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Posts Tagged ‘Going Native in Tenerife’

Tenerife is an island that attracts over 6 million visitors a year, many of whom believe they know it like the back of their hands and few of whom know it at all.”
Going Native in Tenerife

The Tenerife we knew long before we set foot here

Long before we ever set foot on Tenerife we knew exactly what it was like – that’s why we’d never set foot on it.
Persuaded by a good friend to give it a chance, we spent some time in Los Cristianos, Playa de San Juan, Playa Santiago and Los Gigantes, before finally heading to Puerto de la Cruz and finding a different island; one we’d held no preconceived ideas about and so saw with new eyes. We liked it so much we stayed.
We didn’t bother looking at the east coast at all; “Lancashire Hill in the sun” our friend had said, so we gave it as wide a berth as we’d always given Lancashire Hill.
And we didn’t bother looking at Playa de Las Américas; we didn’t need to, we knew what was there. Cheap shops selling tourist souvenir tat; all day British breakfast cafes, €1 a pint Brit bars showing Sky Sports coverage and the Soaps followed by Robbie Williams tribute acts. Our idea of Hell.

Puerto de la Cruz - a different Tenerife

When friends and family asked where we were living, we went to great pains to explain to them that we lived in the North of the island – as far away from Playa de Las Américas as it was possible to get. We spent countless Internet hours on the Tenerife forum of TripAdvisor correcting other peoples’ preconceived ideas about the north, explaining that, despite being Spain’s highest mountain, Mount Teide wasn’t actually high enough to block out the sun – a popular misconception – and that the town did not consist entirely of octogenarian Brits and their Zimmer frames but in fact had a large, young and lively resident population.

We began writing and photographing for a popular Tenerife lifestyle magazine which involved exploring in depth every town, village and hamlet across the island, uncovering hidden gems in the most unlikely places. We discovered that, apart from one small area of ugly high rise buildings, much of the east coast contained delightful hidden coves, secret hamlets and hill towns where life went on in much the same way as it had done for centuries. We found cave restaurants; emblematic bridges, forgotten roads and empty beaches.

Lancashire Hill never looked like this!

We wrote our first guide book, giving detailed driving routes to encourage other people to discover a Tenerife that was a million miles away from their misconceptions.
And when it came time to place our book in retailers across the island, we knew we’d have to put it in and around Playa de Las Américas if we were to reach our target audience, so we began to explore the streets and coast of the south from La Caleta to Los Cristianos.

The Playa de Las Américas we didn't know

At La Caleta we discovered a small fishing village with lovely seafood restaurants; in Playa Del Duque we stumbled upon golden sandy coves with azure waters lapping the shore, fine restaurants and designer shops; and in Playa de Las Américas we uncovered a vibrant, modern, chic resort with a palm tree lined promenade, wide avenues, stylish bars and restaurants and a pulsating nightlife.

From north to south and east to west, there are many different Tenerifes – how well do you think you know them?

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A very good friend of mine sent me this from the ‘Things to be Miserable About’ site:

Miserable Fact of the Day
A study found that most people report no increase in happiness after taking a vacation, and even those who do, return to their normal levels of unhappiness after only two weeks. [New York Times]

If you’ve just flown back from Tenerife’s palm-filled paradise, of course you’re going to be miserable when you get back to the cold weather, daily grindstone and concrete of home. But as the excellent Pamela pointed out, there are ways to prolong the benefits and defer the misery.

If all you do while you’re on vacation is lie around a pool or on the beach developing a nice, even tan, then let’s be honest, the holiday’s over the moment you set off for the airport.
After all, what are you going to tell people when you get back?
“Hi – how was the holiday?” they’ll ask.
“Great!” you’ll respond.
“Nice tan!” they’ll remark.
Conversation…and holiday over.

If, on the other hand, you get out and about exploring, discovering tucked away gems of places, charismatic restaurants that turned up the best tapas you’ve ever tasted and scenery that’s even had the kids going “WOW!” you’ll have a whole store of adventures and tales to tell. You can relish, embellish and re-tell experiences endlessly, re-igniting memories and bringing that holiday smile right back!

Leaving your comfort zone and experiencing something different can open the door to a whole new world of adventure. Why not try your hand at diving around the beautiful waters off Las Galletas, or try a tandem paraglide in Adeje or bike rafting down from Teide National Park? You never know, it might spark a latent talent or a passion that’ll have you embarking on a whole new way of life after you get back home!

