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


Island Morning Rituals

We all have them, don’t we. Those rituals which ease us into each new day, the daily habits which confirm the structure of our life without which, facing the world, we are a bit more vulnerable. There were times in a colder climate when a part of mine was to huddle down under the bed covers for an extra ten minutes before getting up. Living on the coast of a sub-tropical island is a different kettle of fish. My feet find the cool, tiled floor eagerly, hungry for the new day.

My dog knows my morning ritual well. Shuffle to bathroom. Brush teeth and splash cold water on my face. Do the exercises I have to do to keep my cervical arthrosis at bay. Throw on old clothes. When I get to the old shoes, she knows it’s ok to disturb me, and we stagger out the door so she can to that which she has also to do.

Trixy enjoying the first rays whilst I take snaps

Trixy enjoying the first rays whilst I take snaps

The sun rises at the end of our street. We’re lucky in that. It’s still dark. Dawn is seeping along the horizon. The sun will follow soon. Part of my morning ritual is to take a snap. Often it’s the sunrise. It’s always different: golden and serene, purple and threatening, rosy and hopeful, fiery red or shimmery blue.

Other dog owners hover around waiting for their pets to poop, we greet the nice ones and pull faces behind the backs of the grumpy ones. It’s hard to figure why some folk have pets, when they clearly don’t like the morning ritual. Dogs aren’t allowed on the beaches here any more, and I don’t disagree with the new by-law because far too many people don’t clear up after their dogs, the walkways are a disgrace, despite a hardworking cleaning crew around here. We get a cheery “Buenos días” from the lady who sweeps our section. I miss being able to let Trix off to run a while, though. Not that she’s up for much running now that she’s an old lady.

The view which greets me at the end of my street

The view which greets me at the end of my street

Once she’s done the necessary we walk on, observing the rituals of other early risers, as the light changes.There is a small headland just before Montaña Pelada at one end of town, and a hotel and spa blots the view, their first floor lights are on, and the reflections shimmer across the wet beach. The tide is retreating. I imagine the workers in the hotel about their morning rituals, setting tables for breakfast, polishing the floors, cleaning the pool. I’m lucky my day begins in this more gentle way.

Blot on the landscape hotel

Blot on the landscape hotel

My favorite thing about El Médano is its energy. Its setting is quite dramatic with volcanic cones at either end of a series of bays, dunes, rocky beaches and a long stretch of sandy beach, boats pulled up on the tiny Playa Chica, but the town itself is not so pretty. Too much unrestricted development in fact, has left it ugly, and yet, the ugliness is the last thing you notice. People in El Médano do stuff.

Boats pulled up Playa Chica at first light

Boats pulled up Playa Chica at first light

Despite the quiet, there is a  subtle ripple of energy. We pass several runners, from young girls in lycra to older guys who trudge a bit, but, hey, they’re doing it!

Atop the abandoned bunker on the shore, the person I think of a “Zen man” sits. In truth I don’t know if it’s a man or a woman. The figure sits cross-legged and statue-like, facing the direction from which the sun will soon peek. He or she wears a hoodie with the hood up, so gender is moot. In all my morning walks by this beach I’ve never seen him move. As the sun rises he is silhouetted against the brightness. We stand, as always, in awe, until the brightness fades the fabulous colors, and there is only blue and incandescence.

"Zen Man" contemplating an especially gorgeous sunrise

“Zen Man” contemplating an especially gorgeous sunrise

At this point it is our habit to turn. As we do so “homeless man” emerges from the scrabble of plant life in the dunes. I guess he sleeps around here somewhere. For all I know he may be a famous scientist studying insect life in the scrub or something, but with his dreadlocks and deeply tanned face, I’ll go with the homeless assessment. He has long conversations with himself or with an imaginary friend. A few years back when I first saw him, I thought he was talking on a cellphone, but no. He sets off along the road into town, lanky, almost jaunty. I might envy the air of contentment he emits, or is it merely that nothing in life can shock him any longer?

