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Archive for the ‘shopping’ Category

As we ate breakfast on the terrace yesterday morning, the sun was being very coy.
Typical. Pretty much all summer the default setting for our weather has been clear blue skies and sun, sun, sun. But Friday was the start of the annual craft fair of Pinolere in the hills above La Orotava and if belly of the donkey was going to make a re-appearance anywhere, it would be there.

800 meters above sea level and hemmed in by barrancos to the east and west, Pinolere is a community of some 700 inhabitants living in the shadow of Tenerife’s mountainous spine, and more often than not, beneath a sea of clouds. It may mean that Pinolere is never going to topple Playa de Las Americas as Tenerife’s number one tourist destination, but the clouds bring high humidity ensuring that everything here grows in abundance.

Birdsong whistles (€3) make great gifts for kids

But yesterday, as we snaked our way high above the coast of Puerto de la Cruz, the sun finally broke free and the clouds ran for their lives leaving another glorious day in the La Orotava Valley.
Even though it was barely 11.30am when we arrived, the car parking was choc a bloc and we ended up parking on a small dirt track which led off to fincas set amongst the vines of the valley. Bemoaning the fact that we hadn’t thought to bring ropes and crampons, we toiled up a near-vertical street, back to the site of the craft fair wishing that the clouds had chosen to descend as sweat trickled down our backs.

The last time we visited the fair, the trademark bruma (cloud) had entirely obscured its location but yesterday, under clear skies, the true beauty of our surroundings was nothing less than awesome. The emerald, forest-clad slopes of the upper La Orotava Valley rose to dizzying heights in a shimmering heat haze beyond the thatched roofs and vines of the hamlet.

A Crafty Piece of Work
For the majority of Pinolere’s inhabitants, the land provides their livelihood and allows them to be almost entirely self-sufficient. For generations, the community have been basket weavers, iron workers, charcoal producers, carpenters, farmers and muleteers. It’s only recently that they’ve ceased to construct their homes in the traditional manner of many of the country dwellings of Tenerife; walls of dry stone roofed with chestnut wood entwined with branches and then thatched with straw.

25 years ago Pinolere made plans to introduce a new aspect to their local fiestas and came up with the idea of showcasing the wide range of crafts and skills that they held. Calling it ‘The Day of the Traditional Canaries’, they brought together all the craftspeople from the local area and invited them to exhibit the best of their products. Over the course of the years that event has grown from a local fair to the Canary Islands’ largest showcase for crafts made from traditional produce.

Handmade ceramic dolls, €24

The Pinolere Craft Fair is set in 10,000 square metres of terraces and pathways that meander as randomly as the surrounding barrancos and contain hundreds of stalls filled with jewellery; woven baskets; clothes; hand carved furniture; ceramics; pottery; toys; herbs and spices; cheeses; jams and mojos; cakes; glassware; cane furniture; iron and copper ornaments…the list is endless.

As we made our way up level after level filled with stalls, the stone-built thatched houses provided small exhibitions on the history of wheat production in the area and a short-lived refuge from the hot sun.
Arriving finally at the top level we reached the welcome sight of a large guachinche where the aroma of sizzling pork pinchos (kebabs) and the sight of condensation running down the side of cold beer bottles was too much to resist. Finding a small section of vacant wall we sat down to enjoy our pinchos and beer and peruse our collection of purchases while gawping at the incredible scenery.

Our haul of goodies

It’s probably a good job that Pinolere doesn’t enjoy this kind of weather continuously or the fields of wheat, vines, vegetables and cereals would soon get replaced by villas and apartments and we’d have lost something really, really special.

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You know it’s nearly Christmas on Tenerife when the poinsettias come into bloom and La Villa shopping centre starts to open on Sundays.

So on Sunday we decided to try to put the gift-buying to bed in the hopes that we could get everything in the post by Monday and it would still have an outside chance of getting to the UK before Santa did.

We figured we’d head up to La Villa around 11.30am which would give us enough time to do the shopping without descending into bad tempers and get to the beach for 2.45pm where we were meeting Nicole for lunch.

I was surprised at the lack of traffic on the slip road to La Villa and we remarked on the stark contrast between Tenerife and the UK where, by now, any hope of getting to somewhere like Manchester for shopping on a Sunday would entail setting off at 8am with a flask, a tartan blanket and some emergency food for the journey.

The smugness was soon wiped from our lips when, driving into the car park we were faced with row upon row of empty parking spaces. Something was amiss.
The doors of the centre were open and we wandered past shuttered stores like extras on the set of 28 Days Later until we reached the Al Campo hypermarket where a security guard was sitting, idly thumbing through a magazine.

“Excuse me,” we asked. “Why isn’t the supermarket open yet?”
“Because it’s the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.”
“But that isn’t until Tuesday is it?”
“That’s right, but this is the bridge.”

‘The bridge’ is the name they give here for all the extra holidays they take every time a public holiday falls within spitting distance of the weekend. So because Tuesday is a public holiday on Tenerife the shopping centre closed on Sunday, opened (inexplicably) on Monday and closed again on Tuesday. The Correos (post office) is of course closed Monday (the bridge) and Tuesday.

So, to all our friends and family in the UK who are now not going to have their cards and presents by Christmas Day, I’m taking the Mary defence; I blame the Immaculate Conception.

"Honestly, Joe, there was this Angel..."

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