Sunday, April 15, 2018

Oliva in Bavaria, her programme on Monterrey, Airbnb Super host again, off to Santa Pola, US attack on Syria and many other stories of the week.

Santa Pola, Sunday 15th April 2018
On our walk to the Cape of Santa Pola with views of the lovely island of Tabarca during our stay here this week.
Hi again everyone and hi again from Santa Pola. This is our 3rd consecutive trip here in the last 2 months and we have come again seeking the sun and escaping from the cold and rain in the rest of Spain.

Last Sunday when I posted my blog, I forgot to mention that Ulpiano, from Montrondo, died suddenly last week. Many of you who have been with us to our village met him as he always featured on our tour of the village when we went to buy his eggs. He was just a few years older than Eladio and seemed eternal. I am very sorry for his widow Serafina. He was an emblematic figure in the village and his presence will be missed. It's difficult to imagine Montrondo without him. Here is a photo I took of him probably in about 2011 on one of our trips to his old farm to buy eggs. Going there was like revisiting Montrondo in the 30's or 40's, thus its charm and inclusion in our guided tour of the village. I liked his smile. RIP Ulpiano.
RIP Ulpiano
On Sunday our French Airbn guests left. They will be coming back in May. I was busy in the morning making "cocido madrileño" (local stew with chickpeas vegetables and different sorts of meats) for Miguel and Oli who were coming for lunch that day. At lunch my Father was eager to hear about Oli's trip the next day to Germany. She would be there all week preparing her next programme on the region of Bavaria this time.  My Father studied German (and Scandinavian languages) at Cambridge University and his first visit to Germany was before the war but he well remembers it and knows the names of many towns in Bavaria. These were towns she would be visiting and couldn't pronounce hahaha. She told him she would be going up the highest mountain in the country and he told her the name and the altitude - the Zygspitze at 2.962m. His memory is amazing. It used to be a habit of his to recite the names of towns, rivers, lakes or mountains from Northern European countries or from Russia to fall asleep. But hang on, he did so by finding names for each letter of the alphabet and per country. Miguel tested his geography of the area and asked him the name of the longest river in Finland. He actually got it wrong and said the Torne which is 521km long when it is in fact the Kemijoki which is just a bit longer. However, when we looked it up it seems there is a slight dispute as to which of the two is actually longer. He told us he had been given a book by the to be Finnish Ambassador in London once in Helsinki in the 30's about the River Torne and even told us his name but of course it went straight out of my head.  His head is much fuller of facts than mine and he is amazing for a man who is going to be 99 in May. What a memory, what a brain. At lunchtime that day he  also gave Oli a basic lesson in German.

While we were having lunch, Spain was playing precisely Germany in the Davis Cup Quarter Finals in Valencia, in the Bull Ring by the way.  It was very much touch and go. Thankfully Nadal won his singles match against Roddick. The deciding match was afterwards when David Ferrer who is from Valencia played Philipp Kohlschreiber (pronounce that Olivia). He won it by the skin of his teeth in a 5 hour match and thus the Spanish team have got through to the semi-finals. It was great to see Rafa on form again. Ferrer, who played the match of his life, was lifted up by his team mates in celebration after the epic tennis he played.
The Spanish players celebrating their victory over German in the Davis Cup quarter finals in Valencia last Sunday
Meanwhile in France, the famous one day cycling "classic" race, the Paris-Roubaix, dubbed  the "hell of the north" was taking place. It is a very tough race as most of it is on cobbles. I once went there with my great friend Fátima when we worked for Motorola and witnessed just what a difficult and hair raising sporting event it is. Sadly the news is not about the winner but about a cyclist who died of a heart attack after crashing during the race. The Belgian cyclist Michael Goolaerts, aged just 23, lost his life in the Paris- Roubaix last Sunday. It seems unthinkable but of course it can happen. I well remember and very sadly too, being in the Tour of France when one of our Motorola cyclists died also after a crash. RIP Fabio Casartelli. Aged 25 he died in the greatest race of all, Le Tour de France in 1995 and I shall never forget him nor will the team members or anyone who was there. What a sad day. My heart went out on Sunday to young Michael Goolaert's family and friends and to the whole professional cycling team family because it is like a family and I once belonged to it. 

