A Rainy Day in Cangas de Onis

What do we do when it rains?


It’s been a great day so far – cleaning and tidying the van, lighting the stove to make the van lovely warm and dry, sleeping, reading, playing games… and now catching up with the internet.

Heavy clouds have draped themselves across the tops of the mountains. It is a blessing for this area, as just over the next hill there’s been a forest fire raging for the last 48 hours.

Yesterday was market day in Cangas de Onis. The town was heaving with people. If we’d had our sound system yet, we probably would have tried to do some dancing on the street. instead, we danced to the accordeon of a bulgarian busker who played one tango after another. We kept picking up his basket and handing it around to the people, and I think he profited from our little performance.

On our way back to the van, we came across the Sunday afternoon dance in front of the old people’s centre. Right in the centre of town, there is a dance, every Sunday afternoon, with live music. Outside if the weather is fine, otherwise inside. We joined a bit, dancing some more Tango and a bit of everything else. Then it occurred to us to ask if they wanted to have a Tango Class. We spoke to the director of the organisation, and he’ll let us know tomorrow.

It’s fine to be on the move every day, but if you want to meet people, it helps to slow down a bit and give some time for contacts to build. Tomorrow, we’ll look at a permaculture project up in the hills, and we’ve also heard about a donkey sanctuary that hopefully we’ll be able to visit.

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Tango A Mi Bola

We chanced upone a little bar in Llanes where the owner invited us to dance.


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Careña de Cabrales – more thoughts on a village fiesta


As we were driving back down to the sea after four days in the Picos, we reflected on the extraordinary nature of this village fiesta. Above all, we admire the stamina of the 360 village inhabitants to put on a fiesta of such magnitude! Four days of partying through the night until 6am! Two great stages that would do well as main stages in Glastonbury festival, three processions (one strangely Heathen, one strangely Christian, and the last one a random Carnival-type of procession), and all bars open until the wee hours.

There seemed to be a theme about women running through the festival. No doubt in the olden times, the women met up to sew their costumes in the run-up to the festival. The shawls are beautifully embroidered and seem to be heirlooms, handed down the generations. All costumes have jet stone hangings too, a stone local to the region.

We saw the women gathering in one of the restaurants on the Thursday night, while the men congregated in the bar a hundred metres down the road. There was a definite ‘hen and stag night’ feeling in the air.

I wonder what it feels like for a guy from the village to see this formidable group of girls and women coming down the road in full festive clothing, in ranks of five, beating a hand drum – intimidating? For the women, it must give them a strong sense of belonging, of being supported, backed up by their friends.

The ritual of the men carrying a supersize lit effigy of Maria de la Salud through the village, and finally lighting a big firework where the last banger blows the statue’s head off seems to me an homage to orgasm J – not exactly a Christian custom, I think.

I was fascinated by the sounds at the Sunday procession. Listen to the short video we made:


Don’t worry, it rights itself after a few seconds!

(We hope this works… just trying things out on youtube, as it was too big for the blog…)

you have the band playing a fairly repetitive traditional tune with Gaita (bag pipes) and drums, then you have the women drumming their three-beat rhythm, not necessarily in tempo with the band but instead following their own woman drummer, you have church bells rung by hand with a rhythmic pattern to it, and again not necessarily in tempo with anyone else, but almost, and to top it all, there are rockets which go off at a random frequency right next to the procession, so that the sticks and other debris rains down on the people.

It is a cacophony, but I’m sure it is intended. If it was all in time with each other, the size of the procession would shrink and it would all become like a march, and probably feel quite trivial. As it is, the village creates a hell of a racket with just a few people.


The Monday night procession had an entirely different feel to it. It seemed to be just the villagers among themselves, rather than many outsiders joining them. They dressed up in funny costumes. Everyone was involved, from small children to teenagers and adults.

