Saturday, June 30, 2018

Olivia in Florida, Suzy continues her adventures in Bali, our time in Santa Pola, the World Cup continues to surprise, home again and other stories.

Sunday 1st July 2018

Happpy with my beloved Pippa in my arms on the cliffs of the Cape of Santa Pola this week
Good morning everyone.

Today is 1st July and summer is with us. We have had our first taste of part of our summer holidays this week in Santa Pola where we went to relax and recharge our batteries. We had a peaceful and quiet time as you will read.

Last Sunday, Pippa was better after her bout of diarrhea and sickness thanks to our visit to the vet on Saturday night. So we were able to leave her at home while we went to the beach from 10 to 12 in the morning which is what we did most days, mostly to avoid the crowds but also the heat. We are not people who like sitting in the sun and getting burnt; something I did as a teenager a bit like the British tourists still do today. I saw many of them with red and white marks that day on the beach. I did, however, make Eladio take off his t-shirt on our walk to get rid of the white part of his body. He gets very brown but only in the places where he shows his skin hahaha. 
Eladio on the beach last Sunday
We came home to do something very British, i.e. make fish and chips for lunch, although  I didn't batter the fish. Just before sitting down for our meal, Suzy rang from Bali. She seems so happy and that makes me happy of course. She has made some new friends, a group of Germans and a young girl, Lisa, from Dusseldorf was her new best buddy. Here is a photo of the two of them together on a beach in Bali, much more exotic than ours of course.
Suzy with her new German friend, Lisa, on a beach in Bali
We stayed in the flat for the rest of the day, sleeping a short siesta, in my case, then reading on the terrace. That night we watched 50 shades of Grey on the TV and I was a bit embarrassed watching it with my husband. He admitted that it had its morbid fascination which it does of course hahaha. 

That night, England thrashed Panama 6-1 which should have spurred them on to do well against Belgium, their big rival in the group, on Monday but that wouldn't happen. It's funny but the group games have been tough for the big teams. 

On Monday I was up early as usual and after Pippa had her breakfast I took her down to the garden. That made me realise how difficult it must be to have a dog if you live in a flat. At home I don't have to worry about taking the dogs out. 
Pippa was better on Monday
She wasn't completely over the hill yet so that morning we took her to a local vet who gave her more injections and told us to continue her diet, a tin of special food for gastroenteritis which she loved. We then went to Mercadona to get more provisions for our stay, including these amazing thick black cherries, my favourite summer fruit.
Thick black cherries, the best fruit of the summer in my mind 
Oli, meanwhile, continued shooting in Florida for her TV programme, "Madrileños por el Mundo". That day saw her on a canoe in a river full of alligators. She was scared stiff and understandably so as they were completely surrounded by those horrible reptiles so native to Florida. 
Oli canoeing in Florida, surrounded by alligators
My youngest daughter also told me that the canoe nearly capsized and that she had been terrified but did the shooting of the alligators for the programme; as if it was obligatory. Frankly I would have refused hahaha.  Miguel, her boyfriend, thought it was  a great experience, I thought it was an awful one. Oli enjoyed her time in Florida, her first in the USA but later told me there was no way she would want to live there for many reasons; the amount of obese people, the lack of availability of healthy food, the nearly impossible ability to walk the streets  - they had to go everywhere by car as well as other things. I totally agree with her. I love the US to visit but I would not want to live their either. My main objection is the semi totalitarian "nanny state" with warnings everywhere not to do this or that. I hate living in a controlled society. Even the UK is controlled similarly and one of the reasons I love living in Spain is the lack of "surgeon general" type warnings. On the plus side she enjoyed shopping on the last day when she was able to buy trainers at half the price to here. She and Miguel have an incredible collection of trainers. Her relationship to trainers is a bit like Imelda Marcos' relationship with shoes hahaha. But, Oli and Miguel, of course use theirs to do a lot of sport which is far healthier. 

Back to Spain and to our stay in Santa Pola. As we hadn't been on our walk on the beach that morning, in the afternoon at around 5 we went for a walk to the cliffs at the Cape of Santa Pola and took Pippa with us. It was her only walk during our stay as dogs are not allowed on the beach. Spain is such an unfriendly place for our canine friends and it's not fair.  I loved the walk but it was so oh hot as we set off early, in order to be back on time to see Spain play their last match of their group against Morocco. It would decide if they went through as 1st or 2nd in the group.

The photo illustrating this week's post is of me in my summer blue jump suit which I wear so often and with Pippa in my arms on top of the cliffs across the way from the little island of Tabarca which we would visit on Wednesday. 