If the office sends your stress-ometer off the chart, walk it right out of your system by taking to some of Tenerife’s amazing hiking trails. Walking is a great way to relax your mind and tone your muscles while experiencing parts of the island that most visitors never get to see. Your body will feel more refreshed, your mind will be more alert and you’ll be better equipped to keep the stress bar down when the in-tray rises.

Island Walks and Island Drives – for holidays that last longer than the tan!

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Getting anywhere for midday on a Sunday seems for some reason to be a tall order in our house and yesterday was no exception. A late night followed by a late morning and a leisurely Sunday breakfast and before I knew it the clock was scraping towards the eleven hand and Jack was standing at the door rattling the car keys.

The Hearts of Tejina 2009

The Hearts of Tejina 2009

We got to the plaza in Tejina just in time to hear the prayer being read over the three Alice in Wonderland hearts as they were held in front of the church to receive the holy blessing.
Then the three teams each hauled their 800 kilo charges towards their waiting wooden cross and the race to erect the hearts began. The insults were a little less vocal than they had been last time we came to see the Hearts of Tejina fiesta, but then looking at the fruity, flowery works of art it was difficult to see how anyone could find fault even though tradition dictated they should.

Within minutes the El Pico heart was being raised onto its cross and

Now thats waht I call a bouquet!

Now that's what I call a bouquet!

cheering rang out from the crowd assembled around the plaza. Five minutes later the Calle Arriba heart was hoisted leaving Calle Abajo in third place.
Once the hearts were securely fastened to their crosses and the ladders removed, the parrandas struck up and the crowd began to filter towards the bars, fairground, stalls and guachinches. That left space for Jack and I to leisurely stroll and examine these extraordinary, transient works of art.

A virtual recluse from Tenerife guide books (except Going Native of course), Tejina is set in a humid, fertile valley in the northeast of Tenerife in what is known locally as ‘greenhouse valley’. The climate and the rich volcanic earth in this area are perfect for the cultivation of tropical plants and exotic fruits. It’s also where the island’s last remaining rum distillery lies, so unsurprisingly the village is known for its singing.

Produce is fresh, local and flawless

Produce is fresh, local and flawless

Yesterday was the Sunday following the Feast of San Bartolomé, the town’s Patron Saint, and every year in the Saint’s honour three local streets construct enormous hearts from the boughs of trees and decorate them in fruit and flowers. The streets are fierce rivals and there’s a great deal of secrecy during the construction of the hearts. When they’re finally revealed and brought to the church to be blessed and then erected onto wooden crosses, it’s traditional for each street to slag off the other hearts and sing (literally) the praises of their own.

The streets each have their own colour and the hearts are constructed to match, using only the best of local produce, which in Tejina means absolute flawless perfection. So El Pico’s hearts are framed by rich green Conference pears; Calle Arriba’s heart has succulent, fragrant, orange pineapples and Calle Abajo’s heart is bordered with enormous, vibrant lemons.
As well as the fruit and the spectacular flower display which tops each double heart, the main body is decorated in tarts; pastry discs on which scenes from island life have been constructed in 3D pastry models. There

Detail on the tarts is incredible

Detail on the tarts is incredible

are butter churners, grape treaders, fishermen, musicians, woodpeckers, traditional balconies, tajinaste and Drago trees. The detail in the tarts is incredible so you can see the fisherman’s beard, a notebook with writing in it, a fish caught in the nets.

Today the hearts will be de-constructed and their bounty distributed to the townsfolk in an aerial, fruit throwing free-for-all where you risk injury from flying pineapples and pears.
It’s amazing how much beauty is lovingly created on Tenerife only to be destroyed within hours of its completion; flower carpets, sand tapestries and hearts too big for their sleeves.

More pictures of Hearts of Tejina 2009 by Snapjacs

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Last week on our Going Native in Tenerife blog we had a virtual house guest and he was such a success on Going Native that we thought we’d invite him over to Real Tenerife for a quick sojourn. Mike was the sort of guest who’s a real pleasure to have; he ate whatever we were eating, caused no extra washing up or expense and was as funny as an MP’s expenses claim. However he did moan (a lot) about the lack of scones here!

