Saturday, February 10, 2018

Snow in Madrid! To Pamplona for a press conference, my birthday and other stories.

Sunday 11th February 2018
Me on my birthday in Pamplona by all the Adamo kit on Thursday
Good morning again everyone.

Well what a busy week it has been. 

Last Sunday was wet and cold and we had snow and sleet intermittently although the real snow didn't come until the next day. 

I was up early and as soon as I had published my blog, made our lunch, a lovely winter dish from Madrid called "cocido madrileño", the main ingredients of which are chickpeas, meats and bones of various types and vegetables. I was keen to get it ready early so that I could be free the rest of the morning to go out shopping with Eladio and Olivia. They wanted to buy my birthday presents at the Corté Inglés (main Spanish department store) and I was happy to go along and feel pampered and loved. They preferred me to choose my presents as they had no idea what to get me. I suppose it can't be easy to buy me a present but I would have thought that by now both of them would know that I have a fettish about luxury soap, bathroom towels and that I love jewelry, as well as perfume. But I got what I wanted from Eladio and my Father, a lovely little gold ring with a cultured pearl and a set of soaps and creams by Roger Gallet from Olivia.   From the Corté Inglés, with plenty of time to spare, we went to Ikea. This time it was Eladio who wanted to buy something - very unusual for him. He had got it into his head that plastic tupperwares were not good for storing food and that we should buy glass containers instead. So, he filled up our trolley with about 30 of them in all different sizes hahaha. I wasn't too interested in the glass containers and was much happier buying stuff at the Swedish food store. Ah but I did get something I have wanted to buy for a long time: two wall hangers for all my handbags which took up so much room in my walk in wardrobe.  I have the same problem with shoes and boots. I am no Imelda Marcos though as mine are mostly flat and wide and practical rather than luxurious or glamorous. It's not that I don't like beautiful shoes it's just that my awful bunions don't let me wear them hahaha. Now that's another of my secrets for you.

We came home to a ready made lunch, after which we had our usual siesta. The weather was awful and thus we had to stay indoors and skip on our walk that afternoon. Instead, Oli and I made bread together. Yes, more bread. Oh how we love making it. This was the end result. 
The bread Oli and I made on Sunday afternoon last
While the dough was proving, Oli and I played ludo and I won yet again hahahah. Dinner was delicious. I don't remember what we had but I do remember the bread  we had just after it came out of the oven. I had mine with butter from the giant tub of low fat Danish Lurpak I had bought in Sainsbury's in Keighley and which you can't buy here. Oh how I love Lurpak butter. 

We didn't watch the TV that afternoon or evening but if we had we would have been able to see me on the "box". Believe it or not, the TV programme, the Spanish edition of Undercover Boss which I starred in for Yoigo in September 2015,  was being broadcast yet again. It has been repeated between 10 and 15 times and I always know when it's been on because I suddenly get lots of Twitter and Messenger messages, mostly from people asking for a job, as if I could give them one!  I'm not sure I like it being shown now that I have left the company. I bet Yoigo doesn't like it either hahaha. 

Monday came and it was a busy morning for me. I would be busy all week working on the organisation of the press conference for Adamo in Pamplona on Thursday. I hardly noticed it was snowing until Lucy called me to ask me to take a photo of her in the snow.  Lucy, being from Paraguay, had never ever seen snow and she was very excited. I was excited too as snow is so rare in Madrid. I think the last time we had a proper snowfall here was some 10 years ago. As the snow fell I didn't think it would settle but it did. Feeling as happy as a child I started snapping photos to remember it, like this one.
Snow in our garden on Monday
I even took a video where you can see just how intensely the snow was falling and settling. This is it. Lucy went outside with her coat and boots on and I took photos of her which she wanted to send to her family in Paraguay. And here she is, like a child too, over the moon enjoying the experience.
Lucy outside in the snow on Monday
Eladio, meanwhile, was fixing the handbag hangers on a wall in the covered gallery of our bedroom, the only place to put them. He was far less interested in the snow. I suppose that's because he's from Montrondo where there is lots of the "white stuff". My handbags overloaded the hangers completely so maybe I shall have to go back for more. Here is the photo where you can see just how many bags I have - far too many. The truth is I only ever really use about 4 of them regularly.
All my handbags on the new wall hangers from Ikea 
It carried on snowing and I carried on working, now oblivious to it but when it came to lunchtime, we realised it would be impossible to push my Father in his wheel chair up the steep path to the kitchen door. Eladio tried but immediately began to slip and it was far too dangerous to carry on so my poor Father had to have lunch on his own on a tray in his room that day. 