I came home sweating and had to have another shower. Once refreshed it was time to watch the match and like most people who watch football in company, out came the drinks (shandy) and the crisps -  healthy ones made of lentils and peas from Lidl which are delicious. Eladio sat glued to the TV but I was too nervous to watch and when Morocco scored an early goal, I got up and started making dinner. Soon though Spain scored an equaliser. Really Spain should have been able to thrash Morocco but the North African team made it difficult for them as did Iran. The other 2 teams from the group, Portugal and Iran were playing at the same time and unbelievably the Iranians gave Cristiano Ronaldo's team a hard time too. He must have hated himself when he missed a penalty. In the end Spain drew 1-1 with Morocco and Iran beat Portugal 1-0. That meant Spain went through as head of the group and Portugal 2nd. Spain now meets the host country Russia today in Moscow and Portugal meets Uruguay, perhaps the team that is playing best at this very strange World Cup this year. But it was all so tense I could not watch the match so opted to read on the terrace while Eladio bit his nails never lifting his eyes from the screen. 

Afterwards we were able to "relax" watching episode 5 of a suspense film about human trafficking set in Santander, "La Verdad".  We are watching it on Amazon Prime and I could kill them as they only make one episode a week available when we like to binge watch. 

On Tuesday I woke up to find another Airbnb booking.  A guy from Santander, Guillermo who is the CEO of his own company, one that prints in 3D, was coming that very day. We already had two other guests coming from France that day. But the rooms were ready and of course Lucy would be there to receive them all. Thank God for Lucy is all I can say. 

We were down on the beach by 10 am and back up at the apartment by 12. We had lunch of leftovers and stayed in the flat the rest of the day. I did, however, take Pippa down to the garden a few times and even got her to run with me. The vet said she needed exercise and so that's what she got hahaha. 

We had more news from Suzy that day. She had done something very exciting in Bali with her new German friend, Lisa. That night they got up at 3 in the morning and trekked up a mountain at the summit of which there is a volcano, thankfully one that is not erupting. The idea was to see the legendary sunrise from Mount Batur (1700m). Suzy was ecstatic about the experience and I can't blame her as I later googled sunrise on Mount Batur and from what I learned, it must be a very special thing to do. They had breakfast at the top. If we go out to visit Suzy in Bali, I know we shall also trek up the Mountain to enjoy the sunrise. And here is Suzy in her hoodie at the top of Mount Batur.

Suzy contemplating the sunrise from Mount Batur in Bali this week
On Tuesday evening we left the flat to go out to dinner, to our favourite restaurant in the area, Maria Picola. Mariano Rajoy's favourite is the more traditional Batiste by the port of Santa Pola. We like it too but prefer Maria Picola. For us it's a tradition to go for dinner to this restaurant and we nearly always go  when we come to stay in our flat. There is something magical about it. It's in the middle of nowhere, in between Santa Pola and Elche but has the most stunning terrace where you find yourself surrounded by beautiful flowers, trees and lots of greenery, not to mention the small waterfall on the walls of the terrace refreshing the eating area on a hot night. And here I am just as we arrived.
Arriving at our favourite restaurant Maria Picola
We were the first guests as we had booked a table for 8.30. Most Spaniards go out from 9 to 9.30 onwards but we are always early birds. We ordered a bottle of Terras Gauda, a wine from the Albariño wine growing area in Galicia, the same wine the King and Queen of Spain served at their wedding by the way. And here is Eladio at our table holding out his glass of white wine. 
Eladio at Maria Picola this week in Santa Pola
As we sat down to our delicious meal, we both reflected on just how lucky we are in life. So, in a way, our dinner that night was to celebrate life. We are so lucky on all counts; maybe that's partly to do with how hard working we are but mostly its because of where we have been born and thanks to our parents who gave us our education. We compared ourselves that night to the migrants who risk everything to come to Europe or those families who cannot afford their mortgage or even one holiday a year. Indeed we had lots to celebrate that night. 

The meal was amazing. I chose foie gras for starters, not a healthy option but it was just delicious. It came served with fresh figs which is an idea I shall be copying.
Foie at Maria Picola was divine. 
We had a full 3 course dinner and came home happy but with very full stomachs. We were home on time to see Argentina beat Nigeria and who, after their initial struggles, went  through to the Last 16. 

