Sunday, July 02, 2017

The end of our stay in Montrondo, fire in Doñana, home again, our first Chinese Airbnb guests, a sleep test, the girls in Ibiza and Formentera and other stories.

Sunday 2nd July, 2017

I'm never happier than on my walks in Montrondo with little Pippa. 
Hi everyone,

Another week has gone by and it's now July. Last Sunday we were in Montrondo. I was up at 6 and spent a quiet day, doing domestic tasks, washing clothes, hanging them out to dry, ironing and making lunch. My walks continued; 2 a day and in the morning I went with my sister-in-law and our 2 dogs. Amazingly, Pippa actually went into the river which surprised me as she usually steers clear of water. But here she is splashing away. It must have been the heat.
Pippa in the river in Montrondo, an unusal sight.
In the afternoon we would go on our second walk of the day, this time on the long trek to Murias via the mountain paths and above the river bed. It got cooler on Sunday afternoon; 21ºc and rain threatened. But for our walk it was the perfect temperature. The photo illustrating this week's post is of me at the entrance to "el camino valle" with little Pippa.

I lover our dinners together in Montrondo and on Sunday night I made a simple salad which we had with some Ibérico ham whilst watching the TV. 

What I wasn't happy to hear about that night on the news was the forest fire in and around the fabulous Doñana National Park in Huelva. Its biodiversity is unique in Europe. I have been there twice when I organised a summer party for Yoigo a couple of years ago and fell in love with the area. In fact we stayed at the famous Parador de Mazagón which I heard that night had to be evacuated. 
The dreadful forest fire in Mazagón, Huelva
I could hardly believe it and was grateful later to hear it had only damaged the swimming pool area and some of the gardens. 
The authorities observing the damage caused by the fire at the Parador de Mazagón.
We heard that around thousands of people had been trapped at the nearby beach resort Matalascañas and that the local camping site had  complete burned down. For the staff at the National Park, there was danger not only for the park itself but for the fauna, such as the Iberian lynx breeding centre at El Acebuche. Some had to be released into the wild while others were taken into care at the local police station. The fire could have potentially destroyed years of work fostering this critically endangered species. Thankfully a few days later the fire was put out completely and not too much damage had been done at the beautiful National Park. 

On Monday we woke up to cooler weather which in a way was a great relief after such a prolonged hot spell. Prompted by Eladio and his brother, we went to visit the newly restored bridge and natural spring called La Fleita. It had been restored the year before but the bridge put away for the winter and now it was back. There have been improvements and now part of the water there is like a natural swimming pool which we will no doubt use in the warmer weather this summer. 
La Fleita spring

La Fleita bridge
From there we saw a new sign, "El Molino de la Machorra", the Machorra water mill which had been restored just before the summer by the villagers. I was curious to see it as Eladio told me that his Father used to use it to grind wheat. His brother added that the women used to do the washing in the river by the mill. 
The sign to the newly restored mill.
I'm so glad the villagers are taking care of their heritage and it was curious to see the new mill and imagine Eladio's family using it so long ago.
Eladio by the old mill
As Eladio walked around, inspecting and going down to the river, I imagined he would be thinking about his past. 
Eladio by the river next to the newly restored mill. 
How amazing that he started out life as a little shepherd boy in a remote village in the mountains of poor Spain in the 40's and 50's and amazing too how he progressed later in life. I'm sure when he was grinding the wheat at the mill or watching it being ground when he was young, he would never have imagined how his later life would pan out for him and that he would marry a younger woman of Anglo Russian origin and travel the world. As he told me, he never left the village of Montrondo until he was 11!  

After the obligatory visits to the new landmarks of the village, we took the men on our long walk to Murias above the river bed. 
On one of my many walks in Montrondo
After so much walking, I, at least, enjoyed quite a long siesta. My sister-in-law and I and the dogs walked again in the afternoon and my fitbit was happy with me, registering 13.41km in one day. Thus I didn't feel too guilty having a hearty dinner that night. It's amazing how the altitude and mountain air increase your appetite. It happens to us all. I even think food tastes better there sometimes. Oh, food, glorious food. What would life be without it?

