Islandmomma

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


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Playa Santa Catalina: My New Office

I’ve been almost reluctant to write about La Gomera. My idea of slow travel is to gather information and get under the skin of a place, and even after 3 months here I wonder if I have done that.

In a sense I have, because I’ve been living a fairly ordinary life, working, strolling, shopping, getting to know folk, making bars my “locals”. In another sense, that works against me. Isn’t it just fitting into a predictable, day-to-day pattern, and isn’t that what I am anxious to avoid? I haven’t been doing nearly the amount of research I should have done, or at least that’s how I feel. Can sufficient research ever be done? Even after over 20 years in Tenerife I was still learning, and there is a ton of stuff I don’t know about my hometown back in England.

Of course this is how it should be. We should never stop learning. However, a cautionary word; master storyteller, Stephen King, remarks via one of his characters, that:

“ Al had taken away the scholar’s greatest weakness: calling hesitation research.”

Playa Santa Catalina from La Punta Mirador

When I arrived here in mid October it was to an idyllic scene, and I, floating on the euphoria of wonderful times in France, and London, and Ireland, embraced it, and continued to float.

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Seizing the Supermoon

Another 24 hours and all our supermoon stories and exchanges will just be another footnote to 2012, moments seized, enjoyed, recorded and then committed to the archives in our minds. This, then, is what I will file away.

We meet at the appointed hour 19.30. The intention is to suss out the best spot and then retire to eat or drink until well before the due time of 21.15 to stake our claim. The early evening is balmy and calm,unusual for this stretch of coast. This is my home turf. It will not be the first time I’ve photographed the moon rising out of the ocean from the sand dunes at the end of my street, but it’s a first time in this spot for Maria and Colleen, and I think they like what they see. There are rocks and sand dunes and junipers, all perfect for framing photos. I think they like the gelato from my favorite ice cream parlor too! We sit by the little harbor and savor the pleasure. They are finger-licking good.

We rouse ourselves and saunter back along the beachside road, chatting companionably and not at all hurried. We step onto the beach, and it’s then I draw a sharp breath. In the lavender and rose  twilight sky the moon is already there, and well on its way to the heights.

One of the odd things about living in the Canary Islands is that we are in the same time zone as the UK, an hour behind the Spanish peninsula and most of Europe. The thing is that most information on tv and internet fails to mention this. We had failed to deduct the hour, the “una hora menos en Canarias,” as the ones which do bother to differentiate, say.

I fall to my knees on the nearest dune and fumble my camera out of its bag. The closer to the horizon the bigger the moon seems to be, we missed its hugeness,  but it is, nevertheless, quite breathtaking. The colors are gentle pastels. It isn’t yet dark. Its progress is slow, so we get lots of snaps anyway. Then Colleen suggests going a little up the coast to La Tejita, to see it rising over Montaña Roja, so we trot, quicker now, to her car, which is the nearest, and turn for a couple of last shots over the beachfront wall, as darkness descends and paints the world in other shades.

La Tejita is one of my favorite places on the island, but I know that without a tripod my pictures won’t amount to much, so I spend more time simply inhaling the scene than snapping. The ones I do get are noisy and dark. I have to max the ISO in the absence of a stable tripod, but the effects are a bit unusual.

There is a yacht anchored in the shelter of the mountain, and out at sea there is a string of fishing boats, twinkling like the proverbial diamonds on velvet.

I have no idea what produces that shaft of light, grease on the lens perhaps? But it looks effective. It’s enough. Sometimes in the snapping you don’t have time to take it all in, so perhaps my lack of tripod is no bad thing tonight.

Happy and fulfilled, we retire to what is one of my local bars to admire in comfort and sip mojitos.

The next night, yesterday, finds Maria and I a bit further down the beach, a part which is more rocky and a bit wilder, though it’s bounded by hotels and apartment blocks, you still feel closer to the ocean. This night, of course, we know the time, and we make our way down to the shore as darkness falls. Tonight there is a breeze as usual, and along the horizon a skein of deep purple cloud hovers, but doesn’t touch the ocean. There is a line of light, and we hope that we will see the moon rising before it disappears into the clouds. In the meantime, there are diverting images, as the sun sets way behind us, its crimson is reflected onto the thick, dark clouds, and that reflected light, in turn, is reflected onto the muddy sand, turning it lilac and moody.