But the news this week hasn't only been about football. In Spain the main news has come from the first moves made by our new socialist Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez. He is making big social strides, equaling maternity leave for Fathers obligatory - 16 weeks, which is actually a pittance compared to Nordic countries. But it's a move in the right direction. His other big move is to bring in a law to allow euthanasia and a more controversial one of letting the ETA terrorists imprisoned in Madrid be moved to jails in the Basque Country near their families. The associations of victims of terrorism are up in arms about that. He has also made a move to bring the Catalan Separatists imprisoned in Madrid to be transferred to jails in Catalonia. Let's see just how far all this goes.  The big news on the international front is the agreement reached by the EU on how to solve the migrant issue. It's not set in stone yet but seems like migrants will be grouped together somewhere and sorted as to who can get asylum and who will be deported. 

Wednesday was our last full day in Santa Pola and I decided it was time to do something different. I gave Eladio the choice of a day on the "German beach" (playa de poniente) in Benidorm where we fell in love, or a day at Algar near Callosa where my parents bought a house in the early 70's and saw the beginnings of my life in Spain or last, a day on the island of Tabarca off the shore of Santa Pola. Eladio chose the nearest destination so Tabarca it was. Before leaving, I made a table booking at the apparently best eatery on the island, "Casa Gloria" in the inhabited part of the island. We had been there in the spring and loved it. 

We caught the 12 o'clock boat - a catamaran - with Pippa and the journey would take us just 25 minutes. And here are Eladio and Pippa on board looking forward to the day.
Eladio and Pippa on board the boat to Tabarca
I enjoyed the journey and so did my fellow passengers, especially the lady below whose skirt kept flying up in the wind. I was amazed to see she had no underwear on and just had to take the picture. Even Eladio found it funny hahaha.
The lady bearing a bare bottom on the boat to Tabarca
Soon the pretty island was looming and we would disembark. 
Approaching the island of Tabarca
Most people were heading for the main beach which is not particularly my type of beach. Instead, we went for a walk around the island. It was a very warm day but thankfully there was some wind  which made for a pleasant walk. We went past the old jail and the cemetery towards the end of the uninhabited part of the island and reached  a huge rock with a large cross which is very imposing.
At the end of the island
From the rock we headed back towards the inhabited part of the island along the sea front enjoying great views. 
Just one of the lovely views on our walk around the island
We must have walked for just over an hour until we reached the "pueblo" (village). Here we stopped at a small shady park and bought a bottle of water for the three of us. We had nothing for Pippa to drink the water from, so in true "Montrondo" style, Eladio cupped his hands for me to pour water in for Pippa or Pips as we sometimes call her. She lapped it up until her thirst was quenched. 

Soon it was time for lunch; I had booked a table for 2pm and it was just a few hundred metres to the restaurant which is by the sea. Our table was on the outside terrace and we sat at a corner so that Pippa wouldn't bother anyone. Dogs are not allowed in restaurants in Spain but sometimes this is overlooked on terraces. And here I am happily sitting down and about to order.
At Casa Gloria in Tabarca
We ordered "arroz señoret" a sort of paella but with all the sea fish shelled. For starters Eladio asked for sardines which he loves but I never make at home because of the smell they cause. And here he is showing me his plate of sardines which Pippa helped him to finish.
Eladio with his sardines at Casas Gloria in Tabarca
I skipped on a starter but naughtily ate the bread with ali oli mayonnaise and tomato sauce which is so typical in this area. Our rice dish came soon and tasted just as good as it looked. But there was no way we could finish the whole dish.
Arroz señoret at Casa Gloria
After our meal and with time on our hands  - the boat going back wasn't leaving until 16.15, we ambled into the quiet and sunny main square and headed for the ice cream parlour we had been to on our last trip. We were served by a delightful waitress, Patricia. Coincidentally she is a student of philosophy at the UNED University where Eladio taught philosophy for years. She was overawed when I told her my husband was a retired Philosophy professor and they had lots to talk about. Patricia works at the ice cream parlour to pay for her studies and has to come every day from Elche to this remote island. I was impressed with her and gave her Eladio's email if she had any problems in any subjects, particularly "logic" which she said she found difficult.  I think we would have spent more time talking to her if she hadn't had to serve other customers and we didn't have to catch our boat.

The journey back was short and quick with no appearance of the lady with the bare bottom and soon we were on land again and boy was it hot, especially our car. We drove straight home and once inside the apartment I dived for the shower.  

