Archive for the 'Life' Category
A Tip Of The Hats To Virgen Del Carmen

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

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

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

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

 

Whistles And Bicycle Bells In La Gomera

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Roque Fills the Garachico Streets With Joy

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

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

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

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

 

Greenpeace See Red Over Canarian Eco Sins

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

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

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

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

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

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

Santa Cruz Likes Water Off A Ducks Back

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

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

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

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

Memories Pour Forth At Alcala Craft Beer Festival

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Learn To Love Mount Teide

Like the first cuckoo of spring, the UK tabloids have rehashed their annual story about a mega eruption threatening Tenerife, and throwing the people into a state of panic. Sadly their scientific knowledge is so poor, they probably think that Mount Teide and the eruptions is a 60’s soul band. Having lived here for 17 years, I have witnessed these scare mongering tales before, 2009 was a particularly fertile year for rumours as it was 100 years since the last eruption just above Chinyero. The current reality is we are not even on the lowest stage of alert, the flurry of small seismic tremors in the underwater trench between Tenerife and Gran Canaria is nothing new.

The volcanic nature of Tenerife make it a fascinating place to explore, there are plenty of ways to enjoy learning about what makes the island tick. I recently made a return visit to the Santiago del Teide visitors centre at the lower end of the road into the town, to see their free exhibition about that famous last eruption and the range of volcanic outlets around the island. There was six months of growing rumbling before the vent in the side of Mount Teide erupted for ten days. It was of course a stressful time, especially with so many farming communities in the area, but no one was killed or even badly injured. Once the eruption stopped, enterprising locals even started running kart trips up to see the affected area. The flow of lava was heading for the village of Chinyero, the locals preyed and wheeled out the statue of the virgen to the edge of the church plaza, the lava halted just short. This perceived miracle is now celebrated every year. The visitors centre is open 9 am to 2 pm on week days.

The lava fields are easily accessed these days, I have enjoyed several walks across them, a choice of routes are shown on boards in the Santiago del Teide church plaza. My favourite is the almost circular route to Arguayo, this passes the cross and shrine at Chinyero and takes a marked path through the moon like lava flow. In early spring it becomes the almond blossom walk as the trees are laden down with fantastic pink and white cascades of blossom. Mount Teide is also very clear from this walk, an absolute beauty when winter rains give it a dazzling white gown of snow. The Santiago del Teide visitors centre has a separate section showing walking routes, and the tourist at the edge of the church plaza will also give you advice and maps.

The Tenerife government backed Volcano Teide programme offers various guided excursions with a volcanic flavour, from sunset and stars,to observatory visits, and walking routes in Teide National Park. These will give you a great insight into the volcanic history of Tenerife. If you want to really delve into how a volcano works, the Cueva del Viento just above Icod de Los Vinos, is an amazing place to visit. You can go down into a small section of underground lava tubes formed 27,000 years ago. In total, three layers of tubes cover 2.7 kms, the longest stretch in Europe. The tour is guided, complete with safety helmets fitted with lights, and before you set out, the visitors centre will explain about different types of volcanos around the world.

Tremors in and around the Canary Islands are a daily happening, mainly on the lowest end of the scale, and far from being a big secret, you can access technical information on past tremors and the most recent ones. A team of volcanic experts are based at ITER, the renewable energy centre on the coast of Granadilla, down by the wind turbimes. Sensors implanted in and around Mount Teide ensure it is fully monitored at all times, There is also an authority called Involcan, that monitors safety issues and updates evacuation plans in case of any happenings. All this expertise is reassuring and better still, previous seismic activity over thousands of years has created some incredible sights to visit. Teide is the peak of the interest but you will see smaller volcanic peaks every day as you tour around Tenerife. Enjoy.

 

Park Life And Port Life In Tenerife

Coos, croaks, and quacks, no not a strange firm of solicitors, just the sweet sounds of nature that welcomed me into the parks of La Laguna. It was a pleasant 21 degrees as I stepped off the tram after a 40 minute glide from Santa Cruz, Hesperides Cafe got its usual vist for my coffee and chocolate herradura, then I headed through Plaza del Cristo and onto the Parque La Constitution.

The ducks looked very subdued in their purpose built pond and duck house but managed a lazy few quacks for me. I could understand there laziness, the small park was beautiful and restful. Venturing back a few yards I entered the much bigger Parque La Vega and it was quietly bursting with sweet blooms, bird song, and the gentle croaks of frogs in the slow moving, meandering green stream. Both parks have a small cafe building, neither has been open since 2016 as the council can’t find any serious bidders to run them. What a shame, La Vega in particular, just begged for visitors to take a break with a cold drink and a cake. La Vega had informative boards showing the different type of wrinkly old croakers that lurked by the waters edge, and a bird guide showed the main feathered visitors.

The historic pedestrianised streets of La Laguna were much busier with tourists but still kept an attractive serenity. The trip back down to Santa Cruz reminded me of what a smooth and practical addition the tram had become in it’s first 10 years of operation. Getting off at Plaza Weyler it was just a short stroll to Parque Garcia Sanabria, another favourite of mine. The constant screech of green parakeets reminded me of their details on the board back in La Vega. Sadly Santa Cruz considers these foreign intruders (Kramer Cotorras) a menace as they destroy trees and shrubs, and wants some of the 300 in the capital humanely captured and returned to    There are many in the south as well, this pic was taken in Playa de Las Americas.

