Archive for August, 2009

You’d think that being surrounded by banana plantations the nearest bar to us would be a quaint little rustic place where the plantation workers swapped their machetes for a glass of vino tinto but no, this is Tenerife where expectations are often confounded.

A short -ish stroll to the end of the banana road and up the hill opposite takes us to Puerto’s, and possibly even Tenerife’s poshest bar, Abaco, a grand 18th century mansion which is a cocktail bar and live music venue at night and a museum and folklore centre during the day. Of course to get there we have to pass a restaurant which must be in the running for one of the nicest restaurants in Puerto de la Cruz, Ganania, but that’s used more for weddings and celebrations.

Despite living so close to this wonderful sounding place, we’d never actually been to the bar at night even though it sounded incredible – don’t ask me why.

Abaco - A Classy Bar in an Old Mansion

Abaco - A Classy Bar in an Old Mansion

On Friday night we decided to rectify this, mainly because I’d read a tweet on twitter from jazz singer, Anna Rodriguez that she was performing there. A quick check of Abaco’s website showed that it was free concert (always a bonus) so at around 22.00 we set off along the banana road to the bar where we’d heard fruit and vegetables littered the floor.

The first sight of Abaco is impressive. The mansion could rival any of the Casas de Balcones in La Orotava, but I’m willing to bet that there are any number of visitors to Puerto de la Cruz who don’t know it exists. The front door opens directly onto the main road (it’s quiet so no real danger of doing a Sam Tyler as you step outside) and sure enough the vestibule was decorated in rich hues and with tastefully arranged piles of fruit everywhere. Like many of these mansions, stepping inside was like entering the Tardis; the vestibule led to a sprawling courtyard and gardens with tables tucked away in secret romantic corners. It was stunning; the only problem is that apart from another couple at a table it was empty and we felt a bit like intruders as we explored.

Inside Abacos Courtyard - This is the toilets!!

Inside Abaco's Courtyard - This is the toilets!!

The concert was being held in the cocktail bar where at least there were a few other people, but it hadn’t started yet, so we grabbed a table outside to admire the beautiful old building and grounds from the inside. Within seconds a waitress turned up and handed us a drinks menu – it became apparent why such an incredible bar wasn’t packed to the gunwales. The average price of cocktails was €8; the cheapest bottle of wine €20 and if you wanted to go for it, a bottle of gin or vodka would set you back €65.

When the waitress returned I meekly asked for two glasses of vino tinto and then Andy and I discussed how much we thought it would cost, settling on €5 per glass based on the prices in the menu. To be fair, although the price of a bottle sounded high, when you work out how many drinks you would get out of it, it isn’t that excessive.

At around 22.30 Anna Rodriguez started her set and we moved inside. Anna’s got an excellent voice and she sang some numbers which varied from Bebel Gilberto songs to jazz classics to a slowed down to a crawl version of The Police’s ‘Message in a Bottle’. It was laid back stuff, a bit too laid back for us, but the bar cat liked it and settled down for a snooze in one of the more comfortable bar chairs.

I can’t say that we’ll become regulars at Abaco – it is immaculately decorated and quite unique and definitely worth a visit, but it’s a bit too quiet and tasteful for us (not that the staff were fussy or pretentious – the service was excellent and very friendly). That’s probably because we’re not refined and are used to the almost manic chatter in the Canarian bars in town. Personally I think it’s better suited to a more mature clientele (hark at Peter Pan here) who enjoy a bit of style in sumptuously serene surroundings, but I could be being unfair here. We left at about midnight and the younger Canarians don’t get going till then, so it might have livened up a bit later.

Price wise, although €8 might seem a lot for a cocktail, they turned out to be more works of art than drinks and were served in huge goblets and looked two to three times the size of your average cocktail. And as for our wine, it was €3 a glass which, considering the uniqueness of the venue, live music and a complimentary goblet of mixed nuts which was refilled as soon as it was emptied, wasn’t bad value at all.

Aha, so this is where they get the fruit for the cocktails.

Aha, so this is where they get the fruit for the cocktails.

When I saw Tenerife Tattle’s post about ‘Tenerife Rafting Bikes’ I was intrigued. At first I imaged three wheeler bikes on big inflatable ball wheels bobbing about in the water, but then I saw Tenerife Tattle’s follow-up video and all was revealed.

