My dad has been staying with me since Christmas Eve. He’s 87 and extremely spry and together for his age, but he can’t get around as he used to. When we first emigrated, and he came to visit, he would happily roam all around the southern coast when I was busy, but these days a half hour’s walk is the most he can manage. Last year I hadn’t quite latched on to that, he’s always been so sprightly, but this year I realized that I had to think of places to go where a short walk, a coffee and maybe another short walk would make a decent “outing”.
I drove through Santiago del Teide on my way to Icod just before Christmas, and I was struck, as always, by how picturesque and elegant it looks, nestled amongst craggy hills and surrounded by what must be the greenest part of the south, and I added it to my list of places to visit with my dad. Pretty and small enough that a short stroll would be enjoyable, but also interesting for me too.
That I chose yesterday, which was an achingly crystal clear day, as you can see from the blue skies in the pictures, was sheer luck. When I drove through on the return from Icod the town had been shrouded in thick mist of the best Hound of the Baskervilles variety. The way places are named here, Santiago del Teide is the name of the municipality which covers an area of just over 52 sq kilometres, ranging from 1015 meters above sea level, right down to the stunning cliffs of Los Gigantes on the coast, but when you say the name most folk think of the village at the heart of the municipality, which lies at a mere 936 m above the ocean, and that was our destination.
My car is of the old and faithful variety, so I was quite happy to be stuck behind hire cars and tour buses for almost the entire time after we left the main highway, the TF1. That makes it sound like a busy route, and it wasn’t at all. I speak of one hire car and one bus, actually. The traffic was light, which is the way I’ve always found it once through the bustling, little village of Guia de Isora. It’s a route which quietly unravels and gets greener and greener as you travel. Let’s be honest, the south and south-east coasts have a lot going for them in many ways, but pretty isn’t a word which springs to mind. Leave them behind and it’s a whole, new world, and I was delighted to be able to take my time and glance around me now and then at the clusters of cacti, the breathtaking view down to the ocean, or the almond trees which are just coming into blossom.
The sad thing was that the aforesaid bus was heading right for the same place we were, even down to where I’d planned to park, so I decided on sustenance first and exercise afterwards. We parked close to the charming, 17th century church, and crossed the road to the recreation area, where we could sit and enjoy a coffee under the shade of eucalyptus trees, and wait for the “hoards” to leave. This area is one of the ones I wrote about last year. It lies alongside the main road, but truly the road isn’t so busy that it would spoil an afternoon there. I’ve only done it once, but it was delightful, and a nice wee stoll along a dry stream bed for the dogs made it even nicer. At the entrance there is a small bar, which I now kick myself for not snapping, because it isn’t often you see somewhere constructed to allow for the surrounding trees, which seem to emerge from its roof. Maria who runs it cooks a mean hamburger too, as I remembered once we sat down and the aroma drifted out. I was hooked, I had to have one, and I actually almost managed to finish it.
By that time the bus had moved on, leaving the village peaceful in the balmy, afternoon sun, so we trotted over to the church. I’d noted that the bus party had visited the church, but was surprised to find the doors still wide open. It just doesn’t happen that much anymore, sadly. It used to be that you could always pop into a church, but I digress. It was open, and we stepped inside, to be almost overwhelmed by the color and the quantity of statues, icons and pictures which filled the walls.
It’s a small church, but every nook and cranny was filled. It was more crowded than usual because the whole area around the altar was occupied by the belén (nativity scene), which included a couple of real, live ducks – in a tiny cage, suspended from the ceiling, poor things! Given that twelth night was 48 hours passed you might have thought they would have had their freedom back! Clearly things had been moved around to make room for the Christmas display.
Being with my dad meant I couldn’t have the good old nosey around I would normally have had. Walking he can handle, but stopping to admire or investigate is bad for his back, so it was a quick look around and onwards. I’m not religious in the conventional sense, and if was I’m sure I would lean these days to a simpler style of worship and belief, in other words, I often find the ostentation of church displays uncomfortable, but walking into this little church was something like walking into a rainbow, and I couldn’t help but like it.
After leaving, we wandered the streets close to the church for a little while, where modern houses blended tastefully with the older, well-kept buildings, cocks crowed from what looked like overgrown lots, and bees buzzed lazily in the Spring sunshine. A couple of old ladies, sitting on benches by the kiddies’ playground seemed to eye us with suspicion, but responded with smiles to my “Buenos tardes.” It’s almost always that way here. The playground was empty, but as you can see, even this was cheerful and colorfully decorated, guaranteed to stimulate young imaginations, don’t you think?
By the time we reached the end of the playground my dad knew he’d had enough, so we turned back, me with mental notes of things I wanted to know (the Tourist Information Office was closed by the time I tried the handle around 3 o’clock…….and I wasn’t the only one, but somehow I didn’t mind there. It was siesta time. Middle of Santa Cruz is another story. It’s a busy, little, capital city, and if it wants the cruise ships it will have to accommodate tourists on their timeframe.), and things I wanted to see in a different light, at a different time of day. I did a little sortie down a side road, but it was clear that my dad was tuckered out, so I left it all for another day.
I didn’t even investigate the new rural hotel, where I’d had a coffee last year, and about which I’ve heard great reports, just read this one from local journalist Andy Montgomery, but I love to leave something for another time, wherever I go, unless I hate a place it’s great to have a reason to go back, and I really can’t think of another village in the south which is as simply pretty as Santiago del Teide.