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Archive for December, 2008

It seems that, despite the economic gloom and the pound’s freefall, 3 million Brits will still be escaping the cold and heading overseas for some sadly missed sunshine this Christmas. As always, according to ABTA, Tenerife will be one of the most popular destinations for them.
Unfortunately, as Secret Tenerife reports, Tenerife has just had its coldest autumn for 15 years and is about to have its coldest winter in years too.

A sun soaked Tenerife beach

A sun soaked Tenerife beach

Of course, it’s all a matter of what you’re used to. When the thermometer drops below 22°C here, all the locals and ex pats don their woolly sweaters, socks and boots and look askance at the visitors in their shorts and T shirts. The visitors in turn, think the locals are ‘loco’. But one thing that makes more of a difference than anything is the appearance, or not, of the sun and for the past month or so, Tenerife has been decidedly low on its usual quota of sunshine.

After the appalling summer in Britain this year, your heart has to go out to people who have recently come to Tenerife in search of R&R with a tan and are finding as many cloudy days as sunny ones.
It’s a perennial worry for holiday makers and one which pre-occupies them in the run up to their one or two hard earned weeks.

But for those of us who live here, short spells of bad weather are never a problem, we know the sun will be back and we’ll still be here to see it when it does, a fact that brought many of us to Tenerife in the first place.

2009 is just around the corner, time to resolve to do things differently or in some way improve your life in the coming year. Well, for all of you who, like us, decide that it’s time to leave the bad weather, the ailing pound and the stress of trying to keep your head above water in rip-off Britain and head to Tenerife’s (normally) sun kissed shores, here are a few pointers that will help you to get the best possible start to your new life:

Firstly, you’ll need a copy of ‘Tenerife Lifeline’. This book tells you all you need to know about creating a home, working, taxes, health, education, the law and government. I only wish it had been available when we were planning our move out here, it would have made life very much easier.
Secondly, you’ll need a reliable Estate Agent, one who can offer advice and information as well as a portfolio of properties. Horizon Property Group is the largest independent estate agent in the Canary Islands and will hand-hold you through the whole process.

Thirdly, you’ll need ‘Going Native in Tenerife’ to give you the full low down on all the main towns and villages on the island, the culture, the fiestas, the food, the shopping and tales from other ex-pats of their Tenerife experiences.
Finally, you’ll need to stay in touch with everyday life on ‘the reef’ by keeping up to date with the island’s best English language websites:
Secret Tenerife – wit and wisdom on everything Tinerfeño
Etenerife – holidays, business and life in the south of the island all wrapped up MyTenerifeinfo – location reports, golf, nightlife, hotel and restaurant reviews
Canary Green – how green is our island?
and of course Real Tenerife Island Drives which takes you away from the usual resorts and shows you the ‘real’ Tenerife.

Here’s to 2009 and your new life in the sun!

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We’ve had a bottle of cava ‘chilling’ for months now and we still haven’t popped it to celebrate our book deal. Anyone would think it was a bottle of Krug Clos du Mesnil 1995 Champagne ($750 per bottle) which might go some way to explaining the dithering. But no, this is a bottle of Valle de Juy Cava; €2.30 a bottle at Al Campo.
So why the delay?

Well, to begin with, back in July when we were first offered the deal is probably when we should have opened it but then we thought; “let’s wait until we get the contract just in case anything goes wrong; many a slip twixt cup and all that.” So we waited.

The contract arrived and we thought; “we’ll sign it and send their copy back and when they receive it, that’s when we’ll crack the cava.” So we waited.

For some reason the contract got mislaid in the postal system and it was several weeks before the publisher acknowledged receipt of it, by which time we’d already started drafting the book. So we thought; “OK, we’ll open it when we finish writing the book.” And we waited.

We submitted our first draft at the end of October and waited with bated breath to hear if it would be accepted or if it needed more work. Word came quickly that the book was considered “really excellent” by the publisher. Unfortunately, along with the acceptance was a long list of additional things that we needed to produce; a biography, author photos, testimonials etc. so there wasn’t a clear cut ‘finished’ point.
We dutifully provided everything on the publisher’s list and then said; ”That’s it. The moment this baby gets to print, the cork’s coming out of that cava before it turns to vinegar.” But then the typeset text arrived for proof-reading, and then the cover, and then finally, we were told it was at the printers.

