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Archive for June, 2010

There was an interesting little snippet in one of the local newspapers this week in which one of the goatherds at Puerto’s Midsummer bathing of the goats revealed that, after their dip, the goats liked to enjoy a bit of rumpty. It seems that the old Guanche legend of increased fertility as a result of the annual dip is not just superstition and legend, it’s a fact.
Coincidentally but not at all surprisingly, statistics have apparently shown that quite a few human births follow on nine months down the line from the San Juan beach party and midnight swimming too.

The potent magic of ‘Summer Nights’ is most definitely upon us and Hotel Las Aguilas in Puerto de la Cruz have been making the most of it by offering romantic summer weekends for couples.
The luxurious four star hotel which sits above Puerto in its seductive haven of landscaped gardens and sexy swimming pools is the perfect venue to get away from it all. At just €180 per couple for a weekend half board in one of their sea view rooms, the price tag alone is enough to encourage the libido to raise in line with the thermometer.

And this month Hotel Las Aguilas are offering a fabulous prize in conjunction with Tenerife Magazine. Just become a fan of Tenerife Magazine on Facebook and your name will go into the draw for a FREE week’s accommodation including half board.

Thanks to Hotel Las Aguilas, I don’t think it will just be the goats who are enjoying some holiday romance in Puerto this summer…

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Larry McCray

It’s got to be one of the coolest venues on Tenerife.
Standing beneath the crimson boughs of flamboyance trees at the foot of the tower of Iglesia de la Concepción in Santa Cruz while cool Blues fill the night air and rock the hips of the assembled audience.

Rojas Blues Band ft Esther Ovejero

Saturday was the culmination of three nights of sultry sounds, electrifying guitar riffs and soulful lyrics bringing the Deep South to the island’s north, and like every year the standard of musicians and their performances has been outstanding.
Beginning with the European day of music, weaving it’s Midsummer Way through the San Juan beach parties and culminating last night in the capital, Santa Blues 2010 tops a week in which excellent live music has featured heavily.

On Thursday night Barcelona band The Rojas Blues Band ft Esther Ovejero split the night air with their wailing guitar and funky bass lines backing Esther’s polished vocals.
Next up was the big man, Larry McCray from Michigan who gave us a set infused with echoes from the Delta Blues originals of BB King to the Allman Brothers, McCray’s easy style belying the excellence of his playing.

Tina Riobo Quintet

Friday was declared a much-needed R and R night in the Real Tenerife household and the Gospel Blues of Sandra Hall were sacrificed for a night in front of the telly.
Then on Saturday night we were back beneath the flamboyance trees to see the high energy Jazz/Blues output of The Tina Rioro Quartet hype the crowd up to dancing mode in readiness for the incredible swamp-blues talent of New Orleans’ Kenny Neal ‘family’. Featuring brothers Darnell and Frederick on bass and keyboards respectively; and nephew Tyree on second keyboards with a side order of a ripping two number hard-core blues mini-set on guitar and vocals, this family has talent like other families have arguments.

Kenny Neal

Together with the pulsating beat and dancing snares of  drummer par excellence Bryan Morris, the Neals produced a set that had the crowds rocking, whooping and sweating into the early hours, emulating Kenny’s prophetic lyrics of bop ‘til I drop.

With my back feeling like its transition from aching to broken was hanging in the balance and my ears still ringing with Kenny’s doleful slide guitar and haunting harmonica riffs, I lamented the fact that I had a whole 51 weeks to wait for Santa Blues to come round again.
Oh well, just the rest of the World Cup, the July Fiestas and, oh yeh, the whole summer to look forward to…I guess I’ll manage.

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The goats are all too familiar with the horrors that lie ahead

To all intents and purposes it could have been any other morning, albeit a rather busy one, harbour-side in Puerto de la Cruz.

I was taking five on one of the benches below the harbour wall when I became aware of a commotion. Suddenly, out of nowhere a large, wet, sand-covered goat, hotly pursued by two dogs, hurtled past within centimetres of my feet. The little old lady sitting next to me screamed and we were both left with a slight spattering of sea water on our shoes and the distressed cry of goat in our ears.
Within moments the goat was being ‘escorted’ back to the harbour, flanked either side by a tail-wagging dog.
Another attempt to re-enact The Great Escape bites the dust.

