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Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Any of my friends will attest to the fact that, for the past three months I’ve been about as much fun as a bout of influenza, virtually all of my waking hours being in front of a screen and a keyboard in order to meet deadlines. So the weekend before Christmas, deadlines finally achieved, Jack and I took ourselves off for a bit of R and R on Tenerife’s sunny south west coast.


The prospect of this mini holiday had been keeping me going through the final pushes of work and I’d envisaged myself lying by a Bond-esque swimming pool, cocktail in hand, soaking up the healing rays of the sun and watching my skin slowly losing its blinding white hue.
So it wasn’t without some concerns that a few days before we were due to go away I began to pick up reports of yellow alerts and first hand accounts of persistent rain in the south of the island.

On Saturday morning we headed out of the blue skies and sunshine of Puerto de la Cruz for the drive to Puerto Santiago. As we climbed higher into the cloud my heart began to sink, but when we reached the mirador above Santiago Del Teide I could see the resort of Playa de la Arena in sunshine on the coast below and we arrived at the Hotel Barceló Santiago in glorious sunshine.


You often hear about the different weather zones on Tenerife and here we were under blue skies and sunshine just a fifteen minute drive along the coast from Los Cristianos, Playa de Las Américas and Costa Adeje where, very unusually, it was raining heavily.

After checking in and getting into the holiday mood with a complimentary glass of chilled cava, we headed to our suite.
We’d stayed in the Hotel Barceló Santiago seven years ago and although completely blown away by its location, we’d been somewhat disappointed with our room. But clearly the hotel hadn’t stood still in those intervening years and refurbishments had transformed it beyond recognition.
As we walked through the door of room 819 it wasn’t disappointment we felt, it was elation.

The first thing we saw was the stylish en suite bathroom and walk in shower constructed in ice blue opaque glass. Beyond the bathroom was a comfortable lounge area and beyond the opaque glass screen lay the elegant, contemporary-styled bedroom which occupied a corner of the hotel’s eighth floor.
Drawing back the floor to ceiling curtains, we had panoramic views over the cliffs of Los Gigantes and the whale and dolphin watching boats which were cutting a white swathe through the shimmering turquoise of the ocean. From the other window, the views were equally impressive over La Gomera and the hotel’s fabulously stylish swimming pools and sun terraces.


After wandering over and back between views on our corner balcony, we unpacked and headed down to the buffet lunch.

I wasn’t really very hungry and so I headed for the salad bar and stacked my plate from the cold meats, salads and dressings. Unfortunately, on the way back to my table on the elegant outside terrace I caught sight of the carvery section where sirloin steaks and plump pork fillets and chops were sizzling on a griddle, then past the sweets tables (okay, admittedly my route back to the table may not have been the most direct…) where small pastries, ice creams and chocolate mousses were whispering “eat me” in seductive tones.


After my salad lunch which morphed into a three course sumptuous affair with red wine and several return trips to the buffet there was only one place to go. I chose a sunbed alongside the infinity pool with views over the Los Gigantes cliffs, applied the factor 15 and let the afternoon drift away in a pleasant doze lulled by soft Jazz melodies drifting from the pool bar, the distant chatter of a couple in the Jacuzzi and the rhythmic ebbing and flowing of the ocean.

As I lay there in the afternoon sun, the stresses and strains of the past three months began to evaporate into the ether and all I had left to worry about was how on earth I was going to be hungry enough for our 7.30 pm reservation at the Sabor Español restaurant. Now that’s what I call R and R.

P.S. If you like the look of the Hotel Barceló Santiago, you could win a  FREE week, half board for 2 persons simply by liking Tenerife Magazine on Facebook – no catch, no hidden ‘sell’, just hit the ‘like’ button and you could be lying by that pool gazing over the Los Gigantes cliffs. I’ve already hit the button several times. Well, you never know…

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There’s something about the sight of the big wheel being erected in the car park beside the harbour in Puerto de la Cruz that ignites a feeling of nostalgia and excitement.

It’s not that I’m ever likely to step into one of the carriages that would reward me with an unequalled view over the whole Puerto de la Cruz and the Orotava Valley; I’m far too much of a scaredy cat for that. But there’s something exotic and slightly dangerous about funfairs. They whisper of life on the road…no, in truth they don’t whisper they announce it with a whirlwind assault of whizzing neon lights, klaxons and screams of laughter that are tinged with delighted fear.

