Archive for the ‘Manchester United’ Category

CD Tenerife in La Liga...bring on Ronaldo

CD Tenerife in La Liga...bring on Ronaldo

It once seemed like a distant dream, but now it looks as though instead of lining up against Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal, the petulant one will be facing the likes of Tenerife. At least he should be guaranteed better weather when he visits. Whether he’ll get a warm welcome from CD Tenerife’s foreign contingent of fans is a different matter.

Yesterday in the 30 plus degrees and no shade of Plaza España in Santa Cruz, we joined tens of thousands of CD Tenerife supporters to watch the blanquiazul achieve the not so impossible dream.

 WATER result

WAT-ER result

It was an electric and hectic atmosphere and actually trying to watch the giant TV screens involved utilising a series of movements that, had there been a ringmaster in the area he’d have immediately signed us up for his circus as a contortionist double bill.

As always here the crowd was a deliriously happy one and the most innocuous incident on the pitch (broadcast from Girona) had the fans going off like a rocket. A ‘non’ goal caused wild celebrations and bottles of cava and beer were sprayed across the plaza. In theory it should have been great material for photos; in reality I could hardly keep my camera out long enough to focus it in case it was drenched.

When CD Tenerife scored and more or less clinched their place in La Liga, the plaza erupted into madness. We’d already moved once for a better view and away from a group of lads who were using their cans of beer like machine guns, but talk about moving from the frying pan and into the fire.

Adelante Tenerife

Adelante Tenerife

Our spot beside Plaza España’s lagoon sized fountain seemed a perfect spot. We could see the screens and also were in the perfect position for photographing ‘aficionados’ celebrating in the pool. Naïve or stupid? When the final whistle blew there was a stampede and twenty thousand or so ecstatic fans swept toward the fountain…and us.

Andy wisely did a runner and deserted me, leaving me stranded at the fountain’s edge trying to take a few shots before things went too wet ‘n’ wild. I was bumped and jostled from all angles; one group of burly lads nearly took me with them straight into the water. Every time I thought I’d found a relatively safe spot a manically grinning fan would come rushing through the fountain kicking water everywhere and I’d have to spin around trying to save my camera from an unwanted bath. It was loco. In the end I snapped a few shots before my nerve broke (rather it than the camera) and I legged it to the higher ground.

I thought I’d witnessed wild crowds in Tenerife before, during Carnaval, but this, like CD Tenerife now, was in another league. And despite there being thousands upon thousands of people soaking each other, I didn’t witness the slightest bit of aggression…only unadulterated joy.

Yesterday history was made in Tenerife and I’m really pleased that I was there to feel a part of it.

A truly beautiful Carnaval Queen

A truly beautiful Carnaval Queen

With the pressure on our ‘schedule’ eased a little because of the rearranged election of the Carnaval Queen, we were able to enjoy Man U beating Blackburn and actually have time to eat some dinner, before slapping on the face paint and setting off on the trek into town at around 23.00.

For those who don’t know Tenerife, there are two Tenerife’s. There’s the one built predominately to cater for people looking for a sun and fun holiday and then there’s the rest of Tenerife; what we call the ‘Real Tenerife’. In the former, Carnaval is little more than a footnote which can pass by almost unnoticed. In the latter it’s the biggest event of the year and you might as well write off trying to do anything other than selling your soul to the gods of fun for a week. Even in Puerto de la Cruz, which is first and foremost a Canarian working town, the differences between these two Tenerife’s can be illustrated depending on which side of town you happen to be in.

The approach into town passes the La Paz area and Avenida Generalisimo where there are a clutch of hotels. On these streets nobody is wearing fancy dress, so Andy, kitted out as Cleopatra, and me as Willie Wallace (Braveheart) stood out like sore thumbs, attracting strange looks from visitors sitting at the bars and restaurants we passed. It’s only when you get near to the older part of town that you enter the magic kingdom that is Carnaval and the streets fill with belly dancers and vampires, so many batmen that the bat mobile would have to be traded in for a bat bus (but strangely no jokers), smurfs, sexy nurses, nuns with slits in their habits up to their armpits, cavemen, clowns, witches, zombie nurses, cowboys, Indians and assorted superheroes enjoying a well deserved night off. In this surreal land, it’s the ‘civilians’ which look out of place and we learned very early on that to be part of Carnaval, rather than to watch Carnaval requires simply throwing on some sort of fancy dress costume, even if it’s only a false wig, or a hat from one of the stalls surrounding Plaza del Charco.

And an almost equally pretty runner up

And an almost equally pretty runner up

By midnight, when we reached the plaza, it was filling up nicely with revellers in costume, but it was strangely silent. There was no live band, no pumping dance music from the stall in Calle Perdomo, just hordes of people in fancy dress milling about looking as though they were waiting for something to happen.  The only music was provided by a gang of mime artists, all lads of about 16 – 17 years old, who were circuiting the plaza, stopping at anyone not in fancy dress to jump up and down and hum loudly something that sounded suspiciously like a riff from ‘I will Survive’. This is the things I love about Carnaval, the bits which are slightly trippy and surreal.