The wet beach is a gift of reflections and images, even the ugly hotel on its edge looks pretty, as its lights flicker on and are echoed, and a girl appears soundlessly and seemingly out of nowhere, riding her bike along the shoreline.

It’s getting darker, and the waves are creeping up the beach, the breeze is getting stronger and shearwaters are calling out to each other, their spooky, unreal cry. We talk of famous photographers who spend hours in freezing waters or mountainsides, waiting for that one, perfect shot. We begin to think that we have missed it, that in the dark we haven’t noticed that the clouds have descended to the sea and obscured our moonrise. We are about to reach for our stuff and turn tail, when a mere sliver of intense scarlet emerges, again there is a deep intake of breath and a scurrying for lenses and equipment.

Without a tripod, in this darkness I have even less hope that I did last night. It is impossible. I shoot a couple of frames, and then turn the camera off and stand in meditation. It’s a brief but intense experience. The moon will soon be hidden by the cloud, but it glows from red now to orange, and it is a huge as one expected it to be. I’m posting a couple of pictures only to give you an idea of how it was. They can’t really, but you can see what distinct experiences the two nights were.

This morning, as I walk Trixy, there is a silver shadow in the sky, which is fading as the sun’s brilliance begins to dominate the day. I rush home for the camera and return within five minutes, only to find that I took out the battery last night to charge it, and failed to put in the spare. Ah, well, as a photography experience this supermoon hasn’t been too great, but as an appreciation of this universe, it’s been pretty impressive.

 


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Another Glorious Médano Sunrise

Worry not, I’m not nearly good, nor prolific enough a photographer to do a “today’s photo” thing, but I did think yesterday’s sunrise was worth sharing. I’ve seen more dramatic, but this was just so lovely and peaceful….possibly because of the lack of wind! And maybe I’m being a bit Pollyana because, honestly, much as there is to recommend both El Médano and Tenerife, it isn’t always just like this! Still, nice, eh?


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A Dramatic Sunset: My Reward for Procrastination

I’d been glued to the keyboard all day yesterday, all the while gnawing at the back of my mind were chores I needed to do in Los Cristianos. Now this is only a 15 or 20 minute drive, so it’s no big deal, is it?  especially when you consider the distances some of you drive daily without thought, those of you who live on continents, rather than on islands, of course. Island living definitely alters your perspective sometimes. Procrastination can become a way of life.

Finally, I dragged myself out in time for the business day re-opening. Although in the resort areas loads of businesses and many shops now stay open throughout the day, there are probably just as many which resolutely close their doors either at 1pm or at 2pm so workers can lunch and siesta the afternoon away, before returning at 4 or at 5. In Los Cristianos mostly they close at 2, so I aimed to be there for 5.

The advantage is that the parking is much better in the afternoons. Deliveries seem to be concentrated into the morning hours, and generally if you think about making an appointment with your lawyer or accountant or any other professional you think “before lunch”.

The other advantage is that you get everything done much more quickly because there are fewer folk around, not only are less locals doing businesses, but in Winter at least, the tourists are ambling back to their hotels and apartments to clean up for dinner. Yesterday, in fact, there were a few visitors mooching about the shopping area, because we have winter right now. That is, it’s the few weeks of the year we get at some time between December and March, when temperatures drop a bit, so not exactly beach weather then, we even had a few drops of rain over the last couple of days.

Fred, my faithful, old car, not being in the best of health these days, I was aiming to be home before it was too dark, but as I drove out of town the skyline caught my eye. Brooding, purple clouds were hovering over the horizon, and the sun, not far from its setting, was playing hide and seek with them. I pulled over, and sat and watched for a while, and the allure proved too much. It’s clouds which make those dramatic sunset pictures, and who knew what these fleecy beauties might do.

