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Posts Tagged ‘Puerto de la Cruz’

It’s the highlight of Carnaval week in Puerto de la Cruz and last year it attracted more than 35,000 spectators.
It’s only 7.30pm. Registration of contestants isn’t scheduled to begin for another hour but already crowds are claiming their places along the route and against the barriers in Plaza Charco.

Tonight is double pleasure for us; not only are we here to watch the arrival and registration of the contestants in this surreal event, but its early start gives us the perfect excuse to eat at the Meson California guachinche in Plaza Charco.

The music strikes up and the beer barrels beside the stage are loaded, ready to oil the heels of contenders. Then it begins – a trickle at first but quickly gaining strength into a river of weird and fabulous costumes emerging from the crowds to be registered, have their heels measured for minimum height and be introduced to the audience.

It’s a process that takes in excess of two hours during which time the contestants imbibe copious amounts of alcohol, building nerve and diminishing co-ordination until heels morph into shifting mountains beneath their feet.

This year the costumes were a triumph with the Cinderella shoes and the chickens coming out top of my list.

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Anyone visiting Tenerife over the next month is quite likely to find themselves witnessing events that are a little out of the ordinary as Carnaval 2011 hits the island like a tropical storm in costume.

Depending on which part of the island you’re based in, you’re quite likely to witness party goers dressed as smurfs, witches, angels and Marvel comic characters either fresh faced and bright eyed on their way to the street party, sleeping precariously on a harbour wall or still propping up a bar mid-morning with eyes as red as the sunrise.

You’ll also probably stumble over exhibitions, vintage car rallies, dancing competitions and even, as in the case of the unsuspecting holidaymakers in Puerto de la Cruz a few days ago, a mini carnival parade.

As visitors and locals strolled the cobbled streets of the town centre on an average Sunday morning, the peace was shattered by the persistent sounding on a tinny horn which heralded the arrival of the candidates for the town’s Carnaval Queen 2011 elections in vintage cars accompanied by a mini parade of dancers and musicians.

You don’t have to attend the main events to know that party time has arrived; unlike the mountain to Mohammed, Carnaval will come to you 🙂

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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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As this is the week before Christmas, I thought I’d share some of the little things on Tenerife that bring on a warm and fuzzy feeling during the festive season.

First on the list are the magical Christmas lights that bring a seasonal sparkle to the island’s historic towns. Santa Cruz looks splendid, Puerto de la Cruz glitters gloriously and La Laguna’s cobbled and perfectly preserved old streets could easily have been lifted straight from one of those cards featuring Victorian Christmas scenes, but my favourite setting is Tenerife’s most elegant town, La Orotava.

The life size belén outside the town hall is impressive and the colourful xmas lights add a touch of razzamatazz to the streets around the Iglesia de la Concepción. However, the most magical spot is Plaza de la Constitución. Last year there were icicles ‘dripping’ from the leafy canopy overhead, huge bow wrapped presents adding a touch of frivolity to the gardens and the display in the bandstand turned children’s eyes saucer sized. If there’s a more Christmassy place on Tenerife to have a coffee I’ve yet to find it.

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I recently read a blog in which the blogger posed the question, what is it about Puerto de la Cruz that makes some people recommend it so frequently on forums such as Tripadvisor. After all, you can number the ‘what to dos’ of the resort on the fingers of one hand, particularly for teenagers, whereas the resorts of the south are jam packed with theme parks.

It got me wondering how many holidaymakers from the UK now rely on manufactured entertainment in order to enjoy themselves?

I can honestly say that in all our years of traveling, Jack and I have never once, even remotely, considered what a place had to offer in terms of things laid on for visitors before deciding to travel there. In fact, if anything that would be a factor against going.

All the fun of Siam Park without the entrance fee

Our very good friends,  the Largies’ have been coming to stay in Puerto de la Cruz ever since we moved here. To begin with they just brought their then 14 year old daughter and her friend but they had so much fun that next time the party had grown to include their 17 year old son and his friend. Now completely hooked, they all arrived again the following year when the offspring and their friends were16 yrs and 19 yrs respectively.
In fact, they all enjoyed it so much and wanted to come back so frequently that we had to put a stop to it as we were having far too much fun and not actually working for a living – a balance that can only lead to one destination – Skintville.

Crater capers

In all the times the Largies came they only left the resort twice – once to go to Mount Teide with which they were blown away, and once to go to Aqualand which they thought was an overpriced  disappointment.
I have no doubt they would have enjoyed Siam Park, on the other hand the waves at  Playa Jardín gave them just as many adrenalin-packed thrills and spills and didn’t cost anything. They may  have enjoyed a visit to Veronica’s or Starco’s but instead they danced the nights away in the streets at Carnaval and in the local clubs where they met a cosmopolitan set of new friends. Perhaps Castillo de San Miguel would have been a novelty for them but instead they played Russian roulette over plates of pimientos de padrón in Bar Louis and practised their Spanish over ordering postres and drinks.