It was on Sunday that I got the official photos of the Adam event with local mayors in Toledo which took place the Friday before. You can see them here. I had no idea the photographer was taking pictures of me while I spoke to the audience. It was funny to see myself again without glasses. Also the expression on my face in the photo below seems to me to resemble my Mother. I think as I get older I look more like her.  Those of you who knew her can probably judge better so please tell me.
One of the official photos from the Adamo event in Toledo. Me looking more and more like my late Mother I think.
It was cold and blustery on Sunday but it was at least sunny. So we got our walk in with the dogs. Before dinner I went to see my friend Fátima and took her some of the first flowers that have appeared in our garden apart from blossom. She was getting over the side effects of her first session of immunotherapy which was administered the Monday before. The side effects gave her the symptoms of full blown flu and dreadful conjunctivitis. It also affected her throat and she became completely hoarse. Even so, she was in good spirits and we managed to chat although she had to whisper. We have been friends since she joined Motorola about one year after me in 1991 and all I can do is look on and support her as best I can as she fights the disease. But what a fighter she is. Hang on in there my dearest, you are a champion and you'll come through and no doubt soon you will be here in Santa Pola staying at the flat you have opposite ours. I'm looking forward to that day.  

Soon after I got home, my next Airbnb guests arrived. We were to be honoured with the stay of an up and coming Spanish golf player, Adria Arnaus, who aged just 23, would be taking part in the Spanish Open this week. He came with his caddie, Alvario, who is from León like Eladio, although he lives in the town of Ponferrada. They have been perfect guests and I would have them again any time. Adria's father joined them on Saturday but I wouldn't get to meet him. I hope his son does well in the championship. 

As we were watching television that night (interview by Jordi Evole with the ex Spanish PM Felipe González) I realised my right eye, the eye that was operated on first, was hurting and bothering me. The next day I would go to the hospital to have it checked on. It got me a bit worried I might be suffering from post operative complications.  

Monday came and I had breakfast with my golfing guests. In fact I offered them breakfast as being very young men they had not thought to bring anything. I took the morning off and went shopping. I wanted to return to H&M and Zara where I had spied clothing I liked when I went shopping with Miguel and Olivia. I bought a lovely dress from H&M in a typical style I like, tunic shaped and a flowery pattern. 
My new dress from H&M
I also got a green blazer from Zara and a couple of scarves. 

My right eye was not getting better so I rang the hospital and they gave me an immediate appointment. I seem to have been going so often recently to the Quiron hospital in Pozuelo I now know my way backwards.  After a few tests it seemed my right eye was inflamed despite having taken all the drops I had been prescribed. The doctor thus prescribed new ones with antibiotics and I think steroids. Thankfully they have done the trick.  It took a while though and watching the TV was rather strange as my vision was a bit blurred. This last week we saw a new series on Amazon Prime which, by the way, we are  now preferring to Netflix, called The Father of Cain (El Padre de Cain) and which I can highly recommend. 

Olivia who had arrived in Munich on Monday, was doing her first day of filming. Her next travel report would be interviewing and following the lives of "madrileños" who live in Bavaria except for Munich itself which the programme has done before.  She sent us photos which I showed to my Father of her in Garmisch (skiing resort I think) and at the top of the Zugspitze mountain, the highest in Germany and which my Father had taught her how to pronounce hahhaa. Thank goodness she had gone prepared for snow.
Oli on the peak of the Zugspitze mountain on Monday
It was cold up there of course but funnily enough this week it has been generally warmer in Germany than in Spain.

That morning I had a meeting in Madrid with an ex Yoigo colleague who is helping set up a new company in Spain and to judge by how well the meeting went, looks like a new customer for me. It was weather for ducks though that day so I needn't have bothered wearing my new dress and blazer as I never took my coat off haha. This is me in the new clothes by the way. 
My new blazer from Zara and dress from H&M
It bucketed it down that day all day so there was no walk for us on Tuesday. However, I was out again in the late afternoon and back to the Hospital Quiron, this time for my periodical "MOT" (mammography test and scan). The test was done quickly but I had to wait 1.5h for the scan which is unusual for the hospital but it meant I didn't get home until really late. 

