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December 24, 2015

The simple joy of a REAL Christmas Tree

Decorated Christmas Tree - zoedawes

It’s the smell of pine that greets us every morning. It’s the irregular branches and chunky needles. It’s choosing the right Christmas Tree; about 6ft tall, chubby shape, dense boughs and a pointy top on which Father Christmas perches. It’s bundling it into the car and having to put down the seats to fit it in, getting them covered in needles. It’s leaving it outside in a bucket of (usually) freezing water overnight in the vain hope it might stop those needles dropping. It’s bringing its festive treeness into the house and setting it into its stand, wiggling it round to get the ‘right’ side facing out. (Because all Christmas Trees have a front and a back – didn’t you know?)

Christmas Tree bare branches - zoedawes

It’s testing the fairy lights from last year, discovering one set doesn’t work and the box with the spares has gone missing. It’s draping them around the Christmas Tree, finding they won’t quite reach all the way but another set is too much. And then deciding you can never have too many fairy lights. It’s opening up the old shoe boxes of decorations and immediately being taken back to Christmasses of childhood, when life was simple and oh so very exciting. It’s cherishing each decoration which tells a story of the person or place of which it’s a reminder.

Christmas knitted snowman

It’s placing the decorations just so, balancing them on branches at just the right height. It’s deciding that at this time of the year, more is more. It’s stepping back and seeing if the overall effect looks good, then tweaking things a bit to make it just perfect.

Gold Elvis Christmas decoration from Graceland - zoedawes

It’s turning on the lights and going ‘Ahhh yes’ as the doughty little tree comes to life for the next few weeks. It’s putting the presents under the tree on Christmas Eve. It’s playing Christmas songs and sharing the charming spectacle with friends and family. A real Christmas Tree brings childish pleasure at its simplest and most beautiful. I love it …

Christmas Tree angel - zoedawes

Merry Christmas, whether you have a real tree or not, whether you are at home or far away, with family, friends or on your own. May all your festive days be merry and bright ….

Christmas Tree fairy - zoedawes

December 15, 2015

Get into the festive spirit at Liverpool Christmas Market

Phoenix Christmas snowman

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas … With only a few days to go, there are festive decorations in every city, town and village throughout the country. Christmas cards keep landing on the mat; last night I spent a few happy hours writing cards to old friends and sticking stamps on envelopes. (Yes, I know e-cards are more environmentally friendly but I like the personal touch of a ‘real’ card, though I do send some e-cards to friends far away or if they send them to me.) A recent visit to Liverpool Christmas Market got us properly into the festive spirit.

Festive knitted figures - image zoedawes

John and I had gone to see our son, who started at Liverpool John Moores University in September. He seemed to be throwing himself into student life with serious dedication, managing to fit in lectures around hangovers and the gym, We had lunch at Almost Famous American-style burger joint, which serves great burgers, hot dogs, chicken wings and other cholesterol-raising delights in quirky surroundings.

Almost Famous buger bar mural Liverpool - photo zoedawes

Almost Famous mural

It’s over-priced IMO, charging extra for fries, serve what look like fairly insipid cocktails and they make a feature of cheap cutlery and kitchen roll. It was packed and Alex loved it, which is all that mattered.

Liverpool One Christmas - image John Bradley

Liverpool One Christmas – image John Bradley

Then it was shopping time. I’d visions of us wandering round Liverpool One, the flagship Shopping Mall, gazing in envy at the designer clothes and trying on potential Christmas Day frocks. But that was not to be; we spent most of the time in and out of charity shops and ‘Vintage’ outlets where Alex rifled through racks of clothes looking for bargain brand-names. He’s become very consumerist in a studenty kind of way!

Liverpool Christmas Market - image

Liverpool Christmas Market – image

Liverpool Christmas Market

Eventually John and I left him and had a look round Liverpool Christmas Market. It’s mainly along  Lord Street, Church Street, Paradise Street with some stalls centred around Williamson Square. There were the usual stalls selling Christmas decorations including quaint knitted figures, crystal baubles and every imaginable wooden item on which personal messages or names could be inscribed.

