Islandmomma

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


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Eating London is About More Than Just Eating!

I’m ambivalent about guided tours. I suspect that the locals are sniggering at us as we are herded around city streets, and I always want to linger longer than time allows at each stop. Yet I also like having all the information in situ, which would take hours to research myself, and wouldn’t have the same impact as when I am standing on the spot as, say, where one of Jack the Ripper’s victims was found – which is where I was during the fabulous Eating London Tour last month.

Eating London is a lovely combination of food and history –  how could I refuse an invitation to indulge in both?  Along with tantalizing tastes of some of the foods, which have helped to make London’s East End the melting pot it is today, we were fed tidbits of history by our lively guide, Nicole. Despite a steady drizzle most of the morning, both my mind and my body were engaged and well fed, so that the weather really didn’t matter. Nicole’s wide smile substituted quite nicely for the sunshine, and as she’s Australian, you can tell that her passion for the area and its bounty was really genuine….I think you can tell from this snatch of video (I’m hopeless at video!)

After our eclectic group assembled in Spitalfields Market and we all introduced ourselves, we were off for what I can, hand on heart, say is the best bacon butty of my life……and I promise you that’s saying something – bacon butties are an addiction of mine (one day I may reveal how I overcame my bacon butty habit of some years back!)  St. John Bread and Wine, on Commercial Street, uses specially cured bacon, and bread made to their own, secret recipe. The bread is light, the dipping sauce was perfect, and my taste buds cried out for more, but  knowing an entire morning of munching was ahead of me, I made a note to breakfast there the next time I’m in London! See how that bread absorbs the flavors in the pic below?

The BEST bacon butty EVER!

The BEST bacon butty EVER!

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Of Art By the People for the People: Rock Balancing

I don’t make any bones about the fact that I normally try to stay away from the tourist resorts.  They simply aren’t my cup of tea, for one thing, they have no history or sense of community…….or do they?

The other week I was persuaded to go to Playa Beril to snorkel.  I’m not very brave with waves and such, but I adore to have my face in the water (I’d actually prefer to have it under the water, but that’s not in my current budget!), and this beach is really as safe as it gets, with a surprising amount of sea life to see so close to where tourists stir up the bottom.  It’s still all pebbles, sandwiched between the psuedo-sophisticated Playa del Duque and Playa Enramada (probably yet to be “developed”), and just at the end of the beach there is an area which is all pebbles, and where what seems to be spontaneous “street” art has broken out.

The entire area is covered with these rock balances, which, so far as I can make out, is the correct way to describe them.  No-one I’ve spoken to knows how it began, and because it’s an area I don’t know that well, I can’t even tell you how or when or how long it has taken to grow to this stage, but it is now quite remarkable, giving a very mysterious kind of atmosphere to the beach, especially at sunset. I was quite captivated the first time I saw them in broad daylight, but since I was there to snorkel, it was one of the few times I didn’t have a camera with me – not even a phone!  For a couple of weeks now I’ve been itching to get back.  I actually wanted to go at sunrise, but the other day found me in the area just before sunset, so I thought I’d make the most of it.

I was tip toeing between all the works of art.  In some places there are so many it’s actually hard to walk around them.  I do want to go back at sunrise, and I also want to go back and try the infamous HDR, about which I’ve had so many snidey thoughts, but which I know would have taken these photos to a whole different level….

Of course, it also taught me that there is beauty to be found everywhere, and that people, perhaps as a reaction against the swathes of concrete covering the coast, have created their own art.  Even if it was started deliberately by the local authority, it certainly has been claimed by the people now.


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Just An Average Saturday night in South Tenerife

It’s an odd thing.  I go to an Indian festival last weekend an end up with photos of a Canarian folk group, and this week I go to a local village for their folklore festival and end up with snaps of a troupe from Costa Rica.  That is, most definitely, typical of life here in the south of the island.  It’s a cultural melting pot.

And what a melting pot!  Saturday night offered three cultual experiences any one of which would have been worth writing up here.

