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Posts Tagged ‘spanish’

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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It's hard to beat starting your day with a sight like this.

We were just admiring the magnificent view of Mount Teide from the putting green outside our gate this morning when José and Glenn came wandering past. There followed a short conversation during which each showed due deference to the other’s native tongue.  So Glenn, Jack and I spoke in Spanish and José answered in English.

It made me smile.

The conversation ended with us all  agreeing that we were living “en paraíso”.

And indeed we are.

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It was reading Khaled Hossein’s compelling novel, ‘The Kite Runner’ that finally sent me over the edge. Even with the aid of a torch to supplement the bedside lamp, I was finding it nigh on impossible to read the small print.
“I’m going to have to get some new glasses” I said to Jack, who was holding his book so far away from his eyes that for a moment I’d thought he’d fallen asleep and dropped it. “In fact, I think we both need to get our eyes tested.”
“There’s nothing wrong with my eyes”, he retorted “I just need longer arms.”

As luck would have it, MultiOpticas is currently having one of its ‘Two pairs of glasses for €98’ offers and so I headed up to their La Villa branch and made an appointment.
“I don’t suppose the two pairs could be for two different people?” I asked, tentatively. A raised eyebrow was sufficient by way of a response and I laughed nervously and pretended it had only been a joke.

Thursday afternoon found me sitting in a large leather Mastermind-type chair in front of a pair of robotic spectacles trying to give my date of birth in Spanish and thinking how much easier that would have been had I been born in the last 8 years (a joke that only Spanish speakers will get). But the worst was yet to come.
After the robotic specs had shown me a little house on the horizon and had clicked and whirred several times bringing the picture into and out of focus, the assistant asked me to read the letters on the last row of the chart being flashed up on the wall behind her.

As I struggled to firstly see the chart, then the letters, she made adjustments to robo-specs to bring the row into focus so I could see it. But I suddenly realised that I didn’t know how to pronounce all the letters of the alphabet in Spanish and she took my continued hesitation to mean that I still couldn’t see and made further adjustments that were threatening to send the thing out of focus again.

They look great from this side!

They look great from this side!

Beginning to sweat, I started to recite the letters, stopping when I got to H and suddenly blurting out “aitch!” followed swiftly by ‘lo siento’ and an embarrassed, apologetic glance that was hidden by robo-specs in any case.
More charts flashed before my eyes and I stuttered through them, not because I couldn’t see them, but because I didn’t know how to pronounce them. The letter ‘G’ was one that constantly failed to lodge itself in my brain and kept appearing in those damn charts, followed closely by the letter ‘H’ which I still don’t know how to pronounce in Spanish.
We continued painstakingly through charts and clusters of dots with my faltering vocabulary until eventually the tests were completed and I thanked her for her forbearance. She shrugged and said it was ‘no problem’ and that she’d understood me perfectly well.

Yesterday I went to collect my shiny new glasses; one pair for near-sightedness for reading and working at the pc, and one for long-sightedness which I can’t put on without feeling slightly dizzy. And now, as I sit at this keyboard, wearing the ones for near-sightedness and looking at letters the size of a child’s alphabet and a screen that looks like it’s been made for the sight impaired, if I move an inch too far back or too far forward, I can’t see a bloody thing.

It turns out my Spanish was worse than my eyes.

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“Let’s go and see the giant paella on Sunday.”

Horror movies are really not my thing so I wasn’t all that enthusiastic until Jack explained that the Lions Club were making an actual giant paella as part of the Puerto July Fiestas and that perhaps we should pop along and witness the creation.

We left at midday in the firm expectation that we’d be parked and down at the harbour by 12.15 (ish). But having queued for 20 minutes to find that the town’s main car park was closed (of course no signs until you actually get there when 4 Policia Local are manning a 2 foot wide barrier), queuing to get back out again, kerb crawling our way through town and finally driving all the way back up to La Paz district before we could find a parking space, it was after 1pm before we got into town.

It was a glorious day and the small beach at San Telmo was packed beyond capacity for swimming and kayaking competitions (not simultaneous you understand). Although this is low season for Brits and Germans in Tenerife, in the north, it’s high season for Spanish mainlanders and the town was teeming with visitors. Puerto is in the midst of its July Fiestas and there’s a festival atmosphere throughout the month, particularly on Sundays.

I was keeping myself amused by  admiring the hordes of young, muscle bound, suntanned men (I think there were women there too) who were milling around the temporary bar, presumably having finished their competition swim and now chilling to the Indie rock sounds that were blasting forth, when my attention was caught by a silver flash in the sky.

I can only speculate on the size of the adrenalin rush experienced by the pilots of these things

I can only speculate on the size of the adrenalin rush experienced by the pilots of these things

I looked up to see a fighter jet at what seemed merely feet above the San Temo rock pools, heading towards me at supersonic speed. It was eerily silent, any engine noise drowned out by the music. Just as it came parallel with the shoreline, it‘s nose went up, it began to climb, the condensation clouds spilling across its wings and the air shattered into an ear splitting roar that silenced Coldplay.

I watched it bank and come back across the horizon, spinning twice and flying upside down before righting itself and once again screaming into the heavens. It was so low I could almost see the pilot.
I felt a surge of adrenalin that sent my heart beat into overdrive. I have never been in such close proximity to such power and danger and I cannot imagine what sort of person would fly a fighter jet, they must be in the top one percentile of the population.
“Tom Cruise” said Jack, bringing me back down to earth.

