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
I’d read about TravelSupermarket’s Capture the Color travel photo competition, but I really felt to shy to send in anything, with some really prestigious travel photographers and bloggers entering, I didn’t want to make a fool of myself! But, then, Elaine from RunawayBrit nominated me, and I thought, “Well, why not. Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” and it sounded like fun.
The idea is that there are five categories, each one being a color – red, blue, white, yellow and green, and each category has its own judge, and each category winner will receive an iPad3, and the overall winner will receive £2,000 to be spent on travel……not bad, eh?
Entries are due by the end of this month, and I was tempted to wait & see if I can do better, but then I’d probably just procrastinate until it was too late (who? me? oh, yeah!), so I’ve just spent a very pleasant few hours travelling a bit down memory lane via my photos. It’s been a jolly nice trip, so I should thank TravelSupermarket and RunawayBrit for that too. I have to write a little about each photo so you can come down memory lane with me.
Er …. I think that’s it, so here are my photos:
In photos you usually see of surfers, the sea is incredibly blue, but Canary Island locals go out early, before the tourists get out of bed. Before the day has warmed up, the sea can appear quite grey. My son, Guy, had just returned to the island after years of living in the US, and we walked down to the beach as dawn was breaking. It was a treat for me, not only because Guy was back home after his US adventures, but also because back when my sons were in their teens the last thing they wanted was mom hanging around when they were surfing! Hence I didn’t actually have any photos of them on the water. There was little surf this day, as it turned out, but this was my favorite picture, taken with my little point & shoot too. Guy’s board was the only point of color at this time of day.
My friend, Cristina, was showing us around her family’s home in the hills just above Icod de los Vinos (one of my favorite parts of Tenerife), the house is set in the forest, surrounded by aromatic pine and rich chestnut trees. It was cool and tranquil, and so very different from the south of the island. We wandered around the land surrounding the house and came across this beautifully decrepit old door, just by the orchard. I’m a sucker for peeling paintwork, especially if it’s blue. The hydrangea were past their best too. It was October, but blue is kind of an everlasting color……
Coincidentally, my “white” pictures comes from that same stroll with my friends when we saw the blue door. I really didn’t think this wee butterfly would stay still long enough, but I got a two or three shots before he moved on. It wasn’t until after I saw in on screen that it struck me how very white he was. Although the Canary Island is often called “The Land of Eternal Spring” seasons do exist here, especially in these woodlands of the north, where tourists rarely roam. It was late October, the chestnut trees were heavy with their spiky fruit, and there was the scent of woodsmoke in the air as neighboring houses lit fires and barbeques, and this fellow seemed almost like a ghost of the failing summer.
It’s a common misconception among visitors to Tenerife, those who stray no further than their sun-lounger on a beach on the south coast, that the island has no greenery. They couldn’t be further from the truth, the peaks and slopes of the north (and the south higher up) are home to mainly pine forests, and the north east tip of the island is lush variegated forest. However, when I thought about green I thought about cacti, oddly, perhaps. Cacti grow just about everywhere n the Canary Islands, so much so that we take them for granted, but often they are the only hint of color in a harsh landscape. I have loads of pictures of cacti, but this task made me realize that most are pre-digital and I need to get out there & take some more. However, here is one of my favorites.
I racked my brains over yellow, because I couldn’t remember nor find a photograph which I thought of as “yellow.” Then I remembered going up to Granadilla de Abona at the beginning of May to see the traditional floral crosses made for the Day of the Holy Cross (El Día de la Cruz), and how there was a lonely sunflower in one of the small crosses by someone’s door. The Day of the Holy Cross celebrates the finding of the original cross by Helena, mother of Roman Emperor Constantine, and any town, village, island or city in the Latino world with the word cruz in its name celebrates the day. The main festivities in Tenerife are in capital city, Santa Cruz, but since the name of the entire province is Santa Cruz de Tenerife, communities all over the province display these beautiful floral tributes. Outside the churches they are huge and abundant, but private houses like this one often display them too.
Now to nominate five other travel bloggers to participate in the competition if they want. The problem is now that this has been around for a few weeks, and I really don’t know who has or has not already been nominated, but here we go:
Katrina from Tourabsurd.com ……. who should have no problem with the “green” part since she just arrived in Ireland! And I have to wonder (if she has time to do this!) if some of her colors might involve food – since there have been some mouth-watering photos on her blog in recent months!
