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


Blooming Easter in Guia de Isora

For years, like many non-natives, I drove straight through Guia de Isora. It’s main street is a part of the main highway from the west of Tenerife to the north, at least until, sometime in the mist of a long-promised future, the autopista circling the island is completed. Guia was just another mile marker along the way; nondescript, modern blocks of shops and apartments; the old folk sitting on the plastic chairs of roadside bars; glimpses of mountains above and ocean below. The town curves busily along the hillside, bland and unremarkable, en route to prettier destinations, Arguayo or Santiago del Teide and points north.

Over time, years, in fact, I got to know the town behind the concrete façade. It was slow, the grasping that this little community is not what it appears to be at a hurried glance. A visit to the high school revealed a vibrant, enquiring environment, far from the sleepy village school I’d imagined. A friend worked temporarily with the town hall on a special project, a documentary, which turned out to be a very professional testament to a facet of island history, capturing its essence whilst there were still folk alive to remember it. And then, of course, there is the MiradasDoc documentary film festival, an event which has been going on every Fall since 2006. Who would have thought – a full-blown international, intellectual festival, full of lively debates and workshops as well as the movies themselves in this quiet backwater? The place is a hotbed of creativity and communal artistic endeavor!

There is a splendid auditorium where the films are shown, and a shiny, modern town hall and civic buildings. Then there is the old heart of the village, which spirals out around the church square, an utter contrast. Doors, walls and windows cheerfully bright, and narrow roads so you can always walk on the shady side of the street.

Come Easter these historic thoroughfares blossom with a distinctive kind of art, dramatic pieces (because what is more dramatic than the Easter story, after all?) made from plants, flowers and natural materials, like wood and moss. According to the town hall it’s the only one of its kind in Spain, though there are other flower festivals, none revolve around the Easter story. It’s ambition and success seems typical of this surprising community.

easter guia de isora

And so, seeking, and finding, escape from the crowds on the beaches, at the passion play of Adeje or the sombre processions in La Laguna, I meandered my way up to Guia on Friday. Previously I’d been on Maundy Thursday, and I expected to meet more tourists this time, but it was as quiet as before, no problems in lingering around a favorite piece or taking snaps without folk photobombing, perhaps because they have extended the length of the exhibit from two days to four this year.

easter in guia de isora

semana santa guia de isora

Although the pieces are designed by prestigious names in this world of floral artistry, unknown to those of us outside the sphere, groups of volunteers and civic staff help in the creation, making it a real community effort. Like the mandala of Buddhism or the flower carpets of the Catholic Corpus Christi, this art is a lesson in life as well as a celebration of beauty and a sharing of ideas. Come Monday it is gone, leaving behind the lesson that nothing lasts long in this world.

This is what I discovered as I ambled around, dodging the hot sun, but cursing the shadows on Friday.

I begin with my two favorites:

The inscription reads: " It has not changed anything, currently people still (sell) themselves out for a few coins."

The inscription reads: ” It has not changed anything, currently people still (sell) themselves out for a few coins.”

I like this for the design, for the beauty and simplicity, and because, try as you might, you can always see yourself in those mirrors. This is a powerful message, which haunted me the rest of the day.

Jordi Abelló is a teacher  at the Catalan School of Floral Art.

Jordi Abelló is a teacher at the Catalan School of Floral Art.

The inscription reads:

“Pain is sometimes necessary to find inner peace in each one.

But if we see life with light and color, it is easier to find.

Inscription on this work by Carlos Curbelo of the Catalan School of Floral Art " Coins of betrayal that ended up scattered on the ground after Judas' betrayal."

Inscription on this work by Carlos Curbelo of the Catalan School of Floral Art ” Coins of betrayal that ended up scattered on the ground after Judas’ betrayal.”

I love the originality of this exhibit.  This was one of the first pieces I saw and it struck me as apt, in a time when Spain is reeling from corruption scandal after corruption scandal. From the king (that is the father of the current king) down, the country is examining its collective conscience.

"While others slept Judas left the group with intent on betray(ing) him for a few gold coins."

“While others slept Judas left the group with intent on betray(ing) him for a few gold coins.”

Third piece with more or less the same message – surely this can’t be a coincidence.

The mount of olives by carlos curbelo

This minimalist piece is by Carlos Curbelo, who is municipal designer and expert from the Catalan School of Floral Art, and was responsible for the larger part of the exhibition. The plaque describes it as inspired by the Mount of Olives, where Jesus went to pray before his arrest.

