Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

It was no surprise during yesterday’s weekly shopping trip to see the rows and rows of Carnaval costumes on sale. Every year Al Campo has a huge display of fancy dress costumes and essential carnival paraphernalia such as hats, wigs, theatrical make-up, plastic guns and swords and naturally, the obligatory false breasts.

Jack and I always think that we should really get something now while there’s still a decent choice but of course, we never do. We wait a couple more weeks until Carnaval is upon us and then we spend a desultory 20 minutes perusing the cheap and nasty hippie and naughty nun outfits which are the only ones left before reverting once more to old Halloween props and active imaginations. I digress.

But yesterday, Al Campo having extended its sales floor space by about a third before Christmas and now revelling in additional displays, we encountered a new Carnaval section – the essential party ingredients – laid out in the order in which they would be consumed.
Front of stage, naturally, was the alcohol.
Shelves stacked with six packs of countless brands of beer with the central block dedicated to the pride of Tenerife – Dorada – and including its snazzy carnival design cans in six, 12 and 24 packs. Flanking right came the spirits, Jack Daniels, Guajiro rum and Smirnoff taking the leading roles with a star studded cast of hundreds of other brands in supporting roles. Then came was the sea of Coca Cola, Pepsi, 7-Up and enough Red Bull to fill every heart attack ward on the island.

Next in the order of consumption came the obligatory munchies fodder – row upon row of crisps, Quavers, roasted peanuts, Pringles, snack foods, choccie biscuits and sweeties.

And filling the rear of the aisle was a huge display dedicated to the final lap in the Carnaval circle – breakfast. In true Spanish style the displays consisted predominantly of cakes of every description; lemon sponges, almond sponges, fruit cakes, madeleines, churros and doughnuts. In a vain attempt to balance the nutritional scales were pre-packed fruit trays containing an apple, a pear, an orange, a kiwi and a banana. Flanking the cakes were shelves stacked high with little cartons of fresh juices.

The only thing missing as far as I could see, was a display of paracetamol.

You’ve got to hand it to Al Campo – they know their market.


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At Al Campo yesterday they had this wonderful stand with all the vegetable ingredients for puchero – a traditional Spanish stew. Incidentally, for all you veggies, the translation of puchero as a vegetable stew is a huge misnomer because it contains beef and pork.

I thought it was brilliant that there was a special display to save you gathering all your own ingredients and it’s very typical of the habits of the masses here – it’s post Christmas, so everyone will be using up their leftover cuts of meat to make puchero.

The stand had all the ingredients except the meat and the chickpeas:  cabbage, corncob, pumpkin, chayote, French beans, sweet potato, pears, marrow or courgette, carrot, leek, garlic, onion and tomato.
To make puchero, chickpeas, beef, pork, saffron and thyme are added to the above and the whole lot are simmered into a warming, fragrant stew which is usually served with fresh crusty bread.

For hikers, there’s nothing quite like a steaming bowl of puchero at the end of a long walk when the sweat is drying and the chill of the mountain air kicks in. And I have it on very good authority that the best puchero on the island is to be found at Casa Lala in Arico Viejo.

I have yet to try Casa Lala myself and will have to try out a new walking route that ties in with finishing there, but we’re planning a walk around the Erjos Pools soon and I might just pop into Bar Las Fleytas to try theirs…watch this space.

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As we ate breakfast on the terrace yesterday morning, the sun was being very coy.
Typical. Pretty much all summer the default setting for our weather has been clear blue skies and sun, sun, sun. But Friday was the start of the annual craft fair of Pinolere in the hills above La Orotava and if belly of the donkey was going to make a re-appearance anywhere, it would be there.

800 meters above sea level and hemmed in by barrancos to the east and west, Pinolere is a community of some 700 inhabitants living in the shadow of Tenerife’s mountainous spine, and more often than not, beneath a sea of clouds. It may mean that Pinolere is never going to topple Playa de Las Americas as Tenerife’s number one tourist destination, but the clouds bring high humidity ensuring that everything here grows in abundance.

