Saturday, April 09, 2016

A visitor from India, the Panama Papers, lunch at Dstage ,a birthday breakfast, to Montrondo with Keith and Lorraine and other stories.

Sunday 7th April 2016
Dressing up for fun on Sunday night when Sumit, our Indian friend, and Rafa came for dinner
Hi again,

I left off last Sunday, just before lunch.  That day, Zena (Zinaida) made us gloubtsy, a Russian dish of cabbage stuffed with minced meat, rice and onions and served with Smetana (sour cream).  It was delicious.
Zena's gloubtsy
At around 4pm Oli and I set off in the rain to pick up her Indian fellow Erasmus student, Sumit, a dear friend of hers and the family who is a script writer for Bollywood.  Oh yes!  We hadn’t seen him since his visit some 6 years ago and he made an almighty effort to come and see us.  He was really travelling from Bombay to London but flew via Dubai and Madrid just to stop off here for an afternoon and one night.  Meeting him again was great and very emotional.  Here is Oli, happy with dear Indian Sumit.
Oli and Sumit when we went to pick him on Sunday afternoon
The weather was so bad we decided to skip on showing him the sights of Madrid which he had already seen last time, so went straight to Plaza Castilla to pick up another Erasmus friend, Rafa.  From there we went to have a drink and cake at a café in Boadilla.
At the café in Boadilla, Oli, Rafa and Sumit.  Photo taken from outside!
Once home, we all watched some of the fun videos Sumit, together with his lifelong friend Sandeep, had done for their masters’ degree in TV production where they all spent a year at Falmouth University.  Missing Sandeep, the 3 of them all got dressed up to make a video for him.  Even Eladio and I got involved haha.  The photo of us together is priceless.
Oli, Sumit and Rafa having a fun moment last Sunday
Sumit had brought us some lovely gifts from Bombay; a white kurta top for Oli, a long blue one for Eladio, a silk scarf for me, some Indian tea for my Father and incense for Rafa.  It was a wonderful evening as we gathered around the table for a homemade dinner of Spanish tortilla and tuna fish salad washed down by a superb bottle of Rioja wine.  All too soon it was time to take Sumit back to his hotel. 

We would have loved him to stay the night but he had an early flight to catch the next day to London.  He will be staying for 2 months script writing for a film to be partially set in the UK and very soon will be meeting up with Suzy too. It was great to see you Sumit. Come back soon.

Whilst I was making dinner and getting dressed up for the photos, I was getting flooded with messages on FB and email and of course it was because my programme, Undercover Boss, was shown again that night. It must be the 7th time.  So many people wrote asking for jobs.  I always write back to everyone but it’s not easy to help people with a very limited CV.  I wish I could.

On Monday the rain continued.  But I weathered it to go out for my walk in the morning. It was that day that the Panama Papers leak occurred.  Some 11 million (yes million) confidential documents were leaked to the ICIC (International Consortium of Investigative journalism) by an anonymous whistleblower. ICIC informed major newspapers around the world of the existence of the documents, exposing a widespread system of global tax evasion. It is a mind boggling story of how politicians and the rich and famous hide their wealth in offshore opaque accounts. The documents came from a company called Mossack Fonseca which basically helps companies and people to hide and launder money and avoid taxes and sanctions.  Some very big names were involved and hardly a country left untouched, including Putin, David Cameron’s Father, footballer Messi and the Prime Minister of Iceland who has since resigned. It has become known as the biggest leak in whistleblowing history. It does not go down well with honest tax paying people like myself.

The highlight on Tuesday was lunch with an an ex Motorola colleague, Antonio, who has a high up position in Spain’s biggest media group.  We went to Dstage, that most wonderful, creative, laid back, amazing restaurant where every time I go I am equally surprised. Each dish is a truly creative culinary experience; that’s the only way to describe it. Diego Guerrero, the owner, is a chef who is very much in fashion in Spain and abroad too if I am to believe a cutting on the wall at Dstage where it ranks at the top of the most sought after restaurant tables to book by foreigners coming to this country. The publicity given to it by The New York Times in this article may have helped push it up the ranking.

These were the dishes we had and we chose the small tasting menu hahaha.
Incredible dishes at Dstage
I can go back and back to that place and look forward to doing so soon. 

Wednesday was a quiet fasting day.  I had lots of reporting type work to do. Finally that night I was able to watch The Bridge of Spies (a Cold War spy thriller) by Steven Spielberg as I never got round to seeing it at the cinema.  I had been told it would be right up my street.  We started watching it a bit late just after Real Madrid lost surprisingly to the German team Wolfsburg (have to admit I had never heard of them) in the first leg of the Quarter Finals of the Champions League.

