Archive for July, 2008
Making a splash in La Caleta

It must be a good sign that big companies are ready and willing to plough large sums of money into Tenerife developments, I wonder if they allow a few extra months as standard for delays here, or do they have supreme faith, only to end up pulling their hair out with the rest of us.

Yesterday I went to see the new Tenerife Top Training sports centre just above La Caleta, according to the website, open in June. I trekked up the hill at the side of Golf Costa Adeje, into a heartland of building sites for various projects. Director Carlos Paulsen gave me a thorough guided tour of the site, with our hard hats on, and although the main parts are finished, there is still a lot of work to do before the late August opening of the doors to the public.

T3 swimming pools

The 2 outdoor pools and surrounding area are not only finished but have the lane dividers and blocks in place. The main pool is the Olympic size 50 metres, and the other is half that size, down below, indoors is a therapy and training pool where cameras film swimmers going against a water flow, treadmill style, to be analysed for state of the art bio mechanics.

The football pitches are floodlit, one is grass and the other artificial, they look about ready, but the walkways down to them are a bit of an assault course at the moment, until all the cement work is done. Inside the main building, there are various gyms, changing rooms and physio facilities. It looks good, i just hope they can complete it pretty quick, we don’t need another Siam Park type delay. For a more detailed report, see another of the Sorted Sites commercial websites I copy write for.

As I was in the area, I decided it was time for another visit to the fishing village of La Caleta. It’s a very lovely place where a range of tasty fish reataurants hug the coastline, and large slabs of eroded rock form great surfaces for sun bathing, and launch points into the sea, if you choose not to use the metal ladders provided.

La Caleta

To the west a prominent point has a very enticing pathway leading over to the next bay, I will try that one some time. I have been just off shore there on a boat trip and it looked pretty deserted, but i’m told it is a haven for hippies and nudists, or even nude hippies. La Caleta seemed very quiet, it was 1pm by now but hardly any of the little bars and restaurants had customers, seems a shame seeing the huge 4 and 5 star hotels further to the east, are usually bulging, but I suppose they are all inclusive and seldom venture out of the gardens. It must be particularly cruel if these small family business’s are struggling to survive with all the wealth and oppulence swilling about a short hop away.

La Caleta beach

The worst sight of my trip was the state of the Playa de la Enramada, former home to the Chirinquito beach bar and chill out area. I knew they were demolishing the bar and “improving” the stretch of beach, but it looks like a war zone at the moment with huge hills of sand and JCB’s ploughing up and down. We can only hope that the finished product isn’t a complete mess.



Life off track ? Then try tram spotting

Can you guess what I’m wearing? Â It’s an anorak, and I have a thermos flask of cold fruit drink and some sandwiches, yes I’m ready to go tram spotting. Let’s go to Santa Cruz and see what exciting finds I can tick off in my little book.

CD Tenerife tram

First up, it’s the CD Tenerife tram, decorated in club colours and logo, to promote the sale of season tickets for the new season. It’s fantastic, but how many of them can they fit in the official CDT merchandise shop.?

Nelson tram

Next into the station is the Nelson tram, specially produced to mark the 211 th anniversary of Nelsons defeated attempt to invade Tenerife. That time the Briits were armed with muskets and bayonets and wearing uniforms, but they failed, however barely 200 years later the Brits invaded in much larger numbers, coming in through the front door, armed with sun cream, bottles of Daddies sauce and wearing string vests.

Dorada tram

And finally for this spotting trip, we have the Dorada tram, sadly not of the lesser spotted Especial variety, but it still rings my bell. I could spend hours chasing this one up and down the city, and I wonder how much you get back on that size bottle?

These brightly coloured liveries have certainly made the trams even more noticeable and they are constantly changing. If you want to splash out on your own customised tram, it’s just 14,000 euros per month or 20,000 euros for 2 months.

Coming soon on hobby corner, Lighthouse bagging.

Nelson’s loss, Spain’s win, a feast of historical colour

Battle has raged in Santa Cruz this weekend, bodies have been battered and bruised, and screams of horror and anguish have rung out as the brightly coloured spoils of war are worn with pride. Anyway, that’s enough about the women at the sales that are under way in the capital, it’s also been the biggest celebration yet of Tenerife’s defeat of the British Navy under Admiral Nelson on July 25 1797.

Spain victorious

I went up early on Saturday to take in the big parade and then move on to the Spanish Athletics Championships in Tincer, but reading the paper on the bus, I discovered it was a complete sell out, one hurdle I didn’t see coming. Never mind, the reports of Fridays re-enactment of Nelsons forces landing at Castillo San Juan, next to the auditorium, whet my appetite for the big parade from Plaza del General Weyler (from the Spanish Civil War) , down the Calle del Castillo towards the Plaza de España and the seafront.