Marianne from EastofMalaga who has some gorgeous photos of Andalucia on her blog which express a deep love of her adopted home.
Jack from BuzzTrips because I LOVE his photos and because he must have some stunners for the “blue” category having been in Morocco not too long ago!
Barbara from HoleintheDonut Barbara’s photos are breathtaking, recently returned from Nepal, they just pulse with local color, both real and metaphorical.
Mariana from TravelThirst …..whose photos totally succeed in her desire to stimulate our senses! Beautiful, virtual travel :=)
It might well be that some, or all, of you guys have already been nominated, and apologies if so, or if this nomination catches you in a moment when you are too busy or traveling too fast to do it!
I’m always taken by surprise when I get recognition of any kind whatsoever for this blog, so when Barbara Weibel of Hole in the Donut invited me to participate in the 7 Links exercise initiated by Tripbase my first reaction, after seeing the list of other participants, was sheer panic. Some of these names are legendary in travel blogging circles, and I know I’m just an amateur in comparison! However, either I’m a blogger or I’m not, and I do keep harping on about taking this blog to the next level, so maybe this will give me a push! The aim, after all, to quote Tripbase, is “To unite bloggers (from all sectors) in a joint endeavor to share lessons learned and create a bank of long but not forgotten blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again.” So here is my two centsworth:
1. My Most Beautiful Post
This was by far the easiest. My favorite time of year on Tenerife is almond blossom time. I think, even in the last 6 months since I posted this, I have learned more about photography and presenting photos, but this was this year’s almond blossom post.
2. My Most Popular Post
This one was easy too, that’s because I was lucky enough to be Freshly Pressed by WordPress, so I didn’t have to go count stats to find out! I wrote Subtropical Snow after a visit to the mountains in March.
3. My Most Controversial Post
This one took most researching back on, and I found that I haven’t really had any negative feedback when I’ve said critical things, although I know that some Canarian people read my blog. In one way it’s a shame. The thing I am most critical of is the accumulation of rubbish in various places around the this beautiful island. In this post about a tour of historical sites, including the place where Horatio Nelson lost his arm, I deliberately courted a reaction, but got none, so I can only say that I attempted to be controversial!
4. My Most Helpful Post
I’ve yet to finish a series of posts about my steps in becoming an expat, this one was the first, about things you should consider before upping and leaving, and although there are only two comments on the post itself I got lots of feedback from Facebook and Twitter.
5. The Post Whose Success Surprised Me Most…..
…..was this one. It’s quite personal. At this stage I was really still writing at people I knew, albeit they were spread throughout the world, and in another sense it is my first “real” blog post. It was “…the fork stuck in the road,” and re-reading it makes me realize how far I have come in life’s proper journey.
6. The Most Which Didn’t Get the Attention I Thought it Deserved
A post I did for World Environment Day. About rubbish – again. Why does nobody care about how we are messing up the planet? You know, just for the sake of having something nice to look at instead of a beach full of cans and plastic bags?
7. The Post of which I am Most Proud
I chose this one because for once I was happy with my writing and because it’s about my sons as well as about the island.
A big thank you to Barbara and to Tripbase because it was interesting going back over posts, and realizing how I and my life has changed over the time I began blogging.
Now to figure out who to nominate because so many blogs I follow are already on the list!
In the week or so since I visited Santiago del Teide I’ve been itching to get back there because I could see that the almond blossom was going to be early this year, and the weather is almost too good to be true since Christmas. Last year I went the chilly weekend before the official Ruta de las Almendros, and thanked my lucky stars because in the ensuing week the heavens opened, and wind and rain put an end to the blossoms and celebrating them.
Now, I should explain that my friend, Maria, and I have decided that we should make a point of regularly going out to look for photo ops, instead of just pointing the camera when one comes up. Faced with a stunning vista or a cute baby goat, it’s too late to practise the art, and we both need to practise, so I was really up for making our first sortie to Santiago del Teide!
Maria drinking in the scenery. In the background the Chinyero Volcano.
We set off early on a morning so crisp and clear you could feel it on your skin, and had the winding roads almost to ourselves. We followed the autopista until it ran out, and then meandered the hillsides to the north-west of the island. The ocean lay vast and blue off to our left , kestrels hovered above, and we began to glimpse the odd almond tree in all its glory as we neared the village. I stupidly missed the turning which takes you a little higher up the mountain, so that you see Santiago del Teide cradled in the valley as you approach, but we did see lots of blossom by the roadsides, so we were, as my sons would say, stoked by the time we arrived.
