Archive for the 'News' Category
Seven Seas Explorer Sizzles With Style In Tenerife

If your aspiring to be the World’s most luxurious cruise ship, being 54,000 tons, 223 metres long, and costing 450 million dollars is just a start. Seven Seas Explorer prides itself on attention to detail and those added flamboyant touches. As the 14 decks loomed over me on Santa Cruz dockside, its lower hull was being power sprayed and roller painted to ensure it looked as good as when it was launched in Monaco barely two months ago.

Where the new addition to the Regent fleet scores biggest is on personal attention, 750 guests is a modest number for top cruisers these days but with 540 crew, service is prompt, and I soon noticed, delivered with a chatty informality rather than curt efficiency. There are no cabins on this ship, just 14 different categories of suites, all with larger balconies than their rival companies. Captain Stan de Lacombe hosted a small gathering in the 11th deck Observation Lounge with its low sloping ceiling, a central dance floor, and a highly varnished grand piano with Santa Cruz harbour wall and the open sea stretching ahead through the large wrap around windows. The French born captain referred to happy memories of his only previous visit to Tenerife 15 years ago when he hired a car and explored.

I was itching to see more of the ship, our guide led us past the Culinary Kitchen where guests can take lessons in regional cuisine, the ships excursions also include a chance to sample local specialties at each port. There were 13 different Tenerife excursions on the form I picked up, most of the guests and many of the crew had poured off the ship earlier so the large pool and Jacuzzi area was fairly quiet. On the top level they have a golf putting green , shuffleboard, and even a tennis court. For the less energetic there are plenty of rest zones or the outside terrace of the La Veranda café, even with the heavy calima hanging over the capital, Santa Cruz was looking good down below. For those taking a break from the sun, the library further down the ship offered deep luxurious leather chairs for a spot of reading. Someone had put a lot of effort into printing off and clipping together the recent days newspapers like New York Times, The Washington Post, and London’s The Times, pointers to the dominant nationalities among the guests.

Foodies have plenty of choices, Prime 7 offers an America steakhouse menu with subdued lighting, Frank Sinatra was crooning via the speakers when I popped in, and a floor to ceiling wine cabinet along one wall promised a vast choice. Art is a prominent feature all over the ship, in Prime 7 they can boast three Picasso’s. Compas Rose is the main dining area, chandeliers are another ship wide feature and here they have a sea blue wave complimented by golden sea urchin clusters. Dinner services offer another touch of class, the plates in Compass Rose are designed by Versace. Our guide dispelled any thoughts of restrictive dress codes “we are fairly informal beyond no jeans, shorts, and flip flops, jackets and ties aren’t required but many guests choose to make a big effort to match the setting of the Compass Rose”.

Here come those chandeliers again, the two floor reception lounge with it’s sweeping staircases is centered around a glittering teardrop of light and glass. Other lounges connecting the main distractions burn brightly with opulence reflected in the intricately tiled floors. With so much daytime shore leave the ship bursts into full social mode in the evening, the Constellation Theatre with lavish shows and the casino with the lure of the tables are just some of the diversions. I know your wondering how much all this costs, I couldn’t find a price guide for this part completed 11 day cruise from Lisbon to Barcelona but a future nine day voyage popped up on the net from 3,999 dollars. If you want to find out about future cruises and booking go to https://www.rssc.com/ships/seven_seas_explorer/  . Lanzarote was next stop on the schedule for this grand lady but I’m sure she will be gracing Tenerife with her stylish prescience soon.

 

 

A Time To Remember In Tenerife

The years passed and the miles traveled focused the memories at the British Legion remembrance service at Westhaven Bay, Costa del Silencio. Uniforms, medals, and flags reflected conflicts around the globe involving British servicemen, it’s 100 years since the outbreak of World War One but the determination to remember all those who made the ultimate sacrifice is as strong as ever.

The work of the British Legion is always relevant with many of the armed forces still active in current conflicts. The Tenerife branch are very active, the Noel Rogers trophy at the alter is a testimony to their position as the biggest fund raiser among the legion’s overseas groups. In between the hymns and prayers the several hundred gathered for the service dug deep to fill the collecting boxes.


The holiday complex setting around the pool made an informal but easily accessible venue and the views out across the sweeping bay added a glorious reminder of foreign shores that will live on in the memory. Although the act of remembrance is a solemn service there were many smiles among the tears as old comrades were remembered and newer friendships were made. The lessons of war are still being learned by a new generation so it was good to see a multi national group of under 16 rugby players from the Nandu club from Adeje in attendance, their welsh coach Jamie Whelan is himself a former serviceman. The act of commitment was read out in English and in Spanish.