Another piece by Carlos Curbelo representing, "Flagellation: His first torture was received tied to a column where the scourge tore his skin."

Another piece by Carlos Curbelo representing, “Flagellation: His first torture was received tied to a column where the scourge tore his skin.”

The Resurecction "Why do you look among the dead (for) the living?" Carlo Curbelo

The Resurrection “Why do you look among the dead (for) the living?” Carlo Curbelo

This sombre and effective work is by Ángela Batitsta of Tacoronte in the north of Tenerife. The inscription reads: "The time of Christ death on the cross the sky turned dark there were thunder and lightning announcing that he left us and is no longer among the living, leaving a large gap and shame to those that loved him and bewildered to those that guarded him."

This sombre and effective work is by Ángela Batitsta of Tacaronte in the north of Tenerife. The inscription reads: “The time of Christ death on the cross the sky turned dark there were thunder and lightning announcing that he left us and is no longer among the living, leaving a large gap and shame to those that loved him and bewildered to those that guarded him.”

I had intended to correct the English (old habits die hard!), but typing out these inscriptions now, I find the mistakes kind of charming, so I’m leaving them alone.

"During the via crucis Veronica tended to Christ a veil to wipe away the sweat and blood. On the clothing redemptive factions were miraculously printed."  This work by Cristina de Leon from Santa Cruz de Tenerife

“During the via crucis Veronica tended to Christ a veil to wipe away the sweat and blood. On the clothing redemptive factions were miraculously printed.” This work by Cristina de Leon from Santa Cruz de Tenerife

"In heaven the angels announced Jesus´victory over death."

“In heaven the angels announced Jesus´victory over death.”

This was the only one with which I had a problem. Were those really chicken wings?


By Carlos Curbelo: " A crown of thorny branches surrounded his head, reflecting a mockery which became a glory."

By Carlos Curbelo: ” A crown of thorny branches surrounded his head, reflecting a mockery which became a glory.”

Lovely translation there.


This was the prettiest, though I know it's not about the pretty. Tribute to the brotherhoods of pentients who parade during Holy Week by Carlos Curbelo

This was the prettiest, though I know it’s not about the pretty. Tribute to the brotherhoods of penitents who parade during Holy Week by Carlos Curbelo

Hole by Carlos Curbeo  "A broken heart at the end of the cross harbours the hope of resurrection."

Hole by Carlos Curbeo
“A broken heart at the end of the cross harbours the hope of resurrection.”

Carlos Curbelo has a brilliant translator who conveys the meaning as well as the words.

Ecce Homo by local artist Hugo Pitti. "His clothes were distributed by lot (dicing), scourged and crowned with thorns, by giving a fishing rod as a joke because they said that he itself was said 'King of the Jews.'

Ecce Homo by local artist Hugo Pitti.
“His clothes were distributed by lot (dicing), scourged and crowned with thorns, by giving a fishing rod as a joke because they said that he itself was said ‘King of the Jews.’

"The repentant tears dried Christ's feet with her long, messy locks. With so much love Jesus forgive her sins and left her free from the 7 devils that tormented her to the astonishment of all present." Cristina de Leon from Santa Cruz de Tenerife

“The repentant tears dried Christ’s feet with her long, messy locks. With so much love Jesus forgive her sins and left her free from the 7 devils that tormented her to the astonishment of all present.” Cristina de Leon from Santa Cruz de Tenerife

The temple by Zona Verde, who, I believe are the gardening contractors to the municipality. " A temple of prayer became a market. Jesus ejected the merchants from the temple."

The temple by Zona Verde, who, I believe are the gardening contractors to the municipality. ” A temple of prayer became a market. Jesus ejected the merchants from the temple.”

Sitting now, writing this and editing the photos, it occurs to me that, although not Christian, I “get” the messages of Easter, and these works of art made me dwell on them far more than, well, other Easter manifestations I’ve attended in the past.



Canary Island Easter

A friend, driving from south to north of the island last Sunday, Palm Sunday, the first day of Semana Santa (Holy Week) was held up no less than four times on her journey by processions. In a tourist paradise famous for nightlife and debauchery you might think that religion had died, but truth is that the nightlife and debauchery scene is by far the smaller part of island life, and traditional religious celebrations are by far the larger, even though some these days eschew the machinations of the Catholic Church.

