Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘fiesta’

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.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

We’d already had one false start for the fiesta of San Abad in La Matanza when we’d got our calendar dates crossed and had nearly set off a week early. The weather that day had been atrocious and we consoled ourselves with the fact that it would be better next Sunday…it wasn’t. The day dawned as wet and miserable as every day had for the past 8 days. The rain I had so desperately wanted was now outstaying its welcome – big time.

Unsure if the event would go ahead, Jack took to the internet to see if there was any notice of a deferral but there was nothing, which meant either it was going ahead or, more likely, no-one had bothered to update the website.
So we donned fleeces, jeans, hiking boots and hooded jackets, collected our friend Bob and headed up to La Matanza.

We arrived at the steep climb to the village of San Antonio in persistent drizzle. Last year the roads here were jam packed with parked cars but this year cars were conspicuous by their absence.
For a moment we wondered if it had been a wasted trip, but there were two clues that the event was going ahead: firstly the road was cordoned off and secondly a trail of scattered goats’ droppings carpeted the tarmac.
Picking our way through the rain sodden manure, we joined a thin band of spectators stretching their calf muscles up 1in1 streets along which smoking barbecues lay ready to turn private garages into guachinches for the day.

The horse paddocks which in previous years have seen hundreds of magnificent steeds and a motley assortment of asses, donkeys and mules held only a couple of dozen wet horses tethered in the rain and a couple of Shetland ponies which were posing for photographs.

Making our way past the pens filled with wet goats and sheep, we arrived at the main square where several hundred head of cattle were tethered.
Strolling past them, we noticed that one or two of the bulls seemed to be eyeing Bob suspiciously. It was only then that we realised Bob had chosen to wear a bright scarlet fleece…to a show of bulls. We feared for his safety, and ours.

Stopping to admire the sheer size and power of the biggest and meanest of the bulls in their isolated pen above the main cattle, Jack was going in for a close up when he was gently but firmly moved back by the herdsman who told us that the bull would head butt anyone who got within range. We didn’t need telling twice and we kept Bob behind as we passed the pen.

The rain was still driving across the horizon and there was nothing else for it but to head to the guachinche and order some wine to take the nip out of the air.
A quarter litre of red vino del país arrived rather ignominiously in a used Pepsi bottle for the princely sum of €1.50 and the barman placed three glasses alongside. Bob remarked that it tasted better than the wine he’d paid €6 for in the supermarket the day before and we made short work of it. The second bottle tasted just as good.

By this time I was beginning to feel the effects of an early start on the alcohol and suggested some food might not go amiss. Jack spotted some farmers next to us tucking into a plate of bit-sized, gofio-coated something or other and asked the barman what it was.
Chicharrón” replied the barman.
“Ahhh” said Jack, none the wiser and promptly ordered a plate.
It turned out to be pork crackling coated in gofio. Some pieces were soft and chewy, others were the rock hard variety sold in pubs in the UK. Bob and I weren’t keen. Jack, being Scottish and loving all things deep fried and preferably fatty, enjoyed them – or at least, he said he did.

Another bottle of pseudo-Pepsi arrived and I ordered some proper food – carne y papas, or spicy pork with chips.
Leaning on a plastic bar top in the rain, in San Antonio, surrounded by cattle, bulls, sheep, goats and horses with the air perfumed by wet goat, that carne y papas tasted marvellous.
While we ate, another bottle of wine mysteriously appeared on the bar and Jack said the barman had slipped it there behind my back with a conspiratorial finger to his lips.

By this time San Abad in the rain was turning into one of the best fiestas we’d been to and the bar area was turning into one big party. When the barman slipped another bottle beside our almost empty glasses we began to wonder if he was just being efficient and would ask for the bill shortly. But no, the wine was complimentary and as we got close to finishing what was in our glasses we decided we had better move away from the bar in the interests of still being able to walk.

This isn’t a fiesta put on for tourists. Other than ourselves, I didn’t hear another foreign voice all day. It’s a real, traditional agricultural fair with no frills or pretensions, just muck and animals. But it’s indicative of the good humour and friendliness of the Tinerfeños away from the main tourist resorts of the south who welcomed us into their community for the day with open arms and copious amounts of wine.
Roll on San Abad 2012.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Only for Bravehearts

Only for Bravehearts

As it was Bryan’s last night, we felt that it would have been mean to dump him in Playa de Las Américas whilst we joined the smart set at Siam Park’s inauguration. So whilst I noseyed around ‘The Water Kingdom’ amongst the designer suits and Audrey Hepburn print dresses of the invited guests, Andy showed Bryan the sights and bright lights of the ‘revamped’ face of Tenerife’s tourist Mecca.

