Surprises

Life is full of little surprises, isn’t it? Take for instance the latest visitor to join the kiwi feeding frenzy. We are quite used to the frantic comings and goings of many species of bird but . . . a polecat? We don’t have a zoom lens and it is very camouflaged but if you look carefully inside the blue circle, you can just see the streak of dark fur that is the cheeky creature tucking in. It certainly didn’t hold back on filling its boots and I have to say, the blackbirds were somewhat humbled by its presence!

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The kiwi vine itself came as a surprise to a group of hikers who passed by last weekend, so much so that they stopped to take photos of it. They were walking part of the Camino de Santiago; strictly speaking, the Camino doesn’t pass our house but at this time of year when the mountain springs and streams are in full fury, it makes more sense to follow the mountain road and come down our lane than squelch down the actual path. The walkers were a jolly bunch and, enjoying the bird’s eye view we have of the village, they asked if I could point out the palace. Palace? Palace????? Um, no . . . I didn’t realise there was a palace here. Their walking guide definitely made reference to it, it would have to be a very large building; well, the largest building I could think of is a huge farm building at the bottom of our lane, not in the village but tucked out of sight around the corner – asbestos-roofed, a jumble of cattle sheds and really not very palatial at all. That surely couldn’t be what they were looking for.

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I didn’t feel I had been any help whatsoever but the walkers didn’t seem to mind, pausing to take a few photos of my birthday tulips before carrying on their merry way. My interest piqued, I decided to do a little internet detective work and blow me if the mighty cowshed really was once the Palacio del Marques de Reyes. Good grief! I’m not sure what the Marques would think of his former glorious residence now housing the young stock of a dairy farmer from the next village but I had certainly learned something new and interesting. In the photo below you can see just how close the ‘palace’ is to our house. Time to look at things with fresh eyes again, I think.

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This all served to remind me of two things. First, we still have much to learn about the immediate area and second, it’s been quite a while since we had one of our jaunts out exploring further afield (usually to soften the need to visit a supermarket). What with a big push on the house renovation, several UK trips and a bout of wintry weather, we haven’t had the time or the inclination. We are very happy at home on the mountain – it is nothing for the car to go nowhere for ten days or more – but sometimes a change of scene is welcome and this week offered a couple of good opportunities. We needed to go to Luarca to order new tyres and decided to use it as a bit of a recce trip for a day out when Sam and Adrienne visit again in May. (As a complete aside, I remember the very first time we went to the garage shortly after moving here and how terrified I was at having to speak Spanish. In fact, my Spanish was so appalling I ended up speaking with the service manager in French at his suggestion! No such problems now; no hint of nerves, everything done confidently in Spanish and even a couple of jokes, too. That must be progress 🙂 ). Anyway, tyres ordered, we headed to the nearby village of Busto. We enjoyed a good walk from here last year around the wild headland but this time we were on the hunt for a cake shop where a young Spanish patissier is making quite a name for himself locally. We aren’t really cake people but having enjoyed a slice of one of his amazing creations at a neighbour’s birthday tea recently, we think Sam and Adrienne might both enjoy a (late) birthday treat. The shop was a cinch to find, it’s in a pretty house painted in bright colours and looks very inviting; we just need to remember not to go on a Sunday as apparently the queue disappears off down the street! Pasteleria Cabo Busto

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Cakes organised, the next thing we needed was a plan for somewhere to eat them and so we headed a few kilometres along the coast to the attractive village of Cadavedo. A short distance from the village is a lovely beach set in a cove, obviously a popular spot in summer.

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On the soaring, vertiginous clifftops above we could see the Ermita de la Regalina so decided to head up there to explore. Here was the perfect place for a contemplative cake stop, such a quiet, peaceful place, the hermitage all pretty in blue and white, spectacular coastal views and a splendid horreo: quintessential Asturias, indeed!

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Even better, we found that we could pick up the coast path there so decided to have a bit of a wander and explore. For the first day of spring it was a bit chilly, although bursts of sunlight had me playing ‘hat on, hat off’ throughout the walk. Despite the cold wind, the air was soft and full of the sweet coconut scent of gorse and flitting black redstarts accompanied us all the way. Fantastic. There we are, a lovely, local day out planned for May – by which time it should be much, much warmer!

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The following day we had to go back to the garage to have the tyres fitted so decided to combine that with the dreaded supermarket visit. As the weather forecast was for wall-to -wall sunshine for the first time in days, a picnic seemed like a good plan so we packed food and flask and headed west. We had only made it to the next village when I spotted a swallow sitting on the wires. Hooray, the little beauties are back – something that always gladdens my heart! No swallows at the picnic site we found along the coast, but there were carpets of sweet violets, the air was heady with sun-warmed eucalyptus and bumble bees and we had a gorgeous view over Playa de Pormenande. Next, it was on to explore Viavélez, a typically pretty Asturian fishing village with higgledy-piggeldy white houses, breathtakingly narrow streets and a working harbour.

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It’s a real little gem and once again, the coast path passes through so there are opportunities for some great walking.

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Wherever the rest of my life leads, there are two things that will always bring me straight back to Asturias: the spicy scent of eucalyptus and the vivid blues and greens of the landscape, so intense that at times they hardly seem real. I find myself totally absorbed in the beauty (and look , no hat – it was definitely feeling warmer!).

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By the time we returned home, it was so warm in fact that we had stripped down to t-shirts. The garden was abuzz with insects, the robins and blackcaps had doubled their volume and so many flowers had opened in full bloom; it was almost as if everything – including us – was turning faces to the warmth of the sun in a grateful salutation.

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There was nothing for it but to sit in the evening sunshine and toast the arrival of spring; a couple of days late, maybe, but very welcome nonetheless. ¡Salud!

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8 thoughts on “Surprises

    • Yes, indeed! We have seen a couple of males fighting just outside the house and I know they are a bit of a nightmare for our chicken-keeping neighbours, but it was a fascinating thing to watch. I particularly loved the fact that, once replete, it plucked a huge kiwi from the vine and carried it away. Nothing like having a handy snack to hand, is there? 😉

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      • It’s all in the eye of the beholder – for us Trotter is a delightful thing; tame enough to meander round the yard even in daytime, letting us see her fairly often. Last summer our neighbour complained to Pekka that a fox had taken one of her chickens. Pekka told he felt like retorting, “Why blame a poor fox for your mismanagement – you let your chickens roam free even on the road; it’s really an invitation engraved in stone!”

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      • I couldn’t agree more. We kept chickens for over 20 years without losing a single on. They roamed freely all day but were tucked up securely on dusk without fail and a border collie on patrol all day helped to keep them safe. I never quite got my head round a neighbour who went out lamping foxes because they killed chickens . . . not that he had any himself, of course!

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  1. I was half expecting the palace to have been your house! I hope the cows appreciate their surroundings. Did you sell any kiwi fruit to the pilgrims? Maybe you should have table with an honesty box. I still think you should get a dehydrator and dry the kiwis in slices. Wonderful that the swallows are back. They should probably wait a bit before continuing northwards, another cold spell is forecast. Lovely countryside for walks there – enjoy! We’re planning a little excursion ourselves on Sunday, to a restored peat bog of all places.

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    • Ha ha, no way in anybody’s imagination was this ever a palace! A cowshed, maybe!!!!! 🙂 We’ve played around with drying kiwis but quite honestly, we’ve been picking them fresh since November and still have 200 stored in the horreo so there doesn’t seem a lot of point (although I’m told dried kiwi is delicious). So good to be out and about again, enjoy your excursion – a restored peat bog sounds perfect!

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