At about the same time, two of the Group F matches were being played between Sweden and Mexico and Germany and South Korea. I could hear the roars and cheers of local Swedes - many Scandinavian retirees live in these parts - coming from a bar who were celebrating Sweden's 3-0 victory over Mexico. Both teams got through to the last 16, Sweden taking first position. That was a bit of a surprise but the even bigger surprise came when South Korea beat the holders of the World Cup 2-0 and Germany ended up bottom of their group. I think it's the first time in history they haven't made it past the group stage. Apparently it was a major tragedy back home. If you think about it though, it's just a game although German fans will not agree. 

Germany have won the World Cup 4 times so this will have been a huge disappointment. Always interested in statistics of certain subjects, I read that only 8 countries have won the World Cup. These are them: Brazil 5 times, Germany and Italy 4 times, Argentina and Uruguay twice and England, France and Spain once. So the stakes are big this year now that Germany is out.  Later Brazil beat Serbia and then little Switzerland beat Costa Rica and they are both through to the last 16 too. 

Thursday came and we would be leaving after packing, cleaning and a quick visit to the local market which comes on Thursday mornings to Gran Alacant. I love buying fruit there. However on my agenda that morning was getting some new summer shorts for Eladio as the zips of two white pairs were broken and these days it costs more to mend a zip than buy a pair of trousers. If I knew how to mend zips it would be a different story but I don't. Eladio hates buying clothes or rather hates trying them on so mostly I buy them for him and it's pot luck with size. On Thursday morning he had no choice but to go behind the curtains at one of the stalls to try on some new shorts, a pair in white and in denim. I got him to pose and I hope he doesn't mind me publishing the photo here hahaha. I love it. 
Eladio trying on shorts at the market in Gran Alacant on Thursday morning
The shorts were a success and after paying we moved on, Eladio wearing the new denim ones mostly because he could't be bothered to change into his other ones haha. From the clothes stalls we moved to the fruit and vegetable stalls where we bought lots of summer fruit. to take home. Here is Eladio showing me the flat peaches he was buying.
Eladio buying fruit at the market on Thursday
We packed the fruit and veg in the boot of the car and went back to the flat to hang out the washing which we always leave to dry until we come back. However, the washing machine was misbehaving and delayed our departure until 12 pm. 

It's a 4 hour drive to Madrid if you don't stop but we always stop for lunch. This time our choice  was the Parador in Albacete. Here again the waiters let us have Pippa at our side on a terrace table at the cafeteria where we opted to eat, rather than the fancier indoor dining room. However the choice of food at the former is more limited. We both ended up ordering a hamburger, not the healthiest choice but it was delicious. I shared part of mine with Pippa who agreed it was tasty.
Our hamburgers at the Parador in Albacete
Soon we were on the road again and arrived home at around 5 o'clock. We came home to a leak in the irrigation system in the garden. Lucy had switched off the water in the garden so as not to lose too much water but she hadn't told us. If she had we would either have come back to fix it or called a plumbing gardener. It meant that everything had gone dry, including all the lovely flowers we had planted in the spring. Eladio was gutted and set to work mending the leak. He soon mended it and ever since he has been watering and tending to the garden and it's looking a lot better. My contribution was dead  heading the roses nearly all of which were either dead or dry. Thankfully since then more have grown. 

I got to meet our Franco Spanish guests who had checked in on Tuesday; Daniel and his 18 year old daughter who is coming to study physiotherapy at the UEM University nearby. They had come to find accommodation for her and found it very near us. I was a bit worried to hear Elsa our lab had gone in the pool with Daniel; something she never normally does and Lucy had to lock her in the kitchen. I apologised to my guest and didn't know where to look when he showed me the scratch on his arm done by Elsa. Oh dear, let's hope he still gives me a good review as he has promised to come back and stay with us when he visits his daughter. I didn't get to meet our other guest, Guillermo, an entrepeneur who prints stuff in 3D from Santander, until he was leaving the next morning.

After unpacking I had a quick swim in our pool after which we had a light dinner and went to bed early. It was hotter in Madrid than in Alicante and as our room had been closed the temperature there was 32c. Thank God for air conditioning.  As we got into bed we heard from Olivia that she was flying from Tampa to Atlanta but that there was a storm in Georgia which meant they had to delay landing and may have missed their connection to Madrid. In the end they caught the flight by 5 minutes although their luggage didn't make it. Hopefully it will arrive at her flat today. 

The last of the group matches were played on Thursday. England played Belgium and lost 0-1 but still went through to the Last 16 where they will play Colombia who beat Senegal. And this is the order of play after the group matches; some of which have already been played.

