|Last weekend's guests|
|The multicereal bread I made last Sunday|
|My family watching the Spain Russia match on Sunday|
|With my new summer "Bereber" trousers, love them.|
|The golf club where I met my ex Motorola boss|
|At the golf club on Monday|
On Wednesday, Eladio said I was already more in France than in Spain what with all my preparations hahaha. We came back from our walk and bumped into the Saudis. I asked them what they would be doing that day and they said they would be staying in the house. Oh no, I said, you can't waste your time here, there is nothing to see here, you must visit blabla and recommended they went to El Escorial or to Toledo. I was happy they heeded my words.
Wednesday was a quiet day with our guests away and we enjoyed a quiet lunch, me a needy siesta as well as some quiet time in the afternoon.
After a light dinner our guests returned and it was time to tell them I was leaving for France the next day and would only come back after they had left. I was actually sorry to say goodbye because I really liked them, despite their untidiness. I had to have a photo of them of course and we spent quite a while on a photo shoot. Here they are saying goodbye to me. When they leave on Saturday they will be off to Barcelona and then to Italy. They travel every year. Maybe they should learn the phrase "when in Rome do as the Romans".
|My untidy but lovely Saudi family|
Thursday came and I had to be up early but blow me, I woke up at 5 in the morning when I didn't actually have to leave for the airport until 7.45. Oh well, it meant I had a leisurely breakfast on my own with the dogs and reading the "papers" on my iPad.
Eladio drove me to the airport, to Terminal 4 where I was to catch the 10.40 Vueling flight to Paris CDG, the same flight that left me grounded 2 years ago. This time it didn't. In fact everything went well and even the steward at check-in changed by 29A window seat for a 4D aisle seat as I hate window seats. The first few rows on Vueling have more space so I was very grateful. Normally you would have to pay extra to choose a seat but that day was my lucky day.
I had to have a coffee and croissant at the Paul Boulangerie at Madrid airport in anticipation of my trip to France. There is nothing I love more in France than dunking a croissant in café au lait. I learned to do so on Inter rail at Gare du Nord in Paris many many years ago.
I arrived in Paris Charles de Gaulle, well on time and walked out of Terminal 3 not quite knowing how to get to the TGV or SNCF station which was located in Terminal 2. My idea was to walk but when I asked 2 young pilots they said I had to take the shuttle train and to follow them. They were complete gentlemen and escorted me until I got to the train station. It turned out they were Czech pilots. I told them that in 1968 after the Russian invasion of Prague, when many Czechs fled the country that my non communist Russian mother had taken in a Czech family to live with us for many months free of charge and that maybe today they were repaying the favour. Sadly one of them told me that his grandfather had been jailed in 1968 because of the uprising and had died in prison. What a story.
We parted at the train station and off I went to see if I could change my train ticket to an earlier train. I had arrived at 12.30 but my train wasn't until 16.17. This time I was not in luck, there was no other train and I just had to wait to catch the TGV which would get me to Poitiers at 18.30 or so. I had a boring time at the station and wondered to myself why it was such a dreadful one, pretty dirty and with hardly anything to offer. There was the ubiquitous Starbucks and Paul and some other rotten bar with not much to offer as in lunch. In the end I went for a tuna sandwich and a cake from Paul. There was hardly anywhere to sit so I went up to the top floor to eat outside only to find myself at a horrible bus and taxi terminal which was even dirtier than the station and nowhere to sit. I ended up sitting on the dirty floor on my coat eating my lunch. You would think a TGV station in Paris would be much more swish. The Atocha Ave (highspeed) station in Madrid is luxury compared. I whiled away the time writing my blog from the dirty floor until it was time to catch the train.
The train was a bit late and I got a window seat (hate them) and started reading my new book, a history book on the demise of the Romanov family, quite in keeping with the upcoming "cousinade", all descendants of the Russian Revolution. By the historian Helen Rappaport it is called "The race to save the Romanovs" - the Truth behind the secret plans to rescue Russia's Imperial family. It has only been recently published and seems a very seriously studied topic by Rappaport an expert on Queen Victoria and the Romanov family. It kept me occupied during the just over 2h journey to Poitiers. I shall be ordering a physical copy for my Father who I know will be very interested in this new and enlightening book.
