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Posts Tagged ‘Santa Cruz’

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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It has been a really nice week for catching up with friends from the UK.

At the beginning of the week we went to see Chris and Alan from tenerife.co.uk who are holidaying with their families in Playa Paraíso. For 24 luxurious hours we enjoyed the excellent hospitality of the Roca Nivaria Hotel and managed to combine fun and relaxation with work. I feel certain that were I to be permanently ensconced in such a peel-me-a-grape environment that I could produce some of my best work…

Then yesterday we went into Santa Cruz to meet up with Sarah and Denise who are currently enjoying a free week’s holiday in Golf Del Sur which Denise won in a competition in the UK. Not, I hasten to add, one of Tenerife Magazine’s incredible free holiday prizes; this one had nothing to do with us.

Meeting up a little after 1pm it was the perfect opportunity to combine showing Sarah and Denise around the city with enjoying lunch. How fortuitous then that their visit just happened to coincide with the Ruta del Chicharro tapas route; a stroll around the city taking in tasty tapas served with cold Dorada beers in some of the city’s oldest and newest eateries. Throw into the mix an ambient temperature of around 25°C and the resident Santa Cruz sunshine and you’ve got what amounts to a perfect Friday in the city.

First stop was the Noria District and the Museo bar/restaurant under the arches. A table on their sunny terrace; four tapas of sweet potato and cod in mojo sauce served with garlic bread and kept company by four Doradas, and the endless chat and catch-up could begin. Time slipped by as it always does when we meet Sarah and next thing we knew, four different tapas winged their way to the table – montaditos (small toasted breads) with garlic sausage and cheese. We explained that two of our number didn’t eat meat and in two glints of the waiter’s smile montaditos with seafood arrived in addition to the sausage ones.

The bill came to a princely €10 and we moved along a few hundred metres to the terrace of El Marques de la Noria to receive the most artistically beautiful and tastiest of the day’s tapas.
A single wooden skewer lay across the plate which held a crispy chunk of sweet roasted potato with an apple puree and caviar coating; and a deep fried, battered prawn with jamón Iberico (the girls gave us their jamón – the benefits of lunching with non meat eaters). The skewer was sealed with a cherry tomato and drizzled with a raspberry and a rich soya sauce.
Looking too good to eat and tasting even better, we again drained our Doradas, left the €10 settlement and moved on to our next venue.

Strolling back along Antonio Dominguez Alfonso, cutting through Plaza Principe past the Belles Artes Museum and onto Imeldo Seris, our guests were enthralled by the architecture, the flora and the beauty of this city about which so little makes it onto the tourist radar.
This is Denise’s first visit to Tenerife and she was thrilled to be out of the Karaoke bars and burger and chips offerings of Golf Del Sur and experiencing some of the ‘real Tenerife’.

As usual, Jack and I were in full tour guide mode and the compulsory potted history of the island was being delivered as we arrived at one of the capital’s iconic traditional restaurants; La Hierbita.

A hotch potch of tiny rooms on varying levels with original wooden floors and ceilings, we made our way through the ground floor to the back room bar, then out into the back alley and along a couple of doors to the second part of the restaurant. We climbed the narrow stairs and took the table in the window from which, the waiter helpfully pointed out, you could throw crumbs onto passing pedestrians. We resisted the crumb throwing impulse and settled instead to perusing the cornucopia of antiques that fill this personality-rich restaurant.
This time our tapas consisted of a small dish of cherne (grouper) fish in onion and potato sauce and was served with bread and mojo sauces.

Appetites sated and time slipping dangerously close to Sarah and Denise’s bus departure, we made our way back past the lake of Plaza España where we stopped for the customary photo shoot at the statue to the fallen, and made it back to the bus station in time for a choc ice postre and fond farewells.

Santa Cruz – discover it before everyone else does!

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Larry McCray

It’s got to be one of the coolest venues on Tenerife.
Standing beneath the crimson boughs of flamboyance trees at the foot of the tower of Iglesia de la Concepción in Santa Cruz while cool Blues fill the night air and rock the hips of the assembled audience.

Rojas Blues Band ft Esther Ovejero

Saturday was the culmination of three nights of sultry sounds, electrifying guitar riffs and soulful lyrics bringing the Deep South to the island’s north, and like every year the standard of musicians and their performances has been outstanding.
Beginning with the European day of music, weaving it’s Midsummer Way through the San Juan beach parties and culminating last night in the capital, Santa Blues 2010 tops a week in which excellent live music has featured heavily.