The Lords Prayer, Abide With Me, and The National Anthem were all observed immaculately, as was the laying of the wreaths at the alter. The bugle call of The Last Post by Jo Cassidy hung in the air and paved the way for the two minutes silence, a time for reflection, pride, and sadness. The only sound was the gentle lap of the tide in the bay. Former marine Rick Sweeney then led a small group down to the rocks for a wreath to be placed in the water. It was a very moving service and a fitting tribute to those who fought for their country.

 

 

Motors Running And Tops A Popping In Adeje

There are some big, bold projects on the starting grid for Tenerife, none more so than the motor racing circuit at Atogo, San Isidro in Granadilla de Abona. My early morning destination was Adeje for a press conference update on the long proposed project and the Fleetwood Mac Grand Prix music was steering around in my brain.


FIT Canarias, the factory for tourist innovation was the very impressive host, the bright white office spaces are a relatively new tenant in the CDCTA tourism development complex at El Galeon. Eduardo Pintado Mascareno, the legal councilor of commerce for the Tenerife Cabildo (government) spoke at length and with some passion about the planned track and the benefits it would bring to Tenerife. Basically it’s taken a big push to get the idea to the stage where all the layout and technical designs are ready, the Cabildo has given its blessing to the project and just the difficult subject of finance has to be conquered.


Tendering is open for the 30 million euros investment needed and we were told there is strong interest. The Cabildo has always said it would chip in with the supporting infrastructure links, the south airport is just 2.5 kms away and the TF 1 motorway passes nearby . Of course the question of Formula One racing was raised again, the councilor said that would be the dream aim but realistically they were looking at top European racing at several levels on four and two wheels. You can take an in depth ponder at the special website, it’s a long term project that will take at least two years to build once the first digging starts but with a lot of faith and imagination you can almost smell the engine oil.


Back out in Adeje I was shocked to see an old favourite missing from his post. The statue of the Guanche warrior was no longer perched on his plinth on the way into the old town. Instead it looked like one of the cages for the Christmas lottery, El Gordo, had been given a prime position. Closer inspection and the help of some information boards revealed it to be a sculpture called Sphere Solidarity by Juan Antonio Hernandez containing thousands of used plastic bottle tops. The promotion, Tapones Solidarios, aims to fill the container with the discarded poppers to help the charity Iraitza Association to recycle the tops and donate the proceeds to help people with physical or mental disabilities.


You can help Adeje to reach its target by dropping off collections of the bottle tops near the sphere. They need to have the recycling mark on them for number two or five, if Dorada bottles had such tops I’m sure I could have a go at filling it in double quick time. There was better news of the Guanche statue, he wasn’t guarding a fish pond in a councilors garden or being used as an advertising gimmick. Further down the hill I could see him partially obscured as he was being fixed into place on a large traffic roundabout. I’m sure he would approve of the cause.

Oil Rigs Photo Bomb Santa Cruz

Shocked, downhearted, and generally cheesed off is not my normal reaction on arriving in Santa Cruz but walking out of the main bus station two monster oil rigs were staring across at me, and they looked horrendous.


It was just two months since my last visit when two rigs were moored some way beyond the port wall but now it looked like a good turn of speed down Avenida Tres de Mayo would enable a short leap over onto the platform square on to the road that drops down past El Corte Ingles and the bus station. All this must sound alarm bells as oil companies gear up to make test drillings off Lanzarote now that the Spanish government has granted permission.


One of my reasons for popping up to the capital was to check out preparations for the 25 July anniversary of Nelson’s defeat in 1797. Over the last couple of years 12 commemorative silver plates have been posted at key points of the battle in Santa Cruz and now five more have been added around Plaza de España and along the Via Litoral. This is where the road has been sent down a specially constructed subway tunnel to allow more pedestrian access to the city centre, the 48 million euro project started in 2009 and is nearing completion.


This scheme has opened up loads more leisure space and will draw cruise liner tourists into the heart of the capital. I have been very impressed over the last decade as the tram system, three floor bus station, and the new Plaza de España lake have given the city a modern, sleek look. The views are not so impressive at the moment, the two rigs, another lurks outside the port wall, stand taller than the Cabildo headquarters, Torre de Iglesia La Concepcion, and several other historic landmarks. Coming back down from a detour to La Laguna it was a similar story as the new arrivals dominated the skyline.


There’s a big protest movement to resist the drillings and Canary Island government calls for a referendum. The vote would have no legal power but it’s hoped a show of the strength of feeling may force a change of mind from Madrid, the Balaerics succeeded in seeing off the oil prospectors in their waters. For now though visitors will have to be more creative to find camera angles that show off the beauty of Santa Cruz without unsightly intruders.