Christmas decorations - zoedawes

Christmas decorations

It was a very blustery, wet afternoon (precursor to devastating Storm Desmond as it turned out) and there weren’t too many people braving the weather. Those that were, made the most of the gluhwein, bratworst, gingerbread and other tasty treats on sale. Must admit, I am not a big fan of German sausage but they seemed very popular.

Bratwurst stall Liverpool Christmas Market - zoedawes

Bratwurst stall Liverpool

One of the more unusual things this Christmas is the Liverpool Snowflake Trail, where, according to Visit Liverpool, Jack Frost is transforming Liverpool city centre into a wintry wonderland of festive fun for young and old. Explore the city along his Snowflake Trail, and see Liverpool transformed by sparkling winterscapes, with familiar streets becoming swirling snowstorms of sound and light. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for the giant painted snowflakes scattered around and about! 

Liverpool Snowflake Trail

Snowflake Trail

There’s a map of the Trail and you can’t miss these colourful snowflakes, especially the enormous one in Williamson Square.

Liverpool SnowflakeTrail Map

Liverpool SnowflakeTrail Map


Festive Beer Hut Liverpool

Liverpool Beer Hut


Another quirky sight is the large cone decorated with pink and purple hearts. It’s actually a Beer Hut; inside there is a bar and all around are cosy little nooks which seat about six people. Not sure about the colour scheme but it’s definitely eye-catching! Not far away, there’s also an open-air Ice Rink which attracts wannabe Torvill and Deans through til January.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Liverpool without music and there were street performers on every corner. One guy, who looked remarkably like John Lennon, was playing a guitar and singing Beatles hits, but the one getting the most attention was a guy who turned himself into a ‘Human Transformer’ and danced around to hiphop. From almost every shop came the sound of Christmas songs and the whole atmosphere was festive and fun, in spite of the weather.

Liverpool Christmas Market - Rudolph's Rest - photo zoedawes

Rudolph’s Rest

I bought a couple of festive novelties, John debated having some Mulled Wine but gave it a miss as we had to meet Alex and get home. (If you’re going to make it yourself, then I can highly recommend Blue Moose Kitchen Mulled Wine Sachets. Add one to some decent wine – it knocks spots off the bottled versions!)

Mulled wine stall Liverpool Christmas Market - zoedawes

Mulled wine stall

It was lovely to spend some time wandering round Liverpool Christmas Market; hope you get to visit one over the festive season. If you like Christmas Markets then you’ll also enjoy The festive sparkle of Manchester Christmas Market 🙂

March 9, 2015

Cheerful ‘Chalandamarz’ festival in St Moritz

The sound of children’s laughter ricochets along the road as round the corner comes a long processions of tiny tots, youngsters and teenagers, brightly dressed in colourful traditional Swiss costumes.

Chalandamarz youngster St Moritz - image Zoe Dawes

Chalandamarz youngster in St Moritz

They pass by arm-in-arm, wearing their outfits with pride, delight and some looking slightly sheepish. The sun shines over the chic town of St Moritz, melting the snow and bringing a cheery glow to the proceedings. It’s March 1st and the ‘Chalandamarz’ festival is in full swing.

Chalandamarz children procession St Moritz - image Zoe Dawes

Chalandamarz children

Behind them a sleek figure heads off towards the famous Cresta Run and Olympic Bob Run on the edge of town. ‘Cresta Rider’ by David Wynne is a life-size bronze sculpture of a skeleton rider. It was a gift to from St. Moritz Tobogganing Club to the municipality on the club's centenary celebrations in 1985.

Cresta Rider by David Wynne St Moritz - image Zoe Dawes

‘Cresta Rider’ by David Wynne

Chalandamarz is an alpine Swiss tradition to banish winter and is the largest children’s festival in the region. It’s celebrated in the Engadine Valley and other areas including val Mustair, Oberhalbstein and Bregaglia. Many of the boys and some of the girls carry big bells which they ring with great enthusiasm, to encourage the grass to grow better.

Chalandamarz procession in St Moritz

Chalandamarz procession in St Moritz – image Zoe Dawes

Red and blue predominate, with flower-bedecked hats, embroidered dresses and jackets and an eclectic mix of footwear adding to the rainbow effect of the procession. The older boys wear red braces and lederhosen. Parents, family, friends, locals and tourists clap as they pass, taking photos and cheering them on.

