Archive for the 'Exploring' Category
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.

 

 

North Tenerife Plays To The Gallery

Being away from Tenerife can leave a big hole in your life. Just ask “El Emigrante Canario”  looking out to sea from Garachico. he was one of several welcome artistic intrusions on my latest day out. Los Cristianos to Adeje bus station was a mere blink before catching the 460 Titsa bus to Icod.

Banks of cloud came and went with the rise, and short lived falls from the increasing altitude as i passed through Guia de Isora, and Santiago del Teide. It was reassuring to see the Titsa mini bus waiting at Santiago to offer a transfer to Masca village, but sadly not to the barranco valley, still a long term safety closure. Icod welcomed me with its corkscrew road down the main town so i could make my obligatory nod to the Drago tree from the church plaza. I was distracted by the amusing sight of the gargoyles on the plant bowls, they seemed to be sniggering as they cut across the beauty of the church tower and the lilac trees.

The main shopping street of icod was ticking over nicely, its relaxed, informal feel boosted by the tight winding bricked street. Those seeking refreshment spilled over below the stairs of the town hall, and upstairs love was in the square. The Arbol Amor (Love Tree) by wood artist Luis Stinga was still posing proudly from its arrival in november 2019 and I was looking forward to seeing his latest offering in a few days time.

The coast was calling and a short  hop down and along the coast to Los Silos rewarded me with a walk around the inside of the former monastry. Its balconies were now home to the council, its culture, and the library. Outside the gleaming white facade of the church dedicated to Our Lady Of The Light, domated the skyline. It was a quiet afternooh with many fleeing to the cool embrace of the beach and natural pools. Small groups of hill walkers cascaded down  from the lofty heights above, the coast is a popular area for those looking to take a step or two.

Retreating back a few bus stops.I came at Garachico from the opposite direction to previous trips. The mirador viewpoint with our baggage hanfling stone friend  looked across several deeply sunk rocky bays that lured anglers. The old port promised more tight lines while the bay of Playa de la muelle basked in its newly gained honour of a blue flag for excellence and quality. This was one of seven new flag awards bestowed on the Canary Islands to increase the island stock to 56. Life guards ensured it observed social distancing and safety without spoiling a good swim.

The natural rock pools of the Piscinas de El Caleton were off limits, repair work for the latest bug pounding by waves in 2018 will keep them that way a while longer but El muelle will at least be able to absorb the blow a little. The old fort stood proud and the veteran quayside was happy in its modern use as a gathering point for fishermen and view admireres. Adverse weather has helped to shape and define this corner of Tenerife. Lots of power has  been a challenge but always followed by lots of glory.

 

Past Future And Present Push Santa Cruz Forward

Cleanse your memory of forced museum visits in your school days. Times have changed and Tenerife capital Santa Cruz is a prime example of this. The Museum of Nature and Arqueology (MUNA) fitted the bill perfectly for the first of my months unlimited travel, residents pass,journey with Titsa bus company. The chance to rediscover some old favourites, neglected corners, and overlooked attractions suited the mood of the steady recovery from the Coronavirus lockdown. Phase Two was just about to dilute into the wider freedom of Phase Three across Spain and I´m keen to put Tenerife firmly back in the tourist window. The museums were offering free entry to their Santa Cruz and La Laguna buildings on a daily basis from 10 am to 5 pm until normality returned.

The three floors of the bright, modern layout before me, covered the birth and evolution of our planet and the Canary Islands in particular.  From minerals and rocks, through plants, animals, and natures volatile interventions, it was all in my face on large video screens, many interactive, and in a choice of Spanish, English, or German.They really pack a lot in to the building, the display halls were a treasure trove of interest and all a far cry from the stuffy presentations of my youth. The most famous exhibits are the mummified remains of the Guanche people, the original inhabitants of Tenerife, The foot in this photo is just a tease, the preserved skeletons are both stunning and shocking and best seen for yourself. Updates of all the museums are on the website along with normal times and charges.

Outside, Santa Cruz wasn´t standing still. The Auditorium had recently played a part in the filming of an advert for the new Porsche 911 Targa 45. A short splash away, the Floatel Reliance, a moveable hotel serving the oil exploration rihs, had just made its own showbiz bow. The long term upgrade of the giant worked out just right for its large kitchen galley to host filming for the new HBO series “The Head” which debuts on 12 June 2020. The Antarctic based mystery series will be shown in 30 countries, the Canary Islands are really striking oil these days as a location for film and TV projects.