On the street corner an elderly couple greet each other, and turn to stroll with their dogs towards us. She always wears a hat which  looks like an upturned flowerpot, perched upright, probably so as not to crush the perm beneath it. They always nod tentatively, not quite friendly, but not unfriendly either. I used to bump into them around the point where we made our turn, further along the path, and I thought they were a married couple, but recently I’ve observed this morning greeting as they meet, and now I think of them as  a winter romance chanced upon through their morning dog walking.

We turn the corner, as “brave morning bather” draws up and parks his car. His morning ritual is a swim, whatever the state of the ocean. Dressed in a towelling robe and flip-flops, which he will leave on the rocks, his greeting is always cheery, but I can never, quite, catch his accent. My bet is he’s German, though. He picks his way across the rocks, because at this point the beach is sharp. Perhaps from respect or from past experience he ignores “yoga man” who is stretching in the sun’s first warmth.

I  groan inwardly, but outwardly smile as I spot “the mad woman” ahead. In flapping house coat and slippers she talks constantly to her two, mangy dogs – unless she can pinhole another passing dog walker, and looks like it might be our turn today. She’s harmless, and not entirely stupid, but is impossible to get away from once she’s in full flow. Our luck is in. She scoops up one dog and trots across the road, waving with her free hand. I wave back.

As we turn to cross the road I notice a bright tent amongst the juniper by the picnic area. In summertime there is a great tradition of sleeping on the beaches of Tenerife, not so much a morning ritual as a summer one, even though it’s not quite here yet.

Home. Food for Trixy. Coffee for me. Exercise of some sort. After the ritual the awakening. I consider going out again with the camera.

Heron at daybreak

Heron at daybreak

I know that along the main beach, which is in the other direction from that in which we walked, stout old ladies in flowery swimsuits will be plodding into the waves, or floating and chatting for all the world as if they were in the coffee shop. Along its much smoother length folk will be running, power walking or just strolling. Wee plovers and maybe a heron will be darting amongst the rocky parts in search of breakfast, and at the end of the harbor wall the good old boys, and some young ones too in these days of unemployment, will be casting their fishing lines into the sea. The tractor which furrows and tidies up the sand will have finished and will be moving to the other end of town, and the boy who puts out the sunbeds will soon be putting them into orderly rows. The bars near the oceanfront will be putting out their tables and chairs and perking the first coffee of the day.

Early-ish morning El Médano main beach

Early-ish morning El Médano main beach

It’s tempting. I like to photograph these moments, how folk approach the day, prepare themselves, greet it. We all have our ways of grooming mind and body for the  chaos of the day ahead.



I Love the Smell of Dawn….


I love the smell of dawn on the Tenerife coast. The air bears scents you don’t smell during day nor during  night – a mixture of ozone, the scrub of the dunes, and a freshness, which melts under the warmth of the sun. The silence, as the first light seeps along the horizon, is vast and exquisite. It surrounds you as the landscape stands on tiptoe, waiting for the new day’ s first sounds, and you hope it be the cry of a bird, or the whispering of ocean to earth,  and not the ugly sounds of men.

It has to have been an awfully good drop of wine which has made me sleep in and not want to get down to the beach.

I am ridiculously happy with this photo, because it’s taken me 3 years to achieve it!  I knew that sooner or later the sun would be rising in line with this pathway down to Playa Cabezo. I’ve taken snaps here before, but never managed to get it quite so framed as this morning. I must have taken about a dozen, but this is also the only one where that wave is trickling in just that way.


After the Storm

IMG_20130305_070535Yesterday I left the house three times. Once I wore a waterproof  jacket, and the other times just heavy sweatshirts. Guess on which occasion it did not rain! C’est la vie!

So this morning I poked my head out of the window to sniff the air before I stepped out. The streets looked damp, but not wet, but there was still that smell of rain in the air (that exists, although perhaps if you live somewhere like England it’s possible to be so accustomed to it that you no longer notice), so I donned waterproof and beenie and we trotted forth.

