The crunching sound you hear is me – eating my hat, as in “I’ll eat my hat if I ever step foot inside ******* (insert appropriate name) because it’s only for tourists.
This week I did that twice – in the same day, and, guess what – fun and giggles all day! One of the negative things about having a blog is that everything is viewed as fodder. “Hmmm what can I write about this?” “Will so-and-so mind if I use this embarrassing but charming picture of her/him?” “Do I need to take an extra lens?” and, most importantly, “Is there wi-fi here?” Whilst I love doing it (NO reason to do so if I don’t!) it becomes, at some point, a kind of responsibility rather than pure enjoyment.
I don’t write about tourist stuff, at least not the promoted stuff. That’s because a) I tend to stay away from busy and over-hyped places and b) Scads have already been written about these places, and I never intended this blog to be a “Guide to the Islands” more a personal memoir of places, people and events. There are several excellent blogs and pages about Tenerife, for instance, which I listed on my links page.
Soooooo……. for a day out with the girls last Friday, to two very touristic places, I was there to enjoy, and didn’t have any intentions of writing anything. In fact, I took hardly any photos. Most of the ones on this post were taken by my friend, Colleen.
That said, I feel moved to say “Never rule out the tourist stuff!”
Our day began not too early, 9.30 to be exact. Driving south to the much busier north we missed the Santa Cruz/La Laguna rush hour (although on TF5 – the autopista which links Santa Cruz with places north folk weren’t so lucky) .
Tip number one: Be early or be late to miss the gridlock around the cities.
We arrived at our brunch destination, El Monasterio in the Orotava Valley with perfect timing around 10.30. It opens at 10, so, you know. not so early they’re not properly organized, but not so late that it’s full.
El Monasterio is a bit of a curiosity. The original building was, as you probably guessed, a monastery, which was acquired and renovated by the present owners in the early 1990s. Additions have been made, but very much in keeping with the look and ambience of the historical part of the complex. Their website doesn’t do them any favors and there isn’t enough information around the place describing its history for me (ack ….. I have to be so picky!), but its atmosphere is delightful, even on a busy day (and the previous time I was there was a Sunday and busy!). Friday, having been chosen very deliberately, was quiet.
Tip number two: Friday is a good day for personal excursions. It’s changeover day for both Russians and Brits (probably other nationalities too, but those form the bulk of excusion-istas) which means less buses on the roads, less crowds at the eateries and places where the excursion buses and jeep safaris stop.
El Monasterio serves brunch in one of its four restaurants, El Mirador. Mirador means a vantage point or viewing platform (doesn’t sound nearly as nice in English, does it?) What that means is that, as we ate, a huge swathe of the Orotava Valley, down to the blue Atlantic, lay before us. It’s a much-vaunted fact that Alexander von Humboldt heaped high praise on a this landscape during his stop on the island en route to the Americas in the late 18th century, and back then they didn’t come any more traveled than he! I would give a fair amount to be able to travel back in time to see the view as it was then, minus the hundreds of buildings which now inhabit its hillsides. Even with them, it’s spectacular. Add to this white cane furniture and crisp, check cloths and you have a feeling of the elegance of the 30s.
The brunch menu is limited but good, and has an unusual star – the bread basket! In the best tradition of monasteries as self-sufficient complexes the restaurant serves its own bread, which you can also buy in their shop (if this is beginning to sound a bit like a theme park, well, you’re not far wrong). There is variety, something for everyone I think, so long as you can tolerate gluten! The rest of the food, including a glass of cava (and how better to start a day out?) is nice, not to rave over, but, you know, nice.
Afterwards you amble off your indulgence around the sloping grounds which are a mixture of farmyard and gardens, and where peacocks and chickens stalk your progress. Actually, even before our stroll on Friday, a bold fowl strutted into the restaurant and went around the tables begging. I had seen this before, when I lunched in the restaurant in the central patio (luscious sausages and meats btw), but never in El Mirador. Quite what the EU inspectors would make of it I don’t know, but it’s fun, and I presume that they use countless eggs for those brunches so they aren’t there just for entertainment.
There is a section of the grounds closed off by a small, wooden gate, where ducks (Muscovy, Mallard and Pekin to the best of my knowledge – which is not very vast), ponies and other animals run around….something like a petting zoo, except you can’t get near enough to pet the ponies, and right now the ducks and chickens all have young, so they are not exactly….er…..friendly!
See what I mean?!
Full of brunchy goodness, trunk stashed with a mile-long loaf (which they kindly divided into 3 for us, honestly it was that big, and I still wasn’t thinking of taking snaps really!) and wine, we departed for Pueblo Chico, about five minutes away. The place we found efficiently, the parking was another matter.
Tip Number Three: Always question the signs – they are put up by folk who already know where they are and how they got there, who don’t stop to realize that others don’t!
Next month will mark 26 years of living on this island for me, and all this time I have resisted visiting Pueblo Chico. I think my kids may have had a school trip once, so I saw myself as being spared the traipse around a miniature village – I mean, didn’t they disappear some time in the Swinging 60s? With all the bounty of this island I wondered why I would want to visit a manmade kiddies’ attraction?
Well, as you can see from the snaps below……many thanks, Colleen!…….wrong! Hence the hat eating. It’s a tribute to Tenerife and other Canary Islands in miniature. It’s been there a long time now, and is showing its age a bit. It could do with a lick of paint or just a good clean up, but it was loads of fun! It made me feel like a kid again, in the same way Disney does (and I am a HUGE Disney World fan!) I wasn’t so much taken with the miniatures themselves (but that’s just me) as with the odd fun things, like those mirrors which make you look stretched out or like a Telly Tubby – hmmm……ok, so that wasn’t the mirror, that was just me , or the giant chair so that when you sit in it you look shrunken.
I’d already gotten that Alice in Wonderland feeling from the enormous plants around the place. It’s a feeling I first had when I visited the Botanical Gardens in Puerto de la Cruz years ago. Remember how Alice drank the bottle which shrank her? That’s how it sometimes feels when you walk through a garden here, composed of plants you used to keep on the window sill back in UK! And then how about all the lizards who whipped in and out of “houses” and rocks…..if they were to scale they would definitely have been Gozilla!
So, of course, now I am feeling that I deprived my kids of this silly/happy experience when they were little!
To top off the day, Val knew a restaurant which is almost opposite to Pueblo Chico, named Tito’s Bodegita, one of those marvelous old properties with courtyards which have been turned into clever nooks for eating. Not so much with the tourists here, it was early for dinner, late for lunch, and the other tables seemed to be occupied by locals. It was the sort of place you want to wander around and ask questions about, but they were busy preparing for a wedding reception, and, wow, but what a gorgeous place to do that! After the large brunch we weren’t exactly starving but we managed to force down a plate of their special chicken (secret recipe, darn it!).
You guys know I often say that Tenerife never ceases to amaze me, and I might say that even more of this wee excursion. It was almost pure tourism and a very lazy day, but really was a barrel of laughs……for which, of course, my gratitude goes to the lovely company I had….thanks, girls!