The highlight of Tuesday was watching Oli's programme that night of her last trip about Monterrey in Mexico. I have been to Mexico three times in my life but never there, only to Mexico DF and Acapulco. 
Oli introducing the programme about Spaniards living in Monterrey
I loved visiting Mexico, despite how dangerous it is. Oli told me though that she thought it was a little less dangerous now. Thank goodness for that. I must say she has a great job. For a journalist who likes travelling she's very lucky to be working for the programme "madrileños por el mundo". I wonder where she will be going after Bavaria. She travels once a month but never knows where she is going until about 10 days before. I find that rather exciting. By the way, you can watch the programme here


While we were watching Oli's programme, my golfing guests who are Barça fans were watching the Barcelona Champions League match, the second leg of the quarter finals against Rome. They had won in the first leg 4-1 so were bound to win, except that they didn't. They ended up losing 0-3 which was a huge disappointment for their fans and the club itself. Unexplainable really but there you are. 

On Wednesday I was up early again and did something I haven't done for a while. Yes, I weighed myself for the first time since February. Since coming back from our last trip to Santa Pola I returned to healthy eating and to my diet as I knew I had put on weight. Thankfully not too much damage was done. I had put on half a kilo since the last time but even so I have to lose another kilo or two to be back to my ideal weight. Well being here in Santa Pola hasn't helped and I shall have to start all over again when I get back. I am only capable of dieting at home for some reason, equating trips away and holiday with eating more or less what I want. Wrong Masha wrong!

Oli told us that morning that she was loving Germany. That day found her at Starberg Lake some 20 minutes from Munich. 
Oli by Starnberg lake near Munich on Wednesday 
I wondered for a moment whether I had been there. You see my Aunty Masha, my Mother's youngest sister, lived in Erding (Bavaria) in the 60's and 70's and my first trip as a child abroad was to visit her. I was 9 at the time and adored our trip to Germany. She ran an unsuccessful bar much frequented by the local US forces who I liked to talk to. Being the owner's niece I was allowed to use the jukebox for free and remembering playing and replaying Frank Sinatra's Strangers in the Night which was a huge hit then. I also remember depleting the ice cream lollies from her deep freeze. But I also remember days spent by a beautiful lake which I thought might be Starnberg. But Google Maps told me it was an hour's drive from Munich so it must have been another one. It seems there are many in the area.  A few years later, my Aunt and her son Sasha had to leave Germany not only because my Aunt's business wasn't going well but because she had a violent partner called Zvonko from Serbia who was abusing her. She had a baby daughter from him, named Sophie, after her mother who, very very sadly, died 10 days after her birth having being born premature at just 6 months. My Grandmother Sophie on her death bed made my Mother promise she would look after Aunty Masha all her life. This was a promise she kept always. So 2 years or so after our holiday in Bavaria, my Aunt and my cousin Sasha packed their bags and arrived with 2 suitcases each one night in Bradford. They lived with us for a year and I shall never forget that. Both only spoke Russian or German at home and my Mother spent the whole time translating for them and us, not my Father of course. Maybe that's where I picked up some of my very basic German vocab. So, yes Oli's trip to Bavaria is bringing back many memories for me. 

My sight was feeling funny on Wednesday and it felt that instead of gaining sight I was losing it. So I made a rushed appointment to see the eye specialist, Dr. Castillo, who had operated on me, for the next morning. I was getting more and more worried. And I told Suzy so on the phone when we had a long chat that afternoon.  

That night Real Madrid nearly lost too this time to the Juventus team they had beaten in the first leg 3-0. We didn't watch it as these days football matches are only pay-per-view. However I would read later how when they two teams were both at 3-0 at a draw and about to play the prologue to decide which team would go through to the semi-finals, the British referee called a penalty against the Italians because of contact in the goal area (I think hahha). I am no expert or judge but my husband said it was clearly deserved. Cristiano Ronaldo scored the penalty goal and Real Madrid are now through. They will now play their eternal European team rival, Bayern Munich in the semi-finals and Rome will play Liverpool. May the best teams win. 

On Thursday I woke up to see I was super host on Airbn for the 3rd time in a row. That certainly lifted my spirits that day. This is the certificate I got.
I'm super host again!
This is a badge that goes on your listing which of course increases reservations. To earn it you have to have a minimum rating of 4.8 stars. I have 4.9. You have to have over 80% 5 star reviews, I have 89%. Also required is a 90% response rate. Mine is 100%. Then you must not make any cancellations and host more than 10 trips - I have hosted more than 60 and finally you must get 50% of your guests to make a review. 76% of mine have left one. I now look forward to my next badge and meanwhile continue my Airbnb hosting. Today Sunday, my golfing guests leave and tomorrow I have a Venezuelan lady coming who lives in Dubai! It's all very exotic hahaha. 