An incandescent blue was beginning  at the end of my street as we turned left for Playa Cabezo, and in the couple of mintes it took to reach the Paseo Maritimo the clouds on the horizon had a distinct yellow edge, a happy sign that the storm was passed. We stolled slowly past the junipers which obscure the beach, Trixy doing that which a dog’s gotta do, and when we could see the horizon again it had adopted a much rosier hue. It was shaping up to be a glorious sunrise, and so we stood and watched, as the remnants of the dark storm clouds succombed to the sun’s greeting.


DSC_0027There is a point at sunrise where the colors fade, between the peak of their intensity (above) and the actual appearance of the sun, which is a whole other vista, and so at that point we turned for home, because there were chores to do, before my first class at 10.

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Storm Passing

Late afternoon yesterday

Late afternoon yesterday

It’s looking like the worst may be over, although outside my window right now looks like an English August Bank Holiday on Blackpool Promenade (you need to know the north of England to get that reference, sorry!). The point being, however, that this is winter and this would be summer in England.

As the day dragged on yesterday, the streets were abnormally quiet, especially for a Sunday. Walking around town around lunch time, cafés and bars were already giving up and stacking their tables. Everywhere here relies on having seating outdoors, even if normally protected from the wind by blinds or awnings. But this wind was coming from the opposite direction, and foiled their attempts at protection. Two valient (or foolhardy), middle-aged couples meandered around the main plaza, the women dressed in white trousers and frilly blouses, the men in nicely-pressed shorts, you could see they were pretending they weren’t cold – tourists then – everyone else was clad in sweats or waistcoats, even though they sported shorts and thongs. There were only a couple of small boats still moored up within the harbor. There are never that many, but clearly most had been taken out of the water, being tethered is one of the worst places to be in a big surge, and sure enough one of the two was half-sunk this morning. The other, I think, had broken its mooring and was rescued during the night.

In that way that storms move, it was almost dark before 6 o’clock, and it seemed that the worst was approaching, but it lightened briefly before night fell, and with the night came the high point of the storm. In Plaza Roja outside my window the palm trees bent over and the rain was horizontal. It was a scene familiar from tv news coverage of hurricanes. I read online of hurricane-force winds being recorded up in Izaña by the Observatory, they were saying 199 km per hour, but this morning it says 149km – still pretty windy!

It passed quickly. In fact, I’ve never known a storm to pass over as quickly. Hurricane Delta in 2005 rattled my shutters for hours. But I wasn’t venturing out. I watched pictures of the rescued boat, floods right across the plaza from me (but hidden by buildings, so no direct view) on the internet and turned in for any early night, expecting to be woken by the winds again, but the only things which broke my sleep were text messages and the neighbors screaming at each other at midnight.

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Waiting for the Storm

Phases of a stormy sunrise

Phases of a stormy sunrise

The pictures were taken yesterday. This morning the sky met the ocean in endless grey, and Trixy and I were drenched on our morning walk.

You read that with a shrug of the shoulders perhaps? It’s a common occurence in some climates of course, but not so much in south Tenerife. The last time I remember dog walking in the rain was three years ago. I felt sorry for my neighbor scurrying out with her wee dogs in the half light, dressed only in leggings and sweater, holding another sweater over her head. Looks like she doesn’t have the right clothes for rainy days!

We are momentarily in that weird calm as one swathe of rain clouds have passed over us, and another is fast approaching. The next one is looking denser and is driven by high winds, gusts up to hurricane force are forecast, although that will probably be in the north.

Main beach El Médano mid-morning

Main beach El Médano mid-morning

By mid-morning the first phase past, El Médano’s beach looked almost normal …. except for the absence of people. This is how it normally looks early morning, folk walking and running and exercising, but by mid-morning the sunworshippers are normally out. The market was cancelled, not that many folk had turned up it seemed, the ones who obviously had come for that were wandering aimlessly around, as bars and cafés decided to chance it and set out their tables. These businesses rely so much on good weather, almost all have terraces, and many have nothing but terrace. They wouldn’t make a living from the number of covers indoors.

