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


Springtime in Tenerife: Beyond Words

Someone (forget who) said to me recently, “Don’t you hate it when someone says, ‘There just aren’t words to describe something,’ and then proceeds to ramble on for page after page to try to do that which they just claimed to be impossible?”

With that foremost in my mind I will be brief, and let the photographs do the talking for me.  Truth is that I don’t have the time to conjure the words to tell you how utterly delightful this spring has been here, and I am still of the old-fashioned view that I want my blog to be a timeline, more or less in cronological order….so photos it is.

Poppies and mountains

I’ve lived in the Canary Islands for almost 26 years, but I have never, ever seen a profusion of spring flowers like this year. Without any professional confirmation (I’m sure someone will put me right!) the feeling is that after two years with precious little rain, seeds have lain in the ground, waiting for the winter rains which finally came this year, and the spring sunshine. Hence three years’ worth of flowers in one go, tumbling down mountain sides, scrambling along roadsides, peeking from rocks and walls, or swaying in the breeze,  some in abundant tangles of color, others gracefully alone……it’s been a spring to remember, and one to share.




spring blossoms











and another take on the previous one

and another take on the previous one

And a third take on that poppy

And a third take on that poppy


Had to include the dandelion ' cos it was lonely :)

Had to include the dandelion ‘ cos it was lonely 🙂

field of wildflowers









The thing neither photo nor words can convey is the perfume, stepping out of the car the scent from this orchard of orange trees filled the air with sweetness

The thing neither photo nor words can convey is the perfume, stepping out of the car the scent from this orchard of orange trees filled the air with sweetness


And the obligatory shot of a bee gathering pollen :)

And the obligatory shot of a bee gathering pollen 🙂

tangle of wildflowers






fields of wildflowers

ok this one's a cheat - not flowers, but it was so pretty it was a shame not to share it!

ok this one’s a cheat – not flowers, but it was so pretty it was a shame not to share it!




poppies and wildflowers

These photos were taken in Valle de Arriba, Santiago del Teide, Teno, Esperanza, Escalona and Vilaflor. And, finally a very bad, wee video:


Playing Tour Guide and Loving Every Minute

One of the nice things about living on a sub-tropical island is the number of times the opportunity comes up to play truant, and spend time with visiting friends or family, and, of course, over Christmastime an ex-pat often finds themself playing at tour guide.  Sometimes it’s lazing on the beach, or taking a boat trip, shopping in Santa Cruz or going to a “hidden” restaurant for a wonderful meal, and sometimes it’s exploring the parts of the island their brochures hadn’t covered.  I enjoy it all, but especially the last, because I love to see people’s reactions to stunning scenery like the lunar landscapes of the Teide National Park, to peaceful,  pretty villages and to a history which they didn’t realize were the other face of Tenerife.

In recent weeks I’ve “toured” two lots of visiting friends, and scratched my head about where to take my father, who almost always comes at Christmas, and so has seen a fair bit of the island.

First of all let me hold up my hand and say that I was the one whose mis-impression was shattered, when I went to pick  up friends at their hotel.  Hotel Be Live La Niña is situated in what is usually described as a “lively” part of Playa de las Americas, Torviscas Bajo, and I feared the worst!  It’s years since I was in this particular area, and my first impression was that it had cleaned up very nicely, a bit like the post I wrote last year about the other end of the town.  Although not actually pedestrianized, the road was now one way and a sort of modern cobblestone, not somewhere vehicles would go screaming through, as traffic used to before.  I pulled into the hotel’s underground parking, to find ample space and signage, and stepping into the hotel was like stepping into another world, leaving behind the street sounds, to find an oasis of calm.  My friends were happy with their room-with-a-view and with the hotel food, and I can’t really tell you more than that, except that I’m quite happy that times they are a changin’.  I fully understand that it’s great to be able to stay at the beach and alternate lazy days with exploring ones,  (Done it myself elsewhere to be sure) so it’s nice to have places one can recommend, in a place where there are still too many places one wouldn’t.

So, my own mind expanded, time to initiate others into the wonder that is Tenerife.  I make no apologies for writing about Santiago del Teide again, maybe it’s because it’s almond blossom time, or because we are having such incredibly wonderful weather, and the sapphire blue sky is such a vivid backdrop for photos, but I find myself  captivated by it at the moment, and for visitors its tranquility provides a perfect contrast to somewhere like Playa de las Americas.  Just getting there, driving through villages like Chio and Guia de Isora and the cacti-studded scenery between them, opens up the mind.  Apparently, my father hasn’t stopped talking about it since he arrived home, even though he has been here almost every year in the past 24.

I always take the high road, and so we can marvel at the ocean, spread out at the foot of  the hillsides which fall away to the left, and at the variety of flora, both native and in gardens.  At this time of year, of course, that includes stunning almond blossoms, as you draw closer to Santiago del Teide.

Arriving last week I saw that notices said that the church closed at 1pm, and it was getting close to that time, so I began the “tour” there.  The belén was gone now, and it was a lazy weekday and not a fiesta, but it was still chock-a-block full of colorful, over-the-top art work, almost looking like an overstocked antique shop than a place of worship, after a coffee on the main street, we simply ambled around the village a bit, up to the cemetery, stopping to take in the fragile almond blossoms, as cocks crowed in drowsy village yards, and lizards scuttled from our path.