Order of play for the Last 16 matches

Friday came and it was nice to wake up in my own bed which is far more comfortable than the one in Santa Pola. After breakfast and reading the headlines we went for an early morning walk as even at 9 it was already hot. When I came home I finally met Guillermo who was about to leave for Santander. I offered him a coffee and we ended up chatting for at least an hour. He was a lovely guest and I look forward to him coming again. He said he would as he has business nearby. Our other guests, Daniel and his daughter left at around 12 and there was just 2 hours until our next guests were arriving; a group of 6 21 year old's from Madrid who I was dreading. 

But I had nothing to dread. When I met them I loved them and they have been beautifully behaved, swimming, cooking, playing table tennis, etc. In fact I spent a couple of hours on Friday afternoon chatting to two of the girls, Laura who is a journalist and has just published a book of beautiful poetry and Beatriz who is studying pharmacy. She mentioned her mother was a judge (impressed) so I asked her what her mother thought about the infamous "manada" (wolf pack) multiple rape case in Spain where the culprits have been sentenced for sexual abuse but not rape. Beatriz told me her mother says it's not the fault of the judges but of the law. Ah, so the law needs changing. That's another subject for Pedro Sánchez to work on. 

As our house was full, Olivia had invited us to dinner at her flat. It was great to see her again after a 2 week absence. As a surprise I took Pippa with us for her. I also took along a basket of fruit and veg from the Santa Pola market and some flowers from the garden; hydrangeas. It was lovely to see my beautiful jet lagged daughter who kept complaining about the heat. I asked her if it was just as hot in Florida and she said it was hotter there, unbearably so and more humid. She was happy to be home. Miguel had made a great dinner, calamares, prawns in garlic and Galician style ham as well as home made gazpacho. We took along the wine,  a bottle of Protos (Ribera del Duero) and I am still suffering from a small headache because of it. We stayed until about 10.30 when we were all tired, especially Olivia, and will see them again soon as they are coming for lunch today. 

We came home to find our group of young guests clearing up after making their dinner. They later stayed on the swimming pool terrace until past 2 in the morning. They were very discreet however and I didn't hear any noise, although Eladio went down in the middle of he night to do his nightly check up of the house.  

Yesterday I woke up to a full but silent house. I was up at 5.55 and beat Lucy to the kitchen. Thus I fed the dogs that morning. Suzy brightened up my morning with a video of herself singing karaoke in the Gili Islands, or at least I think that is where she was singing. The song is called Turn me On and is sung by Norah Jones. You can listen to Suzy singing it here. She told us in a voice message later that the Gili islands were breathtaking. I bet they are. 

Saturday panned out quietly. It was slightly cooler and had even rained on Friday, but just a bit. After our walk with the dogs I went out on a few errands and then came home for a light lunch with my Father and Eladio. There was no siesta for my husband yesterday who preferred to watch France play Argentina in the Last 16. He told me it was exciting. Well it must have been as the French beat the Argentinians 4-3, so close. France was the first country to go through to the Quarter Finals.  I was surprised none of the goals came from Messi. Not getting through to the Quarter Finals will be another national tragedy for Argentina, especially for Maradonna who has made headlines for his eccentric antics at the matches.  It was Messi's rival, Cristiano Ronaldo's turn later yesterday when Portugal played Uruguay, a hard nut to crack. They lost 0-1 and Uruguay who played splendidly go through to the Quarter finals.

Eladio watched both matches and I made dinner for him which we ate while watching Portugal lose. Now both best players in the world and the best club, Germany, are out of the best football championship. Which team do you think will win the World Cup? I would love it to be Spain but I don't think it will be. Their match today with Russia will be the big test. If they lose, they will pack their bags and go home and my only hope after that will be for England. It's nice to be able to support two countries.

Our young guests spent the day more or less partying but behaved generally quite well. Perhaps the worst moment was going into the kitchen late that evening to find it invaded and music blasting. Well they will be gone today and tonight the famous Saudi Arabian family will be arriving. What a difference in type of guests.

Today is Sunday, the last day of my chronicles and it will be busy, with guests leaving and more coming. We shall go for our walk and then I will make lunch for the family where we will be joined by Miguel and Oli. At 4 pm we shall all be glued to the TV, my Father included, to watch Spain play Russia in Moscow under the eyes of Vladimir Putin. 

Next week I shall be writing from France where I am going on Thursday for the annual "cousinade" (cousin meeting) where I shall see practically all the cousins I have on my Mother's side, all of Russian origin of course. I am looking forward to that.

No doubt you will hear all about it in next week's post.

So, my friends, I shall sign off now to get on with the day.

All is well, hope it is with you too. Cheers Masha

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