Siam Park has had its detractors, but transforming the bland desert-like landscape into a lush Thai paradise is no mean feat and, in my opinion, an improvement. Like the resorts below it, Siam Park is designed with the pleasure of its visitors in mind; its white knuckle ride attractions are meant to be brought alive with excited screams and the sound of laughter. Whilst the Thai themed water park looked splendid in the golden twilight, the perfectly attired guests seemed strangely out of place below the menacing ‘Dragon’ or the gaudy features of the ‘Giant’ water rides; maybe the invitations should have advised ‘bikini’s and Speedos’ as the preferred dress mode.

The mighty Palace of the Waves

The mighty 'Palace of the Waves'

Once I’d listened to the speeches and decided I’d seen enough for the moment, I headed into Playa de las Américas (PDLA) to meet up with Andy and Bryan in a pleasant, but unremarkable pavement bar/restaurant on the ‘Patch’. After I’d baulked at the prices (I’d forgotten how much more expensive restaurants were in the ‘upmarket’ tourist areas of PDLA and Costa Adeje) and I told Andy and Bryan all about Siam Park, they told me all about their impressions.

Bryan had been to PDLA some years ago and had stayed around the infamous or famous, depending on your point of view, ‘Veronicas’ area. He hadn’t been impressed. The area around the ‘Patch’ with its smart restaurants, stylish bars, designer shops and Las Vegas type hotels was not the PDLA he remembered. The mock Roman pillars and statues of the ‘Palacio de Congresos’ had apparently elicited a “What’s that all about?”
Around us, visitors from a host of countries were stylishly dressed in expensive looking clothes; not the cheap and cheerful image of Tenerife that is too often portrayed in the UK.

PDLA or Las Vegas?

PDLA or Las Vegas?

And then Bryan said something that we initially laughed at, but then it occurred to us that it might not be as far fetched as it first sounded.
“Do you think that people in places like Benijos have ever visited PDLA, or do you think that they talk about it like some mythical land which may or may not exist on the other side of the island,” he pondered. “Like that M. Night Shyamalan movie, ‘The Village’.”

It was an interesting thought. Most of the people around us certainly never knew Benijos, or places like it, existed. To many of them this was Tenerife and the idea of a little village surrounded by vines and pines where people play imaginary ‘timples’ and you’re as likely to see horses on the roads as cars might seem a ridiculous notion, so why not the other way around? I’m pretty positive that if you told some of the older folk in Benijos, that in PDLA people pay over €7 for a hamburger, they’d run you out of town for being a fanciful fool.

And that is one of the beauties of Tenerife; you can find your Benijos if you want, or you can wallow in the amenities of a modern tourist resort if that’s your preference. Tenerife is nothing if not diverse.

Guest Blogger – Jack M

Read Full Post »

The cloud had descended to just above our heads; so close that it felt if you stretched out an arm it would disappear into grey cotton wool. The man in front of us swayed to the music as he played an imaginary timple; tears rolled down his creased cheeks in response to the emotional ballad booming out over the loudspeakers; his watery eyes already glazed and slightly unfocussed; a consequence of the previous day’s fiesta. A toothless woman in gaily coloured traditional costume cackled (she was, what in bygone days would have been called, an old crone) and flashed a gaping grin at our friend Bryan as she invited him to join her at the fiesta.
Bryan reacted to this a bit like Patsy in the episode of Absolutely Fabulous set in France and scowled at us with an expression which said; ‘Why don’t I have friends who do normal things like go to the beach on a Sunday instead of dragging me to the land that time forgot where the chances are I’ll end up as the meat in the puchero.’