Many fiestas have become crowd-pullers in recent years, especially those in villages close to the tourist hotspots of the south-west, it’s reported that over 20,000 watch the annual bathing and blessing of animals in La Caleta on the January fiesta of San Sebastian, and over 30,000 were expected to visit Adeje for this year’s PassionPlay. Islanders are, rightly, proud of their traditions, but it’s hard to guess whether the traditions would survive without the Church (most of them being based on some religious observance), or whether it’s the Church which benefits from the maintaining of the traditions.


In the case of  Semana Santa it’s more clear-cut. This is a religious festival, and a surprising number of folk wholeheartedly believe in it. There remains, of course, the question of whether the lesson (which Jesus preached and to emphasise which he died)  is learned or whether it has become the very idolatry against which he railed.

Adeje’s Passion Play I find moving, and something resembling a genuine expression of remorse and sorrow, and a hope for renewal. But I’ve long-wondered, having lived many years in Spain now, how I would feel about the more traditional ways of marking the season, so this year I took myself to La Laguna on Palm Sunday.

Palm Sunday

I found it charming, and was surprised to find that it reminded me of the Salvation Army walks of witness to which my grandmother had taken me when I was a very young. I arrived early, and had a quiet shuffle around the always immaculate streets of this World Heritage Site. No fluffy bunnies and chocolate eggs in shop windows here, but figures showing members of the different brotherhoods, or cofradía, who would take pride of place in the week’s events.


I took coffee in a pavement café opposite an entrance to the Church of the Conception. Folk in La Laguna, mostly, dress more formally than in the warmer south of the island, and groups and couples in Sunday best strolled around the area, many carrying elaborately woven decorations made from dried palm leaves (there had been a workshop in a town square the previous day on how to make them), and others carrying simply a branch or strip of palm. Dignatories arrived, and I understand that palms were blessed inside the church, people came and went, tourists stopped and snapped (the tower of this church set against a mountain backdrop is super-photogenic).


I left the café and leaned against the church wall for a while, making myself invisible. I watched as folk both ordinary and elegant entered and exited the church. By the door sat an old lady, her hand out, begging. The only one to acknowledge her was a boy who looked to be about 12 years old. He asked his father for money, and went back to give it to her. Now, I’m reasonably confident that the woman was a professional beggar, probably not Spanish, and I too ignore them when I see them in Los Cristianos, where they are often found on the tourist streets. It’s the usual story, organized gangs, who shouldn’t be encouraged. Yet, I wondered, were all of these dozens and dozens of people aware of that? I thought it spoke volumes for the young man who gave, regardless of who or what the woman was. I hope he had a happy Easter because that was the one moment of the entire week when I witnessed anything approaching the meaning of Jesus’s teachings.


The procession, when it left the church to wind its way around La Laguna’s lovely, old streets was ornate, and like an amalgamation of all the smaller processions I see around the island on a regular basis celebrating individual saint’s days. A few folk crossed themselves as the tableau depicting the arrival of Jesus on a donkey approached, but there was none of the weeping I’d sometimes seen, nor cries of “Viva.” It was fairly muted, and compared to La Laguna’s romeria far less well-attended. La Laguna is a city, but a country-fied city, sitting in the middle of super-fertile land, and I had expected something grander. Not that I was disappointed, ostentation and finery sit uneasily with me, and the gold-trimmed robes were quite sufficient to the occasion.



Maundy Thursday


On Thursday I cajoled some girlfriends into coming up to the village of Guia de Isora on the other side of the island to see its renowned displays of floral art. They were pretty, arty, or symbolic in turn; and most shouted “Spring” at me, rather than “Easter”. I guess that’s because they were flowers, and flowers have been on my mind a lot lately. We didn’t go to a service or procession but had a gentle amble around delightfully quiet, narrow streets (traffic had been banned for the duration.

Inspired by the Virgin Mary when she met Jesus after he rose from the dead.

Inspired by the Virgin Mary when she met Jesus after he rose from the dead.


The area around the graceful church square had become an open-air art gallery…..this is, you see, the thing I love about this climate – that a place can with such certainty put on an outdoor display like this, knowing the chances of it being spoiled by bad weather are slight, even though Easter is early this year. I’m not saying it never happens, tragically, on an Easter some years ago, heavy rains and floods in Santa Cruz resulted in death and a lot of property damage, though, here, in the south, it remained quite balmy.

