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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

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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We’re not sweet eaters as such. That’s not to say we don’t like sugar ‘n’ spice and all things nice, it’s just that these days we might as well miss out the middle man and simply staple any slices of cake straight on to the waistline.

We do actually buy a bar of chocolate every second week and with an iron-willed discipline limit ourselves to two squares which are eaten with relish post lunch.

However, a few years ago friends, who throw caution to the wind in the sweetie eating stakes, introduced us to the pleasures of turrón and now this Christmas treat from Jijona is a regular addition to our cupboards over the festive season.

It’s probably this simple cake that sparks the first feelings of Christmas on Tenerife as a dizzying array of boxes and varieties take the place of the rather more healthy fruit selection in the local supermarket. And the selection is dizzying. I’ve watched Canarios, fingernails being chewed furiously, trying to decide for upwards of 30 minutes which flavour to opt for.

We’ve tried caramel flavour, coconut flavour, cherry flavour and cream. But we always return to the classic yema tostada made from almonds, honey and egg yolk.

Round about 3.30pm, when creativity and enthusiasm is flagging badly, a cup of coffee accompanied by a finger slice of yema tostada provides just enough of a boost to get us through another three to four hours work.

In that respect it’s not a treat at all, it’s an essential Christmas work tool…honest.

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As this is the week before Christmas, I thought I’d share some of the little things on Tenerife that bring on a warm and fuzzy feeling during the festive season.

First on the list are the magical Christmas lights that bring a seasonal sparkle to the island’s historic towns. Santa Cruz looks splendid, Puerto de la Cruz glitters gloriously and La Laguna’s cobbled and perfectly preserved old streets could easily have been lifted straight from one of those cards featuring Victorian Christmas scenes, but my favourite setting is Tenerife’s most elegant town, La Orotava.

The life size belén outside the town hall is impressive and the colourful xmas lights add a touch of razzamatazz to the streets around the Iglesia de la Concepción. However, the most magical spot is Plaza de la Constitución. Last year there were icicles ‘dripping’ from the leafy canopy overhead, huge bow wrapped presents adding a touch of frivolity to the gardens and the display in the bandstand turned children’s eyes saucer sized. If there’s a more Christmassy place on Tenerife to have a coffee I’ve yet to find it.

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Puerto at Christmas - pretty as a picture

I think it’s fair to say that our first couple of Christmases on Tenerife were not quite what I’d hoped they’d be.

The first year we’d only been here for a couple of months when Jack’s family descended on us en masse – bless them. Not wanting Jack and I to be lonely on our first Christmas in a foreign land, mum, sister and brother-in-law and their two teenage sons and Aunty Barbara all arrived four days before Christmas to stay with us in our rented house.

All was going swimmingly and remarkably well considering 8 of us were sharing 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom until we went to Loro Parque the day before Christmas Eve. It was raining and we were all dressed like yellow parakeets in our Loro Parque rain capes. We were flying (ouch) to get to the parrot show before it started when Aunty Barbara slipped on the wet tiles and broke her wrist in three places.
Pins were inserted into Barbara’s arm on Christmas Eve, party frocks stayed in the suitcases and the mood was sombre.

The following year we had our friend Jo coming to stay with us and decided to make up for the year before.
Dressed to the nines, we jumped on the bus and got off at Poco Loco, a Mexican restaurant that we’d long wanted to try and had settled on for our Christmas Eve dinner. Walking down the dirt road leading to the restaurant we thought the lighting was a little subdued and got to the door to find that they were closed. We were gutted…and hungry.

Plan B kicked into operation and we walked down to town to peruse other menus. The next 40 minutes or so was a nightmare as restaurant after restaurant was closed or just closing its doors as we got there. We wandered incredulous through empty streets as if in some kind of play where everyone else had a script. We even began to doubt that this was Christmas Eve; we’d never seen the town so quiet.

Poinsettias are in abundance on Tenerife at Christmas

Eventually, the only place we could find that was open was the Chinese at San Telmo and we ended up having an overpriced and distinctly average meal there.

Never mind, we mused, we’ll just have to party instead and headed into the night in search of the hot spots. But the nightmare continued. Bars were either closed or closing and apart from a handful of motley German tourists, no-one was around.
Finally, we gave up and headed to the Beehive, a Brit bar, on Calle La Hoya, where the only party in town was happening.

Admittedly we had rather a good time. In fact, we had such a good time that Christmas Day was ruined by the hangover from hell.

The moral of this story is simple…if you’re coming to Tenerife for the Christmas season, make sure you know what you’re likely to find, and not find, when you get here. Other wise, you could end up going home with a suntan and the feeling that somehow, you missed out on Christmas altogether.

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It seems that, despite the economic gloom and the pound’s freefall, 3 million Brits will still be escaping the cold and heading overseas for some sadly missed sunshine this Christmas. As always, according to ABTA, Tenerife will be one of the most popular destinations for them.
Unfortunately, as Secret Tenerife reports, Tenerife has just had its coldest autumn for 15 years and is about to have its coldest winter in years too.