Boy Racer - Benijos Style

Boy Racer - Benijos Style

We’re used to processions at fiestas on Tenerife running a bit late, but the romería at the tiny hamlet of Benijos in the hills above La Orotava was taking unpunctuality to new levels. Due to start at 3pm, by 5pm townsfolk in traditional costume were still making their way to the romería’s starting point a couple of kilometres along the road. I suspected that the previous days festivities, which our imaginary guitar playing friend slurringly informed us had gone on till 7am, had taken their toll on attempts to stick to any sort of organised timetable. It didn’t matter to the people of Benijos, they were the parade; this was their party and the longer it was drawn out the better. And it didn’t really matter to Andy and me; there were wonderful images all around. Two teenage fiesta queens in tiaras were made up like seventies beauty queens, except instead of gowns they were wearing denims and T-shirts; chavette queens perhaps. A seriously drunken caballero swaying precariously on his thankfully sober steed, Tenerife’s Cat Ballou, sparked a discussion as to whether you could be charged with drunk driving on a horse.

The procession finally got underway around 6pm, but it moved at such an interminably slow pace, the palm

Isnt that Robbie Williams on the right?

Isn't that Robbie Williams on the right?

frond bedecked floats stopping at every house along the road, that we calculated that it would be 9pm before it reached us. We decided to speed things up by leaving our vantage point and meeting it halfway, dragging a grumbling Bryan “once you’ve seen one harvest float, you’ve seen them all” for whom the slow pace of life in Benijos was rapidly losing its charm.

When we reached the procession Bryan’s mood changed. Whilst I wandered around taking photographs, being stopped by every other person in the procession who shouted “Saque un foto, saque un foto,” (“take a photograph”) buxom matrons bombarded Andy and Bryan with eggs, pork fillets, gofio, chorizo paste montaditos, plastic glasses of country wine and, bizarrely, popcorn. By the time I rejoined them Bryan was beaming.
“This is great,” he mumbled through a mouthful of pork tenderloin; the previous four hours apparently compensated for by the mountain of free food and wine in his arms.

As a fiesta it was a disorganised shambling rough and ready affair, but as always the incredibly friendly and generous Canarios were full of the joie de vivre at doing what they do best – havin’ a party and their enthusiasm was infectious.

Twenty four hours later I might as well have been on the other side of the world as the other side of the island when I went to the biggest event on Tenerife this year; the opening of the island’s spectacular newest tourist attraction, Siam Park in the hills behind Costa Adeje, or is that Playa de Las Américas?

Guest Blogger: Jack M

Read Full Post »

Friday night is usually movie night; a second hand DVD and a bottle of wine in front of the telly. But this Friday the action moved from the small screen to the Plaza de San Marcos in Tegueste where previously unseen footage of Pirates of the Caribbean was played out before our very eyes.

Wonderful 19th Century costumes; I particularly like the hats

Wonderful 19th Century costumes

Tegueste is a small, picturesque town in the northeast of Tenerife with a fanatical commitment to preserving its heritage and a definite bent towards the bizarre.

Many towns and villages on Tenerife hold a Romería during the summer, which coincides with the celebration of their particular Saint’s day and often has a history of some special favours bestowed by the Saint on the community. Tegueste is no exception. Except that, when in the 17th Century San Marcos ‘saved’ the town from the bubonic plague which raged all around them, where other towns offered the fruits of the earth in thanks, Tegueste built small galleons with white sails and, being entirely landlocked, ‘sailed’ them on wheels pulled by oxen. I rest my case.

The Teguest boats feature in the town’s annual Romería, and once every 3 years, play a central role in the its Librea (salvation), which was where we were on Friday night.

Arriving at 9 pm for a 9.30 pm start, the stands placed on three sides and in front of the church in the small plaza were packed to capacity and the square that circumnavigates the church was inches deep in sand. We made our way to the far side of the plaza where we had a reasonable view of the full scale castle that had been erected as a façade to the Town Hall, complete with turrets, battlements and cannon.
At 9.30 prompt (I told you Tegueste had a penchant for the bizarre) the action began.

Wandering along the sandy streets from three sides of the plaza came Tegueste townsfolk, attired splendidly

Looking like a ghostly apparition, Prebendado Pachero narrates

Looking like a ghostly apparition, Prebendado Pachero narrates

in 18th Century costumes, the women carrying large bouquets of cut flowers in their arms as they ambled into the plaza where herds of goats, oxen and soldiers were gathered. Narrated by the town’s minister; Prebendado Pachero, who was a key figure in its development at that time, a beautiful pageant unfolded of life in the sleepy agricultural town.
Until, that is, a ‘boat’ arrived on the horizon (the street at the side of the church) and sailed (on wheels, pulled by oxen) towards the castle, followed by another, and another; the first manned by pirates, the second by Moors and the third by the English. All hell broke loose as the corsairs tried to take the castle and a mighty, heroic defence by the Teguesteros began.