I’m going to kind of work backwards for mysterious reasons of my own, and the pictures here won’t be great because we were sitting quite a long way back for this one, and it wasn’t really prudent to spoil people’s enjoyment of the performance by moving around.

Event Three, then,  was the annual folklore festival in Las Galletas, a small village, a cultural melting pots in its own way, but still at heart the fishing village it was until very recently.  In the last few years it’s had a makeover and now sports a very attractive, new harbor, and many more leisure boats than of yore as a consequence.  Still, on my own, personal rating it scores much higher than most.  It’s attractive and doesn’t detract from its former incarnation.

We arrived a little late, having been delayed a bit by the previous event, and as we passed the fairground melodic Canarian folk music wafted down the street on the back of an excellent sound system (if that’s the right expression).  A male group of singers and musicians occupied the stage, dressed in traditional Canarian costume, above, Los Amigos de Punta Rasca.  The nearest comparison I could make from personal experience is a Welsh male choir, which British friends will “get” but I don’t know if anyone else will.  Although local music often features female soloists, the musical group is generally made up of men, all of whom seem to be in possession of fine tenor voices.  They didn’t stick just to Canarian music, though, they presented us with music from South American countries too.  It was typical of what I had expected to hear.  There has been a great revival of interest in traditional music in recent years, and like the young men in Chirche last weekend, it was great to see that the traditions are in safe hands.

Next up was a small band and dance troupe from Costa Rica, Turichiqui,  who were wonderfully colorful and flamboyant.  I could have watched them all night as the girls swirled their enormously full skirts, like peacocks strutting the stage and showing off for the men (yep I do know that peacocks are male, but nature doesn’t provide many, if any, similies which spring readily to mind, where the females are the more glamorous!)  Not, mind you, that the men were any slouches in the glam department either, with their bright, silky shirts and white stetsons, but my goodness those swirly skirts were what little girls’ dreams are made of, and they looked like so much fun!

By the time they had finished,  it was close to midnight, and a group of local folk dancers took to the stage.  We were plum tuckered out by then though.  We had a small child in our party who had been bopping away with the dancing to an amazing beat of his own, but by then had fallen asleep, and so we wound our ways home.  It would have been nice to see the night out, but I still had 20 minutes or so to drive, and didn’t trust myself not to fall asleep!

It’s not an easy thing to get used to this nightlife, and I’m not talking about wild nightlife and discos, just the simple sitting in street cafés, especially at this time of year, including children of all ages, at that time of night.  OK the fair was in town, but still, at this time on an average summer Saturday there would have been lots of people on the street.  To live this way, to eat at 9 or 10, and then go out for a stroll and a drink, to meet up with neighbors and friends makes a siesta a necessity, and although I do it at times I’ve never been able to make it a habit.  It’s the most wonderfully friendly and relaxed way to live, though.  It’s part of what makes summer what it is here.  It’s all lived outdoors.

Second treat of the night was entirely different (and, yes,  I admit that contrast and diversity turn me on).  Every summer for (if I remember correctly) the last 18 years, the University of La Laguna has held a Summer School which takes place in Adeje.  Adeje is the municipality probably most-visited in Tenerife – the majority of Playa de las Americas lies within it boundaries, and the newer, posher resort areas of Costa Adeje and Playa de Fañabe, but its heart is in the village of Adeje about 10 minutes into the hills, and one of the original Guanche menceys, or kingdoms.

So, Friday lunchtime I got a text message from Cristina to say that the keynote speaker at the inauguration of the summer school was to be Baltasar Garzón (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltasar_Garzón).  To anyone who doesn’t recognize the name, the English press often refers to him as “Spain’s crusading judge” (although the word crusade might be inadvisable these days!).  He it was who almost succeeded in getting Pinochet extradicted to Spain to answer for his crimes.  He has also had no fear in issuing warrants for drug barons, terrorists (famously Bin Laden), and politicians of both right and left, all of which has made him a very controvesial figure, with both friends and enemies on both sides of the political fence.  Currently he is suspended pending investigations into his attempts to discover the truth about  burial sites from Spain’s bitter civil war.  It wasn’t that long ago, of course, certainly within my parents’ lifetimes, and feelings still run high, partly because there are so many unanswered questions, but I don’t mean to get embroiled in that very complex subject here.  Garzón is a fighter for justice, regardless of politics.  He had a brief foray into the profession, but it didn’t last long.  Everything he said, and the way he said it, Saturday night confirmed to me my own impression which was that he was disappointed that politics didn’t give him a platform to fight injustice, which is clearly his passion.