Crown of Thornes

Crown of Thorns


We retired to a cosy bar at the end of our stroll and nibbled traditional tapas, pimientos padrón, churros de pescado, whitebait and fresh goat’s cheese. A tranquil afternoon which resembled a tour around an art gallery more than anything Easter-ified, although perhaps that was because of the hour we chose to visit, and that was fine in my book.

This floral art represents the Roman soldiers who were sent to arrest Jesus. Ironically it stands on the Street of the Jews.

This floral art represents the Roman soldiers who were sent to arrest Jesus. Ironically it stands on the Street of the Jews.

Good Friday

Good Friday was an event of a different hue entirely. As a child of the 60s, when I see those conical hats, masking the faces of the brotherhoods who dominate the day’s celebrations I feel a chill. Burning crosses and lynchings  immediately spring to mind, and that is sad, because I have repeatedly been told over the years (and even today searched the internet again) that there is no connection between these groups and the infamous Ku Klux Klan. The best guess seems to be that possibly the original Klan thought these garments were kind of cool and copied them. Of course, they wished to hide their identity for entirely different reasons.

The Catholic cofradías (brotherhoods) hid their faces so they can repent of sins without, in theory, public shame, each group has its own markings and color scheme. The origin goes back to the Inquisition. The Klan did it to escape prosecution. I doubt they felt shame. Even without that connection, though, I am not sure how I am going to feel. I have a strong dislike of secret societies of all kinds.

Procesión Magna


I arrived, with friends, just as the long procession, the Procesión Magna was beginning something after 5pm. The streets which had been unadorned on Sunday now had religious hangings from almost every upper storey window and lamppost, and the area around La Iglesia de la Concepción was milling with people, both hooded and normal gawpers like ourselves. We found a place to watch quite comfortably on the first street along which it passes, which surprised me. With the sun getting low in the sky the narrow street was dappled, half in sunshine, half in shade. The mood, if not festive, wasn’t as sombre as I’d expected either, though voices were low, people were chatting and children fooling around. As the first group of cofradía approached the noise level dropped a tad, and one or two people crossed themselves as the first tableau began to pass our spot.


As the minutes ticked by I became accustomed to the steady drum beat of the different bands as they passed, the swish of the robes, and the evocative smell of incense, which was waved, usually by children, very enthusiastically at the beginning (I noted the enthusiasm waned as the evening wore on), and I found nothing threatening or frightening in the appearance of the almost ghostly figures as they passed.



The first statues were impressive but I’d “seen it all before,” and, yes, I find the opulence hard to take, so I switch into neutral, fly-on-the-wall mode. After a short time the statues changed from mere figures to tableau depicting different scenes from the Easter story, and whatever ones feelings about religion or the Catholic Church in particular one had to admit that some were beautiful works of art, and, of course, spare a thought for the poor costaleros who shoulder these massive masterpieces for the hours it takes this long procession to weave its way around the streets of Tenerife’s ancient capital. They have to be both fit and dedicated, and you have to figure that there is something in this dedication.


Many of the penitents walk barefoot, and some with ankles chained. As some groups passed the silence was almost tangible.

This procession, although the longest of the day, hadn’t been the first, thinking about how my feet some times feel after a hike it occurred to me that perhaps barefoot was a better option! Looking along the street to the starting point by the church it looked as if this procession was endless. Pointed hats, candles and statues filled the horizon as dusk fell. At some point we ducked over to the next street to catch the parade on its return to the church, to find we had arrived at exactly the same point as the first time so long was it.

scary dudes

La Procesión del Silencio

The most overwhelmingly atmospheric procession, however, begins around 9.30 La Procesión del Silencio. We just have time to grab a sandwich and a glass of wine in a very busy bar close to the church, but I imagine that some of the participants went directly from one to the other.

As the name suggests, the procession takes place in utter silence. The lights of the streets and side streets are extinguished so that it takes a while for your eyes to adjust as you pick your way back to find a place to watch in reasonable comfort. Maybe it’s the dark, but there seem to be more people. There is a low rumble of whispered conversation, and I think that perhaps it won’t live up to its name, but as the eerie column of figures approaches total silence falls over the street.