A sun soaked Tenerife beach

A sun soaked Tenerife beach

Of course, it’s all a matter of what you’re used to. When the thermometer drops below 22°C here, all the locals and ex pats don their woolly sweaters, socks and boots and look askance at the visitors in their shorts and T shirts. The visitors in turn, think the locals are ‘loco’. But one thing that makes more of a difference than anything is the appearance, or not, of the sun and for the past month or so, Tenerife has been decidedly low on its usual quota of sunshine.

After the appalling summer in Britain this year, your heart has to go out to people who have recently come to Tenerife in search of R&R with a tan and are finding as many cloudy days as sunny ones.
It’s a perennial worry for holiday makers and one which pre-occupies them in the run up to their one or two hard earned weeks.

But for those of us who live here, short spells of bad weather are never a problem, we know the sun will be back and we’ll still be here to see it when it does, a fact that brought many of us to Tenerife in the first place.

2009 is just around the corner, time to resolve to do things differently or in some way improve your life in the coming year. Well, for all of you who, like us, decide that it’s time to leave the bad weather, the ailing pound and the stress of trying to keep your head above water in rip-off Britain and head to Tenerife’s (normally) sun kissed shores, here are a few pointers that will help you to get the best possible start to your new life:

Firstly, you’ll need a copy of ‘Tenerife Lifeline’. This book tells you all you need to know about creating a home, working, taxes, health, education, the law and government. I only wish it had been available when we were planning our move out here, it would have made life very much easier.
Secondly, you’ll need a reliable Estate Agent, one who can offer advice and information as well as a portfolio of properties. Horizon Property Group is the largest independent estate agent in the Canary Islands and will hand-hold you through the whole process.

Thirdly, you’ll need ‘Going Native in Tenerife’ to give you the full low down on all the main towns and villages on the island, the culture, the fiestas, the food, the shopping and tales from other ex-pats of their Tenerife experiences.
Finally, you’ll need to stay in touch with everyday life on ‘the reef’ by keeping up to date with the island’s best English language websites:
Secret Tenerife – wit and wisdom on everything Tinerfeño
Etenerife – holidays, business and life in the south of the island all wrapped up MyTenerifeinfo – location reports, golf, nightlife, hotel and restaurant reviews
Canary Green – how green is our island?
and of course Real Tenerife Island Drives which takes you away from the usual resorts and shows you the ‘real’ Tenerife.

Here’s to 2009 and your new life in the sun!

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Scanning the posts on the Tenerife forum of TripAdvisor, I notice that lots of people are planning to come to Tenerife for Christmas and New Year and are keen to know what festivities they’re likely to find in or around their resort.

Of course, this being Tenerife, information from the local town hall on forthcoming events in its municipality is thin on the ground, and in English, positively conspicuous by its absence.

Your quick guide to whats on in Tenerife

Your quick guide to what's on in Tenerife

There are two things about the Tenerife method of marketing which are critical for you to know if you’re hoping to glean information about what’s on in Tenerife over the festive season.
Firstly, ‘planning’ is not a skill that Tinerfeños rate highly and even the most efficient of businesses on the island will rarely practice it. Secondly, ‘word of mouth’ is still the preferred form of business, social and personal communication.

These two factors combine to stage events where the agenda is produced in what is considered to be plenty of time i.e. the day before, and the only people who attend them are those who were there last year or who know someone who was there last year.

In an attempt to provide some kind of advance notice of what’s happening in Tenerife, we’ve just launched Tenerife Matters; short, sharp, timely information on events, fiestas, concerts, exhibitions and anything else that we feel may ‘matter’ to anyone planning to visit Tenerife in the near future.

Check it out.

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Christmas has come early this year for anyone on Tenerife who enjoys the social and culinary joys of eating tapas.
From today (17th October) until November 2nd, Puerto de la Cruz is staging its second ‘Ruta De Tapas’ or tapas route (tricky translation, that one) which this year they’re calling ‘Un Mar de Sabores’ (A sea of flavours). What that means, is that 25 of the town’s restaurants will be offering one or two speciality tapas dishes for the embarrassing sum of €2.50 each…including a drink! Okay, clearly at that price the dishes are going to be on the ‘pequeño’ side and you’re unlikely to get drunk, unless you go for all 25 establishments and 50 dishes in the one go…hmmm, there’s an idea…but hey, that’s still good value in anybody’s book.

Serrano ham and smoked cheese; classic tapas dishes

Serrano ham and smoked cheese; classic tapas dishes

And we’re not just talking ‘boquerónes’ and ‘tortilla Español’ here, Bodega de Guapa on Calle Viejo is offering ‘berenjena rellena de salmón ahumedo y queso de cabra’ (aubergine stuffed with smoked salmon and goat’s cheese); the Ébano Café on Plaza Iglesia is offering ‘solomillo de cerdo a la mostaza’ (pork steak with mustard) and Régulo in the Ranilla District is offering ‘huevos estrellos’ (starry eggs!).
You can pick up a map showing all participating restaurants and their locations from the Cámara office on Plaza Europa (where the tourist office used to be), from the Town Hall and from the offices of ALCIPC in Plaza Charco.

So if you plan to be on Tenerife in the next couple of weeks come and enjoy this tapas extravaganza.

¡Buen Provecho!

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