A Tip Of The Hats To Virgen Del Carmen

For all the modern development and tourism growth, Los Cristianos still has a strong beating heart built on the old fishing traditions that made the port an important hub of commerce years before a flip flop or bucket and spade plonked down on the beach.

Once a year local pride erupts into a big spectacular homage to the Virgen del Carmen, the patron of the fishing community. With a great sense of timing, Arona council unveiled a new statue by Inma Serrano outside the cultural centre just a few days before the celebrations. One of my favourite events of the days of music and dance is the Fiesta del Sombrero on the Saturday afternoon in the small Plaza del Amalia Alyon. The hat fiesta is always bold, loud, and inventive of amazing creations are popped on peoples heads as they enjoy the big family buffets and the infectious dance music from the DJs. All ages come together to show off their sea and fishing themed creations, the detail is impressive and there are usually a few cheeky digs at those in authority.

I had been tempted by the line up of inflatable water castles down at the Plaza del Pescadora but apparently I´m a little too old to splash around on them, so I immersed myself in a sea of hats. A fish fiesta a week before featured lots of historic photos and boat models depicting the history of local fishing, they even had a new temporary lighthouse looking out across the old beach.

The Sunday activities came to a climax with the statue of the Virgen being carried around town from her church home, and then taken out on a fishing boat at the head of a flotilla of other craft in full party mood. At night the firework display was even bigger and more stunning than ever, I enjoyed a great view from The Victory Bar in the Apolo Centre, very appropriate with the sea theme.

 

Whistles And Bicycle Bells In La Gomera

 

San Sebastian twinkled in the early morning sun as the Fred Olsen ferry chugged into the main port of La Gomera, just a 40 minute crossing from Los Cristianos in Tenerife. My return visit was long overdue and memories of seeing off a couple of Atlantic Rowing Races from the marina flooded back. This time the Tour de Tenerife cycle race had lured me back thanks to an invite from the British team, Stuart Hall Cycling.

On the short walk to the pits area just behind the main beach, I passed a trussed up sculpture of Christopher Columbus, ready for unveiling as part of the local fiesta. The explorer stopped off at the island on his way to discover America and also has a park and a tower named after him. I’m sure he would have approved of the in depth preparations for the second stage of the cycle race. Some teams had their own treadmills to warm the bikes up but many were just keen to whizz up and down the coast road and blow away a few pre race cobwebs.

I had a close up view of the racing from the British support car as the riders tackled steep rises and plunging falls as they circled the outer edges of the island. Here’s a link to my Canarian Weekly coverage, for me it was a magical reminder of the beauty and contrast of the island. Many villages we passed through produced crowds of well wishers, and the sheer drops beyond the cliff roads were a start reminder of the dangers involved. Some riders had to make nifty stops as they overshot corners or were nearly mugged by rogue brambles. Roque de Agando was a sight to behold, and San Sebastian port looked lovely as we hurtled downhill on the rush to the finish line. The local whistling language, Silbo, warned many ancient farmers to be careful on the terraces and tight turns, and Silbo still holds its place in the Guiness Book of Records as one of the worlds oldest surviving languages.

Just over two hours later, riders were streaming back into the pits area with a clean bill of health but frantically racing pulses. After a welcome reception meal at the local hall, I nipped out to catch up with some favourite sights. The La Gomera government building stood proud and noble at the front of the main plaza but I headed deeper in and up a steep back street to an old “mirador” viewpoint for a full frontal of the beach, marina, and port.

Just beyond the port the Playa de la Cueva beach was quiet and restful, with two craggy outcrops and a tight winding path leading up to an old beacon holder where the Olympic torch of 1968 paid a visit, the anniversary was to be marked in a few days time. Normally there are clear views across to Tenerife and the familiar peak of Mount Teide, but a hazy calima denied that possibility. I couldn’t resist the chance to pose a few special photos, the Angeles Verdes (Green Angels) were part of the race support team, doing a sterling job clearing roads ahead of the cyclists, it was a pleasure to meet them and all the other fabulous people who made it such an enjoyable day.