Chalandamarz - children's procession in St Moritz - image Zoe Dawes

Chalandamarz children’s procession

The Chalandamarz procession winds down the hill into St Moritz town centre, where hundreds of people are waiting to see them arrive. Some stand on chairs to get a better view. This is Switzerland and there is a mood of good-natured polite anticipation all around.

Chalandamarz crowds St Moritz - image Zoe Dawes

Chalandamarz crowds in St Moritz Square

As the children enter the square, there’s a burst of applause and everyone starts singing a song; maybe something to welcome the spring and end of winter’s grip. Little ones are popped up on shoulders to get a better view.

Little boy Chalandamarz St Moritz - image Zoe Dawes

Little boy watching Chalandamarz

Once the procession has passed through, everyone starts to disperse. St Moritz streets are crowded with happy people in beautiful clothes, making a charming juxtaposition with the traditional architecture and uber-fashionable shops, hotels and bars.

St Moritz ladies - Chalandamarz festival - image Zoe Dawes

St Moritz women in tradtional dress

December 23, 2014

‘Twas the Night before Christmas …’ a magical festive poem

'The Night Before Christmas' Grandreams pop-up book
'The Night Before Christmas' Grandreams pop-up book

‘The Night Before Christmas’ Grandreams pop-up book

I can still remember the simple joy of reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ to my six-month old son as he lay in his cot on Christmas Eve. His bedroom, decorated with ‘Winnie the Pooh’ and Beatrix Potter figures, was dimly lit and cosy. His Dad was downstairs wrapping presents and the smell of freshly baked mince pies drifted up the stairs. Alex was getting sleepy and had no idea what this time of year meant. But I did. We’d been given the greatest gift on earth; a baby to love and cherish. It was 1997 and I’d bought Grandreams Mini Pop-up Storybooks for his very first Christmas. There were six delightful little festive tales beautifully illustrated with cut-out pop-ups. One of them was the famous poem‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’.  

'Twas the night before Christmas'  poem by Clement C Moore 19th C image America

‘Twas the night before Christmas’

It was originally published anonymously in 1823 as ‘A Visit from St Nicholas’ and a number of people claimed authorship  but in 1837 it was attributed to American poet Clement Clarke Moore, though its author has never been definitively identified. According to legend,  the poem was composed by Moore on a snowy winter’s day during a shopping trip on a sleigh. His inspiration for the character of Saint Nicholas was a local Dutch handyman as well as the historical Saint Nicholas. Here we meet Father Christmas (St Nicholas) with his cheery face and portly figure, bag of toys and reindeer-drawn sleigh. Reindeer Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder and Blitzen – but no Rudolph yet.

It is now a Christmas classic and has been reprinted hundreds of times, set to music and recorded by many. It has become a tradition around the globe to read this poem on Christmas Eve, sending children to sleep with visions of toy-filled stockings and the exciting day to come.


by Clement Clarke Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

Twas the night before Christmas - by Clement C Moore

‘Twas the Night before Christmas …’

My son is now a big teenager but at some point on Christmas Eve, we’ll find 5 minutes to read this poem from the same book, as we have done every year since 1997. Maybe one day he’ll have his own child to carry on this lovely tradition shared with children all over the world …

November 15, 2014

Celebrating Lakes Culture – an arts initiative for the Lake District

“Why do you visit the Lake District?”  When asked that question, there are a variety of responses, the most common being to walk, enjoy the scenery, eat good food, stay in a lovely hotel, have a break from work, escape the city, climb, swim, get a decent pint. What you’ll seldom hear, is “go to a museum, see a play, visit an art gallery”, yet the Lake District is a cultural treasure trove. From contemporary art galleries, via stunning outdoor sculptures, vibrant theatre, superb live entertainment, architecturally fascinating buildings and stunning photographic exhibitions there is something to satisfy even the most demanding of culture vultures.