Playa El Callao’s 400 m or so of bedraggled sands mark the terminus of Los Cristianos, most of it is pebbles with a few parched-looking junipers surviving here and there.  Although it is within the resort it certainly isn’t a tourist beach, and its scraggy-ness isn’t unappealing. It’s close to where I lived in 2009.  It’s tranquil, last night only the slapping of the waves on rock from the wake as the ferries came and went could be heard, other than a couple of dog-walkers calling or whistling their pets.

I trudged down to the scrubby beach, on the approach dodging the dog poo, plastic bags and other fast food detritus, wondering whether the photos I knew would make this forlorn beach look like paradise were fair.  There are so many times I scratch my head over things which seem to me obvious: why isn’t this beach “adopted” and prettified? There is a smart hotel right next to it, The Arona Gran – what do its residents think about this beach? If there is some reason (and right now if you asked the town hall will tell you there’s no money, obviously) it isn’t being developed, at least why isn’t it kept clean? There were quite a few folk around, walking down to the beach or headland to watch the sunset.  I’m very much in favor of “wild” beaches myself, but how can the filth be allowed?

Fact is, the Canary Islands in general have benefited enormously from the Arab Spring, from rioting in Greece and other problems which have made people think twice about holidaying in other places (not that the queues at the employment offices get any shorter), and whilst enterprising and imaginative promotion is done in some quarters, in others it leads to complacency.

So I have to say that whilst these photos represent Nature’s passion and splendor, and it’s very true that sights like this are the norm here, what lay behind me was mankind’s disgusting mess.


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Of Big Swells and the End of Summer

It’s strangely quiet outside my window today.  A few kids are splashing about in the pool, but nowhere near the hooting and screaming of the past few weeks.  This morning in the silent supermarket there were still lettuce and tomatoes left on the shelves – granted a bit tired-looking, but for the last four to six weeks the shelves have been bare on a Monday morning after the weekend rush, (well, even on a Monday afternoon – it takes them a while to restock here).  It’s a sign the summer residents are gone or about to go, and life is on the cusp of change.

To an outsider it may seem as if everything is the same year round in El Médano, but if you live here the changes are obvious.  There will be parking again.  Once the annual fiesta is passed in another couple of weeks, the stage which occupies a corner of the main town square, will be dismantled and put into storage for another year.  Although there are always tourists, there will be fewer, and they will be mostly people here for a purpose. The spirit of El Médano, certainly for visitors and foreign residents, is very much sports-oriented. We come at the very least for the good dog-walking, and then, depending on your level of fitness, for windsurfing, kite surfing, running, cycling, swimming or power walking and more. Mix this with the folk from the old fishing community, throw in a few “hippies,” and you have the odd blend of people who rub together easily to give the town its quirky character.

In August, however, it turns into a family resort, as does just about any stretch of beach on the island with a few houses nearby.  When I strolled into the center with a friend to enjoy a glass of wine or two the other night, we were surprised to see the  climbing frames and equipment of the little playground in the square swarming with kids at midnight. Like so many indefatigable ants they were climbing, running and, of course, screaming to their hearts’ content. El Médano isn’t known for nightlife, more often than not, arriving home after dark, I’m surprised by how quiet it is, but not in August!

The other great precursor of the season in the south  that the landscape has turned to desert. Oh, the well-watered public areas of the resorts are lush and colorful as always, but the natural landscape is parched and thirsty, dying for some rain you might say.

From the approach to Montaña Roja it looks as if nothing could survive, vegetation is wilted if not skeletal.  It’s an easy walk up to the top, which is about 170 meters I think (from memory), and the views from up there are extensive along the coast, over the airport, and to the mountains beyond on a clear day.  Saturday, when I went with the photo group, it was clear-ish, and the views revealed a harsh landscape, seared by the summer sun, and apparently devoid of life, except some scrubland between the beach and the road.  Nothing much was growing other than the resilient tabaiba.

Wave beginning to build

From the times I lived near the beach in La Tejita I remember the big waves seeming to mark the end of the season too. From the hilltop on Saturday we watched for around an hour or so as the waves built and came crashing down onto the sands, the crests already being blown back out to sea by the strong winds, sometimes forming brief rainbows along the peaks of the wave.