"It's for your own good..."

Yesterday was Midsummer’s Day or the feast of San Juan (St John), a time of magic and ancient ritual and a time when Tenerife’s livestock get their annual baptism in the healing waters of the Ocean.
A tradition dating back to the Guanche indigenous people who populated the Canary Islands before the Spanish conquest, baño de las cabras (bathing of the goats) in the Midsummer water is said to keep the animals healthy and fertile for the coming year.

But as far as the goats are concerned, that whole “it’s for your own good” stuff just doesn’t cut it. Clearly completely averse to water, they behave as if they’re being systematically tortured and clearly assume the intent is to drown them, in broad daylight, in front of hundreds of witnesses.

It's not just the goats who'd happily see San Juan struck off the Saint's calendar

The normally quiet waters of Puerto’s harbour are churned up by caballeros riding their steeds into the sea and dozens of goats being sacrificially dipped.

While herds wait anxiously on the beach, a constantly moving mass of panic-stricken beards and horns standing like Damocles waiting for the sword to fall, goatherds and their dogs work to contain the animals.
Once plucked from the herd, some undergo the trial stoically, the fear contained entirely within their eyes; others scream like banshees all the way in and all the way back out; and some make a break for freedom. None escape.

Anyone on holiday in Puerto de la Cruz just now might want to consider leaving it a few days before choosing the harbour beach for a spot of sunbathing and swimming. San Juan may have the power to purify the goats, but he’s not doing much to get a Blue Flag flying next to the fish wife statue.

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Tito's Bodeguita, Puerto de la Cruz

Isn’t it funny how sometimes places can be on your doorstep but, for one reason or another it can take you an eternity to check them out and realise you’ve been missing a real gem?
Well that’s how it was with our lunch venue yesterday.

We drive past the 17th century Ermita de San Nicolas every week on our way to La Villa to do the shopping and regularly remark on how lovely it looks and how we must go there. A large, white monastic frontage with a concealed courtyard, the Ermita was closed for a long time and we bemoaned the fact that we’d never tried its restaurant.

Then a couple of months ago it re-opened as Tito’s Bodeguita and this time we promised ourselves that we’d definitely go. Well yesterday was the exact excuse we’d been looking for as it was our 20th wedding anniversary and we’d given over the entire day to ourselves. So after a morning exploring a section of the north coast, we quickly showered and headed off to Tito’s for lunch.

We’d popped our heads around the courtyard entrance on Monday to confirm that they opened on Tuesdays and had spotted 2 or 3 tables occupied in the courtyard so we half thought that we might be the only ones there when we arrived shortly after 2.30 pm yesterday. We couldn’t have been more wrong.

Revueltos de Bacalao

As we entered the beautiful courtyard, we could see that most of the tables were occupied. We spotted an empty table alongside the bubbling fountain and settled in to survey the surroundings.
To one side the two storey house stood, its carved wooden balcony, lattice screens and wooden shutters overlooking the courtyard. At right angles to the main house, a row of small buildings extended beyond the courtyard in which we were sitting, house leeks growing in profusion on the red Arabic tiled roofs.
To our left a raised platform held more occupied tables and beyond them was a large beer garden with wooden benches and tables.
Behind us, the old Ermita now housed an inside dining room, an extremely well-stocked bodega, a party dining room and kitchens from which four or five waiting staff busied themselves carrying plates of food and bottles of wine.

Centre stage in the courtyard itself was a large stone fountain in which flowering water lilies idly floated. An elegant palm tree towered alongside the fountain, a large menu pinned to its sizeable trunk. Bordering the courtyard, a scented chaos of colour cascaded from wooden planters and rock gardens while a large magnolia and a drago tree held aerial court.

Solomillo de cerdo con albóndigas

Within moments of sitting down we were brought menus and we dithered over our choices. In the end, Jack plumped for solomillo de cerdo con albóndigas casera (pork steak with home-made meatballs) and I opted for revuelto de bacalao (scrambled eggs with cod).
A basket filled to capacity with fresh, crusty bread and a dish of home-made almogrote arrived with our beers and we tucked into both, now completely chilled in our sunny afternoon surroundings.

