Some aromas just make you smile.
For me it’s the scent of hot pine needles which remind me of hiking through sun dappled forests; freshly mown grass which conjures up camping trips to Cornwall, the Lake District and Wales; candyfloss and toffee apples which transport me back to childhood fairgrounds and …toasted grass seeds. No, not the sort you smoke (though come to think of it that should be on the list too), but the sort that the Alfombristas (carpet makers) of La Orotava use to outline, silhouette, create shadow and background to their floral masterpieces during the Feast of Corpus Christi.
Yesterday we arrived in the Baroque town of La Orotava which lies in the valley of the same name above the northwest coast of Tenerife at about 11am.
Sweating in the already hot sun as we laboured up the cartoon-sized incline of the cobbled streets, the aroma of toasted grass seeds assailed my nostrils and a broad smile crossed my lips.
I remembered spending last year here with Pamela from Secret Tenerife and her friend José ‘Mataparda’; wandering endlessly around the burgeoning carpets, drinking beer outside a Guachinche and eating carne machada arepas at an arepera near the bus station…happy days.
As we made our way towards the Ayuntamiento where the main sand and soil tapestry occupies the plaza, some of the flower carpets in the surrounding streets were already well underway whereas others had barely begun. It’s one of the great joys of the day, wandering in a continuous circuit of the carpets watching as they take shape and form, transforming before your very eyes from ‘do you know what it is yet?’ status to ‘ah! It’s the La Orotava skyline at sunset’.
It took us almost two hours to do one circuit and to go up to the balcony of the Ayuntamiento from where we could photograph the main tapestry. While there, we noticed that there were people on the roof of the church of La Concepción and we headed that way to try our luck.
Eagle eyed Jack spotted ‘Mataparda’at a small balcony half way up the tower and we went inside to meet him. José took us up the narrow winding staircase of the tower to the window we’d seen him from and Jack took some photos before we continued towards the roof.
Just as it seemed we were about to have La Orotava at our feet we were stopped in our tracks by a trainee jobsworth who insisted that no-one else could go onto the roof as last night’s rain had left the surface too slippery and dangerous. We retreated back to ground level where we were joined by Colin (easy to spot with his blonde hair and ubiquitous CD Tenerife football top).
By the time we got back out into the sun it was definitely lunch time and we headed to the little Gauchinche by the side of the Town Hall where José treated us to beer and pinchos. Another perfect day and one which ought to be on the ‘must see’ list of every respectable traveller.
I’ll let the carpets speak for themselves and I’ll consign the smell of toasted grass seeds to memory for another year.