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Archive for May, 2009

Not a sight you expect to see in the town car park.

Not a sight you expect to see in the town car park.

I’m used to seeing all sorts of weird and wonderful things happening on the streets of Puerto de la Cruz from avante-garde street theatre to traditional Canarian folk dancing but today, even I had to do a double take.

When you glance over at the car park from alongside the harbour, there are some things that you simply do not expect to see.
“There are elephants in the car park” I said to Jack, not something you hear yourself say very often.
Naturally, that got his attention and before I knew it he was off, like a latter day Alice, camera in hand in pursuit of a somewhat larger, but equally swift quarry.

The elephants were merely strolling, but nevertheless managed to cover the ground at such a speed that I could see Jack’s little legs having to run to keep up. I followed in the wake of grinning faces, exchanged glances at mobile phone photos and wide eyed children. It was easy to follow their trail.
I lost sight of the elephants as they rounded windy corner and headed down towards Plaza Europa but even if I hadn’t gotten to the corner just in time to see them head into the Plaza itself, I would have been left in no doubt as to which way they’d gone.

Youd be hard pressed to find a more appreciative audience

You'd be hard pressed to find a more appreciative audience

A pandemonium of screams greeted the gentle giants from a large group of schoolchildren who were sitting in the Plaza under the supervision of their teachers. The noise brought a smile to everyone’s faces and a contagious buzz of excitement that took me instantly back to my childhood and the thrill of seeing the circus arrive in town for the August Bank Holiday weekend.

The elephants stood side by side in front of the children, gently swaying to and fro until a plastic shopping bag of apples was placed in front of each of them. They proceeded to lift the apples one at a time and devour them using their trunks with more dexterity than the average human wielding a knife and fork. When the larger of the two had finished his bucket full, his trunk wound over to the bag of apples in front of Junior, which elicited a squeal of collective delight from the children.

Classic stuff..Nellie the Elephant packed her trunk tum de dum..

Classic stuff..Nellie the Elephant packed her trunk tum te tum..

When their snack was finished, the elephants gracefully left the Plaza, the smaller one walking on its hind legs with its front feet firmly planted on the backside of the one in front and to the frantic applause and shouts of ‘adios’ of the kids.
I’m sure I can’t have been the only one there to wipe an eye whilst grinning like a fool.

With the elephants gone, the clowns took over and after them, acrobats on a trampoline and then more clowns, all introduced by the ringmaster in his splendid crimson tailcoat.
Tickets were given out to everyone offering discounted seat prices at the Gran Circo Mundial (World Circus) which would be performing in Santa Cruz all over the coming weekend and advising of location and the times of every show.

I know we’re in the digital age now and social media sites are fast becoming the mainstay of effective marketing and I subscribe to that wholeheartedly. But as far as old fashioned promotion of an upcoming event goes, I simply can’t think of anything that would have been more effective.

I’ll be going. And I bet everyone else in that Plaza will be too.

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The views are well worth the uphill slog.

The views are well worth the uphill slog.

I woke up yesterday to one of those perfect summer mornings. The sun shone down from a cloudless sky, the birds were in full voice and the warm air carried the scent of the last of the jasmine. On the mountainside above us, the ochres, mustards and russets of Mount Teide saturated the skyline.
In short, it was the perfect day for taking to the hills.

It’s been a while since our last ‘serious’ walk so I knew the 600 metre ascent from the La Caldera forest pista to the top of the ridge was going to make itself known to my legs and lungs, and I wasn’t wrong.
Stripping layers and pinning hair up as I went I found myself sweating, gasping and grunting my way up the forest path whilst bitching about the 3 litres of water, waterproofs, sunscreen, lunch etc. that I was carrying in the rucksack.

After an hour and a half of re-staging ‘The Hill’, we finally arrived at the

Stunning scenery comes as standard on the La Caldera walk

There aren't many walks where scenery like this keeps you company

stone gate that marks the end of the ascent and took a well deserved break on a promontory looking out over the entire valley with Teide shimmering above the emerald carpet of the Corona Forestal.

For me, this is where the best part of this walk begins. A fairytale dappled path twists, undulates and zigzags its way along the ridge through forests filled with the heady perfume of broom, pine and a multitude of endemic plants with the omnipresent Teide above and the shimmering Atlantic below. It’s a hiker’s paradise up here.

Then we rounded a corner to see something absolutely unspeakably, outrageously incongruous in this rustic Eden; a red wire barrier had been placed right across the path with a sign showing a hand raised in ‘STOP’ position and the words “Alto! No Pasar!” written above it.

