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


Roque del Conde: Tenerife’s Answer to Table Mountain

It seems as if all I’ve written about of late has been walking and mountains and landscapes. That’s because it’s mostly how I’ve spent my leisure time the past few weeks – taking advantage of Austin’s presence until he moves to UK. The other day we took a hike that’s long been on my bucket list.

From almost everywhere in Los Cristianos or Playa de las Americas, you can spy a flat-topped mountain standing like a sentinel over the coast, frequently, its peak shrouded in low cloud, it exudes an air of mystery.

Roque del Conde seen from the entrance to Los Cristianos

This is Roque del Conde, towering over Barranco del Rey (King’s Canyon) where we went rappelling at the end of last year. Formerly it was known as Roque Ichasagua in memory of the Guanche ruler who, rather than face possible slavery, or worse, at the hands of the Spanish Conquistadors, threw himself from its heights. Are you beginning to see a pattern to these legends, perhaps? Before that the Guanches knew it as Ahío o Hío.

The mountain lies in the municipality of Adeje, one of the oldest parts of the island, along with Teno and Anaga. It’s because Tenerife was formed gradually by volcanic eruptions millions of years apart that there is so much discussion still about its “age.” It’s something impossible to quantify in terms of the island we know today, and it’s one factor in the enormous variety of landscape to be found in something less than 800 square miles, but whatever type of landscape you are admiring, be it “lunar” or lush forest, I can guarantee one word they have in common – dramatic, and this day was to be no exception to that rule, despite the cloud, the views were breathtaking.

Although the mountain itself is in the municipality of Adeje, the walk begins in neighboring Arona. We set off from the hamlet of Vento, just as we had when we went rappelling. Passing the ramshackle outhouses and accompanied by the same tinkling of goats’ bells and barking of dogs, we stepped over the modern water pipe which lies alongside the old stone troughs which used to bring water down to irrigate these dry lands, and descended into Barranco del Rey.

This time, instead of turning left deeper into the canyon we crossed it, and once we began the climb up from there it was uphill all the way, at first up well-maintained steps and paths, and then onto rougher but much-used trails. It was a bank holiday and, going late morning, we passed several walkers of different ages and nationalities returning from a morning ramble, including a mutual friend neither of us had seen for some years – Tenerife is like that. Move through the busy streets of a resort and you don’t meet a soul you know, but take a wild mountain trail and you bump into someone.

Austin perched on the crumbling wall assessing the possibilities for a photo.

Around a third of the way into the climb, we passed a long-abandoned house, most of the timbers and all the roof tiles missing, just a rectangular, stone structure remained, with a sad hole where a door had once been. The views from here were magnificent, over the southern coast, and back in the day they must have been even more so, with less buildings and more countryside to admire. I have no idea why I am so drawn to these tumble-down old shells of homes. There have a mystery and sadness about them I can’t quite put my finger on. I vaguely mused about how severe life must have been, and how hardy the inhabitants of this small farm, trying to coax a living out of this arid dust, but I was in for a surprise which provoked more serious thoughts. Passing the house we came upon a threshing circle, just like the ones I had seen in El Tanque on El Día de la Trilla last year. It was even in decent condition, given the state of the house, but what intrigued me was what animals had been used to turn grind the crops, surely oxen or horses couldn’t have been used way up here. I’m presuming that donkeys were used, but I don’t know that for a fact. It’s one of those mysteries I would like to chase up sometime.

What’s for sure is that much of the land, even at this altitude had been terraced, and so had been cultivated, and I remembered a conversation I had with an elderly taxi driver years ago. He told me that when he was a boy the land around Adeje had been rich farmland, overflowing with corn and other crops. At the time I thought that he was probably exaggerating, and my Spanish wasn’t up to asking too many questions back then either. I’d love to have that same conversation today!

Note how parched the landscape looks – it’s been almost twelve months now without rain in this area.

Almost at the top!

My photo op taken full advantage of, we continued upwards, along narrow paths which dwindled to almost nothing in places, stopping now and then to take our bearings and watch what appeared to be a boat on fire just outside Los Cristianos’s harbour. We came to the conclusion it was a drill, since nothing seemed to be dashing to its aid. On the smudgy, blue horizon the island of La Gomera hovered like a purple shadow, and we could make out El Hierro and La Palma, although the visibility wasn’t too good. Above, however, the peak of Roque del Conde was clear and beckoned.

We scrapped around proud cardon, the multi-pronged cactus which thrives just about everywhere here, and thick clumps of tabaiba, the super-hardy endemic plant found even in the harshest and most arid island landscape. It’s been a long time without rainfall in the south, and most every other sign of flora looked pinched and forlorn. We scuffled on loose stones and clambered over rocks, and then we were almost there, and striding along the open path to the mountain’s flat summit.

It’s quite something to eat your lunch sitting on top of the world. At around 3,280 feet Roque del Conde is a fair bit lower than Alto de Guajara where we’d breakfasted the previous week, and the views were quite different. From Guajara we’d overlooked more or less east on the oceanside, seeing the airport and Grandadilla de Abona below, and a wide sweep of the caldera to the other side. From Roque del Conde we had a 360º view which swept the foothills purple and grey or hidden in cloud, a motorbike gang whining its way up from Arona towards Vilaflor could be heard quite clearly. Turning we could just make out Montaña Roja lying in the sunny space between the low cloud and the shadowy valleys and volcanic cones between us. The plastic-covered banana plantations around Costa del Silencio blotted our view, and immediately below Arona strung out, and even at this height the barking dogs intruded on the silence. The resorts cluttered the south western side of the island, and for a while we played at picking out familiar places. I’m told that on a clear day you can see the cliffs of Los Gigantes, but this day wasn’t that clear. In fact, those familiar mists were beginning to filter down from the mountains, and inch their cold fingers across the flat peak, making us shiver and pack up to make our way down.

Tabaiba in the foreground clinging to the hillside and to life, as the mists roll in from above.

I’ve always considered going down easier than ascending, and I merrily set off thinking it was going to be an easy and quick descent – silly me! Whilst it there was no puffing and panting, there was a bit of slipping and sliding, and it was much slower than I expected. Even so I wanted to linger a while in Barranco del Rey when we reached it, knowing that this is such an ancient slice of the earth, knowing that the Guanches inhabited caves here, and just the sheer beauty and loneliness of the place kind of seeps into your skin.

To my surprise I found the final climb back to Vento much easier than I had done last time – I must be getting used to this walking lark – my only problem is how do I follow the experiences I’ve had so far this year!


Fine Dining in Tenerife, or Why Should the Tourists Get All the Good Stuff?

I often ramble on about the great eateries on my island home, we have a huge variety of international restaurants and bars, and an abundance of excellent bars and cafés serving local food of one kind or another, but I don’t, in these difficult times, often have the opportunity to eat in a restaurant which would come under the “fine dining” heading.

How can I put this?  I love food!  I don’t consider myself to be “a foodie,” but I might come  close, and I’ve missed the subtleties and innovations of dining somewhere special, so when gfhoteles offered me dinner in their restaurant La Laja in the Costa Adeje Gran Hotel I jumped at the chance.

