Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sunday in Montrondo, home again, week 3 of the diet brings good news, the end of the “jungle” camp in Calais, a weekend with friends in Peñacaballera, the clocks go back and more stories.

Sunday 30th October 2016

On our walk from Peñacaballera to Puerto de Béjar on Saturday morning.  From left to right: Javier, Ana, me, Dolores and Toño
Good morning all.  I am writing early on Friday morning to get ahead with this blog post before we set off for a long weekend in Peñacaballera (Salamanca) to spend the weekend with friends.  But more about that later.

Sunday was our last day in Montrondo and it rained. Even so we ventured out in our rain outfits, Pippa included.
Getting ready to go out in the rain.  Pippa in her raincoat!

All ready for the rain hahaha outside our house in Montrondo.
We only made it as far as Murias and back as the terrain was too soggy for our new walk through the woods.  The autumn colours were making their appearance and we just had to have a photo by the path called "el camino valle" with its nearly all yellow birch trees.  We remembered doing a similar photo there last year when we had just moved into our new house.
With Eladio, Pippa and Oli at the beginning of "el camino valle"
Once home Oli bathed Pippa in our clawfoot bathtub, as, being so short, she gets very dirty in the rain. I decided to follow suit and enjoy a luxurious hot bath after the cold and wet walk.  And here I am, photo courtesy of my dear husband who thought I looked very funny in the tub.  
The height of luxury, a warm bath after our walk in the rain on Sunday.  I felt like the lady of the manour hahaha.
We were having a lazy day in Montrondo.  Lunch together was next on the agenda and then a short siesta before leaving at around 5pm.  Meanwhile the socialist party was gathered in Madrid and voted, finally, to abstain in acting Prime Minister Rajoy's re-election.  The problem was the hung parliament result in 2 recent elections.  Rajoy needed them to abstain to be elected and they have made it very difficult for him.
Graphic from the WSJ 
This put an end to 10 months of political deadlock and uncertainty.  If all things go well he will be reelected by the end of this week although he will have to govern in minority, no mean feat with the budget coming up.  

Once in Madrid we drove Oli and Miguel to their flat in Mirasierra and weren't home till past 9pm.  A good time had been had by all but it was far too short a time in Montrondo, just 2 nights.

Monday brought more rain.  I did two walks on the trot first thing in the morning which left me feeling exhausted.  I would go on to do so for most of the week and I am hoping the intensive exercise is playing its part in my losing weight.

I was to see my weight management doctor at midday after having been on the Pronokal diet for 3 weeks.  I was nervous about his scales as usually clinic scales show higher numbers.  But no I was in for good news.  According to his scales I had lost just under 5 kilos!  Wow! I had done 3 weeks of phase 1 which includes just vegetables and Pronokal products. I think it is the hardest diet I have ever done but it works. Thankfully Dr Ramírez put me straight on to Phase 2b which meant I could eat real protein (150g of lean meat or 200g of white fish or sea food) both at lunch and dinner always accompanied by vegetables. I couldn't wait to eat real food as I was sick and tired of the Pronokal products which taste nice at the first bite but leave a nasty after taste.

Of note, on Monday night Eladio and I started watching Season 5 of Homeland. I had already seen it but was happy to watch Carrie, Saul and Quinn in action again.  The plot is so up to date, all about ISIS terrorism and based in Berlin. 

If Monday had brought good news from the scales, Tuesday brought good news too on my measurements.  I had lost 8cm around my waist and 7cm on my hips.  My BMI (body mass index) was down to to 25 - just one more figure to get to 24 which is healthy. If you are wondering what your BMI is, you check out this chart here.

Now I am getting into clothes I couldn't wear before and that is such an inspiration. My goal is to get into a black sleeveless size M leather dress from Zara which I probably only ever wore once. Can't wait.  

That day I had a lunch engagement with a former boss and was able to eat real meat for the first time and wow did it taste good.  Unfortunately I couldn't join him drinking wine but we had a good old gossip about the sector.  It was such fun to see him and exchange news. For the record lunch was at El Buey in Boadilla, perhaps the best restaurant in the area.

Afterwards I went on an errand to the Quiron Hospital in Pozuelo to pick up the results of my recent densitometry test; a test that measures bones to diagnose osteoporosis, the dreaded illness of older women.  I jumped for joy when I saw the all clear.  My recent mammogram test and breast scan  had also given me the all clear.  These plus my recent blood tests taken during the diet, show I am fighting fit and I am extremely glad that I am.  I wonder if the walks have anything to do with it or perhaps I have inherited my 97 year old Father's genes. I do hope so. 

