Islandmomma

Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age

Los Abrigos: a Fishing Village Keeping up with the Times

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Last week I wrote this short piece for sunshine.co.uk’s Tenerife insiders’ blog. It got me thinking about the village of Los Abrigos, and how it has changed over the years I’ve lived in Tenerife, and musing about whether the changes were a good thing or not.  When we arrived in 1987 the village had already made itself a mecca for fresh fish dining, but in addition to excellent food, it was the lack of pretension with appealed to visitors. Has it kept that atmosphere?

Looking over the harbor at sunrise

When we were making the decision to immigrate  I only had one week here to form opinions.   Having checked out the school (my only worry),  the rest of my week was all bonus, it was exploring and discovering what was to be our new home, and I think my favorite “discovery” was Los Abrigos.

We set off down a narrow, bumpy road with more twists than a slinky. At one point it was cobbled, but mostly it was broken-up tarmac, as if it had been  abandoned and forgotten. I could see that it was leading seawards, because even this close to the ocean we were elevated (there is hardly any flat ground on Tenerife).  It took us over an arid, mostly sandstone scrubland with the words coto de caza scrawled ominously all over the place.  This was a warning to keep out of the area on Thursdays and Sundays in the hunting season, from August to December.  It was hard to imagine just what there was there for rabbits, or anything else, to feed on. This type of landscape was so totally alien to me back then.  I could only relate to scenarios from my favorite westerns.  It looked like bleak wasteland,  but the power of nature was palpable.  It celebrated the ability to survive.

Finally, and not without a touch of car sickness, although it was only about ten minutes of a journey, we arrived at a little junction, where the road flattened.  In another reference to westerns, the term “one horse town” came to mind! It was a dry and hot, early afternoon, and nothing stirred.  If tumbleweed had blown along the road I wouldn’t have been a bit surprised.  This was Los Abrigos, or The Shelters, so-called because the bay on which the village grew up is protected from the almost constant breezes which are a feature of this coastline.  On the corner was the village shop, and next to it a fish restaurant, Tito’s, famed for being a cheaper version of what we were about to enjoy.  Cheaper because it didn’t have the view, and it goes without saying you have to pay a bit extra for a view.

The road forked right to the seafront, and we drove haltingly along the street, taking in the vista, the sea and harbor falling away to our right, and our left bordered by slightly scruffy buildings, most of which were fish restaurants and bars.  Then, as now, one of the first things which struck you on arrival was the mouth-watering aroma of frying fish, which permeates everything in the midday heat. If you aren’t hungry when you arrive, you surely will be within a couple of minutes.  Most places had plastic tables and chairs which wobbled  on the roadside – there was no sidewalk.  We drove to the end, squeezed through the narrow opening between two buildings, and parked behind Perlas del Mar, the restaurant which occupies the most prominent position, at the end of the harbor, with marvellous views out to the Atlantic, and over the small harbor.

We were greeted with friendly smiles.  The estate agent who had taken us was well-known there, and was it any wonder?!  I can’t imagine anyone not being bowled over by the experience – great selling tool!  We  chose our own fish from the ‘fridge – that was a novelty. Then we settled in a corner table with those amazing views, for our first taste of mojo (an island sauce), boquerones (marinated anchovies) and calamari (lightly battered and fried), and salad, whilst we waited for our fish to be cooked.  If I’m totally honest, the salad was very unimaginative – lettuce, tomatoes and onions, with the oil and vinegar to be added to taste.  The salads haven’t changed much over the years, if you want a decent salad stick to the resort areas.  That afternoon the estate agent knew she had us hooked. We sat and washed down all that marvellous fresh food with cold beers, and the kids pottered safely around the seawall as we watched.  They’d spotted the seawater pool in the corner of the harbor – so that meant we would be coming back for sure, and we did, more times than I can count.

Over the years I’ve had some memorable meals there;  sunny Sunday lunches with big tables full of friends and family; a Sunday evening with friends when everything around us closed; we’d long since finished eating and were sipping our umpteenth coffee and brandy (ah, those were the days!), when the owner came out with the brandy bottle, still half full, and plonked it on our table.  He told us we were welcome to stay on his terrace as long as the bottle lasted, but he was going home to bed!