And it looks like great fun. Personally I have no inclination to try to cycle up any of Tenerife’s steeply ascending roads (that’s why we wrote a driving guide and not a cycling guide) but careening down them with the wind in my hair and my jowls doing an astronaut re-entering gravity impersonation sounds like great fun and brings back memories of simple childhood pleasures. Although I’m pretty sure these bikes don’t shake, rattle and roll as much as my old boneshaker.

A word of warning though, think seriously about what shorts you wear. If the legs are too wide you’ll not only feel the wind in your hair, but you’ll feel the wind in your shorts as well (and not just as a reaction to the steep parts) and, as this old faded shot of Andy in Greece taken a few years ago proves, it really will be a case of ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’… and remember there is always, always someone behind you with a camera.

Why Cant I Get That Queen Song Out of My Head?

Yesterday saw the end of Tentación 2009, the gay, lesbian, transsexual and bisexual week in Puerto de la Cruz.

There had been a number of events over last week including ‘Pink Fiestas’ ‘White Nights’ the ‘Day of the Nudist’ (which took place behind closed doors, so god knows what went on there).

The week was rounded off by a Gay Pride Parade which livened up Avenida Familia Betancourt with rainbow cloured flags, 1970s glamour girl haircuts, and pouting beauty queens in dresses with plunging necklines and thigh exposing splits… the women in the parade seemed dull by comparison. Actually that’s not strictly true, but they were overshadowed, or even over eye-shadowed.

Here are a few shots from the day.

Ticker Tape Start to the Parade

Ticker Tape Start to the Parade

Wasnt this Guy in Live and Let Die?

Wasn't this Guy in Live and Let Die?

Maybe a Smile Would Crack the Make-up

Maybe a Smile Would Crack the Make-up

In Puerto its not only the girls who dream of growing up to be Beauty Queens

In Puerto it's not only the Girls who dream of growing up to be Beauty Queens

Check out some more piccies here.

This isn’t really about Lockerbie, but it is about being civilised.

I’m not patriotic or nationalistic; however some of the people from across the pond are pushing me to the point of painting my face blue and white and whipping out my Claymore.

I’ve got my own opinions about the release of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, but what has really got my back up about all this has been the sanctimonious over the top response from some Americans and the either seriously stupid, or blatantly hypocritical statements from the likes of Robert Mueller and Mike Mullen. I mean do we really have to take the following seriously.

“The suggestions that have followed – that there was an intermixing of Megrahi’s fate with British interests and oil exploration in Libya – are shocking.”

An American military commander shocked at the idea that dodgy decisions could be made because of potential lucrative business interests? Maybe he’s just naïve or maybe he’s truly shocked at the idea that a civilised nation like Scotland could possibly stoop to the sort of dirty dealings that the good ol’ U.S of A have been involved in for decades.

What has really concerned me is the vitriol coming out of America. It’s frightening in the extreme and doesn’t portray some Americans in a particularly pleasant light. The ‘Have Your Say’ debate on the BBC has comments which are a disgrace. I got caught up for about an hour yesterday reading in horror some of the things which were being said.

I really don’t respond well to someone telling me I should be ashamed to be Scottish, or that suddenly I’m an enemy because of a political decision which followed due Scottish legal process.

Comments have called for a boycott of Scottish goods, that Scots are cowards and Americans to cancel any holidays to the land of the purple hills. I’ve read that America should throw the UK (because some can’t differentiate between Scotland and the UK) out of NATO – really? I wasn’t aware that it’s up to them…what’s that? Oh yes, it isn’t.
I’ve just read that there’s even been a website set up called Boycott Scotland and the United Kingdom. What is wrong with these people? If we went off on one every time the US made a decision that we didn’t agree with we’d be up in arms every other day. But then maybe many American citizens aren’t aware of what their own government has gotten up to in the past.

The bottom line from many comments is that ‘you do what we want or you’re against us’. To me that sounds like bullying and threatening behaviour and makes me wonder about the stability of our so called friends to the west.

As it happens I’m not ashamed to be Scottish, but if I was an American reading HYS I might be embarrassed to hail from the so called Land of the Free.

I’ve always believed that America and Scotland enjoyed a good relationship, even during difficult periods, such as the time that the US Air Force accidentally napalmed and machine gunned the hell out of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders on a hillside in Korea in 1950.

But it looks like there are those who still have trouble being able to tell their friends from their enemies.

(I needed to get this out of my system. I realise that most Americans probably aren’t reacting like Gung Ho GI Joes, there were some very sensible US based comments on HYS just as there were some stupid UK ones. Now I can maybe concentrate on something else)

“You can’t go out in that!” Andy had her hands on her hips; she meant business.

