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Archive for November, 2010

As I sit here I can barely hear myself hitting the keys on my keyboard.

Beyond the window that fills one side of the room, the storm rages unabated. Leaves, branches, young avocado fruits, broken tiles and bits of plastic roofing are rushing past in an angry roar that’s filled with dust and dirt.

We got the warnings days ago, it began as a yellow alert for high winds and speculation across the island was rife. “They’re calling it San Andrés”, they said. Presumably as it was being forecast to peak on the 29th November, the Eve of San  Andrés, or Saint Andrew’s day and a day of celebration on the island.
Then on Saturday the alert changed to red.

Yesterday afternoon we removed all the plant pots from the top of the terrace wall and stashed them in corners, huddled together for protection. We dismantled the tarpaulin that acts as a tent for the dogs who usually sleep alongside the wood pile – they were being upgraded to sleeping inside. The patio table was dismantled and placed in the garden shed, the chairs stacked and wedged against the wall.

Then we waited.

The evening was ominously calm and we began to give ourselves false hope that maybe the warning was unnecessary, maybe the storm had switched direction. We’d forgotten that the phrase ‘the calm before the storm’ was rooted in reality.
At midnight we went to bed and still all was calm.

At 12.24am the wind came out of nowhere and ripped through the avocado tree like a nuclear blast.

The storm had arrived.

Gusts tore through the garden, hurling debris across the roof, deafening us with its ferocity and discharging a constant rifle fire of branches and leaves against the patio doors just feet from where we lay.
The gusts raged for 20 or 35 minutes at a time before falling silent into a lull when snatches of sleep were  grabbed, always tempered by the ominous knowledge that this thing wasn’t over.

At around 4 am the storm moved up a gear and with it, our fear factor grew.
Now branches and debris were hitting the roof constantly and the deafening roar joined forces with the rattling of the door to ensure that sleep remained a distant relative.

Around 5 the storm abated to just  strong winds. I could see the shadow of the avocado tree as it took on an almost rhythmic swaying against the prevailing wind. It lulled me finally into sleep.
At 6.45 am an almighty crash woke me with a thump of my heart against my ribs and we were out of bed in an instant. A large branch of the avocado tree had smashed onto the roof just yards above our heads and crashed to the terrace floor in a cascade of roof tiles.

By daybreak the storm had switched again to 5th gear.

We ventured out to check the damage in our garden and in the golf course on which we live.
The driving range had been torn to shreds, its flooring ripped from its fastenings and flapping in the wind.
Trees had fallen all across our neighbour’s garden and across the golf course. The roof of another neighbour’s patio had been ripped from its posts and large sheets of plastic roofing were flying across the golf course.

Swirling dust storms made it almost impossible to open my eyes and the wind roared harder. A bamboo fence was ripped from its anchor and flew past me, uncomfortably close.
We retreated to the house from where I am now typing this.

We’re in a lull right now but the red alert is in place until 3pm.

It’s going to be a long day.

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I recently read a blog in which the blogger posed the question, what is it about Puerto de la Cruz that makes some people recommend it so frequently on forums such as Tripadvisor. After all, you can number the ‘what to dos’ of the resort on the fingers of one hand, particularly for teenagers, whereas the resorts of the south are jam packed with theme parks.

It got me wondering how many holidaymakers from the UK now rely on manufactured entertainment in order to enjoy themselves?

I can honestly say that in all our years of traveling, Jack and I have never once, even remotely, considered what a place had to offer in terms of things laid on for visitors before deciding to travel there. In fact, if anything that would be a factor against going.

All the fun of Siam Park without the entrance fee

Our very good friends,  the Largies’ have been coming to stay in Puerto de la Cruz ever since we moved here. To begin with they just brought their then 14 year old daughter and her friend but they had so much fun that next time the party had grown to include their 17 year old son and his friend. Now completely hooked, they all arrived again the following year when the offspring and their friends were16 yrs and 19 yrs respectively.
In fact, they all enjoyed it so much and wanted to come back so frequently that we had to put a stop to it as we were having far too much fun and not actually working for a living – a balance that can only lead to one destination – Skintville.

Crater capers

In all the times the Largies came they only left the resort twice – once to go to Mount Teide with which they were blown away, and once to go to Aqualand which they thought was an overpriced  disappointment.
I have no doubt they would have enjoyed Siam Park, on the other hand the waves at  Playa Jardín gave them just as many adrenalin-packed thrills and spills and didn’t cost anything. They may  have enjoyed a visit to Veronica’s or Starco’s but instead they danced the nights away in the streets at Carnaval and in the local clubs where they met a cosmopolitan set of new friends. Perhaps Castillo de San Miguel would have been a novelty for them but instead they played Russian roulette over plates of pimientos de padrón in Bar Louis and practised their Spanish over ordering postres and drinks.

