Archive for the 'Life' Category
Welcome To The Jungle At Arona Carnaval

Like a modern day Tarzan, I´m going to swing in and defend the honour of the Cabalgata, the opening parade of the annual Arona Carnaval. Many visitors to the south of Tenerife ask when is the Los Cristianos Carnaval? meaning the Sunday Coso closing parade from the foot of Guaza Mountain to the city centre. Arona municipality covers part of Playa de Las Americas as well as Los Cristianos, so they like to spread the love by having the opening parade from Veronicas to the Oasis Commercial Centre just before Las Vistas beach. With this years jungle theme vaguely in mind, 2019 brought another wonderful evening of colour, music, and laughter.

Coaches spilled their cargo of eager, young revellers with mountains of latex suits, feathers, and make up, and as the sun set, the frantic army squeezed into their weird and wonderful costumes. The main difference to the closing parade is the Queen, plus senior and junior versions have not yet been elected, so the public get a clear view of the candidates in open top cars, long before they are encased in their extravagant royal costumes. There is also more of an end of term feel to the Coso with many strange regular characters from history and cartoons. But the Cabalgata certainly isn’t shy, they were chomping at the bit to strut their stuff, and everyone was decked out from head to toe.

The cool of the evening is a marked contrast to the heat of the Sunday afternoon closing event, just right for those clad in heavy outfits. Big respect to the leaders of the groups, make up needed applying, emergency repairs cropped up, and fitting their charges into their allocated staring slots required planning, precision, and the odd ciggie or beer. The gathering area is right next to a strip of bars, everyone wanted a photo with the glittering stars, and their requests were met with smiles and a snazzy pose. When the drum beats started to sound, the tempo picked up and the seemingly rag tag bands of marchers formed a seamless sea of joy.

The turn out this year along the route was as busy as ever. Hotel lobbies emptied onto the street, meals were put on hold as photos were snapped, and every vantage point was used to the full. The journey took a good 90 minutes, everyone wanted to see the mobile show, it was like lighting the blue touch paper on this years Carnaval. Hold on tight, it´s a jungle out there!

Chill Wind Blows Some Good Memories On Icy Oxford Visit

Like the snow that was heading across the UK, I drifted into Oxford for an overdue visit to my roots. It felt plenty cold enough as winters fingers poked and prodded me, but as well as catching up with family and friends, I managed to rub noses with some dark brooding ales, and take some short, bracing walks.

It was crisp and sunny when I wandered down the Oxford canal tow path from Hythe Bridge Street. The grass area was a popular summer sandwich spot when I worked in a nearby George Street Co Op office as a spotty youth, and even though the Nags Head opposite has changed more times than Dr Who, I could almost taste their doorstep hot sausage sarnies. Narrow boats of many years wear lined the canal bank, many paying for long term moorings. Plump ducks waddled along the grass bank, watched closely by a large friendly cat that hopped from boat to boat with ease – maybe an undercover sea dog? I just wandered as far as the lock and bridge, and many other people were taking a stroll too. I made a mental note to do the full hour plus walk to Wolvercote on my summer visit, several delightful pubs en route will keep me cool.

Oxford keeps changing, not always for the good, lots of my favourite old pubs have gone, so it was nice to visit a revived ancient coaching inn, The Plough at 38 (to use the full new title), in Cornmarket Street. It had been Austin Reed tailors for as long as I could remember but the ground floor is now a bar with home brew ale to come, and the gutted upstairs is becoming a restaurant with a chef who trained under Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck. It’s just around the corner from my old haunt, The Three Goats Heads, which is a pale shadow of its old self. The Chequers in High Street was an early watering hole of mine and remains largely unchanged, they helped me to sign off my last night in style with a 6.5 % Broken Dream. It fortified me for the sideways wave of snow that was blasting along the High Street as I left.

Rewinding to earlier in the day, the harsh frost added a white coating to my stroll down from Headington, past the haunting spectre of South Park, where I was tortured by knee deep mud, and flying snowballs on cross country runs from Cheney School. Crossing over I walked through Headington Hill park with its trail of magnificent oaks, pines, squirrels, and robins. The path took me out to Marston Road, I had a brief but mind numbing career with the civil service there, all the buildings have now been swept away for Brookes University’s endless student housing blocks. Over the road and down past the forlorn and deserted Somerset pub, put me on the path into the University Parks. Hedges and trees were a brittle white, and the small brook was glazed over with ice. As I stood on the bridge just before the main park entrance, ducks and geese were bravely taking to the river, and swans swooped majestically to land near their huge nests along the banks.


The Parks were busy with joggers and dog walkers, I found it strange to see the cricket pitch looking as white as an umpires freshly washed flannels. Many a happy hour was passed by myself and friends when the touring international sides played the Combined Universities. We would book the three days off work, load up the cool boxes with beer, and relax in the sun to the soundtrack of willow on leather. I regretted not booking the extra Saturday for my trip, a chance to see Oxford City FC at home. Then the snow came, guaranteeing that match was called off anyway. So the weather was part curse, and part blessing, there’s a special harsh beauty to an English winter, and it is always nice to embrace my home city.