Thats what we think of that!

That's what we think of that!

Gobsmacked, we stood and stared at the obscene article before saying almost in unison “Fuck that!”

There is NO WAY that I have huffed and puffed my way for an hour and a half up a 600 metre ascent to be told by some ‘job’s worth’ medio-ambiente worker that I have to turn back.
The sign was given all the respect it deserved and climbed around.

If we arrive at something that seems dangerous or if there’s some kind of activity that we’re encroaching on, we reasoned, then we’ll turn back. But as far as we could see, there was absolutely nothing going on and no earthly reason for the sign to be there.
For the next 6 or 7 kilometres we hiked along the path with no visible sign of

Drama and beauty - if you look closely youll see me holding the handrail on this particularly vertiginous section of the walk.

Drama and beauty - if you look closely you'll see me holding the handrail on this 'squeaky bum' section of the walk.

any activity at all save for a couple of green plastic bags into which forest debris had been cleared and a few bags of cement and some large plastic containers of water lying by the side of the path at one corner.
Eventually we arrived at the other side of this ludicrous path closure and similarly climbed over that to descend through the forest and back to La Caldera.

I’m not advocating anarchy when it comes to warning signs on Tenerife, but with a little bit of commonsense and caution exercised, don’t assume that ‘access denied’ signs on this island are either current or necessary, because sometimes they simply aren’t.

The ‘La Caldera’ walk is available to buy on PDF, sent straight to your inbox

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There’s a wonderful little photography exhibition in our local shopping centre of La Cúpula in La Paz entitled ‘Tenerife Ayer y Hoy’.
It consists of 100 or so location shoots around the north of Tenerife with one photo taken between 50 and 80 years ago and the exact same shot repeated today.

The locations are mainly in and around Santa Cruz, La Laguna, La Orotava and Puerto de la Cruz but with some around El Sauzal, Tacoronte, Los Realejos and Santa Úrsula. The photographs are interesting in their own right in terms of presenting an image of the ‘real Tenerife’ but they’re also surprising in terms of how little change there has actually been.

Particularly around La Orotava and La Laguna, some of the locations have barely changed at all except that today the buildings are looking smarter as a result of renovation and where once only dusty trails prevailed, tarmac now follows the original lines. The guard of honour of Canarian Palm Trees that run alongside Parque de la Constitución in La Laguna are actually more spectacular today as they’ve grown and produced rich foliage but now rows of housing border them where 50 years ago only fields existed.

Rambla de Castro, exactly the same today as it was 80 years ago

Rambla de Castro in Los Realejos, one of the images that's exactly the same today as it was 80 years ago

It’s funny to see the tramlines criss-crossing Santa Cruz in the ‘ayer’ photo just as they are today, although the trams themselves are space-age compared to the old style trolley buses. And funnily enough, Plaza España has almost come full circle (if you ignore the lake!) with wide open space and the replica gateway to the gardens of La Alameda del Duque de Santa Elena in clear view.

Puerto de la Cruz is much more built up than it was. The area around Playa Martiánez is barely recognisable and some of the lovely old balconied buildings around the harbour and Casa Aduana are sadly no longer there. But the area around the Hotels Marquesa and Monopole are relatively unchanged and of course Plaza del Charco is still the bustling heart of the town.

It’s just a small exhibition in the space outside the supermarket and I have no idea how long it will be there but if you get the chance, go along and have a look.

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I wonder if, like me, Rod Stewart ever looks in the mirror of a morning and a line from the immortal ‘Maggie May’ pops into his head:
The morning sun when it’s in your face really shows your age.”?

May 18th 2009 is the date set for that raspy-throated icon of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Rod Stewart to stride onto the stage at Adeje Golf Club to an anticipated packed audience which will no doubt include a fair smattering of Playa de Las Américas’ tribute acts looking to upgrade their performance to 21st Century Rod.

The tartan scarf and feather cut may have gone (well, the feather cut is debatable) but the charisma and energy are still very much in evidence, even if the wrapping is considerably more sophisticated nowadays.

Tickets cost from €50 but you can get your hands on some freebies if you book into one of the participating hotels and make a weekend of it.

Why not really push the boat out and go for one of the €375 tickets which include pre-concert cocktails and the after party? It’s doubtful if Mr. Stewart himself will be there but you can always grab one of the tribute acts and a photographer and no-one need ever know the difference.

