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Archive for May, 2010

Generally speaking, I prefer circular walks to linear ones; somehow I feel that you get double the scenery for the same energy output.

So last week when we went walking in the hills above the south west coast, we took what was essentially a ‘there and back again’ walk and decided to make it circular by finding a different route back to our starting point.
We were making good, downhill progress on a dusty, unmade road until we reached the point where there should have been an old path cutting off over a barranco (ravine) and back through the abandoned terraces to our starting point. But endless searching for the start of the path proved futile, despite the fact that we could see it quite clearly running up the other side of the barranco.

We were left with no choice but to cover the 1 kilometre distance by following the main road which stretched into endless switchbacks for 3½ kilometres in searing calima heat with no pavement. A completely unacceptable end to what had been a glorious walk. Fed up, tired and disappointed, we arrived just a few hundred metres from our starting point to find a newly-erected Cabildo (Island Government) board showing the start of the very path we had been trying to find from the other side. Frustrated and annoyed, we resolved to return and complete the final section the way we had wanted to.

Yesterday we went back into the hills of the south west to do what we considered to be a linear walk. But we discovered that we could in fact easily turn it into a circular one by returning along quiet country lanes through picturesque hamlets, enhancing what we had initially feared might be a fairly uneventful route. The Cabildo had cleared access and put in signposts and wayside markers, making it easy to navigate the many paths and turn them into a thoroughly enjoyable walk.

When we finished we drove back to last week’s route to do the final section of the path we’d failed to find. We parked up and followed the directions given on the fancy Cabildo sign at the start of the path. Within minutes we’d been followed by barking dogs snapping at our heels; we’d taken several wrong turnings through completely overgrown and confusing terrain with no clear path; and we’d finally ended up in what looked like someone’s driveway where two parked vans completely barred the way.
Frustratingly, we could quite clearly see the path climbing up the other side of the barranco – the side we’d been completely unable to see last week – but we couldn’t see where it emerged as it disappeared into undergrowth.
Re-tracing our steps, Jack tried shimmying down the barranco but ended up on a sheer precipice, speared by spiky seed heads that impregnated his shoes and buried themselves into his feet.
Clearly the Cabildo had put up a nice sign at the start of the path but then had done nothing. Any path that may have been there had long since been reclaimed by nature and by man.

You may find some paths have been usurped for 'other purposes'

A couple of old guys whose back yard we’d practically walked through twice, came out to offer their help, one indicating that the path was where Jack had tried, the other sending us in the opposite direction.
Jack sat on a rock and extracted the spikes from his feet while I explored another possible lead which once again led to a precipice over the barranco.
“Right” I said, eventually. “Let’s drive back to where we couldn’t find the path last week and try doing it that way round”.

Less than convinced, Jack agreed and we set off back down the road we were learning to hate as it zig-zagged its way interminably covering very little real distance. After a kilometre or so, we spotted the house where we’d come unstuck and there appeared to be a path alongside. We parked the car and set off to see if the owners were in fact using a public path as their private garage.
“You’ve got the notebook, haven’t you” I said to Jack. The notebook contained all my scribbled descriptions, directions and timings that would turn our experience into a detailed walking guide.
Jack’s face looked as if I’d just asked if I could use his dog and his Granny for target practice.
“It’s still on a rock on the path where I took the spikes out of my feet” he said.

With not another word, he got into the car, drove back up the road which we’d both decided we’d be happy if we never saw it again in our lives, and retraced the gauntlet of snappy dogs and overgrown barranco to retrieve the book. Meanwhile, I followed the path to be confronted by two large, growling, slavering dogs guarding what appeared to be private land with not a path in sight.

When Jack got back with the car, we called time on the whole fiasco.

Some walks are just not meant to be circular.

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Tenerife is an island that attracts over 6 million visitors a year, many of whom believe they know it like the back of their hands and few of whom know it at all.”
Going Native in Tenerife

The Tenerife we knew long before we set foot here

Long before we ever set foot on Tenerife we knew exactly what it was like – that’s why we’d never set foot on it.
Persuaded by a good friend to give it a chance, we spent some time in Los Cristianos, Playa de San Juan, Playa Santiago and Los Gigantes, before finally heading to Puerto de la Cruz and finding a different island; one we’d held no preconceived ideas about and so saw with new eyes. We liked it so much we stayed.
We didn’t bother looking at the east coast at all; “Lancashire Hill in the sun” our friend had said, so we gave it as wide a berth as we’d always given Lancashire Hill.
And we didn’t bother looking at Playa de Las Américas; we didn’t need to, we knew what was there. Cheap shops selling tourist souvenir tat; all day British breakfast cafes, €1 a pint Brit bars showing Sky Sports coverage and the Soaps followed by Robbie Williams tribute acts. Our idea of Hell.