Lunch was leftovers as I was far too busy working on the press conference to make anything new. We couldn't go on a walk either because of the snow and also because our snow boots are in Montrondo. I never thought I would need them here until Monday. 

The highlight of the day was watching Homeland Season 6 with Eladio on Netflix that night. We binge watched 3 whole episodes and didn't fall alseep until nearly 1 in the morning. I think I told you it was slow starting but from about episode 3 onwards it gets riveting. We were completely hooked.  

Tuesday was a very tense day working. I realised that we had hardly any confirmations from guests for the Adamo press conference which was to take place in Pamplona. I spent the whole day rallying around the parties involved to make sure they followed up on the invitations. I was not responsible for the guests but for the media but even so I was dreading an empty press conference room. I had to ring the media and it felt like cold calling as I don't know journalists in Pamplona. 

In fact I was so busy on Tuesday I hardly noticed the news of the biggest rocket ever launched into space that day. Everyone else was very excited but I just had no time . I spent most of the day on the phone and whatsapping until really late. At about 10 pm though, there was not much else I could do so I called it a day and joined Eladio to binge watch the last 3 episodes of Homeland Season 6. It's a bit unfair but on Netflix we get to see the seasons a year later than they have been aired on TV in the US. Apparently Season 7 is about to start there in a few days time but there is no way we can see it from here.  I knew I would be feeling bereft when the last episode finished. It's always that way and this time the ending is totally unsatisfactory. There was no real closure and so Season 7 will be a continuation of the same theme. Role on Season 7 please. 

Wednesday dawned and I had plenty of time to pack and prepare for my journey to Pamplona. I left for the Atocha train station at around 10.30 and met up there with Cristina and Julia from my events agency, QuintaEsencia. They were totally loaded down with all the stuff we had to take to set up the event in Pamplona. Normally they would have sent it there but as we only had a mere week to prepare everything there was no time. And here they are with all the gear at the station.

Cristina and Julia with all the stuff for our event, at Atocha train station
The journey on the Alvia (part high speed) train to Pamplona would take 3 hours. It was difficult to work on the way as there is no wifi on the train and no plugs to charge your phone or PC. My phone battery would not last the journey. I was amazed to see so much snow on the way as the train rushed past snow clad villages and fields. It was a sight for sore eyes and it felt like we were in Siberia and not in Spain hahaha.
Snow on the journey to Pamplona by train from Madrid. 
We got to the capital of Navarra, part of the Basque Country, by 14.45. The girls had to rush off to the conference centre, Baluarte, to set up the room where our event would take place the next day. I took a taxi to our hotel as I had to work, mostly on cold calling local journalists and on fine tuning our press release. 

I don't know Pamplona at all. Of course it is famous for the bull run during the San Fermín fiestas in July but that does not attract me at all. I had been there twice before when I worked for Motorola and we sponsored a cycling team. In fact the last time I had been there was during the Tour de France in 1996, Miguel Indurain's last TDF. He is from Navarra and I well remember that scorching day with thousands of his fans lining the road waiting for him to arrive at the finish line after a mountain stage. Everyone was used to him winning and arriving among the first but that day he lagged behind and came in at the back of the peloton which was very sad for the cycling champion who had won 5 Tours on the trot. Even so, his countrymen clapped hard as he did arrive and the atmosphere they created was just amazing.  I'll never forget it

Pamplona in the winter is a different story. It's quite a cold area up in the north east of Spain and snow was forecast. In fact it was freezing. I took a taxi to our hotel, the surprisingly nice Hotel Pamplona Catedral just off the road where the bulls run, Calle Santo Domingo. 

My hotel in Pamplona
Interested in its history I found out that it had been built in the early 19th century as a reformatory for women (awful) but later had been used as a convent. It even had its own chapel which today is the hotel restaurant. It's quite a cool restaurant, all painted in white. I especially loved the stained glass windows.
The amazing dining room at the hotel, previously a chapel
I had lunch there on my own and thoroughly enjoyed a dish of fresh and local vegetables including the famous Navarra artichokes. I didn't want to eat too much and preferred to save my appetite for dinner that night, eating "pinxos" which Pamplona is famous for. 

