Islandmomma

Searching for Stories Around the Islands of the World and the Freedoms of Third Age


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What Happened to Britain’s Awful Food?

My very first travel memory might concern food. I am, I think, about six years old and visiting London for the first time, and I think that maybe my tastes were already running to fine cuisine. I’m sitting in Lyons Corner House with my parents, and being force fed greasy chips, which I hate, and I’m pouting and protesting that I don’t want them.

Looking back now to my most recent London visit, I  realize that my memories fall into three categories. Most important, of course, are the personal ones, time spent with family and friends I hadn’t seen in too long, and meeting new folk amongst whom, surely, there are embryo friendships – so let’s call the category “people.” Third I’ll christen “work” – that’s all the fascinating stuff at WTM, wee thrill of my first press pass and all the new stuff I’ve learned and the hopes for the future. So, what, you might ask, is in second place? It comes as a surprise to name this category “food.”

When I left the UK for warmer shores in 1987 the thing I didn’t miss was the food, which is not to knock fish and chips, steak & kidney pies or lovely pub grub, but, overall,  great food wasn’t the norm. Perhaps that’s still true to some extent, but far less I think. For one thing there are plenty of decent chains around now, as I’ve discovered in the last couple of years.

Camden Market’s food stalls. As colorful in presentation as they are in taste!

However!!! I have to declare my most recent London visit an unexpected foodie delight…..and most of it wasn’t even sit-down meals, but food grabbed whilst wandering around, like the eclectic and quirky food stalls at Camden Market, where I dithered over pork jerk, tagine, jian bing (from the Mei Mei street cart – sublime!), noodles and pizza, I finally settled on a kangaroo burger, partly out of curiosity and partly because, well, I like burgers (there are other exotic meats to choose from depending on the season, including bison and emu)…..and note to the guy selling them, whose name I sadly forgot to ask – nice chatting with you! I will definitely be back to sample another kind of burger next time in London!

Nor was my sweet tooth un-catered for – I feasted on tablet in flavors un-imagined (to my Scottish friends, never having tasted it “in situ” I don’t know how authentic it was, but it melted in the mouth and I could almost cry now thinking about it!); churros not only con chocolate but filled with dulce de leche and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar (….I did go twice, I hasten to add that not all of this was consumed in one day!); and rainbow-colored macaroons, which tasted and smelled like fresh fruits and whose slightly crispy outsides melted into a sweet, chewiness inside, which then simply disintegrated onto the tongue – now, I’ve never rated macaroons much, but these changed my mind – however, note to the lady selling them – if you’d been a bit less pushy I might have bought more and would certainly have taken photos which would have been posted all over the internet – your loss,  but your product is delicious.

And to warm the toes and wash down all that decadent consumption? What else but a seasonal cup of mulled wine or apple with cinnamon? Ah – now I truly want to cry just remembering.

But Camden Market wasn’t all! The previous weekend we had gone to a Tea and Coffee Festival on the South Bank. Big coffee fan here, so that was sufficient draw for me, so the yummy foods were a huge bonus….including my very first, ever cupcake! Can you believe that I have reached this advanced age without a cupcake ever passing my lips? The advantage is that it was all the sweeter and more appreciated for the delay, is all I can say! This festival was the third of four this Autumn, two previous being Real Bread and Cheese and Wine and the remaining one, December 7th to 9th is The Chocolate Festival! Oh that I could be there for that! But I have memories of light-as-air quiche and cookies my son declared to be “the best in the world” to feast on!

After South Bank we trotted down to Covent Garden……and more mulled wine. Cheers!!

Perhaps it’s down to the amazing ethnic mix that is now London, perhaps that mix harks back to the days of Empire and the cultural exchanges which resulted, because I appreciate that many of the foods I relished weren’t English in origin. In fact, without traveling too far I had my first bubble tea too (yummy and more-ish) and my first egg waffles in Chinatown…..at least there was plenty of walking involved in this feasting to ease the guilt!

Sitting here, feeling bloated just thinking about the deliciousness makes me want to dash down to the airport and get back to London, and I never would have thought that it would be the food which would draw me back – the city has come a long way from greasy chips!

And another nod to HomeAway.co.uk who eased my stay in London and added to my comfort!


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Blogging a Very Ordinary Week

I see this blog as a kind of diary more than anything else, especially now that I’ve studied lots of other blogs, and have a better idea of what I do or don’t want to do with it.  It’s read by some very old friends of very long standing (who’ve known me longer than anyone),who are probably the only people who are interested in my ramblings.

