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Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

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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Friday was our seventh anniversary of moving to Tenerife and it’s ironic that having spent so many years trying to make enough money just to continue living here, we didn’t have time to celebrate it until Saturday night because we’ve been so busy.

But celebrate it we did and several glasses after the cork left the cava, thoughts and conversation turned to reflecting on how the working environment here is so different from the one we knew in the UK.

Here, life has a way of simply getting under foot and you constantly have to try to find a way around it. Partly that’s due to the working from home factor; without a shiny, fully equipped office in which to sit, you’re vulnerable to all sorts of interruptions but also, it’s about rural living on a small island in the Atlantic.

Take Friday for example. Having been working 12 hours a day, seven days a week for the past three weeks to achieve a deadline, I was trying to upload the last couple of hours of work when a friend arrived with two dogs that we’ve agreed to look after for a mutual friend who’s currently recuperating from illness. We’re totally unprepared for dogs here at Casa Montgomery, but having a network of people on whom you can rely is an essential part of living in a rural community. So I abandoned the keyboard, popped the kettle on and greeted our canine house guests and their chauffeur.

 

The latest (temporary!) additions to the household

 

We sat on the tatty garden chairs around the old pine table on the terrace and as we chatted we watched the fat, shiny leaves of the banana plants on the next door plantation wafting in the gentle breeze as if operated by invisible punkah wallahs. Conversation ebbed and flowed between corruption in local politics and the likelihood of acquiring a 30 foot ladder on which to tackle the avocado tree in the garden which has grown to such proportions that it’s now a landmark feature on Google Earth.

Earlier in the day we’d had to visit the Correos (post office) to despatch the last of the week’s orders for Island Drives. We can’t just put a stamp on the guides and pop them into the post box because the Correos operate a weigh and frank system, and two of us have to go because road works have annihilated all the parking in the area and double or triple parking is the only option; so someone has to stay with the car to move it when necessary. On Friday there were 43 people ahead of Jack and a whole hour was donated to the Spanish postal system.

Sitting on the terrace and mentally fretting about my rapidly approaching deadline, I couldn’t help wondering if the folks who would read my Tenerife Expert and Tenerife Insider opinions would have any idea what life out here is really like. I guessed probably not.

 

The megalomaniacal avocado tree

 

It’s been an amazing seven years and a journey that has at times lifted us to new heights and at other times dropped us on our heads. Just 18 months ago we faced the harsh reality that we had just three solvent months left after which we’d have to put the house on the market and leave the island. Today we’re so busy with financially and creatively rewarding projects that we’re struggling to keep the plates spinning… and we’re loving every minute of it.
Last night we realised that it’s almost one year to the day since we sat on this terrace with our friends and colleagues on a red hot day and floated the idea of setting up an online lifestyle magazine. One year later Tenerife Magazine gets 11,500 visits a month, has almost 2,000 fans on Facebook and we’re making expansion plans.

Seven years on Tenerife and the only thing that has remained constant is the inconsistency of living here…and our love of its lifestyle.
We can never relax or become complacent and boredom is a foreign land for which we don’t own passports.
I wonder what the next 12 months hold.

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A well deserved congratulations to the eight great Tenerife hotels that picked up Holly Awards after being voted into TUI’s top 100 leisure hotels.

The Canary Islands fared remarkably well overall with nineteen hotels making the list which was chosen from hotels in sixteen countries around the world.

The Tenerife TUI Holly Award Winners 2010

Aparthotel Atlantis Park, Punta de Hidalgo
Arona Gran Hotel, Los Cristianos
Gran Hotel Bahia del Duque Resort, Costa Adeje
Hotel Botanico The Oriental Spa Garden, Puerto de la Cruz;
Hotel Jardines de Nivaria, Costa Adeje
Hotel RIU Garoe, Puerto de la Cruz
Hotel Tigaiga, Puerto de la Cruz
Roca Nivaria Gran Hotel, Playa Paraiso

Special mention goes to the Aparthotel Atlantis Park, Punta de Hidalgo which made TUI’s Holly Awards top 10 for service.

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Walking the streets of Puerto de la Cruz around midnight last night, you’d have been forgiven for wondering if some giant, flesh-eating plants had invaded the town leaving the streets bereft of its citizens. But there’d be two vital pieces of information you’d be missing. Firstly, much of the population were nursing the hangover from hell after a full day of partying at the Fiestas Del Carmen on Tuesday and secondly, those who were still capable of dancing were all being held hostage at Plaza Europa by a diminutive African woman named Angélique Kidjo.