Unfortunately, as the ships sailed into the plaza, the Pirates of the Caribbean theme music blasted out from speakers and, with a Johnny Depp lookalike posing, sabre in hand, on the mast of the first galleon, I found myself resolutely on the side of the pirates; not I’m sure, where my allegiance was supposed to lie.

The battle raged for about half an hour during which cannon fired on the ships, artillery railed from the battlements and the ships retaliated, all accompanied by laser beams frantically panning the sky, billowing smoke underlit by red beams, air bombs, rockets, stirring music and frequent casualties who were dragged unceremoniously from the scene of the battle only to miraculously resurrect and get straight back into the thick of the action.
It was brilliant.

The battle for the defence of Tenerifes realm; all those in favour of the pirates, say Aye!

The battle for the defence of Tenerife's realm; all those in favour of the pirates, say "Aye"!

When the pirates, the Moors and the English were finally driven away, there was a three lap retreat around the plaza by the ships at breakneck speed (one vessel nearly coming a cropper at the corner, being led by a young Teguestero who clearly has Ben Hur aspirations), a moving rendition of Ave Maria and a spectacular firework display set to stirring classical music, strangely, including Land of Hope and Glory; err, who won? And everyone wandered off into the balmy night with a head full of heroic deeds and not much idea of where and when they actually took place.

Tegueste, a bizarrely lovely place.

Read Full Post »

From barrels at either side of the stage, draught Dorada is being dispensed in small plastic glasses and disorderly queues are forming. In the mêlée, there are several minor casualties; two wigs, a bedside cabinet whose contents are spilling from its drawers, a fortune-teller’s headscarf and a false nail. When everyone’s got a least one drink in their hands there’s a short interlude of repairing hair and gathering spilt accessories before resuming the promenade of the arena, posing for the hundreds of camera flashes that fill the plaza like fireflies. When the beer runs out there’s a human chain of drinks being passed from the vendors in the square, above the heads of onlookers, to the waiting manicured hands of drag queens. Small measures of coke are being liberally topped up with lashings of Arehucas rum and guzzled in the flutter of an eyelash.

drag queens at Puerto's CarnavalIt’s the 14th Annual High Heel Drag Marathon in Tenerife’s Puerto de la Cruz and it’s the most popular event in the Carnaval calendar. This year, there are over 200 contestants and more than 35,000 spectators.
The area in front of the stage is teeming with contestants, many of them topping seven foot tall in their shoes. The minimum height of heels for entry in the race is 8 cm but most contestants prefer a staggering 15 centimetre stack; calf muscles are pulled tight and backs must be near to breaking but alcohol helps to dull the pain and more than anything else, the show must go on.

For 2 hours, the event’s compère and real star of the show, ‘Lupita’, calls contestants onto the stage to introduce them, indulge in a great deal of witty, double-entendre banter and tell us all how high the heels are; in this race, size matters.drag mayhem at Puerto's Carnaval
Costumes are extraordinary, witty, fabulous, sometimes bawdy, often weighty but always worn with panache and attitude. The size of the heels is rivalled only by the height of the headgear, most of which has clearly been modelled on Marge Simpson. There are more false eyelashes than at a Miss World Pageant and the make-up is louder than the steady Salsa beat that pounds out from banks of speakers at either side of the stage while Lupita and her ‘guapas’, ‘cariñas’ and occasionally ‘muchachos’ dance and whoop their way through the never-ending list of contestants.
The further down her list Lupita gets, the more unsteady the contestants become on their well-oiled heels and the steps up to the stage are proving to be the first real obstacle in an entire race of obstacles. There are several heart-stopping moments, particularly on the dismount, and several ankles have dress-rehearsal sprains.
By the time Lupita introduces contestant number 78, it’s already 10pm and the contestants are only just beginning to make their way to the starting point. It’s going to be a long night. Very few of the contestants will attempt anything more than a fast totter on Puerto’s cobbled streets; in this drag race, there’s very little speed involved, just a great deal of pantomime and thousands of memory sticks filled to capacity with unforgettable images.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »