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Posts Tagged ‘harbour’

I like Latino music, I really do, but not at the expense of every other type of music in the Universe and unfortunately, here in the north of Tenerife Latino is aired, played and listened to as if no other order of notes has ever been invented.

Still, it was New Year’s Eve at the annual street party in Puerto de la Cruz and I resigned myself to another night of salsa, salsa and more salsa which certainly improves in direct relation to the quantity of alcohol consumed.

Midnight strikes, grapes are swallowed, fireworks explode into life and the champagne corks are popped – hello 2011.
Jack, Nicole, Sebastian and I wander back to Plaza Charco where the evening’s Latino band are in full swing and the dance floor is packed with salsa dancers. I do my best to shake up an explosion by attempting (badly I suspect) to emulate the moves while carrying a rucksack in which our chilled cava supply is stashed.

Shortly after 1am Nicole and Sebastian bid their farewells and Jack and I  finish off a bottle of cava and head over to the other side of the harbour to see what’s happening.

Lo and behold, what we find is the alternative New Year’s Eve – the one that has loud, throbbing rhythms and multi coloured strobe lights and joy upon joy, the unmistakeable chords of Insomnia!
With unrestrained delirium we launch ourselves into the middle of the pulsating dance floor and let the music wash over us in a tsunami of nostalgia.
I don’t think I have ever been more happy to hear Faithless, and the atmosphere alongside the harbour with the neon Big Wheel of the funfair slowly turning in the distance is nothing short of electric.
Now this is what I call party music.

We video’d snippets of the two sides to our NYE party so that anyone who has never experienced New Year’s Eve in Puerto de la Cruz can see what they’re missing and book now for 2011/2012. Oh, and in the interests of editing, I’ve culled the 5 minute firework display down to 1½ minutes.

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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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I’ve heard it said that Puerto de la Cruz in the north of Tenerife is a quiet, traditional town favoured by elderley Brit and German holidaymakers who choose the resort for their holidays on Tenerife. In fact, for some regular visitors to TripAdvisor, that image is promoted as a selling point. But in reality, Puerto is probably the most misrepresented resort on Tenerife.
You see, it just doesn’t fit the mould of other popular Tenerife resorts.

For one thing, its character is essentially Tinerfeñan. Although the first resort on the island and the victim of mass tourism development in the 1960s and 1970s, the town has never given up its identity to fit in with tourist expectations. The vast majority of its almost 32,000 population are Tinerfeñan, Canarian or Spanish and they live, work and play in the town year-round.

Nightlife in Puerto doesn’t fit the mould of other Tenerife resorts either. Conspicuous by their absence are cabaret bars (with the notable exception of the excellent and hilarious Bitter & Twisted), tribute bands and Karaoke bars. Absent too are über-stylish lounge bars where the beautiful people gather to pay extortionate prices for their vodka and Red Bull. Instead, Puerto prefers to conduct its social life the same way it does its family life – in the community; sitting at one of the tables beside the harbour or in one of the squares people-watching over a carafe of wine; chatting in a local bar with a glass of vino del pais and shots of brandy; open air concerts, fiestas and entertainment at the harbour and dancing in night clubs that don’t open until midnight and unless you knew where they were, you would probably never find them.

But more than anything else, the thing that separates Puerto from other Tenerife resorts is that it’s at its very liveliest in summer when Spanish mainlanders and Canarios descend on the town in their droves to enjoy a non-stop party. Beaches become a busy playground of brightly coloured sun umbrellas at the water’s edge; the harbour, streets and squares buzz day and night with holiday makers strolling with ice creams, candy-floss and almendras; tapas restaurants fill the streets with candlelit tables and the night air with irresistible aromas and there’s barely a Brit or a German to be seen.

Puerto de la Cruz – about as sleepy as a convention of insomniacs.

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The goats are all too familiar with the horrors that lie ahead

To all intents and purposes it could have been any other morning, albeit a rather busy one, harbour-side in Puerto de la Cruz.

I was taking five on one of the benches below the harbour wall when I became aware of a commotion. Suddenly, out of nowhere a large, wet, sand-covered goat, hotly pursued by two dogs, hurtled past within centimetres of my feet. The little old lady sitting next to me screamed and we were both left with a slight spattering of sea water on our shoes and the distressed cry of goat in our ears.
Within moments the goat was being ‘escorted’ back to the harbour, flanked either side by a tail-wagging dog.
Another attempt to re-enact The Great Escape bites the dust.

"It's for your own good..."

Yesterday was Midsummer’s Day or the feast of San Juan (St John), a time of magic and ancient ritual and a time when Tenerife’s livestock get their annual baptism in the healing waters of the Ocean.
A tradition dating back to the Guanche indigenous people who populated the Canary Islands before the Spanish conquest, baño de las cabras (bathing of the goats) in the Midsummer water is said to keep the animals healthy and fertile for the coming year.

But as far as the goats are concerned, that whole “it’s for your own good” stuff just doesn’t cut it. Clearly completely averse to water, they behave as if they’re being systematically tortured and clearly assume the intent is to drown them, in broad daylight, in front of hundreds of witnesses.

It's not just the goats who'd happily see San Juan struck off the Saint's calendar

The normally quiet waters of Puerto’s harbour are churned up by caballeros riding their steeds into the sea and dozens of goats being sacrificially dipped.

While herds wait anxiously on the beach, a constantly moving mass of panic-stricken beards and horns standing like Damocles waiting for the sword to fall, goatherds and their dogs work to contain the animals.
Once plucked from the herd, some undergo the trial stoically, the fear contained entirely within their eyes; others scream like banshees all the way in and all the way back out; and some make a break for freedom. None escape.

Anyone on holiday in Puerto de la Cruz just now might want to consider leaving it a few days before choosing the harbour beach for a spot of sunbathing and swimming. San Juan may have the power to purify the goats, but he’s not doing much to get a Blue Flag flying next to the fish wife statue.

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November in the north of Tenerife usually evokes two strong images in my mind; heavy rain and chestnuts roasting. But last year, and so far this year, only one of those images has transpired.
Normally, November is the month in which everything breathes a sigh of relief as the long, dry summer draws to a close and the heavens open to the welcoming arms of the wilting tropical vegetation. Once sated, the earth blossoms anew and the faded colours of summer are replaced by vivid scarlet poinsettias and the bright orange crowns of strelitzias.
But as I compile this blog we’re deep into our second calima in as many weeks and, save for a couple of midnight light showers, the temperatures remain resolutely high and the ground solid.

The rains may have failed to appear but the chestnuts haven’t. Roasting chestnuts at the harbour in Puerto de la CruzAs the sun bids its hazy adieu to the day, the white-out of calima is replaced by the fragrant smoke of a dozen braziers, fired up to white hot and topped with small clay pots in which sweet chestnuts are roasting. When darkness falls, the pyramids of ash beneath each brazier show their fiery hearts and sparks fly from the fires like mini volcanic eruptions. Brows wet, clothes stained with ash while gloved finger and thumb test the chestnuts for readiness, men and women tend the braziers and feed the busy stalls that line the front of the harbour.
Small skewers of spicy pork kebabs (pinchos) sizzle on grills alongside wine vats from which the year’s new wine is dispensed in small plastic cups.
It’s the prelude to Christmas; from December the lights will be turned on and thoughts will turn to the holidays and preparations for the festivities. But for now, as the fiesta of San Andrés approaches, it’s a time to savour the sweet chestnuts and new wine and to spend evenings on the harbour and in Plaza Charco enjoying the warmth of the bonus summer nights.
Tomorrow the rains may come.

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