Delicious vegetables for lunch in Pamplona at my hotel
Later I went up to my comfortable room where I had plenty of time to settle in and get mentally prepared for the event the next day. I was busy though, ringing the journalists and working on the press release. I wouldn't finish making changes to it until about 10 minutes before the press conference the next day. It's always like that with press releases.

When I had finished I had an hour before it was dark and I decided to explore the old part of the city as I had never really seen it and if I had I didn't remember it.  So I ventured out, well wrapped up, as it was freezing outside. I walked to the Plaza Consistorial from where the San Fermin fiesta is inaugurated each year in an act called "el chupinazo" from the "Casa Consistorial".
The Plaza Consistorial in Pamplona
It was freezing cold and snowing lightly as I walked down the old streets to see the cathedral. Being on my own, I didn't really feel like going in. I continued my walk and came upon another famous square, the Plaza del Castillo which is just enormous. Here I took a selfie and you can see the snow flakes on my fur hat. 
Freezing in the Plaza Castillo in Pamplona on Wednesday afternoon
It began to snow harder and all I wanted then was the warmth of my room in the hotel so I walked back. Once in my room, I made more tweaks to the press release and then sent the girls, Julia and Cristina, all the final press materials to print and load into the usb's to give to the journalists the next day. They were now back in the hotel after setting up the room for our event. It was poor Julia who had to do the latter and I caught her on camera as I went to see the girls whose room was a couple of doors down the corridor.  That was very much a behind the scenes of an event moment hahaha. 

Behind the scenes of a press conference, Julia loading the usbs with the press materials in the girls' bedroom at our hotel
While in town Cristina and Julia had bought me a birthday present which they gave to me in their room. It was a beautiful basket of luxury soap, just what I love as I told you earlier. It was to be my first present and one I love. 

We went out to dinner and for the girls to see the centre of the town. We were going to a bar called Gauxo which came highly recommended but it was closed. So we looked up another popular one on Trip Advisor and headed for a place called Iruñazarra. It was obviously very popular and the food was superb. In fact we ate too much as we couldn't get enough of the delicious pinxos, many of them award winning tapas in local competitions. 

Snow was forecast for Thursday, my birthday, but there was only a thin coat of snow on the roofs when I woke up in my hotel bed that morning. It was a strange feeling being in Pamplona on my birthday. All celebrations would be put on hold. However, soon after I started drinking the luke warm coffee I had bought in the bar the night before and put on the radiator to drink as soon as I got up, the birthday greetings started. Lots of friends and colleagues posted their messages on Facebook but there would be many too on whatsapp, messenger, email and LinkedIn, not to mention the phone calls I received. How I love Facebook on my birthday.  Later I would get many more and would enjoy reading them on the train returning to Madrid. I had breakfast in the "chapel" with my colleague Jaume and until checking out I didn't have much to do as all my work was done. That's actually not quite true as I spent some of the time practicing the welcome speech I had written in front of the mirror. I had problems pronouncing the surname of our local partner, "Sescuan" and that of the  lady from the Government organisation, "Irigoien", a very Basque surname I still can't pronounce it. I was saying IRI GO E EN when it should have been IR GOY EN. If only I had known before!

I left the hotel at around 10.45 while the girls went off to print all the materials for the press kits and arrived shortly afterwards at the Baluarte Conference centre. It wasn't my choice and I found it rather large and unwelcoming but apparently it's quite a modern symbol of the city. 

The room we had hired, the "sala de prensa" (press room) was all set up and many of my colleagues were already there. As usual I had to make some minor changes to the press release which is always rather nerve racking. Then it all started. Thankfully the room was nearly full. The press had turned up, not a lot of them as there probably aren't many in Pamplona and there was some Government press event going on at the same time, but enough to pass muster. But of course I would get more press coverage from the nationwide press release I sent out. You are probably wondering what we were announcing. Well it was the start and power up of our network in the region, in villages were no other operator has a network. It wasn't major news, we were only starting up in a handful of villages but more were to come within the project. It was definitely local news though. So I was lucky later to get articles from outside Navarra. I think the main news about Adamo is that it focuses on villages and areas where no other operator would go and which up till now have been bereft of fast internet. So in our own small way we are helping to close the gap of the digital divide in some areas of Spain. 
The press conference in full swing
I welcomed everyone and introduced the 4 speakers. As was to be expected I stumbled over the Basque surnames and had to apologise. Later those affected just laughed thank goodness. They are probably used to it I hope. 