The massed ranks of British and Spanish forces arrived at 11.30, right on time, well 211 years late if Captain Troubridgeyou want to be picky, and stood easy for countless photo opportunities. I got to speak to some Brits taking part “Rommels Raiders” these lucky chaps get to travel all over the world portraying battles from various ages of British history, and were delighted to be invited to share in La Gesta (an epic achievement). Captain ( Sir Thomas ) Troubridge, looked replendent in his black tunic and white trousers, even if he did have an uncanny resemblence to Stephen Fry. On this occaision he was happy to pose with the “enemy” but all those years ago he took over from Nelson, after the great leader had been blasted in the right elbow by grapeshot from a canon as he came ashore.Â

After a while, the drum rolls summoned the forces together, more than a few had found there way into local bars, and they set off down the Calle with great pomp and style. Reaching the Plaza de la Candelaria, they lined up for inspection by their leaders and Governor Gutierrezspeeches were made. The Spanish governor of Tenerife in 1797, Juan Antonio Gutierrez, looking triumphant in his braided hat with white wig and gold cane, congratulated his men on their bravery. The British spokesman, amused the British tourists in the crowd by announcing “we struggled yesterday, but I still think we can win this, and think of the prize money”.

There was a lot of shared language among the rival performers, and some good spirited banter. It’s amazing to think that even after the 226 deaths in the failed attack, Nelson and Gutierrez had such a mutual respect for each other, they swapped gifts and Nelson was invited to dine with the Governor, and Nelsons name is not hated as you might expect, but grudgingly admired to this day. The massed forces set off to the seafront, past the Cabildo (Tenerife government) headquarters, where the flags of Spain, Tenerife and The Canaries fluttered proudly in the breeze. Tonight there will be much dancing and of course fireworks – and maybe even the odd flagon of ale or Tenerife wine.


Go on, take a running jump to Santa Cruz

Although I love sport, athletics doesn’t normally excite me, but I will be popping along to the Spanish Athletics Championships in Tincer, Santa Cruz this weekend. It’s just too good an opportunity to miss, a major national event so close to the Olympics and a chance to see a few medal hopefuls, Mario Pestano (pic), the discus thrower is a good bet for Tenerife glory. It’s also a chance to look inside this amazing modern stadium, the Centro Insular de Atletismo de Tenerife (CIAT) to give it its full name, is sunk into the ground with just a low stone wall and the floodlights protruding, so it resembles a volcanic crater. The stadium has won several design awards an was included in an exhibition at the M.O.M.A (museum of modern art) in New York.

Mario Pestano

But getting back on track, and field, the championships take place on Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 July from 10 am until 9.30 pm with a break from 12.30 to 3.30. There will be 700 competitors taking part in 42 tests, including heats and finals, split evenly between men and women. You would expect such a big event to be pretty expensive but full price adult tickets are just 6 euros each day, or 10 euros for both days, and can be bought at the stadium on the days, but not between noon and 4 pm.

There is a glossy colour leaflet available in some information and cultural centres, certainly in Los Cristianos, which details all the events and times, or you can check out the website . As for getting there, take the Puerto de la Cruz and El Campo turn off from the TF1 before Santa Cruz, opposite the Fred Olsen building, and head for the floodlights. The publicity says car parking at the stadium, although this will be by far the biggest event held there so far. I will be catching the 110 or 111 Titsa bus up into Santa Cruz and changing to a 232 at the bus station, it should drop me pretty well outside, I hope.


Tall tales from North Tenerife

So there I am towering over Tenerife Sur airport, dwarfing Santa Cruz and looking down on Mount Teide, was it too much cheese for supper? Â No, I’m just visiting Pueble Chico, the miniature version of Tenerife at La Orotava, just outside Puerto de la Cruz.


It was definately time for a day up north, so catching the early 343 bus to Puerto de la Cruz ( 6.25 euros with a Bono ticket ) I linked to the free hourly coach to Pueblo Chico from Avenida Venezuela, just behind the Playa and Lago Martianez. Ten minutes later, and 8.50 € lighter (12.50 € non residents) I was passing through the volcanic lunar landscape model and facing a mini hillside dotted with the early Guanche tribesmen of Tenerife. This was just the first of 53 model areas, covering not just Tenerife but also key points of the other Canary Islands.

