Archive for April, 2010

Food Missile Attack

Admittedly there’s a bit of poetic licence in the title. The way to escape the big horny bovines in Tegueste is to simply step out of their way as they lumber through the streets pulling imaginatively decorated carts.

Yesterday was our second visit to the Romería de San Marcos in Tegueste and it’s rapidly becoming my favourite romería on Tenerife. As romerías go, Tegueste’s offers something a little bit different. Although every member of the family, from tottering abuelas to tiny tots and the pet dog, is kitted out in traditional cossie, the overwhelming atmosphere at Tegueste’s fiesta is a young and vibrant one. It’s almost part trad fiesta and part carnaval.

This was my favourite float design.

Another difference with this fiesta is the design of the processional carts. In most romerías these are beautifully decorated, but in Tegueste they also reflect traditional life in these parts.

We’re experienced enough Tenerife fiesta goers to know that although we illegally parked when we arrived, half on half off the pavement, within 20 yards of a couple of Guardia Civil officers, we wouldn’t return to the car to find a parking ticket – we hoped. Normal rules go out of the window on fiesta days.

We’re also experienced enough to know that there’s no point finding the perfect spot for an uninterrupted view of the procession, because as soon as it starts, Canarios in their droves swamp your position. I used to devise strategies to try to outmanoeuvre them, but in the end have had to admit defeat and now we stand back and let my 150 mm camera lens get me closer to the action.

Even that’s not foolproof. In a crowd of people who make me look as though I could be a basketball player, the tallest Canario in the world will always stand in front of me. And so it was yesterday. This guy was also inexplicably linked to my lens so that no matter what direction I pointed (left, right, down, up etc), he moved to block my shot even though he wasn’t aware of my existence.

I wasn’t bothered. After the first circuit of the procession and the bulk of the boiled eggs, papas, popcorn, chunks of bread spread with chorizo paste and pork steaks were distributed to the excited crowd, I knew it came around again. By the second time most people have headed to the main plaza so I could click away at will whilst Andy had her pick of the last of the food goodies being handed out by the carts’ occupants.

Drowning in a sea of fun...

After the procession, the party moved to Tegueste’s pretty church and square where the rear of the plaza is lined with kiosks selling beer, rum and pinchos – three essential fiesta ingredients. There’s a real juxtaposition here. At the church in the front of the plaza, a statue of San Marcos is carried thorough the crowd to the sound of church bells. At the back, thousands of young fiesta goers, most wearing their particular traditional costumes (representing different islands) with style and pride, bump and grind to thumping dance music.

We opted to hang with the younger homechicos at the back of the church. We made our way through the dancing masses, squeezed in at the bar at one of the kiosks and ordered a beer and a couple of pork pinchos. For once the music was dance we recognised and chicos and chicas gyrated energetically in the hot sunshine (Tegueste is often hot and humid, despite being a hop, skip and a jump from La Laguna and its ‘cooler’ weather).

Almost at the same time Andy and I turned to each other and said:

“Fantastic – actual dance music for a change,”
and by doing so clearly jinxed the DJ’s choice of music.
Within another couple of tracks, dance was replaced by the usual electro salsa, sending the crowd into a bigger frenzy

However, despite me moaning about the music at fiestas on Tenerife always being salsa, salsa and more salsa, the atmosphere in Tegueste was so infectious that it was impossible not to be completely seduced by it.

By the time we left at 5pm, the party was in full swing and it was tempting to stay, but we had the car…and I was desperate to see if we really had escaped the wrath of the Guardia Civil.

Click Here For More Photos of the Fiesta

Hummus for lunch, falafel for dinner,
An explosive chickpea combo,
That’s bound to make me thinner.

Recently we went on Tenerife’s version of a white knuckle ride a.k.a the road to Masca. Actually now I don’t think of it as a white knuckle ride at all, I think of it as one of the most amazing drives I’ve ever experienced anywhere. Coming across the brow of the hill at the Cherfe mirador is one of Tenerife’s ‘must do’ experiences. As the road twists and turns in tight loops downwards through an ancient landscape the views are epic to say the least. This is a high definition landscape.

