Archive for the 'Exploring' Category
Everything In The El Sauzal Garden Is Trickling Along Nicely

A few months on from my visit to their Wine museum, El Sauzal was popping my cork again. The giant wooden peacock still draped its tail down the town hall steps but it was joined by a festive scroll and two giant teddy bears. As spirits sagged under the weight of a Covid Christmas, the north Tenerife town offered some antedote with a bright, uplifting range of smile makers.

Closer investigation was called for this time, and even the Ayuntamiento building front doors carved out a place on my wow list. The coat of arms was bold and bevelled to perfection. I felt ashamed as my mind flew back to three school terms spent hacking out a wobbly spice rack.

A rockery between the town hall and the plant packed terraces was being soothed by a small stream. as a couple of wooden crabs peeped out between the rocks, just behind them, And for an encore, a large modern theatre was tacked onto the main building. There´s clearly a lot going on in El Sauzal. Many years ago I followed the main road below to the left of the white domed church, and on to the overgrown Parque Los Lavadores. That made it all the more rewarding this trip as this cats curiosity was rewarded with the cream as I pushed through the rusty swing gates.

Trimmed bushes cascaded down a tight stone twisted stairway with superb views of the coast below bathed in sunshine.Parcels of land made a neat grid as a long spit of rock jutted out into the sea. Other paths converged as I walked lower to the backing track of running water that drew my attention to a spring feeding into channels with some scattered benches encouraging restful admiration. Stone archways and more plants added to the overall impression of tranquility.

Retreating back up some steps, the Delei Te bar and cafeteria took centre stage over the layers of the park. A good range of breakfasts and snacks filled the busy chalk boards, I relaxed with a coffee but I had noticed the interesting range of bottled beers on display. What a lovely setting, evening sunsets would surely be another star turn, The park and bar are both open all year around until night rolls in and the parkee rattles his keys.

I felt a little guilty overlooking a smooching young couple down in the lower decks of the park, but even Adam and Eve had been drawn into temptation by the beauty of a well set out garden. The bar owner explained the rejuvination of the park was as a result of a partnership between the local council and bar owner to maintain the natural attractions and offer further reasons to linger. I looked forward to my next visit as I rode out of town on the Titsa bus.

Loving The Rise And Fall Of The Vilaflor Trail

Small village, short ride from the bottom crossroads to the steep path for the circular walk down. You might imagine a gentle stroll in a steady downward direction. Vilaflor soon dishes out a few lessons about rash judgements on an undulating three hour of contrasts.

The 10.30 am Titsa bus from Los Cristianos took barely an hour to Spain´s highest village. A few weeks before I had indulged in the historic heart of the village but this time it was all about some good old foot slogging. Low cloud with bright patches made for a chilly December morning but good preparation allowed us to layer up and climb high above the village with a brief nosey inside the Hotel Spa  Villalba. the ladies were tempted by the pampering but we marched on and took the left turn up through farming terraces brimming with tomatoes and potatoes.

The next choice took us on a rising path with an industrial unit away to the right. That building and a notice denying access to those on wheels or hooves confirmed our true progress. The thought of being caught up in an animal traffic jam in these blissful conditions caused me some amusement. Despite dark clouds hovering, and a couple of recent Tenerife storms, the landscape was bone dry and several pine tree trunks showed signs of being licked by flames in the hot summer. Rock erosion in the strong winds than can whip across the valley, also plays a part in sculpting out a pathway that can never be taken for granted.

Nature had plenty more in store for our senses, a crumbling rocky ledge above a plunging pine valley highlighted our small role in this vast portrait of wear and weather. Tight paths wound down and around the lip of the valley and onto shallow tracks of dust and fine stone, just as the sun peeked through. The variety of surfaces is one of the qualities that make this a testing trek, but the views are always a fair reward.