On Tuesday I was up early and the first thing I saw on my phone was a new Airbnb reservation. A young Chinese couple and their two small children aged 5 and 10 who were travelling around Spain would be coming that night and staying for two days. Thus we had to curtail our trip to Montrondo and leave that day. In any case there was a thunderstorm and it was raining heavily.  We packed and shut the house, leaving at around 11 and decided to have lunch on the way at the Parador in Benavente. We love that place as we love all the Paradors we have been to in Spain.
Outside the Parador in Benavente where we often stop for lunch on our way back from Montrondo as we did on Tuesday.
After a little walk in the lovely rose garden in front of the Parador, we left little Pippa in the car. I wanted to leave her in the garden tied to a tree but Eladio was afraid she might be stolen. What an awful thought!. For lunch I completely broke my diet and enjoyed the restaurant's star dish,  suckling roast lamb and chips. Oh glorious chips!

We were home on time to get ready for our new guests who arrived at about 6. They were a nice family but completely invaded the house. There are house rules on the listing but obviously they hadn't read that the lounges are private and completely filled the main one with all their kids' toys. The little boy started playing my grandmother's vintage piano and I imagine he had sticky fingers. That very night I decided to print out the house rules and leave them in the bedrooms as I am not very good at telling our guests not to do this or that. I don't like house rules but they have to be there  after some of our recent not so good experiences. 

They were our first Chinese guests. So far have received guests from; Italy, France, Spain, Korea, Russia, Colombia, UK, Portugal, Lithuania, Switzerland, South Africa and now from Holland, Canada, and Australia. Our next guests will be from the UK, USA and Mexico. It's quite like the United Nations in our house and I quite like it although we do sometimes feel a little invaded. But that's the price to pay to make a little money on the side with Airbnb. Of course we would not do it if we didn't need to. 

That night both girls would be travelling to Ibiza for a night there and a few days in the smaller and even lovelier island of Formentera. Oli would be travelling from Madrid and Suzy from London. They will be leaving today and I know they have had a great holiday with their friends from the "manada", Chati, Rocío, Tere and her sister. Here is Oli on the plane.
Oli on the plane to Ibiza on Tuesday night. 
On Wednesday it was cold and wet. We went on a windy walk with the dogs. It was back to routine and I would go for another walk with Lucy in the afternoon.  She was very excited as her first grandchild was going to be born on Thursday and I was excited for her. 

The Chinese continued their stay and we felt a little overwhelmed by their noise. That afternoon while Eladio was giving a private lesson in philosophy in the dining room, I found the husband and wife in the middle of the big lounge with their huge suitcases on the floor. They told me they were packing for their flight the next day to Amsterdam. I was very surprised and a little put out and kindly asked them whether they could pack in their own room which by the way is enormous. My excuse was not to interrupt Eladio's lesson but of course I don't want any guests doing their packing outside the bedrooms. The man looked amazed. I thought he had heeded my words but Eladio later saw him packing in the hall by the front door. Is this a cultural difference I wonder? Anyway I was sort of relieved to see them go the next day although they were very nice people. 

The girls, meanwhile, were in Ibiza and I was happy to see a photo of them together. I am never happier than when they are together and happy. I suppose that is the wish of most mothers. Well, mine was fulfilled that day and all through their trip which I followed vicariously.
The girls in Ibiza together on Wednesday
In Ibiza they met up with a friend from their Scout days, Cristina who lives there. And here they together are 25 years after they first met as small children with  the Scouts. That was a great experience for them and I think had a positive influence on their childhood. I was also a member of the Scout movement and always remember my time with the Guides and Rangers fondly. 
The girls with their friend from the Scouts, Cristina, in Ibiza this week
That night they all had tickets to go to a typical Ibiza party at the Ushaia discotheque, that is apart from Oli who hates them, like me, I should add.  Instead she took an earlier ferry to Formentera and was the first to check in to their apartment. Suzy told me later that she and the others took the last ferry which leaves Ibiza at 2 in the morning (!) but that the trip had been horrendous because of a thunderstorm. I can understand completely as 1 ferry and 1 hovercraft trip from Dover to Calais years ago stand out in my mind for the rough crossings and people throwing up all over the place. 

