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


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 Prettiest Village in South Tenerife

My dad has been staying with me since Christmas Eve.  He’s 87 and extremely spry and together for his age, but he can’t get around as he used to. When we first emigrated, and he came to visit, he would happily roam all around the southern coast when I was busy, but these days a half hour’s walk is the most he can manage.  Last year I hadn’t quite latched on to that, he’s always been so sprightly, but this year I realized that I had to think of places to go where a short walk, a coffee and maybe another short walk would make a decent “outing”.

I drove through Santiago del Teide on my way to Icod just before Christmas, and I was struck, as always,  by how picturesque and elegant it looks, nestled amongst craggy hills and surrounded by what must be the greenest part of the south, and I added it to my list of places to visit with my dad.  Pretty and small enough that a short stroll would be enjoyable, but also interesting for me too.

That I chose yesterday, which was an achingly crystal clear day, as you can see from the blue skies in the pictures, was sheer luck.  When I drove through on the return from Icod the town had been shrouded in thick mist of the best Hound of the Baskervilles variety.  The way places are named here, Santiago del Teide is the name of the municipality which covers an area of just over 52 sq kilometres, ranging from 1015 meters above sea level, right down to the stunning cliffs of Los Gigantes on the coast, but when you say the name most folk think of the village at the heart of the municipality, which lies at a mere 936 m above the ocean,  and that was our destination.

My car is of the old and faithful variety, so I was quite happy to be stuck behind hire cars and tour buses for almost the entire time after we left the main highway, the TF1.  That makes it sound like a busy route, and it wasn’t at all.  I speak of one hire car and one bus, actually.  The traffic was light, which is the way I’ve always found it once through the bustling, little village of Guia de Isora. It’s a route which quietly unravels and gets greener and greener as you travel.  Let’s be honest, the south and south-east coasts have a lot going for them in many ways, but pretty isn’t a word which springs to mind.  Leave them behind and it’s a whole, new world, and I was delighted to be able to take my time and glance around me now and then at the clusters of cacti, the breathtaking view down to the ocean, or the almond trees which are just coming into blossom.

If you look closely you can see the first, fragile flowers

The sad thing was that the aforesaid bus was heading right for the same place we were, even down to where I’d planned to park, so I decided on sustenance first and exercise afterwards.  We parked close to the charming, 17th century church, and crossed the road to the recreation area, where we could sit and enjoy a coffee under the shade of eucalyptus trees, and wait for the “hoards” to leave.  This area is one of the ones I wrote about last year.  It lies alongside the main road, but truly the road isn’t so busy that it would spoil an afternoon there.  I’ve only done it once, but it was delightful, and a nice wee stoll along a dry stream bed for the dogs made it even nicer.  At the entrance there is a small bar, which I now kick myself for not snapping, because it isn’t often you see somewhere constructed to allow for the surrounding trees, which seem to emerge from its roof.  Maria who runs it cooks a mean hamburger too, as I remembered once we sat down and the aroma drifted out.  I was hooked, I had to have one,  and I actually almost managed to finish it.

By that time the bus had moved on, leaving the village peaceful in the balmy, afternoon sun, so we trotted over to the church.  I’d noted that the bus party had visited the church, but was surprised to find the doors still wide open.  It just doesn’t happen that much anymore, sadly.  It used to be that you could always pop into a church, but I digress.  It was open, and we stepped inside, to be almost overwhelmed by the color and the quantity of statues, icons and pictures which filled the walls.

It’s a small church, but every nook and cranny was filled.  It was more crowded than usual because the whole area around the altar was occupied by the belén (nativity scene), which included a couple of real, live ducks – in a tiny cage, suspended from the ceiling, poor things!   Given that twelth night was 48 hours passed you might have thought they would have had their freedom back!  Clearly things had been moved around to make room for the Christmas display.

Being with my dad meant I couldn’t have the good old nosey around I would normally have had. Walking he can handle, but stopping to admire or investigate is bad for his back, so it was a quick look around and onwards.  I’m not religious in the conventional sense, and if was I’m sure I would lean these days to a simpler style of worship and belief, in other words, I often find the ostentation of church displays uncomfortable, but walking into this little church was something like walking into a rainbow, and I couldn’t help but like it.

After leaving, we wandered the streets close to the church for a little while, where modern houses blended tastefully with the older, well-kept buildings, cocks crowed from what looked like overgrown lots, and bees buzzed lazily in the Spring sunshine.  A couple of old ladies, sitting on benches by the kiddies’ playground seemed to eye us with suspicion, but  responded with smiles to my “Buenos tardes.”  It’s almost always that way here.  The playground was empty, but as you can see, even this was cheerful and colorfully decorated, guaranteed to stimulate young imaginations, don’t you think?