After the presentations I moderated the Q+A session and within 45 minutes or so the press conference was over. I was happy to see some  headlines already published on internet including a photo of the event which I got the photographer we had hired to take and give to Julia to include in the email which I had prepared and which I know caused them some trouble. 
The speakers at the press conference. On the left the man and lady with the difficult Basque surnames. 
Afterwards we could all relax while a cocktail was served. As it was about 1 pm I took advantage and ate some of the delicious Basque food including the "chistorra" (thin fried chorizo) which I thought would serve as my lunch. 
Very soon it was all over and time to pack up and leave Baluarte. We left very laden down with the bulky and heavy rolled up photo calls, etc. We got to the station at least an hour and half before our train was to leave at 15.35. There we found our Barcelona bound colleagues whose train was leaving at 15h but had been delayed until 16h. For us it would be a 3 hour journey to Madrid and for them 4 hours.

We all waited chatting and drinking and feeling hungry, despite the "chistorra", I couldn't resist the amazing "bocadillos" (baguette type sandwiches) with ham and tomato and their amazing Spanish omelet. I would not be hungry that night when I got home. In fact we chatted so much we nearly missed our train which had been standing on the platform for some time. Then it was panic stations, especially getting all our gear on the train. But we managed it and what a relief. 

It was  a long and boring journey back, especially as I was running out of battery on my phone. I was home by 7.30 or so to be greeted by my wonderful husband, Father and by Lucy all wishing me a happy birthday. Eladio suggested we went out to dinner but I was too tired and not hungry and besides we had a planned family birthday dinner for the next night. Lucy had bought me a lovely present. She said it was very humble but it wasn't. I love the red Zara cardigan with pearls for buttons she had bought me and I would wear it the next day. But waiting for me was something  very special, a birthday card had arrived for me and I wasn't going to get many as they are not a tradition in Spain. It was from my darling daughter Suzy from London who I miss so much and it was beautiful. What was even more beautiful was what she had written inside. Let me show you. If you read it you will see she writes: "to the best mother in the world". I don't think I am but it's lovely that she thinks so. Thank you darling. 

Suzy's surprise birthday card which was waiting for me at home when I got back from Pamplona
Beautiful words inside. 

Suzy had rung me in the morning, my first phone call of the day. It was on my birthday that she told me she had bought her ticket to go and live in Bali  and would be leaving on 7th June. That was the date of my  Mother's birthday. I hope it brings her luck. The good news is that she is going in June instead of April and that she will be flying via Madrid and coming here 2 weeks before. 

So on my birthday we didn't go out to dinner  but we did watch a film. We chose one with Angelina Jolie set in Ethiopia called Beyond Borders. It was entertaining but slightly exaggerated but a nice relaxing end to the day which had been tiring and hectic. 

Friday came and I could relax work wise that is. I had breakfast reading the Adamo headlines which always gives me a kick. There were around 20 articles both local and national so not bad at all. I wasn't busy working but I was busy getting ready for a sudden Airbnb reservation which I got at around 11 am. A young South African man was checking in at lunchtime and staying for a week. He wanted somewhere he could work quietly. I had to do the shopping too and Eladio came with me. Life at home resumed and that meant going on our daily walks, in the afternoons at this time of year. It was bitterly cold that day so I put Pippa's red jumper on her. Then I added the harness and that is when she stood still not wanting to move unless I picked up the lead. Thus it was the perfect moment to capture her on camera. Here she is, a little unsure of the jumper too.
Pippa ready for her walk on Friday
I came back to slowly get ready to go out for my birthday dinner to Filandón, one of my favourite places. I had booked a table 2 weeks ago as it is always difficult to get a table. My South African had written to say he wasn't coming until the next day which gave me a bit of a break. 