“Why? What’s wrong with it?” She was referring to an old T-shirt in whose company I felt as relaxed as if it were an old friend.

Sure the T-shirt was faded and maybe even slightly ragged here and there, but that gave it more street cred. For me wearing something that looks brand spanking new can be slightly naff. I used to fall into the trap of buying a new holiday wardrobe every time we went on holiday. So that from the moment I stepped off the plane I smelled and looked like a shiny new person. The problem with this was that the clothes of all the most interesting people I ever met always had a faded, worn look. You felt that you could sit down with one of their T-shirts alone and it could tell you a whole load of fascinating yarns.

Therefore, the more faded my clothes become, the closer I come to reaching a windswept and interesting nirvana – that’s what I told myself anyway. The truth is, if you’re Charlie Brown, you’re Charlie Brown.

In the year before we moved here I stocked up on what I thought were ‘travellers’ type clothes. For 6 years most of them have remained in my wardrobe relatively unworn except for their annual Carnaval outing when, devoid of inspiration, we dress up as hippies. I’m a suit person at heart really, yet I’ve never worn one here – it’s too hot despite what anyone will tell you about the north of Tenerife. So most of the time it’s T-shirts and light pants; although since Casino Royale  I’ve decided that Daniel Craig’s smart but coolly casual style is right up my street. Anyway I digress.

“What’s up with it?”

“That. That’s what’s up with it,” Andy pulled at the bottom of the T-shirt and held it out so that I could see.

There was a line of holes, each progressively bigger than the last. Daddy moth, mummy moth and the kids had obviously had a right old meal.

“Oh… I hadn’t noticed those.”

It was a feeble excuse; you could stick your finger through the biggest of the holes.

“You need some new clothes.”

“I’m sure I bought some new T-shirts not so long ago,” you can take the boy out of Scotland, but you can’t take Scotland out of the boy. The idea of spending money on something as frivolous as clothes brought me out in a sweat.

We did a quick calculation and worked out that it was over two years since I’d bought any T-shirts (I’ve had ones since, but as presents), so an emergency trip to La Villa shopping centre in La Orotava was arranged.

An hour later I emerged with 2 polo shirts and 1 T-shirt from Zara; 2 T-shirts from Springfield and a pair of trousers from Pull & Bear.

And the total cost? €30 – those sort of prices I can live with.

Now I’ll have to wear them about the house for a few weeks before I go out in public to get rid of that shiny new look.

This simply little ditty is more relevant to the days when I did the Dolly Parton thing, but there are still traces left…

Ode to the Weekend

Friday’s Fun
Saturday Smiles
Sunday Slumbers
Monday Moans

Inspired by wild lavender bloom and washing up

Delicate Balance

Four flighty faeries dancing deliciously on my draining board.
Tiny creatures with features almost too small to make out.
Clinging lilac and purple gossamer chemises hint
Of vixens with innocent smiles.

Curious place to swirl and skip
Amidst the crusty pans and greasy plates.
Their graceful, imperceptible movements hypnotise me.
I stand transfixed, until one waves… I think.
I wave back, forgetting the bottle in my hand.

A green jet blasts their delicate frames from the board.
And, drenched like protesting Parisian students,
My friendly faeries slide down the plughole.
Their dance abruptly over.

Mortified, I stare accusingly at the plastic bottle in my hand
As though it had acted with malicious intent,
Independently, destructively.
The label reads Fairy Liquid

…well it had to be really.

That header might be a bit misleading; hairdressers on Tenerife are generally very good. I mean have you seen Canarian girls’ hair… beautiful and wonderfully conditioned. Oops, came over all a bit Toni & Guy there.

I keep on meaning to ask how other ex-pats cope with a visit to the hairdresser. It’s one of those million little things that you don’t think about when moving to another country – how to tell the hairdresser what you want in another language. Not that it’s a real problem for me. ‘Tres con la maquina aqui, aqui y aqui y casi lo mismo arriba’. Probably not technically correct, but way over the net and I don’t tend to emerge with something which looks as though it was cut with blunt scissors which is what used to happen on the island I grew up on.

One of the main problems I have with my hairdresser in La Villa in La Orotava is the mirrors. They are the least friendly mirrors I have ever had the misfortune to look into. By the time the hairdresser asks me how I want my hair cut, I feel like replying ‘just pass me a razor for my wrists and let’s be done with this once and for all.’

