At last, the festive celebrations are over on Tenerife and I can take stock on whether this year was more ‘bah humbug’, or ‘full of Christmas Cheer’.

Christmas Eve (day)
First blood to Spain’s post office service, Correos. They completely outmanoeuvred me by closing for the whole of Christmas Eve without any prior notice. I joined an equally bewildered and bordering on mutinous mob of ‘Canarios’ outside the Correos offices looking for signs, anything that would tell us what was going on.
The only source of information was an elderly Canarian woman on a balcony beside the office who proved a more useful source that the Correos by warning us that they were planning to do the same on New Years Eve. As I have an apartado (postbox) in the Correos, this unexpected situation meant no ‘pressies’ on Christmas Day (Humbug).
Nochebuena (Christmas Eve)
We decided to console ourselves by going into Puerto de la Cruz knowing that:
A) We’d never get a bus so it would be a three kilometre walk into town.
B) As Canarios celebrate Nochebuena at home with the family, the town would be dead and the only chance for a shindig would be a Brit bar where Scandinavians, Belgians, Germans and British congregate to drink too much, wear silly hats and sing-along to music that was already twenty years out of date when I was a teenager. (An, almost embarrassed, Christmas Cheer)

The perfect accompaniment to Xmas morningChristmas Day
No presents to open, so we made some bucks fizz, stuck on ‘Faithless’ at full blast and spent the day cooking a pavito (little turkey). Amazingly, it’s the first Christmas that we’d spent on our own in twenty years. We had a lovely day. Ate too much; drank too much and spent the evening watching ‘Blood Diamond’, an episode of the second series of Rome (the one pressie which had gotten through the Correos’ blockade) and snacking on turkey bocadillos and chipolatas without the stress of having to keep one eye on Andy’s stepmother who’s a snack fiend and usually snaffles the lot when my back is turned. (Definitely Xmas Cheer)

Boxing Day
Not a holiday here, so the Correos office was open, but some presents were still missing. The staff told people, who seemed to be in the same situation that their packages might turn up the following day. This was code for, ‘there’s a whole pile of stuff in the back, but we haven’t gotten round to sorting it yet, it’s Christmas don’t you know.”
Man United were playing Sunderland, but frustratingly it wasn’t being screened live on Television (Man Utd won 4 – 0 which made it even more frustrating), so we went to the beach instead even though, after the pavito dinner, our stomachs were probably too big to expose in public. (2 humbugs and 1 Xmas Cheer)

On top of Tenerife's world27th December
Needed to shed the Christmas pounds, so we headed for the 17 kilometre wide crater around Mount Teide. It seemed everyone else had the same idea and the roads were packed. When we reached the crater we parked in the overfilled car park beside the Parador and headed along a track through the lava away from the crowds. Within five minutes we were alone in a landscape straight out of Jurassic Park. We climbed up to the rim of the crater, through snow and ice, despite the sun burning our faces and drying out our lips. At the top we looked out over a sea of white clouds. It was like being alone on the top of the world. On our way back we bumped into a really nice English couple. This might seem unremarkable on an island which welcomes  millions of British visitors a year, but the sad fact is that to bump into any away from the main tourist enclaves, and pit- stop popular tourist sites is still a rarity. (Xmas Cheer)

30th December
Quickly passing over West Ham beating Man Utd on the 29th, it was my birthday and time for another pointless trip to the Correos as the wayward present was still missing. It was a beautiful warm and sunny day, so we headed for the beach again (for only the second time in as many months) and in the evening ate out at a restaurant we’d been meaning to try for some time, El Templo de Vino. We liked the look of its menu because its tapas dishes were different from the traditional offerings. We ordered choco (grilled cuttlefish), ensaladilla (a mixed salad of potato, veg and usually tuna), croquetas (fried ham and fish croquetes), german sausage and mustard, pork pinchos with spicy dip and dates wrapped in bacon. All washed down with extremely quaffable wine. Delicious. (Xmas Cheer)

Nocheviejo (New Years Eve)
Always a hoot, but takes a bit of prep if you want to ensure good luck for the coming year. 12 grapes are essential; to be consumed on the countdown to midnight and this year I learned that if you wear red underwear then you’re guaranteed even better luck. Not a problem for Andy, the shops are always full of red underwear for women at this time of year, presumably because of the luck thing, but I had to make do with a pair of boxers whose redness was confined to the waistband. I don’t know if this means my chances of good luck will be proportionally less. As usual the firework display on the harbour was sensational, the Latino band enthusiastic, and the atmosphere electric. We reluctantly pulled ourselves away at around 4 am. (Xmas Cheer and then some)

New Years Day
Pretty much a rerun of Christmas Day, except that in Britain there’s a full footballing calendar, so Man Utd were playing again and once again the game wasn’t being screened live. As we hadn’t hit our bed until after five, this wasn’t the disappointment it should have been, but the result, Man Utd 1 – Birmingham 0, adds to another lovely chilled day (Xmas Cheer)