That night while they were  partying, I went to hospital for a sleep test that had been scheduled a while ago after seeing a specialist because of suspected apnea. I have had apnea for years and remember the first time very clearly. I was in my early teens and with my Mother and Aunt in her flat in Benidorm. The attacks can be quite unpleasant and after a particularly bad one a few months ago I decided to see a specialist. 

So on Wednesday night I went along to the Quirón hospital with my overnight bag. Soon I was attended to by a friendly nurse called Maica who led me and 2 other women to the Sleep Unit. I was taken into a little bedroom with its own bathroom which was quite pleasant despite there being no window. I got ready for bed and put the TV on to see the Masterchef final. Soon I was interrupted by another nurse who took me along to a another room to place all sorts of cables on my head, fixing them with glue and drying the glue with a hairdryer. I was wondering how on earth I would get rid of the glue in my hair the next day. This is what I looked like hahaha.
Not looking very glamorous on Wednesday night, getting ready for the sleep test. 
I carried on watching Masterchef until Maica came back to continue adding cables and wires all over other parts of my body. I was so tied up I couldn't get up by myself and would need help going to the bathroom. When she finished, this is what I looked like. She told me everyone asked for a photo like me!
Ready for the sleep test
I then took my sleeping tablets and my sleep would be monitored in all possible aspects and the nurses would be able to see me on a screen on their computer. It was funny being filmed all night. But soon I fell asleep but only for about 4 or 5 hours. The bed was comfortable but it took a while to sleep. I woke up at about 4 and think I never went back to sleep although Maica said I did. At about 6.40 I called her and she removed all the cables and some of the glue from my head. I was able to get rid of some of it with a hot shower but would have to have another one when I got home and some of the sticky parts were damned hard to remove. The first thing I did when I left the hospital bedroom was to go in search of a cup of coffee; albeit from a machine coffee. I was home by 7.30 and greeted Eladio who was just getting up. I won't get the results til the middle of August but meanwhile, although it was an inconvenience, I am glad I did the test. 

I felt pretty tired on Thursday. This week I have had lots of little errands to do and one was to go the Corte Inglés to return my lovely pink Gap girlfriend jeans. There was a small stain which I tried to remove with hand soap and cold water and believe it or not the colour ran and in place of the stain there was a white patch. Thankfully the Corte Inglés being the Corte Inglés agreed to change them. At the same time I bought the same trousers in light pink. I had also ordered the same ones in white, online from the GAP UK site. There was a mix up as I ordered the 04 US size I had bought at the Corte Inglés but a UK size 4 arrived which was obviously too small. After chatting to a customer care agent, I was told to order a UK size 10 (38 in Spain). Well, believe it or not it was too big this time. And now I have had to order a UK size 8. Well I can tell you I am not a size 8 but have read, sadly, that Gap apparently makes their sizes bigger on purpose so that bigger ladies feel good. What a stupid strategy, don't you think?

While I was shopping, the girls were enjoying their first day on the beach in Formentera. Here is the photo they sent us. Again it made me happy to see them happy and together. But I do wish we could have been there too.
The girls together in Formentera on Thursday
If I was happy, Lucy was ecstatic and very excited as that afternoon her first grandchild was about to be born.  Just after we came back from our afternoon walk together, Mia Nicole was born just after 6pm in Paraguay, weighing nearly 4 kg and soon Lucy had photos of the new born baby. I was so sorry she wouldn't be able to see her for at least 2 years but thank God for modern technology as she can talk to her family on whatsapp or skype and can get news and photos every day. 

Friday was a quiet day and the weekly food shopping day at our local supermarket, Mercadona.  Thankfully we were alone at home as our Chinese guests had left on Thursday at midday. But the respite wouldn't last long as that evening we would be receiving more Airbnb guests, this time a middle aged couple from Holland. They were travelling from Marbella where they had been living for the last 6 months and would be stopping here for just one night.  We welcomed them and left them to it while we spent time reading by the pool where, by the way, I was twice hit by bird s***. There must have been a nest in the trees above me. That night being Friday, Eladio and I went out to dinner to Ginos. I ate heartily thankful that the scales that morning told me I was maintaining my weight loss. Thank goodness for being able to eat what I want occasionally. Dinner was great and so was the wine which unfortunately gave me a headache the next morning. 

