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

Of Almond Blossom and St Anthony


In the week or so since I visited Santiago del Teide I’ve been itching to get back there because I could see that the almond blossom was going to be early this year, and the weather is almost too good to be true since Christmas.  Last year I went the chilly weekend before the official Ruta de las Almendros, and thanked my lucky stars because in the ensuing week the heavens opened, and wind and rain put an end to the blossoms and celebrating them.

Now, I should explain that my friend, Maria, and I have decided that we should make a point of regularly going out to look for photo ops, instead of just pointing the camera when one comes up.  Faced with a stunning vista or a cute baby goat, it’s too late to practise the art, and we both need to practise, so I was really up for making our first sortie to Santiago del Teide!

Maria drinking in the scenery.  In the background the Chinyero Volcano.

We set off early on a morning so crisp and clear you could feel it on your skin, and had the winding roads almost to ourselves.  We followed the autopista until it ran out, and then meandered the hillsides to the north-west of the island.  The ocean lay vast and blue off to our left , kestrels hovered above, and we began to glimpse the odd almond tree in all its glory as we neared the village.  I stupidly missed the turning which takes you a little higher up the mountain, so that you see Santiago del Teide cradled in the valley as you approach, but we did see lots of blossom by the roadsides, so we were, as my sons would say, stoked by the time we arrived.

We hung out on the outskirts of the village, snapping happily away in the stunning, still early-morning light, stopping for a while to chat to a lovely man who was strolling down from Valle de Arriba, a tiny hamlet close to the village, who spoke with pride of the numbers of people who now come to see the spectacular blossoms.  He reckoned that this year they are a month ahead of where they normally are, so good thing, going on Sunday.

I just lost track of time, playing with exposures and the changing light and such, but the time came when we were over-ready for coffee.  You know how it is when you make the perfect coffee?  Well I’d done that in the early morning, remarkable, considering the hour, poured it into my thermal mug and then totally forgot about it as we chatted our way en route, so there might have been a kind of withdrawal symptom thing going on, since I like my coffee scalding hot.  We headed for  Señorio del Valle, a complex which includes rural hotel, museum, small art gallery and gift shop, in a setting so bucolic you might be forgiven for thinking you’d landed in the middle of a film set.

Old wine press which forms the centerpiece of the courtyard at Señorio del Valle

Stable block at Señorio del Valle

There, we drank milky coffees and nibbled tortilla española in the courtyard until the violent clanging of the bells from the adjacent church of San Fernando Rey disturbed our relaxation, and we remembered that the charming man we’d spoken to earlier had reminded us it was the feast of St Anthony Abbott, so we coppered up and strolled around to see what was going on.

It was one of those delightful, unexpected moments that you sometimes stumble across when travelling (ok I know we’d only travelled about an hour from home – but the journey, not the destination, remember!).  We’d gone to record the blossoms, totally forgetting the feast day.  The sight which greeted us was a troupe of local dancers, dressed in white, trimmed with red, and hats adorned with flowers or feathers and other ornaments, not unlike English Morris Dancers.

Those costumes were immaculate, snowy white and beautifully trimmed in embroideries anglaise, and they danced with a great sense of fun and enthusiasm.  Maria and I sneaked about, snapping happily away, just a bit high on the color and the ambience.  When they stopped, Maria chatted to one of the guys, who told us that those amazing hats are decorated with medallions and charms which are personal to each person, medallions which have been blessed, or charms picked up on travels, and that the origin of the costume lies in the neighboring island of El Hierro.

With mass being relayed to the people who couldn’t squeeze into the tiny church, we wandered off down the road I’d followed with my dad a few days back, and further on, noting paths for future walks and admiring more almond blossom until we reached the picturesque village cemetary.  Something I’d wanted to do for a few years was to take my camera to a local cemetary after All Souls’ Day on November 1st.  Whilst it isn’t celebrated in quite the manner it is in Mexico, where families picnic by the graves of  their loved and departed, and sugar candy in the shape of skulls is devoured, it is a day when  many families still make a point of visiting and decorating family graves, and I’d imagined that there must be some excellent photo ops.  Maybe it was because Christmas wasn’t so far back, but I was moved and happy to see flowers on so many of the graves, just as I imagined it would be after All Souls.  This cemetary was not the dark and forboding place that so many I’ve visited have been, but a riot of color, given that those flowers were symbols of love, it was an emotional sight, and we spoke in whispers as we wandered the tranquil paths and took it all in.

