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Posts Tagged ‘flower carpets’

Some aromas just make you smile.

For me it’s the scent of hot pine needles which remind me of hiking through sun dappled forests; freshly mown grass which conjures up camping trips to Cornwall, the Lake District and Wales; candyfloss and toffee apples which transport me back to childhood fairgrounds and …toasted grass seeds. No, not the sort you smoke (though come to think of it that should be on the list too), but the sort that the Alfombristas (carpet makers) of La Orotava use to outline, silhouette, create shadow and background to their floral masterpieces during the Feast of Corpus Christi.

Yesterday we arrived in the Baroque town of La Orotava which lies in the valley of the same name above the northwest coast of Tenerife at about 11am.
Sweating in the already hot sun as we laboured up the cartoon-sized incline of the cobbled streets, the aroma of toasted grass seeds assailed my nostrils and a broad smile crossed my lips.

I remembered spending last year here with Pamela from Secret Tenerife and her friend José ‘Mataparda’; wandering endlessly around the burgeoning carpets, drinking beer outside a Guachinche and eating carne machada arepas at an arepera near the bus station…happy days.

As we made our way towards the Ayuntamiento where the main sand and soil tapestry occupies the plaza, some of the flower carpets in the surrounding streets were already well underway whereas others had barely begun. It’s one of the great joys of the day, wandering in a continuous circuit of the carpets watching as they take shape and form, transforming before your very eyes from ‘do you know what it is yet?’ status to ‘ah! It’s the La Orotava skyline at sunset’.

It took us almost two hours to do one circuit and to go up to the balcony of the Ayuntamiento from where we could photograph the main tapestry. While there, we noticed that there were people on the roof of the church of La Concepción and we headed that way to try our luck.

Eagle eyed Jack spotted ‘Mataparda’at a small balcony half way up the tower and we went inside to meet him. José took us up the narrow winding staircase of the tower to the window we’d seen him from and Jack took some photos before we continued towards the roof.

Just as it seemed we were about to have La Orotava at our feet we were stopped in our tracks by a trainee jobsworth who insisted that no-one else could go onto the roof as last night’s rain had left the surface too slippery and dangerous. We retreated back to ground level where we were joined by Colin (easy to spot with his blonde hair and ubiquitous CD Tenerife football top).
By the time we got back out into the sun it was definitely lunch time and we headed to the little Gauchinche by the side of the Town Hall where José treated us to beer and pinchos. Another perfect day and one which ought to be on the ‘must see’ list of every respectable traveller.

I’ll let the carpets speak for themselves and I’ll consign the smell of toasted grass seeds to memory for another year.

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It’s been a fleeting week for me. I don’t just mean in the way that time spent on Tenerife has a habit of running away like water down a drain, I mean because I’ve been involved in things that fleet.
Can you tell what it is yet? Firstly, we’ve been working on a feature about the flower carpets of La Orotava. On the feast of Corpus Christi, which falls in May this year, the residents of the beautiful Renaissance town of La Orotava decorate their streets in the most incredible detailed carpets fashioned entirely in flower petals and seeds.

At the crack of sunlight on Corpus Christi, materials are gathered, outlines are drawn, frames are placed and the intensive work can begin. None of the petals are cut until the day to ensure maximum freshness and so the first job is for the women to painstakingly snip thousands of petals from flowering branches into buckets which slowly fill with crimson, cornflower blue, primrose, white, lavender and pink.

On hands and knees, whole generations of families meticulously place the petals row upon row until the image begins to form. With every passing hour the ranks of bystanders swell and everyone files slowly down the streets watching each illustration take more form with every circuit of the route.

By late afternoon the carpets are complete. Cameras flash and TV crews film to capture the beauty of the artistry. In a few short hours it will all be gone and only digital images will remain as the Corpus Christi procession walks over the carpets, scattering petals to the breeze and the street cleaners.

A Monarch butterfly emerges from its cocoonThen today , I went to the butterfly farm of Mariposario del Drago in Icod de los Vinos where, in the beautiful setting of a tropical garden I witnessed eggs turn to caterpillars, then to chrysalids and finally to butterflies as they split their cocoons and unfurled their beautiful wings.
After such a complex metamorphosis, the butterflies have only a short time to live, their entire life cycle lasting on average between 1 and 3 weeks.

Resting quietly on the bark of a tree was a giant night butterfly (as moths are apparently known), Attacus Atlas, the largest butterfly in the world. It remains in its cocoon for between 7 months and a year and then emerges, to live only for 5 or 6 days.

Beauty and transience, I found myself musing on this subject on my way home and just as I was sure I was about to reach a profound conclusion on the fleeting nature of life, I was pulled over by the Guardia Civil and slapped with a speeding ticket and a fine… bloody perfect.

If you’re planning to rent a car on Tenerife, it’s best to know the dos and don’ts of driving…

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