I don’t consider that Puerto de la Cruz is the only resort on Tenerife and it certainly won’t suit the majority of visitors who seem to want their sun, sand and sea accompanied by cabaret and theme parks. But I’m not convinced that everyone needs their entertainment to be packaged, admission charged and sold as ‘get your fun here’, regardless of what age they are…are you?

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I feel like I’ve been watching back to back movies in some dingy cinema for weeks and have finally emerged, blinking into the sunlight.
I’m not complaining (okay, that’s clearly a lie) but I’ve been so wrapped up in trying to meet my Simonseeks deadlines for their Tenerife pages that I’ve neglected everything else, including this blog, Twitter, Facebook, hiking, cooking and most importantly of all – R and R.

So when Jack’s sister and her boyfriend arrived on Tenerife for a two week holiday which coincided with hitting the second of three arduous deadlines, it was time to cut loose and take a break.

We’ve been hearing great things about a band called Traveller who regularly play Friday nights at the Tajinaste restaurant outside Los Gigantes so I figured I’d kill three birds with one stone – see Traveller, eat at the Tajinaste restaurant which I could then review for Simonseeks and have a good night out with Rhonda and Graeme.

But with typical bad timing, the day before we were due to see them, I got a mailshot from  Traveller to say that the new management of Tajinaste were closing for refurbishment…no band to watch, no restaurant to review and a disappointment for our night out in the west.
Except that it wasn’t really. Sure it would have been great to see a good live band but not seeing one didn’t spoil our night.
We headed into the resort to eat at Domingos and then to the Pilgrim for a few drinks. Domingos was pretty much full but it’s fair to say that the rest of the resort was very quiet. It was a great night and we enjoyed ourselves but to be honest, there was really not very much there in the way of bars and if I was on holiday in the resort, I guess I’d be heading elsewhere for my Friday night out.

Playa de la Arena

Most bar owners blame the lack of after-dark customers in Playa de la Arena on the proliferation of all-inclusive hotels in the resort but a few nights later Rhonda and Graeme were in Route 66 in Puerto Santiago where, with the usual full house, they watched the excellent Old Dogs New Tricks. One of the things that they noticed was the number of people in the audience wearing tell tale all-inclusive wrist bands.
It seems that if you give them a good enough reason, people will give up their free beer and bring you their custom. If you don’t, they won’t.

Fast forward to last Saturday night when Rhonda and Graeme came over to Puerto de la Cruz for a change of scene.
After spending the afternoon testing tapas we headed back into town around 8.30 pm and arrived in a packed Plaza Charco where every seat around the red hot braziers was taken. We had to sit on the harbour wall to eat our roasted chestnuts hors-d’oevre and drink our vino del país aperitif.  There was no entertainment, no live band or cabaret – just the old fishing town, the chestnuts, the wine and that old Puerto charm.

Blanco Bar

After eating we headed into Blanco Bar where some tables in the courtyards were still vacant and we tried a new instant favourite cocktail – Bailey’s Colada – courtesy of the bar staff, before relocating to the downstairs bar to see a local band. We watched and listened for a while before moving on to Limbo where we arrived at the upstairs bar to find that even standing room was limited. It was packed to beyond capacity.
A couple of rounds of beer and much gawping (mainly from me) at the group of young seven footer basketball players who were standing at the bar like Aragorns amongst the hobbits of the Shire, it was on to the next venue.

Courtyard entrance to Limbo

No Saturday night out in Puerto is complete without a visit to Azucar, the town’s liveliest Cuban bar and despite its temporary relocation to the ground floor while the former gentleman’s club upstairs is refurbished, it was good to see the place still packed to the rafters with people of all ages and a range of nationalities.

Suan Chill

After the madness and salsa of Azucar it was time to chill out so around 2 am, just as the town was beginning to reach its Saturday night zenith, we headed for Suan Chill where  we settled in amongst the sequined cushions and relaxed until fatigue got the better of us at around 3.20am and we headed for a taxi home.

The contrast between our two nights out couldn’t have been more marked, as indeed is the contrast between the two areas.
Happily, despite the move to all-inclusive by many of its hotels, Puerto has a thriving local population who don’t rely on bars laying on good entertainment to get them out into the town at night.  I really like Playa de la Arena and think it’s a lovely family resort but if you want night life, it’s not going to deliver the goods, or at least, not until the bar owners stop bitching about all-inclusive and start giving holidaymakers something other than sports coverage and Karaoke to leave their hotels for.

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