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Archive for the ‘Puerto de la Cruz’ Category

Walking the streets of Puerto de la Cruz around midnight last night, you’d have been forgiven for wondering if some giant, flesh-eating plants had invaded the town leaving the streets bereft of its citizens. But there’d be two vital pieces of information you’d be missing. Firstly, much of the population were nursing the hangover from hell after a full day of partying at the Fiestas Del Carmen on Tuesday and secondly, those who were still capable of dancing were all being held hostage at Plaza Europa by a diminutive African woman named Angélique Kidjo.

After the excesses of Tuesday, it took a Herculean feat of will to drag myself away from the prospect of a comfy sofa and a night in front of the box last night, but someone has to do it…
Bitching about the fact that there was no break between fiestas at this time of year and sounding like Victor Meldrew in knickers, I headed down to town at around 9pm for the opening night of the annual Jazz & Mas concerts.
Arriving in Plaza Europa, some hundred or so chairs were laid out theatre-style, most of them already occupied. The stage was set outside the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) building, lined by bright green kiosks enticing us to piensa en verde (think green) and beyond the stage large Heineken banners fluttered in the sea breeze like prayer flags calling the faithful to imbibe.

Yul Ballesteros

Jack and I positioned ourselves standing a metre or so behind the chairs, so that we could easily access side of stage for photos, and berated the use of staid seating for a concert as we watched a more mature crowd jostle for spare chairs.

First up was celebrated local(ish) lad, Yul Ballesteros, fresh from the New York modern Jazz scene. Born in Gran Canaria, this young man has been wowing New York with his guitar prowess and last night, it was easy to hear why. His improvised style may not be everyone’s first choice of easy listening but he certainly pleased the jazz aficionado audience last night. His set lasted for over an hour and had Jack and I doing a U-turn on our earlier diss’ of the seating arrangements as our backs, still exhausted from Tuesday, began to register painful indignation at this abuse.
Feeling slightly guilty, I didn’t join in with the random cries of Otra when Yul and his quartet left the stage.

Angélique Kidjo

Muttering to each other about only staying to watch a bit of the next performance, we watched a small African woman with close-cropped grey hair; flared loons split from the knee down and ankle boots, take to the stage. Unaccompanied, she split the night with a voice so powerful and sweet that it brought tears to the eyes. She sang her song in Swahili, keeping time with a soft rhythmic tapping on her thigh; this tiny figure on a huge stage which she filled with her presence. In an instant, she had captured the 500 strong audience and held them in her thrall.

She ended her song to tumultuous applause and immediately went into a fast tempo African number, a fusion of funk and soul to the beat of African drums, her body gyrating and stomping in a dance display of pure vitality and joy. That was it. The onlookers from the back surged forward to surround the seating area, dancing like they’d just discovered how good it was. Soon the ranks broke again and a tide of dancing bodies swept to front of stage as Angélique lifted every single individual up and sent their spirits soaring through the night.

The fact that she spoke entirely in English, most of which would have been lost on them, did nothing to diminish Angélique’s hold on her audience as she told us about how her father had introduced his children to the world by bringing them music from all the places he could never afford to send them to; Europe, America, India – musical influences that she now melted and fused with her native African beats to produce her high energy, compelling songs.

Our broken backs now forgotten, we watched, sang, danced and laughed as Angélique held us hostage late into the night. By the time we left, a good percentage of the audience were up on stage with this incredible woman, helping her to celebrate her fiftieth birthday by dancing to the drums of her childhood which echoed through the empty streets and followed us all the way back to the car.

If you ever get a chance to go and see Angélique Kidjo – do it.  It’s not just a concert, it’s a life-affirming experience.

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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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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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Wandering down to the harbour at Puerto de la Cruz any Saturday night during the summer you’re likely to hear the strains of music drifting across the fishing boats. Whether it’s cool jazz vibes from the Heineken Jazz Festival, Indie Rock and Punk from the FMAC festival or, more often than not, common or garden weekend Latino. But this Saturday night as we strolled through the warm and still night air, it was the pulsating rhythms of Brazil that greeted our ears.

Batucada

The infectious enthusiasm of the batucada was causing mass, involuntary foot tapping as the white-robed, red masked drummers swept everyone along in their tribal tide.
This particular batucada group play most of the carnivals and festivals in the north. They’re led by a handsome, dreadlocked guy who conducts his group of happy, smiley drummers using a whistle and a seductive smile which is so contagious that everyone seems to have caught it, whether they’re carrying a drum or not.

As the raw, primitive barrage of the drums fade, Brazilian DJ PuReZa takes to the stage and the rhythms slip into a silky Samba smoking jacket that wraps itself around everyone’s hips so we’re all swaying in time.

Then the crowds push forward as the capoeira boys (and girl) arrive. One by one they take to front of stage to perform their amazing blend of gymnastics and martial arts, bodies twisting and legs wind-milling as they somersault, back flip and handstand, spurred on by the rhythmic beat and the hand claps and whistles of the crowd. Then they begin their displays of dance fighting, legs kicking and swinging at each other, always a hair’s breadth from touching.