Up in town, the La Recova market was buzzing and coping well with the social distancing restrictions. They have a keen sense of history and are restoring the original clock mechanism for the tower which has stood proud since the centre opened in 1943, I might as well name drop and tell you that La Recova was used for the final of BBC Masterchef a couple of years ago. Santa Cruz and La Laguna have an impressive quick link tram, it only seems a blink ago when I first discovered its sleek journeys but this last week it was celebrating 13 years of smooth running.

Down in the port, the Aida Nova cruise ship smiled sweetly, pleased to have found a temporary berth until the worlds ebb and flow regained some stability. Time for me to check my maps and time tables and to relish the prospect of my next excursions.

 

 

 

Chasing The Chocolate Nativity

Just suppose Mount Teide erupted chocolate all over Tenerife, what a yummy time we would have, and at least the UK tabloids would have to be a bit more inventive with their headlines. It was just a thought that made the lonely journey through my empty head as I admired the chocolate belen (nativity scene) in San Miguel. There were plenty of other festive treats to pack in on a pre Christmas day out on the Titsa bus.

Water, and energy bars were more likely on the menu of the lycra clad cyclists that tested themselves up the steep incline above Valle San Lorenzo as the 416 Los Cristianos bus took me high above Arona and past the Ceninela mirador against the backdrop of clear blue skies. Getting off at the entrance to San Miguel I could feel a crisp chill as I started to snap the roadside decorations that always brighten up the town. Chocolate was top of my list so I took the turn down past the eye catching blue and white Ayuntamiento (council) building just above the El Ajibe exhibition hall. Quite a star in its own right, the hall is an old water tank converted to show off arts and crafts.

What a feast awaited my eyes, a mix of traditional Christmas items such as angels, with the San Miguel influence of the church that dominates the local skyline, and even a couple of trains. Two members of staff were choo chooing and generally regressing to their youth and I felt much the same way. A lot of work had gone into making the display but if I had been holding a cup of tea I might not have been able to resist a snack attack. The exhibition is free and open from 9am to 2pm on week days, excluding holidays, until 6 January. On the way back up to the main street I took a moment to admire the cascading monument to one of the founding fathers of San Miguel in the Plaza de Agricultor. Each year San Miguel encourages local groups to decorate the streets with eye catching yuletide creations, it all added to my jolly mood.

Of course I couldn´t move on without visiting a few other key places, starting with the Casa de El Capitan, an imposing building from 1814 dedicated to the traditional pottery made in the area. The church plaza also drew me in, partly for the great views of El Medano and the coast below, but mainly for the style and grace of the church itself. Hopping on the next 416 bus I completed my journey to Granadilla, a little higher up. They were going for a more modest intrusion of Christmas but the natural beauty of the quiet streets and another equally grand church were good rewards for my short leg of the trip. It´s good walking country in this part of Tenerife, I have pounded a few paths but there´s still plenty to add to y tick list.

Even without stop offs, the 416 is a very enjoyable journey. Just an hour direct between Los Cristianos and Granadilla, the fares are very cheap using a Ten Mas pre paid card. My broken journey on the way up, and the straight return trip only totalled 4.70 euros. It was a very sweet day and a further incentive to get out and about even more in 2020.

Playa Paraiso Rocks To A Differnt Tune

Pocket size beach cove, Las Galgas, was secluded and sparsely used as I came around the coastal path from Callao Salvaje into Playa Paraiso. The second stage of my Tenerife west coast visit was set on a gift wrapped present of a December day and I had a lot of catching up to do. The twin stacks of the Hard Rock Hotel were new on my last visit three years ago and things were beginning to change in the overlooked and neglected area.

JCB diggers were carving out new channels from the barranco at the rear but those few dipping into the sea were greeted with gentle waves. Below the coastal walk between the two resorts, the isolated outcrops of rock looked inviting but potentially dangerous. Taking the steep walk down and back up the other side of Las Galgas I was soon on the modern pedestrian promenade, wide, clean, and a pleasant place to stroll. Warnings signs at the access points to rock pools are frequently ignored but a little further renovated steps down from the main road led to the small dark sand that backs onto the imported orange sand of the Hard Rock Hotel swimming pool complex.. It had been in a sorry state for years but its now its buzzing with music, cocktails, and a bridge linking it directly to the hotel. It is also open to non hotel paying visitors.