The funfair that sets up home for the festive season in Puerto is wonderfully old fashioned with dodgems, shooting alleys and white knuckle rides that would seem tame to the UK’s seasoned theme park visitors, but scare the hell out of the local youths here.

And that’s one of the reasons I love it. It’s brash and loud and most of all it’s innocent – it’s Christmas in Tenerife.

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We’re not sweet eaters as such. That’s not to say we don’t like sugar ‘n’ spice and all things nice, it’s just that these days we might as well miss out the middle man and simply staple any slices of cake straight on to the waistline.

We do actually buy a bar of chocolate every second week and with an iron-willed discipline limit ourselves to two squares which are eaten with relish post lunch.

However, a few years ago friends, who throw caution to the wind in the sweetie eating stakes, introduced us to the pleasures of turrón and now this Christmas treat from Jijona is a regular addition to our cupboards over the festive season.

It’s probably this simple cake that sparks the first feelings of Christmas on Tenerife as a dizzying array of boxes and varieties take the place of the rather more healthy fruit selection in the local supermarket. And the selection is dizzying. I’ve watched Canarios, fingernails being chewed furiously, trying to decide for upwards of 30 minutes which flavour to opt for.

We’ve tried caramel flavour, coconut flavour, cherry flavour and cream. But we always return to the classic yema tostada made from almonds, honey and egg yolk.

Round about 3.30pm, when creativity and enthusiasm is flagging badly, a cup of coffee accompanied by a finger slice of yema tostada provides just enough of a boost to get us through another three to four hours work.

In that respect it’s not a treat at all, it’s an essential Christmas work tool…honest.

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As this is the week before Christmas, I thought I’d share some of the little things on Tenerife that bring on a warm and fuzzy feeling during the festive season.

First on the list are the magical Christmas lights that bring a seasonal sparkle to the island’s historic towns. Santa Cruz looks splendid, Puerto de la Cruz glitters gloriously and La Laguna’s cobbled and perfectly preserved old streets could easily have been lifted straight from one of those cards featuring Victorian Christmas scenes, but my favourite setting is Tenerife’s most elegant town, La Orotava.

The life size belén outside the town hall is impressive and the colourful xmas lights add a touch of razzamatazz to the streets around the Iglesia de la Concepción. However, the most magical spot is Plaza de la Constitución. Last year there were icicles ‘dripping’ from the leafy canopy overhead, huge bow wrapped presents adding a touch of frivolity to the gardens and the display in the bandstand turned children’s eyes saucer sized. If there’s a more Christmassy place on Tenerife to have a coffee I’ve yet to find it.

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Raise a glass to absinthe friends...

I’m not saying it’s been the sort of booze-fuelled haze that Christmas and New Year used to be in my youth, but there have been some particularly memorable evenings that have involved the partaking of a certain amount of alcohol; notably Christmas Eve and Jack’s birthday.

On the run up to Christmas I compiled a small feature for Tenerife Magazine on Tenerife’s Top Ten Cocktails which involved a deal of necessary research. So when it came time to get the final festive shopping underway, I added a few essential ingredients to the list so that I could test out some of my own recipes.

My very favourite cocktail is Mojito; Bacardi, fresh mint, sugar, crushed ice and soda water. Both we and friends of ours have, in the past, had several attempts at making Mojitos but with very limited success. To be honest, mine were poor but Martin’s were positively disgusting…if lethal. So having finally hunted down a good recipe, on Christmas Eve we decided to give it another go and guess what? It turns out that we can now make a pretty darn good Mojito. The first attempt was quaffably very acceptable. The second was bordering on delicious. The third was authentic, pass-me-a-Cuban-cigar-and-turn-up-that-Latino-music FABULOUS! After that it’s all pretty much a blur.

Jack’s birthday falls on 30th December (for which he’s never forgiven his mother – “if she’d just hung on another 16 minutes!”) and so he’s always very Victor Meldrew about it. This year, I was determined he’d have a good time so I bought him something he’s wanted to try ever since I took him to Barcelona for his birthday 8 years ago…a bottle of absinthe.
Getting the absinthe was easy as it’s readily available here on Tenerife, but it took four supermarkets before I could get sugar lumps (a necessary accoutrement for absinthe consumption). Alas, I couldn’t find a proper spoon anywhere so, in the absinthe of an absinthe spoon (allow me one bad pun) we had to make do with the kitchen slotted spoon. It took three attempts to get it right, by which time we wouldn’t have noticed the Green Fairy had she appeared, stripped naked and bounced on our noses. Unless of course she really is Kylie Minogue in which case I suspect Jack may have noticed.
I’ve awarded that particular hangover a massive 9.7 on the Richter scale.