There is no music. There are no tableau. The only light comes from the candles held by the walkers. The only sound is the sound of their feet as they pass; sometimes the grating of chains on the stone street; sometimes the heavy, rhythmic tramp a they mark time with each step. It makes them sway in stately unison. Now, yes, it does seem a little sinister. Not a child cries. It feels as if the world is holding its breath, waiting.  Only one cellphone rings, and it is rapidly stopped. A woman coughs from time to time. In the far distance a motorbike, but no other traffic sounds at all. I have the childish urge to laugh, and yet, at the same time I respect how the crowd is feeling. It is made up of all ages and types. This is by no means the province of the elderly.

Taking photos would be almost impossible, given the numbers of people and the darkness, so I don’t even try. I lean back against a wall, and try to absorb the atmosphere. In the dark it is impossible to tell how long it will take to pass, but fairly quickly there is the faintest hum from the direction of the church. It has passed there, and people are beginning to move quietly away. The only statue, the body of the fallen Jesus passes, and then 3 priests, one of whom I think is the Bishop of Tenerife, and the shadows disappear into the darkness, just the points of light of the candles they carry visible.

This group will now crowd into the small church at the end of the route, apparently packed like the proverbial sardines, and homage will be paid, and vigils will be kept until the Rising of Jesus from the dead is celebrated in three days time.

Treading carefully down an unlit side street, occasionally bumping into people, we make our way back to the church square, where the lights seem over-bright. Folk are chatting in the curbside bars, and a fine trade in cotton candy and nuts is going on. It isn’t exactly the jolly atmosphere of most fiestas, but it is cosy and friendly. The sense of community is palpable, and, in the end, I think, that is the function of a church, the keeping together of a community, the provision of a sense of belonging. It’s what most people need.

This is it for me, though. I’ve had enough of the pomp and the ritual without true meaning. I am told that each Easter a collection of food is made for those in need, and this year there are so many more in need. People are invited to leave suitable foods at a point near the church. This year the gifts were less than ever. Yet there was money for new robes for penitents, and hundreds of flowers to decorate those tableau tonight; money for brocade to drape around statues, money for candles and fresh, white gloves for band members. As my friend, Cristina, said, if every one of those participating in this theater had given just one euro, or one kilo of rice,  how much that would have helped those in need. How much more would that have reflected the Easter message?


Some Forgotten Photos from Early Summer


It’s three months already since El Día de las Tradiciones in Chirche, and I only just got around to sorting out the rest of my snaps.   Looking back at these costumes now all I can think is how could they stand to wear them in heat which we discovered afterwards was 46ºC??!!

The post is also a chance to give you a taste of the lovely and most famous Canarian folk music group Los Sabandeños.


The Friendliness of Chirche Lightyears from the Coastal Grumps

Chirche is a tiny village, about five or ten minutes directly vertical from Guia de Isora in the South of Tenerife.  I’ve only ever been here for this, particular festival, El Día de las Tradiciónes (The Day of Traditions), so I don’t know what it’s like on an average, working day.  I must rectify that soon, but I imagine it’s quiet.  It clings for dear life to the hillside, and these twisting, narrow streets were never made for motor cars.  The last time I came, my car overheated (OK, it’s not the most modern car in the world, but it is sturdy and reliable usually).

Happily, for Sunday’s fiesta the local town hall had provided transport so neither the overheating nor parking were problems.  A mini bus did the circuit from, what we would probably call the county seat, Guia de Isora, below up to the village, and we were there in time for the first trip before it got too hot.   A vast improvement on my last visit, what with the overheated car and no space to park it!

This year’s festival had to battle for attention not only with the World Cup Final, but also 46º heat ….. and it came out a winner, although it seemed to be a bit less well-attended than the last time I went.  This was the tenth year that the village had turned out to produce what is something like a living museum or even a theatrical production which one can walk through.  The entire village goes about its business as it would have done somewhere between 100 and 50 years ago.

Here candles are being made the old way, from beeswax.  The finished product on the right, and those in progress on the left of the picture.  The hot wax is spooned over the thread time and time again, each layer is cooled and then doused again, until the required thickness is reached.  Can you imagine the time it takes?  Can you imagine spending days and days doing this, just so that you can have light after sundown?