On Thursday night Barcelona band The Rojas Blues Band ft Esther Ovejero split the night air with their wailing guitar and funky bass lines backing Esther’s polished vocals.
Next up was the big man, Larry McCray from Michigan who gave us a set infused with echoes from the Delta Blues originals of BB King to the Allman Brothers, McCray’s easy style belying the excellence of his playing.

Tina Riobo Quintet

Friday was declared a much-needed R and R night in the Real Tenerife household and the Gospel Blues of Sandra Hall were sacrificed for a night in front of the telly.
Then on Saturday night we were back beneath the flamboyance trees to see the high energy Jazz/Blues output of The Tina Rioro Quartet hype the crowd up to dancing mode in readiness for the incredible swamp-blues talent of New Orleans’ Kenny Neal ‘family’. Featuring brothers Darnell and Frederick on bass and keyboards respectively; and nephew Tyree on second keyboards with a side order of a ripping two number hard-core blues mini-set on guitar and vocals, this family has talent like other families have arguments.

Kenny Neal

Together with the pulsating beat and dancing snares of  drummer par excellence Bryan Morris, the Neals produced a set that had the crowds rocking, whooping and sweating into the early hours, emulating Kenny’s prophetic lyrics of bop ‘til I drop.

With my back feeling like its transition from aching to broken was hanging in the balance and my ears still ringing with Kenny’s doleful slide guitar and haunting harmonica riffs, I lamented the fact that I had a whole 51 weeks to wait for Santa Blues to come round again.
Oh well, just the rest of the World Cup, the July Fiestas and, oh yeh, the whole summer to look forward to…I guess I’ll manage.

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It was one of those perfectly fortuitous sets of circumstances that very rarely come your way.
The Tenerife Espacio de las Artes (TEA) in Santa Cruz were screening Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds in its original language at 7pm and we were collecting Jo from Santa Cruz bus station at around 9.30/10pm. So we were off to the movies and would be out in perfect time to meet Jo.Inglourious Basterds

We arrived at TEA a tad on the tardy side and most of the seats in the small auditorium were already taken leaving just the neck breaking first 3 rows.
There were no frills – after all the TEA were screening the movie free of charge in celebration of their first anniversary – no popcorn or ice cream and no trailers. The lights went down and we were straight into the action.

It’s a laudable feature of the film that everyone speaks in their own language which means that much of the dialogue is in French, German and English with a soupçon of Italian thrown in for good measure. With all the subtitles in Spanish, it was proving to be quite an exercise in understanding and gave rise to a sort of Mexican Wave effect when it came to laughs. So, for example, when the dialogue was in English, the Brits would be laughing while the rest of the audience were still reading the subtitles. The same happened for the Germans and the French with the biggest laugh wave always coming from the Spanish for whom the whole movie was in subtitles.  It was a weird and wonderful feeling of being European and sharing a cinema with other Europeans – a camaraderie of multi lingual communication that felt warm and inclusive.

At a fairly critical point in the movie, the mobile started to intone its jaunty you have mail jingle and Jack nervously slid it from his pocket, trying desperately to muffle it with his hands, before finally remembering how to switch it off, which it did with another jaunty see ya later jingle. Interestingly, the Spanish don’t say shush or hush, they give a cross between a tut and a hiss that comes out like bursts of air escaping from a punctured tyre and is very effective at deflating a sense of camaraderie.

The curtain fell to spontaneous applause shortly after 9.30 pm and Jack switched the mobile back on to a series of text-received jingles.
It would seem that Jo’s flight had landed early so she’d decided to get the earlier bus and had been sitting in a bar in Puerto de la Cruz since 9.15 pm. It was now 9.40 pm and Jack and I were in Santa Cruz.

Quentin Tarantino can re-write history, present it to audiences in four different languages and make us all feel part of an inclusive society.
Jack, Jo and I rarely manage even the simplest of arrangements effectively, despite a shared first language and fortuitous circumstances

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I know it’s a bit sad to blog about a car park and if you live in London or LA or New York and consider what I am describing to be practically archaic nowadays, cut me some slack. I live on Tenerife and finding anything here that works this efficiently just has to be recorded.

Please feel free to skip to the next entry.

It’s not the first time I’ve used the shiny new car park beneath the bus station in Santa Cruz, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Apart from its rather odd entrance whereby you drive over the pavement, avoiding maiming pedestrians if at all possible, everything else about this car park is sublime.
To begin with they have this coating on the floor which makes your tyres sound like you’re in the car chase scene from the latest Bond movie.
Then they have this excellent lighting system which has a green light above each vacant parking space and a red light above each occupied one so you can see at a glance where the empty spaces are.
And as if that wasn’t simplicity itself, at the end of each row they have a sign which either flashes a red ‘X’ to indicate there are no vacant spaces on that row, or a green number to indicate the number of empty spaces there are.
Ha! You just find and drive into a space as if by magic.