Blackwell Arts and Crafts Dining Room - Lake District, Cumbria

Blackwell Arts and Crafts House

In a recent article in the Westmorland Gazette, I described seeing film and TV star Stephen Mangan at the Brewery Arts Centre and then wrote, “That’s the great thing about living up here.  Sooner or later, the world comes to our door …  In the past few years I’ve heard Melvin Bragg talk on Cumbrian history at Theatre by the Lake, laughed at Ed Byrne’s caustic wit, tried to love priceless Lucian Freud paintings and revelled in Barbara Hepworth sculpture at Abbot Hall Gallery, interviewed Sir Chris Bonington in his Cumbria home about his mountain adventures, admired Charles Rennie Mackintosh designs at Blackwell, cried as the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra played Brahms, danced to Chuck Berry at Maryport Blues Festival and had a myriad of world-class experiences, as well as enjoying our local attractions.”

Galleries in the Lake District

Galleries in the Lake District

However, many visitors to the Lake District are unaware of what exciting and varied cultural adventures there are to be had in Cumbria, especially if climbing to the top of a mountain is not your thing. Fortunately, that is about to change. Thanks to £324,000 Cultural Destinations funding from the Arts Council and Visit England,  a new project, Lakes Culture, will showcase the rich creative life that exists in this inspiring landscape.

Richard Foster, Chief Executive of the Brewery Arts Centre, one of the leading organisations in this project, was quoted in the Westmorland Gazette, “Our ambition is to establish the Lake District as the UK’s leading rural cultural destination.”

Sonnets - Loch Shiel by Alex Boyd Photography - Brewery Arts Centre Kendal

Sonnets – Loch Shiel by Alex Boyd – Photography Exhibition at Brewery Arts Centre

I recently spoke to Usha Mistry, Lakes Culture project manager. “We want people to see the Lake District from a different perspective. The project, which has just launched its first events with Autumn Arts, aims to bring together the area’s tourism and cultural sectors to better promote the wealth of cultural activities on offer, from exhibitions to performances to experiences, to our local, domestic and international visitors.”

Guardian of Areng - Grizedale Arts

Guardians of the Areng Valley – Grizedale Forest

Chart-topping local band British Sea Power kicked off the festivities with a sell-out performance at new venue ‘The Factory’, in Kendal.  In Grizedale the Forestry Commission is showcasing an award-wining photography exhibition ‘Guardians of the Areng Valley’ from November 15th. Visitors can walk among the trees to see stunning images of the Cardamon Forest in Cambodia taken by British photographer Luke DugglebyLakes Culture has also sponsored a live theatre, film and audio event to take place on November 21st at the award winning Kendal Mountain Festival.

Kendal Mountain Festival at Brewery Arts Centre

Kendal Mountain Festival at Brewery Arts Centre

Richard Greenwood of Cumbria Tourism says, “The Lakes Culture Autumn Arts programme will be a wonderful showcase of what is going on in the Lake District arts and cultural scene, and it complements the already existing rich cultural calendar that we have through the year.”

The Nuisance of Landscape: Grizedale - The Sequel

The Nuisance of Landscape: Grizedale – The Sequel

Grizedale Arts is collaborating with Abbot Hall in Kendal with a major exhibition, The Nuisance of Landscape: Grizedale – The Sequel, looking back on Grizedale’s at times controversial yet always thought-provoking artistic history. Abbot Hall is also temporary home to Marcus Coates quirky Anchorhold – part sculpture, part architecture. I talked to a number of locals connected with culture in various ways, including some actually INSIDE Anchorhold. I’ll let you know what they have to say very soon.

Anchorhold by Marcus Coates at Abbot Hall, Kendal - Lakes Culture

Anchorhold by Marcus Coates at Abbot Hall

As you know, I am passionate about culture and the arts so it’s extremely encouraging to see a significant amount of money being invested in this area. Let’s hope ‘Lakes Culture’ achieves its objective and really puts the Lake District on the international cultural tourism map.

For more details visit Go Lakes Arts and Culture. Follow @Lakesculture on Twitter and #lakesculture for latest info.

September 6, 2014

5 reasons why Blogstock, the world’s first blogging festival, was such fun

“Start your blog post with a really catchy opener. In the easily-distracted world of online communication, if you’ve not got your reader’s attention within the first few seconds, you may as well not bother to write the rest of the article.” A top tip for aspiring bloggers – and one that is made to be flouted … Another is to “have a catchy title, which engages but also helps with SEO if that’s your thing.”  Well, the title may not be catchy but you get the point.