Steven Spielberg's The Bridge of Spies, not that convinced.

It gets off to a very slow start and I found the story line not desperately interesting so when we were about a quarter of the way through we switched it off and left it to watch the rest another night.

Thursday came and it was Miguel, Oli's longstanding boyfriend's birthday.  I was up early to go and buy chocolate and churros as well as "porras" (a thicker and longer version) for a special birthday breakfast.
Buying "porras" (in the pic), chocolate and churros for Miguel's birthday breakfast
The birthday boy was delighted by both the breakfast and Oli's presents; sun glasses, a jumper from Mango and shower oil and cream from Rituals (love that brand).  They had to leave soon as Oli had an early morning start that day.  Here is the birthday boy enjoying the special breakfast.
Miguel - his birthday breakfast on Thursday morning.
Thursday was the day our friends Keith and Lorraine were coming.  In their honour we, or should I say Salud, our home help, spruced up the swimming pool terrace as I knew there would be good weather that day and as typical Brits they would enjoy a cup of tea, or rather a glass or two of cool white wine, there with us upon their arrival.

They arrived in the afternoon and I went to  pick them up.  It was a glorious day when the temperature peaked at 21ºc and for once I got to the airport before my visitors.  Their Easy Jet flight from Gatwick got in early!  We were soon home and enjoying  a cup of tea and my Crabtree and Evelyn white chocolate and raspberry flavoured biscuits.

From tea we turned to wine as the afternoon progressed and here we are sitting together enjoying the moment.  Keith was playing with the dogs at the time so he has a funny look on his face hahahaha.
Chatting with our friends over a glass of wine by the swimming pool terrace on Thursday afternoon
It was great to get up to speed on each other's lives, even though I had actually seen them in London a few weeks ago when I went  to visit Suzy.  It's great to have visitors from the UK especially if they are your friends.

That night I had booked a table at El Bohio in Illescas of Spanish Masterchef jury fame - Pepe Rodriguez - It's quite away from here but took us under an hour to get there with the help of our satnav.  It's a bit far to go out to dinner to on a normal night but yesterday was special.  Here we are happily sitting at our quiet table already enjoying a glass of Quercus wine.
Dinner in Illescas on Thursday night
The piece de resistance, for me at least, was the pre-ordered desert, a sort of scoop of creme brulee in a case of hard caramel.  You tap on it lightly and out comes the creme brulee and wow what a gorgeous pudding it is. I cannot fathom how it is possibly made.
The amazing desert
I'm afraid we took a little longer on our return journey as we took the wrong turning and found ourselves on the road to Córdoba and had to turn all the way back.  We were home by Cinderella time and feeling rather full.

Friday morning came and after breakfast we set off for Montrondo.  We were leaving good weather for bad and we could have gone to our flat near Alicante but our friends being British don't mind the weather hahaha.  Very sweetly of them they were looking forward to seeing the new house and enjoying the wine and ham at Rueda on the way.  They had been forewarned about the weather and got kit out in advance as in the photo below with their raincoats on haha.
Keith and Lorraine in their raincoats ready for a wet weekend in Montrondo
Feeling still very full from dinner the night before, we set off for Montrondo just after 10.  By 11.30 we were in Rueda and having a drink of white wine and plate of ham, the "pit stop" both Keith and Lorraine were looking forward to so much.
The lovely "pit stop" at Rueda with our friends
The Palacio de Bornos bodega and bar is really a lovely place.  As nearly always, we stocked up on wine by buying a box of their "verdejo" variety, the most typical of the area, some of which we would be enjoying in Montrondo.

Our journey to Montrondo was to be all about food as we had a lunch reservation on the way in the small village of Pandorado.  It's a beautiful name meaning "golden bread".  Here we had lunch at Casa Yordas; an amazing menu of the day at 9 euros each served with not so good cool local house wine.
Lunch at Casa Yordas in Pandorado
We got to Montrondo at around 3.30 and the sun was shining although it was quite cold.  The forecast was rain but the weather people got it wrong thankfully.

Our friends were to see our new house for the first time.  They had last saw it in construction in the summer and I think from their comments they thought we had done a good job.

