Archive for the ‘art’ Category

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.



I’ve been chained to my laptop for almost two straight weeks now trying to catch up with work. But, as always, that elusive finishing post stays way out of reach. I don’t really mind that part, it means that there are lots of projects on the go and that fact in itself keeps life spicy and interesting.

But, as I type, my feet are twitchy, I catch my fingers drumming out an impatient rhythm on the table and every so often my eyes drift from the screen to gaze longingly out of the window at some undefined spot in the distance. They want to be elsewhere…places new, doing things that thrill, educate and even scare them. For two weeks I’ve done nada except write and, as much as I love writing, I feel I’m going a bit cold turkey. I crave action and adventure and I want to meet new, interesting people. I’m desperate to do things that I haven’t done before and it’s making me terribly restless.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been spoiled by new experiences whilst gathering great material for our latest website Buzz Trips as well as other travel sites; some have been little things like eating Palamós prawns in a fishermen’s hut overlooking the most beautiful of bays at Tamariu or sitting on a rock in the Picos de Europa tasting blue cheese matured in a cave.

Others have been hi-octane experiences such as free-falling from the heavens above Costa Brava and manoeuvring through a sea cave in a zodiac to reach an enclosed lagoon in an uninhabited island near Lanzarote.

Then there’s been the moments of pure luxurious decadence that I’ll probably never get to experience again; wallowing in the comfort of a suite on the Transcantábríco as it gently chugs through the Asturian countryside and having my taste-buds pleasurably assaulted over and over again with 19 courses at the world’s second best restaurant, El Celler de Can Roca in Girona.

Possibly the most memorable experiences of all have been the people I’ve met. Apart from those who share an interest in…well everything. There have been those who impressed with their passion and commitment and reminded me that there are people out there who put their altruistic objectives before themselves.

Finally there were a couple of extra special individuals, people who are blessed with a quality that draws your attention to their every word like a moth to a flame – Ferran Adriá and Antoni Pitxot. Funnily, after I’d researched Ferran Adriá, hailed by many as the world’s greatest chef, I expected someone who might be annoyingly pretentious (blasphemous words in Catalonia) – instead I found a down to earth man with an zealous passion for his art whose eyes twinkled with amusement at our attempts to ask him questions he’d never been asked (except for maybe a zillion times before). But the person who made the greatest impression was painter and close friend of Salvador Dalí, Antoni Pitxot. Antoni Pitxot is an absolute sweetheart of a man; funny, open, talented, fascinating (this is a no-no word in writing terms at the moment but I’m using it anyway) and about as instantly likeable as a person can be.

A tour through Dalì’s house at Portlligat with Antoni Pitxot narrating and throwing out anecdotes galore was one of those extra special moments in life. He performed magic and brought Dalí back to life amidst the surreal décor.  It was an experience that will be difficult to top.

And that’s the thing. Having new experiences, great and small, is incredibly addictive. Once you unlock the door to that fact there’s no going back and, like any drug, you need to feed the desire on a regular basis.

It’s the reason why I could never spend a holiday simply lazing by a hotel pool. For me it is the key to what travel should be all about…even if the journey is only a few kilometres from your front door.

Anyone who’s walked past the wonderful sculpture of the fishwife in Puerto de la Cruz is already familiar with the work of Julio Nieto. But pretty though she is, she’s only the conventional tip of the iceberg when it comes to his creations.

Some of his other sculptures are products of a vivid and fantastical imagination that clearly knows no bounds. So it was with childlike delight that we discovered a street exhibition of his work in La Orotava’s plaza when we visited between Christmas and New Year.

I can’t do them justice with mere words, so I’ll let the images speak for themselves.

It was another stunning day in La Orotava and the flower carpets as always added a sea of vibrant colours to the already ridiculously picturesque old streets. But although the carpets were sensational, there were other things which caught my eye this year. Images and scenes which brought home to me the real essence of La Orotava’s rainbow coloured celebrations – the first was the sight of four toddlers sitting on the ground picking petals from  flowers.

Child Labour in La Orotava

Child Labour in La Orotava

The carpets are clearly the magnet for the thousands of people who visit La Orotava, but having photographed the carpets over the last few years, I was looking to try to take some different shots, so this year I focussed more on the people creating the flower carpets. definitely goes there!

" definitely goes there!"

I find them incredible to watch; each family member’s role is clearly defined from the most mundane snipping petals from flower heads to the careful placing of each individual flower to create evocative images. The younger kids are entrusted to carry bags of sacks, a bit of petal pulling and some laying the grass seeds in the less detailed sections…watched closely by the supervising abuelo who barks stern words when they get over enthusiastic. There are even individual carpets created solely by children. It really is an all round family affair which ensures that the tradition will be carried on ad infinitum.

A message of world solidarity...even if the Chinese person has an odd shaped head

A message of world solidarity...even if the Chinese person has an odd shaped head

The family atmosphere even extends to visitors and although by midday La Orotava is buzzing with people, the chances are that if you’re a resident of any nationality, you’ll bump into someone you know.  At various points we bumped into Colin Kirby (admittedly there aren’t many people with blond hair wearing a CD Tenerife shirt, so Colin’s hard to miss), Phil Crean (composing a photograph with a patience I just don’t possess) and our friend, Jose, who we hadn’t seen since last year’s carpets.
As Colin mentioned in his blog, an attempt to ‘storm the tower’ to get some aerial shots was thwarted. But at least we weren’t physically rebuffed like some overly keen young local lads who also tried to rush the entrance to the Iglesia de la Concepción’s tower.
Thanks to Jose, I did manage to get halfway up the tower at one point and snapped a few quick shots before being shepherded back to ground level by a trainee jobsworth. To be fair, I understood his reluctance to let just anyone up on to the roof. It’s not designed for spectators and somebody falling with a splat on a flower carpet might have been spectacular, but would probably have ruined the day.