Puerto de la Cruz - a different Tenerife

When friends and family asked where we were living, we went to great pains to explain to them that we lived in the North of the island – as far away from Playa de Las Américas as it was possible to get. We spent countless Internet hours on the Tenerife forum of TripAdvisor correcting other peoples’ preconceived ideas about the north, explaining that, despite being Spain’s highest mountain, Mount Teide wasn’t actually high enough to block out the sun – a popular misconception – and that the town did not consist entirely of octogenarian Brits and their Zimmer frames but in fact had a large, young and lively resident population.

We began writing and photographing for a popular Tenerife lifestyle magazine which involved exploring in depth every town, village and hamlet across the island, uncovering hidden gems in the most unlikely places. We discovered that, apart from one small area of ugly high rise buildings, much of the east coast contained delightful hidden coves, secret hamlets and hill towns where life went on in much the same way as it had done for centuries. We found cave restaurants; emblematic bridges, forgotten roads and empty beaches.

Lancashire Hill never looked like this!

We wrote our first guide book, giving detailed driving routes to encourage other people to discover a Tenerife that was a million miles away from their misconceptions.
And when it came time to place our book in retailers across the island, we knew we’d have to put it in and around Playa de Las Américas if we were to reach our target audience, so we began to explore the streets and coast of the south from La Caleta to Los Cristianos.

The Playa de Las Américas we didn't know

At La Caleta we discovered a small fishing village with lovely seafood restaurants; in Playa Del Duque we stumbled upon golden sandy coves with azure waters lapping the shore, fine restaurants and designer shops; and in Playa de Las Américas we uncovered a vibrant, modern, chic resort with a palm tree lined promenade, wide avenues, stylish bars and restaurants and a pulsating nightlife.

From north to south and east to west, there are many different Tenerifes – how well do you think you know them?

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The largest British ex-pat population on Tenerife lives in and around the south of the island, predominantly around the Los Cristianos, Playa de Las Américas and Costa Adeje areas. So being involved in English language business, regular trips south are an occupational necessity.
Last Thursday was one of our ‘down south’ days when we leave our home in Puerto de la Cruz and spend the day in the south trying to fit all the things we have to do into one day.

Lunch consisted of a sandwich while sitting on a bench overlooking the beach in Los Cristianos in between getting photos of restaurants for a customer and a lengthy meeting of Tenerife Magazine in the afternoon.
Then it was more restaurant photos, a quickly bolted down pizza and up to El Faro Chill Art in Fañabe for a 7.30 pm launch of Tenerife’s new radio station, Pirate FM.

The stylish roof terrace of El Faro Chill Art

Climbing the stairs to the chic roof terrace of El Faro, complimentary champagne flute in hand, I looked around at the gathering. I had heard that the event was operating a black and white dress code to complement the pirate theme and so I had chosen to wear white pants and a black T shirt, but there any similarity to the way the assorted female guests looked ended.
Hair was perfectly in place, lips were painted, eyes were freshly and liberally made up, outfits were glamorous and heels were sexy and high.
I, on the other hand, had left home over 8 hours before, during which time my hair hadn’t seen a comb; any pretence of mascara had long since melted into submission; my T shirt had lost its freshly clinging appeal to be replaced by a sadly hanging one and I was wearing flip flops.

At one point Jack took a photo of me sandwiched on one side by the über-attractive Head of Sales and Marketing for Pirate FM – Clare Harper – and on the other by the freshly showered and changed, dapper-looking John Beckley. Even as the lens pointed towards us I could feel my body shrinking in anguish, a clear premonition of the contrast between Clare and I asserting itself firmly into my brain.

Spot the "Oh no! I'm not even wearing lipstick!" expression.

Sipping a first class red wine with Eric Clapton’s Some day After A While spilling its Blues magic over the stylish surroundings of the roof terrace, I gazed out over the lights of Puerto Colón and Fañabe and then back at the perfumed, glamorous gathering. I remembered vividly how I used to look when I attended similar functions in Britain. My job dictated that I regularly attended gala dinners and glamorous functions and I always looked fabulous; full make up, perfect hair, high heels and sexy clothes. I thought about what vast sums of money I would now be earning had I stayed in Britain and what beautiful outfit I’d be wearing and how I’d look, and for a little while, I wondered if I regretted giving all of that up.