And the cherry on the cake? Well this is a capital city parking lot and this week I parked there for almost four hours mid-morning on a week day. In Manchester that would have cost me the best part of a tenner, instead it was €2.85!

There, all done.

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This way to obscurity

This way to obscurity

I guess the name ‘El Tanque’ (the tank) should have been enough of a clue but I was thinking in the neighbourhood of fish tank and so was taken aback when the full sized oil storage tank came into view; gleaming lime green and silver in the glaring midday sun.

We followed the road around the perimeter circumference of ‘El Tanque’ and arrived at the sort of tunnel that normally takes you from an aircraft to the arrivals lounge. This one led from the bridge to the car park and the entrance to Espacio Cultural El Tanque.
We asked the smiling receptionist if the exhibition was open.
“Yes, of course,” she beamed and handed us each a small set of square cards pinned in one corner so that they fanned out like playing cards. The cards were all black and on the front in white was a skull and crossbones with the skull wearing a gas mask and the words ‘Keroxen 09’ written underneath.

As we walked through the entrance I flicked through the cards to find out what the exhibition was about but the light

Yes, I know its too dark!

Yes, I know it's too dark!

was too dim to make out the wording on the black background so I gave up. We walked up a slope and, aside from floor level lamp shades hanging above jam jars placed around the perimeter floor inside each of which was a single letter of the alphabet, there was darkness.
I don’t just mean it was dark, I mean complete sensory deprivation darkness.

Giggling, Jack and I turned on our heels and went back down the slope realising that we’d wandered inadvertently into the actual oil tank rather than the exhibition.
Following the only other corridor past the toilets we arrived at…the exit.

Okay. Now we were perplexed.
Has the nice girl at reception forgotten to put the lights on we wonder?
Now on the brink of hysteria and trying to muffle giggles, we head back into ‘the tank’ and inch our way, arms outstretched ahead of us like contestants in a game of Blind Man’s Buff, further into the space.

Gradually our eyes adjust slightly to the dark and we can make out several long, black cloths hanging from the ceiling to head height in rows leading into the centre of the tank. As we get nearer we can see that each cloth has a single sentence written on the bottom of it, seemingly random sentences like “Have you heard the Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine?” and “A city creates experiences for those who live in it”.

I carefully make my way to the centre of the tank where a dozen chairs are set out in rows and I take a seat. I can see and hear nothing. It’s admittedly peaceful if somewhat spooky, but I am completely unenlightened.

We inch our way back to the lamplit jam jars and out.
“It’s very dark in there,” we say to the nice girl on the door.
“Of course,” she smiles.

Sometimes, art is just too obscure for me.

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Beneath the gaze of a shimmering moon, in the shadow of the tower that guards the cross placed in the ground by Spanish Conquistadores and after which the city of Santa Cruz is named, on Thursday night it was the turn of the Irish to conquer the city.

We arrived at the top of the Noria district on a hot and sultry night to a crowd of a couple of hundred people milling around the small park beneath the spreading boughs of the flame of the forest trees.
Leaving Jack to find pole position for his photography, Jesús and I headed off to JC Murphy’s to get the beers in.

The Deans

The Deans

It was the start of the Santa Blues Festival and a young Irish band called The Deans were scheduled to open the festival. I’d read reviews and listened to the discography on their website and was pretty certain we were in for a treat.

The usual chaos and inefficiency reigned at the bar of JCs which, combined with Jesús’ “it’s okay, Man, it’ll happen when it’s supposed to” hippy drippy attitude to getting served, meant that by the time we got back to Jack, the 3 lads from Galway were already on stage and the audience had swelled and shuffled quietly closer to the action.

I knew the guys were young but I wasn’t quite prepared for the baby-faced, hat toting, Arlo Guthrie looking youngster with his long frizzy black hair, orange shirt with green neck scarf and sash and his suede jacket, who pulled his guitar strap over his shoulder, smiled at his handsome bro’ on bass and ripped into the opening chords of what was to be a heart stopping, incendiary performance.

With all the professionalism of seasoned circuit-tourers and the freshness of first timers, Gavin (Arlo Guthrie) Dean, his bassist brother Gary and drummer Gary Keown took Santa Cruz by storm.
From classic blues rock numbers to songs off their new album ‘The Album‘ (couldn’t think of a name, eh, lads?) including ‘Snakes and Ladders’ and the anthem ‘Carnival Blues’, The Deans reminded us what great performances are all about; the sheer joy of the music shone from their faces and carried them on a wave of euphoria that surfed us all along in its wake.

