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Archive for the ‘Drink’ Category

As soon as we heard that Ministry of Sound were going to be appearing in Santa Cruz on the first Saturday night of Carnaval 2011 it was a foregone conclusion. We would be there.

There was much debate over how we would get in and out of the city, tales of traffic mayhem being rife, but the prospect of long walks, a bus ride dressed as Hit Girl and Brother Jack, another long walk and no idea of how we would get home again settled it. We’d take our chances and drive into the city.

I drew the designated driver short straw and we set off around 10.40pm to give ourselves plenty of time to check out all the venues in the city before heading to Plaza Europa to share the Ministry of Sound experience. As it turned out, driving into the city couldn’t have been easier. We arrived at the bus station car park to find plenty of spaces (the Canarios don’t tend to like paying for parking when an empty pedestrian crossing costs nothing) and with the final touches applied to our costumes, headed off into the surreal pandemonium that is carnival.

Everywhere we went, the sights and smells of food assailed us, from candy floss and sugared almonds at the fairground, through baked potatoes and hot dogs along the paseo marítima to the amazing food stall in Plaza Candelaria with its Desperate Dan– sized montaditos and its rotating barbecue on which half suckling pigs sizzled.

Everyone who wasn’t eating, and most of those who were, were drinking, and the ground was littered with carrier bags bulging with bags of ice, bottles of Jack Daniels, Smirnoff, Arehucas, cans of Red Bull and bottles of coke from which groups were serving themselves generous refills in between salsas. Beer stalls lined every street, their counters propped up by escapees from a drug-induced nightmare, and a giant plastic lime with its top half sliced and opened served as a bar for a mojito mixing barman dressed as a bee.

We made our way first to Plaza Principe where a very traditional band was just warming up a crowd who were enjoying their salsa under the stars. Next it was on to the small stage below the Plaza where a rock band were belting out Spanish and US classic rock anthems to a select gathering. As the clock ticked towards Ministry of Sound time we headed to the main stage at Plaza Candelaria where thousands of fancy dress clad revellers were getting into their stride to the Maquinería boy band who were belting out a lively stream of carnival favourites accompanied by some very nifty dance moves.

By now, the Carnaval spirit had us by the throat and there was only one place that we needed to be. As the lasers scanned the night sky, and over a steady dance beat, a deep voice intoned a monologue that told us of a night when it was written that a new generation would come and dance until the ground shook.
As the volume pumped up and the Ministry of Sound roadshow took to the stage, the prophecy came true.

Unfortunately, my flip camera also shook and the microphone gave up the ghost on the volume. So with suitable apologies to Ministry of Sound for failing to capture the full force of your music, here’s a taster of Santa Cruz Carnaval 2011 . the food, the music and the people.

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I like Latino music, I really do, but not at the expense of every other type of music in the Universe and unfortunately, here in the north of Tenerife Latino is aired, played and listened to as if no other order of notes has ever been invented.

Still, it was New Year’s Eve at the annual street party in Puerto de la Cruz and I resigned myself to another night of salsa, salsa and more salsa which certainly improves in direct relation to the quantity of alcohol consumed.

Midnight strikes, grapes are swallowed, fireworks explode into life and the champagne corks are popped – hello 2011.
Jack, Nicole, Sebastian and I wander back to Plaza Charco where the evening’s Latino band are in full swing and the dance floor is packed with salsa dancers. I do my best to shake up an explosion by attempting (badly I suspect) to emulate the moves while carrying a rucksack in which our chilled cava supply is stashed.

Shortly after 1am Nicole and Sebastian bid their farewells and Jack and I  finish off a bottle of cava and head over to the other side of the harbour to see what’s happening.

Lo and behold, what we find is the alternative New Year’s Eve – the one that has loud, throbbing rhythms and multi coloured strobe lights and joy upon joy, the unmistakeable chords of Insomnia!
With unrestrained delirium we launch ourselves into the middle of the pulsating dance floor and let the music wash over us in a tsunami of nostalgia.
I don’t think I have ever been more happy to hear Faithless, and the atmosphere alongside the harbour with the neon Big Wheel of the funfair slowly turning in the distance is nothing short of electric.
Now this is what I call party music.

We video’d snippets of the two sides to our NYE party so that anyone who has never experienced New Year’s Eve in Puerto de la Cruz can see what they’re missing and book now for 2011/2012. Oh, and in the interests of editing, I’ve culled the 5 minute firework display down to 1½ minutes.

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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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When was the last time you walked away from a Tenerife bar, having just bought your round, with a grin on your face as wide as the crater?

For me, it was Sunday at the fiestas of San Antonio Abad in La Matanza where we took our friend Bob along for the ride.

We found a pavement to park on (not just acceptable at these affairs but positively de rigeur) and set off up a street that, were it ever to snow here, would prove a good practice ground for the down hill ski slalom; picking our way over evidence that much of the livestock had also used this route.

Why can't you just have a cat like everyone else?

We wondered through row upon row of horses from Shetlands to pure bred Arabs and Andalusians tethered alongside donkeys and mules that looked like they’d arrived at the party and no-one had told them it was formal wear.
Then it was over the road, past the pens of goats where tiny, fluffy kids were busy redefining the cute scale, to the stalls where mighty oxen were tethered, drooled over by butchers.

We lined the small street of San Antonio opposite the church and watched as the livestock paraded its way to the trophy table and locals wondered past with their various pets which they’d brought along for the San Antonio blessing. You have to hand it to these people, when it comes to choice of pets they’re not tied by convention. As we stood there we spotted pet iguanas, snakes, chinchilla rabbits (on leads) and a couple of eagles.
An hour or so into the proceedings it was time for some liquid refreshment and I fought my way through the farmers and musicians to the bar of a chiringuito and ordered three red wines. The barman asked if I wanted a quarter or half litre and as it was the first of the day I plumped for the quarter.
He reached into the large fridge and pulled out a chilled ¼ litre carafe into which he siphoned some home produced vino del país and, grabbing 3 small plastic glasses on the way back, he placed them on the bar and said “ €1.50 please”.

Standing room only at the bar and a distinct lack of women...

The grin remained on our faces as we sat on the wall in the sunshine and made very short work of the immensely quaffable ¼ litre. In fact, we made very short work of the next 2 carafes too – well, everyone has to get their round in, it’s only polite.

Feeling very mellow by this time we decided it was probably sensible to get something to eat and set off in search of some pinchos. Unfortunately, every bar we went to had run out of pinchos and was only offering carne fiesta (spicy pork chunks – come to think of it, not unlike pinchos). Eventually we were forced to declare at the final and largest of the chiringuitos that carne fiesta would suffice nicely, especially as this particular establishment was peppering the dishes liberally with home made chips.

Drink and ride

Squashed onto a narrow pavement bordering the main thoroughfare for the livestock, Jack ordered the food and the wine, which arrived in a Pepsi bottle – not as classy as the last place.
As we devoured the savoury pork chunks and drank our wine a steady procession of caballeros pranced and stamped their way to the spot right in front of us. One of the barmen was dispensing large glasses of wine to each rider, many of whom we recognised as fellow imbibers from the other chiringuito. Where they’d been positively unsteady on their feet, they now looked perfectly at home in the saddle and drained every glass in one.

There were one or two very nervous moments as horse buttocks backed close to Bob’s toes while he was trying to photograph a particularly attractive female rider – the words “serve” and “right” come to mind – bringing an exciting and dangerous finale to the afternoon’s proceedings.

If Guardia Civil had thought to get the breath tests out along the La Matanza to Puerto road on Sunday they’d have financed their next three fiestas – assuming they have jurisdiction over four legged vehicles.

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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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