The lack of music was because the Gala involving the election of the Carnaval Queen was still taking place beside the harbour, so we wandered through a new addition, a ‘Dance’ tent (so in terms of dance area that makes it, the plaza for live music; Calle Perdomo for dance music, the square beside the harbour for dance music for teens and now a dance tent – isn’t it great?) to the main Carnaval stage where the Carnaval Queen was just being announced to the accompaniment of a barrage of fireworks. The judges chose well; this year’s Carnaval Queen, Elsa Eichner is a beautiful girl with a smile which would light up a dark room with no windows.  (see our CARNAVAL PHOTO OF THE DAY)

The fireworks were also the sign for Carnaval to really let loose and no sooner had the explosion died down when the boom of the fireworks were replaced by thumping drums and a Latino dance beat which announced Carnaval 2009 was underway at last and the assorted trannies, monsters, angels and creatures of the night could begin their week long party.

Its Party Time!

It's Party Time!

Carnaval is like an insatiable lover; she’s never satisfied until she’s sucked the last spark of energy from you and even then, when your body is an exhausted shell, she demands more and like a love struck fool you have to answer her call; just for that one last taste of pleasure.

I know this only too well from previous Carnavals and with equal mixture of excitement and dread at the pounding my ‘getting too old for this’ body was about to take, I awaited Carnaval’s hedonistic holler.

Only superman or somebody running purely on Billy Whizz could manage to take in the whole of Carnaval in Puerto de la Cruz, so we’d set out a game plan of ‘must do’s’.

Attend the opening parade, first Saturday night street party, Burial of the Sardine, High Heels drag marathon, closing parade and round it all off with the closing night street party a week later…then head to the cemetery and collapse into the nearest grave.

However looking at the first night’s events, I could see us stumbling at the first hurdle, mainly because TV programmers in Britain had pulled a cruel trick. They’d scheduled Man U to play at 17.30 on the opening day of Carnaval. This meant that we’d have to watch the game at the Beehive, then head straight to the opening parade at 20.00. The parade usually starts late and lasts for a couple of hours, meaning it would be about 22.30 by the time we headed for home where it would be a mad rush to get into costume and head back down to Puerto for the street party; knackered before we’d even started.

Then the gods played a blinder. A decent downpour of rain on Thursday afternoon was enough to cause council chiefs to postpone the election of the Carnaval Queen till Friday…when the heavens opened and a deluge of water from the heavens of monsoon proportions resulted in the election being moved to Saturday. Okay this isn’t good news for the people organizing Carnaval, but it did mean that the opening parade was pushed to Sunday night (you can’t have an opening parade when the Carnaval Queen ain’t been picked yet) and we were able to enjoy planning for an opening night which was going to be less about endurance and more about having shedloads of fun.

Whatever happened to lazy Sunday afternoon? There hardly seemed a second yesterday when we weren’t rushing from one place to the next. Actually rushing anywhere on a Sunday is clearly an inaccurate statement as the Tinerfeños take to the roads by the town load and despite what anyone will try to tell you about locals driving like madmen on the roads (motorways apart), on the country roads most drive at the pace of a snail…with a bad limp.

Is this really Tenerife?

Is this really Tenerife?

First stop was Las Cañadas del Teide to see what last week’s snowfall had done to the lunar landscape. It turned out that everyone else (well everyone who wasn’t escaping cold, grim snow covered northern Europe for Tenerife’s beaches) had the same idea.

It was party time in the crater and the road was full of locals parking wherever there was a hint of a space, irrespective of how much their car was blocking the road, turning the crater road into a single lane affair. Huge picnics were unpacked from the back of 4x4s as well as body boards, inflatable beds, sun visors and black plastic bags…anything in fact that could be turned into a makeshift sled. Sledging down a mountain probably isn’t an activity most people would associate with Tenerife.

We would have stayed longer except that the mighty diablos rojos were playing at 16.00, so our trip to winter wonderland was cut short and we headed back down through scenery that seemed more Alpine-esque than Canarian to watch Giggsy roll back the years and score an absolute corker of a goal which sent us back to the top of the Premiership.

Gladrags, but no handbags in glamorous Puerto de la Cruz

Gladrags, but no handbags in 'glamorous' Puerto de la Cruz

We barely had time to get home and make and eat dinner before we headed back into town to watch the presentation of the candidates for this year’s Carnaval Queen beauty contest. The theme for the Puerto de la Cruz Carnaval this year is ‘Africa, Land of Tribes’ and after an opener of some authentic African dancing the show strayed into ‘Black and White Minstrels’ territory (it was always on the cards) before the candidates for infant Carnaval Queen and then the adults were ‘exposed’.