Kings Aint What They Used To Be

Less of a touch down and more of a let down. That was the arrival of the Three Kings in Los Cristianos for Reyes Eve, 5th January. For the first time it was announced that they would arrive at the Cultural Centre by helicopter, a method used for many years by Santa Cruz, and Adeje, with their football grounds as the destination. An expectant crowd were drawn like a magnet for the 6 pm arrival. The Helidreams helicopter circled twice, the second time it flew on over the roof and into the distance, just as a spotlight picked out the waving kings on the centre’s rooftop balcony. They might as well have said they were on board a passing tourist plane heading into the south airport.

However, the other changes to the evening’s programme were much better received. The host at the Cultural Centre did her best to build the excitement among the estimated 20,000 fans who were focused on the stage and giant screen. Grabbing the waiting camels, Gaspar, Melchor, and Baltasar led the parade towards and around the church plaza, and along Avenida de Suecia. This was the opposite direction to previous years and allowed Arona council’s hard working staff to dismantle the stage and crowd barriers near the main crossroads of town, and to get the traffic flowing again. Cartoon and comic characters (Disney and Marvel) dominated but there were plenty of lovingly created costumes, and the happy sound of music. Sweets cascaded down as the kings showered their followers, balconies and upper windows were packed.

The end destination this year was a stage outside the Casa del Mar, in the open area between the old beach and the tunnel to Las Vistas beach. Thankfully the chilly gusting wind subsided so the long queues could snake their way through to each of the kings as the lucky children were called up to receive their presents. Several shops in the run up to Reyes offer a service to have gifts wrapped and added to the lockers of the kings to delight the children on the night. Normally these presentations would take place on the steps of the Cultural Centre, the new site seemed more exclusive to those involved, without curious passers by.

There´s no diluting the joy and excitement on the faces of children and parents as they unwrap their big night of the year. It was good that they tried something different to shake things up this year, maybe next time the helicopter will land, even if it´s nearby and relayed on the big screen. The earlier start will have been greatly appreciated by parents, and the boom in trade around local bars and restaurants had the tills singing a merry tune.

Brits Go Crackers For Christmas On Tenerife Beach

At Blackpool they would have turned blue, at Torquay their teeth would have chattered, and at Skegness their skin would have been covered in goose bumps, but in Tenerife there was a morning rush to Los Cristianos beach to celebrate Christmas Day in a very British fashion.

It was hot and sunny, whoa before you envy us too much, the previous day had been plagued by a calima, and dust from the Sahara was still hanging in the air. Oh yes we do suffer a bit, well not that much, but we were free of sprouts and up to our armpits in sausage rolls, mince pies, and yummy cakes. Converging on the beach is a tradition started by “swallows” the affectionate term for the elderly Brits who fly south to Tenerife each winter to escape the cold. In recent years other age groups and nationalities have embraced the custom, there were well over 100 setting up small tables and chairs along the quayside wall and down on the sand.

Wine, Cava, and fizzy plonk corks popped as paper plates and napkins were handed out. It´s all very organised and the costumes get more bizarre and extravagant every year. Sun worshippers and sea bathers flocked across the beach to see what all the commotion was about, and many stayed to join in the fun. Suitably watered, it was time to strike up the Christmas carols, song sheets had of course been printed out and distributed. The show stopper is always the long drawn out rendition of The Twelve Days Of Christmas, complete with smaller groups surging forward to illustrate their chosen day, the choreography is worthy of Strictly Come Dancing.


Seagulls were taking detours to swoop over and have a look, a helicopter sweeping the skies came back for several takes, and the ferry boats serving the other Canary Islands, tooted their approval. It´s always a great chance to catch up with people and to appreciate the beauty and diversity of Tenerife life. As time ticked over into early afternoon, people started to melt away to pre arranged meals with family and friends. All very impressive but you should see what happens on the same stretch of coast for New Years Eve…

Walk For Life Has A 5,000 Watt Pink Pulse

Take a great cause like the fight against breast cancer, add an army of dedicated followers, and unleash it on the streets of south Tenerife. That´s what happens when the annual Walk For Life (Carrera Por La Vida) links Arona and Adeje, the 2018 vintage was sweeter than ever and attracted a record 5,000 walkers that raised a staggering 35,500 euros.

This years start point was the Golden Mile near Los Cristianos, it was buzzing even an hour before the set off time. Pink is always the colour of choice, and it burst forth in t-shirts, hats, beards, wigs, and make up. As breast cancer touches so many lives, the walk always attracts a wide cross section of nationalities, ages, and even pets are called into service. Many new comers are surprised at what a joyous event it is, hope is the big theme, early diagnosis and medical advances ensure that breast cancer doesn´t have to be a death sentence. Those who have lost loved ones walk as a tribute to those who didn´t survive, and also as a defiant assertion that cancer will be tamed.