La Tejita isn’t a surfer’s beach, although there are always waves as ocean meets the shore.  The waves break far too close  for surfing, but yesterday, when I went with Maria to take a closer look at the beach, there were a few bodyboarders out there catching a ride, and even a couple of hopeful surfers.  Not very long rides maybe, but definitely exciting. Waves rose, glittered like jeweled, turquoise glass, dragged sand from the shoreline and tossed it up in their foam, before creaming onto land.  They say that the waves come in sets of seven, every one bigger until they die away and you wait for the next set.

You can see from the color of the rock how the mountain got its name.  Anyone wonder why this, despite the barrenness at the moment, is my favorite beach in the south of Tenerife??


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Of Art By the People for the People: Rock Balancing

I don’t make any bones about the fact that I normally try to stay away from the tourist resorts.  They simply aren’t my cup of tea, for one thing, they have no history or sense of community…….or do they?

The other week I was persuaded to go to Playa Beril to snorkel.  I’m not very brave with waves and such, but I adore to have my face in the water (I’d actually prefer to have it under the water, but that’s not in my current budget!), and this beach is really as safe as it gets, with a surprising amount of sea life to see so close to where tourists stir up the bottom.  It’s still all pebbles, sandwiched between the psuedo-sophisticated Playa del Duque and Playa Enramada (probably yet to be “developed”), and just at the end of the beach there is an area which is all pebbles, and where what seems to be spontaneous “street” art has broken out.

The entire area is covered with these rock balances, which, so far as I can make out, is the correct way to describe them.  No-one I’ve spoken to knows how it began, and because it’s an area I don’t know that well, I can’t even tell you how or when or how long it has taken to grow to this stage, but it is now quite remarkable, giving a very mysterious kind of atmosphere to the beach, especially at sunset. I was quite captivated the first time I saw them in broad daylight, but since I was there to snorkel, it was one of the few times I didn’t have a camera with me – not even a phone!  For a couple of weeks now I’ve been itching to get back.  I actually wanted to go at sunrise, but the other day found me in the area just before sunset, so I thought I’d make the most of it.

I was tip toeing between all the works of art.  In some places there are so many it’s actually hard to walk around them.  I do want to go back at sunrise, and I also want to go back and try the infamous HDR, about which I’ve had so many snidey thoughts, but which I know would have taken these photos to a whole different level….

Of course, it also taught me that there is beauty to be found everywhere, and that people, perhaps as a reaction against the swathes of concrete covering the coast, have created their own art.  Even if it was started deliberately by the local authority, it certainly has been claimed by the people now.


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Walking the Badlands of the Coast

The longer I live on this island, the more I understand our connection to the earth. It isn’t simply the connection of someone who lives off the land, like a farmer, it’s also a connection to the places where nothing of any apparent use can possibly grow, the badlands, or malpaís. There is something about touching rocks which were spewed out of volcanoes millions of years ago that gives you a sense of place, and of being a part of it all, and not only the land itself, but to the people, back in  history, who had to overcome the difficulties of these forsaken places.  Modern life seems to trivialize them, but if you stop and listen you can feel the ghosts.

There are several of these places called Malpaís on the island, the most spectacular being on the western slopes of Mount Teide. Stopping to photograph there last winter, with a tidal wave of white fog bearing down on us, gave me a spooky sense of desolation and loneliness, even though I knew there were folk only ten minutes away.  When the disgorged rocks are sinister, dark and jagged shapes it seems even more unsettling – as if it wasn’t that long ago that nature flung them from the bowels of the earth.

I walked one of these landscapes a few days ago.  The walk, a circular one, beginning in Puerto de Güimar and back, has been somewhat tamed by man.  Paths are unobtrusively but helpfully laid out, and maybe even follow paths taken hundreds of years ago by the Guanches.

Guanches were the island’s first inhabitants, who valiantly resisted the forces ofSpain, making Tenerife the last island of the archipelago to fall to the Conquistadors in 1496.  They were an interesting race, who mummified their dead and who used the cosmic spiral symbol, though no-one is absolutely sure what it represented to them, as once the Conquistadors were finished, there were few of them left to explain.

