Archive for the 'Exploring' Category
Tenerife Tides And Peaks Through Anaga Rural Park

Was the ground dropping away or the mountains standing to attention? Both observations were true as the Titsa bus weaved and picked its way through Anaga in the north east pan handle of Tenerife. The occaisional blast of the bus horn pre warned oncoming traffic on the tight bends. Far behind, a cleft in the rocks showed freighters and cruise liners moored off Las Teresitas beach.

A delicate balance of fully laden trees and wedges of sloping man made terraces, added to the breath taking views that kept on coming in an hours journey from the bustling capital of Santa Cruz. How untouched by time the little hamlets and isolated houses looked. A cluster of post boxes on the lip of a plunging path was at least a small concession to the local delivery man. Secluded picnic areas and signposts to walking routes were evidence of the rise in rural tourism. The dominant peak of Roque de las Animas looked down on Taganana as the bus squeezed through the slimmest of hairpins.

It was barely 5 kms to the coastal destination but three mature ladies hurried to head us off with pre paid multi ride tickets and big broad smiles spilling out from behind their anti Covid masks. The vibrant sea seized the spotlight as we hit the coast road and young surfers piled off and retrieved their boards from the storage belly of the bus. Playa de Almaciga was busy but well below the previous heatwave weekend that saw the solo entrance road  gridlocked. The bus passed the gnarled Roque de Las Bodegas and turned up to the village of Almaciga perched on its crows nest position.

The last wave of passengers headed down the steep path to the wild sweep of beach heading to Benijo. It was very informal there, parking spots and makeshift picnics were the order of the day and back stopped the rolling waves. Back at Roque de Las Bodegas, rods and lines tried their luck from the well maintained path that skirts the rock itself. It´s a well worn tradition, fishing boats dried out near the shore. The sea was a minefield, of further jagged rocks piercing the water. Taganana wine used to be floated out in barrels for passing galleons to pick up. It must have been a supreme juggling act, as the afternoon wore on, the tides became more insistent and crashed their arrival in no uncertain terms.

Anaga is an inspiring area to visit, the few still functioning cafes and bars were doing a steady trade as the mid 30 centigrade heatwas softened by the spray of the sea. The return trip was shaved of 15 minutes from its hour expectation. The 946 and 947 buses leave each end og the journey at quarter past the hour, with the 6.15 pm the final chance to head back to the capital (check seasonal variations) and another opportunity to marvel at the amazing land that you have travelled through.

La Orotava – No Welcome Carpet Rwquired.

Worthy of more than just an annual visit to the Corpus Christi flower carpets, some healthy leg stretching was needed to explore the uncluttered streets of La Orotava. I arrived via a short hop Titsa bus from Los Realejos, eyeballed by an artistic mural proclaiming the virtues of the region. I headed up into the historic quarter where spires compete for  skyline supremecy.

 

Plaza de La Constitution offered shade and cold drinks while the three bell tower of San Sgustin church delivered a jackpot for architecture fans. The joy of non shuffling movement and time to gaze out over the La Orotava valley was worth savouring. It seems to be a sin in this charming town for buildings to be just ordinary. Even the less cared for barns and out houses had a rough diamond quality. The 2020 version of Corpus Christi was a vastly trimmed and mainly indoor concern but even naked, the Ayuntamiento (council) plaza demanded respect and admiration.

 

Don´t get the idea that La Orotava is only about food and drink for the soul. Passing up from the bus station, there´s a steady concentration of smaller bars and cafes on the left turn as the road rises to the football ground. It´s always offered ample refreshment before the almost annual pre season visit of CD Tenerife. The right fork offers more substantial fare backed with grand designs with intricate detail from top to toe. Casa de Las Balcones is a prime example of classic lines and traditional local Canarian wines and food. Plaza del San Franciscois a more under stated green area proving that simplicity is also an art form.

Museums offer glimpses into the workings of the past but be aware that several close in the afternoon. Whichever way you turn, it´s likely you will be drawn back to the magnificent Iglesia de La Concepcion. A short queue is a small price to pay for an inside view to compliment  the neck back gaze up at the dome and tower. La Orotava is packed with plazas and green spaces to relax and soak up the serenity, or if you have plenty of time. take a  long loop around the outer reaches of town with church bells as the soundtrack to your stroll. The carpets will return, but it´s always a good time to make a visit.