By the time we reached the end of the playground my dad knew he’d had enough, so we turned back, me with mental notes of things I wanted to know (the Tourist Information Office was closed by the time I tried the handle around 3 o’clock…….and I wasn’t the only one, but somehow I didn’t mind there.  It was siesta time.  Middle of Santa Cruz is another story.  It’s a busy, little, capital city, and if it wants the cruise ships it will have to accommodate tourists on their timeframe.), and things I wanted to see in a different light, at a different time of day.  I did a little sortie down a side road, but it was clear that my dad was tuckered out, so I left it all for another day.

I didn’t even investigate the new rural hotel, where I’d had a coffee last year, and about which I’ve heard great reports, just read this one from local journalist Andy Montgomery, but I love to leave something for another time, wherever I go, unless I hate a place it’s great to have a reason to go back, and I really can’t think of another village in the south which is as simply pretty as Santiago del Teide.


Snapshots from the Week

Just a few snaps from last week:

When the tide goes out, you’ll always find someone poking about in the rock pools left behind. Sometimes an octopus hides in between rocks, waiting for the next tide to move back out to sea, and the small fish who didn’t get washed back into the ocean make bait for local fishermen. Nice half hour whiled away eating passion fruit ice cream with mango sorbet and watching this guy in El Médano the other day.

From the south of the island our view of El Teide, highest mountain in Spain, is from a distance, surrounded by foothills, as in this picture from last year after the first snows, which was taken close to where I live now.

But, as you drive north, taking the motorway route, instead of crossing the mountain, you come to a point on the autopista del norte where the mountain rears to your left, almost as if it’s in 3D, so different does it look from the views so familiar from the south.  Of course, tempting though it is, you can’t stop in the middle of the motorway to snap, but the other day, stopping in El Sauzal, I snapped this from the church plaza.  You can see how it dominates the skyline above Puerto de la Cruz, and can imagine how fierce it must have been for the original, aboriginal inhabitants, the Guanches.  There was still significant volcanic activity on the island at the time it was conquered at the end of the 15th century.

And this is the pretty church square of the church of St Peter the Apostle in El Sauzal.  We didn’t go inside, because it was Sunday, and mass was in progress.  The church with its 18th century tower,  and its square are quite typical of the island.

When I first realized that there was a village called El Sauzal on Tenerife, my Steinbeck-loving heart skipped a beat, and I envisaged a little fishing village peopled by outrageous but loveable characters, so I was disappointed when I finally went there (expectations are the parents of all disappointments!).  That was silly of me, of course, similar though the climate is to parts of California, this is an island off the coast of Africa!  El Sauzal, the place where the willows grow, in Tenerife was about agriculture rather than fishing, and these days is more about being a pretty, suburban area with some very elegant properties around.  There is also a very attractive mirador, which has a highly recommended ice cream parlor (no, I am not obsessed with ice cream parlors, since you ask……..well, maybe, just a little!), which was closed on Sunday morning, a fact for which my hips are eternally grateful.  The mirador itself, however, was open for us to enjoy its stunning views.

La Casa del Vino, which has been run by the island government since 1992 is well-maintained and interesting. I’d highly recommend a visit if you still have any doubts about the quality of Canarian wines. The displays in the little museum, however, are a bit faded and refer to pestas – so I think they are in need of an update, especially since wine making is thriving again here.

This is the huge, well-restored wine-press, which takes pride of place in the courtyard, along with barrels and other implements historically used in wine making.

The links between Tenerife and England are strong, despite Nelson’s attempt to snatch the island for the British crown, which has, from time to time, puzzled me.  Why aren’t we resented more?  (and I won’t even go into what today’s Brits have wrought upon the island!)  It hit me, going around this museum – it’s the wine!  I knew that historically England had been a huge importer of Canarian wines (as well as other produce – hence Canary Wharf in London), and I knew that Shakespeare had given the nectar several plugs in his works, but in the museum I learned that Shelley, Keats and Marlowe, amongst other great English names, were also aficionados, and the panel pointing out the connection between the wines and literature was composed only of English figures, so we must have historically been as important to the island economy as our tourism is today!  And maybe we can lay some of the fault for our high alcoholic consumption on the island’s doorstep, in which case the nightly behaviour in the Veronicas has a certain irony.