You know youre getting old when the band looks this young

You know you're getting old when the band looks this young

From the opening ‘Whoa!” to the impromptu leaping onto a stack system by Gavin (much to the annoyance of a roadie who really should get a job in the Inland Revenue) and whipping the audience up into a frenzy, The Deans were breathtakingly sensational.
“We’d play all night if they let us!” Gavin screamed into the mike, and you just knew he wasn’t kidding.

Suitable elated and feeling even hotter from the closeness of the now considerably larger crowd that The Deans had gathered it was time for my hippy friend and me to negotiate the frustration that is getting served at JC Murphy’s.
Even as we turned our backs on the stage and began pressing through the crowd, the Vargas Blues Band were already on stage and tuning up.
Time was of the essence.

Luckily it was my round so there wasn’t going to be any nonsense about waiting for the vibes to work in our favour.
One look at the six-deep throng around JC’s bar and I turned on my heels and headed up Santo Domingo to a chic restaurant, through their doors and straight to the bar area. In two shakes of a lamb’s tail we were slopping lager all over feet on our way back to Jack and the distant dream of our places at the front of the stage.

The Vargas Blues Band

The Vargas Blues Band

Looking like The Deans’ granddads, the Vargas Blues Band exuded experience and professionalism. On lead guitar Javier Vargas wouldn’t have looked out of place in Glastonbury this weekend playing with the E Street Band. His Mark Knopfler fretwork sang through the hot night air while he coolly moved only his fingers and his jaw  bone, never breaking a sweat and letting his guitar do all the work. On vocals Tim Mitchell was two world class vocalists in one; Al Green and Barry White and both sat comfortably side by side. I have never heard such a range sung so sweetly; the guy went from tenor to baritone like flicking a switch. At one point he sang a duet with himself and you’d swear if you weren’t watching it with your own eyes that there were two different people on stage.
Through classic Blues rock, the occasional venture into Hendrix and a brief rendition of La Cucaracha, the Vargas Blues Band gave a flawless and soulful performance.

But for me, the night belonged to the Irish.
What do you think, Jesús? Oh, he’s not here, he’s still waiting at JC’s bar for the right Karma to come round.

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Well the nights are sultry, the stage is set beneath the ‘flame of the forest’ trees at the foot of the iconic tower of the Church of La Concepción and JC Murphy’s have stocked up on the Guinness. That all means it must be time for the Santa Blues Festival.

This year, instead of spreading the music out over three consecutive Fridays, Santa Blues is going to be held over the coming weekend with three nights of cool, Blue sounds carrying on the mid summer night air.

Santa Blues 2008

Santa Blues 2008

Here’s the full line up;
Thursday 25th June 2009, Galway’s answer to Rory Gallagher; ‘The Deans
And the beautiful sultry Santana sound of ‘The Vargas Blues Band

Friday 26th June 2009, the Canaries own Laskina and the emotive Blues/Gospel voice of New Yorker Michele McCain.

Saturday 27th June 2009, local heroes The Santa Blues Band and the ‘Sacred Steel Guitars’ of  The Campbell Brothers.

Be there or be sorry.

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Last week Jack and I visited ExpoSaldo in Santa Cruz; a huge annual market of stock clearance items where you can grab a bargain in anything from tights to Toyota Land Cruisers and everything in between.

It was very hot and a bit breezy, which is about par for the course in Santa Cruz, and it felt great to get into the air conditioned cool of the Centro Internacional de Ferias y Congresos building.

From cars to cushions, theyve got bargains galore at ExpoSaldo

From cars to cushions, they've got bargains galore at ExpoSaldo

Seeing the ranks of new and used cars and motor bikes at incredible knock down prices and stepping onto the escalator to get to the upper concourse where the shoes and clothes were, I was already mentally drawing up a list of things I could possibly sell at a car boot sale to fund this outing.

We began our meticulous inspection of every stall, moving up one aisle and down the next so as not to miss anything. So many times I felt my hand twitch towards my credit card as I passed bargains like a hairdryer, iron and electric fan, all 3 for €9.99; racks filled with beautiful summer dresses at €8 each and sandals at 2 pairs for €5.

Its a kind of Magik...!

