Archive for the 'Reviews' Category
Stands Back In Amazement At Royal Hideaway Resort

I got to La Caleta in good time for the opening party at Barcello Hotels new baby Royal Hideaway Corales Resort in Tenerife, so why did I hesitate to go in? Maybe because it makes such a stunning impression on the Adeje coast, I felt the need to skirt around the outside to appreciate the design of Tenerife architect Leonardo Omar. The spiral starwells, and bold white layers are very impressive. Before the January opening it had already won an award as Best European hotel in construction from Hotel Management magazine.


Two five star hotels embrace each other, one the family friendly Corales Beach, and the other the adults only Corales Suites. As I entered the Corales Suites reception area, with a big cavern, bubbling fountains, and a multi coloured rock face wall.,James Bond and Thunderball came to mind. Welcoming speeches were made in the Alice cafe, that specialises in an exotic range of teas and coffes. Simon Pedro Barcelo, Co President of the Barcelo Group spoke proudly of the resort and predicted a bright future for tourism in Tenerife. The resort employs 250 staff, another big boost for the island economy.



The walkway led to a shopping arcade but I was destined to a quick lift up to the fifth floor of the luxury suites. La Caleta is a smashing old fishing village bordering on the five star hotel boom, it can´t help looking good, but on this night a procession of hang gliders landing on the beach added a classy touch to the view from the terrace with its own spa pool. As singers welcomed party guests from a rocky perch below, the suite had my full attention. There are 160 of the suites and they all redifine the word luxury. A chef and his assistants stood ready to receive behind the in suite kitchen counter, just one of the mega extras you can book. After relaxing on the comfy bed, purely for research, I had a peak at the pillow menu, feather, thermal memory foam, or petit plus, the choice is yours.



Lets talk pools, up to the fifth floor I glided up in the lift to see the infinity pool, it was worth the ride, great views over to El Puertito were the backdrop to the roof top restarant El Maresia, run by the Hermanos Padron who have the Michelin Star El Rincon de Juan Carlos, in Los Gigantes. Back down to the piano pool, where music was wafting through the air. I had already noticed some metalic sculptures by local artist Yaron Lambez of La Musa in Adeje, there were many more surrounding the pool side to be admired as samples of culinary creations were served.



Local politicians including the presidents of Tenerife, and the Canary Islands formerly welcomed the new addition to Tenerife´s holiday attractions. and Pilar Rumeu of TV Canaria hosted the presentations. It was good to see the resort acknowledge all the services and workers who are the life blood of the resort. An earlier buggy ride gave me a guided tour around the grounds and perimeter of the huge building. One of the most impressive things about the resort was the passion, knowledge, and friendly attitude of all the staff. Back at the pool the water shimmered as the guests all mingled, the Cava, wine, and Dorada flowed, and the sun set to a gorgeous fanfare of colour.

 

Shared Heritage On Living Tenerife Tours

Ask British ex pats and residents what they know of our country’s relations with Santa Cruz and they may know a little about Horacio Nelson’s failed attack on the island capital in 1797. A very civilised surrender showed the mutual respect between the two sides and led to over two decades of historical links between the UK and Tenerife. Living Tenerife Tours is a new English language window on Santa Cruz that uncovers those links, plus the lesser known buildings and characters that forged a bond between the two countries.

Leaving our super cooled people carrier at the higher end of Santa Cruz, we climbed the stone steps to the imposing facade of the Colegio Escuelas Pias catholic school, a former castle built in 1870 and greatly extended in 1943. Our guide, Jorge Ballesteros set up the new tour to share his passion and knowledge for history. Educated in Sussex and London, he has lived most of his life in Santa Cruz. The school is not normally open to the public but Jorge knows the great and the good in the capital and we were soon enjoying a potted history and panoramic views across the city. There’s a great story behind the British influence on this building, one that Jorge enjoys telling.

Versatile and informal, the tour lets the guests set the pace, our trip was just a dip into Jorge’s vault of knowledge, La Laguna, and Puerto de la Cruz are also destinations for similar small, intimate groups of around 12 people. The back streets and plazas of Santa Cruz had plenty to divulge, Why on earth would a gothic revival Anglican church dedicated to St George nestle in a quiet Tenerife back water? The brick by brick account was quite an eye opener. As we travelled between stops, Jorge pitched in little teasers about a famous UK politician visiting Tenerife, and a British hand in kick starting the Spanish Civil War.

It wasn´t just the older times that we were enlightened on, as we passed through the modern part of the capital, there was plenty of information on how Santa Cruz had re-invented itself. A stop between the Auditorium, and the Palmetum plant park helped us to piece together the new landscape. Another big favourite was the Military Museum, again Jorge smoothed our extended stay, as a working military barracks they only have limited opening hours and thee is so much to see. The canons hugging the courtyard wall were just the start, upstairs a model landscape with commentary took us through the battle for Santa Cruz. The city coat of arms bears testament to this and two previous failed British assaults.

A short trip past the port brought us back to the Plaza de España and our lunch date at the exclusive Royal Casino members club. Opened in 1840 it still has reminders of its casino past, and offers splendid views of the Plaza and port. Our food and drink reflected the best of Canarian cuisine, gofio, Canarian black pig, and an award winning Fuerteventura cheese to name just a few. It was a special way to round off the day, all the trips can be tailor made to suit your needs and it will give you a new appreciation of the culture of Tenerife.

Fortunate Isle by Ronald Mackay

Wrestling an octopus, dynamiting bedrock, and grading and packing acres of bananas ready for market. Sounds like back breaking, hard work, but to 18 year old Ronald Mackay it was all part of his introduction, integration, and education to the rare and beautiful culture of Buenavista del Norte in the north west corner of Tenerife.

Fortunate Isle is a name that is often used to describe the climate, setting, and rural contentment of Tenerife but to Ronald it came to represent the open hearts, practical minds, and communal spirit of his unexpected hosts for a life changing year. It wasn’t a planned stop off, originally the Canary Islands were to be a stepping stone to South America for an adventurous young man from Dundee. A series of random circumstances landed Ronald in the heart of a family eeking out a living via a small farm cum guest house.

On the face of it, that might sound like a dour, uninspiring basis for A Memoir Of Tenerife, but Ronald Mackay manages to convey his awe, admiration, and comfort as he is accepted into the community. With settled digs, tasty and creative meals from the bounty of the island, and a welcoming niche in the banana growing industry that fuelled Tenerife’s economy in those early 60’s days, Ronald had a sturdy base that allowed his enquiring mind and feet to wander and explore. The mountains of Teno offered plenty of adventures, and he also gained a healthy respect for the wild seas that buffeted the craggy coast.

The book is a journey of discovery and a coming of age, lessons learnt from first hand experience, and described in detail from a sharp eye and an open mind. Learning Spanish along the way, Ronald slowly opened the door further day by day on his new world. The affection for his new life shines through in the books pages as his horizons expand to the peak of Mount Teide. Uplifting, informative, and infectious, Fortunate Isle proves the old adage that travel does broaden the mind. You can get a paperback or electronic copy via Amazon, at bookshops, or contact the author at https://www.facebook.com/ronald.mackay.395

 

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