There was no shortage of volunteers to see off the giant paella

There was no shortage of volunteers to see off the 'giant paella'

By the time we reached the harbour, the prospect of a giant paella had paled into insignificance in the excitement of the air show and having long since missed its creation it was now half way to being completely consumed and not all that giant anymore. Still, it rallied a few points with its delicious aroma and bargain basement price; a plate of paella, a banana, a bread roll and a small beaker of wine for €5. Understandably, there wasn’t a spare seat to be had at the makeshift restaurant beside the fishwife.

In the Parque Marítimo car park we discovered why it was closed; four helicopters and several divisions of armed forces were displaying their equipment (sooo tempted to say something very Julian Clary there). Amongst the helicopters was one belonging to M.A.R., the type used in fire fighting. I was surprised at how small the bucket that holds the water was, especially given the double blades power of the helicopter. It brought back the horror of last year’s forest fires and the difficulty of getting adequate water to the island’s interior to deal with such an ecological disaster.

Small children were being placed inside the cockpit of the helicopters while their parents photographed them. I could see the machine guns mounted in the nose, rows of bullets ready to thread their way to destruction should the need arise. Given that the soldiers were Canarios and not in fact Tom Cruise, I gave the nose a very wide berth lest someone had forgotten to engage the safety lock.

Boys and their toys

Boys and their toys

I’d gotten just about as close up and personal with military hardware as my nerves could stand for one day.

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As a visitor to Tenerife, you’re likely to discern only minor differences between your January and your June holiday. In January the backless dress you’ve been saving for your last Saturday night when the tan would be optimum may have to stay in the suitcase, or you may decide to wear it anyway and go for that ‘I may be frozen but hey, check out the tan’ look, but other than that, the long sunshine hours and the flowering bougainvillea will be pretty much constant.

jasmine cascades over the terrace wallBut in the garden, spring arrives with an assault on the nostrils when the jasmine and wild freesias come into flower filling the air with their transient scent which drifts through the windows and causes me to almost hyperventilate in my attempts to greedily drink it all in while it lasts.
As well as being perfumed, the air has notched its temperature up a few degrees heralding the abandonment of socks and the return of sandals. For feet which have been cosseted for the past 2 months that can only mean one thing; some sun and a varnish make-over.
So when yesterday dawned glorious with a monotone sapphire sky and temperatures in the high 20s, I headed to that litmus test of spring’s arrival – Puerto’s main beach of Playa Jardín.

As I suspected, on arrival at the beach, the tell tale signs were evident. The rows of sunbeds which decorate the rear of the beach are normally almost fully occupied by the dark brown, oversized bellies and non-too-pert, naked breasts of the retired British and German ‘swallows’ who over winter in Tenerife and for whom tanning is a way of life. Yesterday, hardly any of the sunbeds were occupied, the swallows having flown north for Easter and the summer.

Instead, one or two Spanish mainlanders were sitting below their brightly coloured umbrellas on the water’s edge where they wouldn’t have far to walk if the urge for a dip came upon them. Most of the middle ground was occupied by young, good looking Canarios for whom the warmer air had tempted them to cast their clouts and allow the sun to turn their perfect bodies a shade more golden. It’ll be another month and another five degrees or so before their parents venture onto the sand; for them, the prospect of a day on the beach in winter is about as tempting as a January dip at Scarborough.

The spring tides, which last week had been gathering pace filling the ocean with white caps and smashing against the harbour wall, had taken the day off and were gently lapping the shore as if they were the Med. The lifeguard changed the flag from yellow to red but nobody took any notice, including the waves, and after a while the lifeguard lay down on the sand with his head propped on one arm, ready to spring into…well, a snooze.
As the sun rose higher the sand became hotter prompting the inevitable spate of the phenomenon known as ‘Daniel Craig to Lee Evans in the space of sea to towel’ to occur up and down the beach.

I lay back listening to the strains of ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ coming from an ice cream van in the distance which had at first evoked a sense of nostalgia and a mild curiosity as to what exactly the line “stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni” meant, but had begun to feel like the onset of insanity as it played over and over and over again.

In the land of eternal spring, how do you know when the seasons change? It’s in the sights, sounds and smells.

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Yesterday was our fourth anniversary of moving to Tenerife and last night, over a celebratory €2.20 bottle of Cava (we’re not afraid to push the boat out when the occasion calls for it), we got to thinking about what we’d achieved.Cava in the sun, bliss

Number 1: Speak Spanish.
Our one year’s worth of night school at the Cervantes Institute in Manchester before we moved here had given us a good grounding in the language. Unfortunately, ground level’s pretty much where we still are. We can confidently get by in most situations that are initiated by ourselves, but if the phone rings we head into the ever-descending hell of “no entiendo, puedes repetir” which literally translates as “I don’t understand, can you say it again” but metaphorically says “I’m stalling ‘cos I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about”.  And watching ‘Cuéntame Cómo Pasó’ on Thursday nights requires a dictionary at hand and an active imagination as to what’s actually happening on the screen. Last year we had the local priest down as having the hots for the beautiful daughter. As it turned out, we were right about that one.

Number 2: Earn a Living.
Well, if we change the word ‘earn’ to ‘scratch’ then we’re making good progress against that one.

Number 3: Learn to Salsa.
After innumerable Saturday nights crushed against the bar in Azucar, clutching a mojito and watching couples swirl and sashay in synchronised, sexual oscillation, we are DEFINITELY going to get lessons as soon as we can afford them (see number 2).

Number 4: Earn a living from writing.
(See number 2)

Number 5: Be happy.
Yeh! A big, fat tick goes into the number 5 column and the cork comes out of another bottle of Cava. After all, what’s the use of the other four if you can’t tick number 5?

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