would have loved our new house in the mountains.
Our bedroom in Montrondo with the clawfoot bathtub in it, reminding me of my home as a child in Bradford..
Meanwhile Oli and Miguel were in Valencia for the weekend.  They went with friends to stay at a country house in Lluxent which is inland.  They spent most of their time making meals, playing games and going for long walks. 
Miguel and Oli in Valencia last weekend
Monday 12th was a bank holiday.  It was also the Spanish national day or Hispanic Day as well as the festivity of the Virgin of the Pillar in Zaragoza.  The big celebration of this day is a military parade in Madrid presided by the King and Queen and members of the government.  Some of our “lefty” members of the opposition declined the invitation as a means of protesting against the expense the parade costs in these austere times.  Others claimed there was nothing to celebrate as the Hispanic Day hails from the times Spain discovered America and went on to mistreat the natives of that land.  There has been much debate on this topic this week.  I personally think that most countries have a national day and feel proud of their country and so they should.  This is often no so in Spain because Spaniards generally criticize their country; there is little sense of a national togetherness or pride in one’s country.  I try to point out to whoever will listen that there is more criticism within the country than outside it.  So when I saw that in New York the Empire State Building was lit up that day with the colours of the Spanish flag, I hoped my point was taken.  As far as I know there was no building in Spain illuminated in a similar way.  You see, sadly, the Spanish flag inside Spain has a negative fascist connotation. 
The Empire State Building in NY lit up with the colours of the Spanish flag on 12th October
Whatever the question, the good thing is it’s a national holiday. Dolores had invited me to spend the morning together in Villablino where every 12th October “La Feriona” (big fair) takes place.  Villablino, famous for coal mining, is the nearest big town to Montrondo and although it’s only 13km away it takes a good 45 minute drive as the mountain roads are so windy. 
It was raining when we got there so I was easily tempted by the offer of 2 umbrellas for 5 euros, no doubt coming from China.  The fair, the biggest annual fair of its kind in the north of Leon, stretched along most of the main streets and seemed unending to me. No way could we see it all in just a few hours.  On sale there was mostly local produce, clothes, antiques and household goods.
One of the stalls at the "Feriona" in Villablino last Monday
My next purchase was a pair of madreñas for Eladio. These are traditional wooden clogs worn with slippers inside.  They come mainly from Asturias and the North of León.  In Montrondo there is not one house without a pair.  They have three heels and are used to walk in the mud and rain outside and are then left outside the house where you then walk inside with just your slippers on, thus keeping the floors clean at home.  I found a video on You Tube which explains how they are made and how they are worn which you might find interesting.  It’s in Spanish but has English subtitles.
Eladio's new madreñas outside our back door
They cost me 22 euros and were handmade as they all are.  Below is a photo of the clog stall.  In the van there was a man reading a newspaper and I got talking to him.  He told me he was a professional clog maker and had been making them for a living since the age of 15 but was now retired.  I wonder how many young clog makers there are in that part of Spain now?  I’m sure the numbers are dwindling.
The clog stall. Eladio's ones are those on the chair.  The clog maker is the man in the driving seat, the seller his wife.
At another stall I bought the slippers to wear inside the clogs for just 5 euros.  Eladio was delighted with his new madreñas.  He probably hadn’t had a pair since the family left the village in the 60’s.  I’m also delighted as they will help to keep the floors clean.
Eladio with his new clogs (madreñas) on
Dolores then took me to a stall where she recommended buying the local walnuts.  On sale they also had some delicious looking pies and I bought one for dinner.  We ended up having a piece for the next three nights it was so tasty.
Dolores at the walnut stall at the fair in Viallablino. 
One of the main attractions at the fair was the street food and most popular of all seemed to be the dishes of freshly cooked octopus as you can see in the photo below.
Freshly cooked octopus was the main street food on offer at the fair
That afternoon Dolores and I took the dogs, Nuba and Pippa for their daily walk to Murias de Paredes and back. On the way we passed cows which both dogs barked at and then this beautiful dapple horse.  As Pippa barked at it, it took absolutely no notice. Next time we go, I must remember to buy a box of sugar lumps to feed the horses, donkey and pony on our walks.
Pippa barking at the horse on the walk to Murias which didn't take a blind bit of notice
Just past the field with the horse there is a field with a grey donkey and brown and white pony.  Both dogs started barking and then ran into the field.  Donkey kicks can be very dangerous and I was worried stiff Pippa would be hurt.  Below is a photo of Pippa barking at the donkey.
Pippa barking at the donkey
Once back from our walk it was nearly dark.  I had planned to use my new oven for the first time and make apple crumble with the cooking apples (reinetas) I had bought at the fair for 1 euro/kg.  This was the result.  It was delicious and I made so much that I brought what was left of it home and we have been having it all week.  As I made it I reflected that my forte is not desserts and that I know very few recipes for “puddings”. 
My homemade apple crumble
The next morning was our last breakfast for the bank holiday weekend.  As usual I was up earlier than Eladio and joined by Pippa, I made our breakfast enjoying using my new kitchen.
The table laid for breakfast on our last morning at the new house
It was Tuesday 13th which in most Spanish speaking countries, as well as Greece is the equivalent to Friday 13th.  It is of course a day which is supposed to be unlucky. One of the reasons it is a Tuesday in Spain is to do with the word itself “martes” (name of the planet mars) which means war.  Also it was on a Tuesday that Constantinople fell.  I wondered also about the number 13 and so looked it up and found out some of the reasons why it is supposed to be unlucky.  The phobia to the number is steeped in history; one of the main reasons being that at the Last Supper there were 13 people present.  In the Apocalypse the Antichrist, for example, is mentioned in chapter 13.  Also in the tarot, the number 13 means death.  In some countries it goes so far as to not to have a 13th floor or a number 13 in a street as no one wants to live at number 13. I don’t really care.  In Spanish there is a saying that on Tuesday 13th you should not get married or go on a journey. Well we were going on a journey and as you will hear later we had a bit of bad luck getting home; but nothing tragic thankfully. 