Thursday saw Oli at a flower festival in Germany in the town of Wüzburg with an "umlaut". No doubt my Father can tell my daughter why hahaha. This is her enjoying the atmosphere.
Oli at the flower festival with ladies dressed in flowers on Thursday
We had decided that on Thursday we would escape to Santa Pola in search of sun as it was such bad weather in Madrid and we had no engagements coming up. We would have loved to go to Montrondo where we haven't been since the beginning of December but the weather there was awful. First, though, I had to go to the hospital once again to get my eyes and sight checked. I would be there until 11.30. After lots of eye tests I was happy to hear that nothing organic was wrong and I had none of the typical complications that can occur after cataract surgery. It was just a question of my eyes getting adjusted to the artificial lenses and it seems I take longer than others. Also I had the lingering inflammation in my right eye. So I was told to continue with the drops and I must say that since Thursday morning my vision has improved and I have less blurry moments and no pain. Thank goodness for that. 

I was home by just before 12 and by just before 13h with our suitcases in the car and lots of food and of course Pippa sitting in the back, we left.  This time we did not stop at Los Rosales for lunch on the way. I was getting tired of it as it is crowded and expensive. Instead we found a great place in a village called Zarza. I don't remember the name of the bar or restaurant but the lunch was superb and cost half of what it would have cost at Los Rosales. Not many people travel on the roads on a Thursday so we had no traffic and arrived at our flat at around 6 pm to 21c and sun. How lovely. We settled in and also put down the new Ikea mats I had bought this week to replace the awful mats we had inherited from the Norwegian couple who sold us the apartment 19 years ago. I must say the flat looks a lot nicer with the new mats and the new sofa covers. 

The apartment looks a lot better with the new Ikea mats and new sofa covers too
When we finished  I went for a walk with Pippa to the Santa Pola cape with its cliffs and amazing views.
The view from the lighthouse cliffs on my walk the afternoon we arrived
Eladio preferred to stay behind in the flat and change the light bulbs in all the house for new led lighting which I actually  find far too harsh. I was back in the light as it only gets dark now at just before 9pm. I love the long hours of daylight at this time of year as you can pack so much more into a day.  

The day finished quietly and it felt cosy to have dinner just the two of us in the apartment and then watch our series on the TV thanks to my Amazon fire stick. It was great to be back.

Friday was Friday 13th but thankfully not unlucky for us. We woke up to a nice sunny day although the temperatures would not rise above 19c but that was good enough for us. We had  a lazy morning in the apartment only venturing out to buy some provisions at Mercadona. We also visited the new shopping complex it is housed in and which we don't go to often. I'm not really impressed with it. Eladio took a photo of me at the centre or "mall" as the Americans call them hahaha.
Out shopping on Friday morning
I don't remember what we had for lunch but I do know we both had a long siesta after which the three of us went for a walk on "our beach", the Carabasi natural beach below the apartments on a cliff above Arenales del Sol.  It was windy and slightly cool and we had the beach to ourselves. As usual, once at the far end with views of the Tabarca island, we sat on "our rock" where we have taken countless photos over the years. Here are the ones we took that afternoon.

On our walk on the beach on Friday afternoon
Do please notice Eladio's new jeans. They are skinny denims from Primark. Until recently I thought skinny jeans were only for women while my poor husband continued to wear his very baggy trousers until I cottoned on to the fact that you can get them for men too. Since then he hasn't quite become a "fashion icon" like my friend Kathy (according to Phil her husband) but he's getting there hahaha. No doubt he will not be pleased with me mentioning his clothes in my blog. Let's just hope he only looks at the photos and doesn't read all the way through. 