He spoke for over an hour without notes or teleprompter, partly because no-one had informed him what the theme of the summer school was!  So he used his experiences and beliefs to link to the theme of biodiversity (an irony given the recataloguing of species the autonomous government has set in place in order to be able to build a huge, industrial port in an area where there were protected species).  That in itself was a feat to be admired.

I don’t know about you, but every now and then I am awed to be in the presence of some great person, be it a musician, a politican (rarely but has happened), an author, or a crusader, like Garzón.  I felt like this when a watched a debate which involved Federico Mayor Zaragoza (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federico_Mayor_Zaragoza) and Sami Nair ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sami_Nair) a couple of years back, I felt the same when I saw Eric Clapton and when I saw Youssou N’Dour, and there have been a couple of authors I was positively shaking when I met.  It kind of reaffirms your faith in the world when you have been wallowing in a sea of mediocrity for a while!  It might be their talent or their ethics, as in this case, which knocks you sideways, but it’s a reminder that there is hope and decency, and something above the average if only we seek it out.  For m,e the added delight was that he came across as thoroughly nice too.   I hadn’t been expecting that.  On tv he always seems quite austere, but he was friendly and afterwards signed books for people and happily posed for photos.  That would have made me happy for the night even without the rest of it!

The first of the treats was entirely unexpected, and every bit as awe-inspiring in its own way.  We arrived a little early at the cultural center in Adeje to find out just where it was and whether we could go, and we intended to then go and have a drink in one of the atmospheric street cafés which line the village’s main street.  However, we were just bowled over by what we saw when we arrived, which was an exhibition of “street art” by local sculptor Julio Nieto (http://www.julionieto.com/).  These pieces, most of which are shown below, are made entirely from metal, and I understand that each one took a year to complete.  There are seven in the series so seven years’ work adorning the streets of Adeje. Previously they have appeared in Santa Cruz and Los Realejos.

This was my favorite – Icarus, as we  know from Greek legend, flew too close to the sun, causing his wings to melt and his fall to earth.  As you can see, depicted with almost all of the feathers gone from his wings, and about to tumble to his fate.

It was hard to choose a favorite between Icarus and this one, though, which is entitled La Llamada, which translates, really as The Call, which doesn’t impart nearly so much longing into the title as it does in Spanish.  No wonder sailors fell for the charms of sirens if they looked like this.  And, can anyone tell me, just how it is possible to make pieces of metal resemble the charms and the muscles of an elegant human body this way?!

This island is dotted with several striking and beautiful sculptures of various styles, and at first glance the one above seemed to represent a typical villager, on closer inspection, however, we could see that the figure depicted was comprised entirely of “fish”, even up to the squid “hat”.  Very, very clever, and lots of fun…….. look at the sculptor’s website if you want to see the detail.

The remaining two are entitled The Voyager and And Alice?  Despite being very modern works of art, they are not at all obscure, and I didn’t need to think over much to work out the meanings.  One of the negatives about street art is that the background doesn’t always lend itself to a decent photo, so I deleted the rest.  If you like them, really, take a look on the website, because photographed in good light and background they look even more impressive.

I think I ran out of words now.  Three really different events on one, ordinary July night…………it isn’t always true, but there have been times when I wouldn’t be anywhere else on earth!  What I didn’t mention was the balmy air on my skin, the sharp smell of good coffee as we passed the street cafés in Adeje, or the hum of excitment around the travelling fair in Las Galletas, even without the events taking place, any of those things would have stirred the imagination and the heart.