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Posts Tagged ‘Chestnuts’

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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The neon street temperatures may have fallen to 20° C and the sock box may have been retrieved from underneath the bed where it lives for a good eight months of the year, but autumn in the north of Tenerife brings more than adequate compensation for the official end to long summer days.

The Jackass antics of riding the boards in Icod de los Vinos

The Jackass antics of riding the boards in Icod de los Vinos

Not least, November brings the year’s new wine harvest, reason enough on its own for a fiesta, but throw in to the mix the happy chronological co-incidence of the celebration of Saint Andrew’s Day (fiesta de San Andrés) and you’ve got all the excuses you need for a very merry affair indeed.

On Saturday afternoon we headed up to Icod de los Vinos on Tenerife’s north coast to watch how their youth like to celebrate this time of year.
First they take their town’s tradition of rolling wine barrels down its impossibly steep streets on wooden boards pulled by oxen, then they add a little Jackass element and what they come up with is ‘arrastre de las tablas’ or riding the boards. From the top of Calle del Plano (the sort of street that sends a small cramp to the calves at the mere sight of it) teenage lads sit on waxed, wooden trays and career down at breakneck speed, negotiating a small undulation at the halfway mark that bounces the tray off the road’s surface and sends it ever faster towards a heap of old tyres at the bottom of the street.

The only brakes are a pile of old tyres; its like the crash test dummies Tenerife style!

The only brakes are a pile of old tyres; it's like the crash test dummies Tenerife style!

It’s addictively good fun to watch, particularly as the afternoon progresses and the town’s daredevils take to their boards, resolutely refusing to attempt any slow down before smashing into the tyres, travelling several feet into the air and landing in a heap of sprawled limbs amongst the rubber.
It’s the sort of event that would have UK and US lawyers rubbing their hands at the prospect of juicy law suits that would lead perfunctorily to a complete ban on the event.
Luckily, the Tinerfeños don’t have a litigious bone in their bodies and have never allowed the likelihood of personal injury to get in the way of having a good time.

Later, we headed down into Puerto de la Cruz for the rather more sedate, but much more participatory celebrations.
In Plaza Charco small children ran across the cobbled surface pulling long strings of empty cans and assorted pieces of metal, providing endless ‘cute’ poses for grinning mums and dads to capture for posterity.
Around the harbour, the air was filled with the fragrant smoke of chestnuts being roasted on open coals, sardines sizzling on grills and succulent pinchos (skewered beef and pork) browning on hot plates as food stalls did a brisk trade with the hundreds of visitors and residents occupying the al fresco tables and chairs.

Savoury roasted chestnuts, succulent beef pinchos and sizzling sardines are just some of the flavours on offer at the street food stalls in Puerto de la Cruz on fiesta de San Andrés

Savoury roasted chestnuts, succulent beef pinchos and sizzling sardines are just some of the flavours on offer at the street food stalls in Puerto de la Cruz on fiesta de San Andrés

Proving to be extremely popular were the rows of ‘bodega’ stalls where, for 50 cents a time, you could sample any number of excellent wines from local wine producers. It was a difficult choice and I have to admit, the type of ‘nibbles’ that were being offered by each bodega had considerable influence over which stall was favoured by our custom.
After half a dozen varieties of both red and white had been tasted and points awarded, I would have had a go on one of Icod’s ‘tablas’ had one been handy. Thankfully for all concerned none was, and we headed off to one of the food stalls for pinchos, crusty bread, spicey mojo sauces and roasted chestnuts to soak up the alcohol. Of course, you can’t have chestnuts without wine and so we ordered a small carafe of the new ‘vino del país‘, or country wine, just to see how it compared with its more upmarket cousins.

Fiesta de San Andrés…one of my favourite Tenerife fiestas, hic!

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November in the north of Tenerife usually evokes two strong images in my mind; heavy rain and chestnuts roasting. But last year, and so far this year, only one of those images has transpired.
Normally, November is the month in which everything breathes a sigh of relief as the long, dry summer draws to a close and the heavens open to the welcoming arms of the wilting tropical vegetation. Once sated, the earth blossoms anew and the faded colours of summer are replaced by vivid scarlet poinsettias and the bright orange crowns of strelitzias.
But as I compile this blog we’re deep into our second calima in as many weeks and, save for a couple of midnight light showers, the temperatures remain resolutely high and the ground solid.

The rains may have failed to appear but the chestnuts haven’t. Roasting chestnuts at the harbour in Puerto de la CruzAs the sun bids its hazy adieu to the day, the white-out of calima is replaced by the fragrant smoke of a dozen braziers, fired up to white hot and topped with small clay pots in which sweet chestnuts are roasting. When darkness falls, the pyramids of ash beneath each brazier show their fiery hearts and sparks fly from the fires like mini volcanic eruptions. Brows wet, clothes stained with ash while gloved finger and thumb test the chestnuts for readiness, men and women tend the braziers and feed the busy stalls that line the front of the harbour.
Small skewers of spicy pork kebabs (pinchos) sizzle on grills alongside wine vats from which the year’s new wine is dispensed in small plastic cups.
It’s the prelude to Christmas; from December the lights will be turned on and thoughts will turn to the holidays and preparations for the festivities. But for now, as the fiesta of San Andrés approaches, it’s a time to savour the sweet chestnuts and new wine and to spend evenings on the harbour and in Plaza Charco enjoying the warmth of the bonus summer nights.
Tomorrow the rains may come.

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