I  ate twice at Señorio del Valle, the beautifully restored rural hotel/museum complex, just behind the church. I love the museum there, which is interesting and  displays the history of the  Chinyero volcano to excellent effect, there are also a couple of small art exhibits, a gift shop which sells stuff which is actually made on the islands (just a small shelf of identifiably-made-in-China things), restored wine presses in the courtyard, and artifacts displayed in the restaurant.  All in all a genuine Canarian experience it seems.  Shame then that two things let it down.  If I find somewhere disappoints, my sense of fair play usually kicks in and thinks it might have been an off day, so I don’t condemn without giving it another go (unless it’s truly awful), but having eaten there twice now I’m disappointed to say it was the same both times.  The food was at best mediocre, and the service bordered on rudeness.  The details are boring,  sufficient to say I can’t, honestly,  recommend it, other than as a very pleasant place to have coffee.  My understanding from this article by local journalist and blogger Andy Montgomery, is that actually staying at the hotel is an outstanding experience, and the hotel itself  does look delightful, so I figure that anywhere is worth a third try, and I will in the near future. It’s a tribute to the overall ambience of the village that an indifferent lunch didn’t spoil the visits.

I have a kind of litmus test for people.  If I round the bend and the awesome view of Los Acantilados de Los Gigantes doesn’t draw a sharp intake of breath from my passengers, then I probably don’t have much in common with them.  It’s only happened to me once, and that was a few years back now.  Last week we had enjoyed a perfect day, with clear, achingly blue skies and little haze, so the view was good when I stopped on the way back for the photo op.  I don’t take friends down into the Los Gigantes development any more.  I didn’t like it when times were more affluent, and now it has a definitely shabby feel to add to its lack of charisma, so we meandered on south keeping as close to the coast as close as we could.

Alcalá, Playa San Juan and the tiny Puertito are all en route, and if you’re returning at the end of the day any one of them is a rewarding place to stop a while, sip wine and watch the sun go over the yard-arm.  My favorite is Puertito simply because it has, up to now, stayed so wonderfully quirky and untouched by commercialism.  It scarcely earns the title village, but of anywhere on that coast it is the place which feels most different to the brashness of the man-made resorts.  Playa San Juan may suit some guests more.  It’s been prettied up and sanitized over the last few years, with an eye to custom from the posh hotels which are appearing on the west coast, but at least it isn’t beer and skittles.

Sunset at Playa San Juan

The only problem in whiling away a half  hour or so this way is that the magic of the Canarian wine takes hold and I always want another glass, but since I still have a twenty minute drive after I leave Las Americas, it just isn’t worth the risk.  Driving here is hazardous enough without being tipsy to boot.  Still,  I can always have another glass at home whilst I look back over the pictures of the day I’ve taken. Almost 24 years on, and I still marvel at the variety to be found in something less than 800 square miles!


Of Almond Blossom and St Anthony

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.


The Prettiest Village in South Tenerife

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Almond Blossom Time

Now that I have more time I realized that I didn’t post these lovely pictures of the almond blossom at the end of January. It was the weekend after the Friday on which I was fired, and the weekend before I moved house, but this walk was something I had wanted to do for years. You can imagine, when you only have weekends (and one of those days is, inevitably, taken up in cleaning, shopping and all the boring stuff), and short, Winter days what a short window you have to do this. And, sure enough, just over a week later, storms with orange-alert winds and heavy rains stripped the trees of these gorgeous blossoms – phew, was I happy that I had decided to go!  It was a brilliant day, with clear, oh-so-blue skies, and the trees were groaning with the weight of the blossoms.  It was early.  The festival in Santiago del Teide (near to where these photos were taken) wasn’t for another week or so.  In the end we didn’t walk so much as amble, because there were so many photo-stops!

At this stage I had bought my new camera, but hadn’t even opened the box!!! I knew that once opened it would take over my life, and I knew that I had to finish off the packing and complete the move and unpack enough to get by before I could risk it! So these were taken with my very basic, little Kodak, which had no view finder. It was afternoon and Winter, so the sun was low, and looking at the screen sometimes I could see nothing at all, and had to guess……..very lucky guesses on this day! I went with my friends, Colleen and Pablo, and Colleen’s battery packed in, which meant that she very kindly took charge of Trixy, which did make it easier for me to snap away- it is well-nigh impossible to snap around Trix!

And the added advantage (apart from their delightful company) of going with Pablo and Colleen was that he explained to me how these almond plantations came to be here. Apparently, almonds were brought to the islands by the Conquistadors, yes, the same ones who went on from here to seek for treasures in the Americas, and had been taken to Spain by the Moors centuries before that – you see how, even then, there was a kind of globalization, how cultures mix and grow.  There are still commercial plantations here, but, I imagine, far less than there once were.  Where we were snapping looked a bit abandoned, as you can see, many of the trunks are ancient and twisted.  Between the trees were rows of cabbage and other vegetables (I couldn’t get too close because I didn’t want Trixy to maybe do any damage), looking like the allotments I remember in the UK.

Going back to Colleen and Pablo’s afterwards for tea and cake I snapped the sunset from their balcony….lovely end to a lovely day!