The models are meticulous in design and sound effects help to enhance the illusion. Tenerife Sur airport comes complete with passenger tannoy announcements and the motorway rumbles with traffic noise. La Orotava valley is an amazing backdrop to the parkand the plants and flowers lining the walkways contrast well with the iconic buildings such as the Santa Cruz auditorium, church of the Conception tower and the Cabildo offices. Nature may also provide you with some unexpected photos as the large lizards that live around the park, dart across the airport runway or scuttle by tiny Guanche figures, like a scene from a sci fi B movie.

Santa Cruz port

The compact arrangement of the models throws up some rare photo opportunities as Corte Ingles rubs shoulders with a Fred Olsen ferry and the auditorium, and the airport runway heads towards the wind park turbines. The park moves with the times, and the tram now glides around La Laguna, passing areas it doesn’t reach in the full size world. A few years ago they added a scale model of Mount Teide, and if you get your camera angle right, you can snap it with the real peak in the distant background. The model Teide is hollow and you can normally go inside but a cleaning lady was busy inside today – maybe it was Mother Nature? I kept thinking of Michael Bentine and what fun he could have had on Potty Time with such a vast playground.

Santa Cruz

The pathways lead inevitably up to the shop, cafe and restaurant at the end, I spent about 90 minutes exploring the models, that might give you some idea of where to fit it in your schedule. It’s certainly interesting and kids will be fascinated, but it’s definately look don’t touch. As for prices, adult rates start at 12 years old, which seems a bit harsh, and kids prices are 8.50 euros or 5 euros for residents. The park is open 9am to 7pm, more details on the website.

La OrotavaWith plenty of time in hand, I caught the Titsa bus into the centre of La Orotava for a bit of exploring. On my last visit I got as far as the Plaza de la Constitution, so this time I headed on upward into the old town, and was so glad I did. The tourist guide boast is that the town centre is one of the few in the Canaries that is preserved intact, how right they are. There are historic plazas, houses, churches and museums every few yards, all clearly maked with plaques giving their history. The narrow streets are seperated from the roads with ornate bollards linked with chains and interspersed with flowers and seats, all very neat and stylish.

I ventured up as far as the flower garden of Plaza de San Francisco and popped into the Casa de Turista and the Casa de los Balcones. These last 2 old houses are on different sides of the street and both have the old wooden overhanging balconies that are famous in the Canary Islands, the Casa de los Balcones has 3 floors of the balconies looking down over a plant filled courtyard. History oozes from every step of the old town, and thats on an ordinary day, a month ago the annual flower and sand carpets added another dimension to the plazas and public areas.

Plaza de Ayuntamiento

I didn’t have time to do justice to the wine route further on in La Perdoma village, so that will have to wait for another day. Retracing my steps, I stopped off for some tapas and coffee before catching the bus back to Puerto de la Cruz and on to Los Cristianos. My next visit to La Orotava may not be quite so cultural, as CD Tenerife play a friendly there in 3 weeks at the ground on the other side of town, but i will be back this way, with my sights set on the wine tasting.

Jean Michel Jarre to light up the Canaries?

That title may not mean much to younger people, but if you are a 40 something, like me, it will conjure up exciting images of strident electronic music, and laser and light displays that would impress even Steven Spielberg, all played out on giant living canvas’s in some of the worlds biggest cities. The French musical genius has been in La Palma and Tenerife over the last few weeks, and the outcome may be one or even two mega performances in 2009.

Jean Michel Jarre

Just to fill in the blanks, Jean Michel Jarre had 2 blockbusting LP’s in the late 1970’s, Oxygene and Equinoxe and he backed these up with lavish spectacles around the world, several in front of a million plus people such as Rendevous Houston. I saw the Destination Docklands show from london on television at the time and even through that medium, the sheer scale of the event was impressive. As the great man created musical magic on banks of keyboards and synthesisers, lasers played up the side of tower blocks and hi stacked offices.

The Canarian connection has come about through Jean Michel visiting the observatories in Tenerife and La Palma to research his next work, Music Of The Stars. The La Palma observatory at Roque de Los Muchachos has 14 telescopes, including GRANTECAN, which has the biggest segmented primary mirror in the world. It came on line in January 2007 but will be officially inaugurated in 2009 in front of a select audience of politicians, scientists and former Queen guitarist Brian May. If that last name seems out of place, be impressed, Brian started a PHD in Astronomy before his music took off, and recently dusted his work down and completed his studies with research at La Palma and Tenerife observatorys. The freshly qualified guitarist is now writing a special musical fanfare to be performed on GRANTECAN’s big day.