The horizon is now dominated by modern hotels, the huge three stage H10 Atlantic Sunset gleamed in the sun,the loop of land it sits on used to be a bit of a dumping ground and a magnet for auto caravans at fiesta and holiday times. The influence of the new posher neighbours can be felt all through Playa Paraiso, Punta Paraiso is now home to Roja Negra beach bar, and walking up into the main street outside Hard Rock Hotel, most bars and restaurants were either boasting new looks and names, or up for sale and rent.  I´m guessing that rents have increased with the makeover, it´s a shame for the old bars that kept the flag flying when Paraiso was less fashionable but there were noticeably more people sat outside enjoying food and drink. There´s even a rock supermarket, those groceries have a lot to live up to – maybe Prefab Sprout would be appropriate! The rebirth continues, the Roca Mar complex, by the Adrian Hoteles Roca Navaria, is a white elephant that never got any tenants, a team were busy coating it with new aluminium panels ready for an expected influx of new shops.

One of the biggest changes has come at the old abandoned apartment building at the lower entry to Playa Paraiso. It had been part built and left as a rusting, crumbling wreck for decades but is now a gleaming white private apartment block and soon to be home for the Expo Vida project. Originally Expo Vida was promoted as a health theme park to emerge from the wreckage of the old Sky Park in Torviscas, but judging by the lack of progress on the other site, it seems to have a new scaled down home. The building frontage is very striking with dynamic, thrusting statues, I love the humour as in the figure propping up one of the main walls.

As I was in the area, I had to check out the newly opened CC Rosa Center shopping complex part way up the main road out of the resort. This one is a bit of a clone of Parque Santiago 6 and the three layers only have 35 units, many were not yet open. Pretty standard fare, Hiperdino, Burger King, a couple of coffee shops, Springfield, and a large Stradivarius transported from the centre of Los Cristianos. The large top floor terrace will be a nice place to enjoy food, drink, and views, once the other units open, and the flowers and plants will look better once they have grown out of their perfect just planted shapes. In general it´s a bit bland, too many straight lines, and the outside gates reminded me of the old football ground turnstiles. Music was a big theme of my day, it was flowing out from Hard Rock Hotel and H10 and there was muzak hanging in the air at Rosa. when I used the toilets I had Aretha Franklin for company, a bit off putting. Don´t let this cynical old git put you off, go and check these places out for yourself, it´s good to explore.

 

Fall Back On Nature At Callao Salvaje Beach

Like the ebb and flow of the sparkling sea, Playa Ajabo at Callao Salvaje on the west coast of Tenerife, is used to change. For many years a sandy makeover of the rough pebble beach was promised and was delivered in July 2013. My first visit for three years coincided with the removal of the damaged sunbeds, but there was still a good spread of people enjoying the gorgeous December sun, and dipping in the refreshing waters.

My hour journey from Los Cristianos on the 473 Titsa bus put me in a chipper mood, the council workrs of several municipalities were busy planting festive poinsettias and adding Christmas decorations along the route. Hopping off early at the top of the main road into Callao Salvaje, gave me the chance to savour the clear views of the sea with the island of La Gomera clear in the distance. It also allowed me to check out the distinctive community  church in the Plaza da la Mujer Trabajadora (the working woman). Home to catholic and Russian orthodox services, it´s still an infant at barely 10 years old. The shelf overlooking the sea at the bottom of the road is always a great spot to savour the sea view.

 

After hearing tales of turbulent times at the beach, my first view showed a more basic layout than my last call. When it opened after the big makeover, the sun shades had call buzzers that summoned waiters from the café restaurant up above. Sadly it was closed a couple of years ago and a gradual decline has followed below. The arm of the quay never did take on small boats and fishing as it was intended but was proving popular as a launch point for swimmers  and a sun bathing spot. With the loss of the food and drink outlet, the sunbeds were also abandoned until recently unscrupulous chancers were trying to illegally charge sun bathers for using the abandoned rests. The beds were then chained to the shades and most were broken and unusable, but a crew of staff and a pick up truck was loading them to take away.

The sea can be wild at Playa Ajabo, the high sided rocky surrounds are held in check by metal mesh and a barranco (ravine) gulley channels rain down either side of the beach. It´s all part of the rugged charm of this area, getting the balance right is a challenge but one that has been managed pretty well. I like the way the makeover left a large protruding rock cluster on the middle of the beach, like a defiant gesture from nature. The coastal path has been improved and makes a bracing walk to link up with Playa Paraiso. The rock formations and swirls of the incoming tides sooth the mind and the modern concrete bridge over the small barranco removes the scrabble down and up to the other side. There was clearly a sense of local pride, an ashtray tree waved a flag for conservation and protection. The dwindling cap of snow on Mount Teide added another attraction to enjoying the day.

Even if the restaurant doesn´t get a re-birth in the near future, the beach will still attract plenty of people. The walkways down to the sand from each side make access easier and there were a few takers for the rock steps further round beyond the outstretched quay. It was time for me to push on and see what was happening just up the coast at Playa Paraiso, more of that soon.