A lot of what I write is about life on Tenerife, “my” island home, but this isn’t a piece of journalism, nor is it a guide to the island (see my links for some excellent examples of those if you need them). So, I logged on this morning thinking I had nothing to write about. Last week was a very ordinary week, other than the Blues night in Lavabar, I didn’t take in any shows, or feasts or fiestas, (I’ve been a bit lazy, to be honest, it wasn’t that there was nothing on offer),  but then, I thought, “……but isn’t that the essence of what I want to do here? Simply record an ordinary (to me) life, which isn’t, necessarily, ordinary to others who live in cultures and climates and continents far removed. Even good friends with whom I share a past or mutual interests or a common language, live lives very different to mine. I suppose that’s why blogging appeals to us so much. We really are fascinated by different lives, and places, and cultures, and by what connects and what separates us, and I suppose this is one reason for me, personally, that I don’t live in the country in which I was born and raised.

The trend is for travel blogs to become more like travel guides or books. I love both, my favorite reading without a doubt, but I like blogs because I’ve been able to follow the journeys of people to whom I’ve been drawn. A blog for me is a journey (life or literally), and being able to travel with the person who writes.  This is one reason for liking this travel blog and also this one so much!  OK – it’s also because the writing and the photos are great, but I like the feel of logging on, and wondering if the authors have posted about where they are now, and what it’s like, sharing thier adventure a bit.

So, for the record, here is my ordinary, unexciting week, which, possibly, someone living  on another planet might find some interest in.

The default weather condition here in El Médano, as anyone who knows me knows, is W-I-N-D-Y, as in, always a stiff breeze, and often, just where I live here, meeting the wind head on and having to lean into it to walk without being blown backwards.  I am sure the corner of this road is the windiest place in a windy town.  So when Monday dawned as calm as the calmest day in the Doldrums it must have been really bad news for the international kiteboarders who had gathered for the Tenerife leg of the circuit, and when it continued into Tuesday it must have been downright depressing.  I imagine this happens, though.  I imagine the whole kiteboarding circus rolls into a town and the winds drop, and they say “sod’s law” , “here we go again”, or something, and break open the beers, take the chance to chill and mull over past triumphs and adventures (and, my god, must they have plenty!)

After a really boring and unsociable Monday the plan for Tuesday was to meet a friend on the beach in Los Cristianos and then have an early dinner.   However, dinner turned into lunch, and we never actually made it onto the beach, although we did sit and watch other people on the beach, whilst eating huge ice creams……Puh-leeze do not ask about the diet!

The main beach in Los Cristianos seems very drab these days after living in El Médano.  The users seem lethargic in comparison, and it lacks color somehow – could be all those superdrab sand-colored sunbeds?  There was a time, years ago,  when I used to love going down there in the summer, the beach was full of people doing things, beach volley was huge for instance, now there is only one court (is that the right word?) , and the place seems full of elderly people who just want to stroll or bake.

There is one seriously good reason for going to Los Cristianos beach, though, and that is the bar El Ciné, which, although it is hidden away behind the Bahia Bar/Restaurant which fronts the beach, remains the place to eat, as all locals know.  Literally, the queues both lunchtimes and evenings stretch a long way, if you don’t get there early. Other nearby bars and restaurants are almost empty…….Don’t ya think, duh, that they’d try to figure out how Carlos, the owner, does it???   He has, in fact, been there as long as any of us can remember, and his secret is that everything is very, very basic and simple, but fresh, fresh, fresh.  The tables and chairs are bog-standard plastic, the menu is very limited (I arrived early and there wasn’t even anything on the menu I could pick at whilst waiting), there is nothing fancy, the only alternative to fish or basic seafoods is chicken wings, the sauces (mojos) come in plastic bottles on the tables, instead of being served in little dishes.  Ann and I both had sardines and salad.  The salad was the simplest imaginable, just tomatoes and onion, but so tasty anything else would have spoiled it, and the sardines, were fresh and sweet and wonderful.    Had you seen the queue Tuesday lunchtime at around 2pm when we left you would have felt compelled to give it a try.  Why, on earth when there are so many empty tables at other restaurants, would people queue to eat at El Ciné you would wonder. Your average tourist, passing by, would maybe miss it, hidden as it is, but it is a magnet for local workers (including fishermen, so how much of a recommendation is that??), and people “in the know”, as well as the odd tourist who stumbles upon it and is looking for genuine, local fare – they usually come back night after night.

I took this snap last time Ann and I had an afternoon like this.  Tuesday I had no camera with me, and we forwent the pulpo, in favor of papas arrugadas.

After lunch we sat, in best old-lady tourist tradition,  and licked at ice creams from Via Via, an heladeria a bit further down the main part of the beach, their single cones for €1.60 are larger than the doubles in most places, and their chocolate mousse is to DIE for!  So now you understand why we didn’t swim – we would, most definitely have sunk!……..could have done with a dip to get the sticky sardine smell and ice cream sweetness off my fingers though!

Sometime Wednesday the winds blew up and the kiteboarding began in ernest, which was fine for them, for the rest of us it was a glimpse of hell, the winds were hot, calima clouded mountains and horizons, and we sizzled until Friday evening they began to tail off and leave us with our quite normal, glorious, sunny August weather :=)

Thursday, I had something towards the other end of the dining experience, the marvellous Japanese/Chinese inspired dishes from Dim Sum in La Caleta.  This is the latest venture from the Teppanyaki/Bianco chain, it opened only a few months ago and has been an instant hit, so much so, that one of the owners, and locally-well-known frontman, Rob, tells us that no advertising has been necessary!  And this in the midst of the worst recession the world has ever known.  Doesn’t that speak volumes for the quality of the place??