First, a word of explanation; I’ve stubbornly and intentionally kept this blog fairly low-key because I am very jealous my independence and integrity (long story for another time), and I wasn’t totally sure how accepting invitations fitted into that vision. After spending the past year observing how bloggers for whom I have a lot of respect deal with invitations, links, advertising,  etc I think I’ve worked out the way to go.

Invitations which are worded like this from gfhotels are okay: “You can write about your opinion, you can Tweet it, Facebook it or whatever, and you can say whatever you want.  If there are things you don’t like we will find your feedback useful, and we encourage you to write as you find, or to write nothing at all if you don’t want to.”  That sold me, plus there was also the opportunity to meet fellow blogger, Cailin O’Neil, who was here to write about the variety of Tenerife.

The Costa Adeje Gran is one of those very posh-looking establishments in the up-market Costa Adeje area, not somewhere with which I am especially familiar. Living here, many of us tend to ignore the tourist resorts, which is almost certainly our loss.  We tend to lump everything together as a “concrete jungle,” as do many writers and travel pundits. Generalizing is always a mistake.  Sure, there is a tacky side to Tenerife, there is a tacky side to Monte Carlo, and it doesn’t mean that there is nothing of quality to be enjoyed.  Certainly Adeje Town Hall has been pulling out the stops to present the municipality as the classier face of the island’s tourism, and it’s obvious that in the Costa Adeje Gran, as in some of the other finer hotels in the neighbourhood, they’ve found willing collaborators.

Calin and I arrived at the hotel’s main foyer, but there is a separate entrance to the restaurant. Still, it was interesting to observe the quality of the surroundings and the  well-dressed clientele. The lobby is huge and very impressive, and you can actually see the bottom of the swimming pool from beneath – very innovative but unfortunately it was evening, of course, so we didn’t get to see swimmers!  We had a warm welcome from Kathrin Jansen, and she gave us a peek at the main hotel dining room before going over to the restaurant, and the aroma made my mouth water. My anticipation mounted – if that was the ordinary dining room, what was La Laja going to be like?

What we entered was an elegant restaurant, with a strong Canarian connection, not minimalist, but something along those lines, and warmer and chic in the modern way.  This hotel belongs to a local group, gfhoteles, which has three more hotels on the island, and the walls of the restaurant’s reception area are lined with old, sepia photographs of Canarian life, including some of the family who began the venture. Fascinating for me – I would have gone just to see those!

We were shown to a stylishly-set corner table, and greeted by waiters who all had that knack of being both friendly but deferential, which is a sign of good training.  I have no complaints about the very friendly service in any of the places I like (I won’t go if service is bad), but it goes without saying that a restaurant of this quality needs something more, and that was the first box ticked. The area is divided into what I can only describe as nooks, with two or three table in each, and a longer section, all fashionably decorated.

Chef Pablo Aznar came out to have a word and talk us through the menu, my mouth watering at every syllable!  Pablo is from Zaragoza but has worked inTenerifefor eleven years now. Something life has taught me is that if you can get chance to talk with a chef or cook before you eat you get a sense of how good the meal is going to be, because when they talk with love and passion, as Pablo did, then all of that love and passion goes into their cooking. The anticipation mounted.

He explained about sourcing the best ingredients, and when he talked about receiving phone calls directly from the fishermen, telling of their latest catch and asking if he was in the market for whatever it was, there was no question in my mind that my choice was going to be fish, and then I spied the word “cinnamon” on a fish course, which clinched it! He recommended his  lasagne de pulpo for a local touch and a very Canarian desert of bananas and gofio ice cream.  Phew, decisions made I could concentrate on the enjoyment!

Ordering done, and menus handed back, fresh rolls and flavoured butters arrived. It was late by my dining norms, so I forwent those, but have it on good authority from  Cailin that they were delicious. This was a taste of things to come. I had been prompted by curiosity and recommendation (rather than a “Wow, that sounds good” feeling) to try the pulpo lasagne, so it was delightful to find that it easily surpassed expectations, it was tasty, slightly spicy but not too much and very melt-in-the-mouth.  I also had a slight reservation about pasta as a starter, but it wasn’t at all heavy and the portion was perfect, satisfying but not too filling! I began to feel as if I was floating!

For a split second, I regretted my choice of cod in a cinnamon reduction when my companions’ filet steaks arrived.  The presentation was charming, the steak in a little dish to collect the jus, and elegantly flambéed at the table. That reaction passed the moment I popped a morsel of the cod into my mouth though.  It was heavenly.  High expectations this time were quite justified, happily.

When my dessert came, I was pleased that I’d passed on bread and on red meat.  It was quite yummy – though I did covet Kathrin’s chocolate confection too!  My only regret is that I couldn’t try more than a glass of wine to accompany this feast, since  I was driving, so I can’t comment on the wine cellar.

Conversation over dinner turned towards why more locals don’t sample the dining opportunities local hotels offer.  In New York or in London or other European cities it’s quite normal to patronize a restaurant situated in a hotel, but here there is reluctance, and I hold up my hand.  For me I think it was to do with hotels being sited in tourist resorts, and the attendant problems, parking for one, but nearby La Laja there is ample parking.  I think that there is also probably a kind of snobbery (for want of a better word), in not wanting to mix with tourists.  Again that isn’t a problem with La Laja. The hotel’s clientele is clearly not of the beer belly and sunburn brigade, but judging by those I saw, altogether more sophisticated and elegant.  On the other hand, there is no need to be put off by the prices, which, at around €9.50 for a main course of high quality is only a little more than some very average restaurants.

Do I have any critique?  It seems fussy in the face of such scrumptiousness, but I would have like vegetables with my main course.  I’m a big fan of veggies, though no way vegetarian.  I did note on their New Year menu that they have vegetarian options – more about that later!

We, ex-pats, need, I think, to accept that there is a new kind of tourist attracted to the islands now, and why, on earth, should we not avail ourselves of the excellent facilities and opportunities that brings for us too?

Thanks to La Laja for a memorable meal, and apologies all round for the quality of the photos, which is well below the standard I aim for.  I think I was too aware of not using the flash so as not to annoy other diners, but I just hope the pix of the food are enough to whet your appetites if you live in Tenerife!


















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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Easter on the Island

Did I ever mention that I loathe Easter weekend?  It’s something I learned  early in life, by the time I was old enough to go into Blackpool on my own.  “Don’t go on Easter weekend – it’s like sardines out there!”  was the advice we’d give each other, and once we learned to drive it was even worse – Sunday drivers and no parking!   The trouble with Easter is that, compared to summer vacations, everyone is on holiday at the same time, which means crowds everywhere.  Narrow Lake District roads are another place to avoid at this time of year.  Gridlock – and usually gridlock accompanied by the slapping of windscreen wipers.

Basically, it’s the same here, but without the windscreen wipers.  Chaos for the most part, especially if you are unlucky enough to be working in the accommodation sector, though I suppose these days one’s just lucky to be working, anywhere.  Next year I am thinking it would be nice to be somewhere which doesn’t holiday over this particular weekend.