These inhabitants of the archipelago were curiously not seafarers, as if, having arrived in a place, often described as paradise, from the deserts of North Africa, they intentionally forgot how to leave.  This walk is coastal, and standing on black, hardened lava overlooking where it stopped in its tracks as it met the ocean, and watching the waves, even after all these years, still hurling themselves at the land, it’s easy to imagine a goatskin-clad youth standing in the same spot, staff in hand, wondering if anything lay beyond the blue.

This landscape is its own storyteller, with pre-historic tales of hot lava which curved, and must have hissed and steamed as it met the cold Atlantic waters, and of small volcanic tubes forming, some of which, after the ages, have collapsed like this one, or formed caves and crevices on the shoreline, like the one you can glimpse under this natural “bridge”.

Modern Canarian history can be found amongst this rocky crust of the earth too.  This old water pump must have tapped into an underground stream at one time, though there were no signs that anyone had lived close enough to it to not make carrying water a hard chore each day, just as it still is in parts of Africa. However, I couldn’t get out of my mind an image of R2D2 lost in the desert and rusting away waiting for Luke to come find him!

These salinas, or salt pans, weren’t that easy to reach either.  On high tides, when the sea crashed further over onto the shore, water was left in these manmade pools, and as it dried salt was left behind, which was then collected, and had to be humped over to the village, or up to the main village in the foothills.

Close to the shoreline, we came across this very touching memorial, though the lettering was faded, and covered by that buoy, which I was reluctant to move so that I could read better.  It seemed, somehow, disrespectful. So we could only guess that a boat from Puerto de Güimar had possibly been lost, probably within living memory, as there were flowers around it, which had clearly been left quite recently.

Adding our own thoughts or prayers that the folk memorialized Descansan en Paz, or Rest in Peace, we moved on. Close by the beach was littered with debris, not the rubbish left behind by weekenders, but washed down the gullies and dry river beds during the torrential rains of winter, and out to sea, only to be returned to land by the incoming tides.  The driftwood you could even call picturesque, but the plastic bottles and tin cans so apparently essential to our modern life were ugly and out-of-place amongst the old rocks, likewise the shards of wood, once probably fencing, and the rags which had been fishing nets.  I was remembered reading that Chay Blyth once reported finding floating rubbish on even the most remote legs of his sailing adventures.

Desert, for sure, this terrain is, but not, by any means devoid of life, although the closer to the sea we got the less we found.  We shared our apples and some water with this guy and at least a dozen of his friends and family, as swifts circled overhead on their endless quest for food, and the star of the ant’s life photo I posted the other day was also working busily away with his mates. We also saw rabbit droppings too, but where in the world don’t you, though it was really hard to imagine what food they found around there.

This barren scenery was an utter contrast to what I’d intended to see on this day. Our goal had been a favorite walk in the Anaga Mountains in the far tip of the island, and I was anticipating it hugely, but when we left La Laguna at around 9am the fine chirimiri quickly turned into a heavy drizzle as we ascended.  I’m not at all averse to walking in rain (I am English after all), but when the swirling mists obscured what are amazing views there didn’t seem to be much point, so we re-thought and headed for the coast.  With images of the lush laurel forests I’d been expecting still in my brain, I think I appreciated the starkness of this scenery even more.  I was left wondered if there is anywhere else on earth where you can drive from a misty forest and only twenty minutes later be chucking waterproofs and sweaters out of your pack to begin a desert walk.

The walk should have taken around two hours, but with plenty of photo stops, and one other stop to nibble some delicious, Canarian goat’s cheese together with crispy apples…..and feed the local wildlife as a result, it took us three on a hot day, but it wasn’t that hard.  Steps have been cut into the steeper parts of the walk, to make it more accessible. The rugged terrain means you are far better with a thick-soled boot or shoe.  As one of us found out – you feel every, unyielding and sharp stone underfoot if you don’t!

