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Posts Tagged ‘costumes’

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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As soon as we heard that Ministry of Sound were going to be appearing in Santa Cruz on the first Saturday night of Carnaval 2011 it was a foregone conclusion. We would be there.

There was much debate over how we would get in and out of the city, tales of traffic mayhem being rife, but the prospect of long walks, a bus ride dressed as Hit Girl and Brother Jack, another long walk and no idea of how we would get home again settled it. We’d take our chances and drive into the city.

I drew the designated driver short straw and we set off around 10.40pm to give ourselves plenty of time to check out all the venues in the city before heading to Plaza Europa to share the Ministry of Sound experience. As it turned out, driving into the city couldn’t have been easier. We arrived at the bus station car park to find plenty of spaces (the Canarios don’t tend to like paying for parking when an empty pedestrian crossing costs nothing) and with the final touches applied to our costumes, headed off into the surreal pandemonium that is carnival.

Everywhere we went, the sights and smells of food assailed us, from candy floss and sugared almonds at the fairground, through baked potatoes and hot dogs along the paseo marítima to the amazing food stall in Plaza Candelaria with its Desperate Dan– sized montaditos and its rotating barbecue on which half suckling pigs sizzled.

Everyone who wasn’t eating, and most of those who were, were drinking, and the ground was littered with carrier bags bulging with bags of ice, bottles of Jack Daniels, Smirnoff, Arehucas, cans of Red Bull and bottles of coke from which groups were serving themselves generous refills in between salsas. Beer stalls lined every street, their counters propped up by escapees from a drug-induced nightmare, and a giant plastic lime with its top half sliced and opened served as a bar for a mojito mixing barman dressed as a bee.

We made our way first to Plaza Principe where a very traditional band was just warming up a crowd who were enjoying their salsa under the stars. Next it was on to the small stage below the Plaza where a rock band were belting out Spanish and US classic rock anthems to a select gathering. As the clock ticked towards Ministry of Sound time we headed to the main stage at Plaza Candelaria where thousands of fancy dress clad revellers were getting into their stride to the Maquinería boy band who were belting out a lively stream of carnival favourites accompanied by some very nifty dance moves.

By now, the Carnaval spirit had us by the throat and there was only one place that we needed to be. As the lasers scanned the night sky, and over a steady dance beat, a deep voice intoned a monologue that told us of a night when it was written that a new generation would come and dance until the ground shook.
As the volume pumped up and the Ministry of Sound roadshow took to the stage, the prophecy came true.

Unfortunately, my flip camera also shook and the microphone gave up the ghost on the volume. So with suitable apologies to Ministry of Sound for failing to capture the full force of your music, here’s a taster of Santa Cruz Carnaval 2011 . the food, the music and the people.

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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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It was no surprise during yesterday’s weekly shopping trip to see the rows and rows of Carnaval costumes on sale. Every year Al Campo has a huge display of fancy dress costumes and essential carnival paraphernalia such as hats, wigs, theatrical make-up, plastic guns and swords and naturally, the obligatory false breasts.

Jack and I always think that we should really get something now while there’s still a decent choice but of course, we never do. We wait a couple more weeks until Carnaval is upon us and then we spend a desultory 20 minutes perusing the cheap and nasty hippie and naughty nun outfits which are the only ones left before reverting once more to old Halloween props and active imaginations. I digress.

But yesterday, Al Campo having extended its sales floor space by about a third before Christmas and now revelling in additional displays, we encountered a new Carnaval section – the essential party ingredients – laid out in the order in which they would be consumed.
Front of stage, naturally, was the alcohol.
Shelves stacked with six packs of countless brands of beer with the central block dedicated to the pride of Tenerife – Dorada – and including its snazzy carnival design cans in six, 12 and 24 packs. Flanking right came the spirits, Jack Daniels, Guajiro rum and Smirnoff taking the leading roles with a star studded cast of hundreds of other brands in supporting roles. Then came was the sea of Coca Cola, Pepsi, 7-Up and enough Red Bull to fill every heart attack ward on the island.


Next in the order of consumption came the obligatory munchies fodder – row upon row of crisps, Quavers, roasted peanuts, Pringles, snack foods, choccie biscuits and sweeties.