Take a look at the photo below.  This was El Médano beach on Wednesday afternoon, before the weekend even, although most tourists arrived the previous weekend, given the lateness of the date this year. By Thursday the numbers had swollen, with the influx of affluent northerners, who have second homes around here.  Parking became a nightmare, and, inevitably, the weather took a turn for the worse ……… happens here too, you see……not quite windscreen wipers though!

However, apparently,  not everyone was on the beaches, even though it seemed like it.  According to yesterday’s local newspapers 23,000 of them turned up in Adeje on Friday morning for the annual passion play, that included me and Maria and Isabel.  I’d heard so much about this event, but often worked Good Fridays in recent years, so this was my first opportunity to see it for myself, and I was looking forward to it.

We arrived early, as advised, and after  coffee and tortilla we  staked our claim at the roadside barrier about  an hour before the performance was due to begin.  This, however, didn’t stop a very rude, old, Italian man from pushing in and spoiling the view with his flowerpot of a hat……..not at all Giorgio Armani!

The play takes place all along the main street of the town, so getting to see or photograph it all is impossible, unless you have a press pass, of course, and although the tv cameras broadcast it all, there seemed to be an absence of press en masse.    If you would like to see professional photos check out these from local guide Tinerguia.

We were able to wander Calle Grande, arriving as early as we did, and take a close look at the sets which had been constructed, the scene of the Last Supper with a table laden with real food, the Garden of Gethsemane with olive branches stuck into the stumps of trees, the palaces were Jesus was judged and flogged, and, finally Calvary in the small square at the beginning of the street. All the participants in the cast of 300 are townspeople, and along the street “shops” and food stalls had been constructed, and real food was being stacked onto them, pedestrian crossings had been covered over with leaves and straw, and telephone boxes and other modern inventions had been disguised as far as possible.  Everything was first-class, so much so that in one photo I snapped I wasn’t sure where the set ended and the real street began.  I saw these guys in their smocks and sneakers, and for one, horrible moment thought that this was going to be the standard, but soon realized that they were camera crew, blending in as much as practical, which was great.

Remarkably for Tenerife, it began on the dot. As the town hall clock struck 12 the “extras” entered and took up their places along the route, children played along the road, looking for all the world as if this was real life, women sold produce from those stalls, and the general public ambled along.  Truly it didn’t take much effort to imagine oneself back in Palestine 2,000 years ago.

The cast dotted about, cue the entry of the badies, Roman soldiers, rabbis and, of course, Pontius Pilate.

You can see how excellent the costumes were.  I’m not saying those breastplates were metal, but the details were amazing. Movie buff that I am (and I love noting continuity goofs etc) I tried to spot a wristwatch or two, but didn’t see one, although there were a few wedding rings.  Maybe they wore wedding rings back then, I don’t know, just that the costumes and sets were wonderful, a much, much higher standard than I expected.

We were close to the Last Supper, and yet another nice surprise was the quality of the sound system, as the performance began, which broadcast to the entire street quite clearly.  Obviously, the people waiting at Calvary were couldn’t see what was happening around the table, at the opposite end of the street, but they must have heard the dialogue just fine.

Feet washed, and Judas having stormed out of dinner, the cast prepared to move onto the next set along the street, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the police took down the ropes from the sides of the street and formed a line across, so that watchers could follow on and get a good view of the next scene.  At that point Isabel and I went in search of a loo, which we found in the Cultural Center, where  the event was being shown on a huge tv.  We opted to return to the streets, though.  We found it almost impossible to see very much from then on, however, people from higher up the street were crushing around, as were we, and we caught glimpses, but nothing more until the tableau arrived at “Calvary” where a pop-concert-style screen was showing the recording.  Everything could be heard quite clearly though.  The standard of acting and singing was outstanding, worthy of the London stage, even if the script was, at times, at little corny, but, then, perhaps that’s what it’s all about.  That said, it’s exactly that blind attachment to the fairy story aspect of all this I find difficult to swallow.  It’s clearly not the case for most of the people in the photo below.  Just look at their faces, nothing if not in the moment.

That was one of those making-lemonade moments.  The crowd was dense, and I simply held up the camera and clicked blindly.  Of course, I would have liked a better picture of Jesus, but I thought the faces were interesting.  After he passed, and that crowd following the police cordon massed behind, it seemed like time to retreat.  We had no hope of seeing anything more in detail, and the sound system and the big screen on Calvary were going to carry the rest of the performance to us.

Feeling peckish we were happy to find that the produce from those “stalls” was being given away.  This lady was tearing off chunks of bread and ladling gooey jam into it as she joked with “customers”.

As we stood in the middle of the street, munching, we thought it had come to an end as Jesus was lowered from the cross, and Mary wept over his body.  Certainly, applause rippled through the audience.  However, we grabbed our cameras again when we realized that at least some of the cast were still in character and returning in our direction.

I thought this picture might give you an idea of just how many people there were, but I don’t think it really does.

Jesus’s body returning to the church to await Sunday.  At this stage it is not the actor, but one of the plaster figures from the church.

It was certainly a memorable event, and I am delighted to have seen it.  As a spectacle it was marvellous, perfectly executed, prepared and dressed.  If there were any hitches, I didn’t notice them.  Will I go next year?  Not sure, mainly because of the crush.  Would I go to see another one elsewhere?  Definitely.  Not as a religious experience, though I believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a man whose message should be heeded, I don’t think that churches have really lived up to that message in a very, very long time.  However, as theater it was quite remarkable, and I will fill in now with some faces from the day.

And a couple which made me smile!


Trying to Live up to Expectations

Wow, but it was a thrill seeing my blog on the Freshly Pressed, front page of WordPress, but, after the happy dance was over, I got to fretting – what should I write next? How could I “live up to” the post which earned that distinction? So is it true that numbers of random strangers read my ramblings? Do I have a responsibility to them now to produce something similar to that post, or can I meander off chunnering on about the events in the Middle East or the state of Canarian education?

As you can see, I wimped out, and posted photos.  I would probably have done that anyway.  The weekend’s full moon was spectacular and a global event and a test (failed, clearly, in execution if not in composition) of my newly-acquired photographic skills.

The thing is, I’m not entirely sure where this blog is going, it’s a bit of a runaway train, and of course, I don’t want it to end up being a wreck.  It’s evolved, and it’s taken on a life of its own to some extent.  I often find myself sitting down to write one thing and ending up posting something entirely different – like now.

My life is, like Shirley Valentine’s, very ordinary at the moment, though I appreciate that its setting is extra-ordinary to many people. So I sit and wonder, having started up this train, what on earth I can write about.  It certainly doesn’t snow here every day, and I don’t go up into the mountains every day either, and yet I can see where the mundane for me might be something different for someone else, and so I ramble on.

I’m lucky that this ordinariness includes moments like today’s lunch of tapas including a salpicón de marisco (a mixture of prawns, mussels, crabsticks, peppers and onions in a light vinaigrette dressing), pimientos de padrón (small, green peppers, fried in olive oil until they are about to crisp and liberally sprinkled with salt) and churros de pescado (battered and fried chunks of white fish) washed down with chilled white wine, followed by the coffee I have christened the super barraquito, and all consumed under a sky and next to an ocean so blue that they defy description.