We hung out on the outskirts of the village, snapping happily away in the stunning, still early-morning light, stopping for a while to chat to a lovely man who was strolling down from Valle de Arriba, a tiny hamlet close to the village, who spoke with pride of the numbers of people who now come to see the spectacular blossoms. He reckoned that this year they are a month ahead of where they normally are, so good thing, going on Sunday.
I just lost track of time, playing with exposures and the changing light and such, but the time came when we were over-ready for coffee. You know how it is when you make the perfect coffee? Well I’d done that in the early morning, remarkable, considering the hour, poured it into my thermal mug and then totally forgot about it as we chatted our way en route, so there might have been a kind of withdrawal symptom thing going on, since I like my coffee scalding hot. We headed for Señorio del Valle, a complex which includes rural hotel, museum, small art gallery and gift shop, in a setting so bucolic you might be forgiven for thinking you’d landed in the middle of a film set.
Old wine press which forms the centerpiece of the courtyard at Señorio del Valle
Stable block at Señorio del Valle
There, we drank milky coffees and nibbled tortilla española in the courtyard until the violent clanging of the bells from the adjacent church of San Fernando Rey disturbed our relaxation, and we remembered that the charming man we’d spoken to earlier had reminded us it was the feast of St Anthony Abbott, so we coppered up and strolled around to see what was going on.
It was one of those delightful, unexpected moments that you sometimes stumble across when travelling (ok I know we’d only travelled about an hour from home – but the journey, not the destination, remember!). We’d gone to record the blossoms, totally forgetting the feast day. The sight which greeted us was a troupe of local dancers, dressed in white, trimmed with red, and hats adorned with flowers or feathers and other ornaments, not unlike English Morris Dancers.
Those costumes were immaculate, snowy white and beautifully trimmed in embroideries anglaise, and they danced with a great sense of fun and enthusiasm. Maria and I sneaked about, snapping happily away, just a bit high on the color and the ambience. When they stopped, Maria chatted to one of the guys, who told us that those amazing hats are decorated with medallions and charms which are personal to each person, medallions which have been blessed, or charms picked up on travels, and that the origin of the costume lies in the neighboring island of El Hierro.
With mass being relayed to the people who couldn’t squeeze into the tiny church, we wandered off down the road I’d followed with my dad a few days back, and further on, noting paths for future walks and admiring more almond blossom until we reached the picturesque village cemetary. Something I’d wanted to do for a few years was to take my camera to a local cemetary after All Souls’ Day on November 1st. Whilst it isn’t celebrated in quite the manner it is in Mexico, where families picnic by the graves of their loved and departed, and sugar candy in the shape of skulls is devoured, it is a day when many families still make a point of visiting and decorating family graves, and I’d imagined that there must be some excellent photo ops. Maybe it was because Christmas wasn’t so far back, but I was moved and happy to see flowers on so many of the graves, just as I imagined it would be after All Souls. This cemetary was not the dark and forboding place that so many I’ve visited have been, but a riot of color, given that those flowers were symbols of love, it was an emotional sight, and we spoke in whispers as we wandered the tranquil paths and took it all in.
In the distance we heard the church bells tolling again, signalling the end of the mass, and we headed back to the square, to see the procession emerging from the church, preceded by the dancers and drummers, and heading off up a narrow street to bless the community’s animals.
I was a bit confused for a while, when I realized that St Anthony is the patron saint of animals. I’d always thought it was St Francis of Assisi, but now I get it. St Anthony Abbott is the patron saint of domestic animals, pets and farm animals, in other words. Reading up on him, other than that he was tempted by the devil who took the form of wild animals, I can’t quite figure why this is, but it makes for some colorful festivals in Spain at least. For complicated reasons I hadn’t gone to the Romeria de Arona this year, which is a much grander affair than this one in Santiago del Teide, but which, basically is a blessing of the local animals, there is also a rather scary festival in the mainland village of San Bartolome de los Pinares, but this happy and gentle festival had a lovely, joyful karma.
We followed the procession until it came to the very place where we’d had our morning coffee. The complex offers horse riding and pony and cart rides, has a resident parrot and no doubt other animal associations, and having once been the manor house of the district was possibly always the procession’s first stop.