A Serious Case of the Bends

However, quite a number of people are put off by the idea of driving on such a road – in fact I regularly read stories about people being nervous about driving on Tenerife’s roads in general, especially the ones through the hills. There’s really no need. I love driving on Tenerife’s roads (well apart from the motorway which just bores me) – it feels like real driving. Twisting roads which demand your full attention and inclines on switchbacks which have you going through the gears like Colin Montgomerie (no relation – different spelling). And therein possibly lays the issue. A lot of driving in Britain now can almost be done on autopilot; there are numerous occasions I arrived home in Stockport at the end of the working day without remembering driving all the way from Salford Quays.
A friend recently compared driving on Tenerife to driving between Manchester and Liverpool.
‘I think I only had to make about two turns in the whole journey,” he commented.

A couple of years ago I watched another friend play eenie meenie mo with the gears as he struggled to pick the right one. His driving in Britain was mainly town and motorway. Tenerife’s multitudinous corners and tight turns were an unfamiliar novelty.

Driving up from Puerto de la Cruz to Mount Teide last Monday we encountered a few people who were clearly similar. They’d floor the pedal to the metal on the straights (not that there are many) but when they reached a corner (of which there are lots) they’d nearly come to a complete stop to negotiate it. It’s quite a common occurrence; some people have a problem with left handed corners, some with right and some both. I think this is as a result of being used to mainly town driving. Having driven in the highlands of Scotland, Devon and Cornwall and the Brecon Beacons I personally don’t think that there’s a great deal of difference between driving in those places and driving on Tenerife – in fact I can still remember one corner in Wales where I had to do a three point turn to get around it.

So what I’m saying is that stories regarding the difficulty of driving on Tenerife’s roads can be a bit overplayed. In reality the older roads through the hills are usually quiet and you’re more likely to encounter locals driving ridiculously slowly (it’s mostly older guys on these roads who aren’t in a hurry to go anywhere) than speed freaks. If you enjoy driving, you should find them a joy – once you get to grips with driving on the right.

Admittedly though the Masca is a bit different; a bit special. I can recall exactly what I said the first time I came over that brow at Cherfe. It was “Oh shit!”

Just when we thought it was all over, we get another storm warning for high winds. The worst were due to be at high altitudes, but gusts of 80 kph were forecast for the coast.

Whilst we tweeted about gloriously hot weather all week and oodles of sunshine, to scepticism from certain southern quarters who shall remain nameless, we waited for the inclement weather to hit, reading reports of rain in various parts of the island.

Well the inclement weather hit last night in the form of a loud howling wind which made sleep a bit of a fantasy. In truth the gusts were nowhere as strong as February’s, but what they lacked in strength, they made up for in noise aided and abetted by the cat’s accompanying wailing – ‘let me innnnnn, let me innnnnnn…’

Because of the direction the wind was coming from (SW) it was also hot and the sky was crystal clear showing a busy sea of sparkling stars. If I hadn’t been so knackered I might have appreciated their beauty a bit more at 4am.

This morning we woke to sunshine again, the lightest of April showers despite there being hardly any clouds (although to the west we could see some quite angry formations lingering), a rainbow arcing from Los Realejos to the sea and fresh snow on Teide.

And for all those doubters out there, here are the photos to prove that it is still sunny in Puerto de la Cruz.

Now if only I could find that pot of gold...

April and more snow on Teide

Nouvelle Cuisine – Looking Good Enough to Eat
After the tapas in the petrol station we went upmarket for our next meal. Dinner on the Tuesday evening was at the super chic Watermelon in San Telmo, Los Cristianos with John, Chris and Alan.
It’s a really nice venue overlooking Las Vistas beach; the presentation of the food complemented the views. Andy had salmon whilst I chose revuelta con chistorras y champiñones –  basically a posh way of saying scrambled eggs, sausage and mushrooms. So ostensibly I had opted for the all-day breakfast, but as created by a chef with Picasso tendencies. It’s an attractive restaurant and the food was nicely prepared and presented, but the service although friendly was a bit hit and miss.