The Dutch couple left early the next morning. In fact, Eladio only saw them once. I started preparations for our next guests, a family from Canada and one Australian who had married one of the daughters. As the Dutch were having their breakfast, I went into the garden to cut flowers to place in the guest bedrooms and around the house. I cut roses, hydrangeas, purple and white hibuscus (Chinese rose or rose mallow I think they are more commonly called) as well as jasmine. 
Flowers from our garden for our Airbnb guests
After our morning walk, I decided to spend the first part of the day cooking. After all, I'm pretty much free from work at the moment. I made "salmorejo" a sort of gazpacho made with tomates, garlic, bread, olive oil and vinegar, a dish we love and which hails from Córdoba. The garnish is chopped boiled egg and Spanish ham. This is what it looked like. It tasted even better.
The salmorejo I made yesterday
I also made lamb chops for lunch with vegetable pure from potatoes, carrots, onions and courgette which was delicious. Just before lunch the book I had ordered through Amazon for my Father at lunchtime the day before arrived. My Father was amazed at the speed. He had asked me to find him an old copy of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. from the top shelf of one of his bookshelves.  When I found it I saw just how old it was and a bit torn too with yellowing pages and small print. It had been mine when I was at school and practically impossible to read. So now my Father is reading the new version avidly. I'm glad he is. 

After lunch I had a short siesta before the Canadians and Australian arrived. I was joined of course by Eladio but also by Pippa who never leaves my side if possible.
Pippa having a siesta with us this week
Soon my new guests arrived; the parents, Vicky and Kevin who now live in Abu Dhabi, their daughter Erika who lives in Australia with her Australian husband Luc who had made the booking and their other daughter Elisha who lives in Ottawa. They had met up for a family tour of Spain and Portugal a week or so ago in Lisbon from where they travelled to Lagos on the Algarve and then to Granada to see the Alhambra. 4 of them were wearing Canada flag t-shirts and I wondered why. They told me it was Canada Day and also 150th anniversary Canada Day so I had to have a photo. Here they are, my Canadian and Australian guests and very welcome they are too.
My Canadian and Australian guests who arrived on Canada Day yesterday
They later celebrated in style and made a barbecue outside. Our kitchen was once again invaded and we had to quietly have our dinner in the dining room. Again that's the price you have to pay for being an Airbnb host but I think it's worth it. 

The girls continued their holiday in Formentera and this is the photo I got of them yesterday on a beach on that lovely island. It looks like they were partying too.
The girls on a beach in Formentera yesterday
Whilst our guests partied, we went upstairs to bed. Later Eladio would go down to inspect everything was ready for the night or more like  shut doors and switch off lights and put the dogs to bed in their kennel and many other  things that have to be done daily before shut eye. 

And today is Sunday. Thankfully the weather is warmer but not too warm. I was up early as usual and enjoyed a bit of quiet time on my own. When Eladio came down for his breakfast, the dogs rallied around him, hoping for crumbs from his plate. This is something they do every day so I thought it worth taking a photo  for this week's blog post as they are so cute. 
The dogs this morning hoping for crumbs from Eladio's breakfast. They are such a sight. 
Today will be quiet, I hope at least. Our guests will be off to Madrid for a bike tour of the city and also for a bullfight at Las Ventas. That's not my scene and I wonder what they will think of it. The girls won't be going, preferring to visit the new Zara gigantic flagsthip store recently opened near the Castellana. I must go there one day soon.

It's the girls' last day in Formentera. Suzy's flight is at 11 tonight but Oli's is earlier, at 5pm. She will come home to have dinner with us and hopefully sleep here too. I look forward to that as I haven't seen her for more than a week. We won't see any more of her for a while either as tomorrow we are off to our flat by the beach at Gran Alacant and on Wednesday she and Miguel are going to Thailand and Cambodia for a 3 week holiday. Wow! Lucky them!.

So my friends, that's it for this week. Just let me wish you all a great week ahead before I sign off.

More from me next Sunday, cheers till then,

PS you can see a bigger selection of photos from our stay in Montrondo here

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