Whilst waiting for the results, I read the news on my mobile.  I was astonished to read that the Vatican or the Pope had announced it was to be forbidden to  keep loved ones’ ashes at home or scattering them. The church says they should be kept in sacred ground. I mean who is the Catholic Church to tell parishioners what to do with their loved ones' ashes?  I find that a complete intrusion. One interpretation is that they make money from them being kept in cemeteries.  As a friend of mine commented on FB "business is business".  Well, I think it is none of their business. 
No more urns at home says the Pope
Feeling great after leaving the hospital I drove to the upmarket Supercor supermarket to buy first class quality protein products for this next phase of my diet.  I had fresh prawns in a salad that night for dinner which tasted divine.  

Who did not have fresh prawns that night were the migrants being kicked out of the so called "jungle" refugee camp in Calais that day. It was being dismantled.  Some 6 to 10.000 occupants mostly from Syria, Eritrea, Somalia and Afghanistan had fled violence in their countries and made their way to Calais hoping to get to the UK and begin a new life.
The dismantling of the refugee camp this week  in Calais called The Jungle

The camp has been called the a "symbol of Europe's failure to resolve its migrant crisis" and that is certainly true. The occupants are to be moved by bus to other areas of France.  Who knows what their eventual fate will be?  Meanwhile in the UK there have been promises of taking in unaccompanied minors who have families in England and this has caused a hoohah all through the country.  At the moment the UK seems to be getting more and more racist, especially after Brexit. As no one really knows their ages, there have even been suggestions the children should be submitted to dental tests to prove their ages before being admitted for entry to the UK.  I am ashamed of my birth country.  They have done little or nothing to help the migrant crisis.  Even today, days after the dismantling, some children have been left behind, alone and vulnerable to human traffickers in some of the remaining huts.  It's a disgrace and upsets me.  This is the greatest migrant tragedy since the second world war and no one wants the migrants who have suffered so much leaving their war stricken countries, often fueled by the west and now no one cares about them. This is a nasty world and the unsolved refugee crisis makes my blood curl. 

The weather on Wednesday was amazing. The thermometer reached 25c in Madrid that day. My Father remarked it was the second Indian summer here which is called "el veranillo de San Martín" which he said is called "the old woman's summer" in Russian!!!  My Father is always interested in the weather hahaha. I looked up the expression in Spanish and it seems the second Indian summer here is actually around 11th November.  So either it has come sooner than usual or its an effect of global warming. Whatever the case I love the unexpected sunshine and warm temperatures at this time of year, especially for my two morning walks. 

Whilst on my walk I was whatsapping with Oli trying to help her with contacts for a new programme she was making about entrepeneurs in Madrid.  She is amazed at the contacts I have. I am too but then again the technology world is the world I live in.  I hope some of them bear their fruit and that I can have helped her in her search for stories to report on. 

In preparation for our visit this weekend to Peñacaballera, Eladio and I went to the upmarket gourmet store called Mallorca in Pozuelo to buy our hosts a gift.  We decided on a hamper of lovely food which we chose ourselves.  And here it is. 
The food hamper from Mallorca we bought for our friends Javier and Ana
It contains a good bottle of Rioja, ham, asparagus, foie gras, biscuits, cheese, honey and other delicacies which I hope they will enjoy. We are invited together with Eladio's brother José Antonio and his wife, our sister-in-law, Dolores and we are all looking forward to a great weekend together at their house in Peñacaballera in the province of Salamanca.  What's going to make it even better is the weather as the forecast is dry and sunny for this weekend!  

Thursday was another beautiful sunny day.  Of note that morning, Eladio and I bought flu vaccine from the chemists after our weekly food shopping expedition.  Eladio had his jab done by a doctor at the small clinic near the supermarket.  Once home, Eladio, my own personal doctor, gave me my jab. So now we are protected from winter flu. 

There was relatively good news that day when it was announced that unemployment in Spain had fallen below 20% for the first time in 6 years. That is a sure sign of economic recovery although it should be pointed out that most of the new jobs are temporary ones! It's still very difficult to find a job here but no longer mission impossible. 

There's not much else to report about Thursday except that is was another sunny day.  Oli was to be coming for dinner and we waited for her until 9.30 pm.  However she had some sort of crisis at work and didn't leave until very late, so we had dinner alone.  We haven't seen her since last Sunday when we drove back from Montrondo and hopefully we will be more lucky next week. We look forward to watching her latest programme of "Mi Cámara y Yo" on Monday coming about tourism. 