When the main dishes arrived they were beautifully presented and tasted sensational. Jack’s succulent pork was coated in a savoury sauce and the albóndigas that accompanied it turned out not to be meatballs, but large tasty dumplings.
My cod scrambled eggs were an onion, potato, cod and eggs rosti and were lip-smackingly good.
To round off, we both ordered the vanilla ice which was creamy vanilla ice cream surrounded by huge, fresh blackcurrents lightly dusted with icing sugar.

It’s fair to say the food was some of the best we’ve ever eaten in Tenerife, the surroundings were idyllic and when the bill came it was €30 – quite possibly the best €15 a head we’ve ever spent in a restaurant.

It’s amazing what you can discover on your doorstep and amongst a plethora of very good restaurants in Puerto, it’s a real hidden gem which you’d never find if someone didn’t tell you about it.
Aren’t you glad we’re here to do all this research for you 🙂  ?

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It was always going to be a tight squeeze.
You know when summer’s arrived in Tenerife – there are more events, fiestas and concerts than you can possibly hope to attend. Then throw FIFA World Cup 2010 and a nephew who’s just found out his degree results into the mix and you’ve got a Saturday night you’d be hard pressed to squeeze a Barclaycard into.

But we get little enough opportunity to hear good live music and we weren’t going to miss out on the feast on offer when the European Day of Music came to town, particularly as it was all free.
So, in between watching Denmark put Cameroon out of the World Cup and a Skype call from The Graduate, we popped down to the harbour to see what was happening.

We arrived just in time for the final number by the funky, fan-wielding Fuel Fandango which gave me enough time to get a lightning bit of practice in on our new toy – a flip video camera.
No sooner had Nita folded up her fan when the stage was set and Aaron Thomas struck up his first number. A sort of Tasmanian Bob Dylan with overtones of early Loudon Wainwright III, a healthy shot of folk rock and a foot-stomping venture into rockabilly, Aaron Thomas proceeded to fill the night air with his amazing voice and compelling lyrics.

Accompanied by the sweet harmonies of Rebecca Lander and the funky double bass of 50s throw-back Javi Diez Ena, Aaron Thomas proved to be a real tonic for the ears and the eyes. I recommend that you check him out on his MySpace page and invest in a copy of ‘Dead Wood’.

And to prove just how good he was, I shot almost 6 minutes of video footage which I then spent most of yesterday uploading to YouTube and editing and annotating so that I could show it to you today. But when I looked at the finished product an hour ago, it was fit only for the ‘delete’ button.

Luckily, Jack’s professionalism didn’t let him down and he got some outstanding shots of the night.

So I’ll leave you with this more professional clip of the man himself and I’ll temper my music video production ambitions a little by practicing on the goats on Thursday.

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The best place to be if you need a reminder of why you love Tenerife

Sometimes events conspire to make me wonder why on earth I continue to live in a region of Spain.

A week or so ago I was chatting to my brother who lives in the UK and after my groans about the stagnant feel of the tourist market at the moment and the slowness of work, he said:
Oh well, the World Cup starts soon so at least that’s something to look forward to.”
Except that it wasn’t. Well, it was…and it wasn’t, because although I love the World Cup and would happily watch every single game (in the unlikely event that deadlines permitted), Spain is one of the few countries in the world that is not actually airing all the games on free-to-view TV.

But the World Cup is all about embracing nations in the love of the beautiful game! For God’s sake, Andy, get out of Spain and get back to Britain where you can at least watch the footie!” said my bro’.
I laughed and explained that the list of reasons in the ‘for living in Tenerife‘ column far outweighed the ones in the ‘against living in Tenerife‘ column, but a seed had been planted.