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Call me Mrs Saddo if you must but the prospect of Liam Neeson, Mads Mikkelson and Ralph Fiennes descending on Tenerife to film scenes from an epic Greek Gods movie of Good vs Evil and the power of love to triumph over all is akin to…well, I don’t know, Kings of Leon playing at the Spar on the corner!

It seems nothing less than incredible to me that this awesome scenery hasn’t seen the inside of a major Hollywood movie can since Raquel Welch looked good in a bikini.
It’s high time the world realised what an untapped gold mine Tenerife is for shooting all kinds of genres; from Westerns to Sci Fi and period pieces to rom-coms. Where else can you pretend to be in Arizona, the Caribbean and on the Moon all in the same day? And with the California sunshine and swaying palm trees the stars are going to feel right at home.

If you ask me, it’s nothing short of EXCITING and we should all bump up the anticipation by linking into The Empire Magazine’s on line site and voting on their ‘How excited are you about Clash of the Titans’ poll.

I just voted for ‘looks good, count me in’ and moved the percentage 3 points. At the moment ‘I’d rather eat my own feet’ is leading the board with 46% and needs some concerted effort to shift it.

You have to register before you can vote but it’s a really quick and easy registration. Once you’ve confirmed through email, log into the site, search for ‘Clash of the Titans’ and get back to the vote page. Easy, peasy.

Follow this link and register to vote – you know it makes sense…!

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Meals on wheels

Service with a smile

It’s a perfect day for standing ankle deep in ox manure watching small wooden galleons and rice and grain decorated carts trundle past while being plied with free wine and popcorn and trying not to lose an eye to a flying hard boiled egg.

Although I’m certain that Freudian analysts could dine out on such a scenario were it to come from the sub-conscious; this one’s real. And as if it wasn’t already weird enough, I’ve managed to completely lose Jack in the crowd and the battery on the mobile just died.

I can’t understand how Jack doesn’t stand out a mile as he’s just about the only man not dressed in a bright scarlet waistcoat, rough wool breeches and a cummerbund. But scouring the crowds is fruitless; Jack’s very blandness of attire on this occasion is his, and my, undoing.

Followers of this blog and proud owners of ‘Going Native in Tenerife’ will be well aware of my affection for the little town of Tegueste which floats in the big sea of La Laguna in the humid northeast of the island. Bursting at the seams with charm and character, it’s truly Tenerife’s ‘hidden gem’ in my book and I don’t take a lot of persuading to pay a visit.

Having already witnessed the bizarre re-enactment of a sea-faring battle staged in the town square last year, this year’s Romería was the perfect opportunity to see the pretty galleons which the town is famed for back in action once more.

You acquire a good deal of ‘fiesta savvy’ when you attend these events and one of the things you learn is this; when you see other cars parking anywhere they can, no matter how far you are from the epicenter of proceedings, park the car.
We parked half way to Tejina and began the long walk into Tegueste in the hot sunshine accompanied by large and growing crowds of traditionally dressed party-goers, most of them under the age of forty. All along the route friends and families were eating and drinking from open car boots, picnicking on small grassy knolls and gathering outside guachinches (small, make-shift bars set up at fiestas in the north of Tenerife).

Idyllic setting for an all day party

Idyllic setting for an all day party

We arrived in the main street just in time to see the Romería set off. Preceeded by a herd of goats and sheep, the famous Tegueste galleons with their pretty white sails headed up the procession of ox-pulled carts as it began its journey through the narrow town streets to the main square. The carts are the most beautifully and ornately decorated of any I have seen on Tenerife and their occupants are the most gifted at firing food into the crowds to be scooped up in waiting up-turned hats, snatched from the air with the dexterity of a wicket keeper or fought over like a bride’s bouquet.

Are you the guy with the carrots?

"Are you the guy with the carrots?"

In between the carts, dozens of parrandas (local musicians) and dancing troupes swell the ranks of the moving spectacle and with nigh on 40,000 people in attendance, it’s soon pretty much impossible to move anywhere. I resign myself to my static situation and amuse myself by seeing how many potatoes and chunks of pork I can catch while I wait for the procession to pass.

When the crowds finally thin Jack emerges from his anonymity and we head to the square to join the carnival atmosphere around the beer stands and to sink a much needed cold Dorada.
Like every time I come to Tegueste, I find myself completely caught up in the atmosphere of well being, relaxation and sheer enjoyment of life. It may not be the biggest Romería on the island but for my money, it’s definitely the best.

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