Archive for July, 2011

Comments on my last blog got me thinking about this term, the Real Tenerife, that we use – a lot.

In finest Carrie Bradshaw fashion I couldn’t help but wonder what exactly we meant by it.

I suppose that to classify areas of Tenerife as the Real Tenerife implies that other parts aren’t. Surely that must be nonsense? Clearly if it exists it’s real? Well yes and no, depending on how you look at it.

The Mona Lisa is real, but then so is a fake Mona Lisa. But it isn’t exactly the genuine article. In that respect you could argue that the fake isn’t real.

When we decided to label our series of guides, websites, blogs etc. under the umbrella term the Real Tenerife we did it for a very specific reason.

The majority of visitors to Tenerife are interested first and foremost in the weather and that means that most British visitors head to the purpose-built resorts of the south of Tenerife. Subsequently many British views of Tenerife are fashioned by their experience of this part of Tenerife. If you were to check out TripAdvisor or other English language forums you could be forgiven for not realising that much of Tenerife is actually populated by Canarios living in towns that most tourists rarely venture into. Ironically, if you were only to read Spanish papers on Tenerife you could easily be forgiven for thinking that Playa de las Américas didn’t exist. The British press haven’t really helped. Whenever some travel writers venture outside of the ‘new upmarket’ Tenerife that they’re so fond of writing about it’s invariably to Masca and Mount Teide – beauty spots that the world and his dog know about even though some journos try to give the impression that only they and the local goat have ever been there.

When we arrived on Tenerife and started exploring, much of the island was a complete and pleasant surprise. It was not the place that we had read about and seen on TV- or at least there was much, much more to it than that. It certainly wasn’t just the purpose built holiday resort we’d been led to believe it was. That did and does exist, but it is in the geographical minority.

The reality was that much of Tenerife was a place where people lived, loved, worked and partied outside of the world of tourism. A place where culture and traditions were not only alive, but alive and kicking like a bucking bronco. It was a place with a fascinating history that stretched back as far as America’s and beyond. In summary, it wasn’t simply purpose built for hedonistic fun, it was real.

Hence the birth of Real Tenerife (plus real means royal in Spanish and we kinda liked that interpretation too). We make no apologies for continually using it, especially as it’s not meant as a criticism of anywhere on the island. Playa de las Américas is the consummate holiday destination for anyone seeking fun, sun, good restaurants and a lively, diverse nightlife. But it was built purely for tourism and subsequently there is nary a trace of Tenerife in the place. And again that’s not a criticism just an observation – I defend Las Américas constantly as it often receives unfair, biased and misinformed criticism from those who view it purely as Veronica’s.

But the point about the Real Tenerife tag is that it is meant to attract people like ourselves. People who like to taste the cultural differences in the places they visit…even if they happen to be based in a purpose built resort. It’s a nod and a wink that what we’re talking about in the main are the authentic Canario experiences. These cover an incredibly broad geographical and experiential range from rough ‘n’ ready agricultural fiestas to sleek city sophistication. We don’t care who’s doing what, we’ll go check it out – we’re experience junkies – and then we’ll share it.

So we’ll continue to harp on about the Real Tenerife because we believe discerning travellers coming to Tenerife want to know about it. In fact it’s time for the Real Tenerife brand to evolve.

Watch this space.

The sad truth is that I fell out of love with Tenerife in June 2011. But I didn’t realise I’d fallen out of love with the place…until it charmed me back again.

Saying I’d fallen out of love with Tenerife is a bit misleading. Whatever happens in the future, Tenerife will always hold a special place. It wasn’t the island I was tired with, it was some of the people who inhabit it.

I can trace the problem back to our trip to Costa Brava in early May. There we met professional, forward looking and ethical people who put themselves second to what was best for the location they were promoting.

It highlighted for me that this isn’t always the case on Tenerife. On returning to the island this growing dissatisfaction with how things and businesses are run here was added to by an unfortunate sequence of experiences. The sad thing about Tenerife is that I now expect a lack of knowledge and professionalism…and I’m rarely disappointed. There are examples of business practices here that would be laughed out of any serious business in the more savvy parts of Europe. People who don’t turn up for appointments or worse, bugger off somewhere when they’ve made an appointment don’t appear big or important to me. They come across as unprofessional and incompetent. Busking doesn’t make me think they’re knowledgeable and flashing bling doesn’t impress it merely makes me think that the person hasn’t a clue about what they’re talking about and that they’re crass.

When you’re used to dealing with highly professional people, as we were before we moved to Tenerife, dealing with people who employ the business tactics above is just depressing as hell. So, after an unusual run of experiences related to the above, by the middle of June I was well and truly hacked off with the place.