A half empty reservoir was a good point for a snack and water breather before the final upsurge through tangled roots and dry stream beds. Ahead of us, the views opened up to shallow terraces were the art of stone wall building was on display. Plucky little pine sapling stucked in tight against the sturdy walls for its protective embrace. The faint sound of traffic encouraged us to pump those leg muscles for another sapping climb as the road to the south began to appear on the distant horizon. Coming out just before the Vilaflor entrace, we felt a sense of satisfaction as we headed for a local watering hole. A few metres away a statue of local born Hermano Pedro, Tenerife´s only saint, looked out from his static perch.

Salute The Captain´s House And The Creative Gems Of San Miguel

Attracted by the present but drawn to the past, San Miguel served up a feast of culture, with the Casa del Capitan as the centre piece. Gripping the steep incline just below the Tenerife towns main street, the Captain´s House struck an impressive figure supported by the pottery hoisting statue that dominates the central courtyard.

 

Christmas was fast approaching, so my first task was to descend into the former wine cellar to see the nativity figures from South American countries. Peru, Argentina, Mexico, and Colombia all vied for attention but I had already been distracted by an ancient spooled film projector just under the stone steps, and a hall of reddy brown pottery plates and bowls. They were enough to feed a small army.

Through the window I could see the terraced soil that had given nutrition to grape and grain. Those two natural products are a vital part of the ancestry of San Miguel de Abona, a long wedge of a municipality that reaches down from the hills to the modern retail face of Las Chafiras, Golf del Sur, and the busy San Miguel marina.The large patio of Casa del Capitan is now a great stage for visiting groups to learn about the working heritage of town and municipality.

Remains of the old granary and mill showed how grain was converted into gofio and flour. A rusty steam powered engine bore a British patent number. The wooden wine press may have been eclipsed by modern inventions but the end product still carries the taste of the local soil. The nativity scene was just passing through but there´s free entry to Casa del Capitan each Monday to Friday from 8am to 1.30pm, and Tuesday to Friday from 4pm to 8 pm, with 10am to 1pm each Saturday.

 

San Miguel presents its claims way before you reach the historic house. The vaulting figure of a shepherd looks out from a mirador viewing point. Salto del Pastor was a quick and effective method to cross ravines and bypass rocky ridges. An impressive mural on corrugated fencing gives an idea of the joy and celebration of the annual romeria. Look up and the white tower of San Miguel Arcangel church beckons. Their christmas nativitywas flowing around the grounds and reaching up the tower. Work on improving the plaza was in progress and a 6km walk down to Aldea Blanca was making my feet itch. From the bus back to Los Cristianos, the trek from La Centinela to San Miguel looked well used and recently tidied up. The captain would have been proud of his kingdom.

Camels Kings And Tenerife Things Take Root In La Orotava

Like walking through pages from a bible, my senses wallowed in the biggest nativity layout in Tenerife.Some 300 animals, people, stalls, and scenery filled the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, famed as the June epicentre of the Corpus Christi sand and flower carpets.

The Ruta de Belenes is no one day wonder, nearly five weeks and carefully managed access will allow a steady and safe flow of awe struck visitors for the free spectacle. The Bazar La Sidrona is the setting for layout but there are lots of references to Canarian culture among the busy artesans. Basket weavers, wine making, and chestnut roasting are all part of the local calendar in the fertile valley of La Orotava.

The 19th century town hall building is a perfect canvas for the historic epic, and as it was built on the site of a former convent, it has a suitable religious heritage. The steps up to the grand entrance are the focal point for the manger, and no film director could ever wish for a better location. Families were enjoying the big production on several lavels, even the cloudy conditions couldn´t diminish the visul impact.

The Ruta de Belenes is open from 1st December to  5th January, excluding 25 December and 1st January. Hours are 9.30 am to 1pm and 4pm to 8pm. It´s just over an hours drive up from the south coast of Tenerife, or nearly double that if you take a Titsa bus from Los Cristianos, with a change at the Puerto de la Cruz bus station for the final 20 minutes into the natural wonders of La Orotava. Check times before travelling .

Dropping In For An Adeje Christmas Countdown

There was no need to fire the canon outside Casa Fuerte to signal the early December awakening of festive anticipation, A deluge of rain from tropical storm clemente, the previous day, had given way to bursts of colour all through Adeje town. A hang glider cut through the blue sky and swirled low over the crumbling walls of the fortress that once protected the town just above the south Tenerife coast.