On Friday morning, we set off with José Antonio and Dolores at 11.15 for a 2.5h drive in the sun to Peñacaballera near Béjar in the province of Salamanca which is just on the border of Cáceres.  Our friends, Javier and Ana, were waiting for us with open arms.  It was lovely to be back but we just couldn't remember when we had last been there.  However we have happy memories of our stay at our friends's fabulous house on lots of occasions and were looking forward to another great time with them.  
Beautiful autumn colours were awaiting us this weekend

Our friends' house
Ana prepared a wholesome lunch I couldn't partake in.  No way was I going to break my diet so had unashamedly taken along my own food for the weekend. The weather was so good we ate outside.  Later we women enjoyed a long chat in the patio.  Below are Ana and Dolores happily nattering away.
Dolores and Ana happily nattering away after lunch on Friday
Soon Jorge, our friends' neighbour, arrived. He would invite us to visit his vegetable patch and orchard.  But what was most impressive was his huge greenhouse where he grows tomatoes and peppers of various varieties.  After so much rain and sun, we were stunned to see just how many and big they were. Here is the group holding some of the tomatoes to show you.

Toño, Ana, Jorge, Eladio and Dolores at the tomato greenhouse
Me holding tomatoes and a pepper at Jorge's greenhouse.

We had a lot of fun picking them.  We brought back two big bags holding about 40kg between them. I couldn't wait to taste one.
Ana and Dolores with just one of the bags full of tomatoes and peppers
 On the Pronokal diet I am allowed 100grammes of tomato a day which would only allow me to taste a small slice of these huge tomatoes.  To see how much they weighed I put one of the medium ones on the scales I had brought (I have to weigh everything I eat on this diet), I was amazed to see that this one weighed over 400 grammes hahaha.

Just one of the medium sized tomatoes weighed this much!
The tomatoes and peppers we brought back from Jorge's greenhouse
I would include the 100 grammes in my salad that night.

The load was pretty heavy so we could only go on a short walk that afternoon, back from the greenhouse. The countryside was a picture to see; cows and sheep in the fields, a horse in the distance, a glimpse of  a pigsty on the path home, walnut trees all enhanced by the autumn colours.  What a pretty area this is.
A view of the fields on our walk back. The tomato greenhouse is in the middle behind the trees.
We came back to have tea and coffee. Thank God I can drink tea on this diet.  We talked until late and our list of topics was long; religion, politics, homosexuality, Plato and Socrates and more mundane topics such as cooking or TV programmes.  We had a late dinner.  Well it was late for me as I was hungry and had got up at 6.15 that morning.
Dinner on Friday night. Notice the delicious home grown and hand picked tomatoes
Meanwhile Oli was busy at work, putting the finishing touches to her upcoming programme for Mi Camara y Yo about tourism in Madrid. It will be aired on Monday on TeleMadrid just after 22.30, prime time here but very late in my view.
The advertisement for Oli's upcoming programme on tourism in Madrid which will be aired on Monday
You can see the ad here.  The ladies in the picture are from a group of British tourists visiting Chinchón, a pretty medieval village outside Madrid. 

After dinner we retired to our hosts's cozy lounge where Javier had lit the fire.  We continued our conversations and added topics such as books, films and travelling as well as more anecdotes about Plato and the ancient Greeks - this coming from my erudite and intellectual husband and brother-in-law Toño.  I couldn't believe it when I looked at my watch and saw it was 12.30 at night.  I had been up since 6 in the morning and it was time for bed.  I was exhausted when my head hit the feather pillow I had brought with me.

Saturday was another sunny day. I was up early and as soon as it was light explored outside admiring the autumn colours and my surroundings.  I just love the countryside.  I am not a town girl and never have been.  
Javier and Ana's delightful patio with autumn colours, especially from the little maple tree with its bright orange and red leaves.
I am also a dog person as well you know.  I was missing ours, especially little Pippa, our miniature smooth haired chocolate coloured dachshund.  However our hosts' neighbours, Jorge and María have 2, a border collie and a miniature short haired dachshund called Gas.  Gas is very similar to Pippa and was to be her substitute this weekend hahaha.
Little Gas, so like Pippa in many ways.
At about 10.30 we set off for a long walk to the pretty village of Puerto de Béjar.  Our hosts Javier and Ana took us on a delightful and romantic path surrounded by lush fields with cows.  There were horses too and we were even passed by by a man on horseback.  Here I am making friends with a brown horse.  I held my hand out which the animal touched with care only to find nothing in it. But then I found some blackberries which it ate with gusto.
Making friends with a horse on our walk on Saturday morning
We walked through forests, on the flat, uphill and down and across bridges.  These days I stride ahead and in the photo below I am sitting on an old bridge waiting for my fellow walkers.  It was a moment of relax. I felt vibrant, happy and at home in the countryside.  Thanks Javier for the photo.  By the way, I was noticing from all the photos taken that I was looking slimmer thanks to the diet. That is sure motivation for me to continue.
Resting during our long walk on Saturday morning
We reached the pretty village of Puerto de Béjar.  It's very similar to all the villages in this region and has an air of the most famous ones such as Candelario or Alberca.  I particularly liked the main square where the town hall and church are the focal points.  Here I got into conversation with an old man sitting in the sun on a bench by the church.  We had seen there was to be a mass to welcome the new priest. He told me the priest coming was from Colombia; a sure sign there are fewer and fewer Spanish priests these days. I wonder how he will adapt to this area where it's much colder than his native country.
The town hall in Puerto de Béjar
We stopped for refreshments before continuing back to Peñacaballera this time on a different route.  For the record I just had a welcome glass of water.  As we left the village and took the path to the old rail track we came across a wizened old man pushing a heavily loaded wheel barrow and we stopped to talk. The man nicknamed "cartucho" (cartridge) because of his love of shooting, showed us the produce he had brought from his allotment.  It carried huge pears, fresh eggs and an enormous pumpkin.  He happily posed with us for me to share with you the moment. Javier later carried his barrow up the hill for him. 
The pumpkin moment on our walk to Puerto de Béjar on Saturday morning
We came home to see, thanks to my fitbit, that we had walked a total of 9km.  It was good exercise and a beautiful walk, one we will remember for a long time.