After the excesses of Tuesday, it took a Herculean feat of will to drag myself away from the prospect of a comfy sofa and a night in front of the box last night, but someone has to do it…
Bitching about the fact that there was no break between fiestas at this time of year and sounding like Victor Meldrew in knickers, I headed down to town at around 9pm for the opening night of the annual Jazz & Mas concerts.
Arriving in Plaza Europa, some hundred or so chairs were laid out theatre-style, most of them already occupied. The stage was set outside the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) building, lined by bright green kiosks enticing us to piensa en verde (think green) and beyond the stage large Heineken banners fluttered in the sea breeze like prayer flags calling the faithful to imbibe.

Yul Ballesteros

Jack and I positioned ourselves standing a metre or so behind the chairs, so that we could easily access side of stage for photos, and berated the use of staid seating for a concert as we watched a more mature crowd jostle for spare chairs.

First up was celebrated local(ish) lad, Yul Ballesteros, fresh from the New York modern Jazz scene. Born in Gran Canaria, this young man has been wowing New York with his guitar prowess and last night, it was easy to hear why. His improvised style may not be everyone’s first choice of easy listening but he certainly pleased the jazz aficionado audience last night. His set lasted for over an hour and had Jack and I doing a U-turn on our earlier diss’ of the seating arrangements as our backs, still exhausted from Tuesday, began to register painful indignation at this abuse.
Feeling slightly guilty, I didn’t join in with the random cries of Otra when Yul and his quartet left the stage.

Angélique Kidjo

Muttering to each other about only staying to watch a bit of the next performance, we watched a small African woman with close-cropped grey hair; flared loons split from the knee down and ankle boots, take to the stage. Unaccompanied, she split the night with a voice so powerful and sweet that it brought tears to the eyes. She sang her song in Swahili, keeping time with a soft rhythmic tapping on her thigh; this tiny figure on a huge stage which she filled with her presence. In an instant, she had captured the 500 strong audience and held them in her thrall.

She ended her song to tumultuous applause and immediately went into a fast tempo African number, a fusion of funk and soul to the beat of African drums, her body gyrating and stomping in a dance display of pure vitality and joy. That was it. The onlookers from the back surged forward to surround the seating area, dancing like they’d just discovered how good it was. Soon the ranks broke again and a tide of dancing bodies swept to front of stage as Angélique lifted every single individual up and sent their spirits soaring through the night.

The fact that she spoke entirely in English, most of which would have been lost on them, did nothing to diminish Angélique’s hold on her audience as she told us about how her father had introduced his children to the world by bringing them music from all the places he could never afford to send them to; Europe, America, India – musical influences that she now melted and fused with her native African beats to produce her high energy, compelling songs.

Our broken backs now forgotten, we watched, sang, danced and laughed as Angélique held us hostage late into the night. By the time we left, a good percentage of the audience were up on stage with this incredible woman, helping her to celebrate her fiftieth birthday by dancing to the drums of her childhood which echoed through the empty streets and followed us all the way back to the car.

If you ever get a chance to go and see Angélique Kidjo – do it.  It’s not just a concert, it’s a life-affirming experience.

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There was an interesting little snippet in one of the local newspapers this week in which one of the goatherds at Puerto’s Midsummer bathing of the goats revealed that, after their dip, the goats liked to enjoy a bit of rumpty. It seems that the old Guanche legend of increased fertility as a result of the annual dip is not just superstition and legend, it’s a fact.
Coincidentally but not at all surprisingly, statistics have apparently shown that quite a few human births follow on nine months down the line from the San Juan beach party and midnight swimming too.

The potent magic of ‘Summer Nights’ is most definitely upon us and Hotel Las Aguilas in Puerto de la Cruz have been making the most of it by offering romantic summer weekends for couples.
The luxurious four star hotel which sits above Puerto in its seductive haven of landscaped gardens and sexy swimming pools is the perfect venue to get away from it all. At just €180 per couple for a weekend half board in one of their sea view rooms, the price tag alone is enough to encourage the libido to raise in line with the thermometer.

And this month Hotel Las Aguilas are offering a fabulous prize in conjunction with Tenerife Magazine. Just become a fan of Tenerife Magazine on Facebook and your name will go into the draw for a FREE week’s accommodation including half board.

Thanks to Hotel Las Aguilas, I don’t think it will just be the goats who are enjoying some holiday romance in Puerto this summer…

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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 always going to be a tight squeeze.
You know when summer’s arrived in Tenerife – there are more events, fiestas and concerts than you can possibly hope to attend. Then throw FIFA World Cup 2010 and a nephew who’s just found out his degree results into the mix and you’ve got a Saturday night you’d be hard pressed to squeeze a Barclaycard into.