Los Cristianos Sunday Market Is Wide Open

Some might call it an ill wind that has brought some good and some would say it’s a welcome wind of change but either way Avenida de Londres is the new home (at least for now) of the Los Cristianos Sunday market.
Even in the less scorching winter months the popular collection of around 600 stalls at the Los Tarajales end of the old beach could get very claustrophobic and sweaty. Rumblings of discontent from the Arona Ayuntamiento grew louder until the original market was shut down on Sunday 8 June 2014. There were so many diverse objections pitched up you could be forgiven for thinking the council just wanted it closed no matter what. The trading area had reportedly spilled out over the original boundaries, there were health and safety issues over access, and inadequate toilet facilities, so the council claimed.


After the closure many doubted it would return but a lot of hard work and lobbying by the organizers, including a demo outside the town hall, brought a swift compromise and last week (15 June) it reopened at short notice a short walk away going up the hill between the two roundabouts beside Victoria Court. So with the second week under way I nipped down for a look around, the first thing I noticed coming down the hill was an ambulance and a cluster of mobile toilets, clear signing, and wide spaces between the rows of stalls. It seems it would not just be the traders breathing easier.


For those who haven’t indulged, it’s pretty standard fare, cheap replica fashion and sports clothes, watches, electronic gadgets, hats, and more Aloe Vera than you can shake a plant at. Everybody loves a bargain, particularly in these hard times, and it’s also the thrill of the chase, elbows working overtime as some good old fashioned rummaging takes place. I expected to see bargain bins of Spain and England World Cup souvenirs, you probably couldn’t give them away now. It was so nice to be able to stroll up and down the stalls with room to perform a lavish musical number if you so wished. The breeze was very welcome and down each side there were breaks in the stalls so people could dip out at easily to grab the shade of the palm trees.


Each intersection was clearly marked, there were market officials identified by their t-shirts to offer help, and one of the nearby apartment blocks was doing a roaring trade in cold drinks and snacks. I spoke to a few friends who were working stalls and they were pleased with the new set up, some of them must have sweated pounds off at the old site. They also told me that pretty much all of the former stall holders had got themselves a new pitch.

The only cloud on the horizon is the uncertainty, they have a provisional agreement for 6 months but there is still talk of returning to base camp or being closed again. With less than a year to go until the local elections, councilors are trying to be all things to all people, and will be keen to please the various nationalities working the stalls and also keep local bars and restaurants happy with their big boom day of the week. For now though it looks like an improvement to an outsider like me, you can check it out for yourself from 9 am to 2 pm every week.

Kings Aint What They Used To Be

I nearly didn’t go to the Three Kings parade in Los Cristianos – well it’s always the same – isn’t it? They caught a lot of people out this Reyes Eve by changing things around, call me an old stick in the mud but I thought the early part was chaotic, I don’t like change, I’m still reeling at having seen two currency changes in my lifetime.

It was past the advertised start time of 7pm, but that’s expected, and people were milling about looking for a sign from the east – or anywhere really. Normally the parade starts from the ferry terminal but this time the ringing of a ships bell and bright lights heralded the arrival of a small ferry boat by the old fishermens quay. The Arona brass band was assembled beyond the guarded gates and the Kings had arrived off the ferry but there was no sign of camels or the other cartoon characters, jugglers, etc. A path was cleared along the quay as crowds flocked over across the old beach and the band led the kings and their servants on foot down and around to the Plaza del Pescadora.

The plus was the children could get up close to their heroes but the down side was many couldn’t see over taller people in front of them. Taking the passageway up at the back of the small plaza the master plan was revealed, the camels were parked up just below The Devon Arms and their many magical friends were dressed up and waiting. I didn’t see the kings at first and assumed they had popped in for a Guinness but they soon appeared and saddled up. It’s a tight area and those camels were parked bottoms outwards so everyone was trying to avoid any extra gifts not mentioned in the old tales. It was good to see the hairy beasts and I can’t remember when I have seen so many camel toes. I was shocked to see among the cartoon characters a large Pio – but I bit my tongue and resisted the football chant reserved for this Las Palmas mascot.

At the top of the steep slope the jolly parade turned up and into Avenida Suecia, back on the old original route, that was more like it, the Kings and their fellow paraders began throwing handfuls of sweets out to the crowds packing the pavement and people were able to see their royal visitors in their elevated position perched up on the camels. Along and past the gloriously lit church plaza, which had hosted bouncy castles and games earlier – they still think I’m too old for a bounce.