The procession went another way, a much wider circle, and stopped at many houses where older people were sitting outside. Some of the dressed up people would go up and talk to the old people, maybe offer them from their drinks (lemon and rum out of a bucket!!!) or do a little dance for them. And off the procession would go again, not leaving out a single house. This way it took over one hour to get through the village, and all along, everyone was laughing, chatting, making noises, remaining engaged. The dress themes included: Asterix and Obelix with an Obelisk on a cart pulled by a donkey surrounded by a few romans; a pirate ship pulled by a tractor; a group of can-can girls; four ghosts; two nurses and a nun (three guys); a few shepherds complete with goat; some people with meticulously painted faces, and of course a sheik who flummoxed everyone, as he didn’t belong to the village, yet was dressed up (Frank!).

Once the procession was over, the dancing started with a small open air disco.

As usual, we gave in to tiredness at around 2am. When we left, we saw around 30 sky lanterns rising into the air, amidst a few more loud bangers. In fact the bangers and the music carried on until 6.30 in the morning!

For Photos of the fiestas, including the carnival, go to https://www.flickr.com/photos/126714897@N05/sets/72157647196953468/

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Poncebos – Bulnes – Poncebos


For more Photos, click on the link:


We took Emma up into the mountains today! We went from Areña de Cabrales up to Poncebos where we left her by the side of the road and took the funicular up to a little village called Bulnes. Incredible, this village must have been very cut off before the opening of the funicular in 2001! No road leads to it, only mountain paths.

After a look at the mounains from a view-point above the village, we decided to walk back to Poncebos, down a steep valley. This was a beautiful walk, full of interesting views, many vultures (or are any of them eagles?), sunshine and a cold river to swim in. what should have taken 1hour and 15 minutes to walk took us about 3 hours, but we had a great time, stopping frequently to gawp at the fantastic views.

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Fiesta Time!!!


Careñas de Cabrales, 14/9/14
We chanced upon a fiesta in the Picos de Europa.
The first night, accompanied by insistent singing from traditionally clad women and girls, vying with the sound of a traditional Gaita Orquesta (bagpipes and drums), a huge lit representation of the patron saint was carried through the village and eventually exploded in a dramatic firework display on the main street.
The following day, we woke up to a stunning vista, plus a brace of 1920’s Alvises!
We went back to the village to witness another extraordinary procession of the womenfolk (from little dits to old maids!) with their tambourines, followed by the men carrying the effigy, this time the real one from the chapel (glad to say this one wasn’t exploded!) on a round trip through the village. The combined sounds of Gaita orquesta, rhythmically rung church bells and the tambourines made for a riotous cacophony….

Look at pictures here:



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Wedding photos

…. are here:


Hopefully I’ll work out how to invite other people to post their photos on my flickr photostream. I’m new to flickr, any suggestions welcome!


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Our Wedding – August 29th-31st 2014

Dearest Relatives and Friends,


We are now in our cabin heading for Santander with a rare chance to relax and take stock of the recent whirlwind of events. For us and the numerous friends and family who gathered from all over Europe and the US, the wedding weekend was by all accounts an extraordinary event, one that will remain in the memory for a very long time.


Starting with a day of preparation with a strong team of helpers (mainly members of Ruth’s house in Totnes), the place started to hum with creativity: decorating the huge barn at Coed Hills and preparing the giant bird cage that was to be the first station on our wedding ceremony walk around the ‘estate’. In the kitchen Natalie headed a team of people, including Christian and Jimini and others who came in and gave a helping hand.


Vegetables were chopped and stews were started for the grand meals that were to punctuate the festivities.

Some important guests arrived – Ruth’s sister Ela from Köln with her two sons, uncle Friedrich from Frankfurt and an old school friend Bene, from Neustadt. Everyone who arrived on Thursday mucked in with the preparations.


Friday saw the arrival of Graeme, Frank’s best man from New York – a touching reunion in itself – and many more who came to pitch their tents and/or settle into the bell tents and yurts dotted around the property (thank you to Harriet for providing the ‘glamping’ tents!).

The performers involved in Saturday’s ceremony met for the first time and we had a walk-through and talk-through rehearsal, after which Chris and Amy created the final script.