Jean Michel Jarre has been invited to get involved musically in the inauguration, but that is unlikely to be a public event. I did the tour of the observatory 18 months ago, it’s at the highest point in La Palma, 2,400 metres, a good hours drive up the winding roads, the logistics of a major concert would be too much to overcome. Hopefully a big outdoor concert in Tenerife, maybe in somewhere like the Teide national park, could be more practical, but Jean Michel  is very keen, look at his personal blogsite to read his impressions of Tenerife.

Let’s hope something can be organised, because it could be one of the most spectcular things to hit these islands in years. I have a torch and some coloured crepe paper and i’m ready to help out with the special effects, but i suspect they might have something a bit more fancy in mind.

A timely blast from my Oxford past

A bottle washes up on Los Cristianos beach, I open it and find a message inside, addressed to me and sent 18 years ago. It’s like a bizarre dream but the electronic equivilant has just happened to me. A friend from Oxford has emailed me a for sale item from E Bay, a copy of an Ice Hockey fanzine (482 Days) that I co produced 18 years ago has been advertised for 3 pounds, original price 40p, but the price is not important, i’m just gob smacked that any copies are still out there.

482 DaysLets rewind a little. I got into Ice Hockey with some drinking friends when Oxford ice rink opened in 1984, we all followed Oxford City Stars around the country as far as Glasgow, Irvine, Fife and even to France for a weekend tournament. Eventually, in the late 80’s me and my mate Nigel started the fanzine, very crude and rude in content and construction, none of this hi tech computer stuff, but it raised a few chuckles. Time to fess up, I wrote a lot of the items and got a “friendly” typist at work to type them up and then collated it all at work on the photocopier, when supposedly doing overtime.

We probably sold about 200 each issue at home and away games, they were sporadic, roughly every few months. Nigel quit after 7 issues but I carried on and got to about Issue 20 before stopping, it was even on sale at Sportspages in London and Manchester for a while. The name 482 Days refers to a spell when Oxford couldn’t win a home league game, they drew, won friendlies but went 482 Days without a home league win. The seller on E Bay is apparently a sports programme seller based in the Borders region, so 482 Days has really travelled.

Those Ice Hockey days were happy, and very boozy times, i’m still in touch with loads of the players, even the Canadians and Swedes, but thought 482 Days was long gone. Even over here, my past has reached out to me, well it’s a small world – but you wouldn’t want to paint it!

Following the footsteps of Nelsons defeat

Admiral Nelson has gone down in history as England’s greatest naval hero, but he tasted defeat here in Tenerife on July 25 1797, and when coming ashore in Santa Cruz, his right elbow was shattered by fire from the Tiger canon.

Partly due to his reputation as a great naval commander, and partly due a very civilised surrender, Nelson is held in high esteem in Santa Cruz, you will find the road Calle Horacio Nelson near the old bull ring. The victory of the Santa Cruz defending forces is a great source of pride among the locals and a group called Tertulia Del 25 de Julio, have got the council to adopt their latest plan to commemorate the battle. By the 2009 anniversary, 14 stone plaques will be placed at various points of resistance along a 2 km route near the shore of the capital city.

Castillo de San Juan

Bateria SantiagoIt starts at the Castillo de San Juan (above) the small castle that stands in the shadow of the ultra modern, hook nosed  Auditorium. Some of the defensive positions have long since been built over, one plaque will be at a small side street beside the Cabildo (government) building, just past the Torre de Concepcion. One key point about to be re-discovered is the Castillo San Cristobal, the ruins are under the Plaza de España, and the public will soon be able to pop down and see them. The bateria de Santiago is one of the most visual points, just to the east of the ferry port, and is marked by an impressive statue at the junction of 2 main roads.

The route ends a little further east and inland, in Anaga, near the Military Museum of the Canary Islands. The museum is open from 10 am till 2 pm Tuesday to Saturday and entry is FREE. As well as more modern warfare history, it houses the famous Tigre canon that stopped Nelson in his tracks. If his comrades hadn’t staunched the blood flow with makeshift bandages, Nelson would have died very quickly rather than just lost his arm.

Military museum

in the museum they also have a large model layout of the Santa Cruz coast as Nelsons fleet attacked, and a commentary tells you how the battle unfolded. I found this very interesting as I bought a biography of Nelson on a recent trip to the UK. It was written by the poet laureate Robert Southey, a few years after Nelsons death. It was reassuring to see the commentary match the book version, not because I doubted the Canarian view of history, but because Southey comes across as totally in awe of Nelson, as many were, and talks about him in such glowing terms, I thought he might have made a few embellishments.

