Keeping the Faithless at New Year in Puerto de la Cruz

Posted: January 4, 2011 in Life, Spain, Tenerife, Travel
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

New Year’s Eve in Puerto de la Cruz is Groundhog Day.

Every year the drill is this – people dress up to the nines; go out to eat; head to the main plaza at around 11.30pm; salsa a bit (unless you’re me, then you shift from foot to foot with no rhythm whatsoever); move to the harbour; eat 12 grapes when it’s midnight; make a lot of oooh and aaah noises at the firework display; drink cava until your head’s as fizzy as the stuff in your plastic glass; then salsa some more (after the cava even I believe I have rhythm) until you die…or dawn arrives.

Simple really.

With Andy wearing a vintage Red or Dead number (Sex and the City is great for coming up with new ways of making old clothes fashionable again) and me in a smart but casual jacket and jeans affair we joined the revellers in town.

The Ape in the Garden
We kicked off the night with neighbour Nicole and her son Sebastian at a little place in the fishermen’s district. Not the best joint in town, but decent enough fare.
Nicole is very French in a 50s Bardot sort of way. Seba on the other hand is straight out of the French Foreign Legion…possibly literally. We always have interesting discussions about life and politics in France and also about his experiences as a young ‘outsider’ growing up here. Nicole likes to talk about herself and ‘amour’ and gets tired if the subject moves onto something less mundane such as politics.
During the course of the meal there was a rather disturbing revelation – that we have an ape buried somewhere in our garden. It happened before we moved into the house and the story of how it got there is quite incredible (involving guns, police and broken noses) but I’m saving that for another time.

The Annual Grape Eating Fiasco
At 11.30pm we left the restaurant for the plaza, watched a few people salsa sexily (it’s really just public foreplay) to the live band, then moved to the harbour to get in place for the firework display and the annual grape eating fiasco.
If you don’t know about grape eating in Spain at New Year, it’s a good luck thing. As soon as the first bells chime for midnight, you eat one with each chime and down the last as midnight strikes…otherwise you might as well hide away in a cave for a year until the bad luck dissipates.
The trouble with this tradition in a más o menos culture is that no-one is ever sure when the first bell should chime (in Puerto it’s a firework for each chime) and this year there was a mini panic as the plaza clock struck midnight and there was no firework. Then someone on a balcony above us popped their party poppers, setting off an epidemic of premature grape eating in the crowd – but still no firework. Andy and I wobbled as people all around us broke, but we held our nerve even though Seba insisted it was midnight…and then, finally, the 12 single fireworks started their countdown and Andy and I gobbled our grapes furiously hoping good luck was assured for the next 12 months.

A Moment of Insomniac Elation
Nicole and Seba went home about 1am leaving Andy and I on our lonesome. The band in the square was replaced by a guy on a keyboard and his two dancing little girls. It’s difficult to describe them without sounding cruel, but I’ll just say the girls looked exactly like Gabby’s daughters in Desperate Housewives. It was an appalling act, so we took off for the clubbing area beside the old custom house. By this time the area was full of young girls in short, shiny, strapless evening gowns and lads in suits. Whereas the girls looked stylish and sophisticated, the local lads  still insist on sporting Derek Zoolander haircuts – it was a piss take guys – which doesn’t do them any favours at all.
Almost as soon as we got there familiar sounds sent a surge of adrenalin through our veins as the DJ pumped up the volume with the Faithless classic Insomnia. It made our night and our arms punched the air…for all of thirty seconds before the DJ reverted to the obligatory Latino beat.

Looking at the plague of Zoolanders around me it suddenly struck me why it’s always Latino, Latino and more Latino even in the clubbing areas. Whenever the DJ strayed from Latino, they were lost. They attempted to do something resembling salsa to the thumping dance beat before giving up and wandering away from the dance area. The only time they got really excited was when the Latino came back on and they were back in familiar territory.

It’s quite sweet in a way and I respect how traditions are maintained but Andy and I like a bit of international music now and again. We lasted until 3.45 by which time we were Latino’d to the eyeballs and it was time for the long walk home.

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Comments
  1. […] Keeping the Faithless at New Year in Puerto de la Cruz […]

  2. […] video’d snippets of the two sides to our NYE party so that anyone who has never experienced New Year’s Eve in Puerto de la Cruz can see what they’re missing and book now for 2011/2012. Oh, and in the interests of editing, […]

  3. zephyrliving says:

    One of my first boyfriends was South American, and I still practice the lucky 12 grape tradition, but I gave up walking around the block with an empty suitcase (which means you’d travel in the new year) after we broke up (it feels too silly to be the only one and it’s possibly not a safe practice in a big metropolitan area). Wondering what your night would have been like if you’d gone to Bar ;?

    • dragojac says:

      That’s a brilliant tradition. I used to get sent outside the door in Scotland with a lump of coal and a bottle of whisky. First visitor after midnight had to have both.
      God knows what Bar ; was like – probably sacrificed a chicken and drank its blood or something.

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