The two events I’d planned to go to this weekend are postponed until the storm is past, which leaves the usual dilema, what does one do here on a rainy day? Museums are open and free Sundays, but the drive to Santa Cruz and then the walk from the parking to a museum are not appealing. So, it’s looking like a possibly productive weekend.


February Sunrise

I don't often post pictures just for the sake of it. I think of this blog as more about the writing than the photos, but this morning's sunrise was, quite simpley, too lovely not to share.

I don’t often post pictures just for the sake of it. I think of this blog as more about the writing than the photos, but this morning’s sunrise was, quite simply, too lovely not to share.

It hadn't looked too promising when I first got down to the Paseo Maritimo

It hadn’t looked too promising when I first got down to the Paseo Maritimo

...but as I waited it began to spread and glow. Glorious morning.

…but as I waited it began to spread and glow. Glorious morning……would be so nice if this day fulfills its promise.


In Celebration of El Día de Canarias

Today I should have been out celebrating and enjoying myself, quaffing some local wine and no doubt stuffing myself with traditional foods, whilst listening to Canarian musicians and learning more about “my” island. However, I wasn’t, instead I am lying on my couch, amusing myself by writing this to distract myself from the constant urge to empty the contents my stomach. All is not perfect, you see, in paradise. I seem to have food poisoning.

In lieu of joining the celebrations I thought I might do one of those boring posts which really belongs in a tour operator’s webpage,  but which will relieve both my  boredom and my self pity by reminding me how much I enjoy being here.

Traditional Tenerife: You would be surprised at just how many folk possess and wear with pride their traditional dress. There is said to be a different variation for every municipality on the island.

El Día de Canarias

The first parliament of the autonomous region, Canary Islands, sat on May 30th 1983, after a long wait. The creation of autonomous regions had first been undertaken by the government of the Second Republic in 1931, but by the time the Civil War broke out in 1936 nothing had been implemented in the political bickerings which preceded the Civil War  – and of course everything then went on hold during the war and the consequent iron grip which Franco had on the country.

With his death in 1976 many of the reforms and projects which had been abandoned or iced began to resurface, and the new (and current) Constitution, drawn up in 1978, provided for the establishment of autonomous regions and some decentralization of government, and so the Autonomous Parliament of the Canary Islands was born.

May 30th was declared a fiesta (bank holiday) in celebration of its birth, and the day is marked throughout the islands with displays of traditional crafts, sports, costumes, foods and music.

Historical Tenerife:  The original capital of the island, La Laguna. An UNESCO World Heritage Site and seat of the province’s university, it is both charming restoration and vibrant hub of the island’s creativity.


Tenerife, for anyone who is new to my blog, is just one of the seven main islands which make up the Canarian archipelago. It’s been my home base now for over 20 years. It has an image in some European circles of being merely a mass-tourist destination, but it is so much more, and if you need proof then just check some previous posts.

Since I can’t give you a first-hand report on the festivities to which I didn’t go, I offer you, in honor of this day, a photo essay of this island of Tenerife, showing its different faces, its variety and perhaps an understanding of why it fascinates me so much.

Musical Tenerife: Two things come to mind when you combine the words Tenerife and music – folk music and the salsa of Carnaval, but there is so much more for lovers of all kinds of music. This photo was taken at the annual Santa Blues Blues Fest in June. July sees a prestigious jazz festival, autumn an opera season and year round classical music lovers can listen to the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra.

Coastal Tenerife: tanning addicts swarm to the resorts, but there are also plenty of quieter, more natural beaches to be found.

Gourmet Tenerife: In recent years the standards and aspirations of restaurants and hotels have simply soared. You can now find cuisine from almost anywhere in the world, and quality equal to big city eateries. This sushi at Restaurant 88 in La Caleta, Costa Adeje.