Tiger Canon

The surrender in Santa Cruz was pretty amazing, the British suffered 226 deaths and when posting his terms of surrender, Nelson stated that if they weren’t accepted, he would, with regret, burn Santa Cruz to the ground. The Spanish governor Jaun Antonio Gutierrez accepted the terms and his troops helped to ferry the wounded back to British ships, while Nelson swore that he would not trouble any of the Canary islands again. A stone carving of the agreement and busts of Nelson and Gutierrez are in a big glass display case down near the ferry port, but the glass is dirty and cracked and the monument neglected – is that any way to treat 2 men of such honour? There was a huge mutal respect between the 2 men, Nelson sent a barrel of beer to Gutierrez and the governor sent back some finest Canarian wine. It’s a myth that Nelson handed over a Scottish flag on surrender, and that it became the Tenerife flag, the saltyre cross refers more to St Andrew, who was also the saint of wine, you can find a Tenerife flag that pre dates the battle, in the military museum.

There are re-enactment events planned for July 25 in Santa Cruz, so look out for them and I will try to bring you further news of times and places.Â


Santa Cruz, the best, and worst, laid plans.

Several long running stories in Santa Cruz have sparked into life, so today was high time I headed up to the capital of Tenerife to check it out. With CD Tenerife taking a summer breather, it’s been a good few weeks since my last visit, so with the north also basking in the heat, I took the 110 direct bus for a one hour, 3.90 euro bono ticket price trip. Changing straight onto the tram, the bono registered a free ride.

Bull ring plans

Getting off at La Paz and turning into Rambla del General Franco, I passed the old bull ring, see inside here ,one of the reasons for my trip. It’s still proud and peeling and awaiting its fate, which could be decided in the Garcia Sanabria park, a little further on. Santa Cruz council invited local architects to submit plans for the redeveloment of the Plaza de Torros and this Friday, Saturday and Sunday they are on display in the park. I hoped there might be a few entries, but it was a nice surprise to see 35 sets of plans. These were not just your basic technical drawings, but computerised colour mock ups from several angles.

Garcia Sanabria clockThankfully, most of them want to keep at least some of the facade of this iconic building, with designs ranging from inspired to “carbuncles” as HRH Charlie would call them, one even looked like the elephant house at London Zoo. All legal residents are allowed a vote so I popped my slip into the ballot box. On July 7, a committee of 13 headed by the Santa Cruz mayor, will add their verdict and then the whole planning merry go round kicks off again.

I’ve gotta mention Parque Garcia Sanabria, not the biggest of parks but truly glorious, with its dense mix of plants and trees little pathways constantly lead you off to new hidden delights like sculptures, water features, a flower clock, a kids train and a cafeteria. The main monument in the centre is quite a work in itself, I thought the large lady might be one of those performing statues, so I kept my distance. The council have also introduced a bike hire scheme from the park at one euro per hour, but I couldn’t find any trace of that, however one of the canarian papers did report it as starting earlier in the week, so hopefully the bikes were all out on hire, and not nicked.

Parque Garcia Sanabria

Onward ever onward, around the Rambla del General Franco to the Military Museum of the Canary Islands in Calle San Isidro. This was part of some research on Lord Nelson (see next post) but I didn’t check the opening times and arrived just 30 minutes before the 2 pm closing. It’s a big place, with a very impressive display and is FREE. I got the pics and info I needed but will definately be going back for a more leisurely stroll. This took me almost full circle, you can get to the museum along the Avenida de Anaga on the front, just past the Fred Olsen port.

Monument of the FallenThe other main point of my trip was to see the newly re-opened, but still not finished Plaza de España. It’s taken 2 years, many false dawns and a recent financial top up of 4 million euros from the Tenerife government to bring the toal spend to nearly 20 million, split 80 % to 20 % in favour of the government over the Santa Cruz council.

The trees around the edge of the park look good, the 61 year old Monument to the Fallen has scrubbed up well and the 2 bronze 1,000 kilo statues on guard look good, if a little cheeky. Three large buildings, one already destined to be the new tourism office, have their sloping roofs climbed by 5,000 plants arranged by French designer Patrick Blanc (please no jokes about uphill gardeners) . The big centrepiece should be the 2,500 cubic metre lake, but instead of being full of sea water from deep underground wells, there is just a small puddle in the centre, and the 30 metre high geyser is not spurting. Hardly any of the 122 parking places below are in use yet and the remains of the San Cristobal castle, also below are not on show yet. The finishing touches will take “some weeks” apparently, what a shame, the lighting draped across the plaza is in place and looks stunning at night, but is supposed to relect off the lake for full effect.

Plaza de España

I eagerly await the completion of Plaza de España and look forward to seeing how many people can end up in the lake at Carnaval time.