Time, tide, and inter island ferries have deadlines to meet so we all piled back on our returning ferry to Los Cristianos. This time the evening sun was our companion – along with some top memories. Here´s all my pics from the day.

San Roque Fills the Garachico Streets With Joy

For a town that has suffered from natures worst moods, Garachico has a resilient smile and a heart as big as its famous spit of volcanic rock that sits just off the coast. I had been to many Romerias before but this was the biggest, noisiest, and tastiest celebration of the people, animals, and food that thrive in this fertile north western corner of Tenerife.

The road down from Icod opens up a breath taking first view of the Garachico coast but the narrow back streets were the scene for well groomed donkeys and oxon loaded up, and tethered to large carts full of revellers. A slow musical procession eased its way down the streets that were lined with proudly worn Canarian costumes below wooden balconies overflowing with banners, baskets, and blankets. All the senses were getting a good full on blast, drums and flutes laid down a steady rhythm as voices swirled in song. Noses were fully tweaked by the smell of meat cooking on small grills hung onto carts, and generous pourings of local wine being dispensed to anyone holding up a glass. Everyone on the parade seemed to have handfuls of eggs, bananas, gofio, bread, pastries, and cheeses, and they were not shy in offering it around.

Looking up through BBQ smoke, bunting and hats, I could see the main man, San Roque riding high on top of a bed of flowers, the day was dedicated to him. San Roque was a French religious pilgrim who became a saint who could repel plagues, so when Garachico was devastated by bubonic plague at the start of the 1600’s, locals built the small white chapel, now neighboured by the new marina on the road into Garachico. Their prayers were answered as good health returned and he became the towns patron saint with 16th August set aside as his special day. Garachico knew a lot about suffering, it was originally the capital and main port of Tenerife but a volcanic eruption in 1706 wiped out a large part of the port and produced the craggy mini island. The tides have also given the town regular poundings over the years, but they always bounce back.

Back at the parade, the musicians were keeping up the tempo with timple, guitar, and tambourine inspiring outbreaks of dancing. All vantage points were taken advantage off, and a range of generations showed that the great traditions were in no danger of fading away. Waistcoats and those thick Canarian socks must have added a few more notches to the baking feeling of the smartly dressed revellers, its a good job there were plenty of fluids to quench the thirsts. As the parade ran its course, attention started to turn to the marina area with its small modern fun fair. It was a magnet for the younger party crowd, and close to the small church that started the link with San Roque. Very appropriate on such a special day.

 

Greenpeace See Red Over Canarian Eco Sins

Battling for hearts and minds, the Greenpeace ship, Esperanza (Hope) welcomed a surge of curious visitors aboard on a three day stop over in Santa Cruz. But there was no sugar coating for their message of concern over the over active development and pollution of the Canary Islands in general, and Tenerife in particular.

The crusading organisation was founded in Vancouver in 1971 and has always taken direct action against what it sees as assaults on the environment. Before I could skip up the gang plank, spokes person Paloma Nuche flicked through a thick report book full of findings from surveys into the ongoing state of land and sea through Spain, and pointed out some key figures relating to Tenerife. “ In the last 30 years, the growth of urbanisation has been 130% compared to the Spanish average of 105%. Canarian government records show that of 394 waste output points around the islands, 277 are not legal. In Tenerife 113 of 172 are not legal. ”

That last point had been brought home in the preceding week when the west coast Playa Chica in Puerto Santiago was closed for bathing due to a large stain floating in the sea. Then there´s also the on going drawn out legal cases against years of unapproved quarrying in Guimar, and countless cases of legal fights to close illegal building developments. All fuel to the Greenpeace cause. But the visit of the Esperanza was not just to raise red flags, it was also a chance to recruit further members and donations, Greenpeace point out that they don´t accept donations from political or economic organisations.

The ship struck a defiant note with its dark green livery and rainbow logo but I was keen to join the tour to find out more about the vessel. The biggest of three owned by Greenpeace, Esperanza was built in Gdansk, Poland in 1984 and worked for the Russian army fire service as well as seeing action in the arctic due to its ice breaking capabilities. Greenpeace bought it in 2002 and gave it an eco makeover, removing toxic paint, and replacing the original engines with electric motors capable of producing a speed of 16 knots. The bridge looked impressive with its mix of manual and digital controls, and as publicising and exposing unethical practices is part of the aim of Greenpeace, the communications are top notch, even on the high seas Wi Fi is always available.