But we get little enough opportunity to hear good live music and we weren’t going to miss out on the feast on offer when the European Day of Music came to town, particularly as it was all free.
So, in between watching Denmark put Cameroon out of the World Cup and a Skype call from The Graduate, we popped down to the harbour to see what was happening.

We arrived just in time for the final number by the funky, fan-wielding Fuel Fandango which gave me enough time to get a lightning bit of practice in on our new toy – a flip video camera.
No sooner had Nita folded up her fan when the stage was set and Aaron Thomas struck up his first number. A sort of Tasmanian Bob Dylan with overtones of early Loudon Wainwright III, a healthy shot of folk rock and a foot-stomping venture into rockabilly, Aaron Thomas proceeded to fill the night air with his amazing voice and compelling lyrics.

Accompanied by the sweet harmonies of Rebecca Lander and the funky double bass of 50s throw-back Javi Diez Ena, Aaron Thomas proved to be a real tonic for the ears and the eyes. I recommend that you check him out on his MySpace page and invest in a copy of ‘Dead Wood’.

And to prove just how good he was, I shot almost 6 minutes of video footage which I then spent most of yesterday uploading to YouTube and editing and annotating so that I could show it to you today. But when I looked at the finished product an hour ago, it was fit only for the ‘delete’ button.

Luckily, Jack’s professionalism didn’t let him down and he got some outstanding shots of the night.

So I’ll leave you with this more professional clip of the man himself and I’ll temper my music video production ambitions a little by practicing on the goats on Thursday.

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The best place to be if you need a reminder of why you love Tenerife

Sometimes events conspire to make me wonder why on earth I continue to live in a region of Spain.

A week or so ago I was chatting to my brother who lives in the UK and after my groans about the stagnant feel of the tourist market at the moment and the slowness of work, he said:
Oh well, the World Cup starts soon so at least that’s something to look forward to.”
Except that it wasn’t. Well, it was…and it wasn’t, because although I love the World Cup and would happily watch every single game (in the unlikely event that deadlines permitted), Spain is one of the few countries in the world that is not actually airing all the games on free-to-view TV.

But the World Cup is all about embracing nations in the love of the beautiful game! For God’s sake, Andy, get out of Spain and get back to Britain where you can at least watch the footie!” said my bro’.
I laughed and explained that the list of reasons in the ‘for living in Tenerife‘ column far outweighed the ones in the ‘against living in Tenerife‘ column, but a seed had been planted.

Only showing one live game a day and concentrating on Spain performances is indicative of a country that exhibits astounding levels of insularity. Hamstrung by outdated monopolies and an autocratic business culture, Spain has a complete aversion to looking outside itself for anything, and ‘best practice’ and ‘benchmarking’ are not just conspicuous by their absence – they’re an anathema to Spain. When the rest of the world saw the financial crisis looming and took damage limitation measures, Spain carried on with business as usual which is why it’s now facing financial melt-down. I could go on…

A couple of days later Jack and I walked the Chinyero Volcano route for a new walking guide we’re preparing and within 5 minutes of setting off I had mentally registered any number of things I loved about Tenerife. The smell of the pine forest; the fact that I could see the sea from almost everywhere on the island; the unrestricted ability to walk wherever I wanted; La Gomera and La Palma on the horizon…

Some time ago, when we first set up Tenerife Magazine, Joe Cawley wrote a short piece entitled ‘10 things I hate about living in Tenerife‘ and clearly it rung a bell with lots of people who added their own pet hates to the list. So when I got back from my walk, I compiled a list of ‘10 things I love about living in Tenerife‘ – mainly to remind myself why it is that I continue to live in Spanish territory. It’s not an exhaustive list, it’s just the ones that popped into my head and I’m sure others will have their own reasons which will be nothing like mine.

I just wish Tenerife wasn’t in Spanish territory and could sub-contract its World Cup coverage from the BBC. That’s number one on my ’10 things I wish about living in Tenerife’ list.

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Sunset views over Las Vistas beach from The Watermelon's terrace

When Chris Clarkson and Alan Gilmour of tenerife.co.uk came to visit from the UK last week, Jack and I jumped at the chance of spending an evening in the bright lights of Los Cristianos. So we checked into The Pearly Grey Ocean Club Resort in Calleo Salvaje, joined John Beckley of Sorted Sites and headed to The Watermelon Tapas Bar/Restaurant in the chic San Telmo district of Los Cristianos.

