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


Why Tenerife?

In a country renown for its crazy festivals, on an island known for its love of fiestas, Las Tablas de San Andres is surely one of the wackiest. Don’t let the name fool you – it might take place on St Andrew’s Day, but it’s not at all religious, unlike many of Tenerife’s celebrations, which are based loosely on Catholic philosophy………

That was how I began this post,  back in December. The trouble with being “away” for so long is that you forget “how to do it,” write that is. Oh, not the tapping of keys or the putting together of words, but the train of thought, the remembrance of things said before, even the enthusiasm for a place or an event. I wrote a couple of paragraphs back in December, and then it occurred to me to check what I had written the last time, because I knew I’d written about this festival a few years back, and I didn’t want to repeat myself. When I looked, I realized that I had nothing new to say. I knew that I could say it better now (note to self: tidy up that post!), but the information, my feelings, my reactions were pretty much the same.

The beginning of my blogging hiatus perhaps began with this one in 2015. I was already out of love with the perennial round of fiestas which punctuates island life. My relationship with Tenerife, like a stale marriage, lacked sparkle and curiosity, and even love. Predictably, festivals come around, and I enjoy them, but they have all fudged together in my mind. They follow the traditional paths they have taken for decades, and  I needed variety. I was finding it difficult to raise enough enthusiasm to go, let alone write about them, which is not to say that you shouldn’t go to them, especially if you are here on vacation. The island does fiestas superbly, they are colourful, friendly, fun and a tribute to island heritage.


Days on Tenerife don’t always end up the way you expect

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To Mess or Not to Mess? That is the Question…..Photographically Speaking.

I may have indigestion later…….. I just ate my hat…….. Ok, it was an imaginary hat, but there is imaginary indigestion, no? An imaginary hat as in the statement, “I think photos should be natural and not tampered with, and I’ll eat my hat if I ever do that!” You get it, no? In other words, I was a photography purist and I am converted.

I blame the Guanches. It was on a thundery-looking afternoon I went with RunawayBrit to see the pretty, little town of Candelaria. We’d been enveloped by chilling mists most of the day in the Teide National Park and descending the northern coast of the island,  I’d abandoned plans, and turned south, but when we reached Candelaria, the clouds had risen so that they hovered, thick and menacing above, but least we could see stuff! So we changed plans again, and stopped there.  My photos of those imposing statues of Guanche kings were disappointing when I came to look at them on the screen, though…..which is when I began to mess with them, and this was the result.

And in the time it takes to click a couple of times, there I was – hooked! In my defense I state that I always said that what I wanted my photos to do was convey a message, and the truth is that the camera doesn’t see what the eye sees, let alone what the heart sees. And for me Pelicar towering into the stormy sky was threatening the Spanish invaders, and preparing to fight to the death, and enhancing the photo conveyed that message. Or am I trying to justify my conversion?

I went out to capture the sunrise a couple of weeks later. Now, I know – I’m lucky to live somewhere where scenes like the one below are, well, quite common, really, which means that by my standards the photos weren’t that special, yet when I “messed” with one of them and put it on Facebook I got more comments than usual. Vindication? Well, no, because now I was feeling the guilt. Were my photos more  “some tart with too much make-up” than “a natural beauty?” I wasn’t at all comfortable with the messing.

Still feeling the guilt, visiting Icod de los Vinos on a very dull day (dull as in overcast skies that is….which is not to say overcast in the UK sense, but that the sky was an utter white-out, and the sun hidden), I snapped the dragon tree because it was in full flower, a noteworthy event, I couldn’t wait for the possibility of a blue sky. More disappointing photos, but would they look ok if I messed with them? What do you think?

Hmmm. Maybe? I began choosing random photos from my files.

Am I a total convert? Well, probably, so much so that I’m making a whole, new page just for photographs, ones, that is, that a more than just snapshots to illustrate text.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not totally happy with any of the above photos, and I know I’m still experimenting. Wishing I’d had the extra money for the third part of that photographic course I did a couple of years back, which dealt with this sort of thing – perhaps I would have had a different perspective a while back. I only use Picasa right now, there just isn’t money for anything I actually have to pay for, and I appreciate that with a more sophisticated program I would get better results, and I assume that if I was using something more advanced I would, yes, be a convert…….so excuse me while I go look for the imaginary Rennies.

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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!


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!