From a Room with a View

From a Room with a View

To get the full sense of what is going on a few circuits are required to see the streets being transformed from being full of crates of exquisitely coloured petals and grass seeds into an open air gallery for floral masterpieces.

The heat of a June day combined with La Orotava’s muscle testing slopes can make it a test of stamina, but the rewards are always worth the effort and anyway a rest stop at a Guachinche every so often rejuvenates. One of the things I noticed was that carpets retain a similar theme each year. Some alfombristas stick to traditional designs or religious imagery whilst others use more contemporary designs which need a bit of contemplation to figure out. Thankfully Jose provided priceless information when we were stumped. I just couldn’t make out what one carpet was at all until he pointed out it was a fallen angel.

Heres Angel...but wheres Buffy

Here's Angel...but where's Buffy?

As the day progressed, the town became a little less manic and ironically by the time many of the carpets are having their last petals placed, between 4 and 5pm, the streets were relatively quiet. It’s a good time for photographs, but we were shattered. I knew that I really should complete another circuit; that the best shots lay out there waiting for me.
“Home?” Andy suggested.
“Absolutely.” I answered without hesitation. At least for us it’s only a five minute drive.
We strolled past the church again and headed down hill. A little kiosk beside the church was buzzing with some of the alfombristas who, now that their work was done, were enjoying the late afternoon sunshine with a caña in their hands. It looked inviting.
“Cerveza?” Andy suggested.
“Absolutely,” I replied without hesitation.

That’s the problem with this colourful family affair; it’s very difficult to drag yourself away from it.

Click here to see a slideshow of the La Orotava Corpus Christi Carpets

An evocative image made from sand and soil

An evocative image made from sand and soil

I always like to take a trip up the hill to La Orotava the day before the main Corpus Christi celebrations to watch the alfombristas (carpet makers) put the finishing touches to the main sand tapestry outside the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall).

The weather hasn’t been kind to the alfombristas this year. An unseasonable heavy downpour of rain a couple of days ago must have caused a few squeaky bum moments, but a sloping canopy saved the wonderful work of art. An alfombrista told me it’s actually the idea of wind that…errr puts the wind up them, so not the disaster it could have been.

This years offering is quite magnificent, as good as that of two years ago and the centrepiece is an incredibly vibrant image despite being created solely from volcanic soil. Don’t take my word for it, here’s a preview of the near finished masterpiece which will be unveiled in all its glory tomorrow.

The Centrepiece of the Sand Tapestry 2009

The Centrepiece of the Sand Tapestry 2009

Have a look at more images here.

It’s always been known as Tenerife’s sophisticated resort and yet I know a few people who think that Puerto de la Cruz is populated almost exclusively by third age British and German holidaymakers and there’s not much nightlife. I even know of one very well known guide book which describes the bustling Plaza del Charco as “…filled with cafes and (mostly elderly) tourists pottering around…” (It wasn’t ‘Going Native in Tenerife’ – we know better)

Hardly conjures up an image of sophistication does it? However anyone visiting the other weekend would have been left in no doubt as to why the town has earned its monicker. The streets were filled with ultra trendy visitors and residents enjoying the beautifully bizarre street art festival Mueca 2009.

Were off to see El Mago...

"We're off to see El Mago..."

Andy covered the Saturday night proceedings in her blog ‘Mueca 2009’. The festival continued until lunchtime on Sunday when we reluctantly dragged ourselves out of bed in the hope that the high wire walk across the harbour, which was cancelled on the Saturday night, would have been rescheduled.

No chance. Sunday started as a bitch of a day weather wise. Skies were grey and there was a near constant drizzle. But we persevered and headed to Puerto’s harbour area. Whereas the town had been buzzing the previous night, on Sunday morning it felt like a wet, winter weekend in Blackpool. The artistic hairdressers sheltered beneath their little canopy looking dejected as we passed them on the way to see if the main performance of the day, El Mundo Oz, was still taking place. A few die-hards and their hopeful kids had taken their ‘wet’ seats outside the town hall and waited hopefully.

It didn’t look promising as the drizzle turned to actual rain and a sea (well given the numbers a large pool might be more accurate) of umbrellas opened. But god bless them, the performers announced gamely that despite the weather, the show would go on.

From the moment a slightly wet Dorothy holding a very floppy Toto started singing “Somewhere over the rainbow…” (in Spanish), I found myself transported back to being an excited kid again. As the storm (good bit of realistic character acting by Puerto’s weather I have to say) transported Dorothy to Oz I was completely caught up in the story.

I just thought Id try something different for a change...

"I just thought I'd try something different for a change..."

By the time Dot had met up with the Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Lion and they were gaily singing and dancing their way along the Yellow Brick Road (big yellow circles on the concrete) their enthusiasm seemed to have a profound effect on the weather. The sun broke free of the clouds bringing crowds of people out of the woodwork. As Dot bade her emotional farewells to her motley mates, the sky was as bright as the smiles on the faces of the kids in the audience and I found I had to wipe a tear from the corner of my eye.
With the sun shining, the town was transformed and the streets were buzzing again. At the harbour, the ‘Artistic Hairdressers’ were in full flow and some of their ‘victims’ added a surreal element to the spectators.

Oh, and yes there were elderly tourists pottering about, but the difference is that some of our elderly tourists were sporting luminescent Mohican hairdos…I guess that’s the sort of thing which explains why Puerto de la Cruz is considered Tenerife’s sophisticated resort?

Every time we’ve visited La Laguna since we moved to Tenerife, the historic Teatro Leal has been undergoing restoration…until now.

As you can see, they’ve done a cracking job of the restoration.