Blogstock Blogging festival in Elstree, England

Assuming you have taken the trouble to get this far (avoid procrastination and waffly sentences – flout, flout) here are 5 reasons why I thought Traverse’s Blogstock, the world’s first blogging festival held in August 2014, was such fun.

1. It rained

Blogstock in the rain

It poured down. Torrential rain, monsoon-like rain, which went on all Friday evening and through the night. This was my first festival (yes, some things just take a long time to get round to) and I wanted to have the full festival experience and an opportunity to wear my natty spotty wellies. Of course it was definitely NOT fun for those in the flimsy tents who got flooded out, but us lucky few who were in the beautiful bell-tents provided by sponsor Hertz, were dry as the Sahara desert and able to luxuriate in our lovely camping accommodation.

Blogstock Hertz luxury tent

AND the great guys from event organisers Traverse very kindly laid on free drinks when it rained which was jolly sporting of them.

2. The sun shone

Blogstock Pinterest Breakfast talk

Pinterest Breakfast talk

Saturday morning, the main day of the festival, dawned dry and sunny and the weather was fine all day. This was great for all the participants, speakers, sponsors and organisers because it meant we could all really enjoy the event.  Some of us kicked off the day with a breakfast talk from Pinterest, which was extremely informative. There were four areas for talks on blogging; the Marquee, Tipi, Debate Tent and Fashion Galleries Tent and they were all fully used throughout the festival.

Stay Calm and Eat Ice Cream - at Blogstock

Stay Calm and Eat Ice Cream

But it was mainly fun in the sun because we could lounge about on the deckchairs, have a go on the coconut shy, bounce on the castle, zoom around the go-cart track, try on fancy dress and eat ice-cream.

3. Caught up with old friends and made new ones

Kathryn, Heather and Zoe at Blogstock

Kathryn, Heather and Zoe

The world of blogging is relatively small still, though growing very fast. It really was fun to catch up with (relatively) old friends and fellow travel writers like Andy Jarosz, Alastair McKenzie and Steve Keenan plus fellow Travelator Media mates, Kathryn Burrington and Heather Cowper. But it was even more fun to put names to faces from Twitter and meeting new people. Blogstock featured talks from bloggers across a number of different sectors including food, lifestyle, video, fashion, photography and travel; the mix made for a dynamic and vibrant atmosphere. Great to finally meet quirkilicious Reeree Rockette and see how Sarah Andrews is now following her heart with The Fashion Galleries.

4.  Learnt loads and shared blogging tips

Cook Sister Food Photography tips Blogstock

Cook Sister Food Photography tips

The diversity of topics and speakers was really enticing. Jeanne Horak-Druiff Cook Sister gave some practical advice on food photography whilst Niamh Shields Eat like a Girl‘ shared tips on writing a food blog. There were times when I was really torn … ‘How to get the most from your smart phone’ vs ‘Improving your writing skills’? ‘Getting noticed by travel brands’ or the ‘Blogging Debate’? I gave a talk called ‘So you want to be a travel blogger?‘ where I shared some learning from the past 5 years of travel blogging, including just how difficult it is to make a living from it!

The Quirky Traveller at Blogstock

So You Want to be a Travel Blogger?

Sitting cross-legged on the floor in the (very hot) Tipi with a young, enthusiastic audience felt very ‘festival’ and fun – though trying to get up afterwards wasn’t …

5. Everyone enjoyed themselves

Blogstock 2014

Blogstock 2014

Well, of course I can’t speak for EVERYONE but the general consensus was that the world’s first blogging festival was a roaring success.  The sponsors all contributed to making it extra special and the organisers all went out of their way to cope with the weather and the complex arrangements that an event like this entails. One of the best things about Blogstock was meeting other bloggers from around Europe, not just travel but many different niches and being able to share ideas, get re-inspired and just chill out with like-minded folk.

Future of blogging Blogstock

Blogstock – the future

The final debate was on the future of blogging, which concluded that it’s not clear but looks positive. No-one can really tell where online communication and social media are heading but one things for sure. Blogstock 2014 was a huge success and hopefully there’ll be another one next year and maybe you can try it for yourself.

