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Posts Tagged ‘Playa de las Américas’

The normally sedate dining room was in uproar.
An American drawl was loudly berating the fact that the steak on his plate was tougher than the leather on his shoes and at the pastries cart a physical fight had broken out between two families over the last of the chocolate éclairs. In the midst of hair pulling and screaming, a woman’s voice was heard to tearfully proclaim ”It’s the only bloody decent food we’ve had all week!”
This was Kenya circa 1990 and the last time I ate dinner in a hotel buffet…until last weekend.

When we first began to travel beyond the Greek Islands it didn’t take us long to realise that hotel food was largely geared to the palates of guests, the vast majority of whom appeared to want to forget the fact that they were anywhere other than home except when it came to sunbathing. We very quickly dumped half board options in favour of room and breakfast and opted instead to explore local eateries.

The distinctive tower of Hotel Isabel, Costa Adeje

So it wasn’t without a certain amount of trepidation that, last weekend, we checked into the Hotel Isabel in Costa Adeje on a half board basis because, on an assignment to review the hotel, we knew that food was to be an essential element.

The fact that this was one of the busiest weekends of the year for holidays on Tenerife and the hotel was filled to capacity, did nothing to allay our nerves. As we walked past the hotel dining room at 7pm on our way to the summer carnaval in Playa de Las Américas and saw it was already pretty full, we hoped that by the time we got back at least most of the guests would have eaten, even if we were facing the equivalent of the aftermath of a swarm of locusts with nothing left but cold chips, limp lettuce and metallic-tasting frozen mixed veg’.

We were wrong – on both counts.
When we finally arrived at the dining room it was still packed, but we were immediately shown to a clean table. Heading to the food counters, I couldn’t begin to take in the choice of food available.
At either end of the vast counter there were two cooking stations; one was grilling and roasting chicken and meat and the other was baking fresh pizza and garlic bread and simmering sauces for pasta.
On three large islands in front of the hot plates were salad ingredients like cold chicken, ham and seafood; chopped fresh onions, tomatoes and green peppers; a choice of three different types of washed lettuce; coleslaws, sweetcorn, pastas and shredded carrot; hard boiled eggs…I really can’t remember them all.
Food mountains of fresh rolls lay alongside huge soup tureens which were sending saliva-inducing aromas steaming into the atmosphere.

At this point my decision-making skills had a panic attack so I filled a plate with salad ingredients and headed back to our table. My second assault on the buffet took me along the hotplates which held five different styles of cooked potatoes; lamb, beef, chicken and fish dishes; vegetables; sauces and more pasta dishes. Everything was piping hot and although none of the trays was even close to empty, fresh supplies were being poured in continuously.
This was not what I had expected.

One of the pretty plazas at Hotel Isabel

I finally plumped for pork chops from the griddle,which were succulent, smoky and tender. My only disappointment was the mixed vegetables I’d chosen which I’m pretty sure were frozen. Vowing to opt for a single veg’ the following night, I finished up and headed to the sweets section where a chef was busy peeling, chopping and serving an entire plantation’s worth of tropical fruits. Then, trying not to look at the cheesecakes and pastries en route, it was onto the ice cream section where six flavours of ice cream, unknown varieties of yoghurt, sumptuously sinful chocolate decorations and half a dozen bottles of assorted spirits and liqueurs from which to choose ensured that the next two weeks would be spent on rice and salads.

For families, I can see how half or full board must be an extremely attractive option; the children we saw in the dining room over our weekend at the Hotel Isabel had smiles on their faces as wide as the mounds of chips, spaghetti or six kinds of ice cream on their plates.

Hotel buffets have certainly moved on since the War of the Chocolate Éclairs all those years ago, at least, they have in Tenerife. I wonder what the hotel buffets in Kenya are like nowadays…?

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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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The largest British ex-pat population on Tenerife lives in and around the south of the island, predominantly around the Los Cristianos, Playa de Las Américas and Costa Adeje areas. So being involved in English language business, regular trips south are an occupational necessity.
Last Thursday was one of our ‘down south’ days when we leave our home in Puerto de la Cruz and spend the day in the south trying to fit all the things we have to do into one day.

Lunch consisted of a sandwich while sitting on a bench overlooking the beach in Los Cristianos in between getting photos of restaurants for a customer and a lengthy meeting of Tenerife Magazine in the afternoon.
Then it was more restaurant photos, a quickly bolted down pizza and up to El Faro Chill Art in Fañabe for a 7.30 pm launch of Tenerife’s new radio station, Pirate FM.