There’s a story super video blogger Diego Pons told me recently about sheep standing in the way of the Transcantábrico luxury train in Asturias. The train driver blared his horn but the sheep didn’t move. He hit the horn again and again, but still they stood on the track, their blank eyes staring at the oncoming train until it ploughed straight into them. They were too dumb to move out of the way of what was inevitable. Sometimes business dealings on Tenerife remind me of those sheep.

But then came the week beginning with the 23rd June. And what happened that week swept all the buskers and bling brigade under the carpet.

A sultry night in Santa Cruz listening to wild man Andy J. Forest growl his way through spicy Louisiana blues whilst swigging from can after can of beer, playing a harmonica and what looked like my mother’s washing board as well as entertaining us with tales of nonsense brought me back. Santa Blues reminded me what I’d been dealing with over the previous few weeks wasn’t the real Tenerife.

The next morning I dragged myself out of bed to watch goatherds and caballeros from the Orotava Valley drag their livestock kicking and screaming into the harbour waters of Puerto de la Cruz.

The following evening at a music festival I stood beside an old fort at Playa Jardín as the sun illuminated Mount Teide. It was a sight that caused one of the performers at the European Music Day concert to gasp and proclaim it was the most beautiful setting for a concert she’d seen.

A day later I was at my neighbour’s Moroccan barbecue with people who were the antithesis of those who’d caused me to fall out of love with Tenerife; a Canarian teacher from La Camella with her two talented sons; one of whom was a musician/painter the other a marine biologist with his charming wife. They were smart, witty, interesting and interested and despite their obvious talents possessed absolutely no airs and graces.

A few days after that I was strolling the streets of La Laguna admiring the Corpus Christi flower carpets when a girl engaged me in conversation because I was photographing her friend’s alfombra. We debated (me poorly as it was in Spanish) whether La Orotava’s or La Laguna’s flower carpets were the best whilst people around us ooh’d and aah’d at the displays. I’m never completely comfortable talking in Spanish, but I felt more comfortable on that old street than I had during the first part of the month when most of the dealings had been in my own language.

By the end of the week these experiences reminded me why I feel so passionate about Tenerife. The antidote to falling out of love with Tenerife had been to dive deep into the real Tenerife once again and completely cleanse my body and soul of that other place.

We returned from Britain to discover that some strange creatures had taken up residence in the trees around the house. When we stumbled home at 3am on Thursday after a 10 hour journey we were met by haunting calls piercing the darkness from at least three different locations. They carried on throughout the night until daybreak.

Thursday night was exactly the same, some of the calls sounded as though they were coming from directly outside our bedroom window. It’s wonderful that we live in a place where nature can make itself known but hell, these ‘moans’ were a bit disconcerting.

A bit of internet research came up with the answer (I think). These are possibly female owls left on the nest whilst Mr Owl has buggered off somewhere (men…eh?). She’s calling for him to return. We’ve always had a big owl that swoops past the window every so often scaring the bejesus out of us, but from the sounds the other night it looks as though he’s moved in the extended family whilst we were away. Not that we’re complaining, the sight of an owl is always magical.

I tried to capture the sound on video, but by Friday two of the creatures had stopped calling. There’s nothing to see (it was dark) but hopefully this gives an idea of what we’re sharing the night with. BTW, the other noises are just the resident frogs – much more soporific.

The last week in June on Tenerife was a right bugger, it was event rich with some of our favourite concerts and fiestas overlapping. Not only that, a trip to Britain coincided with La Orotava’s Corpus Christi flower carpets, the start of the Heineken Jazz Y Más festival in Puerto de la Cruz and another La Orotava fave, the Romería de San Isidro.

There was nothing I could do about the jazz festival or the romería but the flower carpets were a different matter. La Orotava receives all the plaudits but there are plenty of others across Tenerife. La Laguna’s may not be quite as elaborate as La Orotava’s but there are more of them and the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site old quarter gives La Orotava’s streets a run for their money in the looks dept.

So on a blistering hot Sunday (yes, it does get hot in La Laguna) I negotiated the former capital’s narrow streets and lack of parking for a different view of the flower carpets of Tenerife and was pleasantly surprised by what I found there. Here are some images of a floral and sand display that is still overlooked by many and is possibly, what Laguneros claim anyway, a more relaxed and fun event.

As it turned out the weather wasn’t kind to La Orotava for the second year running anyway and I did manage to steal some time to get a few shots of the near completed main sand tapestry outside of the town hall on the eve of Corpus Christi before I left for Blighty the next day.