I’m lucky that a trip to sort out car taxes led to a breakfast of milky coffee and a slice of moist tortilla española under shady trees in a street cafe where the early morning breeze was balmy enough to be wearing only cotton cargoes and a T-shirt.

I’m lucky that driving to a class yesterday the road wound me through hills and vineyards for a while.

And I’m lucky that most days I can forget the frazzled traffic on the autopista and take the long way home, just so I can take in this view.

I’m fond of saying that everywhere is interesting, that you can find the interest and the beauty even in the midst of the ugly, and I firmly believe that. I also would prefer to be in any number of places rather than here, places I know and love more, and places I have yet to see that are calling me, sometimes so strongly I want to stamp my feet like a child and sulk that I can’t go right now.  Yet, if I have to be stuck somewhere I have to admit that this ain’t half bad.  The climate is nigh perfect; the landscapes, which range from lush to spectacular are unequalled; there are historical towns and cities, and there are modern resorts; there are fresh foods including “mango and papaya you can pick right off the tree”. (Okaaaaay hands up if you know which song in which musical that came from!); and there are wines, there are fruity reds and there are chilled,  floral whites which slide down so easily on a warm day like today.

In short, I suppose, I am counting my blessings, or some of them………for now.


The Real Adeje Knocks Socks off the Coast

Most tourists and many ex-pats think they’ve visited Adeje when they visit the island.  Sure, the coastal resorts of Costa Adeje are a vast improvement on the way Playa de las Americas used to be, but Adeje “proper” is light-years away in style and atmosphere. If you think of Adeje as a county and Adeje village/town as the county seat, then you will get the idea.

The municipality of Adeje, which, together with neighboring Guia de Isora formed the Guanche kingdom or Mencey, of Adeje prior to the Spanish conquest, is a thriving and prosperous community. That’s because the area has the most hours of sunshine on the island, that for which most tourists still come. This coast is crammed with names familiar to the tourist trade, Playa de las Americas, Torviscas, La Caleta, Costa Fañabe, Costa Adeje, Playa Paraiso and Callao Salvaje, maybe others I’ve forgotten. However, the county town, sitting around 250m above sea level overlooks them, and it’s still a lively, but laid back, local community.

Neighbor on the other side, Arona, has moved much of its paperwork and offices down to the coast, but main post office, town hall and cultural center of Adeje are all still sited in the heart of town. This week I needed to make a trip to the town hall, and had the luck to choose a blissfully clear and sunny day. I like to get paperwork and such stuff out of the way as early in the day as I can to avoid the queues and delays which build up as the morning grinds on (laid back, remember!), so I arrived a little early and wandered around for a while. I’d been meaning to come and take a look at the new town square, which was much publicized when it was dedicated not so long ago. With the town hall on one side and the parish church on the other it teeters on the very edge of the Barranco del Infierno, and is a fabulous vantage point to view the valley and surrounding hills, which at the moment, after the winter rains, look as if they are covered in green velvet.

As you can see in the picture above, it is a stunning juxtaposition of natural beauty, history and modern architecture, not something you see very often elsewhere, and yet, for all the concrete construction and spoiling of the coastline, it’s not that uncommon on this island.

Clock atop the Town Hall

Sitting on the steps of the plaza I fell into a conversation with an old guy who was watching his two small and elderly dogs frisking about.  “That one’s 70, the same age as me,” he boasted.  I resisted the temptation to scream or to reveal my age.  I noted the walking stick laid next to him, and also the fact he was quite heftily over-weight.  “People in Adeje don’t like dogs,” he commented.  I agreed, having stayed there for a few months some years back.  I told him that El Médano was a much friendlier place for dogs.  “Used to work there,” he said, “On the banana plantation.”  This sounded interesting.  I’ve seen workers being bused in to work there, and I figured that the conditions were quite hard under the plastic sheeting used to protect the plants from the high winds, and I was thinking of sitting down next to him.  I knew if I did my morning was probably shot at, and it would be hard to get away.  Then he said, “All Communists there, you know.”  No, I hadn’t realized that.  “Oh you need to be careful.  I’ve worked there, and they’re all Communists.”  OK, I figured it was probably time to go see if the motor taxation department was open yet, so I wished him a nice day and strolled off, wishing maybe I’d had that conversation a few years back when possibly his mind was a bit more agile.

My business done, I wound my way through the one-way system out of town and passed this canon which stands in front of the old Casa Fuerte, or fortified residence. Adeje was a prosperous area almost from the beginning of Spanish rule. Sugar cane, which was a major crop on the islands for a long time was grown there and shipped to Europe from the port of La Caleta, where I watched the ceremonial bathing of livestock on festival of San Sebastian last month. tI would be a bit grand to call Casa Fuerte a fort, but the historical marker provides a sketch of the original layout of the building you see behind the canon. It included the lookout tower, residence and servants quarters, a small chapel, grain storage and an archive room, and it reminds me for all the world of something from one of those old movies about colonial Mexico….and, I suppose, with reason. There are parallels and comparisons to be made between colonization in the archipelago and that in South America. . The building was more or less destroyed by fire over a hundred years ago (does it seem ripe for renovation and exploitation to you, or is it just me?), but happily those archives were rescued and turned over to the local authority.

This morning is pretty much what an average day can be like here.  The motor tax thing was pretty straightforward for once; I had a glimpse of history and of Mother Nature’s allure; I admired modern architecture and I had a quirky conversation – and in the midst of all that I forgot to get myself a coffee on the pretty main street, which is a very tempting place to sit under the trees on a warm morning.


The Fiesta Where Two Worlds Collide

According to the official website of the bishopric of  Santa Cruz de Tenerife, around 30,000 people took part in or observed Thursday’s celebration of the feast day of San Sebastian in Adeje.  I’m hopeless at judging numbers, but it was clear that there were already several thousand there by the time we had scoffed the empanadas after our short pilgrimage, which I described yesterday.  The picture below shows the beach in only direction, with people perched on every vantage point the rocky shoreline presented.  It was the same in the other direction, along the beach and up steps to the road beyond.

The fiestas of late summer can be compared to harvest time in the northern countries, but I don’t know how to compare this season.  Last week in Santiago del Teide it was San Antonio Abad (Abbott), this week in Adeje it was San Sebastian, and next week sees more celebrations involving San Antonio in Los Silos and Buenavista del Norte.  The connection is animals, and perhaps knowing that San Sebastian is the saint in charge of warding off pests and plagues, and that San Antonio is the patron of domestic animals explains it.  Seems to me if they worked together it might help, but hey, what does an old agnostic know!  The idea is that the animals are blessed and hopefully fruitful (in one way or the other!) in the year ahead.

This horse was my absolute favorite.  He almost took away my breath with his shiny coat and his elegant stride, and what seemed to be pride and enjoyment emanating from him!