So this week I decided it was detox time and looked forward to feeling 100% alcohol-free and fighting fit for the next week.
I awoke on Sunday morning with a throat that was lined with broken glass and as I drained my wine glass that evening I feared that I may have fallen prey to a cold virus which would interfere with my feelgood plans for the week.

On Monday and Tuesday I abstained from all alcohol and continued working but felt shit. By Wednesday I was bedridden with a headache that would have had to improve to qualify as the headache from hell and bouts of sneezing that barely subsided long enough for me to breathe. By Thursday the headache had turned into the migraine from hell and it was all I could do to hang onto the contents of my stomach.
On Friday I cracked a beer.
I feel much better today.

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I always think Christmas is a time for children. The excitement of waiting for Santa and the certain knowledge that magic really does exist in the world.
I have precious memories of Christmas morning; waking at first light to see the outline of the presents at the bottom of the bed; my brothers running into my room to show me what Santa had brought them; cartoons on the telly and mum’s home made bread fried for breakfast. I can’t imagine a child’s Christmas without feeling the warmth of being part of a family and thankfully, I never had to find out.

But for millions of children in Africa, AIDS has stripped them of that precious family childhood.
Although we can never replace what those children have lost, we can help to give them a home, a family and a better chance in life.

This month, Tenerife Magazine has teamed up with Pearly Grey Ocean Club to promote the project Ingane Yami.

The face of Africa's orphan crisis

Ingane Yami
The Restoration of Hope Ministry is a charity project which is about to commence building a Children’s Village in the Durban area of South Africa. The village, which will foster and care for orphans, will be called “Ingane Yami” (meaning ‘my child’ in the local language, Zulu)
Pearly Grey Ocean Club has been organizing charity events to raise awareness and money for this vital project including a sponsored climb of Kilimanjaro which began on the 8th December 2009.

Win a Holiday in Tenerife

Your 5 star terrace awaits you at Pearly Grey's ocean-side location

As part of their commitment to Ingane Yami, Pearly Grey Ocean Club have donated a really fabulous prize to Tenerife Magazine; one FREE week’s accommodation in a 5 star apartment at their resort on the sunny west coast of Tenerife.
To enter the competition, all you have to do is become a fan of Tenerife Magazine on Facebook and spread the word about ‘Ingane Yami’. It’s that simple.

Help us Raise Awareness
Please pass on this message to friends and family and ask them to support Pearly Grey’s efforts to help Ingani Yami. If you can afford to give, please donate. Even the smallest of gifts can make a difference.
Between us we can help to bring some magic back into the lives of children, what better Christmas present could we give?

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There’s a really narrow, blind corner on the road into Puerto de la Cruz from the La Paz area where we live. One time we were driving into town and as we rounded this corner, a car was heading straight for us. A woman obviously thought it was one way and we both slammed on the brakes with barely enough room for a Barclaycard between our bumpers. Concentration is paramount.

Imagine therefore the effect it would have if, coming into sight across the bridge from this very spot, there was a giant Ferris Wheel dancing with neon laser lights that spiralled, circled and raced around the wheel, cutting the night sky like a rainbow on acid.
How I managed to keep the car on the road is anybody’s guess and I predict broken glass before the Christmas period is over.

The annual Christmas funfair opened in Puerto last night and the town all turned out to see it. Not that you could miss it; the Ferris Wheel is probably baffling scientists in the International Space Station even as I write.

BIG fun at the fair in Puerto this Christmas

The air was thick with the smell of burgers, candyfloss and churros; music blared out from the Viking Ship and the Dodgems; the ground was littered with tickets from the Tombola and everywhere I looked, someone was carrying a giant fluffy toy as the evening’s spoils.

And just to add that final festive touch to the whole affair, the Christmas lights had all been switched on too.
I don’t care how Scrooge you’re feeling this year, take a trip into Puerto one evening and you’ll be digging out the Santa hat, smiling at the kiddies and feeling an uncontrollable urge to say “ho ho ho” at regular intervals.

I haven’t plucked up the courage to have a go on that Ferris Wheel yet …watch this space.

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