Birdsong whistles (€3) make great gifts for kids

But yesterday, as we snaked our way high above the coast of Puerto de la Cruz, the sun finally broke free and the clouds ran for their lives leaving another glorious day in the La Orotava Valley.
Even though it was barely 11.30am when we arrived, the car parking was choc a bloc and we ended up parking on a small dirt track which led off to fincas set amongst the vines of the valley. Bemoaning the fact that we hadn’t thought to bring ropes and crampons, we toiled up a near-vertical street, back to the site of the craft fair wishing that the clouds had chosen to descend as sweat trickled down our backs.

The last time we visited the fair, the trademark bruma (cloud) had entirely obscured its location but yesterday, under clear skies, the true beauty of our surroundings was nothing less than awesome. The emerald, forest-clad slopes of the upper La Orotava Valley rose to dizzying heights in a shimmering heat haze beyond the thatched roofs and vines of the hamlet.

A Crafty Piece of Work
For the majority of Pinolere’s inhabitants, the land provides their livelihood and allows them to be almost entirely self-sufficient. For generations, the community have been basket weavers, iron workers, charcoal producers, carpenters, farmers and muleteers. It’s only recently that they’ve ceased to construct their homes in the traditional manner of many of the country dwellings of Tenerife; walls of dry stone roofed with chestnut wood entwined with branches and then thatched with straw.

25 years ago Pinolere made plans to introduce a new aspect to their local fiestas and came up with the idea of showcasing the wide range of crafts and skills that they held. Calling it ‘The Day of the Traditional Canaries’, they brought together all the craftspeople from the local area and invited them to exhibit the best of their products. Over the course of the years that event has grown from a local fair to the Canary Islands’ largest showcase for crafts made from traditional produce.

Handmade ceramic dolls, €24

The Pinolere Craft Fair is set in 10,000 square metres of terraces and pathways that meander as randomly as the surrounding barrancos and contain hundreds of stalls filled with jewellery; woven baskets; clothes; hand carved furniture; ceramics; pottery; toys; herbs and spices; cheeses; jams and mojos; cakes; glassware; cane furniture; iron and copper ornaments…the list is endless.

As we made our way up level after level filled with stalls, the stone-built thatched houses provided small exhibitions on the history of wheat production in the area and a short-lived refuge from the hot sun.
Arriving finally at the top level we reached the welcome sight of a large guachinche where the aroma of sizzling pork pinchos (kebabs) and the sight of condensation running down the side of cold beer bottles was too much to resist. Finding a small section of vacant wall we sat down to enjoy our pinchos and beer and peruse our collection of purchases while gawping at the incredible scenery.

Our haul of goodies

It’s probably a good job that Pinolere doesn’t enjoy this kind of weather continuously or the fields of wheat, vines, vegetables and cereals would soon get replaced by villas and apartments and we’d have lost something really, really special.


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I noticed on the news yesterday that Lufthansa airlines were offering compensation to holidaymakers who got rainy days while they were away.
I reckon it’s a fairly safe bet that the UK won’t be one of the 36 destinations for which the insurance company will pay out, but I guess Tenerife might be. The chances of seeing rain at the coast anywhere between June and October on Tenerife are low enough even for me to consider giving good odds.

We’ve had weeks and weeks of cloudless searing heat here so, for those of us who live on the island, the occasional cloud cover we’re having this week is a merciful relief.
Of course, if this is your two weeks R&R away from the sort of ‘barbecue summer’ that sent Noah heading briskly towards the woodshed, the last thing you want to see is clouds.

But worry not, there are so many excellent things to do on Tenerife that you should really look on cloudy days, not as disappointments, but as opportunities.

So, here is my list of things to do when it’s cloudy in Tenerife; it’s by no means exhaustive

Beat the clouds – if you absolutely must have the sun, you can pretty much guarantee finding it in Teide National

Life above the clouds

Life above the clouds

Park and at least you get to see a bit of the island in the process. Simply drive up through the pine forests to emerge above the clouds and into the blue. In this volcanic wonderland you can take a cable to the top of the world (well, nearly); eat lunch in Spain’s highest restaurant; wander amongst incredible rock formations at Roques García or simply soak up the sun. But be warned, the air at this height is thinner and the sun’s rays more intense, slap on the factor 25, wear a hat and drink plenty of water.

