Why was I the only person standing on this side of the street like billy-no-mates while all the popular people stood opposite smirking at my obvious insanity?
The answer was simple – the other side of the street was in shade, my side was in full sunshine and the sun was seriously hot. I didn’t know if I could last the pace; already my bonce felt oven-cooked and I could feel the dizzying effects of dehydration despite taking occasional glugs of lukewarm water; a couple of hours of this and surely I’d end up as a pile of bleached bones cluttering the immaculate streets.
But from my position I could see all the way up to the Casas de los Balcones and down to the Plaza de la Constitución. When the camels arrived their angle would be towards me. If I wanted good photos, I’d have to put up with the frying.
A group of people joined me on my side of the street a few feet away, but as they had set up makeshift shelter under a rainbow canopy, relocated some stools and a wine barrel as a table from the rural hotel opposite; they dealt with the sunny side of the street with quite a bit more panache than me.
The Romería de San Isidro Labrador comes only a couple of days after the Flower Carpets and just when you think you’ve seen La Orotava’s best show, the town comes up with another lavish spectacle. This one kicks off with the arrival of the festival queens in full traditional costume atop camels. It’s a spectacular start to the romería, even if the queens look as nervous as kittens on their temperamental carriages.
These fiestas are all about eating and drinking and it made me smile to see that even as people were going to join the processional carts which are filled with food, they were stuffing their faces with ice cream and crisps.
Once the Romería gets into full swing it becomes an overwhelming cavalcade of colour, sounds and smells. People shout to have their photos taken, children thrust ‘papas’ and boiled eggs at you, men offer chunks of barbecued meat and goatskins filled with wine; dancers twist and swirl along the narrow streets and musicians pluck at timples and instruments made from olive oil cans. The sunshine made the traditional rainbow coloured skirts and scarlet bodices positively zing with vibrancy. It was a feast in every sense of the word and I snapped away, pausing only to munch on potatoes and a type of crackling as seventy or so ox drawn carts lumbered by.
I’ve been to a number of romerías, but I think La Orotava’s is my favourite. The historic streets are a perfect backdrop for the parade of traditional costumes, but there’s also something sophisticatedly stylish about La Orotava’s romería which reflects the town’s noble history. I came away from the town once again completely wowed by this wonderful island of Tenerife.