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Archive for November, 2009

Puerto at Christmas - pretty as a picture

I think it’s fair to say that our first couple of Christmases on Tenerife were not quite what I’d hoped they’d be.

The first year we’d only been here for a couple of months when Jack’s family descended on us en masse – bless them. Not wanting Jack and I to be lonely on our first Christmas in a foreign land, mum, sister and brother-in-law and their two teenage sons and Aunty Barbara all arrived four days before Christmas to stay with us in our rented house.

All was going swimmingly and remarkably well considering 8 of us were sharing 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom until we went to Loro Parque the day before Christmas Eve. It was raining and we were all dressed like yellow parakeets in our Loro Parque rain capes. We were flying (ouch) to get to the parrot show before it started when Aunty Barbara slipped on the wet tiles and broke her wrist in three places.
Pins were inserted into Barbara’s arm on Christmas Eve, party frocks stayed in the suitcases and the mood was sombre.

The following year we had our friend Jo coming to stay with us and decided to make up for the year before.
Dressed to the nines, we jumped on the bus and got off at Poco Loco, a Mexican restaurant that we’d long wanted to try and had settled on for our Christmas Eve dinner. Walking down the dirt road leading to the restaurant we thought the lighting was a little subdued and got to the door to find that they were closed. We were gutted…and hungry.

Plan B kicked into operation and we walked down to town to peruse other menus. The next 40 minutes or so was a nightmare as restaurant after restaurant was closed or just closing its doors as we got there. We wandered incredulous through empty streets as if in some kind of play where everyone else had a script. We even began to doubt that this was Christmas Eve; we’d never seen the town so quiet.

Poinsettias are in abundance on Tenerife at Christmas

Eventually, the only place we could find that was open was the Chinese at San Telmo and we ended up having an overpriced and distinctly average meal there.

Never mind, we mused, we’ll just have to party instead and headed into the night in search of the hot spots. But the nightmare continued. Bars were either closed or closing and apart from a handful of motley German tourists, no-one was around.
Finally, we gave up and headed to the Beehive, a Brit bar, on Calle La Hoya, where the only party in town was happening.

Admittedly we had rather a good time. In fact, we had such a good time that Christmas Day was ruined by the hangover from hell.

The moral of this story is simple…if you’re coming to Tenerife for the Christmas season, make sure you know what you’re likely to find, and not find, when you get here. Other wise, you could end up going home with a suntan and the feeling that somehow, you missed out on Christmas altogether.

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Sunday was the last day to participate in the Puerto de la Cruz Ruta de Tapas and we’d only managed to try three restaurants and six tapas so far. This was our last chance to notch up a few more.

Seafood kebab with gazpacho

We began at La Clave on Calle Puerto Viejo. A stylish Galician restaurant with tables and chairs outside and a New York-style counter inside, we’d wanted to eat here ever since it opened and the tapas route was the perfect opportunity.
We ordered our ‘one of each’ tapas and sat back with the accompanying glass of beer to study the route and see where we wanted to go next.

The food arrived; black rice with cuttlefish and ali-oli; and seafood kebab with gazpacho, all beautifully presented on plain white crockery. The seafood kebab was cooked to perfection, the gazpacho was just okay (but that’s more to do with the fact that I’m not overly keen on gazpacho) and the black rice was delicious. In the time we were there, four more tables became occupied by tapas routers clutching their blue ‘passports’ in their hands.

We’d realised that several of the participating restaurants were only serving up until 3pm and so time became a factor both in our choice of venue and in the time we could afford to linger over each stop. So, leaving a five Euro note on the counter, we downed our beers and headed to the next stop.

Cuttlefish and seafood tempura, or Tiger, Tiger!

At the top of the harbour with tables and chairs laid out on the opposite pavement is Bar-Restaurant Oregón.
Within minutes, the elegant glasses of beer had arrived and the tapas was on its way. Lying on top of a crusty piece of brocheta and striped with orange and black sauce so that it looked like tiger kebab, was a crispy cuttlefish, seafood and vegetable tempura. The sauces were mojo rojo and soy sauce and the barbecued smokey flavour of the tempura combined with the sauces was fantastic.