I’ve always kind of liked San Sebastian.  He’s always portrayed as being so young and handsome for one thing (check out the painting by El Greco, ladies), not to mention that he was a soldier, and I’m a sucker for a man in uniform (especially back in the 3rd  century when they displayed their well-toned legs too).  For another, years ago I visited the catacombs outside of Rome, where his body supposedly lay for some time, and whatever one believes there is an extraordinary atmosphere there.  What I thought was the manner of his death, portrayed as he always is, pierced by arrows, seemed a bit different to most too, but checking him out online (aren’t they all there now!) before the fiesta, I found out that he didn’t die from those wounds, but was rescued, nursed back to health, returned to taunt Diocletian, who then, of course, furious, had him beaten to death.  What any of that has to do with plagues and pests I don’t know, but it all makes for an excuse to fiesta.

On Wednesday night he’d enjoyed his annual trip to see the fireworks, which I missed, and Thursday his job was to follow the procession of animals from the elegant hermitage in La Caleta de Adeje, where a mass was conducted,  down to the shore to make sure they all had a dip before his blessing.  I’m not sure that I ever touched on religion here before, other than simply talking about the different fiestas, but by now you may have guessed that I am not a fan.  I do wonder, however, what would happen to local traditions if the entire population overnight came to think as I do.  So many of them were based originally in religion.   Would they be rejected, or would they continue just for fun?  Carnaval, after all, has nothing to do with a pre-Lent cleansing any longer.  The fact is that I’m perfectly ok with the idea of people like saints; persons, living or dead, who may have closer links to the universe than the rest of us, but I’m not ok with the misinformation about them, nor the power of organized religions, so if I ruled the world this would, actually, still go on.

We took a peek inside the churches, the pretty new one, built in 1961, and the tiny old one, which had fallen into disrepair, but is now beautifully restored, before heading down to the beach.  Although I’d seen pictures of this fiesta from previous years I was surprised at the number of people so early, waiting for the action.  We checked with a local policeman, who was struggling, charmingly to answer questions in at least four languages that I overheard, and he indicated the route of the procession, and we found a shady spot to wait.  It was then that the contrast between the fairly simple celebrations in Santiago del Teide the previous weekend, and what was happening in La Caleta struck me.  It wasn’t the sincerity of the proceedings or that they were not genuine in any way whatsoever, but that so many tourists were attracted to them.  It seemed like two worlds colliding.

The tourists waited impatiently in their spotless white shorts, clutching their cameras; locals sat patiently on the pavements and clutched their cameras too.  It was a longish wait.  Very little here happens at the appointed hour, and it occurred to me that with the huge crowd the priest might have run out of wafers, but in due time we spotted the procession coming down the street, and the nice policeman indicated that we should move out of its way a bit.

It was a wonderfully mixed group of riders who approached first, some dressed in traditional Canarian vests and hats, others looking like polo players, and yet others looking as if they were just there for fun in jeans and vests, and there was the inevitable guy with a cellphone to his ear,  but all in great good humor, and seeming to be relishing every minute.  There was a cute donkey with a sunhat, looking as if he belonged in an old western, and immaculately groomed steeds with plaited manes.  There were graceful women riders, and those who looked like businessmen on a day off, farmers, punks and some seriously cute children.  The riders were followed by a couple of pony and traps, and then came the shepherds and goatherds with their flocks.  Many of them carried the traditional long staffs which were carried by the Guanches long before the Conquistadors set foot on this island.  You’ll see them in the pictures below.  Not only were they used for keeping steady on the rocky terrain, but also used to launch the goatherd as he jumped from rock to rock.

The rear of the procession was brought up by San Sebastian and the mayor, priest and other local dignitaries, and we followed as they made their way down to the beachfront.  Dexterous use of elbows and not being afraid of the water got us views of the fun as horses, goats and sheep were pulled, coaxed or willingly trotted into the water.  It is, I think,  the most fun festival I’ve witnessed, and having done the “pilgrimage” it felt quite cool to be a little part of it, but by the time all the dunking was over we were starving and headed straight for the hotdog stand.  That the procession was then winding its way up to El Humilladero didn’t mean we escaped the queues, half the world, it seemed, had decided the same.  Roughly the queue and one hotdog later they returned to the roadside in front of the church, where animals, riders and keepers received a sprinkling of holy water to protect them from the plagues and pests of the coming year, and in all seriousness I hope it works.

For Cristina and me there was now the challenge of an hour to hour and half walking back to Adeje.  We were on the beach, and Adeje lies at 280 m above sea level.  My boots were falling apart.  The sun was hot, and I’d been on my feet since 9am.  Even so, the walk was fun (at least until we reached the road, then not-so-much), and it had all been well worth it.

I couldn’t begin to guess just how many of that 30,000 crowd were tourists, and I don’t begrudge the popularization of the fiesta one bit.  We are in crisis, and tourist euros are essential to the economy.  In fact, it’s a good thing that so many people realize that there is at least one whole other aspect to life on this lovely island.  Still, it seemed incongruous, the sheep and goats bleating, the horses prancing and the stalls selling hotdogs and ice cream as well as sardines and turrón, and in the background the swish hotels of Costa Adeje.  This festival is still able to happen because the beach there is still stones, and hasn’t been blasted with golden sand stolen from the seabed, and because there is still waste ground, not yet built on.  I suppose one day grand hotels will rise on that waste ground too, and I wonder what will happen then to this tradition.


Spring – In The Air and In My Step

After the almond blossom the next sign of spring  is the wild lavender.  I remember seeing it for the first time in profusion a few years back.  There was a stretch of what can only be called desert, alongside the beach of Achile, where I used to walk Trixy most mornings.  After choosing alternative routes for a couple of days we returned to Achile to find it covered in the delicate, pale purple  flowers, and ever since I’ve thought of its arrival as the beginning of springtime.

I wasn’t looking for it in the desert landscape on Thursday, and it was a quiet delight of an interesting and surprising day to find it, the taller spikes moving gentley on the breeze.

9am isn’t particularly early to meet for a short hike, but I’d stayed up too late the night before, exploring and travelling vicariously thanks to the internet, so I wasn’t over-bright and breezy, when Cristina and I arrived at Adeje’s parish church of St Ursula, which appears to keep an eye on the town, sitting, as it does,  high at the top of the main thoroughfare.  It didn’t help that I’d only downed one, small cup of coffee, remembering that an hour or so’s hike over a barren landscape doesn’t afford bushes to hide behind when you have a call of nature.

The parish church of St. Ursula

It was the feast day of San Sebastian, patron saint of the municipality, and an hour and half’s walk over what was once the main route connecting the pueblo high on the hill to the shore below, had been arranged by the municipality, with a traditional fiesta at its conclusion.  You could call it a pilgrimage, or a keeping alive of history.  Crops were transported down to the shore by this route using oxen and carts.

We had a sharp and sunny start Thursday morning as we hung around the church steps, waiting for the guides to lead off.  The weather here in the south since Christmas has been so perfect it makes you want to hold your breath.  Clear mornings which have melded into hot middays, which then melted into chilly evenings and even chiller nights, true desert weather.  It was nice to note that I wasn’t the only foreigner, that others were interested in the traditions of their adopted home, or vacation home.