The full time 16 strong crew do long shifts of up to 24 hours at a time and rotate three months on board and three months off duty. The rest of the crew are volunteers, up to 35 at a time. As the ship can run into any situation, they have a heliport and sometimes hire a helicopter, monitoring illegal fishing was one use that called for the chopper. The Zodiac boats became famous in the early 1980’s when they tried to stop Spain from dropping nuclear waste barrels into the sea by diving the Zodiacs under them, photos of those encounters are displayed on the bridge. Esperanza also has four pneumatic boats, two of theirs saw action when confronting Repsol oil exploration ships off Gran Canaria in 2014.

The stop off in Tenerife posed some uncomfortable questions, whether the right answers can preserve the unique qualities of the Canary Islands in time is down to radical changes in long standing habits. Meanwhile Greenpeace are not about to sail quietly into calmer seas.

Santa Cruz Likes Water Off A Ducks Back

Don’t worry this isn’t going to be one of those awkward talks like the birds and the bees, it’s a much more relevant and inspiring tale of ducks, turtles, and a whole chorus of frogs. Santa Cruz is as bustling and busy as many other capital cities, so it’s nice to know there are some delightful, shaded corners where the pace of life slows to a drip.

Parque Garcia Sanabria is a particular favourite of mine, an oasis of greenery, fanning out from a central fountain. It was only a couple of years ago that I finally made the short stroll up the left hand street as you face the park entrance, to find the beautiful Plaza de Los Patos. It’s famed for it’s centre piece, a ceramic tiled pond, overlooked around its circular edge, by eight frogs,all spraying water towards a large duck doing likewise from the back of a turtle. It sounds like a strong cheese enduced hallucination but it’s a wonderful work of art.

This 1,330 square metre haven of peace was originally called the Plaza de 25 July, after the defeat of Nelson when he tried to invade Tenerife with the British Navy in 1797, one of the official surrender ceremonies was made in the plaza. The alternative name, plaza of the ducks, is a little misleading as only one duck stands guard, the fist time I glimpsed the area it was looking tired and run down, well it was built from 1913 to 1917. A recent makeover has restored the glory, not only to the pond, but also the 20 benches surrounding it.

The benches, also covered in ceramic tiles, depict popular advertising campaigns. I bet they could tell a tale or two about courting couples, and I;m sure they have calmed many a hassled shopper having a stressful day in the big city. The sun filters through the trees that surround the centre piece, so you get a choice of sun or shade. Five roads (or frog and toads) converge on the plaza, and the cute former English church of San Jorge (Saint George) is on hand for another taste of history. It was so good to see the plaza back to its best, another hidden gem that´s well worth seeking out.

Women Jumping For Joy Since 1893

From Northampton to Tenerife may seem a strange connection, but the Northampton in question is the one in Massachussets, USA, and the journey is the growth of womens basketball from its birth in 1893. Arriving in Tenerife, the 2018 Womens Basketball World Cup will showcase the strides the womens game has made, as well as bringing international media interest to Santa Cruz and La Laguna where the elite 16 countries will battle for the trophy between September 22nd and 30th.

To back up the tournament, a free exhibition, 1893 From Northampton To Tenerife, is taking place at the Casa de Capitanes in La Laguna. I popped in to stroll around the display cases of memorabilia from those early days of the sport. James Naismish had only invented the sport two years earlier in Springfield, Massachussets, using peach baskets and a very heavy looking ball, so the ladies were quick to recognise the attractions of the game. A Lithuanian immigrant, Senda Berenson adapted the basic rules, and the first womens game tipped off between two teams at Smith College in Northampton.

All this was news to me, and well presented in the roomy hall with plenty of exhibits supplied by the Spanish Basketball Federation. Spain has taken the sport to its hearts, the first womens international in 1963 setting the nation on its way to a bronze medal at the 2014 World Championships in Estambul, Turkey, and onto the gold medal at the 2017 European Championships in Prague. There was a nice selection of shirts, medals, programmes and other souvenirs in the exhibition.