La Laguna Brings The Universe Down To Earth

How could I mislay  Earth so soon after my descent into the Museum of Science & The Cosmos? Jupiter and Saturn loomed large above me but it took a full minutes scan to see my pea sized world dangling and dwarfed light years away.

Myth busting, eye opening, and full of eureka moments, myself and two other visitors enjoyed a free guided tour of a selection of over 40 exhibits in the university city of La Laguna in Tenerife. The spread of knowledge was temporarily limited by the Covid virus but interaction and hands on discovery were still the key. An eager cleaner followed in our wake to buff up outer space portals, helium balloons, and revealing light shows.

Discovery, explanation, and even naming of heavenly objects, owes much to scientist Charles Piazza Smyth, Italy born but educated in Edinburgh on the way to becoming Astronomer Royal for Scotland. Pioneering star gazing in Tenerife in 1856, his legacy can be seen in the museum in features on the La Palma and Tenerife based telescopes. Meteor and weather phenomenon were all given their stage in the building, and a step in booth gave a close encounter with a tornado. Light spectrums picked out our body heat at close range, and I even managed to lift a mini car – with help from Archimedes.

Up on the roof plaza, a telescope, a stone solar calendar, and a huge satellite dish were awaiting the resumption of school parties and night gazing sessions. It´s a busy high tech point on the island, with the Santa Cruz -La Laguna trams stopping outside, and planes swooping to land at Tenerife north airport.

When our own world returns to a less crazy spin, the small entrance fees (5 euros for non residents) will also return for over 100 people at a time, along with extended time slots to explore the wonders of the museum. Check out the website to exploit the current free tours, and to get more information in a choice of languages, and you too can get a grip on the cosmos.

 

Life Is looking Up In Los Realejos Alto

Chugging steadily through a roadwork bottle neck at La Zamora, my Titsa bus from Puerto de la Cruz was full of happy faces. Given the stiffling combination of Tenerife heat alert and anti Covid masks, a few frowns could have been expected. Breaking the 20 minute journey at La Montañeta, to admire a very distinctive church, had already given me a glimpse of a hard working but upbeat commmunity.

It was not just that friday feeling, the tightly coiled heart of Los Realejos Alto was busy and packed plenty into the steep labyrinth of shops, bars, and cafes. It was quite a contrast to the stretch of neglected commerce around Playa de Los Roques a month earlier. Civic pride was well covered, the two most famous sons were immortalised by the modern hand of Matias Mata (AKA Sabotaje Al Montaje). Antonio Gonzalez Gonzalez, an award winning chemist, and Jose Antonio de Viera de Clavijo, historian, priest, and naturalist shone their smiles (right to left) down at a key corner of the inner town.

 

It wasn´t all about the formal and famous, Matias Matia gave a nod to the digital age, beaming down from on shoppers. The bubbling fountains of Fuente de los Remedios were another lovingly crafted, corner to catch my eye. The local traders were banging their drum to supprt  the towns business folk in these troubled times. Posters stressed the need  to visit your local shop keper, and taxi drivers were lending their support to 3 euros tapas and wine thursday promotion nighrs at 9 nearby establishments up to 17 September.

Piercing the skylinr, the tower of Matriz Santiago Apostol church was a memorable landmark. Even with part of its plaza being rebuilt, it couldn´t fail to impress. The Ayuntamiento (council) building was also defying the builders intrusion but a side step still offered rewarding views down into the barranco (ravine). Bucking the current trend to shout its name via a hideous silver spell out of its name, Los Realejos took the natural, green approach. So much more in fitting with this stylish part of the island.

 

Rambla De Castro Unlocks The Coast Of Los Realejos

Foaming and thrashing around a series of beautifully sculpted spits of rock, the north coast sea of Tenerife demands attention. Centuries of powerful waves had crafted the impressive bay of Playa de los Roques in Los Realejos. The beach was sealed as notices warned of possible rock falls, that didn´t deter solo fishermen from taking up precarious perches over this beach and further along the Rambla de Castro walk.