Maria admiring one of the hotel’s horses
We took the chance to duck into its little museum, which is beautifully appointed, with lots of well-presented information about the Chinyero Volcano, which was the last place in the island to erupt in 1909, the small art gallery and the gift shop, which, actually, was selling local crafts, wines, honey etc and almost nothing “made in China”.
Maria looking very pleased with our excursion :=)
It was my fault we had to leave at that point. I had commitments for the late afternoon, and I’d come expecting only the almond blossom, which only goes to show that on a small island, where you have spent 20-odd years of your life, you can still find pleasant surprises. I felt guilty about having to go, but my reasons were not light. We could have received a blessing from the local priest, who was occupied in blessing the community’s pets as we drove past (we’d seen numerous dogs, a horse, a pony and a tank of turtles as we followed the procession), and I would have been totally over-the-moon with the magnificent blossoms alone. Sometimes life has bonuses.
There was a comment from a friend on a recent post to the effect that I live in an especially beautiful place, which is true, but I do believe that everywhere is beautiful in its own way. Yeah, yeah I can hear you say, “What about the Gaza Strip, for instance”…….I should have chosen an example I know, but it’s the first that came to mind, and I don’t doubt that there is beauty there of some sort. By the same token, there is plenty of ugliness here, too. It’s just that spending life concentrating on ugliness is kind of, well, depressing.
Sometimes the beauty of a place is contained on the faces of the people who live there, sometimes it’s in the simplicity of its form, like deserts in Namibia or Sahara, or in the charm of old buildings or the elegance of new ones. The photo above was taken when I was living in Adeje a few years ago. It’s an abandoned banana plantation, all tumble-down breeze blocks, not nice at all, but convenient for dog walking. I tried to lighten the picture so you can see the rubble, but I don’t know if it’s worked. See how it’s transformed by the sunset, though? The crumbling pillars which are so hideous in the daylight, look mysterious against the sun’s final glow.
The thing about taking your camera everywhere is that you begin to tune out the ugly and seek out the beautiful, which is to say that in the heightened state of awareness in which you find yourself, you begin to notice things you’d never noticed before, a dandelion, a cracked door…..
The door above almost certainly looks more interesting and romantic in this state than when it was freshly painted. You can weave all sorts of stories about what it guards, who lived there.
Obviously, flowers are beautiful, and can transform a drab room or a dry landscape with their colors and the sense of vitality they lend, but how about cacti? Here, they grown like weeds, all over the place, they cling to hillsides where nothing else will grow in the parched summertime, and we drive past and ignore them, but stop, and take a look at how many shades of green they can be, the shapes and lines, their tenaciousness in proclaiming life where little else survives. It might not be cacti where you live, but there will be something – a tiny flower shooting up between paving stones of a city street, or a denuded winter tree against a stormy sky.
Old things have a special beauty, some are more attractive with age than when they were young. If the house above wasn’t falling apart, then the creeper wouldn’t be adorning it, and if you think that looks attractive, did you notice the telephone wire running over the building, or the aerial on the roof behind. I’m not going to tell you that cables and aerials can be attractive, even I have to draw the line somewhere, but what the eye so often does is tune them out, and sees only the beauty behind.
Some tired and worn buildings need a helping hand, like the one above, in La Laguna, which is colorful and fun. It had to vie with listed buildings for its place in the public attention, so someone decided to help it along, likewise this ugly wall in Tegueste, below. It’s not a great work of art, even by graffiti standards, but it’s full of life and color, and has a touching message, beauty, remember, isn’t only physical. It’s also how something makes you feel inside.
There is sometimes beauty where you least expect it. Earlier this year, in possibly the worst day of calima I ever remember, I stopped by the roadside, dust so thick in the air I could taste it, and took this picture of La Tejita Beach. I have dozens of pictures of La Tejita, but this, unexpected one, is one of my favorites.
City streets can be so busy, it’s a hard time just not bumping into every third person you meet, but if you do stop, sometimes you notice the most surprising things. The shot below was very random. I’d been to a museum, where I’d not taken one photo for one reason or another, but when I came out, this was what I saw.
You might be drawn by the elegance of a street light, or a railing, or door.
A colorful display in a shop might strike you. OK, this is in a resort, but, let me tell you, not in an area where the word beauty springs readily to mind!