And – at the end of the walk, you return to the village of Puerto de Güimar, where good food is abundant I am very happy to report.  This dish (photographed by Austin to give him full credit, because normally I only post my own photos!) was lapas, or limpets, which were divine, tasting of the ocean and garlic and olive oil, and a royal feast to crown the day, along with tuna in mojo, fried eel, a melt-in-the-mouth pulpo gallego (and that is saying something!) together with salad, and a plate of the very, very best papas arrugadas, the real, creamy papas negras and not the white potatoes so often used in tourist areas…….thank god I’d walked off enough calories not to feel any guilt!


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Los Abrigos: a Fishing Village Keeping up with the Times

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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Spring Moonrise

In common with thousands of people the world over (and most of them members of Flickr it seems) last night at sunset found me scanning the horizon for the “super moon”.  Having seen some spectacular moons here I was expecting something really stunning as I paced the shoreline, and poked about a bit in rock pools to pass the time.  A random, wet dog befriended me for a while, and I watched a couple of guys messing about in the ocean, one with a boogie board and the other with a surf board and a paddle.  It all seemed a bit chilly to me.  I thought of jogging a bit, like other folk on the beach, the moon seemed to be a bit on the late side.

When I spotted it I realized it had had to rise out of some cloud cover on the horizon, and it was already a pale, scarlet orb, hanging on the skyline.  It was pretty.  I’ve never seen the moon just that color before, and the setting was magical, over the steely ocean and the gentle waves running at the shore, but it wasn’t nearly as huge as I’d expected.  I’ve seen the moon here on occasion rise over a mountain as if it was bearing down on planet earth, and once I saw it immense and pure silver, casting a path almost to my doorstep.  So this one was, on my scale, not so impressive, but, then again, not so bad for not so impressive is it!

Not great photos I know.  No excuses, my stupidity.  But a nice memory anyway…..and the very best thing is that I only had to walk for two minutes to get to the beach :=)


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Postcards from the Island

I have a certain mental lethargy at the moment.  Recent days have been full, and dictated by events and necessities other than exploring or writing or photography.  My son, Austin, has been in hospital (successfully and he’s now recuperating at home), and boring stuff like dental appointments and car checks are driving my life, so for now here are just a few glimpses of the island I’ve had in recent weeks, things I want to know more about, places I want to revisit and some food for thought.


Las Teresitas. Probably the most photographed beach on the island, because of its beautiful, golden sand, imported many moons ago from Western Sahara. Something which is now forbidden, I understand. Often overlooked by the run-of-the-mill tourists who favor the more predictable weather of the south of the island. Las Teresitas lies about ten minutes from Santa Cruz, and was quite breezy on the day we passed by, killing time between appointments.

From the same vantage point, overlooking the coast on the other side from Las Teresitas, where you can see almost to the tip of the island.

Las Teresitas lies just a heartbeat outside of the village of San Andres, and this, so far as I can make out, is the local graveyard.  It’s quite a contrast with the one in Santiago del Teide which I photographed last month, which was colorful and pristine, but it looks as if it has a multitude of stories it might tell.  Many of the graves were unkempt, even tumbledown, and some were unmarked.  I’ve asked some questions about it, but not as many as if I were going to write something in detail about it, so it remains a bit of an unsolved mystery for me, although one fact which has emerged is that it was used by U2 on an album cover.  A quick search didn’t find it, but maybe someone who’s more of a U2 fan than I can tell me more?

I often remark on what a fascinating little city Santa Cruz is.  Of late the city part has seemed more “real” to me, being there for business or appointments I’ve felt something of that  city vibe one gets in London or Madrid, but having an hour to spare on day I strolled a bit in Parque García Sanabria in the heart of the mini-metropolis, and found that same sense of peace one finds in pretty city parks the world over.  This one is especially tranquil, and, of course, in this climate, always green and shady.

Finally, just to prove two things:   (1) That even a pretty city has its ugly side, and (2) that there is some drama and beauty even in that ugliness, I snapped this picture from the roof of a shopping mall the other day.  Over the top of the smelly Cepsa refinery on the very edge of the city, the sun, almost ready to bid  goodnight to the earth, breaks through the clouds a last time.

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