Archive for December, 2011

It seems mighty bizarre to book into a hotel we can see from our bedroom window. But this week we checked into the Hotel Las Águilas, a hotel you really can’t miss in Puerto de la Cruz as it sits atop one of two volcanic cones left in the La Orotava Valley.

A week’s half board at the hotel is the latest prize in our Tenerife Magazine holiday competition and if we’re going to recommend a hotel then we stay in it first so we can give first hand experience of what it’s like. This first hand experience is important to us…no that’s wrong, it’s essential.

Andy and I have long felt that the Achilles heel in Puerto relating to tourism is the hotels in the town, many of whom are in need of being dragged into the 21st century. Historic is quaint and you might even get away with old fashioned charm, but many of Puerto’s hotels don’t tick these boxes. They’re simply dated. I recently read a sharp piece of copywriting which cleverly described a hotel’s décor as being authentic 1960s. Well some of Puerto’s hotels have authentic 1980s décor.

Not so the Hotel Las Aguilas. It bucks the trend by revealing an individualistic style that mixes pop art and ethnic designs with what is simply an aesthetically pleasing style. It’s vibrant and a breath of fresh air and showed us that not all of Puerto’s hotels are doing the timewarp again.

The other myth the Hotel Las Águilas helps dispel is the one that I’d almost come to believe myself. In winter only ‘mature’ Northern Europeans holiday in Puerto de la Cruz.

The other guests in the hotel ranged from couples in their 20s upwards, with the average age being around 40-ish. Not exactly fitting the picture that is often painted. Of course, with each passing year ‘mature’ takes on a different meaning for me.

I was going to say that maybe the ‘mature’ tag might be related to British visitors as the majority of the hotel’s guests were not English speaking (mainly Spanish, German and Scandinavian). But as the bar I watched Man Utd see off Fulham (to the obvious chagrin of the Man Utd hating bar manager) was packed with Brits a lot younger than me, it seems as though that doesn’t apply there either.

In Puerto, and no doubt other places on Tenerife, if you go to bars that are popular with more mature visitors then guess what you’re going to find? On the other hand, if you go to different bars you find a totally different scene.

I hadn’t realised the same applied to hotels until the Hotel Las Águilas opened my eyes.

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The obvious answer is that Spanish dubbing is so bad that ripping out your ear drums with a butcher’s hook is kinder to those weird protrusions on the side of your head than subjecting them to The King’s Speech sounding more like Once Upon a Time in Meheeeco.

But that’s not the main reason.

There used to be two mainstream cinema complexes on Tenerife where you could catch the latest-ish movies in their original language; at La Villa in La Orotava and at Gran Sur in Costa Adeje. Each screened one V.O. (version original) a week. Sometimes the movie was good, sometimes it was bobbins.

The one in La Orotava didn’t last long; there’s just not a big enough audience for English language movies in the north of Tenerife.

The south of Tenerife is a different matter. In some municipalities up to 75% of the population are non-Canarios. Not all of these are English speaking, but there’s a massive percentage who are.

And yet every time I’ve been to the Gran Sur Cinema to watch V.O. There has been less than 10 other people in the cinema with me. Doesn’t matter how good the movie is, even the likes of Inception and The Adventures of Tintin didn’t bring in the English speaking crowds.

I just don’t get it. Andy and I think nothing of the 90 minute journey from Puerto de la Cruz to Costa Adeje if the movie warrants it. DVDs are wonderful, but you can’t beat watching BIG movies on the big screen. So, as most ex-pat residents on Tenerife live significantly closer to the cinema, why aren’t audiences bigger? It’s a mystery to me.

The apparent lack of support for the V.O has had me worried that it might be pulled (I say apparent because for all I know, the place is teeming on the days I’m not there).

Sure enough, for the last two weeks the V.O. movie has been absent from Gran Sur. They say that it might be back, but if they don’t re-introduce it I’ll be gutted.

I’ve been a massive fan of the movies since leafing through my mum’s Photoplays when I was knee high to a popcorn seller. I love movies and I especially get a thrill out of seeing them at the cinema.

And because I feel this way about films, I won’t watch dubbed ones.

You might think that as I live in Spain, I should watch movies in Spanish. I do…but only Spanish movies. I also watch French, Chinese, Brazilian, Swedish movies etc…all in their original language (with English subtitles of course).

Movies aren’t just about the visuals – without the performance of the actor, the movie is nothing. And that’s why dubbing is irritating in the extreme.