Although Guanche artifacts have been  found in Chirche, this festival portrays life as it was around a hundred to fifty years ago.  It really isn’t that long.  It was my grandparents, my parents time, and even my own infancy.  The scales in the recreation of the local “corner shop”, the flyspray cannister lying atop a wardrobe, some of the products on display in the shop reminded me of my own childhood, so even then, things were somewhat “globally available”.  Since I was brought up in a fairly countryfied area, and my crumbling home had once been a farmhouse, it was easy to identify with much of what I saw around me.  It felt as much like going back in time as witnessing the past of this island.

Life wasn’t that easy for my family when I was little, and yet we did buy our flour from the corner shop, we didn’t have to produce it ourselves.  The lady in the picture above is toasting seeds to make gofio, which was a huge part of the staple diet of Tenerife, and remains popular.  Cereals would have grown on the hillsides surrounding the village, and be brought home for toasting, but apparently sometimes the rhizomes of ferns were also used in the distant past.  The tradition probably was brought to the islands by the Guanches who, it is now widely thought,  came from North African Berber tribes, who also made a similar kind of meal.

This lady is carrying out the next step, grinding the toasted seeds by hand.  A heavy grindstone is pulled around and around, as you can see, until the  seeds become flourlike.  This is how it was done in this, small village.  In other areas huge grindstones were pulled by donkeys, horses and even camels.  Gofio can still be bought in the island’s supermarkets, and to be honest it’s an acquired taste.  Austin has learned to mix it with honey and almonds to make a delicious dessert, and it is used to thicken soups and stews, and to make a really healthy porridge-style breakfast – very high in fibre, people!

Walking around the village, despite the intense heat, was a treat.  Two things struck me hard.  The first was how the whole village seems to join in wholeheartedly.  Every age group takes part, from grannies (and how they manage daily life on a sheer hillside I will never understand!  Seems to me, given a diet of gofio and that kind of exercise each day, they must be incredibly healthy!) to babes in arms.

Above is the old schoolroom, complete with blackboard and children who don’t seem to mind being dressed in costume!  I didn’t see one sulky face all morning – not even from the class’s naughty boy, whom you can spot kneeling in the corner.  I’m sorry about the quality of this photo.  The schoolroom was dark, I’m thinking probably even in the fifties there was no electricity, plus the old houses were designed to keep as cool as possible in summer, which usually meant having only small windows, and thick, thick walls, which kept out the summer swelter and kept in the warmth in winter.  Also, there were so many people vying for space to observe or snap, and I was too polite to hog the vantage point I had …….. another lesson learned – must be bolder!  There were children helping the maypole dancers, playing games in the street or helping with chores, just as they would have been doing a hundred years ago, and every one of them with a smile on their face.

It goes without saying that a hundred or even fifty years ago, there were no video games, no television, no fast food, so children had to make their own amusements.  Below is a selection of the types of homemade instruments which they used to make.

Maybe there is some special karma attached to living in this village, because I rarely remember a time when I’ve met so many friendly people.  People who would stop in the hot sun and wait whilst you fiddle with your camera so you can snap them.

People who are quite at ease being photographed showing off their pride in their traditions….not all instruments were homemade!

People who are willing to attire themselves in heavy, traditional clothing in a 46º heat (might even have got hotter after we left!), so that they can keep this link with their past, and show it off to others.

This lady was crocheting what looked as if it was going to be a small doily, and surrounding her are displayed other examples of lace and crotchet work – most looking newly made, and proving that old crafts are not nearly dead here!  The really nice thing is that it looks as if future generations are happy to go on keeping these traditions alive.  It’s something I’ve noticed often in the folk music and dance groups which I see regularly on tv – no way are these groups composed just of the old folk.  The folklore of Tenerife seems to be in good and safe hands for quite a while yet.

Now this is a tradition many people will be happy no longer is widely used.  This gentleman is preparing a goatskin for use in making gofio or cheese.  The ingredients for either were placed inside to be molded and strained.  Goat is still widely eaten here, and is a treat.  I’ve never had it badly cooked.  The use of the skins?  Well, there was nothing else, back when, and as with other meat products, there wasn’t much waste.  They were different times.

There were demonstrations of bread making in big, old ovens, agriculture as it was (and still, sometimes is) here, the making of roof tiles, which had been the village’s only industry outside of agriculture, and a host of other stuff, and highlight of the day, a mock wedding, but we ran out time and couldn’t stay to watch.  We had a glimpse of the wedding dress, laid out on the bridal bed in a restored house, but no time to see the bride, sadly.  As I mentioned before, we did pop into the pretty church for a few moments, and then we had to be on our way.