Another time, during that first year, we were sitting roadside when a small procession wound its way past, carrying a plaster saint.  It was a balmy September evening and the feast of San Blas, but we hadn’t known.  Back then it was very low-key, unless you lived in the village, but the fireworks which ensued after the blessing of the seas were the equal of The Magic Kingdom’s, and we had, unintentionally booked a front row seat.  These days the fiesta is renown throughout the south, and you have to fight for positions to view the spectacle, which is a change for the worse, I guess, except that the fireworks are ever more spectacular each year…..swings and roundabouts.

I’ve even been known, arriving back from time spent elsewhere, to go straight to Los Abrigos to eat before going home!

Nowdays when you arrive it’s by a smooth, new road which glides down from the motorway junction in Las Chafiras. As you enter the village on the left there is a smart plaza, and to your right you will spot a posh hotel, seemingly plonked in the middle of what is, essentially, still desert.  On the corner, where the village shop stood, is now a trendy boutique. Last year the church square was smartened up, and pedestrianized area was extended.  You haven’t been able to drive along the seafront, as we used to, for some years now.

These days there are a couple of upmarket restaurants amongst the traditional ones, and a couple of Italian restaurants, which seem to be surviving.  In the old days, nothing other than a fish restaurant lasted there for very long.  It’s what people go to Los Abrigos for.

I have a sentimental attachment to the place, because I lived there very happily for a while.  I was living there when I first began this blog, and perhaps one reason I didn’t do much with the blog in the early days is that I had the view below – and spent more time gazing at it than at whatever I was doing at the computer.  My desk with right next to the window!

When I lived there, sometimes I would be woken by noises and shouting echoing in the darkness, and unaccumstomed light illuminating my room,  and if I parted the curtains I could watch the boats coming in and being unloaded.  It was fascinating to hang about and observe them, doing what their families had done for years and years.  You could forget about the swish restaurants and the fancy tourists and imagine that life still went on as it always had.

This boat steamed in  excitedly, followed by a retinue of hungry gulls one early morning.

The sea must have been bountiful this day, because the harbor began to fill up with boats, and the harbor wall with vans collecting the catch.

The reason I left this apparent bit of paradise in 2008 was an influx of what promised to be the neighbors from hell. It didn’t help my unease that they were British, and seemed to assume that I needed to be friends simply because I was too.  One night of listening to their drunken, shrieking  and swearing was enough for me.  I set out to find a new home the next day. As you guys know, I like to move around anyway, so it wasn’t a problem. Thinking back, it wasn’t the friendliest place to live anyway.  I was there for two and half years, and scarcely got to know anyone, even the owner of the restaurant below my apartment, where I used to eat quite a lot,  never admitted to knowing me.  The only people I ever made friends with were waiters and PRs, who constantly changed anyway.  I guessed that the older families must have resented the place filling up with foreigners.  I really can’t be sure, because no-one would ever talk about it very much, and given the behaviour of my new neighbours, who can blame them?

More of these types seemed to be moving into the area around that time, but I went back there to eat last week, and it was all quiet on the waterfront, so perhaps the excesses have been curbed by law and neighbours.  In any event the very best time to go is Sunday lunchtime.  In typical Spanish fashion lunch begins late by northern European standards, 2 or 3 o’clock, when whole families potter down, and sit and eat companionably, as meals should be taken, with lunch drifting into dinner time.  By ten-ish most restaurants are closing up, and people heading slowly home refreshed and ready for the new week.

My favorite for quality and choice for a traditional meal is Vista Mar in the center of the parade of restaurants, but Restaurante Los Abrigos and Perlas del Mar are very good too.  If you want upmarket fine dining with a menu worthy of any capital city, then Los Roques.  It’s expensive, but worth every cent.  I couldn’t help but smile when I noticed that the two I considered worst during my time there have closed down, which is the thing about recessions – survival of the fittest.  One of my old favorites has made an attempt to go upmarket and failed miserably.  I know because I ate there last week, and the food was very mediocre, though the setting was great, shame they didn’t stick to what they used to do so well.  If you’re going to keep up with the times, you have to know how to do it properly.

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Author: IslandMomma

Loving island life and exploring the freedoms Third Age brings: Challenging myself every day: writing, traveling, snapping pix, running & teaching ESL

10 thoughts on “Los Abrigos: a Fishing Village Keeping up with the Times

  1. If I had that view, there isn’t anything I would get done in the course of a day. Too bad obnoxious neighbors forced you out, but understandable. And, on the bright side of things, your readers have had even more slices of life from Tenerife!