Setting off from the church at the head of the town, we wound our way through the quiet streets.  It has to be said that most of the (possibly) 40,000-ish inhabitants of the municipality were probably taking advantage of the local holiday to sleep in.  There weren’t many people around at least, as we snaked along, escorted efficiently by the local police who stopped what traffic there was to let us pass.  Even when we reached the bridge which struts the autopista we didn’t seem to be causing too many holdups.

From the autopista it’s just five minutes downhill to the first marker on the journey, and we streamed through the gateway, historical marker alongside, which heralded the beginning of the “real” walk. 19th century Adeje was a very important agricultural area, where fields of maze and sugar beet surrounded the village, and where  rich banana harvests were produced for Fyffes.  That company used to loan, on occasion, a bullock cart to transport the statue of Saint Sebastian to the beach of La Enramada below, but this day we were simple pilgrims on foot.

It was less than another five minutes from the gateway to the vantage point from which I took those great sunset pictures in December, and quite a few people stopped there to snack or drink water, or just to admire the vista, our route, tumbling down to the ocean, spread out before us.

It wasn’t a hard walk by any stretch of the imagination, there were several families with pushchairs, and some elderly people.  The ground is volcanic-rock solid, with just a few places where it’s worn away and you’re liable to slip on loose stones.  We crossed a small brook at one point, but skipping over a couple of stones and we were over.  On a walk like this, keeping up, more or less, with the group is half the fun and half the point of it, it’s a communal thing, so there wasn’t a whole lot of time to admire that lavender or other flora as we went.

As we neared our destination we came to El Humilladero, the site where, according to legend, there has been a sighting of the Virgin Mary.  A simple shrine now marks the spot, and several of the older walkers paid their respects.  In reality is marked the end of the walk in one way, as people seemed to drift off on their own from that point.

Feeling ridiculously chipper at the thought of a cold soda we trudged the short distance to the road, and rounded a corner to find the church square already thronging with people. The elegant hermitage of San Sebastian was built in the early Sixties, but if you look to the bottom left of the picture, you can see the red-tiled roof of the tiny, original church.

After gulping down the soda and nibbling a red-hot empanada (a fried pasty or pie) we spent the next, few hours watching the festivities, but that I’m saving for another day.

We set off back in good spirits, which is just as well, because, remember I said it was not a difficult walk down?  Down, note – which means that the return was all uphill.  The day was hotter, a scortching mid-afternoon, the soles of my hiking boots were coming off and flapping as I walked, having met their final indignity in the ocean, and there were many more stops for water or excuses to take photos than on the downward journey, I can tell you!

This was when I remembered that I’d done scarcely any exercise since the neck problems began in June.  I practised my breathing the way I’d done in yoga, and dreamed of a cold beer back in the village at the end.  It was, though, enjoyable.  I love variety in any guise, and the last walk I’d done was along the flat banks of the river Wey in crisp October, with the Autumn leaves crunchy underfoot,  so clambering over volcanic rocks, sighing over pretty clumps of lavender and admiring distant, misty mountains was fine by me.

Everything was hunky dory until we left the open ground and hit the tarmac, where the soles of my boots flapped even harder, and the sun seemed even hotter.

A whistle from a passing truck driver bucked me up no end – hey, at my age that’s something (obviously he was too far away to spot the wrinkles and the multiple chins). In the end we made it though, feet aching and tongue hanging out, and me with no time for that beer I’d been anticipating.  I hurried home to find that my ESL students had to postpone because their car had broken down  en route, and I have to say I thought that maybe the gods (or maybe the saints) were on my side, as I tugged off mystill sodden boots and my salt encrusted jeans. After which I flopped on the sofa, feet on the back to allow the blood to recirculate.  Today I know it was the uphill which was the “killer”, but also a good thing, as my thighs ache something rotten. I didn’t do my power walk this morning, but I think yesterday awarded me a couple of days grace!

Just to give you a clue about the next post, I can tell you that these handsome gentlemen below overtook us on the path, and very charmingly posed for me.

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Er…..Trying toThink of a New Way of Saying Cultural Variety!

Trying to think of a new way of saying it because it happened again. This weekend the choices were excruciating, and a bit of bad luck (or was it bad planning?) didn’t really help.  Imagine this:

Friday night? Well, the choice was going to Santa Cruz to watch the beginning of the re-enactment of the Battle of Santa Cruz, music in a local bar or going to see The Moscow City Ballet performing “Swan Lake”. Of course “Swan Lake” won. I was going to say, “because I’ve seen the re-enactment before”, but then I haven’t seen it nearly as many times as I’ve seen “Swan Lake”!! The exciting thing about this, particular performance was that it was in the South of Tenerife, in the aforementioned Magma Center, so it was also being a small part of a little bit of local history.  The South of the island has always felt like something of a Cultural desert.  Oh, sure there has been the odd oasis, and I emphasize I speak of Culture with a capital C, (of culture with a small C there has always been an abundance) so it’s the first time I didn’t face an hour’s drive after an event.

The Culture

I’d never entered Magma through the huge, front entrance before, and pretty impressive it looked as we approached, pretty lights – and a stage hand spray painting props (now, that didn’t give us a smile when we saw them on stage!) Amusing variety of dress, one or two looking as if they were going to the beach (which is pretty standard attire for just about anything here), and one or two looking as if they were expecting to bump into the King and Queen i.e. dressed up to the nines – which is not normal for the South of the island. Still, I wasn’t there to conduct a fashion survey!

I’d intended to have a siesta to ready myself for the late start (10pm) but the screeching from the pool, almost below my window, reached epic levels Friday afternoon, and sleep was impossible , so I read through the little program which came with the tickets.  Anticipation shivered down my spine a little as I recalled the story, and remembered the video I used to have of Fonteyn and Nureyev performing this ballet, so I set off in good mood and refreshed in any event.

The production was excellent, if a little theatrical sometimes – “Ah”, you say, “but it is theater!”……good point! The sets and the costumes were both stunning. The Corps du Ballet was absolutely superb, in fact, though it’s a very long time (12 years, in fact) since I saw classic ballet I don’t think I’ve ever seen better. The leads were very good, Odette/Odile especially, and despite it being a version unfamiliar to me I settled down to it quite nicely very quickly. 9 out of 10 for the production definitely. That said, I will make the effort to go up to the theater in the North next time. Impressive though Magma is, it isn’t a theater. The seating was, basically, office chairs…..and remember this is long ballet….so there was a lot of squirming going on at the end, and because it isn’t a theater the floor wasn’t on a gradient, so even though we were quite close to the front, there were several people spoiling my view. In fact, for a lot of the time, I couldn’t see center stage at all. The acoustics, however, were a marvel, given the circumstances. The salon was huge and high ceilinged, but the music filled it with passion and grace, not a note was lost. So, overall verdict on the night will only rate a 6/10 from me. I know that sounds picky, but this isn’t a theater review either, and the performance made it more than worthwhile for me, but because of the discomfort I couldn’t surrender myself to the story the way I wanted to.    It’s just a word of advice – the next time Magma offer theater – make the effort to go to Teatro Leal, Teatro Guimerá or the Auditorio if whatever is playing there too.

