Archive for April, 2009
All busy on the western front

It was so nice to see Los Gigantes and Puerto Santiago brimming with tourists, both have been eerily quiet on my previous visits. Semana Santa (Easter week) is not only a big religious time, but also a big family holiday when Spanish flock from the mainland to Tenerife, encouraged lately by cut price hotel deals. On the 473 bus journey from Los Cristianos, I noticed large numbers of camper vans parked up in Playa Paraiso and on Punta Blanca between Alcala and Playa de la Arena. Camping on the beaches is illegal, and although the police have cut it down in recent years, they will never stop it all.

Back in Los Gigantes, the afternoon sun punched its way through the clouds, luring a few more onto the small dark beach and bars and restaurants were doing a steady trade. I poked my nose in at La Laquillo, the large outdoor swimming pool complex, that became a regular haunt of mine during my 4 years living up in Puerto Santiago, and based at The Western Sun newspaper office just behind the church plaza.

With the pocket sized beach easily filled, La Laquillo is a popular alternative at 4.50 euros a day (adult) including a sunbed. They also have a nice restaurant and life guards on duty, so it’s a good choice for families. On the down side, I recall the water always being cold, but that was offset for me by the lovely young Canarian lady with stunning thighs, who usually let me in free to swim my laps.

Leaving “The Village” as Los Gigantes is known (always makes me think of The Prisoner) I decided to forsake cardiac hill, and take the scenic route via Crab Island. This is a lovely settlement that hugs the coast and features the rock pool, a popular venue for late night skinny dipping. The wonderful setting also encourages tourists to sit on the edge and pose for photos, even when the sea is alarmingly rough. It was calm for my visit, but I always think of my first front page story for The Western Sun, when a man was swept out of the pool by a freak wave and with the help of a heroic holiday maker, was lifted out by helicopter.

 Moving on up, I passed quite a line of people coming down from the viewing terrace above the rocks, the outlook was beautiful as always, although the waft of sewage from the nearby pipeline still tweaks the nostrils. Left with just half a hill to climb, I stopped off in Puerto Santiago to re-aquaint myself with one of my favourite bars before taking the main road above the sea. The even smaller Santiago beach had its fair share of visitors, but the sea air spurred me on and down through the tight hairpin corner, so expertly manouvered by coach and bus drivers, to the plaza. Well I couldn’t hop on my bus without having a meal at the excellent Plaza Restaurante. It was nice to see the same friendly staff there (they used to reserve me pole position in front of the TV for CD Tenerife away games) and the old men still engrossed in their endless games of chess. With a belly full of tuna, the hour long bus trip back to the south soon snoozed by.

Football, the next generation, in Tenerife

As many still slumbered in their beds, or shovelled down belly buster breakfasts around the cafes and bars of Tenerife, future football stars were gathering at Tenerife Top Training in La Caleta for the week long, IFA Kastler Football Academy.

With tennis and padel tournaments also going on, there was plenty for me to focus on for the new T3 Blog site and a chance to meet some ex football players passing on skills to kids between 5 and 17.

Thomas Kastler used to play in the German Third Division, and Samantha Britton (above) is a former Arsenal and England player, who now works at the Britannia school here in Tenerife. I was surprised to find that the young players included a red hot 9 year old prospect from Finland and a 5 year old hopeful from the Czech Republic, hands off Sir Alex. The Academy have scouting links to several big European teams, Eric the Finnish whizz is off to Barcelona soon for a weeks trial.

Samantha was clearly enjoying herself and the young players were responding well, the 35 plus players each day have been all boys, even though the academy was open to all. The former Arsenal star is keen to help develop the standard of the many female teams in Tenerife.

I managed a few words with Bernd Kabau, one of the T3 tennis coaches, and admired the serving technique of his female pupil. Tenerife Top Training has the only 2 clay courts in Tenerife. Thankfully noone asked me to pick up a racquet to show my lack of skills, but I am slightly tempted to try Padel, very popular here, a mix between squash and tennis – although it might take a bit more than some Robinsons Barley Water to revive me after a game.

Strong keepers in Tenerife 0-0 away draw

A great away point for CD Tenerife, especially a they played the last 18 minutes a man down after Bertran was sent off for a second yellow card. The 600 plus CDT faithfull that travelled to Rayo Vallecano can enjoy a few beers in Madrid knowing that Rayo will view it as 2 points dropped as they snap at the heels of the blanquiazul.

Tenerife looked the better and more positive team, with Kome in sparkling form in midfield and Luis Garcia flawless in goal. Cobeno in the home goal also looked unbeatable, though Tenerife tested him thoroughly. Kome unleashed 2 powerful early long range strikes, bith over the bar and in between Garcia made 2 fine saves, particularly when smothering the ball as Jofre raced through alone.

Pachon was the main threat for Rayo, controlling the ball with his chest before forcing Garcia to tip over, and then heading wide just before the half hour mark. Alfaro had a good chance but the home keeper dived to save low at the post, and Juanlu headed over the bar. Nino lost a one on one with the Rayo keepr, who pounced on the ball, and Kome caused panic in the home defence, floating a cross in that a defender struggled to head away.