Saturday came and it was the 14th April and a day that will go down in history because of the night bombings of Syrian chemical sites by the US and its allies France and my country Great Britain. It was the first thing I read yesterday and although we all knew it could happen I couldn't help but think that if this wasn't war it was certainly a very big chapter in the new cold war with Russia. Russia, of course, is the only country in the world together with Iran which openly backs President Assad's regime. The bombing was in retaliation for Syrian chemical attacks in Douma on 7th April which killed dozens of civilians. Using chemical weapons is a crime against humanity and in international law is totally prohibited. Both the Russian and Syrian governments deny their involvement in the chemical attacks. The US and allied intelligence says otherwise. Today, though, I read in The Times, the former head of the SAS, Major General John Holmes thinks differently. He claims that Assad has already won the war and has no need of bombing the population with chemical weapons and that the authors are probably the rebel forces who want to force the US and allies back into battle against the current regime. Who knows what to believe? I mean do you not remember when George Bush and Tony Blair went to war with Iraq because they said Sadam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction which later turned out not to be true? Well maybe I shouldn't pay any attention to the words of the former SAS chief as  he is now being accused of joining a society "endorsing the Assad regime".  The Russians themselves claim the chemical bombing was staged by the rebels but how can you stage what we saw on the television on 7th April?  I see Russia's hand there and I don't like it. And I don't like to think how Putin will retaliate to Saturday morning's attacks on Syrian chemical compounds. Before the night bombings he had warned that any military reaction from the US could spark a war. It's an ugly picture.  

I'm so glad I was born and live in the relatively peaceful area of Western Europe. Unlike the poor population of Douma, I was able to go out fruit and vegetable shopping yesterday where everything was in abundance and all was peaceful. 

It was a lovely sunny day yesterday with temperatures rising to 23c, at least 10c more than in Madrid. On Saturday mornings there is always an open market in Santa Pola village or town so off we went to buy lots of oranges. They are so fresh here and come straight from the trees. They haven't been washed and even have leaves on still. We bought some from the pile you can see in the photo below.
Buying oranges at the market in Santa Pola yesterday
They were going for 3 euros for 5 kilos and we bought at least 12 kilos which made for very heavy carrying I can tell you. We also got grapes, mangoes, strawberries, huge mandarins, runner beans, leeks, onions, asparagus, avocados and sweet and ripe tomatoes. Once our fruit and veg was in the car, we drove down to the port with Pippa to take a walk on the promenade. But first for a cup of coffee at one of the news bars on the new boulevard by the port. And here I am enjoying my "cuppa".
Enjoying a cup of coffee in Santa Pola yesterday
I remarked to my husband yesterday while enjoying my coffee with views of the port, that life was good. I feel free as a bird professionally and have the best of both worlds after leaving Yoigo. Being freelance makes me free. I have work to do for customers but it up to me how and when I do it. I also remarked that we are at an age, in my case nearing retirement, that we should make the most of life and travel and live well as in 10 or 15 years time we will be too old and too gaga to want to travel or eat out. Or who knows? This year in August it will be our 35th wedding anniversary and 38 years ago since we met. We shall have to celebrate in style and not wait for our golden wedding anniversary when Eladio will be in his 90's. No, life is for living and living now before it is too late. I should add that in order to make our life work balance function properly a lot of it is down to efficiency and organisation something I learned when working for the blue chip companies I was employed at. So, yes, if you are organised, work permitting and despite important responsibilities, life can be enjoyed to the full.

After our coffee we walked along the promenade again and saw people sunbathing and enjoying the beach. We came home with all our fruit and veg and ate some of it for lunch. The thick local asparagus were just divine.  

Later in the day we went for our second walk which was again to the Santa Pola cape cliffs, our nearest walk and which takes about an hour to do there and back. For once we got someone to take a photo of the two of us, or should I say the 3 of us to include little Pippa? That is the photo I have chosen to illustrate this week's post. It's funny to see we were both wearing yellow in the photo. It looks good against the blue sky and sea. The visibility was great yesterday and we could make out the local landmarks of the island of Tabarca: the church, the prison, the lighthouse and the cemetery.
The island of Tabarca as seen from the lighthouse cliffs
It was Saturday and most people would be out for dinner or drinks. But not us. We prefer to have dinner at home and then watch our current series via streaming. It's much cosier. That is what we did again last night. We finished the series "Hermanos" and started watching a lovely British film, based on a true story, called "Breathe". I'm loving it.  

Today is Sunday, the end of the week and it promises to be a good day. It will be the warmest day today with a maximum temperature of 26c. We haven't decided yet what we are going to do but no doubt you will read about it in next week's  post or see photos I publish on Instagram.

So folks, that's it for this week. Have a great Sunday, love to you all until next time,
Masha






2 comments:

fatima sanchez martin said...

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fatima sanchez martin said...

Me encanta tu blog!!!