La Laguna is a good setting for the display, basketball is big in the town, the mens team Iberostar Tenerife play at the Pabellon Santiago Martin, known locally as the hamburger, and compete in Spain´s top league. The CD Canarias club , founded in 1939, has youth teams at all ages, and of course womens teams, the Iberostar games attract near 4,000 crowds with families making up a big part of the attendance. The exhibition is part social history as well as a celebration of sport for all. It´s open daily until 5 pm, a short hop from the tram terminus and next to the Tourist Information office, entry is free and the information is in Spanish and English, it will run until the end of the World Cup.

 

 

Memories Pour Forth At Alcala Craft Beer Festival

Some lunch breaks back in the Oxford meant a cheeky beer, but when my Tenerife office base was Alcala while working for The Western Sun newspaper, lunch break meant a refreshing dip from the quay side and a few sarnies as I dried out in the sun. No wonder wild horses were not needed to get me back up the west coast for the Alcala Craft Beer Festival.

How different from my mid week swims was the scorching Saturday crowd of local families that filled nearly every speck of space on the quay and in the sparkling sea water. The festival stands were squeezed together by the harbour wall with a few marquees and a food truck when I arrived early afternoon. I started with a familiar brewery, Tacoa, I had visited their pub restaurant in El Sauzal years ago to write a review and was mightily impressed by the five hand pump ales on offer. Surf Beer at 4.5% seemed an appropriate first tipple. The festival beers were mainly in 33 cl bottles with a few on draught in half pint (caña) plastic glasses ranging from 2.50 to 4 euros. The Surf Beer rode my tonsils smoothly as I mentally booked a few later drinks from the Tacoa menu card that proudly proclaimed 0% Bullshit, 100% Craft Beer.

Next call was the Aguita Brewery from Santa Cruz for a 5.1% Dead Bully, American Pale Ale that went down nicely as their brewer explained that they brew 500 litres a week for 1,500 bottles, he also told me there are at least 20 micro breweries spread across the seven Canary Islands. The Jeito Brewery from Los Realejos grabbed my attention next, a 6% Oatmeal Stout became a firm friend as I took it walkies to enjoy some of the fine views of the bay.

At this early stage there was at least some joined up planning to my beer choice. La Armada Brewery from La Laguna ticked several boxes, Armada Sur being my CD Tenerife football family, and my choice of a 5% Nelson Sauvin golden ale seemed very appropriate just a few days after the 121st anniversary of Admiral Nelson´s failed attempt to take Santa Cruz and Tenerife. At this point I discovered one of the less well planned features of the festival, no toilets, there were some portaloos on the far side of the quay but picking my way through the dripping wet swimmers and sun bathers was already proving to be a challenge.

Back to the stalls and ready to refill my bladder, I picked on a 5.4% Irish Red from the Vagamundo Brewery in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. Ignoring its unfortunate football origins, I was pleasantly surprised that the claims of aromas of malt, caramel, and light buttered toast were at least close to the mark, and it had no qualms about pleasing a CD Tenerife fans taste buds. A couple of my football friends, Gordon and Kirsty arrived and pushed the pace a little. A 5.9% Honey Palm Ale from La Palma was a smooth treat before I peaked with a Tacoa 6.2% Tajinaste Ale, technically the highest brewed in Spain as it contains floral honey from Mount Teide, at 3,718 metres, very nice indeed.

Things, and my notes, were getting a bit hazy by now. A 5.5 La Ginga from the Nomad Craft Brewery came and went rather quickly before I made a repeat visit to the Tacoa stand, firstly for the 6.5% Bock Beer, red for danger and for strength, and then another instalment of the Tajinaste Ale. That was basically my lot before wobbling back to the south. Thank you Alcala, and thanks for those micro brewery tour invites which are safely filed away and will be followed up.