And filling the rear of the aisle was a huge display dedicated to the final lap in the Carnaval circle – breakfast. In true Spanish style the displays consisted predominantly of cakes of every description; lemon sponges, almond sponges, fruit cakes, madeleines, churros and doughnuts. In a vain attempt to balance the nutritional scales were pre-packed fruit trays containing an apple, a pear, an orange, a kiwi and a banana. Flanking the cakes were shelves stacked high with little cartons of fresh juices.

The only thing missing as far as I could see, was a display of paracetamol.

You’ve got to hand it to Al Campo – they know their market.

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Meals on wheels

Service with a smile

It’s a perfect day for standing ankle deep in ox manure watching small wooden galleons and rice and grain decorated carts trundle past while being plied with free wine and popcorn and trying not to lose an eye to a flying hard boiled egg.

Although I’m certain that Freudian analysts could dine out on such a scenario were it to come from the sub-conscious; this one’s real. And as if it wasn’t already weird enough, I’ve managed to completely lose Jack in the crowd and the battery on the mobile just died.

I can’t understand how Jack doesn’t stand out a mile as he’s just about the only man not dressed in a bright scarlet waistcoat, rough wool breeches and a cummerbund. But scouring the crowds is fruitless; Jack’s very blandness of attire on this occasion is his, and my, undoing.

Followers of this blog and proud owners of ‘Going Native in Tenerife’ will be well aware of my affection for the little town of Tegueste which floats in the big sea of La Laguna in the humid northeast of the island. Bursting at the seams with charm and character, it’s truly Tenerife’s ‘hidden gem’ in my book and I don’t take a lot of persuading to pay a visit.

Having already witnessed the bizarre re-enactment of a sea-faring battle staged in the town square last year, this year’s Romería was the perfect opportunity to see the pretty galleons which the town is famed for back in action once more.

You acquire a good deal of ‘fiesta savvy’ when you attend these events and one of the things you learn is this; when you see other cars parking anywhere they can, no matter how far you are from the epicenter of proceedings, park the car.
We parked half way to Tejina and began the long walk into Tegueste in the hot sunshine accompanied by large and growing crowds of traditionally dressed party-goers, most of them under the age of forty. All along the route friends and families were eating and drinking from open car boots, picnicking on small grassy knolls and gathering outside guachinches (small, make-shift bars set up at fiestas in the north of Tenerife).

Idyllic setting for an all day party

Idyllic setting for an all day party

We arrived in the main street just in time to see the Romería set off. Preceeded by a herd of goats and sheep, the famous Tegueste galleons with their pretty white sails headed up the procession of ox-pulled carts as it began its journey through the narrow town streets to the main square. The carts are the most beautifully and ornately decorated of any I have seen on Tenerife and their occupants are the most gifted at firing food into the crowds to be scooped up in waiting up-turned hats, snatched from the air with the dexterity of a wicket keeper or fought over like a bride’s bouquet.

Are you the guy with the carrots?

"Are you the guy with the carrots?"

In between the carts, dozens of parrandas (local musicians) and dancing troupes swell the ranks of the moving spectacle and with nigh on 40,000 people in attendance, it’s soon pretty much impossible to move anywhere. I resign myself to my static situation and amuse myself by seeing how many potatoes and chunks of pork I can catch while I wait for the procession to pass.

When the crowds finally thin Jack emerges from his anonymity and we head to the square to join the carnival atmosphere around the beer stands and to sink a much needed cold Dorada.
Like every time I come to Tegueste, I find myself completely caught up in the atmosphere of well being, relaxation and sheer enjoyment of life. It may not be the biggest Romería on the island but for my money, it’s definitely the best.

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It’s 11pm and I’ve spent the past five hours scanning Google images for inspiration, cutting up old curtains and duvet covers, glueing material to pieces of cardboard, my fingers and the dining table and I still look more like someone wearing an old net curtain than Cleopatra.

Jack looking effortlessly good...and warm

Jack looking effortlessly good... and warm

Jack, on the other hand, has taken half an hour to pull some bits together and paint his face and he looks more like William Wallace than Mel Gibson did. What’s more, he’s got a nice warm cloak to wear and I’ve got bare arms. I don’t suppose the Ancient Egyptians had cardies did they?