I don’t consider that Puerto de la Cruz is the only resort on Tenerife and it certainly won’t suit the majority of visitors who seem to want their sun, sand and sea accompanied by cabaret and theme parks. But I’m not convinced that everyone needs their entertainment to be packaged, admission charged and sold as ‘get your fun here’, regardless of what age they are…are you?

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I feel like I’ve been watching back to back movies in some dingy cinema for weeks and have finally emerged, blinking into the sunlight.
I’m not complaining (okay, that’s clearly a lie) but I’ve been so wrapped up in trying to meet my Simonseeks deadlines for their Tenerife pages that I’ve neglected everything else, including this blog, Twitter, Facebook, hiking, cooking and most importantly of all – R and R.

So when Jack’s sister and her boyfriend arrived on Tenerife for a two week holiday which coincided with hitting the second of three arduous deadlines, it was time to cut loose and take a break.

We’ve been hearing great things about a band called Traveller who regularly play Friday nights at the Tajinaste restaurant outside Los Gigantes so I figured I’d kill three birds with one stone – see Traveller, eat at the Tajinaste restaurant which I could then review for Simonseeks and have a good night out with Rhonda and Graeme.

But with typical bad timing, the day before we were due to see them, I got a mailshot from  Traveller to say that the new management of Tajinaste were closing for refurbishment…no band to watch, no restaurant to review and a disappointment for our night out in the west.
Except that it wasn’t really. Sure it would have been great to see a good live band but not seeing one didn’t spoil our night.
We headed into the resort to eat at Domingos and then to the Pilgrim for a few drinks. Domingos was pretty much full but it’s fair to say that the rest of the resort was very quiet. It was a great night and we enjoyed ourselves but to be honest, there was really not very much there in the way of bars and if I was on holiday in the resort, I guess I’d be heading elsewhere for my Friday night out.

Playa de la Arena

Most bar owners blame the lack of after-dark customers in Playa de la Arena on the proliferation of all-inclusive hotels in the resort but a few nights later Rhonda and Graeme were in Route 66 in Puerto Santiago where, with the usual full house, they watched the excellent Old Dogs New Tricks. One of the things that they noticed was the number of people in the audience wearing tell tale all-inclusive wrist bands.
It seems that if you give them a good enough reason, people will give up their free beer and bring you their custom. If you don’t, they won’t.

Fast forward to last Saturday night when Rhonda and Graeme came over to Puerto de la Cruz for a change of scene.
After spending the afternoon testing tapas we headed back into town around 8.30 pm and arrived in a packed Plaza Charco where every seat around the red hot braziers was taken. We had to sit on the harbour wall to eat our roasted chestnuts hors-d’oevre and drink our vino del país aperitif.  There was no entertainment, no live band or cabaret – just the old fishing town, the chestnuts, the wine and that old Puerto charm.

Blanco Bar

After eating we headed into Blanco Bar where some tables in the courtyards were still vacant and we tried a new instant favourite cocktail – Bailey’s Colada – courtesy of the bar staff, before relocating to the downstairs bar to see a local band. We watched and listened for a while before moving on to Limbo where we arrived at the upstairs bar to find that even standing room was limited. It was packed to beyond capacity.
A couple of rounds of beer and much gawping (mainly from me) at the group of young seven footer basketball players who were standing at the bar like Aragorns amongst the hobbits of the Shire, it was on to the next venue.

Courtyard entrance to Limbo

No Saturday night out in Puerto is complete without a visit to Azucar, the town’s liveliest Cuban bar and despite its temporary relocation to the ground floor while the former gentleman’s club upstairs is refurbished, it was good to see the place still packed to the rafters with people of all ages and a range of nationalities.

Suan Chill

After the madness and salsa of Azucar it was time to chill out so around 2 am, just as the town was beginning to reach its Saturday night zenith, we headed for Suan Chill where  we settled in amongst the sequined cushions and relaxed until fatigue got the better of us at around 3.20am and we headed for a taxi home.

The contrast between our two nights out couldn’t have been more marked, as indeed is the contrast between the two areas.
Happily, despite the move to all-inclusive by many of its hotels, Puerto has a thriving local population who don’t rely on bars laying on good entertainment to get them out into the town at night.  I really like Playa de la Arena and think it’s a lovely family resort but if you want night life, it’s not going to deliver the goods, or at least, not until the bar owners stop bitching about all-inclusive and start giving holidaymakers something other than sports coverage and Karaoke to leave their hotels for.

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