Mike Harling came to us from the United States, via West Sussex and is currently on a virtual blog tour.

Mike has an extremely funny book out called ‘Postcards from across the Pond’  about his life as a US ex-pat living in Britain. Buy it, it’s a real hoot and a perfect holiday read.
So here, without any further ado, is Mike Harling…

Going Native Across the Pond

Ahhh, back on the beach. Tenerife is nice; I like visiting a place I have to look up on Google Earth to find. Turns out, it’s one of the Canary Islands, so I’ve been in the neighborhood before. If you don’t know where the Canary Islands are, I suggest Google Earth.

My new best friend Andy (anyone who invites me to their home, supplies me with unending amounts of barbecued shrimp, cold Corona and Cuban cigars and allows me to post about my book on their blog–which is supposed to be about their book–is automatically my best friend) not only located Tenerife on a map, she moved here. Seems she got tired of the stunning scenery, the variable climate and amazing history of Britain and decided to settle for constant sun, sandy beaches and spectacular mountain vistas.

Not satisfied with that, she wrote a book about how you can do it, as well, if you are so inclined. Strikes me as a bit of a niche market; my book may be about life in Britain but it’s a humor book. So if you want to laugh, buy my book; if you want sun and sandy beaches, buy Andy’s

Actually, I completely understand the allure of moving to someplace like this; it happened to me once:

In a long ago December, I left my land of cold and snow in upstate New York (try minus 28 degrees centigrade, Sparky, and we measure our snow in feet, not centimeters) for a week of sun and surf and scuba diving in St. Maarten. I was so totally captivated by the sunshine, warm ocean breezes and laid-back life style that I actually did begin looking into moving there.

It turned out to be a daunting task. What I needed was an AndyMont of St. Maarten to have written “Going Native in St. Maarten,” but there was nothing of the kind. Too bad, I could now be enjoying a life of simple pleasures, making a living carving drift wood into tourist-pleasing shapes or serving drinks with umbrellas in them to sunburned New Yorkers, rather than having to go on these grueling tours just so I can sell enough books to help me pay my heating bill through the long, damp British winters.

“What’s that, Andy? A margaretta? Why, thank you, I’d love one.”

Now where was I? Oh yes, Britain, and leaving it.

Being a relative newcomer to Blighty, I still regard Britain as an exotic place, so I’m happy to remain there. Besides, dark and dreary as it can be, the climate is still paradise compared to what I left behind. It’s all a matter of perception.

Even so, Andy won’t have a hard time convincing me to come back for a visit.

TourBannerWould you like to participate in the 2009 KINDNESS of STRANGERS TOUR?
Visit the Tour Page to sign up or to view the latest Tour updates.

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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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Then you’re lucky you stumbled across this, particularly if it’s your first time to Tenerife.

The economic crisis is deepening, prospects are bleak, the pound has today fallen against the dollar and remains on its knees against the euro and the yen.

So if you’re going to invest in a holiday abroad, it’s imperative that you get it right.

Some holiday brochures will tell you about golden beaches, romantic sunsets and organised tours to Mount Teide. I copied this piece of in-depth insight to the island from a popular tour operator’s website today:
Tenerife is making a comeback. It’s bigger and better than ever before, with 2 bar strips, a waterpark, loads of beaches and even its own volcano.”

With that level of information, how on earth can you make an informed decision about where to stay and when to go?
How do you know where to find Tenerife’s hidden treasures; that little gem of a place off the tourist trail that has everything you’re looking for?

Where can you find the best seafood lunch on the island or the best tapas in the south?
How do you know where to go to pay the same as locals do and not ‘tourist’ prices?
What about the best nudist beaches or where the cool set go?
Is there going to be a local fiesta while you’re there and if so, where and when do you go to catch the best of it?

Well now you can get answers to these and hundreds more questions by flicking through the pages of Tenerife’s first truly comprehensive, brand new guide; ‘Going Native in Tenerife’.

Going Native in Tenerife’ has 200 pages written with insight and passion by authors who have spent years treading the streets of every town and village, trekking along goat trails in the mountains and revelling at fiestas until dawn (all in the name of research). In short, exploring the Tenerife that visitors and even most residents never see…the Tenerife which lies beyond the holiday brochures.

If you only get one holiday in Tenerife in 2009, make sure it’s the best it can possibly be.

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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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