I had some time to kill before visiting the Vikings exhibition so adjourned to the port to see what the tide had brought in. No training ships this time but plenty of working ships and a very flash Cafe del Moar cruiser from Barcelona boat club. Even the functional ships like the   have a certain charm to them. The multi million euro business of refurbishing oil rigs ensures a few not so glamourous additions to the Santa Cruz skyline but the complete facelift to the port and Plaza de España has made the Tenerife capital a bright, modern city.

 

Saddle Up Here Come The Three Kings

It´s not every day that you see three kings riding camels, magical characters that have stepped out of the pages of story books, and dancers with more moves than any Saturday night reality show. But 5th January is not just every day, it´s 5th January, Reyes Eve, the day before Spanish christmas celebrations and towns and villages across Tenerife were pulling out all the stops.

After a sunny but blustery day, Los Cristianos was a little chilled down by the sea front, some camels were even thinking of wearing human skin coats. Crowds were bigger than ever this year as the anticipation built, I caught up with the floats at their gathering point at Las Vistas beach as final touches were added and costumes were slipped into. The 8pm arrival of the three kings from a boat around by the old quayside was as always optomistic, so it was nearly an hour later that the kings joined the long procession as it began it´s journey up the port road.

Ancient and modern entwined as Carnaval influenced exotic dancers overlapped with cartoon favourites from classic stories and recent Disney movies. A giant book of fairy tales proceeded rows of bunk beds on wheels, full of children ready to dip into the realms of dreamy make believe. The kings were quite far back but were the must see attraction, their arrival was heralded with showers of sweets that were clutched at by a forest of eager young, and not so young hands. Back in the UK the sweets would prpbably be banned as dangerous missiles but thankfully they fly freely for Reyes.

The reason for this celebration is to mark the arrival of the three kings, Gaspar, Melchor, and Baltasar, at the Bethlehem stable armed with gifts for the baby Jesus. The procession ended up at the cultural centre where the outside was transformed into a stable scene looked over by the kings on their thrones. Pre wrapped presents were then pulled from large containers for those lucky children whose parents had handed theirs over earlier, the 6th January is the main day to receive gifts.

As the camels dispersed to return to their luxury hotels, well they can dream, a burst of fireworks lit up the skies to signal the start for the present hungry children about to approach the thrones. It was a glorious evening with magic in the air, bars and restaurants were enjoying the huge boost to their trade and I hope the organisers and participants in the procession will have rewarded themselves with suitable drinks. Creative juices will soon be flowing again as Carnaval season looms in February and March, the party never stops!

 

Walk For Life Offers Hope And Friendship

Approaching the Siam Mall starting point, a mother and young daughter skipped along dressed in pink, I thought wouldn´t it be wonderful if the next generation didn´t have the spectre of breast cancer to worry about. That´s what drives Tenerife´s Walk For Life (carrera por la vida) now in its 13th year it has provided so much support and continues to grow.

Little annual tweaks to the route and presentation keep it fresh, the forecourt of Siam Mall was packed with people slipping into pink costumes and make up as rousing music and speeches from the stage pumped up the walkers. The skies looked a little threatening but they wouldn´t and didn´t dare to spoil the sunshine spilling out from 4, 500 eager entrants. With founder Brigitte Gypen leading from the front, the pink wave surged across the motorway bridge and down past the Magma Centre.

For many the walk was personal, breast cancer touches so many families and the will to prevent, treat, and defeat this disease grows stronger by the year. There were noticeably more men that ever on the walk, and as always the spread of nationalities and communities was as wide as the smiles of reunited friends from previous walks. It´s become a major event for Adeje and Arona, holiday makers streamed off the beaches to applaud and cheer as the walkers spread out into Avenida Las Americas. The drum bands were loud and strident and there was plenty of dancing as the clouds parted and the sun poured through.

You never know who you will find yourself next to on the walk, pink angels, decorated dogs, and towers of balloons all jostled for space. At times it was difficult to see where the procession started and ended, the distance was 4 kms but noone was counting their steps, the sheer enthusiasm swept everyone along. Walkers had loaded up with sponsors in the lead up to the day and spectators were generous in coming forward with change for the bucket collectors. As always I felt great pride as my fellow CD Tenerife fans in the Armada Sur added to their raffle and pink shirt funds with heavily laden buckets for a total of 1,673.07 euros.

There was a nice refreshing breeze as the finishing straight at Compostela Beach came closer, more music wafted out from the stage and balloons raced up to the sky as they were released from their netting. The organisation was spot on, bananas, biscuits, and energy drinks greeted the finishers and a whirl of dancing filled the street. Frantic counting and totting up revealed a new record of just over 20,000 euros raised, a magnificent effort by all. The good work goes on, The Pink Room in Adeje is one of the tangible results of the Walk For Life, somewhere to offer support, advice, and hope. Once again the Walk For Life was an uplifting, inspiring, and a pleasure to be involved in, Massive thanks to all involved – roll on next year.