The situation isn’t helped by the fact that by the time I eventually give in to Andy’s repeated ‘it’s really time you got your haircut… you’ve got Jose Mourinho hair’ (unfortunately I don’t have his Latin good looks to go with it), it’s a right mess. So the face looking back at me from the mirror looks as though it’s wearing a Carnaval wig. I can almost hear the mirror chuckle with evil glee as it goes to work highlighting my flaws and magnifying them for all the people in the peluqeria to see.

After the hair it’s my face, which seems to have turned a similar colour to my hair and dead-for-a-week grey isn’t a particularly attractive look.  The bags under my eyes look as though they could comfortably hold the week’s shopping. It doesn’t look as though I’ve shaved for days and the hobo bristle is a weird mixture of grey, black and… ginger! But worst of all this time was the discovery of a strange black growth on my bottom lip.

“What the… ?” and suddenly the hypochondriac in me was off and running.

I immediately moved closer to the mirror and pulled and twisted my lip to get a better look. There was definitely a worrying stain that I’d never seen before. The sign of some disease which was probably going to result in half my face falling off.

At least it distracted me from the horrors of having my hair cut until it was all over and I rushed out to find Andy.

“There’s something really odd on my lip,” and I started gurning again in the middle of La Villa.

Andy couldn’t see anything and when I got home and checked it out in the mirror in our house, there was nothing there.  I’m telling you, hairdressers’ mirrors are evil. You’d think hairdressers would do something about this. Surely it can’t be good for business? You’re supposed to look good after you get your haircut, not like a circus freak (no offence to circus freaks).

Anyway, I’m off to the graveyard to find a vampire so I don’t have to go through this again.

By the way the mirrors in the men’s toilets in Zakynthos airport are fantastic. They are the only mirrors that I ever remember looking into and thinking ‘wow, you look good’. But that was over 20 years ago and I had a golden tan at the time… I miss those mirrors.

Hands up, who saw anything? To paraphrase Jim Royle of The Royle Family:

‘Perseids meteor shower my arse.’

At around half past midnight last night, Andy and I lay on our backs on the front terrace and stared up into a slightly cloudy sky. As we waited the cloud cover broke and the sparkling stars began to shine through… but no meteors.

It was quite calming lying there staring at the stars, well it was until Whiskas spotted us from wherever it is he lurks at night and decided Andy’s hair was worth eating in the absence of anything in his bowl.

It would have been a beautifully quiet night apart from the fact that I could hear Jesús somewhere in his garden spouting hippy drippy nonsense to somebody on his mobile. Further along the garden, his sister was on her mobile taking orders for clothes, booze and fags from friends back in the Basque country (everything is much cheaper here than where they come from).

We lay there for about half an hour without seeing zilch, before we gave up and left Hippy Harry and Shopaholic Sharon to their various conversations.

We’ve seen plenty of shooting stars from our terrace, just never when the news websites tell us they’re going to happen.

I’ve just read a Spanish newspaper report about an investigation into Canary Islands’ president, Paulino Rivero who was accused of trying to ‘Jim’ll Fix it ‘ a job for his niece with the police force in Arona.

I have to say that when I read this I was shocked to the core… by the fact that it was considered newsworthy.

Call me Mr Cynical, but I thought good jobs going to family and friends etc was standard practice here. I’d have been more shocked to read a report about somebody landing a job through merit!!

Another report kept me reeling. It was about the authorities on Gran Canaria being outraged by a programme on national Spanish TV. They wanted an apology over the way Gran Canarians were portrayed in the show which reports bite sized snippets from Spain’s popular coastal resorts.

I watch this show, it’s one of the more enjoyable of Spanish TV programmes, and I can’t say I noticed anything particularly offensive. Gran Canaria’s outrage seemed to be because the programme showed obese topless local women and lads messing around on the beach.

Well, there are obese topless women on the beaches and the fact that Gran Canaria is embarrassed about this is, frankly, quite disturbing. There were scenes of topless and bottomless women, and men, shown on beaches all over Spain. Gran Canaria didn’t particularly stand out. In fact the only slightly embarrassing part of the programme was when they filmed in the ‘Brit’ spots at night and even that wasn’t anywhere near as damaging as I’ve seen on UK TV. But the authorities on Gran Canaria obviously weren’t concerned about how the Brits were portrayed.

It struck me, not for the first time, that they clearly haven’t a clue about how the most ‘touristy’ parts of the islands are portrayed on British TV. If the Canarian authorities thought that Spanish programme was bad, watching a couple of episodes of something like ‘Tenerife Uncovered’ would really blow their minds.