By this time, we’d decided the cava was getting opened on Saturday night and hang the consequences. Unfortunately, we had a ‘difference of opinion’ on the way to watch the match and then, as we only managed a draw, we decided we weren’t really in the mood to drink the stuff.

So, as I sit here writing, four and a half months later, the cava is still in its virgin state in the fridge, chilled enough to burn your fingertips at the touch.

Going Native in Tenerife is now on sale at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and in e book form at Book Shaker.com and as long as nothing untoward happens in the next 5 hours, that damn cava is getting opened tonight.

I don’t know what it is about us that drives us to work so hard and yet prevents us from celebrating our successes, something which we both know from our former lives as executives is absolutely paramount to maintaining morale and recognizing good work.

It’s time to re-learn some of our management wisdom; from here on in corks are going to pop on cava bottles at the least excuse.

Then again, perhaps we should wait until we get our first sale…

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A ‘discussion’ has been raging on the Tenerife Forum on the subject of “Do you think that Tenerife is nothing without the sun?”
It seems that the recent cold (circa 20-22°C) and cloudy weather we’ve been experiencing across the island has forced Tenerife’s ‘fair weather friends’ to show their true colours. Faced with the prospect of a day where they can’t just lie around the pool in their hotel complex, people are actually angry about the lack of sun and threatening to holiday elsewhere in future.

A perfect sabina tree

A perfect 'sabina' tree

Meanwhile, away from the pleasure dome of the south resorts, I went to a Bonsai exhibition in Puerto de la Cruz yesterday. This was two ‘firsts’ for me; I’ve never seen a Bonsai exhibition before and, despite having lived here for over 5 years, have never been to the ex-Convento de Santo Domingo where it was being held.
Circling a beautiful traditional Canarian courtyard with its wooden, carved closed balcony, were placed about 50 Bonsai exhibits in exquisite containers.
There were formal and informal uprights, slantings and cascades. The perfect symmetry of the branches or the sensuous curves of the trunks were indeed things of beauty. I’ve never really looked at Bonsai trees before and therefore have never really appreciated the skill and patience that must go into their creation. I was amazed at the feeling of wellbeing I got from looking at some of them, as if they were giving off a gentle karma and I found myself grinning like a fool as I worked my way around the courtyard.

I left the ex-Convento de Santo Domingo and headed to Casa Ventoso to see the exhibition of belénes (nativity scenes) currently on display there. I was disappointed, if not amused, at the exhibits in the outer courtyard which seemed to consist of a great number of artificial hens and eggs, mannequins draped in plastic robes and toy ducks floating on a pond. But then my eye was caught by several rooms off the courtyard and further exploration revealed a whole series of intricately designed belénes featuring scale models of life in Bethlehem at the birth of Christ.

Juggler, clown, uni-cyclist and all round nice guy at the Festival de Los Cuentos in Los Silos

Juggler, clown, uni-cyclist and all round nice guy at the Festival de Los Cuentos in Los Silos

They all had the ubiquitous Wise Men, the angel appearing to shepherds and of course Mary and Joseph and the holy infant in a barn with cattle and a donkey, but they each had their own characteristics of what surrounded the main characters. A desert landscape in which the tiny village of Bethlehem is set and the rhythms of the daily lives of those who live there are carried out in multiple moving parts. But there was something here that I’ve never seen in belénes before. On several of the models, day turned to night and fires and lanterns burned beneath a star studded sky. After a minute or so, daybreak began, accompanied by the sound of a cockerel crowing before once again, the sun rose and life began to stir in the little village.
By now, my grin was fixed.

Earlier in the day we’d taken a trip to Los Silos to see their lovely Festival de Los Cuentos, the festival of stories, where we’d watched storytellers and clowns hold groups of youngsters enthralled. There was singing and uni-cycle riding, story telling and juggling, book fairs, jewellery stalls and an assortment of delicious food stalls all set in the beautiful little plaza of this charming village.