As with the what you can see in the world around you, learn to tune out the other crap as well, the people who wind you up and spoil your sense of well-being, the sounds which grate on your nerves. You might not be able to avoid the people or the sounds, but letting them get to you is allowing them way too much importance in your life. What’s important is the beauty wherever you find it. Of course, if you’re passing through wherever you are, then it may just be a sign that it’s time to move on when all around you seems uninviting.
Truth is that my stay in the Lake District was molded by how much my father could get around, which, at 87, is getting to be less, of course. The other thing is that – he won’t admit it. This meant that when I said I was going to, say, Grasmere, to take some snaps, he wanted to tag along, and since I knew that he wouldn’t be able to walk as far as I wanted, nor would it be good for him to stand around waiting for me to set up pictures, I had to cave and agree to going somewhere not so far, and with plenty of places to stop and rest. That said, I think I probably had missed the best of the foliage by maybe a week or so in any event. The trees there had lost a lot more of the leaves than they had down south, but here are a few pictures, just to give you an idea of how pretty it is there, and hopefully for my next visit I can work around this somehow!
Bowness has been a village on the lake for centuries, whereas, it’s close neighbour Windermere (village, not lake) was a Victorian invention. That was where the railway station could be built that ferried the masses for their annual holidays. I suppose this was the beginning of package holidays even, and, indeed, why should travel have been the right only of the hoi polloi? Which also means that the currently fashionable debates about travel vs tourism, or sustainable tourism actually go way back. Apparently even William Wordsworth lamented the opening up of the area by the railway…..mugwump that I am half of me totally agrees with him, and the other half thinks “snob”. The village church, of St Martin dates back to at least 1483, and apparently there is debate about it dating back even further, though the nice lady in the local tourist information office couldn’t office more advice than to try the library in Kendal (which I will do one day!)
That’s Belle Isle in the center of Lake Winderemere, where, as you can see, the colors still lingered. Maybe I’m just getting older, but I can remember, literally, my breath being taken away by this view when I was younger. I still find it awesome.
Boats are moored up for the winter. Summertime sees more boats on the lake than probably is good for it, but rarely in Winter.
Glorious, glorious colors! Now this is what I came for. Sitting majestically right on the main road through the village.
Depsite the mild weather, the bird population of the lake still was crowding the shore, waiting for scraps. Authorities now have given up on asking people not to feed them, and merely ask that they not be fed too close to the road – because they don’t have any road sense! There seem to be lots more swans than I remember here.
Strictly speaking, Lancaster isn’t a part of the Lake District, being the original county town of Lancashire. It is, however, sometimes refered to as the “gateway” to the Lake District. It does have lots of history, and it’s a fascinating place for me, but this day I had to content myself with a tour around the lovely market in the center of town, where local produce was offered alongside second-hand books, homemade candy and chocolate, local cheeses, water colors by homegrown artists, and, of course, because it was a a few days before Halloween, pumpkins.
The goods on this homemade candy stall were mouth-watering. The lady told me that everything was personally made by her friends. I was SO restrained, and limited myself to a couple of items for gifts!
I even resisted these croissants, and the rest of my haul included one second-hand book, and two cheeses, also for gifts.
True to form (it is, I think, the wettest town in England) it rained for most of my time in Kendal, so there are only a couple of pictures, and not too brilliant ones at that. Were my father not there, I would find Kendal utterly resistible, I think. It seems drab compared to other Lake District towns, and the people more like harrassed townsfolk than laid back country folk. That said – who can blame them, given the weather??
The potentially bright spot was that there was a food fair the day after I arrived, but it was a very bedraggled sight – people and animals (yes I really do want to look at the cows and sheep which I am going to eat tomorrow……..and yeah, I know, I shouldn’t eat them if I’m not willing to do the killing, but truth is I hardly ever do) sheltering under tarpaulins, with the people on the produce stalls looking more ready for home than for selling. I did buy some scones from a nice man who I kind of took pity on because he’d come from a village where I used to live, quite a long way away, to stand in the downpour, and promote his goods, but it was all a bit kind of weird in the rain for me. I suppose I am spoiled by the food fairs here, which have sunny days or balmy nights on which to push their wares. Still, it might have been just that I was in a grumpy mood again, my camera battery was almost dead, the rain was running off my brolly and down my neck, and I was worried about my dad getting wet, since he seemed to carry his umbrella but not use it. I did wonder what possessed them to hold this fair in the Autumn and not in Summer, but I also had to marvel at the resilience of the stall holders, chatting away as if the sun was shining. Made me think how nesh we all get, living on a sub-tropical island.