So taken with the magic of it was I, though, that I couldn’t sleep when I got home, which didn’t signal well for the next day, when I woke to strains of Tchaikovsky flitting through my head.

The Sport

The choice for Saturday was a no brainer, because Austin was participating in the local triathlon, here in El Médano, so I passed on the chance to go to the World Music Event in Santa Cruz, and the main day of the re-enactment, amongst other things. I thought I might make the World Music Concert in the evening though, and if I didn’t, I had an invite to join some friends on a “tapas crawl”, so all looked rosy.

The triathlon is annual, well-organized and looks both fun and serious at the same time. Last year they had to battle fierce winds, and the day dawned that way this year too, but calmed down in time for the 4.30 start. The town was fit to burst, so I guess it is also good for stimulating business, and, of course, motherly pride beating intensely I was there to take snaps.

Other than the London Marathon, which I didn’t really get snaps of due to the circumstances and the way it’s organized, this was the first time I’ve ever really tried to photograph a sports event….and it ain’t easy! I knew it wouldn’t be, but I was ok with the results for a first timer. I thought it didn’t interest me as a genre, but could be wrong there, although I think I’ll always prefer landscapes.  I did discover a new talent, though, …. I can dig an elbow as well as the next person, duck under official tape which is there to stop me, and squeeze in between people to get where I want to be.  Now, that might all sound quite normal to you, and you can blame my mom for bringing me up right, but I’ve always been too darned polite -so this is a new me!  ’bout time some pals will say.

Scene in the town square just before the start

Waiting for the start

Entering choppy water

And coming out of the water.  That’s Austin in the middle in the black suit with white stripe on the arms, and the white goggles on his head.

My favorite snap of the day.  He was going very, very fast at this point, so I am really happy with it, even though I missed out the bottom of one of the wheels!

And the home stretch.  He has about five minutes left to run here, of an event which took him 1 hour 17 minutes, which knocked 8 minutes off his previous time for this event.

I arrived home pleasantly sun-kissed, but not burned, footsore (“Wow”, my friend said, “Who’s running this race, you or him?!”) from running from one vantage point to another to try to catch him as he passed, and tired in that tired but happy way.  Reluctantly,  I decided to give the concert a miss. I was on a high from the afternoon, but I didn’t trust myself to drive home after midnight, so I opted for the tapas crawl, intending to just have a couple and then call it an early night.

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

La Ruta de Tapas is something I only discovered a couple of years ago, and I don’t think it goes back much further back than that, at least in the South.  Local restaurants in a town are invited to join in providing patrons who are walking the route with a tapa and a drink (wine, beer or water usually, although sodas are offered in La Laguna) for €3 (in La Laguna €2.50) for the period of the event.  If you want to join the route you can get a map of participating establishments from the internet or the local town hall.  Just in case anyone doesn’t know a tapa is, it’s  a small portion of food, a snack or a taster might be a good translation.  In big cities like Madrid or Barcelona great nights are to be had, walking from bar to bar and sampling the local brew and a tapa or two in each, but it’s not so much of a tradition here.

My last experience in Los Cristianos had been really good, so I showered and changed eagerly, and wasn’t more than five minutes late to meet my friends.  The first place we tried, in fact, ended up being so enjoyable that we didn’t move!!  Given that we had a small child and a little dog with us, it was probably a wise choice, it isn’t always that easy to accommodate either, though children are accepted almost everywhere here at just about any time of day or night, and Leo is a stunningly well-behaved one year old :=)

One of the ideas of this promotion, other than stimulating business, is to promote local products, everything used in the making of the tapas has to be of local origin.   We began with a mousse of sea bass drizzled with a mustardy mayonnaise, and I mean, drizzled, so it complimented the fish, didn’t drown it, and served with gofio crisps.  Then,  two tapas of tuna and vegetables bound into a rough kind of paté and drizzled with a maracuya coulis. All washed down with local wines.

By then, we were cozy under a canopy of bamboo, on a balmy evening, child and dog happily comfortable, the urge to move on deserted us, and we ordered more food.  That might have been a mistake, depends on which way you look at it.  For some reason I never fathomed there was a long, long delay in bringing the main course.  On the one hand, the conversation was great, varied, funny and intelligent, so it wasn’t that important, but it put an end to my intention to have an early night.   I have to say it was worth it, though.  The fresh goats’ cheese salad I ordered was out-of-this-world, and well worth the wait.  Shame that driving meant I couldn’t have another glass of that lovely wine, but you can’t have it all ways, as we English say.   It was a mellow, relaxing night, but way later than I intended!

One of the delights of living here is the standard and diversity of restaurants, and within that a further delight is how you find a little place like this, very unpretentious and welcoming, but serving food as good as you can get anywhere.

If you’re holidaying in Tenerife in July check out which towns are offering la Ruta de Tapas.  We were in Costa del Silencio last night, but as well as there and Los Cristianos it happens in Valle San Lorenzo and Las Galletas too, that I know of.  It’s a fun and sociable way to try new foods, and you will also feel more in tune with the locals  as you wend your way around.  If you’re staying in Los Cristianos then no worries on the drink driving thing either!   although you’ll meet mainly other visitors.  What I really want to do is try the route in La Laguna if I can make it this year.

So, to today.  Today, the choice was going to the Lido in Santa Cruz, where I heard they have a Dixieland jazz band in the restaurant on a Sunday, taking in the British “surrender” at the Battle of Santa Cruz, and a movie about the Japanese invasion of China (yes, I know that might sound boring, but I know nothing about that bit of history, and I want to know, and it’s won awards), or all three, or any one or two plus a visit to the Sunday street market.  Which one do you think I chose?  I hit the alarm, turned over and had a rare lie in.  Bad decisions maybe, but, like I said, there is just so much going on here, you just cannot do it all!


Just An Average Saturday night in South Tenerife

It’s an odd thing.  I go to an Indian festival last weekend an end up with photos of a Canarian folk group, and this week I go to a local village for their folklore festival and end up with snaps of a troupe from Costa Rica.  That is, most definitely, typical of life here in the south of the island.  It’s a cultural melting pot.

And what a melting pot!  Saturday night offered three cultual experiences any one of which would have been worth writing up here.

I’m going to kind of work backwards for mysterious reasons of my own, and the pictures here won’t be great because we were sitting quite a long way back for this one, and it wasn’t really prudent to spoil people’s enjoyment of the performance by moving around.

Event Three, then,  was the annual folklore festival in Las Galletas, a small village, a cultural melting pots in its own way, but still at heart the fishing village it was until very recently.  In the last few years it’s had a makeover and now sports a very attractive, new harbor, and many more leisure boats than of yore as a consequence.  Still, on my own, personal rating it scores much higher than most.  It’s attractive and doesn’t detract from its former incarnation.