We had to leave at midday as we had an appointment with a notary in León before 14h.  While Eladio and José Antonio were there, Dolores and I took the dogs for a walk and even had a cup of coffee at a nice little café called Betty (like but not like “Betty’s” in Yorkshire) in San Andrés de Rabanedo.

By nearly 3 we were at the Parador in Benavente where we had decided to have lunch.  It was a sunny day so we left both dogs outside in a rose park by the entrance to the Parador which was an old castle.  They seemed quite happy tied to a tree with room to move or lie down.  I came out at least 3 times to check they were ok or more importantly that they hadn’t been stolen. 
The dogs waiting in the park outside the Parador in Benavente
The photo illustrating this week’s blog is of the 4 of us at lunch that day.  The food was really good but we know that which is why when we have to have a meal on the way to or Montrondo we choose the Parador.  Both Eladio and I usually choose their chickpea stew but as we had had chickpeas whilst in Montrondo, we went for something else.  I decided on lamb.  Looks good eh?
I went for roast lamb at the Parador in Benavente
We left the Parador at around 5 on plenty of time to be home by 8 which is when Eladio would have to go off to his UNED University evening tutorial.  However we hadn’t counted on a terrible accident on the road into Madrid which held us up for nearly an hour. Did this have anything to do with it being a Tuesday 13th? We were not home until 7.45, but just on time for Eladio, and were greeted by Olivia.  I had dinner with my daughter – leftovers from Montrondo - and after a chat together, I tucked myself and Pippa into bed.  That’s how Eladio found me when he returned late that night, enjoying reading the last of Jeffrey Archer’s Cain and Abel trilogy, “Shall we tell the President”.  It’s riveting.

Wednesday was busy.  At midday I had yet another interview with a newspaper about my role in the Undercover Boss programme.  I am working on the subtitling into English but have to correct some 49 pages of English which will take me some time. Later in the afternoon I had a meeting at the office with my CEO and CFO and PR Agency team to prepare the communication of the upcoming quarterly results.