 

The final stop was outside the cultural centre where the thrones were awaiting the royal bottoms and the children were awaiting their presents. As the paraders arrived I tried to get the Pio to pose with me for an Armada Sur caption competition but it was whisked away to the changing rooms along with Dora the Explorer, Sponge Bob, Tom and Jerry, and Snow White and her Seven Dwarfs, it must have been quite a clash of egos in there. The big day Reyes (6 Jan) will be a quieter day for families to enjoy, hope everyone gets those special presents they really wanted. 

 

 

Los Cristianos Steps Up Into Saturday Gear

It was quality rather than quantity as a dozen Ferraris purred their way up Calle Berna in the heart of Los Cristianos at the end of the first Salida Ferrari parade. The route had taken them up to Los Gigantes and down the west coast via Alcala, Playa San Juan, Callao Salvaje, Playa Paraiso, Costa Adeje, and Playa de Las Americas.

Slipping into their allotted parking spaces they were swarmed over by a small but appreciative crowd, advance publicity had been pretty ropey, I had expected a few more but maybe the crisis has taken its toll with a few being traded in for something more economical. There was no denying that they ooze class, the sleek lines and curves reduced several admiring men to quivering love struck teenagers. I tried to get a few nice young ladies to drape themselves over the bonnets but they seemed to think it was just a cheesey and desperate chat up line.

From Mondial to Lamborghini, and GTO to Diablo they attracted a steady stream of visitors through the afternoon. The Spaghetti House was doing a good trade as their terrace looks straight out onto the parking area, I noticed someone had parked a car at the edge of the area covered with adverts for massage services – well it’s all bodywork I suppose. Hopefully it will become an annual fixture with better publicity and more entrants.

Another late addition to the social menu was an evening concert in the church plaza by AMAE, a local music, dance, and art academy. This wasn’t in any of the advance listings and the posters only appeared in the cultural centre the morning before so I wasn’t too sure what to expect. In the afternoon I passed the plaza and heard a band rehearsing, they were a mix of teachers and pupils and were playing Another Brick In The Wall by Pink Floyd. They were very good, the female singer had a strong voice and the guitarists wrung plenty of emotion out of their instruments.

Popping back in the evening for the start of the main event I caught a band doing a rock and classical mix in front of a full plaza mix of seats and standing at the edges. These musicians were also top notch and there were plenty of young artists gathered in the backstage area awaiting their turn. I just had time to watch two dancers, Julian and Carlisle perform a lively routine to the Tina Turner track Rolling Down The River. I shall be looking out for future events from AMAE, miles better than the no talent contest drivel that BBC and ITV serve up each Saturday night.

 

 

Defender Heads Into Los Cristianos And Into A Storm

Battle ship grey, a big gun at each end, and proudly flying the Union Jack, was this a belated fight back from the Brits on behalf of Nelson? Not really but you can understand why the port authorities were a bit jittery at this unexpected guest.

Defender wasn’t here by choice, chatting to one of the crew I found out that a broken gasket had forced the 40 metre long ship to limp in for vital repairs. On route from Falmouth to Senegal the privately owned security vessel had a fair few technical problems. The Guardia Civil patrol boat was parked up behind it next door to the ferry terminal but port security were quite concerned at the canon like guns. The boat was built for the Sultan of Oman as a patrol ship in 1967 and then “gifted” back to it’s birth port of Lowestoft to a former Royal Navy Lieutenant Chris Enmarsh. Loaded up with a crew of former Royal Navy marines, Defender has been patrolling the east coast of Africa protecting oil platforms.

Tornado

It all created a bit of a flap and Spanish Navy officials were soon in town to find out what the story was. They say that the 40 mm gun on the front and its 20 mm friend at the rear are decommissioned . Even though that brought a big sigh of relief a Tornado (above) from the Spanish Navy popped over from its Las Palmas base to escort Defender through last night to the more secure setting of Santa Cruz port due to “administrative irregularities” and presumably awaiting full repairs. If replacement parts don’t arrive soon I think I might have some old Airfix spares and some Humbrol mini paint cans.

More Passion Than Ever In Adeje

The greatest story ever told just got greater. The annual street performance of The Passion in Adeje has run on a familiar format for at least the last decade but a new expanded programme saw the last days of Christ played out from the top of Calle Grande and then back up again ending in Plaza de España. It was an inspired move that nearly doubled the time to two hours and made the most of the award winning main plaza that overlooks Barranco del Invierno.

