Unwrapping Christmas In Santa Cruz And La Laguna

You know pretty well what your getting each year with Christmas but it doesn’t stop you ripping open the parcels and Tenerife has a knack of adding a few twists to the well worn themes. It was lovely weather for a sleigh ride together (hot sun) but for the trip up to Santa Cruz I shared a Titsa bus with the lovely Karen.

Views of the extensive post storm snow on Mount Teide whizzed by and we were soon in the capital and on the tram to La Laguna. It was as always a few degrees cooler in the University town but the street decorations were tasteful and festive. First stop was the Casa de Los Capitanes, as well as housing the main Tourist Information office the courtyard always does a nice nativity spread with wise men and cattle but this year they also had a more concentrated belen in a side room. Sponsored by Caja Canarias it featured the walled city of Bethlehem with a thriving market place and the three wise men passing by the local traders.

Further along at Plaza del Cristo the indoor market was doing a good trade and the fish, meats, and cheeses were making my nose twitch like crazy. The cynic in me did find it amusing to see their mini nativity scene just next to a cash point machine, well gold, frankincense and myrrh are good but hard cash will do nicely. A spot of lunch and a tour took us to the Espacio de Arte Contemporaneo, its wild mural on a garage door always makes me laugh but the sculptures above were a new rib tickler and suitably shocking, it was clear what side of naughty or nice they had plumped for.

Time to catch the tram back down to Santa Cruz for more exploring. The first belen in Plaza de Candelaria was disappointing, normally an open manger scene with straw and donkeys they have opted for a sealed piece this year that looks more like a tomb. The information panels gave details about Nazareth in several languages but the charm has been lost in favour of functionality and security. The Cabildo HQ belen (top) was not as large as usual and just one sided instead of a walk around model but the detail was terrific and donations made by visitors are going to AMATE cancer charity.

The port is always worth a detour and the tell tale masts of a tall ship had already caught our interest. Passing the large semi erect (feel free to snigger) stage for the Christmas Day late classical concert we found the Alexander Von Humboldt moored up and some of the 41 paying crew checking the deck. It looked like my blagging had failed to get us an invite on board but a fellow CD Tenerife fan among the crew recognized me and we were given a hearty welcome. Several of these tall ships use Santa Cruz as a base for short trips with a crew learning new sea skills as they sail. There were also some spare crew in old fashioned uniforms milling about on the quay, the previous day they had been filming an advert for Becks beer – sadly no free rations were on offer.

Although based on a 150 year old square rigger this ship, the second to bear the name, was only built in 2011. The 24 sails van get it up to 14 knots but the 750 horse power engine is handy to have when the wind drops. They did well to miss the big storms and are just off for a weeks tour around the Canarian waters while the crew learn the ropes and other sea faring tasks in a big team building exercise.

Back on shore and in the heart of the city we sought out a new exhibition Artbelen 2013 at the La Recova Centro de Arte just behind the Teatro Guimera. It was lovely with some fantastic models made from recycled rubbish, well worth a look if you are up that way before it closes after 5 January. While in there I heard the dreaded pittter patter of heavy rain on the roof, thankfully it was just a brief downpour and we were able to walk to the CC Tres de Mayo shopping centre for a quick look around. I was tempted to leap off the balcony and onto the soft toy animals that were for hire, if only to liven up their bored assistant. Then I had a better idea, we caught the Titsa bus back south and rounded off the day with a couple of cheeky Dorada’s in The Merry Monk.