Only showing one live game a day and concentrating on Spain performances is indicative of a country that exhibits astounding levels of insularity. Hamstrung by outdated monopolies and an autocratic business culture, Spain has a complete aversion to looking outside itself for anything, and ‘best practice’ and ‘benchmarking’ are not just conspicuous by their absence – they’re an anathema to Spain. When the rest of the world saw the financial crisis looming and took damage limitation measures, Spain carried on with business as usual which is why it’s now facing financial melt-down. I could go on…

A couple of days later Jack and I walked the Chinyero Volcano route for a new walking guide we’re preparing and within 5 minutes of setting off I had mentally registered any number of things I loved about Tenerife. The smell of the pine forest; the fact that I could see the sea from almost everywhere on the island; the unrestricted ability to walk wherever I wanted; La Gomera and La Palma on the horizon…

Some time ago, when we first set up Tenerife Magazine, Joe Cawley wrote a short piece entitled ‘10 things I hate about living in Tenerife‘ and clearly it rung a bell with lots of people who added their own pet hates to the list. So when I got back from my walk, I compiled a list of ‘10 things I love about living in Tenerife‘ – mainly to remind myself why it is that I continue to live in Spanish territory. It’s not an exhaustive list, it’s just the ones that popped into my head and I’m sure others will have their own reasons which will be nothing like mine.

I just wish Tenerife wasn’t in Spanish territory and could sub-contract its World Cup coverage from the BBC. That’s number one on my ’10 things I wish about living in Tenerife’ list.

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We’d arranged to meet our friends Robert and Linda at the Fred Olsen building on Saturday morning. They were on a cruise and were in Santa Cruz for the day so we’d arranged to show them the city and catch up.
Arriving at the bus station at 10.15am it felt more like siesta time…on a Sunday…on a hot public holiday when the whole world was on the beach. There was barely a soul to be seen as we made our way towards Plaza España, the breeze keeping the already climbing air temperature at balmy perfection.

Arriving in the Plaza, we were disappointed to see that the lake was empty. Where a blue infinity punctuated by a needle of rising water should be, there was only a dried up concrete basin with plastic yellow barriers circling the fountain base.
Crossing the space where the lake should be was a string of Brits disgorged from the gleaming Celebrity Eclipse and now drifting across the empty Plaza like human tumbleweed.
For some reason the lake is empty as often as it’s full which is completely counter-productive and in my mind, unnecessary. With water in, this is a beautiful, sensual, tranquil centrepiece of a 21st century capital city. Empty, it’s an eyesore. How can it possibly be so difficult to keep it filled? If it’s because it’s expensive or resource-intensive to maintain, why build the thing in the first place?

Meeting up with Robert and Linda, we headed straight for a shady pavement cafe for coffee and a chance to catch up. By the time we left, life had returned to the city and shoppers were heading to the retail Nirvana of Calle Castillo. We joined them and slowly made our way towards Plaza del Principe, stopping to admire the burgeoning Corpus Christi sand carpets which were being constructed by groups of students and school children.

Robert contemplates joining the group of 'Courage' for a photo

A stroll around Plaza del Principe including the ubiquitous photo at the ‘Courage’ sculpture; into the Museo de Belles Artes for a look at their temporary and permanent exhibitions; onto the African Market to browse the stalls laden with fresh produce and flanked by exotic plants and flowers and a saunter through the characterful Noria District took us to lunch time.

Torn between La Hierbita and Bodeguita Canaria , both on Calle Imelda Seris, we opted for Bodeguita on the grounds that it had tables outside from which we could better cope with the heat.
Two ‘tablas Canarias’ of assorted jamon Serrano, sausages, chorizo, salami and goats’ cheese was washed down with cool Doradas in the shade of the terrace as the afternoon slipped pleasantly by alongside the trams swishing past within feet of our table.

Tabla Canaria at Bodeguita Canaria

There was just enough time to detour to Teatro Guimera for another ubiquitous, 70s album sleeve photo at the mask, then onto Plaza España (lake still empty) for an ice cream before heading back to the port where coaches were waiting to return passengers to the Eclipse.

The day had flown by all too quickly in a blur of blossom-filled flamboyance trees and shady pavement cafes in cool, tree-lined plazas beneath an impossibly blue sky. There had been no time to visit Parque García Sanabria , or the Museum of Man & Nature or the shops or, or, or…
We parted company vowing to meet up again in January 2011 to complete the tour of this lovely city. Let’s hope they’ve had enough rain to fill Plaza España by then.

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