In the distance we heard the church bells tolling again, signalling the end of the mass, and we headed back to the square, to see the procession emerging from the church, preceded by the dancers and drummers, and heading off up a narrow street to bless the community’s animals.

I was a bit confused for a while, when I realized that St Anthony is the patron saint of animals.  I’d always thought it was St Francis of Assisi, but now I get it.  St Anthony Abbott is the patron saint of domestic animals, pets and farm animals, in other words.  Reading up on him, other than that he was tempted by the devil who took the form of wild animals, I can’t quite figure why this is, but it makes for some colorful festivals in Spain at least.  For complicated reasons I hadn’t gone to the Romeria de Arona this year, which is a much grander affair than this one in Santiago del Teide, but which, basically is a blessing of the local animals, there is also a rather scary festival in the mainland village of San Bartolome de los Pinares, but this happy and gentle festival had a lovely, joyful karma.

We followed the procession until it came to the very place where we’d had our morning coffee.  The complex offers horse riding and pony and cart rides, has a resident parrot and no doubt other animal associations, and having once been the manor house of the district was possibly always the procession’s first stop.

Maria admiring one of the hotel’s horses

We took the chance to duck into its little museum, which is beautifully appointed, with lots of well-presented information about the Chinyero Volcano, which was the last place in the island to erupt in 1909, the small art gallery and the gift shop, which, actually, was selling local crafts, wines, honey etc and almost nothing “made in China”.

Maria looking very pleased with our excursion :=)

It was my fault we had to leave at that point.  I had commitments for the late afternoon, and I’d come expecting only the almond blossom, which only goes to show that on a small island, where you have spent 20-odd years of your life, you can still find pleasant surprises.  I felt guilty about having to go, but my reasons were not light.  We could have received a blessing from the local priest, who was occupied in blessing the community’s pets as we drove past (we’d seen  numerous dogs, a horse, a pony and a tank of turtles as we followed the procession), and I would have been totally over-the-moon with the magnificent blossoms alone.  Sometimes life has bonuses.


Author: IslandMomma

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

16 thoughts on “Of Almond Blossom and St Anthony

  1. how truly wonderful to see the almond blossoms! I recall seeing them once in Majorca. My favourite photo is the brave and lonely single blossom. the bonus of the festival gave me a memory of Maypole dancing, with the coloured ribbons flowing from the chruch and above the dancers. keep snapping!

  2. Yes, Maria was talking about seeing them in Mallorca. We thought it must be later in the year there though. I like the photos of the fragile branches with just one or two flowers best too. Interesting that you say that. There is a competition in the village and I thought I might enter it. It is totally impossible (I was looking at professional photos on tv this morning) to convey just how overwhelmingly pretty they are.

    OMG I remember maypole dancing – loved it!

  3. I’ve only seen pictures, but your photos of the almond blossoms remind me of the cherry blossoms in DC. What beautiful shots, with your friend, the volcano in the background, the gorgeous blossoms against the blue sky. Like Christine, I loved the single flower, too.

    The dancers and their costumes, the cemetery, the horses – everything gives such a great sense of the area and the culture. I have been surprised like you with the dancers and it is such an added bonus. My friends and I took a ferry to Elba expecting only a lovely boat ride. The passengers included an elderly Italian man playing an accordion, which inspired spontaneous dancing on the deck by all. So much fun.

    Thanks for sharing, islandmomma! Loved your comment, too, about being “stoked.”

  4. I’ve dreamed about seeing those cherry blossoms! That would be when? Around April? In England they flower in May, I think, but DC is much further south.
    Sunday was a confirmation of my intent around a year ago to open my eyes to what is around me instead of pining all the time to travel! Your boat ride sounds exceptional! Without trying to remember everything that’s ever happened in my life, and with the exception of the birth of my kids, the unexpected have always been the most enjoyable times!
    It strikes me that we should always be looking to be “stoked” by something or other. My sons are both surfers, that’s where I picked up the phrase, and they never fail to feel that way after returning from the beach.

  5. well – thanks to the internet I can reveal that almonds are also in bloom in Majorca. I had to think long and hard as it was more than 30 years since that experience of seeing them but it was February. so I think just another interesting thing how much earlier things are happening and making us wonder why? also interesting is that there are 4 million trees there and the story of the prince planting them for his homesick wife, to remind her of snows, which I remember being told at the time of our visit.