Sleighs found parking spaces on apartment balconies as Roque del Condes table top looked down on shadow toned fields in the rocks above Barranco del Infierno and Calle Grande where people enjoyed restful breaks in cafes and bars. It was good to see the cultural centre open after limited Covid access, info on upcoming events covered the walls and the nearby Plaza de España geared up to host music and dance nights in december.

Two large tiered car parks have opened up the town centre and rather than treat them as modern intruders, they have become miradors with plants and flora encouraging people to enjoy the panoramic views. A nod of mutual appreciation from the modern Los Olivos church showed how to blend tradition and style. I felt my feet being lured towards the roundabout where some festive visitors were settling in, A plump snowmanmay have eaten all the mince pies, I couldn´t see any crumbs on his rather smart red scarf.

Fountains danced in the background and reindeer had just been settled into grazing positions. A spray of colour was added by  the Adeje School Of Music as Beethoven peeked through the foliage. It´s going to be a tough festive season for many people this year, so lets not be shy of enjoying the simple pleasures that make us smile.

Vilaflor Is A Village To Look Up To

Vilaflor could make the shortest ever edition of Through The Keyh9le. The highest village in Spain doesn´t hide its pride in its favourite son, Hermano Pedro. From street names, statues, ceramic tiles, and even a modern infants school, there´s no forgetting that the Canary Islands only saint was born here. That would be enough to make Vilaflor well worth the one hour bus ride up from Los Cristianos, but I knew there were many more reasons to treat myself to a ride up through the vineyards to taste the history.

 

It was still reassuring to be greeted by the statue of Pedro at the entrance to Vilaflor. The air was crisp and fresh as small busy clouds formed an ever changing jigsaw against the radiant blue sky.I took the lower right hand road and was soon gazing up at the corona forest pines and the outskirts of Mount Teide National Park. Many houses displayed their allegiance to the famous former goat herder, on the tiles that told of his devotion to the needy. Sculpted hearts outside the small library drew my attention to adverts for talks about old rural skills and the desire to nurture the cultural past.

My upward stroll brought me to the vast main plaza with its water flows dropping down the green bloomed terraces. Pride of place at the top went to the church of Pedro Apostel, shining like a stunning white beacon. Inside the contrast was of dark tones and a vaulted, carved wood ceiling, and a lavish altar caught in the sunlight streaming through a high window. For a relatively small village, the church echoed with stature and nobility from the gallery of religious statues to the small touches like the dove of peace above the pulpit. Next door, a newer dark stone church occupied the site of Hermano Pedros´s former home.

Religion has always sustained the locals but water has been the life blood of day to day living. Los Lavadores  at the top of the village marks the point where springs converged at a fountain. Not only did it serve as a gathering point to sustain livestock, but also the rocks were perfect places to wash and dry clothes in the sun. In recent times the site has been lovingly restored, although the water now passes further down to the modern Fuentealta bottling plant.

Veering down into the village, water also served another purpose, powering two mills where gofio, a staple part of the island diet,  was ground into grain. The white arches guided the water to the mill stones and are still standing proudly. A peak into the mill house is like a peak into the past. More up to date pursuits bring visitors through the village these days. The steep TF51 road that leads up to Teide is a popular climb for cyclists, and walkers endulge in the near four hour circular walk that sweeps around the village and down to the entrance crossroads. The modern concrete mirador and cross look out over the south of Tenerife as far as El medano on the coast close to Hermano Pedros cave and shrine.

Several bodegas offer wine for tasting and sale, there are also a few hostels and the more luxurious Hotel Villalba high above the village. The touch of tourism has been light, leaving the charm and character of Vilaflor as clear as the air and the spring water.