Go wild – leave the barren landscape of the south and head to the north’s verdant Puerto de la Cruz and Tenerife’s number one ‘must-see’; Loro Parque.
Dolphin, sea lion, Orca and parrot shows are all great fun and entertainment while the penguins at the incredible artificial iceberg are compulsive watching. You’ll need at least five hours in the park so give yourself plenty of time for this one.

In Santa Cruz, just be cool

In Santa Cruz, just be cool

See summer in the city – the island’s capital city of Santa Cruz has a surprising number of things to see and do and cloudy days afford some respite for wandering the shops (tax free shopping), chilling out in the tranquil Parque García Sanabria, exploring the museums and galleries or just kicking back in one of the pavement cafes and watching the world go by. And if the sun re-emerges (as it usually does in Santa Cruz), you’re just a hop and skip away from the island’s best beach at Las Teresitas and the best seafood lunch at beach-side San Andrés.

Tour mini-Tenerife – at Pueblo Chico in La Orotava. Spend a

Its a small world at Pueblo Chico

It's a small world at Pueblo Chico

couple of hours wandering around beautifully crafted models of the Canaries in miniature with meticulous attention to detail and lots of funny bits.
When you’re done, head up the hill to the full sized La Orotava, the jewel in Tenerife’s crown, and explore the streets of the old quarter. You’ll find parks and gardens, historic houses lining narrow cobbled streets, old monasteries, a Gothic church and some nice little antique shops.

Take a hike – along some of Tenerife’s stunning walking trails. Summer can be murderous for tackling some stamina-sapping parts of the island so take advantage of cloud cover to trek the parts that don’t have wide vistas crying out for sunshine, like Masca Barranco or Hell’s Ravine.

Dive in –to the deep, blue Atlantic at one of the island’s fascinating dive sites around the coast of Las Galletas or take the whole family and head to San Miguel marina for a trip in a Yellow Submarine…all together now; “we all live ” tum ti tum.

Mummified Guanche at Museum of Man & Nature

Mummified Guanche at Museum of Man & Nature

Mooch – around one of Tenerife’s museums. Now before you yawn and skip to the end…not all museums are dull. Science and Cosmos in La Laguna is an oversized playground of optical illusions; Man and Nature in Santa Cruz has some gruesome mummies and the Anthropological in Valle Guerra is like Tenerife’s version of the set of ‘Upstairs Downstairs’. And on Sundays they’re all free to get in.

So…bring on the clouds, see if we care!


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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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One of the really cool things about the north of Tenerife is that it’s so easy to access loads of the island’s fiestas and ferías. Today I went to Pinolere in the hills above La Orotava to the annual craft fair which is dedicated to ‘that which the sea brings to our shores’. It’s a celebration of Canarian traditional craftsmanship from across the seven islands and has the most fantastic displays of produce, both modern and traditional, involving palm weaving, wicker basketry, leather work, ceramics, pottery, jewellery making and wood carving (and that’s just the ones I can remember). In the stunning beauty of the valley of Pinolere, over 100 stalls surround small thatched houses within which are exhibitions of the evolution of these crafts from the earliest photographs of the islands, to modern interpretations of the art from around the world, like fabulous handbags made from painted palm leaves and a tray made from beer cans ( I know it sounds tacky but it was actually really cool). Dotted about amongst the stalls and the huts, are groups of Islanders in traditional costumes producing hats, baskets and intricate ornamental displays with the sort of dexterity childrens’s TV presenters could only dream of.
In the midst of the proceedings, a large bar is dispensing delicious ‘pinchos’ (spiced pork kebabs) at €2 a go served with little slices of anis flavoured bread and washed down with vino del pais or beer at €1.50 a glass.
I gained a few pounds just looking at the homemade cakes, soft goats’ cheeses, biscuits, sauces and honey stalls that lined the first courtyard and, as if that wasn’t enough to hold my attention, there was live music involving musical instruments from across the archipelago and a man doing things with a spinning top that would have Ronaldhino considering retirement from the professional game. And all for the entrance fee of €2.50…brilliant!There was one particular shoe, boot and handbag stalll belonging to Pisaverde that had THE most wonderful boots I’ve seen in a long time and I might just have to nip back tomorrow and throw my entire wardrobe into chaos with one of their creations!


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