On Thursday I fasted and spent most of the day working quietly at home.  On Friday I worked from home a lot too but took the afternoon off to go to Ikea with Eladio for lots more Montrondo shopping of so many bits and bobs that are still needed for the house.  Apart from a shopping list of items to get there we also went there to make a complaint in person which was getting nowhere on the phone. Ikea is great when everything goes alright but they are lousy at customer care.  We had two problems.  One was a kitchen drawer which was broken on arrival and another one has to be taken there and installed.  The other one was about a set of lighting for the kitchen which the kitchen installer had said was not his job even though it had arrived with all the kitchen stuff.  It apparently is the job of the furniture installers who hadn’t installed the lights either.  The complaint is ongoing and I can only envision it taking months to solve.  Oh Ikea when will your customer service improve?

On Saturday I had more Montrondo shopping to do, this time at El Corte Inglés for bedding and kitchen items Ikea doesn’t have.  Oli joined me and we had a lovely morning shopping together.  Unusually for us we didn’t buy any clothes.  These days my mind is on the house in the village and I have no inclination at all to buy clothes right now.  It’s not as if I need any really; so perhaps that’s a good thing.

In the afternoon yesterday I spent 4 hours cooking which felt a bit like a culinary marathon.  I made pumpkin and vegetable soup from my huge stock of frozen chunks of pumpkin from the giant one Miguel had given us.  I also made a batch of bitki (Russian hamburgers) to freeze as well as about 40 perushki (little Russian meat pies).  This was all for freezing at home and for taking to Montrondo.  I also prepared the béchamel with ham bits to make up croquettes this morning.
Marathon cooking yesterday afternoon
Dinner was the soup with the pies.  Long after we were in bed, Oli left for Madrid to pick Miguel up from the train station from where they would go on to the birthday party for two members of their group “la manada” (the herd); Pulgui and Anita.  Anita, by the way, who was Oli’s friend from University, will be moving to London next week to join her boyfriend who is studying a master’s degree there.  They will be living in a flat in Lewisham, apparently not too far from where Suzy lives. Suzy meanwhile was at another birthday party in London last night; also for one of the members of the “manada”, Chati, her nurse friend.  I just got this photo from their celebrations last night, so I at least have one photo of Suzy for this week’s blogpost. I asked for the location and was told it was held at Weatherspoon’s Pub in Stepney Green.
Celebrating Chati's birthday yesterday in Stepney Green.  Suzy second left in green, Chati in blue in the middle.
And this morning, Sunday, I have been very productive and did more cooking. I was up at 7.30, made breakfast for Eladio, my Father and I, went for our walk with the dogs, came back and showered and then started on the cooking.  I made a lasagne for lunch and by 12 my batch of 51 croquettes was ready for freezing too.
More cooking this  morning - lasagne and ham croquettes
And now I’m coming to the end of this week’s story.  I’ve just put the lasagne in the oven and soon it will be time for a family lunch when Oli and Miguel come back from their trip to the swimming pool. 

This next week will be busy as it’s results week. On Tuesday morning we will be hosting a press breakfast to present and explain the financial results of the company for this 3rd quarter.  This coming week we shall be returning to Montrondo, either on Wednesday or Thursday.  Now that we have internet there I can work remotely from the new house.  I dread to imagine just how full the car will be with all the bedding and new purchases we have made this week.  Oh, but it’s just so exciting setting up a brand new home.  It’s something I’ve never done because we’ve always bought a second hand home.

So I shall leave you now whilst wishing you all a great week ahead,

Till next time,



benilhalk said...

It is just great to know about this Spanish National holiday and you celebration party. I am sure you all had great time together. Well, I have also been thinking to organize an enjoyable event for my employees on this NYE. I would book some domestic New York corporate events venues for this event but I am not able to decide on the event activities. Could you suggest some fun activates?

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