    • Always look on the bright side! It’s one of the better things about renting, being able to move at will. I can’t imagine owning that apartment and having neighbours like that. I wondered if it was cowardly to move, whether I should have stood my ground, but those kind of people don’t change, and it usually ends up being really nasty, and life’s too short, and also I was ready for a move. I am a bit more careful chosing where to live now too. Those apartments had balconies side-by-side, so difficult to avoid neighboours, here, right now it’s much more private.

  2. Great photos and interesting story about life from Tenerife. I didn’t know much about the area before, great post.

  3. Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it, and very happy to spread the word. When you live here (unless you are one of those ex-pats who is only here for the weather, and sticks with their herd) you tend to avoid the touristy places, and laud the more “authentic”. For sure, my heart lies with the “authentic” but I do try to be fair. There’s good and bad everywhere, but as with so many places with attract tourists, there is so much more here than just the beaches!

  4. For 20+ plus years L A was a regular hount while we stayed in Medano eating there several times a week but alas no longerwe used to always go for lunch but as the years went on the food got poorer and more expensive and fewer customer arrived the staffs attitude got worse

    So we stopped now we eat in Medano where things have dramatically improved in nice friendly restuarants

    • I agree it went through a bad phase, but revisiting last week I was pleased to see how it has come around and is making a new go of it, i.e. changing with the times. I certainly wouldn’t wholeheartedly praise every restaurant, which is why I named the ones I like, and you’ll note my delight in observing that the two restaurants I considered really bad had closed their doors – survival of the fittest. In fact, I made a bad decision in the restaurant I chose that night. It used to be excellent, simple, fresh food, served with a smile, but in trying to be “upmarket” it did itself no favors. It wasn’t bad, that would be unfair to say, it was just very mediocre, nothing special at all.

  5. Ah I’ve found my way back to your blog again, and I always seem to find it refreshes me and most of all makes me want to go to Tennerife!
    I’m sorry to hear that it wasn’t a very friendly place to live, though with the views I think I’d be content to stay there for a little while at least – and just like you would probably get next to no work done!
    Also the fish you described sounded absolutely exquisite, and it being nearly dinner-time has made me quite hungry! =)

    I didn’t get a chance to thank you last time for stopping by my blog, for some reason I wasn’t notified of your reply. Silly wordpress. So a month late, thankyou! And I’ll keep popping by to read your times in Tennerife. =)

    • Hi! Thanks for coming back!

      I didn’t really expect it to be any different, and it didn’t bother me until the horrible people moved in next door, and they weren’t locals anyway. If I’d had more money to be able to go a sit in a local bar (as opposed to those restaurants on the front) maybe I would have met more people, but I was very broke and very busy at the time, so it was ok!

      The fish here is excellent I must say, though!

  6. We had our first dinner in the Resaurante Los Abrigos in 1990, and I think that by then most of the ‘modernisation’ had probably already happened. I remember watching them unload the fish from the boat below us as we sipped our pre-dinner cevezas. You can’t get much fresher than that :-)

    We still go there to eat /sometimes take visitors there, and it’s certainly still a picturesque little fishing harbour, but having lived here for a while now, we’ve discovered a few similar spots that feel a lot less touristic and more authentically Canarian. Tajo (just NE of Medano), for instance – have you tried the fish there ? ymmmmmm :-)

    One thing that annoyed us a bit last time in LA was the presence of Pl Las Americas style touts trying to grab you into their restaurant. However good a place is there’s no way that I’m going to be tempted into it by one of these ‘marketing men’. If they’re that desperate to get your attention you start to wonder what’s wrong with their food.

    re your move away from the neighbours from hell … very wise, we did that twice (in the UK) and those were houses that we owned / had to sell to move – but in the long run, as you say ‘life is too short’.

  7. Oh, yes, give me Tajao any time. I’ve had a craving to go there for a little while, but life has been kind of getting in the way! I took to calling it “The new Los Abrigos” for a while after the original lost its shine for me.

    There was a noted absence of PRs the other night. Whether they have been banned or the idea has simply been dropped (which I think is the case) I’m not sure. They do tend to put one off, don’t they. I hate aggressive selling of any sort, and it always has the opposite affect to that intended on me! If I’d been a stranger there I would have gone for one without the hard sell! That said, I got to know a couple of them, and they were very nice people, so, not so bad as PLA!

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