Archive for the 'Reviews' Category
Westgate Oxford, White Rabbit Or White Elephant

Half yearly trips back to my Oxford roots have for the last three years featured curiously peering into the 440 million pound Westgate shopping centre rebuild. The old building was decidedly shabby and run down so this trip I got to see the opened and nearly finished article. Standing on the roof terrace looking down into the three layers of 100 shops and 25 cafes and restaurants I was getting mixed messages.

Wind tunnel is the biggest criticism I had read and heard about and on this arctic chilled January day I could feel their point. Ok I know I have been spoiled by all my years in Tenerife but I thought comfort was the big consideration for modern shoppers. The building layout reminded me of prison wing landings but this chocolate box collection had some nice thoughtful touches. Little scattered seating areas around coffee and snack stalls were nice and informal, and I liked the references and quotes from Lewis Carroll, alias Oxford scholar Charles Dodgson, who wrote Alice In Wonderland. As a true Oxonian I would have liked a few nods to “town” heritage such as William Morris, rather than just “gown” references.

The five screen Curzon cinema was a work in progress but promises to offer more relaxed viewing habits than the many other screens in and around Oxford. Social, is a collection of taste experiences from around the world, such as noodles, nachos, and designer burgers, all in a self contained dome. The Junkyard Crazy Golf looked tempting with dance music and pulsating lights as players pick their way around wrecked cars and other obstacles. Maybe at this point I should drop some store names, Hugo Boss, Mint Velvet, Moss Bros, Primark, and Ted Baker, There are also health and beauty shops. The two bus companies have stops just outside the centre and frequent Park and Ride links but the roads into the city centre are still a nightmare.

The crowning glory is the Roof Terrace with views of the spires and hills of Oxford, the tourists will love it in the summer as they can sit a little bit worryingly near the edge of the roof. The restaurants and cafes are all very up market and expensive, even the churros and chocolate by the plastic grass. I met a friend for afternoon coffee at The Alchemist, a nice relaxed setting although the multi coloured vapours coming off the cocktail mixing at the bar made me yearn for a real ale. Drinks are on the house in the Roof Terrace but only in an altitude way. The posh watering holes are open to 1 am Friday and Saturday and 12.30 other days.

 

I was told the opening days entertainment in the main square was spectacular, if they can have regular promotions and events, that will draw people back. The centre has no doors, I walked through a couple of nights, security have their work cut out, and I wondered how the ghosts are coping with the changes. I will have another look on my next trip over, but as I fancied a proper beer I adjourned to The Castle opposite, newly refurbished by Hook Norton and brimming with real ale.

 

 

Carry On Camping At Montaña Roja

Compact, cosy, and a nice place for campers to rest their weary heads. Two years after Camping Montaña Roja in El Medano closed, it´s back with a new eco friendly look, plenty of extras, and best of all close up views of the red mountain that rises above the sea just behind Tenerife South airport.

I popped in on the official open day, Granadilla Ayuntamiento (council) have invested a million euros and installed a management team to offer much needed camping space near La Tejita beach and the wind and kite surf magnets of El Medano. My initial impression was how neat and well laid out the site is, the wooden cabins are the stars and they are blended in among the trees with a neautral colour scheme. The full menu of the site offers tent pitching spaces, and parking for auto caravans, cars, and motor bikes.

An admin office, mini market, and the Tejita bar restaurant cater for all the basic needs, there´s also bike hire, and a kite school next door. The new La Tejita Street Market shopping centre is five minutes walk away and has a large Dialprix supermarket plus several enticing tapas bars. My curiosity couldn´t wait any longer, I had to get a look inside a cabin, two were open for viewing, They are all the same size, 46 currently with plans to increse to 90, and are split into two rooms, one with a settee that folds out to a double bed, and another room with two snug fitting beds. The main room has a small fridge (electric and water are extra) and there are plug points but for Wi Fi you need to go to the bar area.

That may sound quite restrictive but these are just intended as a base for visitors, not a home, each cabin does have a small wooden decking porch, and at the end of each row there are larger communal sun bathing areas. I spoke to an American lady who was reading in a hammock outisde her small individual tent and she was quite happy to have found such a nice site so near to the airport. The pitch in a shaded spot was costing 9.90 euros a night but unlike taking a chance in the great wide yonder, it was legal, the camp site is fenced in, visitors get a key for the gates onto the beach, and there is security on site. The toilet and shower block had 3 shower cubicles in the gents and ladies sides, or there´s also a large outdoor shower wall outside the block.

Planes using Tenerife South airport might disturb the tranquility a little, plane spotters would be in heaven. The little touches impressed me, wide paths with low set lights link the cabins and it´s well marked with a letter and number grid, there´s plenty of bins and recycling points, fire extinguishers are at key points, and there´s even a massage and therapy tent. The setting is a real plus point, much of the land nearby is protected and the walk up to the top of Montaña Roja is always a pleasure. Many species of birds pass through El Medano, it was good to see plenty of small finches flitting around the site – they seem to have made themselves comfortable. There´s more lowdown on the website.

 

 

The Tenerife Alternative by Cranley Harding

Nazi SS troops, British Secret Intelligence Service and Canarian Independence activists were in a fight to the death over a legendary underwater cave on the north coast of Tenerife in 1935. A few years ago this plot would have been dismissed as far fetched but recently released CIA files have shown that many factions had identified Tenerife as an alternative naval base and international gateway if General Franco allowed Germany free passage to prise Gibraltar out of British hands.


This is the ingenious premise for the fictional novel The Tenerife Alternative by Cranley Harding. Suave British spy Scott Rutherford doesn´t need the gadgets of his more famous big screen counterpart, he´s politically astute, makes the most of his allies, and ruthlessly disposes of his enemies. He´s very much a rough and ready hands on sort of spy, a grammar school boy who has fought his way through the ranks. Author Cranley Harding told me he sees our man more in the mould of Harry Palmer, the Len Deighton spy played in The Ipcress File by Michael Caine.
Cranley, from Glasgow, a 30 year visitor to Tenerife has added a passion for the history and culture of Tenerife and has added extensive research to make the backdrop to the thriller authentic. The action moves at a brisk pace but allows plenty of time to draw the historical and political map for the story to unfold. Of course there are many fictitious strands weaved in such as the much sought after lava cave at Punta Guanche, but the fledgling tourist resort of Puerto de la Cruz, Los Gigantes, Los Rodeos airport, and Mount Teide all make familiar reference points. Cranley also draws on his knowledge of island history like Nelson´s aborted invasion, the Chinyero eruption, and Guanche folklore to reinforce the characters motives and actions.

There´s plenty of intrigue, double crosses, and romantic interest for out hero to deal with as the plot races to the final show down. Scott Rutherford is only at the begining of his double life as an overseas trade attache and spy, maybe he will be lured back to Tenerife. In the meantime, his first adventure awaits you at The Bookshop in Puerto Colon, The Bookshop in Los Cristianos, and The Devon Arms, Los Cristianos. If you can´t get hold of a copy, contact Cranley at pam.gore@virgin.net