But as we rounded another aisle we could hear voices, English voices. A small crowd had gathered around a stall where two elderly gents were demonstrating ‘Magik Cloths’. One of the men was pouring water into a glass bowl and then placing a folded up piece of cloth the size of a tea towel over the water which was miraculously sucked up in its entirety. Removing the cloth and opening it out, not a single drop of water dripped, it was just like Magik. All the while the guy was giving a Cockney Barrow Boy-type sales monologue in English with the occasional word of Spanish in an appalling Spanglish accent thrown in for good measure:

“And, as you can see Senyors and Senyoras, the cloth has entirely soaked up the agwar and the only way you pweday remove it is by wringing the cloth like so…”
And he’d wring the cloth to release the water back into the bowl.

Now he had people hooked, they were obviously interested. But with complete and utter incomprehension of a single word spoken plastered across their faces, they were waiting for the key piece of information…el pressyo.

The guy points to a still from a TV commercial:
“As you can see, the pressyo on el television is death” (and here he holds up 10 fingers) “euros.”
People start to walk away assuming that he’s telling them that’s the price.
“No, wait, don’t go,” he says to the backs of the dispersing little crowd. “But here, today, you get not only oonow, or even doss, no, here today you get tress” (and he holds up 3 fingers) for the price of oonow!”
But it’s only a couple of people who have stayed to hear the final price and last I saw, he was bagging up two sales.

I felt really sorry for the guy and couldn’t understand why he hadn’t got someone to translate his sales pitch into Spanish for him. I could only surmise that he’d travelled up from the south and was expecting his audience to have a high English speaking content. He was wrong; I never heard another English voice apart from his. I very rarely do in Santa Cruz.

I hope he managed to sell more of his Magik Cloths and if he’s reading this now, I’m available to translate and do the pitch for you…at a pressyo pour supwesto!

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Not a sight you expect to see in the town car park.

Not a sight you expect to see in the town car park.

I’m used to seeing all sorts of weird and wonderful things happening on the streets of Puerto de la Cruz from avante-garde street theatre to traditional Canarian folk dancing but today, even I had to do a double take.

When you glance over at the car park from alongside the harbour, there are some things that you simply do not expect to see.
“There are elephants in the car park” I said to Jack, not something you hear yourself say very often.
Naturally, that got his attention and before I knew it he was off, like a latter day Alice, camera in hand in pursuit of a somewhat larger, but equally swift quarry.

The elephants were merely strolling, but nevertheless managed to cover the ground at such a speed that I could see Jack’s little legs having to run to keep up. I followed in the wake of grinning faces, exchanged glances at mobile phone photos and wide eyed children. It was easy to follow their trail.
I lost sight of the elephants as they rounded windy corner and headed down towards Plaza Europa but even if I hadn’t gotten to the corner just in time to see them head into the Plaza itself, I would have been left in no doubt as to which way they’d gone.

Youd be hard pressed to find a more appreciative audience

You'd be hard pressed to find a more appreciative audience

A pandemonium of screams greeted the gentle giants from a large group of schoolchildren who were sitting in the Plaza under the supervision of their teachers. The noise brought a smile to everyone’s faces and a contagious buzz of excitement that took me instantly back to my childhood and the thrill of seeing the circus arrive in town for the August Bank Holiday weekend.

The elephants stood side by side in front of the children, gently swaying to and fro until a plastic shopping bag of apples was placed in front of each of them. They proceeded to lift the apples one at a time and devour them using their trunks with more dexterity than the average human wielding a knife and fork. When the larger of the two had finished his bucket full, his trunk wound over to the bag of apples in front of Junior, which elicited a squeal of collective delight from the children.

Classic stuff..Nellie the Elephant packed her trunk tum de dum..

Classic stuff..Nellie the Elephant packed her trunk tum te tum..

When their snack was finished, the elephants gracefully left the Plaza, the smaller one walking on its hind legs with its front feet firmly planted on the backside of the one in front and to the frantic applause and shouts of ‘adios’ of the kids.
I’m sure I can’t have been the only one there to wipe an eye whilst grinning like a fool.

With the elephants gone, the clowns took over and after them, acrobats on a trampoline and then more clowns, all introduced by the ringmaster in his splendid crimson tailcoat.
Tickets were given out to everyone offering discounted seat prices at the Gran Circo Mundial (World Circus) which would be performing in Santa Cruz all over the coming weekend and advising of location and the times of every show.

I know we’re in the digital age now and social media sites are fast becoming the mainstay of effective marketing and I subscribe to that wholeheartedly. But as far as old fashioned promotion of an upcoming event goes, I simply can’t think of anything that would have been more effective.

I’ll be going. And I bet everyone else in that Plaza will be too.

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