 

Sunday Strolling From La Caleta To Los Cristianos

Even a day of rest is just calling out for a walk when the weather is as hot and nice as it is in Tenerife. So armed with a new Ten Mas bus ticket I headed off to La Caleta in Adeje. Half hour later the sea was glistening and families were spreading out on the cracked rock slabs that stretch into the sea like broken shortbread. The old fishing village has retained its charm despite the luxury hotels that are bearing down on it, there’s even a huge portrait homage to an old fisherman, on the side of an ancient dwelling.

Fish restaurants hug the side of the narrow walkway that winds around the corner to the long promenade. On many previous visits I had taken time out to watch body boarding from the point, out to the big waves that roll in. The tide was fairly low on this trip, revealing rock pools among the large expanse of interlocking, eroded rocks. The wind was light, confirmed by a local weather vane, giving just a hint of contrast to the scorching sun. The dark sand beach of La Enramada spread out up ahead, enticing swimmers into the cooling sea, as families enjoyed picnics among the shingle at the rear of the beach. Paragliders swirled overhead, their pilots precision at landing between groups of sun worshippers was something to admire.

Pushing on past the delicately stacked piles of pebbles, led to the narrower stretch of shingle backed beach in front of the four and five star hotels. The promenade is smooth and level there, no wonder so many families were wheeling cots and prams, best to start the next generation of tourists young, they will keep coming back with so many attractions on the horizon. Smaller, steep sided bays marked the transition to Playa Fañabe and Playa Torviscas with their tiered promenade packed with shops, bars, and restaurants. Torviscas was a good place for a swim, evening was creeping in but the water was a perfect temperature.

Passing through Puerto Colon and into Playa de Las Americas, sun bathers were swapping sea costumes and shades for light informal evening gear as they watched the sun taking a slow, downward arc, a perfect backdrop to their meals. By the time I approached Los Cristianos, the sunset was stunning, my legs were gently reminding me of the three hours of walking, and I had a thirst for a beer or two. Yep, there´s nothing better than a Sunday stroll – and a few Doradas topped the afternoon off nicely.

Brexit’s Coming, Dont Be Angry, Be Ready

 

In March 2016 Brexit became official, at the end of March 2019 it will be a done deal, and after a transition period it will be legally signed as a binding treaty by the end of December 2020. That’s the time scale so it’s time for British citizens living abroad to look at how it will affect them and take steps to protect their interests. On that basis a team of British Consul staff came to Adeje on Thursday 5th July to outline the facts to date, the road signs already in place, and sound advice on potential potholes along the way.

Charmaine Arbouin, British Consul for the Canary Islands and Andalucia, headed the meeting, aided by Helen Diaz de Arcaya Keating, British Vice Consul in Tenerife, and Lorna Geddie, Regional Consular Policy Advisor for Spain and Portugal. Round the table were 13 representatives of local media, and advice groups, ready to pass the message to as many people as possible. Charmain started by tackling the biggest expressed concern, citizens rights. We learnt that basic agreement had been reached as a priority last September. We were advised that the key to protecting our rights as ex pats is to be legal. “The NIE and Padron are both important but the main need is to be registered as extranjeros (foreign citizens), that´s the old green A4 form or the more recent card. It doesn´t have an expiry date and it doesn´t need to have the permanent status.” This was music to my ears as I still have my green A4 form ( and so does Charmaine). However it is a good idea to check if your form is still on your local councils system, paperwork here can be a little “elusive” at times.

Voting rights for the UK was another hot topic but the Consul told us. “There is a private members bill going through the UK parliament to ensure all UK citizens abroad could still vote in UK elections. “It has reached the second reading and is on course to become law next June and it wouldn´t have the 15 years away cut out anymore. Talks are going on between the UK and Spain to allow Brits here to continue voting in the local and EU elections. Again checking with your local council in Tenerife to ensure you are still on the voting list is important as they don´t all contact you automatically pre election, council elections in Spain are in spring  2019 so you need to be on the census by the end of this year”

Lorna Geddie told us that her role had been created to engage and influence the other EU member states, particularly in countries with a large UK ex pat population. She also underlined the fact that citizens rights was the number one concern mentioned by all sides in her departments discussions. “even the new Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez had raised the matter and stressed how important it was to him, during his first telephone conversation with Theresa May.”