A grand piano in the barn was never silent. So many talented musicians! Connections were made across families and friends via the medium of spontaneous music making. Frank kicked off an extraordinary rolling barbeque, which Rawley had finished constructing minutes before, with the invaluable help of Devon and later Josh. By the time we had the barbeque we were about 90 people.

Later on in the evening, heavy rains managed to blow down Loz’s tent and soak inside another, but this didn’t dampen the spirit. People just brought their sleeping bags inside and camped out in the chill-out room instead.


Saturday morning started with a breakfast at 9am, followed by singing, which was led by my daughter Lilli, Ruth’s eldest and Helen Chadwick. It was lovely to see everyone coming into the barn and joining the singing!



More people arrived, swelling the ranks to about 130 people, and at around 11.30 we set out on our Randonnée, introduced by Chris Pirie and led by Ansuman Biswas, with his various instruments.

The first station on our walk was to meet our celebrant. We found her in a bird-cage, fast asleep. We had to wake her up.


As we were on our way to the second station, the Menassehs joined us with Leonard in a wheel chair which had long planks of wood bolted to it so he could be carried across rough terrain sedan style.


The second station was in the woods on a very rickety stage, where Mr. and Mrs. Clark took us through some prenuptial rituals to test our compatibility and to equip us for our married life. The group was asked to raise their arm if they agreed that this couple should be wed.


The third station took the group to a pond down in the woods, where they were enchanted by sound and movement beautifully danced by Adele Levi. Meanwhile Frank and I had snuck off to reappear on horseback and in full wedding gear just as the group came out of the woods and was ready to walk towards a stone circle (the wedding dress was made by Caroline Lynch-Blosse). Frank and Ruth rode towards each other from opposite sides of the circle (glad to be led, as the horses were a bit skittish, which only added to the excitement J ), calling out to each other with a Georgian call-and-response song.



Once the group had arrived in the stone circle, we dismounted and our respective children collected us from the outside to lead us into the circle.

Frank_&_Ruth-126 Frank_&_Ruth-127

Amy took over from this point on and, as our celebrant, led us through a beautiful wedding ceremony, including a handfasting.


The ceremony ended by building an arch of people, through which everyone passed whilst singing a Georgian song that Helen had taught us earlier.



While we were out doing the ceremony, Rawley and the team from Coed Hills set up the barn ready for the Wedding lunch.

Frank_&_Ruth-208 Frank_&_Ruth-225

The afternoon was a feast for the senses – a beautifully decorated barn, a sumptuous feast, moving speeches, especially the one from Graeme, and a continuous stream of music, kicked off by Lilli singing with Tom Unwin, her father, on the piano. There were contributions from many people, including Caroline Noh, who dedicated a beautiful love song to us, and Theo with his well-rehearsed band!



Then some people left and others arrived…

At 6.30pm we laid the dance floor, and at 7pm, there was a Tango workshop led by Paul and Paras for those who wanted to try out a bit of Tango, later in the evening. After that, we had our ‘First Dance’, and then the evening dance floor was open. Michael Lavocah DJ’d a great selection of music including some Tango but also lots of other music. The dancing never stopped and an incredible evening buffet made sure the energy kept up. Zoe’s Wedding cake was brought in at around 10pm and was hugely appreciated.


It was a very relaxed and happy atmosphere, and by now people were freely mixing across the different circles of friends and families.


There was a fire outside where people played music and chatted, there was dancing inside where everyone was on their feet boogeying, and in the chill-out area the children were playing and later falling asleep while the party went on.

Sunday morning saw happy but sleepy faces at the brunch and slowly people packed up, said their good byes and left.


It is hard to describe the atmosphere throughout the weekend. There seemed to be a hum all through the event. Of course a wedding is about the couple, but it is also about Love in general, and about Community and the connections we have from person to person. We all seemed to be in this transformed state of being, lifted out of the ordinary and into a state of grace. This was an energy created by everyone present, held and channeled into the ceremony on Saturday. We feel blessed by all of you who came and helped to create this wonderful wedding for us. We will NEVER forget this day!


More photos can be seen on our flickr page – we’ll let you know the coordinates soon!

All love Ruth and Frank xxxxxxxxxxxx


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