Ana had made a winter dish called "cocido madrileño" made with chickpeas, meat and vegetables.  I, unfortunately, had to have cauliflower yet again thankfully accompanied by grilled fish.

We were all in need of a short siesta afterwards after the morning walk.  The sun was still shining and I curtailed my siesta to read my kindle outside in our hosts' lovely patio.  Then it was time for tea. Before it got dark at 7.30pm, Javier and Ana took us out, by car this time, to visit another pretty village called Montemayor del Rio.  Here we are outside their 18th century gate where I had to have a group photo.  Or rather here are the rest of the group, as I took the photo.
Outside the 18th century gate leading into the patio of our hosts' house in Peñacaballera
We went in Javier and Ana's 7 seater Volvo which was such fun.  They took us along narrow country roads where we could admire the green and yellow trees but especially the view of the village Montemayor.  
The main square in the pretty village of Montemayor del Río
We stopped to see a 13th century bridge called La Malena (La Magdalena). Below are Toño and Dolores on the bridge; a romantic photo in my view.

A romantic photo of Toño and Dolores on La Malena bridge outside the pretty village of Montemayor del Río
From there we made our way back by car to the village and drove up to the castle. It has two names; The castle of Paradise and St. Vicent Castle.  
The castle in Montemayor del Río
Built by the first Lord of Montemayor in the 13th century, it commands an amazing view and has all an old castle should have with its moat and portcullis.

Eladio caught Javier and I on camera with our backs to the castle admiring the view and I thought it was a lovely photo summing up the moment: two old friends in peace and harmony enjoying the twilight view from the walls of the castle.  I should add I was happy to see that my bottom is getting smaller.  Did that make you laugh? It was intended to.
Admiring the view from the castle at Montemayor del Río
We were home just as Spain's caretaker Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy had been re-elected in Parliament.  Finally we were to have a government after 10 months of deadlock.  Pedro Sánchez, the previous leader of the socialist party (PSOE) who had resigned last week, gave up his seat yesterday because he refused to abstain.  The socialist party's abstention was what allowed Rajoy to be re-elected.  He will, however, have to govern in a minority which could make it difficult to govern.  We shall see what happens in the coming months. 
Rajoy was re-elected PM yesterday after 10 months of political deadlock.
Just as the voting was finishing, Laura and María, Javier and Ana's oldest and youngest daughter arrived to join us in Peñacaballera.  What good looking girls they are.  Dinner was a bigger affair and joy of joys I had an omelet and lean ham with salad for the meal.  I say joy of joys because I hadn't eaten an egg or ham for over a month haha.
Our hosts with 2 of their daughters at dinner in Peñacaballera last night
We all went to bed quite early last night after a long day of exercise and sun.  We were to have an extra hour's sleep as the clocks went back an hour during the night.
The clocks went back last night.
However, I still woke up early; at 6.40, which for me was 07.40.  I hate it when the clocks go back as it means we have an hour less sun in the evening and tonight it will be dark at 6.30pm.  Not fair!  If I had a say in it, I would keep the same time throughout the year.  In the Balearic Islands, for example, in the far east of Spain, there is a motion to keep summer time all year round and they have a reason; tourism.  The lighter it is at night, the happier the tourists will be and of course it would be good for business.  Anyway, they have turned back now and we shall all have to adjust.  But I'm not for it.

Last night, apart from the clocks turning back, it was also Halloween.  But none of us in Peñacaballera cared. I have never liked this Yankee holiday which has been adopted in Spain and gets bigger and bigger each year.  

And today is Sunday morning and the last day here in Peñacaballera. We look forward to another sunny day and walk.  And now it is time to sign off and wish you all a great day and week ahead.

Cheers till next time,

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