5th & 6th January
The week after that is pretty much for the kids, a run up to Tres Reyes on the 6th January; the day when Spanish kids are visited by the Three Kings and receive gifts. There’s a parade on the night of the 5th in most towns on the island when the Kings arrive on floats, camels and all sorts. This year we gave it a miss, watching the Aston Villa – Man Utd FA cup match instead. Finally a Man Utd game on TV. The downside is that we had to watch it in a bar where the Canarian barman is an avid Man Utd hater and makes derogatory marks about the team throughout the game. The irony of this is that this is a guy who he says he hates Man Utd because of the money they spend on buying players. And who does he support? Real Madrid!!!! I ask you? We win courtesy of an inspired Wayne Rooney and the ever wonderful Ronaldo. (A double Xmas Cheer)

And that was it, except the Correos had the last word and decided to shut on the 7th of January, presumably in lieu of the previous day, thereby having more holidays than anyone else in Spain. To cap it all, when I dragged myself down the Correos office the following day I found it in a state of chaos (cynics might say ‘so what’s new’), their ticket machine, designed to create an orderly queuing system, like the staff, wasn’t working properly and the missing parcel was still missing…Bah Humbug!

Proof of a White Christmas on Tenerife

  1. Helen Palmer says:

    Your post made me smile! The Correos is something else in this country isn’t it? If you want to go people watching, just take a visit to the post office, take your ticket and watch!

    Our Correos office here in Castelldefels has only just introduced the ticket system and I found it hilarious just watching all the locals trying to get to grips with the new system yesterday, whilst still trying to continue their usual habits.

    Loved your writing. Do keep up the good work spreading the news about Tenerife and Spain. It really is a country at odds with others perceptions sometimes!


  2. dragojac says:

    Thanks for your comments.

    You have my sympathy regarding the introduction of the ticket system.

    When they introduced it here, about a year and a half ago, there were four buttons. One for sending mail; one for collecting packages; one for Western Union and one for the wee man in the corner whose job I still haven’t figured out.

    Of course there weren’t any notices to warn clients or anything customer care related like that, so it was absolute chaos. Added to that, half the customers couldn’t understand what the buttons were for as they were in Spanish. I found myself acting as an unpaid consultant; pointing people in the right direction etc (it passed the time while I was waiting my turn). Now there’s only one button and things have calmed down…a bit.

    Like you say, great place for people watching; it’s an anthropologist’s dream.

  3. Helen Palmer says:

    Here in Catalonia we have the same problem with everyone speaking Catalonian. It’s even worse for me as I don’t speak either Castillian Spanish or Catalonian, so I end up doing a great impression of a pantomine mime act!

    Hey ho – it does help to pass the time though!

  4. Andy says:

    I’m sure if they ever introduced such a complicated ticketing system in the UK, this would cause even more chaos than with the Canarians.

    Did you ever receive your parcel of Christmas cheer?

  5. dragojac says:

    Good point. The wayward parcel eventually turned up on the 10th January (a month after it had been posted); however, a giveaway stamp on the side showed that it had actually arrived in the Correos office three days earlier. Not as bad as I thought and very good VFM at £36 postage I thought!!

  6. DaveBliss says:

    The Correos Postal system in Tenerife is a disaster, and is also one of the most expensive, an complicated system in the world. To send a guitar to Malta cost me nearly 100€, and because it had to go by boat, they would not allow any insurance on the item. I took 6 weeks to arrive!! This is the year 2008, and 6 weeks to get a parcel to anywhere is just not acceptable.

    A guitar from Japan to me in Tenerife takes just 3 days, and then 10 days in Correos waiting for somebody to tell me it’s here for collection.

    Correos also never deliver anything to your door you have to present yourself to the postal office with identity to collect items other than letters. The same applies to collection of parcels, a service which does not exist here. Even DHL do not deliver or collect from your door.

    Just a final coffin nail, all payments to Correos must be made in Cash, they do not accept any form of credit card.

    This is the state of a postal service which is a government semi privatised monopoly. It’s a disgrace to Spain and it’s backward attitude to business.

    OH they also shut at 2:30 pm during the summer, so the place is heaving with people trying to do alla days postal work in just half a day. From July to Sept every year. Then back to 8am to 8:30pm during the winter and spring months.

    Another cute Spanish relic, Siestas in the afternoon, come on, it’s the modern world, if they can work everywhere else throughout the day in hotter places than Spain it’s time Spain started to work a normal business day.

    I am amazed that anything ever gets done here, running a business that relies upon parcel delivery to clients just cannot function in Tenerife especially. Perishable items, forget it not a hope.

    That’s the end of my Rant!!

  7. dragojac says:

    LOL…Hope you feel better after that, the Correos does bring out the ‘Dark Side’.

    Everything in your rant is horribly familiar – for a minute I thought I’d gone schizophrenic!

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