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Archive for the ‘Puerto de la Cruz’ Category

It’s the highlight of Carnaval week in Puerto de la Cruz and last year it attracted more than 35,000 spectators.
It’s only 7.30pm. Registration of contestants isn’t scheduled to begin for another hour but already crowds are claiming their places along the route and against the barriers in Plaza Charco.

Tonight is double pleasure for us; not only are we here to watch the arrival and registration of the contestants in this surreal event, but its early start gives us the perfect excuse to eat at the Meson California guachinche in Plaza Charco.

The music strikes up and the beer barrels beside the stage are loaded, ready to oil the heels of contenders. Then it begins – a trickle at first but quickly gaining strength into a river of weird and fabulous costumes emerging from the crowds to be registered, have their heels measured for minimum height and be introduced to the audience.

It’s a process that takes in excess of two hours during which time the contestants imbibe copious amounts of alcohol, building nerve and diminishing co-ordination until heels morph into shifting mountains beneath their feet.

This year the costumes were a triumph with the Cinderella shoes and the chickens coming out top of my list.

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Anyone visiting Tenerife over the next month is quite likely to find themselves witnessing events that are a little out of the ordinary as Carnaval 2011 hits the island like a tropical storm in costume.

Depending on which part of the island you’re based in, you’re quite likely to witness party goers dressed as smurfs, witches, angels and Marvel comic characters either fresh faced and bright eyed on their way to the street party, sleeping precariously on a harbour wall or still propping up a bar mid-morning with eyes as red as the sunrise.

You’ll also probably stumble over exhibitions, vintage car rallies, dancing competitions and even, as in the case of the unsuspecting holidaymakers in Puerto de la Cruz a few days ago, a mini carnival parade.

As visitors and locals strolled the cobbled streets of the town centre on an average Sunday morning, the peace was shattered by the persistent sounding on a tinny horn which heralded the arrival of the candidates for the town’s Carnaval Queen 2011 elections in vintage cars accompanied by a mini parade of dancers and musicians.

You don’t have to attend the main events to know that party time has arrived; unlike the mountain to Mohammed, Carnaval will come to you 🙂

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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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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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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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Friday was our seventh anniversary of moving to Tenerife and it’s ironic that having spent so many years trying to make enough money just to continue living here, we didn’t have time to celebrate it until Saturday night because we’ve been so busy.

But celebrate it we did and several glasses after the cork left the cava, thoughts and conversation turned to reflecting on how the working environment here is so different from the one we knew in the UK.

Here, life has a way of simply getting under foot and you constantly have to try to find a way around it. Partly that’s due to the working from home factor; without a shiny, fully equipped office in which to sit, you’re vulnerable to all sorts of interruptions but also, it’s about rural living on a small island in the Atlantic.

Take Friday for example. Having been working 12 hours a day, seven days a week for the past three weeks to achieve a deadline, I was trying to upload the last couple of hours of work when a friend arrived with two dogs that we’ve agreed to look after for a mutual friend who’s currently recuperating from illness. We’re totally unprepared for dogs here at Casa Montgomery, but having a network of people on whom you can rely is an essential part of living in a rural community. So I abandoned the keyboard, popped the kettle on and greeted our canine house guests and their chauffeur.

 

The latest (temporary!) additions to the household

 

We sat on the tatty garden chairs around the old pine table on the terrace and as we chatted we watched the fat, shiny leaves of the banana plants on the next door plantation wafting in the gentle breeze as if operated by invisible punkah wallahs. Conversation ebbed and flowed between corruption in local politics and the likelihood of acquiring a 30 foot ladder on which to tackle the avocado tree in the garden which has grown to such proportions that it’s now a landmark feature on Google Earth.

Earlier in the day we’d had to visit the Correos (post office) to despatch the last of the week’s orders for Island Drives. We can’t just put a stamp on the guides and pop them into the post box because the Correos operate a weigh and frank system, and two of us have to go because road works have annihilated all the parking in the area and double or triple parking is the only option; so someone has to stay with the car to move it when necessary. On Friday there were 43 people ahead of Jack and a whole hour was donated to the Spanish postal system.

Sitting on the terrace and mentally fretting about my rapidly approaching deadline, I couldn’t help wondering if the folks who would read my Tenerife Expert and Tenerife Insider opinions would have any idea what life out here is really like. I guessed probably not.

 

The megalomaniacal avocado tree

 

It’s been an amazing seven years and a journey that has at times lifted us to new heights and at other times dropped us on our heads. Just 18 months ago we faced the harsh reality that we had just three solvent months left after which we’d have to put the house on the market and leave the island. Today we’re so busy with financially and creatively rewarding projects that we’re struggling to keep the plates spinning… and we’re loving every minute of it.
Last night we realised that it’s almost one year to the day since we sat on this terrace with our friends and colleagues on a red hot day and floated the idea of setting up an online lifestyle magazine. One year later Tenerife Magazine gets 11,500 visits a month, has almost 2,000 fans on Facebook and we’re making expansion plans.

Seven years on Tenerife and the only thing that has remained constant is the inconsistency of living here…and our love of its lifestyle.
We can never relax or become complacent and boredom is a foreign land for which we don’t own passports.
I wonder what the next 12 months hold.

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I’ve heard it said that Puerto de la Cruz in the north of Tenerife is a quiet, traditional town favoured by elderley Brit and German holidaymakers who choose the resort for their holidays on Tenerife. In fact, for some regular visitors to TripAdvisor, that image is promoted as a selling point. But in reality, Puerto is probably the most misrepresented resort on Tenerife.
You see, it just doesn’t fit the mould of other popular Tenerife resorts.

For one thing, its character is essentially Tinerfeñan. Although the first resort on the island and the victim of mass tourism development in the 1960s and 1970s, the town has never given up its identity to fit in with tourist expectations. The vast majority of its almost 32,000 population are Tinerfeñan, Canarian or Spanish and they live, work and play in the town year-round.

Nightlife in Puerto doesn’t fit the mould of other Tenerife resorts either. Conspicuous by their absence are cabaret bars (with the notable exception of the excellent and hilarious Bitter & Twisted), tribute bands and Karaoke bars. Absent too are über-stylish lounge bars where the beautiful people gather to pay extortionate prices for their vodka and Red Bull. Instead, Puerto prefers to conduct its social life the same way it does its family life – in the community; sitting at one of the tables beside the harbour or in one of the squares people-watching over a carafe of wine; chatting in a local bar with a glass of vino del pais and shots of brandy; open air concerts, fiestas and entertainment at the harbour and dancing in night clubs that don’t open until midnight and unless you knew where they were, you would probably never find them.

But more than anything else, the thing that separates Puerto from other Tenerife resorts is that it’s at its very liveliest in summer when Spanish mainlanders and Canarios descend on the town in their droves to enjoy a non-stop party. Beaches become a busy playground of brightly coloured sun umbrellas at the water’s edge; the harbour, streets and squares buzz day and night with holiday makers strolling with ice creams, candy-floss and almendras; tapas restaurants fill the streets with candlelit tables and the night air with irresistible aromas and there’s barely a Brit or a German to be seen.

Puerto de la Cruz – about as sleepy as a convention of insomniacs.

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