The hard to ignore, giant, green Big Wheel at Puertos annual fair

The hard to ignore, giant, green Big Wheel at Puerto's annual fair

As we walked back through the busy funfair at Puerto where the giant green Ferris wheel was catching the last of the sun’s rays, I found myself hoping that all those who claimed there was nothing to do on Tenerife when the sun didn’t shine would find their Little Britain abroad where the sun shone in a cloudless blue sky for 365 days a year, where the bars had TV sports coverage, where everyone spoke English and lager was €1 a pint and I hoped once they’d found it they would stay there, and leave the real Tenerife to the rest of us.

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The neon street temperatures may have fallen to 20° C and the sock box may have been retrieved from underneath the bed where it lives for a good eight months of the year, but autumn in the north of Tenerife brings more than adequate compensation for the official end to long summer days.

The Jackass antics of riding the boards in Icod de los Vinos

The Jackass antics of riding the boards in Icod de los Vinos

Not least, November brings the year’s new wine harvest, reason enough on its own for a fiesta, but throw in to the mix the happy chronological co-incidence of the celebration of Saint Andrew’s Day (fiesta de San Andrés) and you’ve got all the excuses you need for a very merry affair indeed.

On Saturday afternoon we headed up to Icod de los Vinos on Tenerife’s north coast to watch how their youth like to celebrate this time of year.
First they take their town’s tradition of rolling wine barrels down its impossibly steep streets on wooden boards pulled by oxen, then they add a little Jackass element and what they come up with is ‘arrastre de las tablas’ or riding the boards. From the top of Calle del Plano (the sort of street that sends a small cramp to the calves at the mere sight of it) teenage lads sit on waxed, wooden trays and career down at breakneck speed, negotiating a small undulation at the halfway mark that bounces the tray off the road’s surface and sends it ever faster towards a heap of old tyres at the bottom of the street.

The only brakes are a pile of old tyres; its like the crash test dummies Tenerife style!

The only brakes are a pile of old tyres; it's like the crash test dummies Tenerife style!

It’s addictively good fun to watch, particularly as the afternoon progresses and the town’s daredevils take to their boards, resolutely refusing to attempt any slow down before smashing into the tyres, travelling several feet into the air and landing in a heap of sprawled limbs amongst the rubber.
It’s the sort of event that would have UK and US lawyers rubbing their hands at the prospect of juicy law suits that would lead perfunctorily to a complete ban on the event.
Luckily, the Tinerfeños don’t have a litigious bone in their bodies and have never allowed the likelihood of personal injury to get in the way of having a good time.

Later, we headed down into Puerto de la Cruz for the rather more sedate, but much more participatory celebrations.
In Plaza Charco small children ran across the cobbled surface pulling long strings of empty cans and assorted pieces of metal, providing endless ‘cute’ poses for grinning mums and dads to capture for posterity.
Around the harbour, the air was filled with the fragrant smoke of chestnuts being roasted on open coals, sardines sizzling on grills and succulent pinchos (skewered beef and pork) browning on hot plates as food stalls did a brisk trade with the hundreds of visitors and residents occupying the al fresco tables and chairs.

Savoury roasted chestnuts, succulent beef pinchos and sizzling sardines are just some of the flavours on offer at the street food stalls in Puerto de la Cruz on fiesta de San Andrés

Savoury roasted chestnuts, succulent beef pinchos and sizzling sardines are just some of the flavours on offer at the street food stalls in Puerto de la Cruz on fiesta de San Andrés

Proving to be extremely popular were the rows of ‘bodega’ stalls where, for 50 cents a time, you could sample any number of excellent wines from local wine producers. It was a difficult choice and I have to admit, the type of ‘nibbles’ that were being offered by each bodega had considerable influence over which stall was favoured by our custom.
After half a dozen varieties of both red and white had been tasted and points awarded, I would have had a go on one of Icod’s ‘tablas’ had one been handy. Thankfully for all concerned none was, and we headed off to one of the food stalls for pinchos, crusty bread, spicey mojo sauces and roasted chestnuts to soak up the alcohol. Of course, you can’t have chestnuts without wine and so we ordered a small carafe of the new ‘vino del país‘, or country wine, just to see how it compared with its more upmarket cousins.

Fiesta de San Andrés…one of my favourite Tenerife fiestas, hic!

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