The second half opened with Tenerife still on top, Martinez heading wide and Nino beating 2 defenders only to be stopped by the keeper. Coach Oltra was looking for the win and brought on forward Angel for midfielder Juanlu after 64 minutes but he had to change his plans when Bertran was unlucky to get a second booking, forcing him out of the game. It was probably a wise move to bring on Clavero as defensive cover, even if it meant losing the creative influence of Kome. Rayo briefly rallied, Albiol made a good break but found Garcia ready to confound him. Former Tenerife coach Pepe Mel couldn’t seem to fire his current side up to exploit their man advantage, Pachon showed more of his skill controlling the ball before going for goal, but Garcia showed great determination to claw the ball off the line and push it wide. At the final whistle, it was clear to see which set of fans were happier, as Tenerife supporters cheered their heroes off. Other results on Sunday took Xerez top on 57 points, and left CDT and Hercules tied on 56, followed by Zaragoza on 43 and Rayo on 53.

Next Sunday (April 12) is the first of 2 Noon kick offs at home due to Canal Plus coverage. The Levante game will be followed 2 weeks later (April 26) by the derby return against the Pios from Las Palmas (to be confirmed), you would be crazy to miss either.

Painting a brighter life in Santa Cruz

Walking through a giant human colon, surrounded by statistics of untimely death. No,it’s not the new single from Morrisey, just part of another interesting trip to Santa Cruz, the always surprising capital of Tenerife.

More of those bodily functions later, but top of my agenda today,was the new exhibition of Still Life paintings from the Prado museum in Madrid.  The touring exhibition, El Bodegon Español en El Prado, is at the Espacio Cultural Caja Canarias (upstairs from the large Caja Canarias bank at Plaza de Patriotismo, just up and to the right of Plaza de España) and will stay until 31 May.

The FREE exhibition opens from 11 am to 1 pm and 5 pm to 9 pm Monday to Friday, and 11am to 2 pm and 5 pm to 8 pm on Saturdays. It was my first foray into the display area, bright, modern and spacious, it’s a good setting for the frequent culture shows that they put on. In this case, there are 60 offerings from leading Spanish painters of the 17th to 19th century. The Goya work, above, is Perros En Trailla y Utiles De Caza, from 1775.

Most of the paintings feature animals, and food, and are so rich and evocative of their subjects, thay made me quite hungry. This one above is Dolces y Frutos Secos Sobre Una Mesa, by Tomas Hiepes. In case you are wondering, these are not photos taken by me, the very serious looking security guards looked ready to swat me like an annoying fly when I asked if I could take photos, even without a flash.

Judging by the well thumbed and gratefully signed visitors book that has followed the paintings on their city by city tour, I was not the only one to be impressed by the work on offer. If you want a colourful souvenir, they are selling a 200 page glossy catalogue for 20 euros.

Leaving the building, I was intrigued by a bright orange concertina tube at the entrance to the Plaza de Principe de Asturias park. Silly me, it was a colon of course, the young ladies in attendance thrust some leaflets in my hand and propelled me towards the colon mouth. I soon discovered that it was a graphic way to alert people to the dangers of cancer of the colon. Here’s a couple of shocking facts for you, the Spanish death rate from colon cancer is 6 times that from AIDS and 3 times that from road deaths. Despite being the most common form of cancer, it has a 90 % cure rate if caught early. The display is only there for a few more days, so do yourself a favour and have a quick look at the website for the alliance to prevent colon cancer.

Not a bad old place Santa Cruz, culture and health education, all within one small area of the city. I look forward to more revelations on my next trip.

From hard hats to soft slippers at T3

On my first tour of the nearly finished Tenerife Top Training centre in La Caleta, I had to cover my head. Returning a couple of weeks ago, I tried to put the blue plastic bag I was offered over my head, before the euro dropped and I realised it was one of 2 shoe covers, so I could go through to the swimming area to watch Dutch and German internationals in action.

The T3 centre looked impressive with the final touches added, you can see my interview with Dutch Olympian, Femke Heemskerk, in the latest free copy of The Paper.

Manchester City may have been and gone, but the 2 football pitches, one real, one artificial, are in constant use and during Semana Santa (Easter Week) they will be home to a youth football academy, at the same time as open tournaments are held for local tennis and padel players. Padel is a fast growing form of tennis, originating from Mexico and popular in Spain. It’s a doubles game, less reliant on strength, and played with an under hand serve and use of the walls-as in squash.

The 56,000 square metre centre is state of the art, and includes a water flume ( a high powered treadmill) and a gym with machines driven by air pressure rather than weights. There are already many more professional teams from various sports booked to come to Tenerife to use the centre, a much needed boost for tourism.

I shall be popping in over the Easter week to add new content and photos for the new T3 blog site, one of many Sorted Sites websites I copy write for. Hopefully the young athletic types won’t be too put off by an old blonde fogey snapping and scribbling as they push themselves to the limit. If I get too tired, I will have to adjourn to the sun drenched juice and snack bar, after all, at my age I have to pace myself.