Driving licences were also raised, Lorna said there were no changes planned and it was still the plastic card with a photo until it expired, and then change to the newer paper version. All three consul members stressed the importance of people power. Officially there are only 280,000 Brits living in Spain, if more are visible and committed to the country then they will have more influence in any proposed changes.

As always there are many ways to keep up with all the unfolding changes on the Brexit road here are some useful British Consul sources. www.gov.uk/livinginspain www.gov.uk/world/brexit or on Facebook www.facebook.com/BritsinSpain or maybe the local Tenerife office Spain.Consolate@fco.gov.uk and for healthcare issues www.healthcareinspain.eu

The British Consulate´s role is varied and the next morning there was another meet up, this time at the Arona Gran Hotel in Los Cristianos get the lowdown on the new Travel Aware campaign encouraging safe tourism. The leaflet below explains the four main areas it deals with so in keeping with the short sharp messages designed by our host, Consular Officer, Penny Gomez, I will just add a few extra points. Help is available in English in the case of reporting stolen passports, and emergency calls. The crime report you collect is not enough to get you on your flight, follow this link to see how the Consulate office in Santa Cruz can get you a quick replacement. Think of the British Consulate as a safety net for the rare times when things may go wrong.

 

Stands Back In Amazement At Royal Hideaway Resort

I got to La Caleta in good time for the opening party at Barcello Hotels new baby Royal Hideaway Corales Resort in Tenerife, so why did I hesitate to go in? Maybe because it makes such a stunning impression on the Adeje coast, I felt the need to skirt around the outside to appreciate the design of Tenerife architect Leonardo Omar. The spiral starwells, and bold white layers are very impressive. Before the January opening it had already won an award as Best European hotel in construction from Hotel Management magazine.


Two five star hotels embrace each other, one the family friendly Corales Beach, and the other the adults only Corales Suites. As I entered the Corales Suites reception area, with a big cavern, bubbling fountains, and a multi coloured rock face wall.,James Bond and Thunderball came to mind. Welcoming speeches were made in the Alice cafe, that specialises in an exotic range of teas and coffes. Simon Pedro Barcelo, Co President of the Barcelo Group spoke proudly of the resort and predicted a bright future for tourism in Tenerife. The resort employs 250 staff, another big boost for the island economy.



The walkway led to a shopping arcade but I was destined to a quick lift up to the fifth floor of the luxury suites. La Caleta is a smashing old fishing village bordering on the five star hotel boom, it can´t help looking good, but on this night a procession of hang gliders landing on the beach added a classy touch to the view from the terrace with its own spa pool. As singers welcomed party guests from a rocky perch below, the suite had my full attention. There are 160 of the suites and they all redifine the word luxury. A chef and his assistants stood ready to receive behind the in suite kitchen counter, just one of the mega extras you can book. After relaxing on the comfy bed, purely for research, I had a peak at the pillow menu, feather, thermal memory foam, or petit plus, the choice is yours.



Lets talk pools, up to the fifth floor I glided up in the lift to see the infinity pool, it was worth the ride, great views over to El Puertito were the backdrop to the roof top restarant El Maresia, run by the Hermanos Padron who have the Michelin Star El Rincon de Juan Carlos, in Los Gigantes. Back down to the piano pool, where music was wafting through the air. I had already noticed some metalic sculptures by local artist Yaron Lambez of La Musa in Adeje, there were many more surrounding the pool side to be admired as samples of culinary creations were served.



Local politicians including the presidents of Tenerife, and the Canary Islands formerly welcomed the new addition to Tenerife´s holiday attractions. and Pilar Rumeu of TV Canaria hosted the presentations. It was good to see the resort acknowledge all the services and workers who are the life blood of the resort. An earlier buggy ride gave me a guided tour around the grounds and perimeter of the huge building. One of the most impressive things about the resort was the passion, knowledge, and friendly attitude of all the staff. Back at the pool the water shimmered as the guests all mingled, the Cava, wine, and Dorada flowed, and the sun set to a gorgeous fanfare of colour.