A short bus ride from Puerto de la Cruz station had dropped me in a good position to start the two hour walk looking down from the entrance path behind the blue and white  beacon of the Hotel Maritim. I realised I could have walked from El Burgado at the Loro Parque end of Puerto de la Cruz, the baseball stadium of the Marlins was a reliable indicator of my surroundings.

A steep, narrow track upwards through farming terraces led to a modern housing estate and a sharp right turn onto a pathway overlooking the sea. The opportunity to dip down and skirt along just above wave level was being taken by several groups of young walkers. The sheer scale and defiant nature of the isolated rocks told a tale of years of pounding to prise open clefts in the stacks.

The path looped down through a tight stone arch and round a narrow track that clung to the sturdy cliff. The apray from below added to the feeling of kinship with nature. Back up to the road level, helpful signs pointed onwards to the next interface of sea views. A couple of small streets around an old commercail centre allowed drivers some convenient parking before joining the route in mid flow. The next stage spread out in the distance as the cloudy sky and lush green cascade of plants gave evidence to the increased rain fall in this area. Low edging stones separated the route from the drop below, and wild birdscame and went into concealed caves.

Nearing the mirador of San Pedro, the circular viewing point stood out below just beyond a wooden bridge. History was etched into the Los Realejos coast, one of the most striking examples was the Gordejuela water pumping plant. Built in 1905, it housed the first steam engine to operate in Tenerife. Despite its exposure to the winds and waves of nature, people had been the worst causes of damage. Graffiti daubed over the walls and enlarged window frames gave it a spooky feel but the water pipes trailing up the steep hills showed that the building was made of sturdy stuff. Big waves continued to lick at the walls, not my idea of a remote playground, and the remotest type of urban art gallery.

A path leading up to the busy TF15 road and bus routes was closed off but just a short back track to the commercial centre and an upward stride connected me with  Los Realejos bajo and the bus I was seeking. Los Realejos is a deep xlice into the north of Tenerife with the churches and ravines of Los Realejos Alto well worth a look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full Steam Ahead To The Industrial Age Of Santa Cruz

Even without the rolling bug eyes and Ringo Starr voice over, my memory was side tracked to thoughts of Thomas The Tank Engine. Half way between Playa de Las Teresitas and Santa Cruz, a 1924 green steam locomotive from Cassel, Germany set my mind chugging near the old ports area of the Tenerife capital.

Within five minutes of walking on, a blue 1920 steam crane from Bedford, England (Grafton & Co built) pulled me up. Both machines played a part in the construction and running of the diverse and busy Santa Cruz port that now has big unused gaps waiting to be redeveloped.

Even at the San Andres end of the coast, I had already seen references to maritime history and Horatio Nelson´s failed attack on Tenerife on 25 July 1797. The defeat of the UK icon was in part due to the warning issued by an unknown local lady who spottted the British fleet as she walked to market. Nelson lost his right arm but was treated with respect and honour and his name and image feature prominently around Santa Cruz.

 

Back to the present and my stroll from San Andres to Santa Cruz, Oil rigs have become regular callers for repairs in recent years, The west Eminence, and West Jupiter from Panama were settled just off shore. Further along, the propeller blade  from the Spanish war ship Crucero Canarias, was donated  to the city of Santa Cruz in 198o and stands proudly outside the entrance to the old jet foil station.

On this baking hot July day, young bathers were flocking to any available swimming spot in the Valleseco area. A big new sandy beach has been promised  to replace the run down stretch. Plans have sparked a debate over lost history and jobs, The CIDEMAT water sports centre is in the firing line for privatisation with 15 workers facing anxious times. Updating a big city is always a tricky call. The work on Plaza de España and the opening up of Santa Cruz to the sea front has been long drawn out but very rewarding, especially the way the past has been honoured.

The walk from San Andres offered up some fine examples of classic past work, such as the sculpted sign on the old Ministry of Work and Immigration, and a strip of classic balconied houses with  distinct pink walls. Change is inevitable but hopefully the next  batch of modernising will remember those small touches that catch the eye and tweak the sense of pride.