Here I go again – variety, you see, whether it’s culture, food or people, this place is a genuine melting pot.  Strolling into the town center in the evening last week became even more fascinating than usual. You could sense the excitment in the air the competitors and their fans had brought, mixing with the the hoards of people down from the north for the week, kids building sandcastles, even in the dark, and El Médano’s own amateur talent show going on in the the town square, quite unlike the sedate strolling or feet-scrapping slopping about which had been the vibe in Los Cristianos earlier.

Other “average” kind of things?  Well,  Friday around 1 am night I spent an hour lying on a sunbed on the roof terrace, sheilding my eyes from the light pollution, which was more than I thought it was, hoping for a glimpse of a shooting star.  I saw one, and it wasn’t as thrilling as some I’ve seen here, where the night skies are quite extraordinary.  For one thing you can almost always actually see the sky, and despite the pollution there was, I could still make out millions and millions of pinpricks that were stars, as well as seeing the closest stars and planets shining like beacons.  The place to have gone, really, would have been up into the mountains away from the pollution, but, as mentioned, I’ve been in lazy mood.  Even so, it was a wonderfully calming and spiritual experience, but for sure, I won’t be so lazy next time, lesson learned.


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Of Light and Lapas

Early Winter mornings, clear, clear air, images so sharp you could cry over the perfection.  It doesn’t have that magic incandesce of the the light in the South of France, but it does give cause for a slow, appreciative intake of breath, when you have the time to stop and take it in.

This morning I walked down to the sea with Trixy, and it was early enough still to revel in the colors and the tranquility.  The island of La Gomera, which you can see behind the ferry and the harbor wall here, floated distinctly on the horizon, and the desperately blue sea tiptoed to shore in gentle waves.

Heck, I know that on the other side of that ferry it certainly isn’t tranquil, as cars are marshalled off and on, food and drink are restocked, people mumble and children scream as they clamber aboard, and cleaners hurry to complete the turnaround, but here, sitting on the opposite shore, we sat and watched the world drift by……several runners, a couple of dog walkers, a couple with two, small children from the row of motor homes parked on rough land just above the beach, a homeless guy passively watching us watching him, and fishing boats and the police patrol boat puttering into and out of the harbor.  The people below were industriously looking for limpets which, abandoned by the outgoing tide, cling to the rocky shore.  Cooked right they taste like the ocean with a hint of olive oil and garlic, cooked wrong they turn to rubber!  If you get away from the tourist traps you will find them on the menus of most coastal restaurant/bars.

It’s a happy sign that life still goes on in the old way despite the shiny, modern hotel which sits behind this stretch of beach, and despite the gawkers like us and the hundreds of tourists arriving and departing from the harbor opposite.  I like to think that generations of these families have scoured the beach for their lunches this way.

March 12th Postscript to this entry:

I find conflicting information about this.  I was told that these people were looking for lapas, and I did wonder about it, not being an expert on the subject of limpets or anything, but it didn’t sound right somehow.  I knew that they weren’t looking for octopus either, because I’ve often seen people doing that, and they just weren’t going about their search in the same way.  Opinion amongst friends is that they are most likely looking for anything left behind by the tide which could be used as bait for catching the “big fish”.  Who knows?  Next time I will know to ask!


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Why I Live Here

The day starts out badly, the rude awakening to a dark morning I am not ready for, the coffee lukewarm, the sense of my soul being elsewhere. The day an average toil; ups and downs, frustrations and humor, contempt and appreciation. Nothing out of the ordinary. Ennui.

In the afternoon the mood turns; a swim in the ocean to wash away the angst; moments sitting in the sun, unwinding, chatting; a platter of sardines and octupus; a glass, two, of cold, white wine; good conversation; a stroll home along the sea front; stopping to chat with a friendly street vendor from Senegal; watching boats coming, going or just bobbing about; a sand sculpture to celebrate the local fiesta; stopping to buy the best ice cream on the island; sharing the ice cream at home with family and a friend; more good conversation.

Ennui turns to pleasure.

Island are strange places. They entrap you, then they smother you, and just when you think you are ready to breathe free, they snare you again.

September 09 Los Cristianos 2


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2008…..a picture says a thousand words

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OK, so this was pretty much my year. And whilst there are lots of warm memories here, lots of great family and friends…..who are THE BEST……I realize there are some huge gaps……..mainly didn’t catch up with Guy, and my NY Resolution is not to let that happen again! Also didn’t catch up with several other people who are very important to me, especially those who aren’t really active online, so my other resolution is to catch up with them next year!img_1473img_2577img_2602img_1131img_2342img_3105img_31081img_3117img_2001

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