Our table was booked for 8.30 as we like to dine early. 9 pm is usually the earliest starting time for dinner at restaurants in Spain but Filandón is open all day. We were there on time and while Eladio parked I waited at the impressive entrance with 2 open fires outside. Soon Oli and Miguel joined us and we were led to our table past the equally impressive kitchen which is visible to the public. It was not a busy time but when it is there are so many chefs you cannot count them. 
The kitchen at Filandon.
It was great to see Oli and Miguel again. Oli had another surprise for me, a funny birthday card she had found in Manchester with a sausage dog on the front. I loved it as well as her words inside but neither of us really understood the sentence on the front. 
Oli's lovely birthday card
We shared croquettes and octopus for starters and Oli and I shared a half bottle of Arzuaga (Ribera del Duero) red wine which had me remembering a Nokia team building exercise I once did there. We were lucky to have Miguel with us, our resident photographer, although the poor chap had a bad cold or flu like most of Spain it seems. So I got him to take a photo of the 3 of us at my birthday dinner. I don't know why but I always seem to close my eyes but it's the best he could do and it's not bad.
My birthday dinner at Filandón with Oli and Eladio. 
All in all it was a lovely dinner. It would have been perfect if Suzy had been with us. Oh how I miss her, especially on occasions like this. 

The next day was Saturday when we would celebrate my birthday with my Father too. I told you birthdays in this house are like Indian weddings as they go on for days hahaha. The day started with a family breakfast which would include croissants and donuts, pain au chocolat, all the naughty things I love first thing in the morning but only allow myself on special occasions. And here we are just about to start to devour the things on the table which was laid with all my finery. 
Birthday breakfast on Saturday morning
On birthdays I was brought up as a child to open the cards before the presents which was always frustrating hahaha. However I don't get  many, so I love them just as much these days. Apart from Suzy's and Oli's I got a lovely one from Eladio and my Father which my husband had bought in Manchester too at M+S (of course). It was the words from my nearly 99 year old Father that made a big impact yesterday. You see, my Father doesn't go in for sentimentalism nor for expressing his feelings or emotions. So yesterday was an exception. His handwriting is faint but amazing for someone his age. These are his words:
The words from my Father on my birthday card
This is what he wrote: "A very happy birthday Masha darling. What an inspiration you have been to me all my life, much love from Daddy 8th February 2018" Short but profound don't you think? I don't really know what inspires him about me. When I thanked him, he said "I really meant it". How lovely. Well he has inspired me all his life too in many many ways and I admire him profoundly. Thank you Daddy. I love you.

After the card came the presents. They were no surprise but they were much appreciated, the ring from Eladio and my Father and the Roger Gallet, soap, perfume and body lotion set from Oli and Miguel. I consider myself very very fortunate. 

My beautiful presents
We were very full of croissants after that hahha and I couldn't think about making lunch until much nearer the time. I was pleased to have Miguel with us as he would install the new TV box I had bought on Amazon after his recommendation. It had arrived 2 weeks ago but I needed him to install it. With this tiny little box which works like an Android phone where you download apps from Play Store, we can now watch Amazon Prime, Atresmedia TV, RTVE a la carta and Movistar Plus as well as Netflix. However of all these, only Amazon Prime has subtitles and lets you change the language. 

Just as he had finished, my South African wrote to say he was on his way by metro. Kindly, I suppose, as I have no obligation as an Airbnb host to pick up my guests, I went to get him at the nearest station. I don't usually do that but I am conscious of the fact that our house is not in the best location for using public transport. Also I knew he would be tired after travelling all the way by train from Faro to Lisbon then Lisbon to Madrid. He soon settled in and told me he loved the house. Pippa surprised me by not barking at him, for once. In fact she took to him immediately which is very unusual. 

Lucy was laying the table and making the chips and I would make the fish. Fish and chips is our usual favourite for birthdays and the quickest and easiest to make. It would be followed by my favourite bought cake from a bakery we love near here called "Alverán". It's a light sponge cake with fruit (raspberries) and lots of whipped cream encased in a a white chocolate basket and I adore it. So does my Father. And here I am about to blow out the candles. 61 wow. With yesterday's candles I could easily have changed the numbers to 16 or 19 or even 91 haha.
The birthday cake moment the highlight of any birthday in my mind. 
We were all so full later that we slept, in my case until 4.30. I had to drag Eladio out of bed to go for our walk with the dogs, a much needed walk after all the eating. I bet you think all we ever do is eat hahahah. 

Neither Eladio nor I were hungry at dinner and I made a very light meal. Last night our TV choice was much bigger. We started with the highly acclaimed BBC series called McMafia about the Russian mafia in London. We binge watched that too, seeing the first 3 episodes all in one go and went to sleep really late. We are going to enjoy McMafia immensely. 

 And today is Sunday, time to publish this blog post and enjoy the rest of the day. Of course you will hear all about it next week. It will be quiet though, that's for sure and will definitely include our walk.

So my friends, that's it for this week. Wishing you all the very best, cheers for now, 

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