By now I’d noticed a couple of things; firstly I recognised several of the people who’d been at La Clave so there was a small band of us doing this food crawl, and secondly, I was beginning to feel tipsy.
The clock was ticking and we still hadn’t decided which restaurant to make our third and final so once again, a fiver was placed on the table, our passports were stamped, we downed our beers and off we went.

Mushroom hat

It was between Restaurant La Guapa which was offering stuffed calamari and stuffed peppers or Restaurant Maga which had a seafood filled shell and a mushroom hat on offer. We opted for Maga on the grounds that we’d never eaten there. When we arrived, the tables were empty, but within minutes other tapas crawlers had arrived and the terrace was buzzing.

It turned out to have been the right choice because the mushroom hat was excellent but the seafood filled shell, although small, was a real taste sensation.

Passports stamped and appetites sated we relaxed with our beers while we deliberated over which restaurant to vote for. Over the past two weekends we’ve tried eleven tapas in six restaurants and we haven’t been disappointed with any.
Eleven beers later I can honestly say  – what a brilliant way to try restaurants and food – Puerto should do this every month – hic.

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As usual, time was way ahead of schedule leaving us breathless in its wake.
Trying to herd visitors through the streets of Puerto de la Cruz on a Saturday night when there’s so much to see, was proving a difficult task. We’d been told that if we didn’t get to the Majestic before about 9.15pm we’d be hard pressed to get a seat and now a puppet show outside the church was threatening to keep us late.

We finally climbed down the steps into The Majestic at 9.35pm and made a bee line for an empty table slightly behind the mixing desk.
First thoughts on perusing the room were that we’d wandered into a Saga outing. Most of the tables were occupied by a mix of British ex-Pats and holidaymakers, most if not all of retirement age and beyond. I was beginning to wander if this might have been a mistake but I couldn’t see bingo cards anywhere and anyway, we’d already given our order to the ‘personality’ waiter who was mincing about the place like Alan Cumming on speed.

Nicely set up with our drinks in our comfy seats and an only slightly impaired view of the stage for me, the evening began with a short quiz to identify world airline logos and then it was time for the house lights to go down and the footlights to come on.
For the first half of the show Bitter and Twisted (John Sharples and Barry Pugh) took us on a simulated flight around the comedy world of airline attendants which included free peanuts for all (none of that no-frills nonsense on Majestic Airlines), several stunning costume changes and multi-lingual, word-perfect miming.

After the interval the regular Bitter and Twisted Show got into its routine with a level of professionalism and hilarity that has us all howling with laughter and wiping the tears from our eyes. Particularly memorable were the Miss America and Amy Winehouse sketches but the icing on the cake was the uproarious rendition of It Should Have Been Me which is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

In between shows there was banter with the audience, a raffle and a live rehearsal by John of a new song entitled Saturday Cowboys, a beautiful reminisce about a boy’s obsession with the movies before the age of video and the Internet. I was very tempted to go back the following night to see its inclusion in the show.

There’s no charge to get into the Majestic; drinks are amazingly good value; the atmosphere is friendly and fun, and Bitter & Twisted are quite simply fabulous.
We couldn’t believe it when we looked at the time and it was 1.30am. The entire evening had passed in a whirl of laughter, false eyelashes, sequins and wondering if the waiter would make it through the night without a visit to the Coronary Unit.
I can’t recommend it highly enough. Go!

The Majestic is on Calle Cardogan (off Calle Valoise) in Puerto de la Cruz and the Bitter and Twisted Show is on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights from 8pm.

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It was one of those perfectly fortuitous sets of circumstances that very rarely come your way.
The Tenerife Espacio de las Artes (TEA) in Santa Cruz were screening Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds in its original language at 7pm and we were collecting Jo from Santa Cruz bus station at around 9.30/10pm. So we were off to the movies and would be out in perfect time to meet Jo.Inglourious Basterds

We arrived at TEA a tad on the tardy side and most of the seats in the small auditorium were already taken leaving just the neck breaking first 3 rows.
There were no frills – after all the TEA were screening the movie free of charge in celebration of their first anniversary – no popcorn or ice cream and no trailers. The lights went down and we were straight into the action.