Las Teresitas, Where Santa Cruz Goes To Play

Even cruise liners rubbing shoulders with fishing boats, and a multi coloured meccano bridge,  couldn´t compete with Playa de Las Teresitas beach, just north of Tenerife capital, Santa Cruz. Eyes are drawn to the majestic spread of orange sand that gives way to turquoise and blue bands of sea becalmed by a long concrete side arm, and a knobbly ridged dyke peeping out of the water.

Who cares if its a fashion mix that could hint of a teenager on a first date. It works wonderfully and recent upgrades have banished the ramshackle economic shadow of a botched commercial development. Stylish blue and white changing huts and gastro club food bars back stop the beach as lycra wrapped cyclists whizz by below the imposing cliff face. Fishing village San Andres clings to the mountain side at the southern end, and from the far end, the ferry port of Santa Cruz is visible on the horizon.

The gently shelving beach makes it a family favourite and a wonderous discovery to those venturing up from the southern beach resorts, adding about 20 minutes to the motorway journey.The regimented clusters of the tall lean pine trees offer shade, and showers and spacious and abundant along the rear of the beach. Peace of mind is under lock and key with several banks of lockers to save swimming from constant backward scanning of the sand.

The squeezing  out of the long established fishing sector to a remote corner is a bone of contention. This important part of local culture, and the crumbled remains of the San Andres defensive tower will probably not be noticed by many visitors, and that´s a missed opportunity. Las Teresitas lures big chunks of the Santa Cruz population across, it is so visually pleasing and offers space for all to stretch out.

For cooling down back in Santa Cruz, there´s always the outdoor Parque Maritimo pool complex, next to the hook nosed auditorium. Open daily from 10 am to 7 pm, it has a selection of pools and chill out areas plus snack and drink outlets. Prices start from five euros per day but they have lots of deals for groups and regular users.

Puerto De La Cruz Is Aching For Awakening

From La Paz mirador I could see a scattering of bathers relaxing to the slow crunching drag of pebbles at Playa Martianez. All around the coast of Puerto de la Cruz people were easing into the sea fom every launch point. Lago Martianez bucked that trend, the spray of the big fountain, the only active part as the large swimming complex awaited its re-opening on 26 June.

The statue of two old time tourists at La Paz was a reminder that the north of Tenerife was a magnet for tourists long before the first package tours hit Playa de Las Americas. The town of Puerto de la Cruz was its usual alluring mix of sprawling shadey plazas, tight streets loaded with cosy cafes and bars, and artistic flair taking a bow where least expected.

The core of Puerto de la Cruz was quiet, chomping at the bit for the return of tourism in the post Coronavirus normality. In historical terms, Puerto was taking a moment to adjust and move on. The canon strewn battlements above Plaza de Europa spoke of stability, and the compact fishing port beyond championed pride in tradition. Further on the vast sweep of Playa Jardin would have been preparing stacked bonfires to mark the Night of San Juan, a symbol of rebirth and renewal.  The loss of one fiesta will be compensated by street entertainment featuring clowns, art, and music during the coming year.

If your into street art, you´ll find some fine examples diverting your gaze as you browse the intersecting streets that seem to always funnel you back to he sea. Some urban redevelopment plans have dragged their feet, so it was good to catch up with the new neat and compact bus station next to the site of the rickety old dungeaon. I have to admit I liked the way the old home used to shudder as buses plunged down the entrance ramp. Down by Playa Jardin, the outdoor swimming pool has been empty and covered in graffiti since 2015, but a new 11.8 million euro plan  has just been published for a replacement with a 2022 completion.

Agatha Christie, a famous past visitor to Puerto, was a mistress of twists and turns but even she could not have forseen the trials and tribulations that would hit the world in 2020. Puerto de la Cruz is a surviver and always offers new delights for returning visitors. A new chapter is about to begin.