Although we were extremely impressed with the rather chic décor (frosted glass sheet water fountain, Gaudi-esque tiled mosaics on the walls and stone benches and sleek, silver and black furnishings) and the fabulous views from the terrace over Las Vistas beach and the sun setting behind La Gomera; we were less impressed with the food and the service.
There was a good ten minute delay between the first two dishes arriving and the other three which meant that Jack and I either had to start eating before everyone else or Jack’s scrambled eggs with chistorras (Canarian sausage) and mushrooms was headed to the stone cold zone.

My toasted bread with smoked salmon and tomatoes served with rocket and parmesan was beautifully presented but was bland and there was too much bread. The other specials when they arrived were kebabs served in foil parcels with fresh vegetables and everyone seemed to enjoy them but they lacked any real wow factor.
The house red wine on the other hand was delicious and slipped down very easily.

Postres proved to be a bit disappointing but that was more a case of confused recommendation rather than any fault with the food. Alan and I being chocolate lovers, I asked the waitress to recommend the chocoholic’s choice and after a great deal of chatting and an admittance that she didn’t particularly like chocolate herself, she told us to go for dish number one. When it arrived, dish number one turned out to be mainly ice cream with some chocolate shortcake slices. Alan and I waited for everyone else’s to arrive, convinced that this wasn’t the one we ordered but it took so long that our ice cream began to melt so we started eating. Dish number four when it finally arrived for everyone else turned out to be hot chocolate fudge cake covered in chocolate sauce and served with ice cream – d’oh!

I didn’t see the bill but I wouldn’t mind betting it wasn’t cheap.
The atmosphere was lively and the venue was unsurpassable but for me, the culinary offerings had a touch of the Emperor’s new clothes about them.

Dinner over, we lingered over that delicious red before heading back towards the Arona Gran Hotel, where Chris and Alan were staying, and heading into Legend’s Snooker Club. While Tenerife Magazine took on Tenerife.co.uk on the pool table, Carol and I reminisced about our misspent youth in the clubs of Manchester and we all chilled out over some more drinks in the über-friendly atmosphere before Jack and I got a taxi back to our fabulous room in Pearly Grey.

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Jo's scented terrace in Los Aceviños, La Gomera

When the winter storms and cyclone Xynthia hit Tenerife, they took the tangled mass of hedge which borders the bottom of our garden, bent its back low and hung its flowering heads in shame, so low over the nectarine and peach trees that no light was penetrating to the buds.
When it gets to the point that even Mother Nature is giving me one almighty hint that my gardening input has fallen way below par, I have no choice but to take action.
So, three weeks ago, armed with a €10 tree cutter and two rusty, blunt saws; Jo, Jack and I set about trying to free up the nectarine tree. After four sweaty hours of grappling with entwined, overgrown branches beneath which we wouldn’t have been surprised to find Sleeping Beauty, we’d cleared about one fifth of the hedge and allowed the sun to fall on the nectarine buds.

Jo declared our saws useless; suggested we invest in some proper tree loppers and returned to her mountain home on La Gomera where tackling two months of overgrown rain forest would feel like gathering buds in May after the trials of our hedge.
Meanwhile…we bought some tree loppers.

A profusion of flowers as Spring reaches the mountains

Last weekend was Jo’s birthday party and we went over to La Gomera on Friday to help her organise and celebrate.
We arrived at her finca at 6pm in a hot and sticky calima. As we trailed down the forest path to her terrace, we were enveloped in rich, heady perfumes. The slopes bordering the path were awash with wild lemon thyme; the terrace was a blaze of sweet-smelling freesias and spicy jasmine interspersed with vibrant lavender and the elegant heads of white Calla lilies. From the front of the terrace, the garden spread down the barranco in a profusion of orange nasturtiums punctuated by pink geraniums, more freesias, the ruby flowering spikes of aloe vera and delicate faces of purple daisies.

At the end of the house where the terrace leads to the ‘new garden’ we walked through a haze of lemon blossom and freesias to the delicious vanilla scent of a Heliotrope in full flower. We sat on the terrace until late, inhaling the perfumes which intensified with the night.
On Saturday morning, enthralled by every new discovery of scent, colour and form I wandered Jo’s garden with a growing sense of shame and determination.

It's enough to inspire even the most reluctant of gardeners

We arrived back on Tenerife late on Sunday and by yesterday evening, I’d left the keyboard and headed, new tree loppers in hand, down to the hedge. An hour later, with barely any flesh left on my bones from the midges, I’d hardly made any impression at all.
But I’ll be back there tonight, and tomorrow night and at the weekend until I’ve cleared that hedge.

Then it’s time for the avocado tree to be tackled…

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