Once we had settled in and Eladio had lit the fire, it was time for a cup of tea and then a walk.  Lorraine preferred to curl up on the sofa with her book whilst Eladio, Ketih, Pippa and I went off for a brisk walk to Murias via the fields; not the usual way.
On our walk on Friday afternoon
On our way back we came via "la barrera" which meant crossing the river and taking the path to the church.  On our way we spied a small cluster of miniature wild daffodils that I picked and which are now gracing our dining room table.  The walk is a like a small obstacle course and one of the options for crossing the river was jumping across it at a narrow point or using the stepping stones.  We chose the latter.  In the photo below, Eladio and I had just crossed the river.
Walking back via "la barrera" on Friday afternoon
We weren't very hungry but soon it was dinner time. The menu that night was home made artichokes, a small plate of ham and an oxtail croquette each, washed down by Rueda wine - what else? - This is what the table looked like before we sat down to eat.
Homemade artichokes for dinner on Friday night

Normally after dinner Eladio and I would have watched the news but that wouldn't have been appropriate for our non Spanish speaking friends.  So we turned to Netfilx which we could all watch in English (with Spanish subtitles for Eladio).  We chose to watch Crossing Lines, a TV series about an EU unit of detectives investigating cross border crimes in Europe.  The episodes we saw were quite entertaining and we watched TV until nearly midnight, quite late for me as Lorraine commented.

My biological clock is back to its usual status after the clocks went forward recently so on Saturday morning I was awake at 06.30 but forced myself to stay in bed until just before 7.  I love the hour or so in the morning on my own drinking coffee and reading the news.  I was happy to read yesterday that one of the suspects of both the Paris and Brussels bombs, Mohamed Abrini, had been arrested.  He could be the the "man in the hat" seen on close circuit TV at Brussels airport just before the blast.
The "man in the hat" caught
If only there was a police unit like in Crossing Lines that collaborate across Europe; then maybe the man might have been caught before or even the attacks thwarted.

The weather people got it right on Friday and I woke up to rain.  But very soon it stopped and the sun came out and it was to be a beautiful day.  We had all come out kitted for rain and were pleasantly surprised to find sun most of the weekend, although it was quite cold. 

I made "fabada" a butter bean and chorizo soup which hails from Asturias.  It would be a first for our friends. Here it is bubbling on the hob.
My fabada for lunch on Saturday

At about 11.30 we set off for a long walk up into the mountains which in many places were still snow capped.
Setting off on our walk up the mountains on Saturday morning

We were to walk just under 10km there and back.  It's a steep walk up but worth the effort for the views. 
Keith and Lorraine on the way up - lots of snow about the further up we went
As usual we stopped by the birch tree forest for a photo against the back drop of the mountains.  Unfortunately the highest peak, El Tambarón, was not visible from there as it was covered in fog.  In any case no way could we have made it to the top as that would have been a day's excursion.  One day I will do it.
At the Abedular
We got as far as "La Cabaña" (shepherds' hut) when we turned round to come home.  Here is Eladio with his walking stick which never leaves his side on any walk, coming down.
Eladio walking down the mountains yesterday on our long walk
Meanwhile back in the village, Eladio's brothers and sisters had arrived from León but thanks to a misunderstanding we were not to see them.  We had understood they would be having lunch on the way and would be coming later but their plans were the other way round so when we got back they had gone.  It was rather a pity.  

We all enjoyed the fabada and afterwards had a pretty long siesta; some of us until nearly 6pm!!  Tea and biscuits were in order then before we went out for yet another walk.  All in all yesterday we walked over 15km!

The afternoon walk was to Murias, except that we went through the fields.  Eladio showed our friends a local sight; a rushing waterfall at the half way point between Montrondo and Murias.  Here we stopped to take lots of photos.  
The waterfall at the half way point between Montrondo and Murias
The walk was a bit like showing our friends the "sights" of Montrondo, although there are very few haha.  One obvious sight is "God's rock" on the old path where we took photos too including this selfie of the 4 of us.
A selfie at "God's rock" (La Peña de Dios)
Happily refreshed  from our brisk afternoon walk we got back at about 7.30 and started on preparations for dinner.  I was to make Spanish potato and onion tortilla for our friends.  It was served with a delicious salad made by Lorraine. Here are Eladio, Lorraine and Keith at the table just before we tucked in.
Dinner last night
The day ended with two more episodes of Crossing Lines which were highly entertaining.

Today is Sunday and I was up at 6.50 whilst everyone slept, except for Pippa who always joins me. It is not raining again today either and no doubt we shall be going on another mountain walk. We shall be leaving after lunch.  I only wish we could stay for a week as the trip has been all too short.  That's what it's like when you are having a good time.  It's been a great weekend here in Montrondo so far.

I will leave you now to publish this and start making breakfast for everyone.

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


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