 

Spreading The Praise To Las Caletillas

Twelve beaches spread from Las Caletillas to Candelaria, the spirital heart of Tenerife. It´s a mixed bag of small shingle bays, modern excercise zones, and charming designer bathing areas. Candelaria has the history, the stunning basilica church, and the nine Mencey King statues depicting the leaders of the original guanche inhabitants of the island, The old power plant below the TF! motorway approach to Santa Cruz is prominent on the skyline and tends to prejudice peoples impression of Las Caletillas.

Less than five minutes down the motorway slip road, the four star Hotel Catalonia Punta del Rey shows a more inviting face. Just five more minutes walk and the modern pastel shade houses and pedestrian boardwalk are ready to offer surprises. Joggers and cyclists love it and the cleverley laid out  beach outcrops are broken into chunks of charm. Full marks for offering a little extra to beach lovers in the form of a converted mooring point that now serves as a sun lounge with a bridge link to it.

The commercial strip has 29 shops, bars, and cafes. The biggest of the bunch is the Cofradia de Las Caletillas, offering nets full of local fish dishes. A short cut inland will reveal the Commercial Centre Punta Larga, bustling with a spread of food and drink outlets. There was a light touch at work when the Las Caletillas promenade was designed. The sculptured tree and the artistic fish confrontation add to the mood. Once on the edge of the old town of Candelaria, the church rower will lure you across. Blink and you mat miss the two small marinas.

Playa de Candelaria is sometimes sealed off as big waves bark at the feet of the guanche statues in the plaza. Small side roads boast cheery food stops and if you want a souvenir, the main street to the basilica plaza will fix you up with the most wide ranging and at times bizarre items decorated with images of the virgen or her basilica home.

There´s something for everyone on this part of the high east coast. Tourist Information near the main Candelaria car park will load you up with guides to local walks along the coast and up into the surrounding hills. If you want busier and more mainstream nightlife or shopping, your only a 20 minute taxi or bus ride from the Tenerife capital city of Santa Ctuz. Your blessed on all fronts.

 

Corks A Popping In El Sauzal

Perched on the lip of the valley, terraces tumble down to the rocky coast. With the hint of moisture in the air, the Casa del Vino (House Of Wine) in El Sauzal boasts a vintage and character to reflect Tenerife´s long  history of fine wines. The courtyard on the La Baranda estate, between La Laguna and Puerto de la Cruz is dominated by a huge wooden wine press and scattered barrels.

A tour through the rooms revealed the origins and diversity of wine on the island with each growing area hugely proud of their distinctive flavour. The shelves groaned with bottled bliss, and the shop and tasting room were ready to encourage carry outs of a superior kind, The large outdoor patio is a great place to observe the views and enjoy a restaurant meal with the appropriate liquid company.

Just beyond the wine gardens, a smaller museum, Casa de La Miel /(The House) Of Honey9 paid homage to the prolific output of nature. Just imagine honey with hints of avocado, chestnuts, or the iconic local tajinaste flower. The twin centre is well worth seeking out, my visit was during the coronavirus restriction hours of 10 am to 5 pm, normally it´s noon to 9 pm, but always closed on a Monday. Entry is a mere 3 euros or free for residents, and free parking attached.

 

Don´t hurry home to click glasses, plunge down to the coast and experience the serene nature of the town of El Sauzal. Town halls are seldom just functional in Tenerife, the multi layered facade of El Sauzal´s HQ is modern ans stylish – they even have their own Drago Tree. I had been looking forward to seeing the latest wood sculpture from Luigi Stinga, originally from Napoli but settled in La Laguna. The italians flair and imagination knows no bounds, his peacock was draped down the main steps, at home among the green curtain of surrounding plants.

A short walk up the coast offered a church that showed how basic black and white stone could also make a big impression on the eyes. Along the other direction a nice selection of bars and cafes awaited, lycra clad cyclists were glad of a breather after testing themselves on the big dipper roads. For me it was a good point from which to look out for the La Laguna bus. My glass was running over when I spotted another Stinga figure striding out with a basket on her head.

It had been a good few years since my last call at El Sauzal, it was noticeable that a lot of new development had taken place but it enhanced the overall bright and well looked after outlook of the place. The wine museum is best accessed from the motorway but if you approach from the town, a stout uphill walk will take around 20 minutes.