Dubbing lessens a movie (well maybe not one with Van Damme, Steven Seagal or Chuck Norris). You can’t tell whether a film is good or bad when you’re listening to some wooden performance from a professional dubber. Where’s the richness of voice? Where’s the emotion? Where’s the intonation or the subtlety in the performance? With dubbing you lose all of that…and subsequently you also lose the soul of the movie.

How can people who watch dubbed movies know how good an actor Leo DiCaprio or Brad Pitt is? The answer is that they can’t.

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold was on Spanish TV last week. I’d forgotten how delicious Richard Burton’s voice was. Imagine casting those rich vocals aside for some part-timer from Valencia with a voice that grates like nails down a board.

It would simply be a crime.

Puerto de la Cruz? Who the hell would want to take a holiday here? It’s cold all year – I have an igloo in my back garden; It never, ever stops raining – whereas folks in the south of Tenerife wear flip flops, I’ve got wellie boots. As for the people, what a weird language they speak and don’t get me started on the food; things with tentacles and all sorts of rubbish like that.

Honestly, trust me on this – I live there – stay away from Puerto de la Cruz.

After years of trying to convince people what it’s really like to live in or visit Puerto de la Cruz, I’ve decided to do a complete U-turn. There are a couple of reasons for this.

The first is more irritating than anything else. I can preach about Puerto de la Cruz until the cows come home, bed down for the night and start to dream of grassy meadows. But somebody visits the place on an excursion for 5 minutes and suddenly they know better – if they say it’s always cold, wet and cloudy, then it must be. What the hell do I know?

But the main reason is that, after witnessing an unusual situation involving pissed up young Brits making an ass of themselves a few weeks ago and then reading a couple of reviews on Tripadvisor this week, I really don’t want a certain type of Brit holidaymaker to believe that Puerto is warm and sunny all the year round – or for any part of the year. Simple as that.

Some people just aren’t suited to the north of Tenerife just as some people wouldn’t enjoy staying in the purpose built resorts in the south. The north is never going to ring their bells and these comments taken from a Tripadvisor review illustrate exactly why.

A seriously disappointed holidaymaker moaned about their hotel that –‘The staff at hotel were bad mannered,rude,hardly understood English language’ and even worse, the ‘entertainment that was on every night was Spanish and all the locals came in for a night out,nothing aimed at British people’.

Puerto itself fared little better as the reviewer continued their moan – ‘No British entertainment on in area either,just Spanish singers with Spanish locals sitting in all the seats’.

Their final piece of advice was ‘I would seriously urge anyone from the UK not to go to Puerto de la Cruz…as it will be the worst holiday you’l ever have.’

Absolutely…if the idea of being full of Spanish and having no Brit bars has you penning an ‘outraged’ letter to Puerto’s tourist board for not turning the place into Britain in the sun then please, please, please follow the reviewer’s advice.

It’s not just Puerto who has to suffer these Philistines. On the same day I read hotel reviews for La Gomera; an island ‘more discerning’ holidaymakers head for (or so some of them would like to have you believe) and came across a scathing review from a holidaymaker who, clearly having been seduced by a tour brochure description, had opted to stay in the hill town of Vallehermoso – which is a ‘real’ Gomeran town.

First they complained that their receptionist didn’t carry their bags (it’s a small rural hotel in the country, not a 4 star All Inclusive) then they bitched about breakfast (coming face to face with the continental variety was clearly a shock to the system). They commented that there were a few pubs but nothing special (PUBS? PUBS? Where did they think they were – the Lake District). But the most inconvenient aspect of the place was that families filled the local plaza at night, music was played and everyone had the nerve to have a noisy good time (obviously no-one had told them they would have to come into contact with any foreigners).

The best line of the review was their conclusion that ‘Vallehermoso is a total DUMP’ to be avoided at all costs.

Vallehermoso means beautiful valley in English – it is aptly named…but not if you’re a total moron. It has not, however, been built for tourists. It is the real deal. These plebs apparently couldn’t even find the hotel’s sun terrace they were that clueless.

Finally they were moved to the Hotel Tecina – ‘a lovely place’ where they decided that La Gomera was indeed beautiful…that would be the La Gomera found inside the biggest hotel complex on the island then.

So here’s a tip for everyone out there of similar mind to these two, Puerto de la Cruz and anywhere remotely Canario should definitely be avoided at all costs. You really won’t like it.