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.

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Comments
  1. Les Bedell says:

    Your writings cheer my soul. You capture the magic of Tenerfie so well both in your prose and your photographs. The island must be proud to have you as an adopted son. Although we have never met I share so much of the joy that you portray.

    • dragojac says:

      Thanks Les, that’s a very kind thing to say and a great motivator. I really, really appreciate your comments.

  2. I so know what you mean, Jack. It’s been 24 years this month, and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve fallen out and back in love with Tenerife. It usually happens when, like you, I’ve been away and had a taste of a life where things work as they should and people are efficient and amiable with it, and keep their word and appointments. Then I meet, unexpectedly, someone who completely refreshes my ideas, often someone creative or scientific (like your experience at the barbecue), but sometimes a committed teacher or doctor, or even, last year, a member of local town hall staff, who believed in his work (he worked for the environmental department).

    I’ve left 3 times in those 24 years, but never stayed away for more than four months at a time. Nowhere is perfect, so there is something we have to put up with wherever we choose to live.

    • dragojac says:

      I totally agree that nowhere is perfect. Tenerife’s good qualities far outweigh its bad ones. My view is that if I wasn’t involved in any Tenerife business dealings or reliant on the Island’s authorities being open, transparent and efficient regarding their business practices Tenerife would seem close to being perfect in many ways – ignorance is bliss and all that.

      Costa Brava did unsettle me for sure, On my recent trip to the UK I was mainly met with super efficiency and high levels of customer service. Everything operated seamlessly from train journeys to hotels to bars and restaurants. Maybe I got lucky, but over the space of a week I was able to park the ‘contingency’ plan that I carry about in my head these days for when things don’t pan out as planned. Funnily, I wasn’t unsettled this time when I returned – even though one of the first people I encountered was a truly miserable bus driver who made a mockery of the whole Tenerife Amable term. The difference was that I haven’t had any dealings with blingville or antiquated business practices since I got back. Aaah bliss 🙂

  3. Sonja Kennington says:

    So glad to hear you´ve rediscovered your passion for the island. And that photo of the guy dragging his goats into the sea is just amazing. Thanks for sharing.

    • dragojac says:

      Thanks Sonja, I didn’t like that photo at first because of the framing, but I loved the way he was tackling two of the big guys at once.

  4. Nikki says:

    I find the opposite I need to go away to remember why I love my adopted home so much.
    We are in Gran Canaria right now where things seem to be even more chaotic than at home.

  5. Richard says:

    Like you, I love this island and the main reason is that after travelling the world I realise that Tenerife encapsulates much of what I love elsewhere (Caribbean, S America, Africa, Europe) in a wonderfully compact, accessible package: mountains, forests, fantastic surf beaches, vibrant towns, wonderful food, near perfect weather … all here, all within easy reach. It may not be Numero Uno in any one category … eg if you want to visit a full-on city you’d choose NY, Paris, London (or Manchester :-)) rather than St Cruz. If you want even better surf / beaches you’d maybe choose Hawii or Australia. There are bigger, more impressive mountains … but where else are so many of these ranked so high in the World’s Top Ten and yet all within a couple of hours in a car (at most) ?

    Where I disagree with you, and this is probably just a splitting hairs, philosophical kind of disagreement, is in your credo that the ‘Real Tenerife’ is the Canario version. If you speak to a born-&-bred city slicker from St Cruz they may think that a sweaty rural romario is as alien as say the Las Americas sea-front is to them (and to me !) … or as is say an orchestral concert in the Auditorio or an art exhibition at the TEA to a farmer showing off his bulls at the romario.

    The reality is that in this island of contrasts, there really is no ‘Real Tenerife’ … or rather – it’s ALL REAL ! It’s the wealth of contrast that makes the place so amazing, even the bits you don’t like.

    When it comes to stuff not working, and non professional ‘professionals’ – I know what you mean. I’m lucky not to have to deal with too much of it. It would probably get very frustrating if I did … but I have been to plenty of places where it’s actually far worse. Try say dealing with officials / professionals in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, or India, or just try driving around a place like Rome. Nope, I think Tenerife is OK … far from being efficient, but a long way from being ‘Third World’.

    • dragojac says:

      “Where I disagree with you, and this is probably just a splitting hairs, philosophical kind of disagreement, is in your credo that the ‘Real Tenerife’ is the Canario version.”

      Aha…now where did I say that the Real Tenerife was the Canario version? 🙂 In this case I wasn’t actually talking about a place or any particular nationality – I was talking more about an attitude that leaves me cold because of its falseness, insincerity and shallowness… i.e. it’s just not real. So the post was about people rather than places.

      But it’s an interesting point about the ‘Real Tenerife’. Clearly it’s all real, but we use the phrase because, as you and I both know, the Tenerife that the majority of Brits know about (thanks to TV and one dimensional travel writing) is the one that was purpose built for tourism. The use of the word ‘real’ isn’t meant as a criticism of any purpose built resort, but as a mechanism to differentiate by trying to build a new mindset…to convince people that there is more to Tenerife than one small geographical area.

      Ironically, there aren’t really areas on Tenerife I don’t like. There are places that just don’t do it for me, but that’s purely from a personal preference point of view. It is and always will be people’s attitudes, ignorance and unwillingness to learn (and that last bit applies in a lot of circumstances) that gets my goat.

      I have to confess though that the use of the term ‘that other place’ at the end was intended as a hook 😉

  6. Sonja Kennington says:

    @Richard:

    “The reality is that in this island of contrasts, there really is no ‘Real Tenerife’ … or rather – it’s ALL REAL ! It’s the wealth of contrast that makes the place so amazing, even the bits you don’t like.”

    I think you really hit the nail on the head there. I couldn´t agree more.

  7. Richard says:

    I had another thought on this … basically Tenerife is just too fantastic a place to waste time thinking about work, getting good at it, or working 🙂 That’s why people can get a bit complacent, or lazy here. They just can’t be arsed when the sun’s shining, the surf’s up, the mountains are etched against an azure sky, the fish are biting, the bbq’s lit and a cold Dorada beckons.

    So they go fishing, surfing, drinking, having a siesta in the sun, whatever … and it’s just tough if you actually expected them to turn up when they said they would 🙂

    If you live in a place like Manchester there’s just so much greater incentive to get good at your work, when you look out of your office window and it’s grey dismal drizzle most of the time.

    • dragojac says:

      “So they go fishing, surfing, drinking, having a siesta in the sun, whatever … and it’s just tough if you actually expected them to turn up when they said they would ”

      Sounds like Nirvana…except for two things. 1) The need to earn the filthy lucre: Which is why when the inefficiency of others impacts on that it’s all the more annoying. 2) Personally I like work (it’s a Scottish Presbyterian thing) 🙂 I can’t, and don’t want to, switch off from who I was before I moved here.

      But I agree with what you’re saying and think it does influence how things are conducted – by some. Many people are basically just on an extended holiday. Nothing wrong with that of course that unless they’re kidding themselves on about why they’re here and just playing at being in business.

      Funnily enough a friend who’s been here since he was five has just returned to the UK for the sake of his family. He was working till the early hours most nights for most of his adult life just to survive and never had any time to spend with his wife and children. Not everyone can afford to have a ‘can’t be arsed’ philosophy.

      Drizzle and Manchester…like an olive to a martini. Delicious 🙂

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