Just entering the gathering point is uplifting, so many friends, so much caring, and so much love. Music helps to pump up the walkers, the stage featured Tenerife singer Agoney, and dance teams to lead a grand bop to loosen up those leg muscles. Canarian drum groups laid down the beat as the pink procession weaved its way through to Playa de Las Americas past the bars and restaurants. Looking back it was difficult to see where the pink ribbon ended, holiday makers were caught up in the spectacle and donated to the growing funds. Organiser Brigitte Gypen led from the front with the mayors of Arona and Adeje also in the vanguard.

It took just over an hour to reach the finish point at Plaza Salytien and even then it was a long time before the rear guard caught up with the early arrivals. More music, bananas, water, and snacks, provided by sponsors helped to replenish the batteries of the eager army. It´s hard to think of any movement that has made such a big impact on the south of Tenerife, and it looks set to keep growing each year. In terms of raising awareness, it can´t be ignored, in terms of raising funds, it can´t be beaten, and in terms of offering help and hope, it can´t be equalled. Big thanks to everyone who played their part – see you next year.

Tenerife Remembers

Even more poignant on the 100th anniversary of the end of the first world war, there were millions of reasons to reflect and give thanks to those who gave their lives for a better world. Tenerife may be a far flung holiday fun spot but ex pats and tourists joined together on Sunday 11th November for the annual remembrance day services.

I ventured to Costa del Silencio for their outdoor service around the swimming pool of the Westhaven Bay complex. Medals shone in the bright sun but many of the faces echoed the dark memories of loss and suffering within their families. The comforting and financially supportive arm of the Royal British Legion embraces all outposts, and offers support and nurture to servicemen, servicewomen, and their families affected by all conflicts. Church services took place at six other venues across the south west of Tenerife but Costa del Silencio offers a unique setting, its view out to sea acting as a window to a wider and more turbulent world. Many people wore not just medals relating to their own service in recent conflicts, but also inherited medals from family no longer with us.

Wreaths were laid at the table and makeshift altar as several hundred people rose to sing the first of the hymns, lessons were read out by veterans, it was an emotional and testing time for them but there was no shortage of friends to encourage them along. It was noticeable that many younger people and a few children were in attendance, warnings unheeded and lessons learnt need to be shared with the next generation. I consider myself so lucky not to have been called upon to defend my privileged life, my grandad told me about a few of the horrors of WW1 but I wish I had asked him about more of his memories.

In keeping with the Tenerife setting, the British Vice Consul, Helen Diaz de Arcaya Keating, read the act of commitment in Spanish. More prayers and hymns, including Abide With Me, followed, and the act of remembrance reached down into many memories and many souls. “They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.”
This was followed by the last post, and an immaculate silence. One of the beauties of the setting is the closeness to the sea. A small pathway led down the cliff to a ledge where a wreath of poppies was cast onto the sea and joined by small wooden crosses thrown into the tide. It was a wonderful service to mark a special day, however the good work of the Royal British Legion goes on throughout the year. We have a lot to be grateful for.

Ship Hopping In Santa Cruz

Like a salty sea dog, my tail was wagging wildly, not only was I getting the Plenilunio promotions day, and the CD Tenerife v Cadiz game, the tell tale sign of tall masts told me there were also some interesting ships in Santa Cruz for me to check out.

Down at the old dockside, two majestic ships were moored toe to tail with the Holland flag fluttering proudly on each. The first, Morgenster was a particularly lucky find for me as I had not been able to fit in a press invite to see the ship a few days previously. There was just a few crew attending to maintenance needs and I was offered a brief tour, clambering up the gang plank, I was struck by the neat, sparkling condition of the deck, well it had been in port for two weeks of scrubbing. This was a ship with a mission called Clean To Antarctica which involved the active promotion of recycling plastic. From its Den Helder base, the ship was travelling on to Senegal, Cape Verde, and the Caribbean before the epic trip to the South Pole. In that frozen wasteland they would be trying out a special vehicle, Solar Voyager, made from recycled plastic. The regular 8 strong crew were being joined by 25 volunteers being sponsored by a Chinese company. It’s a very modern project for a ship built in 1919 as a fishing vessel and later rebuilt from just the original hull into the clipper design it now has, including a 30 metre high main mast.

The Europa, just behind it had a slightly different mission, sail training for a mainly young volunteer crew from Canada, Sweden, and the USA. There was not much between the ships age wise, Europa was built in 1911 but after dropping out of service had to wait until 1994 for a refit from the hull upwards. The main mast was a tad higher at 35 metres and the cheeky design on the bow of the ship was sure to create interest at each port they called at. The 56 metre long ship, based in Den Haag, was more about team building and character building for the paying crew who would be pitching in on all the on board tasks, including scaling the masts to set the sails.

Contrast is always a big feature of Santa Cruz port, over in the modern harbour, the cruise liner Celebrity Silhouette dominated the skyline. The 315 metre long palace, launched in 2011, has 2,886 passengers, you wouldn’t catch them climbing more than a couple of stairs, certainly not inching out along the yardarm. The latest cruise had brought them from Southampton, via Portugal, and the Azores. Up on street level overlooking the port, the port authority had a display of info on old ships and nautical equipment, including some heavy diving gear that looked like it had come out of a Jules Verne novel. I wonder what awaits my next call.

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.