I arrived about 20 minutes before the noon start and mingled with the horses, chariot, Roman soldiers, hawk, and around 100 extras waiting just around the turn from the church at the top of the street. It was a hot one in the south of Tenerife, the digital readouts on the way up from Los Cristianos were sweltering at 26 degrees, just one more factor to add to pre show nerves after a years planning and rehearsals.

One of the things that makes The Passion so enthralling is the total dedication to the cause, straw and palm leaves are spread on the road, the stage areas for the set pieces of the drama are lovingly crafted, the television crews filming for the live feed all dress in the costume of the period, even the phone kiosks along the route are covered with crimson drapes so as not to distract from the images.

With a roll of drums and a clip clop of horses hooves the procession started slowly down the road as an estimated 23,000 people jostled gently for the best vantage points. Many had arrived very early and had taken root at the tables and chairs outside the bars and cafes that were experiencing a much needed boom in takings. The new elongated route allowed the Roman soldiers and their horses to milk the full pomp and power from their presence. Once at the bottom of the hill Jesus and his disciples took over and performed The Last Supper around a large table on the Plaza Cruz de Llano.

With the action shown on a giant screen at each end of the street, Jesus moved back up the road via some soul searching in the Garden of Gethsemane, arrest and trial at the Roman high council and court, and the brutal seizing, whipping, and forcing of Jesus to carry his cross up to the scene of his execution at Plaza de España. During all this the dialogue was broadcast in Spanish over speakers via state of the art head sets for the principal players – only Jesus is portrayed by a professional actor.

The wide open space of Plaza de España was a perfect setting with people banked up the stone steps outside the church and a stage at the back of the plaza set against natures own stunning scenery from Roque del Conde and the Barranco del Invierno. Possibly for future years it might be good to have another giant screen in this plaza ass many packed in their earlier on and missed a lot of the build up as the story unfolded on the way up the road.

The climax wrung out every last drop of emotion as Jesus was nailed down onto the cross and it was hoisted into position. The cries of his mother and Mary Magdalene and the cutting down of the body before wrapping it in cloth and carrying it slowly away had the crowd spellbound. There were a lot of different nationalities, religious beliefs, and cynics like myself in the crowd but the emotion and power were as always amazing. Updating a classic tour de force can be a bit risky but this was a huge success and a fitting opening to the Easter weekend.

Life In The Slow And Fast Lanes

Money, or the lack of it, is on many minds at the moment but as some long term Tenerife projects never seem to end, other big money dreams are still hoping for a green light to start.

The ring road linking Adeje to Santiago del Teide is a long running sage dating back to the first digging in 2006. Since then the only motor action it has seen is the demolition derby of the film crew of Fast And Furious 6. Now comes the news that work has stopped, nine sub contractors have been told to pick up their gear and take a break and 200 workers have been advised to sign on the paro. It seems the money isn’t around to finish this short cut, I thought it was near to completion, the tunnels have long since emerged at the Santiago end and late last year when I was walking that way the site was buzzing like Bob the Builders depot.

Meanwhile at the other side of the island the proposed motor racing track is back on the agenda. The site is Atogo in Granadilla and the land has been identified but now comes the tricky matter of funding. The next step is a big presentation in Santa Cruz on 30 April to outline more details of the project, then there is a four month window for financial backers to put in their bids. You may wonder why Tenerife needs a motor racing circuit, so do I, but the government and supporters are keen to show that it will create building jobs and then admin and running costs as well as pulling in more specialist visitors to the island.

Another huge project nearing completion (the tunnel should be open early April) is the Via Litoral in Santa Cruz, that’s the new layout from the port across to Plaza de España. Now into the fourth year it started with a 40 million euro budget that increased to 48 million and should have been ready by this February.

The big improvement wont be seen until the finish, so far the road has been widened and taken down under tunnels going past the ferry port and coming up in Avenida Anaga. Six laurel trees were uprooted by a giant crane and moved back a few feet as well, once it is all done, traffic will be taken down and out of sight while the area above will become a 50,000 square metre pedestrian zone spreading across from Plaza de España to the port with extra cafes and leisure parks. The slogan is Uniting The City With The Sea and it will certainly make the capital more attractive to visiting cruise traffic. We should see if it was all worth it before the end of the year

To be fair many of these big projects were drawn up before the crisis kicked in but now we are stuck deep in its grip it’s proving hard to top and tail them as the money runs out. The race track, like the proposed north to south rail link, is very dependent on new money being poured in, maybe we should savour these grand designs, if things don’t buck up in the global economy the next wave of development in Tenerife may be whether or not to replace light bulbs or dab a new coat of paint on public buildings.