Posts Tagged ‘Icod de los Vinos’

The neon street temperatures may have fallen to 20° C and the sock box may have been retrieved from underneath the bed where it lives for a good eight months of the year, but autumn in the north of Tenerife brings more than adequate compensation for the official end to long summer days.

The Jackass antics of riding the boards in Icod de los Vinos

The Jackass antics of riding the boards in Icod de los Vinos

Not least, November brings the year’s new wine harvest, reason enough on its own for a fiesta, but throw in to the mix the happy chronological co-incidence of the celebration of Saint Andrew’s Day (fiesta de San Andrés) and you’ve got all the excuses you need for a very merry affair indeed.

On Saturday afternoon we headed up to Icod de los Vinos on Tenerife’s north coast to watch how their youth like to celebrate this time of year.
First they take their town’s tradition of rolling wine barrels down its impossibly steep streets on wooden boards pulled by oxen, then they add a little Jackass element and what they come up with is ‘arrastre de las tablas’ or riding the boards. From the top of Calle del Plano (the sort of street that sends a small cramp to the calves at the mere sight of it) teenage lads sit on waxed, wooden trays and career down at breakneck speed, negotiating a small undulation at the halfway mark that bounces the tray off the road’s surface and sends it ever faster towards a heap of old tyres at the bottom of the street.

The only brakes are a pile of old tyres; its like the crash test dummies Tenerife style!

The only brakes are a pile of old tyres; it's like the crash test dummies Tenerife style!

It’s addictively good fun to watch, particularly as the afternoon progresses and the town’s daredevils take to their boards, resolutely refusing to attempt any slow down before smashing into the tyres, travelling several feet into the air and landing in a heap of sprawled limbs amongst the rubber.
It’s the sort of event that would have UK and US lawyers rubbing their hands at the prospect of juicy law suits that would lead perfunctorily to a complete ban on the event.
Luckily, the Tinerfeños don’t have a litigious bone in their bodies and have never allowed the likelihood of personal injury to get in the way of having a good time.

Later, we headed down into Puerto de la Cruz for the rather more sedate, but much more participatory celebrations.
In Plaza Charco small children ran across the cobbled surface pulling long strings of empty cans and assorted pieces of metal, providing endless ‘cute’ poses for grinning mums and dads to capture for posterity.
Around the harbour, the air was filled with the fragrant smoke of chestnuts being roasted on open coals, sardines sizzling on grills and succulent pinchos (skewered beef and pork) browning on hot plates as food stalls did a brisk trade with the hundreds of visitors and residents occupying the al fresco tables and chairs.

Savoury roasted chestnuts, succulent beef pinchos and sizzling sardines are just some of the flavours on offer at the street food stalls in Puerto de la Cruz on fiesta de San Andrés

Savoury roasted chestnuts, succulent beef pinchos and sizzling sardines are just some of the flavours on offer at the street food stalls in Puerto de la Cruz on fiesta de San Andrés

Proving to be extremely popular were the rows of ‘bodega’ stalls where, for 50 cents a time, you could sample any number of excellent wines from local wine producers. It was a difficult choice and I have to admit, the type of ‘nibbles’ that were being offered by each bodega had considerable influence over which stall was favoured by our custom.
After half a dozen varieties of both red and white had been tasted and points awarded, I would have had a go on one of Icod’s ‘tablas’ had one been handy. Thankfully for all concerned none was, and we headed off to one of the food stalls for pinchos, crusty bread, spicey mojo sauces and roasted chestnuts to soak up the alcohol. Of course, you can’t have chestnuts without wine and so we ordered a small carafe of the new ‘vino del país‘, or country wine, just to see how it compared with its more upmarket cousins.

Fiesta de San Andrés…one of my favourite Tenerife fiestas, hic!


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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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