The stylish roof terrace of El Faro Chill Art

Climbing the stairs to the chic roof terrace of El Faro, complimentary champagne flute in hand, I looked around at the gathering. I had heard that the event was operating a black and white dress code to complement the pirate theme and so I had chosen to wear white pants and a black T shirt, but there any similarity to the way the assorted female guests looked ended.
Hair was perfectly in place, lips were painted, eyes were freshly and liberally made up, outfits were glamorous and heels were sexy and high.
I, on the other hand, had left home over 8 hours before, during which time my hair hadn’t seen a comb; any pretence of mascara had long since melted into submission; my T shirt had lost its freshly clinging appeal to be replaced by a sadly hanging one and I was wearing flip flops.

At one point Jack took a photo of me sandwiched on one side by the über-attractive Head of Sales and Marketing for Pirate FM – Clare Harper – and on the other by the freshly showered and changed, dapper-looking John Beckley. Even as the lens pointed towards us I could feel my body shrinking in anguish, a clear premonition of the contrast between Clare and I asserting itself firmly into my brain.

Spot the "Oh no! I'm not even wearing lipstick!" expression.

Sipping a first class red wine with Eric Clapton’s Some day After A While spilling its Blues magic over the stylish surroundings of the roof terrace, I gazed out over the lights of Puerto Colón and Fañabe and then back at the perfumed, glamorous gathering. I remembered vividly how I used to look when I attended similar functions in Britain. My job dictated that I regularly attended gala dinners and glamorous functions and I always looked fabulous; full make up, perfect hair, high heels and sexy clothes. I thought about what vast sums of money I would now be earning had I stayed in Britain and what beautiful outfit I’d be wearing and how I’d look, and for a little while, I wondered if I regretted giving all of that up.

But then I realised that it wasn’t really the lifestyle I missed, it was my youth, and no matter how much make-up I wore or if I traded my flip flops for some killer heels, my youth would still be behind me.
But how much better for it to have been lost in our house beside the banana plantation, in a culture where ageism doesn’t exist and an occupation where I’m judged not by my looks, but by my words.

On the other hand, I wish I’d put some lipstick on…

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There was clearly some sort of high security risk, low profile event going on at the Magma Congress Centre in Playa de Las Américas yesterday.
Jack and I were driving around Los Cristianos, Playa de Las Américas and Costa Adeje, visiting stockists and getting photographs for various projects we’re involved in and had noticed a pretty serious police presence around the place.
At one point, we could see on the other side of the road that a heavily armed police squad had set up a road block and were slowly threading vehicles through it. We made a mental note not to go that way.

The morning wore on into the afternoon and we had one more stop to make before heading off to Gran Sur to watch the English language movie.

We parked in a restricted zone outside the ferretería, next door to the Monte Christo restaurant and I stayed with the car; ready to move it at the first sign of a traffic cop, while Jack went into the restaurant to get some photos.
After 15 minutes or so, I saw a black police van stop at the pedestrian crossing right behind me to let some very attractive Lara Croft look-a-like cross the road. The police sat with grins on their faces as Lara’s tits and bum sashayed across the road and I thought no more of it.
Then the police van pulled level just ahead of me and stopped.

I froze for a moment until I saw the reverse lights go on; then I was out of the passenger door in a split second and heading towards the driver door to move the car. Just then, Jack emerged from the restaurant and I said “Err, just in time. I think we should move…like now!”

Jack got into the driver’s seat as three machine gun-armed officers stepped out of the back of the van and, muttering something about “el Punto” (which I naturally took to be Cindy – our Fiat Punto) surrounded the car. One positioned himself at the driver’s open window, one at my window and one behind us.
At this point, I was thinking how very differently the police in the south dealt with parking in no-parking zones. In Puerto they completely ignore you. Here, they appeared to be about to drag us out of the car and machine gun us in broad daylight.
Considering what was going through our minds, Jack and I remained remarkably calm as we put our seat belts on and Jack started the engine. Then the police van reversed very slowly to within a centimetre of our wing mirror and stopped, dead parallel.

With not a single word or a glance towards the police or each other, Jack inched the car forward until we were clear of the van, then he slowly pulled out and we drove away.
It was quite the coolest thing I’ve seen him do in a long time and very Jason Bourne.

Somewhat shaken by the whole incident, we drove to Gran Sur where, appropriately enough, we watched the Paul Greengrass directed, Matt Damon thriller; ‘The Green Zone’.

I have no idea what was going on down there yesterday and with the benefit of hindsight, we figured the police were going to use our car as part of their road block.
But I’ll tell you this…that’s the last time we’ll park in a restricted zone in Costa Adeje!

When you rent a car on Tenerife, you need to be aware of the dos and don’ts of parking.

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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

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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

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