The roads, and especially the autopistas, of Tenerife, like roads the world over, are a cross between race tracks for the young and senseless and arteries of the island, carrying goods and tourists up and down, but, curiously for such a mecca of tourism, very quiet on Sundays – at least if you are going in the right direction – that would be, for instance, not north to south in summer, when people from the cities head for the beaches of the south, and not south to north when CD Tenerife are playing. Happily, last Sunday Colleen and I were headed in the right direction at 9.30, from the hot and dusty south to the village of Tegueste, just a click from La Laguna.
Alerted by a tweet we’d decided to find out what was so special about batatas, or sweet potatoes. This is a vegetable, which, for me, reaches the heights of ambrosia in the sweet potato pie they make in the southern states of the US, but otherwise, I’ve not been able to get excited about……could it be that Jack Daniels is missing from other recipes???
In any event it was an excuse to do something I’d been meaning to do for a few years and visit Tegueste, which I’d really only passed through before, but which had very much appealed to me.
It turned out to be very much the way I’d remembered and imagined it to be, quiet (at least on a Sunday), almost sleepy, and very pretty. Sitting outside a small bar close to the church square felt almost like stepping back in time, watching the world awake to a day which was more “pleasantly warm” than the hot south…….not to mention two cups of coffee for €1.70!!!!!!!!!!! ………I started to write there: ”I’ll give friends in the south time to pick themselves up from the floor,” but I’m thinking that, actually, would be friends the world over. Question : can any of you buy a cup of coffee for 85 cents? And not only coffee, but really good coffee?? Still, it would have been a long way to go just to save a couple of euros on cups of coffee alone.
After enjoying our caffeinated and bucolic fix we made our way to the Farmers’ Market where local chef Javier Mora was due to instruct in innovative uses of the sweet potato. Mora is chef at a large hotel in the Costa Adeje area, and since, living here, I don’t, actually, know that much about hotels I tried to find out more about him. Sadly, he shares a name with a Mexican boxer, an Ecuadorian photographer/mountain climber, a well-known Spanish actor and some people in the technology industry, so I gave up. He seemed quite impressive and dedicated though.
After short (yay!) speeches from the mayor and market officials he set to work stirring pans from which delicious aromas were drifting, and in true “here is one I made earlier” tradition, samples were passed around. Nice touch here, the dishes were made from banana leaves fastened together with wooden sticks, which made them about the size of a large egg cup, just perfect for a tasty nibble, and others were made from an ultra thin bark which made them all biodegradable….. 10 out of 10 to whoever was reponsible for that :=)
Joking apart, the dishes we tried were both delicious, especially the one with the serrano ham, but I can’t tell you how he described them or what he said, because his patter was lost amidst the chatter and slurping of his gathered fans……….note to anyone who reads this who might know whom to tell — give the man a mike next time! I really would have like to have heard what he had to say. This is the first of 12, monthly demonstrations, organized by the island government, and the next one will be in a different municipality, so maybe it will be better luck next time.
There was also a free wine tasting to go with the food, which was a very nice touch – and a good PR move, we both liked the El Lomo, and will definitely buy if we see it on sale in the future. 10 out of 10 to the young man and the young woman on that stall, who were very pleasant too.
The Farmers’ Market itself was quite a surprise for me. Used to the bustle of the markets in San Isidro (my local one) or Las Chafiras, or the iconic Mercado de Nuestra Señora de Africa in Santa Cruz, I was surprised at how tranquilo it seemed to be, and also by the fact that it is, essentially, an outdoor market, whilst the southern ones are indoor. Of course, my northern perception still perfectly in tact, even after all these years, I assumed that markets are covered against inclement weather, but perhaps it’s the hot sun, and not the rain they protect customers from! Although winters in Tegueste are much fresher than in the south, compared to northern Europe they are mild. It is also laid out with wide aisles, so it’s easy to get around without bumping into fellow shoppers.
In addition to local produce there was also a variety of other stalls which we don’t find in the Farmers’ Markets down south. There were a couple of jewellery stalls, with lovely bits and pieces which were quite unique, but my favorite was a kind of “toys of the past” stand, with brightly painted spinning tops and puppets carved from wood and decorated by the stallholder, but there was also a truly original stall with all sorts of things made from recycled materials, again by the stallholder. I admit to guilt about not buying from her! Her ideas were so clever and colorful, and she so deserved encouragement, that it took me all my determination to remind myself that I’m downsizing, not adding to my possessions unnecessarily! My determination failed on the bakery stall, though, where I gave in to a mushroom quiche, which turned out to be quite out of this world when I had it for supper later that night. The bakery is named Flor de Azafran, but Google turned up nothing. I must assume it’s small and in Tegueste or maybe only cooks for the market. Whatever, if you go to the market make sure to taste something from them!
I couldn’t help thinking that there were probably tourists on the island that day who would have loved to have visited this touch of true, local life and color. It has so much more to offer that the sweaty, boob-crushing markets of the south. Sure, they have their place, just as the southern beaches do, but for anyone who maybe woke in a hotel bedroom Sunday morning wishing they’d gone somewhere a bit more adventurous, it was all there waiting, had they only known.
Having set off early, we still had time left to stop off for a stroll around World Heritage Site, La Laguna afterwards, where I achieved another minor ambition and climbed to the top of the tower of the church of La Concepción, from which the promised view of this beautiful, little city nestled in the hills was not disappointing – well, except for some calima which seems to have been hanging around all summer, so that backgrounds to photos become white-outs. We’d been warned we might not want to be up there when the bells rang out, but we were, and despite Colleen’s pose in the photo below (which she patiently recreated for me!) it wasn’t that bad, only being on the quarter hour!
I snapped away far too much to be able to put them all in this post. This place never fails to delight me – this, for instance, is the tourist information office!
So, someday soon I’ll get them all organized, and there will be more, as we came away with information about the walking tours and museum nights we’d been hearing so much about, and, mind you, with criticism as well from me, at least. The lady in the tourist office was helpful, but there was a woeful lack of information, considering this city is so important to the cultural life of the island, and the desired cultural tourism Tenerife wants. My local tourism office in El Médano has lots more information about events on the island as well as in the town or municipality themselves. I am staggered that La Laguna doesn’t do more to promote itself. Whilst it is an absolute dream of colorfully renovated, historical buildings, there is still work to be done, and surely tourism will help provide the funds?
And just to end on a happy/sad note – I found a shop which was selling some of the wines I’ve been trying this summer, but didn’t want to carry them around with me, so since they didn’t close until 8.30, and it was quite close to where we had parked, I intended to go back to buy a couple of bottles……..and completely forgot!!! ……. ah well, just another reason to go back!