We arrived a little late, having been delayed a bit by the previous event, and as we passed the fairground melodic Canarian folk music wafted down the street on the back of an excellent sound system (if that’s the right expression).  A male group of singers and musicians occupied the stage, dressed in traditional Canarian costume, above, Los Amigos de Punta Rasca.  The nearest comparison I could make from personal experience is a Welsh male choir, which British friends will “get” but I don’t know if anyone else will.  Although local music often features female soloists, the musical group is generally made up of men, all of whom seem to be in possession of fine tenor voices.  They didn’t stick just to Canarian music, though, they presented us with music from South American countries too.  It was typical of what I had expected to hear.  There has been a great revival of interest in traditional music in recent years, and like the young men in Chirche last weekend, it was great to see that the traditions are in safe hands.

Next up was a small band and dance troupe from Costa Rica, Turichiqui,  who were wonderfully colorful and flamboyant.  I could have watched them all night as the girls swirled their enormously full skirts, like peacocks strutting the stage and showing off for the men (yep I do know that peacocks are male, but nature doesn’t provide many, if any, similies which spring readily to mind, where the females are the more glamorous!)  Not, mind you, that the men were any slouches in the glam department either, with their bright, silky shirts and white stetsons, but my goodness those swirly skirts were what little girls’ dreams are made of, and they looked like so much fun!

By the time they had finished,  it was close to midnight, and a group of local folk dancers took to the stage.  We were plum tuckered out by then though.  We had a small child in our party who had been bopping away with the dancing to an amazing beat of his own, but by then had fallen asleep, and so we wound our ways home.  It would have been nice to see the night out, but I still had 20 minutes or so to drive, and didn’t trust myself not to fall asleep!

It’s not an easy thing to get used to this nightlife, and I’m not talking about wild nightlife and discos, just the simple sitting in street cafés, especially at this time of year, including children of all ages, at that time of night.  OK the fair was in town, but still, at this time on an average summer Saturday there would have been lots of people on the street.  To live this way, to eat at 9 or 10, and then go out for a stroll and a drink, to meet up with neighbors and friends makes a siesta a necessity, and although I do it at times I’ve never been able to make it a habit.  It’s the most wonderfully friendly and relaxed way to live, though.  It’s part of what makes summer what it is here.  It’s all lived outdoors.

Second treat of the night was entirely different (and, yes,  I admit that contrast and diversity turn me on).  Every summer for (if I remember correctly) the last 18 years, the University of La Laguna has held a Summer School which takes place in Adeje.  Adeje is the municipality probably most-visited in Tenerife – the majority of Playa de las Americas lies within it boundaries, and the newer, posher resort areas of Costa Adeje and Playa de Fañabe, but its heart is in the village of Adeje about 10 minutes into the hills, and one of the original Guanche menceys, or kingdoms.

So, Friday lunchtime I got a text message from Cristina to say that the keynote speaker at the inauguration of the summer school was to be Baltasar Garzón (ón).  To anyone who doesn’t recognize the name, the English press often refers to him as “Spain’s crusading judge” (although the word crusade might be inadvisable these days!).  He it was who almost succeeded in getting Pinochet extradicted to Spain to answer for his crimes.  He has also had no fear in issuing warrants for drug barons, terrorists (famously Bin Laden), and politicians of both right and left, all of which has made him a very controvesial figure, with both friends and enemies on both sides of the political fence.  Currently he is suspended pending investigations into his attempts to discover the truth about  burial sites from Spain’s bitter civil war.  It wasn’t that long ago, of course, certainly within my parents’ lifetimes, and feelings still run high, partly because there are so many unanswered questions, but I don’t mean to get embroiled in that very complex subject here.  Garzón is a fighter for justice, regardless of politics.  He had a brief foray into the profession, but it didn’t last long.  Everything he said, and the way he said it, Saturday night confirmed to me my own impression which was that he was disappointed that politics didn’t give him a platform to fight injustice, which is clearly his passion.

He spoke for over an hour without notes or teleprompter, partly because no-one had informed him what the theme of the summer school was!  So he used his experiences and beliefs to link to the theme of biodiversity (an irony given the recataloguing of species the autonomous government has set in place in order to be able to build a huge, industrial port in an area where there were protected species).  That in itself was a feat to be admired.

I don’t know about you, but every now and then I am awed to be in the presence of some great person, be it a musician, a politican (rarely but has happened), an author, or a crusader, like Garzón.  I felt like this when a watched a debate which involved Federico Mayor Zaragoza ( and Sami Nair ( a couple of years back, I felt the same when I saw Eric Clapton and when I saw Youssou N’Dour, and there have been a couple of authors I was positively shaking when I met.  It kind of reaffirms your faith in the world when you have been wallowing in a sea of mediocrity for a while!  It might be their talent or their ethics, as in this case, which knocks you sideways, but it’s a reminder that there is hope and decency, and something above the average if only we seek it out.  For m,e the added delight was that he came across as thoroughly nice too.   I hadn’t been expecting that.  On tv he always seems quite austere, but he was friendly and afterwards signed books for people and happily posed for photos.  That would have made me happy for the night even without the rest of it!

The first of the treats was entirely unexpected, and every bit as awe-inspiring in its own way.  We arrived a little early at the cultural center in Adeje to find out just where it was and whether we could go, and we intended to then go and have a drink in one of the atmospheric street cafés which line the village’s main street.  However, we were just bowled over by what we saw when we arrived, which was an exhibition of “street art” by local sculptor Julio Nieto (  These pieces, most of which are shown below, are made entirely from metal, and I understand that each one took a year to complete.  There are seven in the series so seven years’ work adorning the streets of Adeje. Previously they have appeared in Santa Cruz and Los Realejos.

This was my favorite – Icarus, as we  know from Greek legend, flew too close to the sun, causing his wings to melt and his fall to earth.  As you can see, depicted with almost all of the feathers gone from his wings, and about to tumble to his fate.

It was hard to choose a favorite between Icarus and this one, though, which is entitled La Llamada, which translates, really as The Call, which doesn’t impart nearly so much longing into the title as it does in Spanish.  No wonder sailors fell for the charms of sirens if they looked like this.  And, can anyone tell me, just how it is possible to make pieces of metal resemble the charms and the muscles of an elegant human body this way?!

This island is dotted with several striking and beautiful sculptures of various styles, and at first glance the one above seemed to represent a typical villager, on closer inspection, however, we could see that the figure depicted was comprised entirely of “fish”, even up to the squid “hat”.  Very, very clever, and lots of fun…….. look at the sculptor’s website if you want to see the detail.

The remaining two are entitled The Voyager and And Alice?  Despite being very modern works of art, they are not at all obscure, and I didn’t need to think over much to work out the meanings.  One of the negatives about street art is that the background doesn’t always lend itself to a decent photo, so I deleted the rest.  If you like them, really, take a look on the website, because photographed in good light and background they look even more impressive.

I think I ran out of words now.  Three really different events on one, ordinary July night…………it isn’t always true, but there have been times when I wouldn’t be anywhere else on earth!  What I didn’t mention was the balmy air on my skin, the sharp smell of good coffee as we passed the street cafés in Adeje, or the hum of excitment around the travelling fair in Las Galletas, even without the events taking place, any of those things would have stirred the imagination and the heart.