 

 

Curtain Up On Santa Ursula

Sometimes it´s the buildings, sometimes the beckoning side streets, and sometimes just an overall comfortable feeling. Santa Ursula imressed me on a couple of recent days out. Walking the 2 kms from the Humboldt Mirador, and just 6 kms from Puerto de la Cruz, I was taken by the range and choice of multi national restaurants (Thai and Indian – yummy) nestling alongside the traditionalCanarian tascas and coffee bars. The amount of people enjoying mid morning pavement snacks and drinks would have made many of the southern tourist stops feel a little envious.

The split point of the higher and lower roads in the centre of Santa Ursula was a natural focal point. Christmas lights wrapped themselves aroud the trunks of palm trees in the church garden as white cardboard silhouettes of women faced the purple flags across the road outside the Ayuntamiento building in support of the anti gender violence campaign. Maybe there should be a collective name for the admiration of council HQ enthusiasts, this one mixed stone and wooden balconies and gave off an old world reliabilty with a trace of modern flexibility.

Top of the bill for me was La Casona cultural space, boasting a wooden decked amphitheatre  lurking under shadey palms below street level, surrounded by a leafy sea. It looked inspiring and protective at the same time. Among the plants a silver frog leapt through the air like a lilly pad olympian. Titled “besame”(kiss me) the princely pond dweller was created by Julio Nieto whose bigger works had illuminated previous days out before. A tinkling piano rung out from a rehearsal room in the pink main building. Posters at the street level entrance gate advertised several live shows and requested volunteers for pre christmas Covid compliant shows.

The incline to my bus stop seemed less challenging after this cultural boost, and just a week later, Felix Alonso, a product of the Santa Ursula football club, made his senior squad debut on the bench for CD Tenerife. There is definately something good in the air of Santa Ursula. A few more pleasing buildings demanded a photo and I eas happy to oblige. Changing buses back in La Orotava, I bagged a church and the guanche Princesa Dacil. All in all, another satisfying day out in Tenerife.

 

Great Views But Limited Vision At Humboldt Mirador

Was that a hint of sadness in the eyes of legendary German naturalist, Alexander Von Humboldt? Sat astride the wall of the mirador that bears his name, the beauty of the La Orotava valley spread out behind him. Sadly the recently reopened north Tenerife viewing point looked rather sparse. From December 2010 to 2014 visitors enjoyed the cafe bar, and restaurant while learning nore about the man who invented geo botany and shared his fascination of Tenerife´s plant and animal life with the world.

A large artistic lizard sprawled across the top of the boarded up cafe and toilets. A second tier of the stark concrete outpost was also sealed off. The late november weather was glorious as the La Orotava valley below raced down to meet the atlantic ocean, and Puerto de la Cruz was ringed with breaking surf in the distance.  Around 10 people popped in for a quick photo during my short stay. It´s a cifficult place to find parking although my 101 Titsa bus from La Orotava station dropped me outside in a small layby. It´s a busy road with a tight, narrow bend, a small strip close to the front of the mirador could accomodate a coach drop off but it would need strict supervision.

 

Another basic viewing point a few strides down the road only offered a shaded picnic table but almost identical sight lines. The Humboldy has scope to offer more but will need to generate income if it is to avoid another closure. Humboldt is an important figure in Tenerife history, the flora and fauna he so loved is picked out in the iron work of the railings and gates, a good starting point to engage hungry minds. Mount teide loomed up above on the horizon, and what better place to observe the volcanic peak when the winter weather adds a white cloak of snow.

The mirador is free to enter and worth a visit, even in its current bare bones form. The sculpture of the great man with his stone journals at his side, is a wonderful work by Lilia Martin. Evolution was the key to Humboldts teachings, lets hope that the Mirador can learn that lesson.

 

 

Fonsalia And Alcala With A Pinch Of Salt

As the island of La Palma shimmered in the distance, it was all systems go for a coastal walk from Playa San Juan to Alcala in Tenerife´s west coast municipality of Guia De Isora. There were plenty of hints at choices to come from a small excercise park, to the anglers and rock pool explorers getting up close to nature. The well defined entry to the short walk had added a few new tweaks since I had last plodded forth.