The forty minute walk from our house to Plaza Charco is a lonely affair when you’re Braveheart and Cleopatra. Passing through the La Paz district we draw sidelong glances from the elderly visitors which are not dissimilar to the sort of looks on the faces of people in my dreams when, for some perfectly good reason, I’m the only one who’s naked.

It’s not until we reach Calle Quintana that the mantle of paranoia is lifted and suddenly, it’s the ones not in fancy dress that look out of place.
As we enter Plaza Charco it’s evident that the costumes are of a very high standard this year. The furry animal jumpsuits and gangster outfits are very few and far between, instead, everyone seems to have doubled their efforts and outfits are bolder, more professional,  more varied and every bit as politically incorrect as we’ve come to expect.

The benches around the fountain act as base camp for various groups who fuel up on rum or whiskey and coke before heading off into the melee, returning at intervals to replenish glasses. One bench is occupied by a dozen or so men dressed in Victorian baby costumes, another has witches and warlocks draped across it. There’s a bench of Charleston dancers and one of zombie nurses.
We spot several Batmen, an Incredible Hulk and three Spider Men but only one ‘Joker’ and clearly outnumbered, he didn’t try anything.

Hey! Im over here, to the left!

Hey! I'm over here, to the left!

As usual, the Trannies are show-stoppers. Standing well over six foot in their high heels with their dazzling frocks and theatrical make-up, it’s difficult to take your eyes off them but the draft from their false eyelashes is making me shiver so we move on.

At the newly created disco zone Jack decides to take my photo as I’m dancing like an Egyptian to Orishas. It seems to me the camera is a little off centre as he takes shot after shot and further investigation uncovers several frames of the Go-Go dancer and just one of me… dark and practically out of range.

I feel decidedly dull by comparison to everyone else and by the time we get home it’s 5 in the morning and I’ve got arms the temperature of a corpse.

I’ve got just a few days to come up with another outfit, one that’s warm, comfy and sexy…God, the stress of living in the Real Tenerife.

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The fluorescent red grass-skirt did its very best to save the night. I don’t quite know where it came from. I found it in the dressing-up box and I have a vague recollection of someone in our party acquiring it last year but I can’t quite remember who…or why.

It’s 10pm on Carnaval’s opening night and, exhausted from a full day of activities (mental note to self: next year do NOTHING on first day), we’ve just got back from watching the opening parade and have emptied the contents of the dressing-up box onto the bed. I’m staring at the assorted masks, hats, wigs and props and I’m feeling singularly uninspired. Large vodka with Sprite appears at my elbow and the strains of Ministry of Sound reach my eardrums but even those two party starters are failing to muster enthusiasm for the motley bundle on the bed.
Then I spot the grass skirt. “Hmm…this looks interesting.”

Waistband tied in a circle and placed on my head over my pinned up hair and beneath a top hat. Fringe (of sorts) cut and hey presto! Well, more of a “what the…” but it’s late, I’m tired and quite frankly, I can’t think of anything else. So, face is painted white, eyes and lips black; long black velvet skirt and black velvet bodice are donned, full length pink gloves are pulled up above the elbows and it’s time to fill a carrier bag with booze and head off into the night.

Fifty minutes of brisk walking keeps the night chill at bay and gets us to Plaza Charco by 1 am (ish), just as the party’s warming up. We mingle into the dancing hordes of Geishas, trannies, super heroes, Stylistics, spacemen, cowboys and girls, witches, dead rock stars, punks and aliens who fill every square metre of space in the Plaza and surrounding streets.
The competition is simply too good. No-one takes our photo and we barely elicit a second glance from the impeccably costumed throng.
That’s it, I decide, I can no longer get away with my high-on-imagination,-low-on-content approach to Carnaval. It’s time to clear out the dressing-up box and splash out on some real fancy dress costumes.
The photos confirm it; we were simply out-classed in every direction. It’s no good adopting a Canarian approach to doing Carnaval; in future, there’s simply going to have to be some planning.

So what on earth am I going to wear tomorrow night?!!!

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