    • Must be about 30 years since I was in Mallorca too. I hear it’s changed a lot – for the better for once! Almond trees were brought here by the Conquistadors, and were taken to Spain originally by the Moors, which is where the story of the “prince” and the “snow” comes in, but be warned I’ve heard that story from other parts of Spain too!

  6. Thank you for that link. NOW I’m really itching to go! I visited DC for the first time in 2009, and I fell in love with the city anyway, add this and sounds like heaven! But highly unlikely that I’ll make it this year! Still, “You gotta have a dream, if you don’t hava dream, you’ll never hava dream come true!”

    My own backyard always surprises me, but only serves as a buffer between reality and my dreams part of the time, still, better than sulking, which I’ve done at times!

    • I’ve got another link for you. Find some friends who want to go to DC, too, and split the cost of this adorable vacation rental. There are 2 bedrooms (double in one, 2 twins in the other) and a comfy little den downstairs with a pull-out double sofa bed.

      My family stayed here in April 2010 and LOVED it. The owners are lovely, so hospitable, and they have two Portuguese Water Dogs who are ADORABLE!

      Granny’s Cottage is located on the bike path between Old Alexandria and Mount Vernon. The owners let us borrow their bikes one day and we did a bit of the path (we opted to drive to Mount Vernon). The subway to DC is a quick ride, and a breeze to figure out.

      I LOVE DC. I wish I could get a job at the Smithsonian – maybe the Hirschorn – and live there (not at the Smithsonian – though that would be cool – but in DC or Alexandria).

  7. Pingback: The Fiesta Where Two Worlds Collide | Islandmomma

  8. WHAT a bonus, Linda………..I´m positively drooling!! And I still have fond and happy memories of our trip there last year……….

    • It was, and lucky for Santiago del Teide, too, as Los Silos was last weekend and Buenavista del Norte is this weekend, the fiesta de San Antonio, that is (no idea why they are different days), and looks like both will be rained off! The official Ruta de los Almendros walk is postponed until next weekend, but bearing in mind how early the blossom has been, and the wind and rain, I wonder how much will be left!

  9. Beautiful pictures..

    I can say with honesty that until I started reading about Tenerife for work I only had one impression of the island which was the unfortunate image of drunks fighting in Playa de las Americas. But from reading blogs like yours and seeing beautiful pictures of the island on websites like my eyes have been opened. I was actually dreading visiting in the summer for my research trip but now I have so many ideas and interesting places I can visit that i’m thrilled to be coming. Until I read your post I actually thought El Hierro was a holiday resort in Tenerife, now that I know that its an island I can arrange day trip when I come over.

    Looking at your photos, there is a distinctly South American feel to them – I think thats because of the horses, it looks like a brilliant thing to experience.

    Keep up the good work – it makes for great reading!


    • Thank you very much for the compliments! I have to say that if I have helped just one person to see the island in a better light then I am over the mood :=)

      • Oh you have definately..

        I thought Tenerife was like Blackpool with sun before I started working on my holiday wesbite. I visited around 10 years ago and only really experienced Playa de las Americas which was at the time a pretty dirty place (I believe that Playa has changed a lot now). Tenerife was a place I had written off as a future holiday destination, I had no intention of coming back.

        I bought my Tenerife website purely as a business venture as I know how popular the island is but it was only when I started looking into the resorts and areas for research that I realised tenerife has lots more to offer than 18-30′ s drink fueled holidays.

        Blogs like yours and show a real beautiful side to the island, and i have to say i’m a little hooked now. Its obvious that Tenerife has a culture of its own and that the landcape is ourstanding. I saw Los Gigantes on television the other day and fell in love with the view from the harbour – I think thats a side of the isalnd that not many people will ever see unless they are educated.

        My website Tenerife Holidays is very commercial at the moment as unfortunatley I need to sell holidays first and foremost to feed the kids but my plan is to gradually add more interesting features and details about the island, asking guest writters who actually know Tenerife to contribute (perhaps you would be interested) and for me and my parner to spend a few months in Tenerife taking photos and blogging about the hidden treasures that people can find.

        One thing’s for sure…while i’m researching i’m finding so many people who have a real passion for the island and that enthusiasm is infectious…I definately no longer view it as Blackpool with sun!:)

        Russ – email: ideas [at]

  10. Pingback: My 7 Links | Islandmomma

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