We just missed the mini bus, and took refuge from the sun in a nearby bar, which was built directly into the rock face, providing welcome coolness.  I have to mention it was the only kind of disappointment of the morning.  We paid around €15 each for a very average gazpacho, stone cold garlic bread, croquetas (one ration of chicken and one of tuna, which were indistinguishable), a couple of very cold, very welcome beers and best – a plate of papas arrugadas (wrinkled potatoes), the island’s speciality, all of which came with indifference or a shy smile, depending on who served us.  It was a bad choice of venue, but nicely decorated, as you can see above, and reminiscent of the coastal resorts, where that kind of service is the norm.  It’s a great shame that tourists don’t get out more to meet the “real” people of Tenerife, these people who are so kind and happy and gracious.  I’ve never been to a fiesta of any kind where I wasn’t made to feel enormously welcome, and Chirche would be top of a list like that.  In some ways I don’t blame the kids who work as waiters or shop assistants down in resortland.  Firstly, they aren’t given the proper training in most cases, so they don’t know how to respond to people, and secondly, I couldn’t put up with the sort of attitudes and backchat they get from a lot of their customers.  Frequently, once you have made a contact, their demeanour does change.  Yes, I do realize that the onus is on the supplier of whatever service you are buying to provide that service with a smile, but scratch just a bit and you might find that the nice young waiter comes from Chirche, or somewhere similar.

When I move on from Tenerife, and return for a visit, one thing I intend to do is to stay in the casa rural (rural hotel) here, in the middle of Chirche, and embrace the relaxed and happy lifestyle of its people.

One thing this day taught me.  I’ve always enjoyed snapping, and never really been too interested in video, but watching the maypole dancing for quite a while I would have loved to have videoed it.  Stupidly, because of my lack of interest I’ve never bothered to figure out how to work the video selection on my camera – job for this weekend!  Next year I won’t clash to the World Cup at least!


The Best Things in Life Can Be Free

No 7 of 10 Things to Do in Tenerife Which Won’t Cost a Fortune

As I’ve mentioned before, I was kind of stung into doing this little series by a comment I read on some travel blog page about there being nothing to do in Tenerife.  I grant you that some of the attractions here are expensive – whale watching, Siam Park, Loro Parque, shows, events at the Auditorium, the occasional concert like the Simply Red one coming up (though all of those things are well worth it if you have the inclination and the money), so I wondered if “Sharon and Dave from Hartlepool”, or whoever it was, had simply found it too expensive to do things.  Because this is my blog, not a website on “what to do in Tenerife” it reflects my personal tastes, but a bit of research will undoubtedly turn up something which is more to your own taste.

Throughout the year, but especially in summer, there are all sorts of free concerts going on in every municipality including jazz, classical music, choirs, folk dancing/music, puppet shows, and art and photographic exhibitions, or sometimes plays and films for just a €5 entry fee.  Remember, if you are staying in the Playa de las Americas area – PDLA is not a municipality.  It’s a purpose-built resort town, with no history.  Half of it lies in the Arona municipality, and half in Adeje, so that’s where you should be looking for local color and events.  My thing, is Blues and after that “World Music” but these are really the least well catered for in a way.  There are loads of classical and jazz concerts.  Just a couple of weekends ago Arona staged two nights of jazz in the main square.  The wonderful weather here makes it easy to give free concerts I suppose, no worries about squeezing people in or seating.

My very favorite because it features my very favorite music is Santa Blues in Santa Cruz.  This event entered my radar about five years ago, but I’m not sure how long it’s been happening, and happening would be the word of choice here.  Back then, there were concerts every Friday and Saturday over the month, from memory, but by two years ago it had settled to a weekend in June.  This year it’s 24th thru 26th.  Word class artists like Robert Cray and Buddy Guy have performed, so it’s the “real” thing.  The only problem in coming from the South is the driving, not so much the distance, it’s only about ¾ hr to an hour, but doesn’t it seem to you that you should have a bottle of Budweiser in hand when you’re listening to Blues?  Still, silly to gripe about that,  I’ve found that one beer and a lot of ambience can get me high anyway!  If you like, you can combine it with a meal in one of the marvellous restaurants in Calle Noria!/calledelanoria?ref=ts     I tried this one year with some girlfriends, but it just didn’t work.  I could hear the opening act peforming as they ooohed and ahhed over the dessert and coffee, and I was itching to go.  For me that’s a totally different night.