But then I realised that it wasn’t really the lifestyle I missed, it was my youth, and no matter how much make-up I wore or if I traded my flip flops for some killer heels, my youth would still be behind me.
But how much better for it to have been lost in our house beside the banana plantation, in a culture where ageism doesn’t exist and an occupation where I’m judged not by my looks, but by my words.

On the other hand, I wish I’d put some lipstick on…

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Wandering down to the harbour at Puerto de la Cruz any Saturday night during the summer you’re likely to hear the strains of music drifting across the fishing boats. Whether it’s cool jazz vibes from the Heineken Jazz Festival, Indie Rock and Punk from the FMAC festival or, more often than not, common or garden weekend Latino. But this Saturday night as we strolled through the warm and still night air, it was the pulsating rhythms of Brazil that greeted our ears.

Batucada

The infectious enthusiasm of the batucada was causing mass, involuntary foot tapping as the white-robed, red masked drummers swept everyone along in their tribal tide.
This particular batucada group play most of the carnivals and festivals in the north. They’re led by a handsome, dreadlocked guy who conducts his group of happy, smiley drummers using a whistle and a seductive smile which is so contagious that everyone seems to have caught it, whether they’re carrying a drum or not.

As the raw, primitive barrage of the drums fade, Brazilian DJ PuReZa takes to the stage and the rhythms slip into a silky Samba smoking jacket that wraps itself around everyone’s hips so we’re all swaying in time.

Then the crowds push forward as the capoeira boys (and girl) arrive. One by one they take to front of stage to perform their amazing blend of gymnastics and martial arts, bodies twisting and legs wind-milling as they somersault, back flip and handstand, spurred on by the rhythmic beat and the hand claps and whistles of the crowd. Then they begin their displays of dance fighting, legs kicking and swinging at each other, always a hair’s breadth from touching.

Capoeira - an amazing blend of gymnastics, martial arts & dance

It’s a breathtaking display that leaves me feeling so old and un-supple that I have to go and have a sit down. In Plaza Charco the Samba beat is joined by cheering from the hordes watching Real Madrid sink 5 goals against Athletic Bilbao; the entertainment is all fast and furious tonight.

Suitable rested and refreshed, it’s back to Sao Paulo aka the harbour where DJ Tahira has taken to the stage and the crowds have begun to morph from Neo-hippies to Puerto’s Saturday night-ers.

It’s been a great prelude to summer when the town changes personality and dances to the beat of a more Spanish/South American drum – ash clouds, world economic crises and World Cup mania permitting.

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Buenavista Golf Course, Tenerife

Okay, there’s no point in trying to busk my way through this with any attempt at credibility as anyone who’s ever placed an iron against a white dimpled ball will quickly deduce that I know diddly squat about golf.
However, I do know two things:

Firstly, Tenerife is an amazing destination for golfers. Where else can you tee off in warm sunshine most days of the year, on 9 fabulous, sub-tropically landscaped courses with infinity views over the Atlantic Ocean; and a whole sophisticated infrastructure of hotels, beaches, restaurants, shopping and nightlife to pass the time between rounds?
Secondly, those who take up golf appear to become instantly addicted and spend what time they’re not actually on a course, plotting the quickest way to get back onto one.

So, armed with these two essential facts, I’m pretty confident that to the golfing fraternity, this month’s Tenerife Magazine prize is going to cause something of a G.A.S.P.
Tenerife Isla de Golf are giving away one of their Summer Golf Packages worth €135 which includes 3 Green Fees at 3 different golf courses, and you can choose from:
Buenavista – the stunning coastal course set at the foot of the Teno Mountains in the northwest of Tenerife.
Costa Adeje – set in the sun-soaked south of Tenerife with views over the neighbouring island of La Gomera.
Las Américas – an oasis of chic tranquillity set behind the popular holiday epicentre of the south.
Golf Del Sur – the magnificent coastal greens of the south east of Tenerife.
Tecina Golf – the Bond-like cliff top setting of La Gomera where Mount Teide shimmers on the horizon.

Al you have to do, is become a fan of Tenerife Magazine on Facebook.

And as it’s Tenerife’s number one online magazine jam packed with facts, features and photos about the beautiful island of Tenerife, I can’t think of a single reason why you wouldn’t want to be a fan of it anyway!

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