A petanca court, and even a pet park offered distractions but the sea had an over whelming armoury  of counter claims. Rock cathedrals and foamy breakers with their soundtrack roar from the drag of pebbles had the most refrshing options. The stately march of palm trees lay ahead until a three option decision came just before the modern desalination plant. A new smooth elevated path, some old steps down and a scramble at the seas edge, or an inland detour through Fonsalia. The detour is worth taking, the small hamlet has just one main street but it has a strong sense of style, from the chair outside La Barrera bar-restaurant to the decorative house front diagonally opposite, and the small but sturdy Ermita Santa Lucia.

Threading back between the banana plantations to the coast, I had a pleasant encounter with a fallen pardela chick. A member of the SEO Sealife charity was overlooking the completion of its journey from mountain top egg to its natural Atlantic home. The helper said around 1,200 of the duck like birds had fallen on Tenerife this hatching season, confused by artificial lights and neon signs. Perched on a ledge, overlooking the sea, its instincts kicked in and a waddle and shakey take off soon turned into a controlled glide onto the waves. It would be unlikely to touch land again for at leadt four years. It was an inspiring sight and made my day.

As coves unfolded ahead of me, I could see the distant cliffs of Los Gigantes as Alcala loomed near. The long stone stairways down to the collection of shingle beaches where rocks reached out into the sea were a favourite sight from my days based in Alcala when working for The Western Sun newspaper. The compact Plaza del Llano was sedate and welcoming, and the bars cheap and cheery.  It´s not all mellow and traditional in Alcala these days, The new 1.9 million euro church was nearing completion, and its peaks peaked up above the edges of the plaza. Prince Charles may have been moved to call it a “concrete carbunkle” hopefully once open it will find some character to fit in with the old west coast ways.

Beacons Of Hope In Abades And Arico

A sinister figure lurked in the doorway of the former leper colony site in Abades on the east coast of Tenerife. Phew, it was just a cheeky minion.

Space age wind turbines added their contradictions to the landscape, and a stark prefab church pitched in its own contribution to the myths and enchantment that surround a series of enticing beaches. The sprawling colony of nearly 30 part built structures was begun in 1943 on the orders of General Franco, he took his first steps to national power from a posting as military governer of the Canary Islands. The grand scheme was never completed as leprosy was wiped out before the work could be completed.

The first time I visited, I was a little in awe of the concrete graveyard, but this time I had a feeling of hope. Leprosy had been a world scourge since biblical times, if it could be tamed then surely Covid could also be banished to the history books. The graffiti daubed on the buildings seemed to mock the demise of leprosy. In 2002 Italian investors were said to have bought the entire site, security patrol notices, and well tyre tracked paths explained why the only recent invaders had been phantom painters but no goose bump seekers, film crews, or  campers.

The people of Abades clearly enjoy their dark sand bays down below. There´s a thriving diving scene and some nice bars and eateries in the sea facing plaza. A new commercial age is about to dawn. The Navaria Beach apartment and villa development was nearing completion near the shoreline. With white, two story buildings, it blended in nicely with the colour scheme of the well established houses without spoiling the skyline.

Heading back down to the coastal path, I was soon down and up the other side of a small craggy bay and got a glimpse of the Punta de Abona lighthouse. A classic Tenerife combination of tall candy striped 1978 original with a squat sidekick for remote operating. There are seven “faros” around the coast of the biggest Canary Island, “bagging” is the term used by enthusiasts who get up close with a new recruit to the farologists haul.

 

The municipality of Villa de Arico is one of the smallest in Tenerife but ambitious plans could soon propel them into the big league of tourism. In January 2020 a big new resort scheme was unveiled, including a new sandy beach, four hotels,3,000 beds, and 1,550 jobs. The intervention of Covid may well selay or even scupper the project completely.

As a fine drizzle swept in off the sea, I enjoyed the uninterrupted coastal walk views round to Arico Nuevo, and the steep climb to the Titsa bus stop at Poris. The fishing boat looking down on the TF! motorway seemed to underline the constant dilema of commercial progress versus unspoilt nature.