Lunch in Isla Baja
Breakfast on Wednesday morning was basically coffee at the Pearly Grey Resort. We had to stop off at Playa de la Arena and Masca, so wanted to head off sharpish. By the time we’d finished our business and had driven in and out of Masca (that road never fails to WOW me, it’s incredible – I love it) we arrived at Buenavista del Norte at around 2pm with stomachs rumbling like angry volcanoes.
We stopped at the first restaurant we spotted, the Akabu Pizzeria I think it was called (Pamela from Secret Tenerife can put me right if I’m wrong here). It was a comfortable little restaurant just off the main road through the town. The only other people were a couple of workman having a liquid lunch. As we’d had a few drinks the night before, we felt a carb and sugar hit was in order, so a quatro estaciones pizza and two Fanta orange juices were ordered. It didn’t take long for it to arrive on the table and it was surprisingly good; a credit card thin crusty base and with lots of salami, ham and mozzarella cheese topping. It was exactly what the doctor ordered. Cost €11

Traditional Canarian Cuisine in Los Cristianos

The final meal out of the week was back in Los Cristianos on Thursday for a lunchtime meet-up with John, Chris, Alan and fellow bloggers and writers, Colin Kirby, Julie Hume and Joe Cawley. The menu was traditional Canarian, but I’ve got to admit to balking a bit when I saw the prices. The problem is when you know what items on a menu cost in restaurants in other parts of the island. The dishes on the menu were familiar, but the price was double what we’d normally pay in an equivalent establishment in many places outside the main tourist drag. You might think that the price hike is because the restaurant is in a predominantly tourist area, but it was filled to bursting with Canarios. Andy and I ordered potaje de lentejas (a meaty lentil soup) followed by hake and one potato (Andy) and rabbit and rice (me) which I picked because it sounded like an odd combination. In truth it was rabbit paella. Chris also went for the rabbit…but his turned out to be more rice with a hint of rabbit as actual rabbit pieces were a tad on the scarce side.

When we asked for vino del país they brought us a rather fine bottle of local Arona wine. Up north you normally get a jug of earthy country wine from the owner’s own little vineyard. Both eminently quaffable, but also very different.
Overall the food was nicely cooked and the company good fun with the conversation veering from pearls of wisdom to enjoyable nonsense. The waiters did have that annoying knack of having an aversion to eye contact though, making trying to attract attention an almost impossible affair. I think at one point there were three sets of waving arms and we still failed.

It was interesting comparing eating in all those places on Tenerife over the last week. At every one the service was friendly, but funnily the least efficient establishments were probably the two most expensive. Similarly with the food. I wouldn’t say that the food at any wasn’t enjoyable – my least favourite was the rabbit and rice, but that was more down to me not picking well – but neither did it follow that the higher the price, the better the food.

Due to the demands of a hectic, but most enjoyably diverse schedule, we found ourselves eating out quite a lot last week – it’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.

The places we ate were incredibly varied, as were the prices, and included an eclectic selection of eateries in the north, east, south and west.