Robert Cray : Lousy photo, but happy memory

Arona has been known to stage a decent Blues concert too.  The best one ever I went to was in El Fraile, it may have been the first, because it was woefully underattended for the quality of the music, which was sheer magic.  It was the first time I’d heard “my” music here on the island, so I was particularly stoked.  In later years it moved to Las Galletas, but if it happened this year I totally missed any publicity.

Speaking of publicity, the necessity to promote events is something which doesn’t seem to have registered too much here, and I speak of topline concerts in the Auditorio to these local, free concerts.  Maybe they couldn’t cope with more enquiries, or maybe it’s because we are in something of a backwater here (though, is anywhere in the world really a backwater these days?), but you need to seek out this information at the moment.  Changes are coming I hear, but for the moment, if you don’t speak Spanish there are English language newspapers, the best for me being Island Connections, but I can recommend the following web sites and blogs:

The best sources are the web pages of the local town halls if you speak Spanish.  Many of them, as mentioned before, have excellent information. Just google, for instance, ayunatmiento guia de isora Tenerife, and you will find listings of upcoming events.  If you’re here on vacation, check the maps for nearby towns, and join in a real traveller’s experience.

Check out the Cabildo website too.  If you’re staying in the south it will mean getting up to Santa Cruz, but there are free and low cost events which make it well worth it.  After Santa Blues for me, maybe even on a par, is the Mumes Festival in July, celebrating world music.    One of the best nights of my life was a balmy July night three years back, a few days before we had the indescribable  experience of watching the incomparable Youssou N’Dour in the Auditorium, but this night was about sampling foods and drinks from around the world in the company of a veritable United Nations of folk, both friends and strangers, and watching musicians from around the world, which climaxed with the performance of the incredible Ismael Lo from Senegal, but to tell you about Senegalese music is a whole other topic.  The tickets cost just €12.00 not a fortune compared with Glastonbury or Reading!

Speaking of Guia de Isora, this well-kept little town has been the venue in October/November of the last four years for an International Documentary Film Festival, showing films from all over the world, and entry to see the movies has been absolutely free.  OK perhaps you need to speak Spanish to fully enjoy it, because although the films are often shown in their original lanauge the dubbing is in Spanish, of course. Events take place throughout the day, not just at night.   Last year I saw African and Chinese films, and I could only manage one day, but in previous years I’ve been speeding up there every night, straight from work. You can also attend round table discussions and about the subjects raised in the movies, and  talk with the directors about their movies.  Awesome.

Addendum  for Residents

If you live here and you want to participate more in local life you should check out your local town hall web site too, or just pop in.  I just ran a quick check of every one I could think of both south and north, and they all offered a variety of courses and classes, in some of which you could participate with a fairly basic knowledge of Spanish.  In fact, some offer Spanish classes for foreigners, which sometimes include visits to various places of local interest too, so you learn the language and get to know the island at the same time.  Other than that, I found photography (and I can testify to the excellence of the course offered by Arona), yoga, pilates, tai chi, natural medicines, jewellery making, mime, bellydancing, life coaching, flower arranging, self defence, ceramics, storytelling, folk dancing and theater workshops.  Most of them are not free, but are very low in price and offer you a great opportunity to mix with local people (and so improve your Spanish at the same time :=).  Almost all the municipalities  also offer a variety of hikes during the Autumn and Spring months, which I can also tell you from experience is a marvellous way to see the island safely and meet like-minded people.

My first attempt at timelapse photography.  Not that good, like I said, my first attempt, and something I probably could have taught myself using various internet sites, but much better with expert help and advice, and the 6 week course cost me just €80.

Life here is not perfect, but then, nowhere is, so far as I can see.  The numerous attractions, like golf, climbing, surfing, sailing, windsurfing, paragliding, yes they cost money, but there is still plenty to do at low cost, and the weather makes it all so much easier.  If you want to plan a barbeque for tomorrow, you are going to be very unlucky if you can’t stick to your plans.

This post was part of a series, here are the others:

Be a beach bum!

Take a drive through the Teide National Park

Barbeque in the “Great Outdoors”

Mooch the Markets

Party like a local!

Follow local sports

Free Summer concerts

Try Shanks’s Pony!