Just as I got out of the station with my huge suitcase - I never travel light - dear Katty and Tony my cousins from New Zealand had arrived to pick me. Katty is Zuka's daughter and my soul mate. She is like a sister to me and I adore her three kids, Luc aged 16, Sam aged 14 and little Ruby aged 9. I had seen Katty at last year's "cousinade" but not the kids since the year before and I hadn't seen Tony since the family visit to our house about 8 years ago just before they left England to move to New Zealand. You see, Tony is from New Zealand. We call them "our Kiwi family". It was great drive to La Teille catching up on our lives since last year. Soon we were at Zuka and her Mother's house, Aunty Valya who was the wife of my Mother's younger brother Nicky. Only Aunty Valya was at home when we arrived. Aged 93 she is in great shape and it was wonderful to see her again. Soon Zuka arrived with the kids, Luc, Sam and Ruby and a friend of Luc's from school in Bolton England where they used to live, Luke; same name different spelling.
It was a wonderful moment hugging the kids from my kiwi family. This is one of the photos I took of them when they arrived.
|Our Kiwi family, Tony, Sam, Katty and Ruby|
Friday dawned and I was up early although Tyotya (Aunt in Russian) Valya had beaten me to it. I enjoyed a quiet cup of coffee on the veranda enjoying being away and in the French countryside.
|Zuka's sprawling farm house in La Teilee|
An important task after breakfast was to put up the flag bunting outside the gates of the house; something Katty, Ruby and I did together. When our cousins began to arrive they weren't sure if they were to symbolise our multiple international origins or if it was because of the football. I'm not quite sure either but it made the place look festive.
|Ruby and Katty putting up the flag bunting on Friday morning.|
|Ruby and I getting bread and croissants at Lidl in Poitiers on Friday morning.|
On our way home we heard that nearly all the cousins were arriving that day rather than on Saturday so it was panic stations to get back, unload the food and begin lots of cooking. And that's what we did all afternoon; or rather Katty and Zuka cooked and I did the skivvying hahahah. I was exhausted by the early evening and had to take a break. Katty continued till around 10.30 pm and we all had a very late dinner.
The boys and men, including Sasha, Katty's brother and his son Myles, who had come from England, kept me updated on the France Uruguay Quarter Final match which the French won 2-0. I was rooting for France as I though when in France do as the French. Later Belgium, the "Red Devils" played their Quarter Final match against the grand and almighty 5 time winners of the World Cup, Brazil and believe it or not valiant Belgium won 2-1. Thus they will meet France in the semi finals. And here are all the men watching the match.
|Some of the cousins watching the Belgium Brazil Quarter Final|
By then all the cousins except 4 who were to come on Saturday, had arrived and 17 of us sat down to dinner on Zuka's veranda. The main dish was barbecued sausages accompanied by my elder cousin's quiches and lots of salads. Ice cream was for dessert as I had spied my favourite flavours at Auchamp; pistachio, coconut and raspberry. I also got chocolate as I thought that would be a favourite with the kids. Funnily enough the favourite was pistachio, practically impossible to find in Spain, and raspberry.
There was lots of clearing up to do as well as washing up and I don't think we were finished till way past midnight. We then sat around drinking (not me) and chatting till far too late for me as that night I went to bed at nearly 2 am.
Saturday came, the official day of the "cousinade" and I had slept very little waking up during the night. I was downstairs at 6.30 to find my 93 year old Aunt unloading the washing machine and poor Myles sitting up on the sofa bed he had tried to sleep on awake as he had hardly slept a wink because of the flies. There are lots here as we are in the countryside with many farms in the area.
Saturday was to be England's turn to play their Quarter Final game against Sweden and the English section of the house were rooting for England, hoping for the Three Lions to go through to the semi finals for the first time since 1990.
Katty and I finally managed to go on a morning walk as we did daily last year and this year her husband Tony joined us. We left at 8.30 and didn't get back until 10.30 by when the sun was very hot.
|Tony and Katty on our walk yesterday|
It was to be scorcher of a day with little respite from the sun. The heat here is very humid here and we all looked for shade in the garden drinking litres of water throughout the day.
Back home Oli was following our time here vicariously through my photos. She then, very sweetly, sent us one of her with my Father who I know would have loved to be here as he and my Mother were very close to Zuka and her husband Bruce RIP.
|Oli and my 99 year old Father on Saturday|
|Suzy happy in Bali yesterday|
|The Saudi family who left yesterday, with Eladio. We grew very fond of them despite their untidiness.|
|Watching England play yesterday|
|Cheering for Russia at our Cousinade yesterday|