Junk Food Joy
First up was the Saturday evening before Easter Sunday. Having spent the afternoon with friends we still had to pick up a chicken for Sunday dinner. As it was 8pm we decided to head to La Villa shopping centre in La Orotava for the bird and then grab one of the seriously belly swelling pizzas at the Posada del Rey there. Normally we avoid shopping at La Villa on Saturdays. It feels as though everyone from the La Orotava Valley descends on the place; in short it’s manic. At 8pm on a Saturday evening it was pandemonium. Every table at every restaurant was taken and the Posada was closed. Feeling like Joseph and Mary we managed to squeeze in at the bar of La Oficina and ordered cheeseburgers, fries and a couple of beers. Their burgers are home made, big, beefy and as good as I’ve tasted anywhere. It was buzzing and watching the two waitresses zip about like blue-arsed flies made me feel tired on their behalf, but they cooked and kept everyone happy with super efficiency. Cost €8

Bocadillos Al Fuera
This one doesn’t really count, but it’s worth a quick mention. On Monday we headed up into the Mount Teide crater to map out a walk for one of our Island Walks routes. Sitting on top of the crater wall munching on home made bocadillos whilst devouring the incredible views was possibly the meal of the week.

Tapas at the Petrol Station
Having squeezed in as much work as we could on Tuesday morning we headed south to meet with John Beckley of Sorted Sites and Chris Clarkson & Alan Gilmour of Tenerife.co.uk. The meeting was at 1pm, so we decided to grab a quick bite en route in the cafe at the PCan petrol station near Tajao. These places are great; they’re always busy and full of customers shouting to be heard over the loud salsa music. We ordered ensaladilla rusa (huge portion), croquetas (potato and fish croquettes – a bit dry) and a bizarre one I hadn’t seen before; hot dogs and potatoes in a spicy sauce (surprisingly good). These were washed down with two steaming cups of black coffee that were strong enough to put hairs on your chest – basically amphetamine in a cup. I never slept for three days afterwards. In twenty minutes we were fed, watered and ready to hit the road again. Cost €11.

Continued in Eating Out on Tenerife – From Junk Food to Nouvelle Cuisine Part 2

Room with a View...and a balcony bigger than some houses

Having stayed in a number of hotels around the world we’ve got some preconceived ideas about what to expect when we step into a hotel room for the first time.

If it’s the Far East we expect a ‘WOW’ and nine times out of ten haven’t been disappointed. If it’s a city, we know we’re usually going to get something pretty functional. If it’s a resort in Europe it’s usually going to be perfectly nice, but generally speaking not up to long haul standards.

The places we’ve stayed in on the Canary Islands, apart from a couple of absolutely stunning old rural hotels and one place on La Palma which would make most doss houses seem luxurious, have tended to fall into the latter category.

This week we had a couple of meetings planned in the south of Tenerife with Chris Clarkson and Alan Gilmour from the groundbreaking new online travel site Tenerife.co.uk. We decided it would be wise to stay over rather than drive back and forward to Puerto de la Cruz and a friend recommended the Pearly Grey.

After a long hot day with Chris and Alan we headed to the Pearly Grey to check in. Okay I won’t lie to you – it was hardly heads down in a boardroom all day, part of it did involve cervezas on the terrace of the Mestizo bar, but we were a bit on the sweaty and grimy side by the time we opened the door to our room.

Now this is my sort of hotel room

I’ve read enough reviews about the Pearly Grey (Perla Gris) to know that it’s a popular resort that people return to year after year, but I wasn’t prepared for an apartment that was on a par with what we’d expect from the ones we’d stayed at on long haul trips.

You could say that it was large enough to swing a cat in, but in this case the cat would be of the king of the jungle variety. It was cool, bright and had one of those beds which just called out your name with an irresistible seductiveness.

If the apartment was the cake, the balcony was the cherry. It was big enough to land a helicopter – in fact the only thing bigger was the shimmering ocean which filled the horizon. For two pennies Andy and I would have stripped down to our underwear (we don’t normally bring swimming cosies to business meetings) and stretched out on the sun loungers. As it happened we were meeting up again with Chris, Alan and John Beckley for dinner, so the sunbathing was put on hold.

Instead we had to settle for relaxing in the sun at the stylish terrace for a short while. Then it was a body and soul reviving power shower, change of clothes and a strong coffee whilst we checked our email in one of the free WiFi zones.

Fall out of bed...and into a sun lounger

The room had been just perfect for recharging the batteries before our dinner date beckoned.