Mountainous Tenerife: The island’s mountains actually come in all shapes and sizes from lushly forested ones on the north east tip to the surreal volcanic landscapes of the Teide National Park, home to Spain’s highest mountain, El Teide.

Wine Lovers’ Tenerife: Canarian wines were famous as far back as the 17th century, and were famously (for we English-speakers) mentioned by Shakespeare on more than one occasion. Tenerife boasts no less than 5 regions. Oh, and I throw in here cheese too, because the goats’ cheeses are the perfect accompaniment!

Hiking Tenerife: Volcanic badlands, lush forest, coastal trails a walker’s heaven, in other words.

Tourist Tenerife: This is, believe it or not, the only Tenerife which some people know. I am a beach addict, but this is my least favorite face of the island, which is not to rubbish it. It’s just that sharing a beach on this scale is not my thing, but clearly it is for thousands, and the municipalities of the south, mainly Arona and Adeje cater for mass tourism, leveling rocky stony beaches, building hotels (the more recent ones of very high standard) and generally attempting to cater for every whim of the sunseekers. Tenerife does not have the prettiest beaches in the world, but they are some of the sunniest.

Agricultural Tenerife: OK the photo is just a bit of a stretch, and may have been more appropriate under the “traditional” heading, but it’s just that I love oxen. These days they are, so far as I can make out, brought out only for fiestas and other traditional events, but were an important part of the island’s history at one time. There are none of the huge farms of the US prairies or even the big farms I’ve seen in Scotland here, but thanks to co-operatives bananas, tomatoes and the famous Canarian potatoes are still exported, though not to the extent they were in history. Did you know that London’s Canary Wharf was named for the islands? So great was the volume of exports to England alone at that time.

Shop-till-you-drop Tenerife: Neither the Via Veneto nor the Champs Élysées, nevertheless shop shopaholics can have a ball in the swisher parts of the southern resorts and in the island’s capital, Santa Cruz, these days.

Sporty Tenerife: Surfing, windsurfing, hiking, cycling, paragliding, sport fishing, running, golf, kite surfing, climbing, trail running, triathlons, tennis…….that’s just off the top of my head, the sports which immediately come to mind.

Delicious Tenerife: Fine dining apart, Tenerife has a wealth of simple and traditional dining too, with fresh ingredients sourced locally from mineral-rich farmland, the variety of the ocean and locally raised goat and pork. Go inland to find small bars and restaurants, or to the kiosks at the fiestas.

Cultural Tenerife: Santiago Calatrava’s magnificent auditorium in Santa Cruz is symbolic of the wealth of island’s Cultural (with a capital C you note) events. An icon of modern architecture it is home to the symphony orchestra and scene of ballet, opera, jazz, world music, modern dance and many other events. In addition the capital has the historic Teatro Guimerá and La Laguna is home to Teatro Leal. Then there are museums, art exhibitions, photo exhibits and other events galore. Granted, you may need to speak some Spanish for some of these, but a little can take you a long way.

Romantic Tenerife: They tell me we have the best sunsets (and I would add sunrises) in the world. Since I haven’t been everywhere yet I can’t confirm that, but, well, they are pretty amazing.

Quirky Tenerife: I suppose everywhere has its quirky side, but I would put money on it I could snap a photo every day of something out-of-the-ordinary here!

Floral Tenerife: This was the hardest photo to decide, so in the end I chose two. Bouganvillea, hibiscus, geraniums, marigolds and heaps of other domesticated flora decorate the towns, villages and cities of the island, but only in the mountains will you find the tajinaste, indigenous to the island and found in the wild no where else on earth.

The almond trees, on the other hand, were brought by the Conquisadors, their flowering marks the beginning of a new season in January, and the nuts are the base of many artisan sweets.

Travelers’ Tenerife: Finally Tenerife as gateway to the archipelago, the launching point by ferry or by local airline to the other islands in the chain.