Oh yes, there’s a 6th reason I loved Blogstock – our team won the ‘Pub Quiz’ and we got to share a bottle of bubbly 🙂

You can watch the rain fall and sun shine on this video …

I used my brand new Millican weekend bag – he’s called Harry the Gladstone Bag and is a great companion to Mark the Courier Bag. Both stood up to the variable weather and the huge amount of kit I had to take – a blogger needs a lot of ‘stuff’!

Home of Millican - Mark the Courier Bag and Harry the Gladstone bag at Blogstock

A big thank to sponsor Hertz UK, who not only provided the very luxurious VIP tents but also a hire car for me to get down to the festival from the wilds of north west England.

Hertz UK car hire

Hertz UK 

Thanks to Traverse Events for inviting me – you can find out more about Traverse Events Traverse Events here.

January 11, 2014

5 reasons to enjoy the Fiesta dels Tres Tombs in Barcelona

Spanish fiestas and cavalcades are amongst the most amazing in the world and one of their most incredible to watch is the Fiesta del Tres Tombs de Sant Antoni which takes place annually in Barcelona. In 2014 it’s on 25th January .

Horse drawn carriages at Fiesta dels Tombs, Barcelona by Vilanova i la Geltrú

Horse drawn carriages Рby Vilanova i la Geltr̼

If you fancy an early holiday and want something interested to do, check out the Tombs.  As you would probably expect, flights to Spain are easy to find, you only have to go online to give yourself an idea of the prices.  Sites such as First Choice and SkyScanner are good bets.

Tombs doesn't mean grave in Catalan!

Don’t expect three coffins or visiting three graves when you attend this parade. ‘Tres Tombs' means three tours, from the old idea of actually doing the same route three times in quick succession. The St Anthony ‘Cavalcada’ in Barcelona doesn't actually do this anymore, but the route is a long one and gives everyone plenty of time to see it as it moves through the city.

Tres Tombs 2013

Fiesta dels Tres Tombs 2013

So you don’t miss a moment, make sure you are at the junction of Cami de Calabria and Cami de Floridablanca at 11 in the morning to see the parade start off, but anywhere along the route (the parade ends at Placa de Sant Miguel) will give you a great view.

A museum on the move

Fiesta dels Tres Tombs - photo by Vilanova i la Geltrú

Fiesta dels Tres Tombs Рphoto by Vilanova i la Geltr̼

You don’t need to go to the museum on the day of Fiesta dels Tres Tombs because the floats and carriages are an exhibit in themselves, with fire-engines, drays and ox-carts. There are often also horse-drawn hearses, the only thing to remind you of the English meaning of the word tomb! Because this is Spain, there will also be riders, and watch out for the amazing stunts they manage to pull off in the crowded streets.

 One for the animal lovers

Dog cart at Fiesta dels Tres Tombs Barcelona - by ferran pestaña

Dog cart Рphoto by ferran pesta̱a

Part of the parade of Tres Tombs in Barcelona involves a lovely moment when the priest from La Escola Pia de Sant Antoni comes out and blesses all the animals as they pass by sprinkling holy water over them. After the parade has passed by people come to the priest with their small pets and you will see hamsters, rats and birds all being blessed along with the perhaps more to be expected dogs and cats.

Living history

St Anthony - by Vilanova i la Geltrú - Fiesta dels Tres Tombs, Barcelona

St Anthony Рphoto by Vilanova i la Geltr̼

Not only are the floats in the carnival old and interesting but so is the symbolism. The blessing of the animals derives from St Anthony the Abbot who is the patron saint of all animals, as well as the poor and the sick. The Knights Hospitaller adopted him as their patron saint because of their work with the sick and he is prayed to by anyone who is worried about someone's health or who needs comfort in distress.

Follow it into the villages

Fiesta dels Tres Tombs, Catalonai Spain - lluriPhoto

Fiesta dels Tres Tombs – photo by lluriPhoto

The whole of Catalonia celebrates St Anthony's day with fiestas and if you can get out to the village of Valls you will love their procession – the place isn't very big and the whole area is given over to it. There is another Tres Tombs parade in Barcelona in the same week if you miss the Sant Antoni one – Sant Andreu has his own, in the area named after him. There are also other events such as fire runs and the usual theatre, concerts and dancing.

This post is in association with First Choice

Read about the wonderful Menorcan Horse and the island fiestas here.