Capoeira - an amazing blend of gymnastics, martial arts & dance

It’s a breathtaking display that leaves me feeling so old and un-supple that I have to go and have a sit down. In Plaza Charco the Samba beat is joined by cheering from the hordes watching Real Madrid sink 5 goals against Athletic Bilbao; the entertainment is all fast and furious tonight.

Suitable rested and refreshed, it’s back to Sao Paulo aka the harbour where DJ Tahira has taken to the stage and the crowds have begun to morph from Neo-hippies to Puerto’s Saturday night-ers.

It’s been a great prelude to summer when the town changes personality and dances to the beat of a more Spanish/South American drum – ash clouds, world economic crises and World Cup mania permitting.

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Puerto's more usual weather. If only it had been like this for Clive and Karen!

At the end of last week I got one of those ‘out of the blue’ emails that occasionally wing their way to your in box. Someone I used to work with more than 20 years ago was coming out to Tenerife and was hoping to look us up.

Clive and Karen are staying in Los Gigantes but they spent their honeymoon in Puerto de la Cruz 27 years ago and wanted to re-visit some of their haunts from all those years ago.  I was really looking forward to seeing them on Saturday for a good old reminisce and catch up.

To date, Puerto has always been kind to our family and friends, putting on her very best sunshine face for them. But not so this weekend.

As we walked towards Plaza Charco, we spotted Clive and Karen sitting, shivering at one of the tables.

“Why didn’t you tell me it was 15 degrees colder here than in Los Gigantes!” joked Clive as we got in earshot – well, when I say “joked”…

I don’t think we’ve had a colder day this winter. It was dark, overcast and drizzling, in fact, it was very like Bank Holiday weather in the UK, except probably about 10 degrees C higher, not that Clive and Karen appreciated that as they were dressed for considerably hotter and sunnier weather. They’d had to buy a fleece and a wrap to keep themselves somewhere near warm.

We spent a couple of hours in the Plaza bravely persevering with the cold lager before finally giving in and heading to the warmth of the Frigata bar on the harbour where we had enough time to get the feeling back into our fingers before Clive and Karen had to go for the bus back to Los G…and warmth.

Today is even more horrible than yesterday. Although the sun has threatened to break through the cloud on several occasions, to date it has singularly failed to do so and we’ve had intermittent heavy showers. Great for the garden, rubbish for holiday makers.

I feel very sorry for anyone who’s come out to Puerto for Easter and can only apologise on her behalf. I just hope the rest of Tenerife is managing to put on a better show for Easter holidaymakers; although, looking at the webcams, I suspect only Clive and Karen in Los Gigantes are getting some proper sun.

Looks like the east and west of the island wins out on the weather stakes again!

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And this is supposed to be fun...?

I can’t say my heart was really in it as we set off on Saturday afternoon to watch the Canarias Infinity Xtreme Race which was taking place in Puerto de la Cruz. I was feeling decidedly lazy and the prospect of having to walk for 20 minutes to and from the car because the event was being staged in the harbour car park, was doing nothing for me at all.
The irony of my lethargy was completely lost on me at the time.

The Canarias Infinity Xtreme Race is a 10 kilometre run, swim and assault course designed to test fitness exactly in the way it says on the can: “to the Xtreme”.
We arrived at the harbour just in time to see the front-runners plunge into the sea for the swim section. It was a gusty, sunny day with a slight coolness in the air which must have been a relief for the contestants after the high temperatures we’ve had all winter.
Although contestants were predominantly male, there were plenty of women participating too, and as if just surviving this event weren’t enough, some had chosen to do it Carnaval-style in wigs and tutus while others had carefully painted faces. At the point that we first witnessed them, they were still dry, clean and relatively fresh.

We watched as contestants poured into the water like Lemmings and swam to the top end of the harbour wall before climbing out and continuing their run through the car park.
It was while struggling to step up from the harbour wall and finally making it with a grunt and a twinge in the left knee (I blame over-tight drainpipe jeans) that I suddenly felt Xtremely un-fit and I’m pretty sure my neck had the decency to blush.

Mud, barbed wire and still smiling...these people aren't real!

We made our way to the assault course section where contestants were now on their bellies, crawling through mud beneath barbed wire before running up a muddy, slippery slope while being hosed in the face by a bombero. Then it was off to Playa Jardín.
We waited in the warm sun; listening to the music, counting the empty, crushed Red Bull tins that had been frantically consumed pre-race and keeping an eye on the stragglers until the front runners returned for the final, cruel obstacles between them and the finishing line.
The first half dozen or so men completed the course, their faces barely registering fatigue. If it wasn’t for the fact that they were completely covered in mud, you’d think they’d set off five minutes ago after spending the day in a hammock.
A loud cheer registered the arrival of the first female contestant and she too dealt with the final obstacles as if they were no more than a minor inconvenience.

Once the super heroes had finished, the human beings began to arrive and the pain of their endeavours was etched into the mud on their faces as they struggled to get up the side of the wooden pyramid before sliding back down. But the camaraderie brought a lump to the throat as contestants went back to help others, lending their shoulders as ladders to the tumultuous applause of spectators.

With a little help from my friends.

With the last of the stragglers finally home, if not dry, we made our way back, all across town and up hundreds of steps, to La Paz and the car.
I was exhausted by the time we got home.

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