It’s a laudable feature of the film that everyone speaks in their own language which means that much of the dialogue is in French, German and English with a soupçon of Italian thrown in for good measure. With all the subtitles in Spanish, it was proving to be quite an exercise in understanding and gave rise to a sort of Mexican Wave effect when it came to laughs. So, for example, when the dialogue was in English, the Brits would be laughing while the rest of the audience were still reading the subtitles. The same happened for the Germans and the French with the biggest laugh wave always coming from the Spanish for whom the whole movie was in subtitles.  It was a weird and wonderful feeling of being European and sharing a cinema with other Europeans – a camaraderie of multi lingual communication that felt warm and inclusive.

At a fairly critical point in the movie, the mobile started to intone its jaunty you have mail jingle and Jack nervously slid it from his pocket, trying desperately to muffle it with his hands, before finally remembering how to switch it off, which it did with another jaunty see ya later jingle. Interestingly, the Spanish don’t say shush or hush, they give a cross between a tut and a hiss that comes out like bursts of air escaping from a punctured tyre and is very effective at deflating a sense of camaraderie.

The curtain fell to spontaneous applause shortly after 9.30 pm and Jack switched the mobile back on to a series of text-received jingles.
It would seem that Jo’s flight had landed early so she’d decided to get the earlier bus and had been sitting in a bar in Puerto de la Cruz since 9.15 pm. It was now 9.40 pm and Jack and I were in Santa Cruz.

Quentin Tarantino can re-write history, present it to audiences in four different languages and make us all feel part of an inclusive society.
Jack, Jo and I rarely manage even the simplest of arrangements effectively, despite a shared first language and fortuitous circumstances

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It’s a big week for Tenerife. It seems our little island in the sun is making headline web news, some of it exciting and some of it, well…embarrassing.

There’s been a buzz about the place over Google’s launch of its new street map which enables you to see places up close and personal. It’s a fabulous little toy and extremely useful if you want to check out directions to a place or get a look at your holiday accommodation before you book or just show friends who haven’t visited what your house looks like.
But it seems that the Google camera vans have also been capturing some rather unexpected ‘extras’ on their exploration and one of them has apparently made it to viral status all over the world. The offending extra is a man seen quite clearly having a pee up the side of a rubbish dumpster at the back of Las Teresitas beach in Santa Cruz.

What struck me most about the captured incident (apart obviously from the central character) was how ugly the particular spot looked with its shitty graffiti and barren scrubland. Hardly representative of the beauty of Las Teresitas. But there you are, sod’s law, Tenerife gets International fame in a shot that equates to a very bad hair day indeed.

However, yin and yang being what they are, this week has also seen the preview release of Warner Brothers’ hotly awaited blockbuster ‘Clash of the Titans’ which is scheduled to hit screens in the first half of 2010. And guess what…Tenerife looks AMAZING! The scenes in the crater are spectacular, as indeed is the forest scene with the sea of clouds beyond the precipice which I’m guessing was shot at Las Raices.

My money’s on Tenerife soon becoming known as ‘the place where they shot Clash of the Titans’ and I predict a glut of film-makers following suit and huge offshoots in tourism. Well take a look for yourself and tell me if you wouldn’t want to visit this incredible landscape?

Incidentally, if anyone has any insider info’ on where exactly scenes were shot (other than the crater – we’ve already got that one, ta) I’d be very pleased to hear from you…strictly on the QT of course!

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I guess we can expect a lot of births in early August 2010 then...

Heading into Puerto de la Cruz last night, we arrived at San Telmo to be stopped in our tracks by the sight of the moon. Larger than a Star Trek holodeck creation, it hung over the horizon in the perfectly still, cloudless night casting its luminous glow over the La Orotava Valley and the Ocean.
It was a magical sight and one that gave me a warm inner glow and made me realise once again how lucky we are to be living in such a beautiful place.

When we got to the bar, I asked a young Venezuelan friend if he and his girlfriend had seen the huge, romantic moon outside. He said he hadn’t and, glancing sideways at his lovely chica and looking decidedly worried, he whispered that such a big moon often led to pregnancy and he made a beach ball motion over his stomach just to emphasise his point.

And there was me thinking it was just mad dogs and werewolves …

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