The adult girl’s dresses ranged from the exquisitely elegant to the borderline trampy (okay I’m being generous here…the dress had crossed the border and was deep into red light territory); there were creations where necklines plunged to almost meet hemlines; there were backless numbers…God, there were even nearly frontless ones. It will come as no surprise when I tell you that it was a well attended event. Luckily for the girls the weather was kind to them. Had the event been held last week, there would have been an impressive display of goose pimples on show, but it was a beautifully mild night, so no quivering bosoms (damn).

We didn’t stay till the end; these events can drag on a bit, but the one and a half hours we did stay was a reminder that the organised Carnaval events involve a hell of a lot of standing around. The fact that my legs were aching and my back was stiff after a relatively short time also told me something…Carnaval is less than two weeks away and I’m nowhere near match fit.

Dancer from El Hierro

Dancer from El Hierro

A Yorkie riding a pony; an iguana squaring up to two bulldogs, a donkey wearing a straw bonnet and a mongrel in full traditional Canarian costume…you really don’t need to take mind altering narcotics when you live in Tenerife.

The weekend had been bizarre enough when we returned home from watching Man Utd beat Spurs in the FA Cup to find a rock concert taking place in the neighbour’s garden. The band wasn’t half bad either. After an initial set of enthusiastic Spanish rock they switched to rock and did a pretty good job of Pink Floyd, Clapton and Hendrix. So sitting listening to a rock concert from the comfort of our house was a pretty surreal start to the weekend.

Sunday we dragged ourselves out of bed (the concert didn’t finish until 2am) to head to Buenavista del Norte for the Fiesta de San Antonio Abad. Last year we had enjoyed the equivalent fiesta in La Matanza, so we were interested to see how Buenavista’s would compare.

It was a pleasant day, the sun making intermittent appearances which immediately scored better then La Matanza’s which, lying quite a way up the hillside, is more prone to cloud at this time of year.

I’d been expecting a bigger event than the fiesta in La Matanza, so was surprised to find that it was quite a bit smaller and there didn’t seem to be nearly as many animals. Today’s El Dia reported that there were over 1000 head of cattle. Personally, I reckon that whoever was doing the counting must have been partaking of generous quantities of the beer and wine from the jam-packed stalls and bars all around the town and was seeing three of everything.

Unusual opponents

Unusual opponents

However, numbers aside, it was a completely enchanting fiesta with a wonderfully welcoming atmosphere. The Teno Massif provided a dramatic backdrop to the fields where the livestock were gathered and the town of Buenavista was looking at its best; bright streamers lined the roads and antique wooden balconies were decorated with wicker baskets adorned with fruit and vegetables.

Small groups of musicians strummed their timples outside nearly every bar, whilst dancers in white costumes with twirling skirts, reminiscent of the Turkish national dress, whirled to the haunting pito herreño (flute) and drum riffs from the island of El Hierro.

Whilst the ‘show’ animals (horses, cattle, goats, dogs) looked magnificent, it was the fringe events which I found the most interesting. There were nearly as many animal ‘spectators’ as there were human ones and when a small crowd gathered in one spot it was a clue that something different was going on. The most bizarre of these being the iguana squaring up to two bulldogs who barked and strained at their leashes…until the iguana responded by lumbering slowly toward them which shut them up big time.

Love me, love my python

Love me, love my python

As always, everybody was only too happy to pose for photos; the event is a photographer’s dream with any number of potential impossibly cute ‘greeting card’ type shots. I particularly liked the Yorkie riding the pony which seems to be an annual favourite. But cats in scarves, bunnies in bows, kid goats with ribbons around their throats, donkeys in straw boaters and a girl doing an impression of Salma Hayak in ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ with a python around her neck all added an ‘Alice through the Looking Glass’ element to the whole affair.

Despite many animals wearing more clothes than some of their owners, the only uncomfortable looking creature I noticed all day was a cat in a scarf, but then cats don’t really do social events do they?

Buenavista del Norte is on the Hidden Depths route of Island Drives

The seething cauldron on Puertos seafront

The seething cauldron on Puerto's seafront

For the past few days we’ve been put on a state of alert in Tenerife, with warnings ranging from yellow (low risk) to orange (high enough risk to warrant sitting up and taking notice).

Whilst most of the inclement weather has been confined to high winds and black ice in the highland areas on the cumbres and around Mount Teide, at sea level there’s been very little in the way of noticeable bad weather to report.

In reality what we’ve experienced her on the north west coast was one day which would have been classed as a typical dreary autumn day in the UK.
Although when I mentioned to a Spanish friend that the weather was like a British autumn day, she laughed.

“Not quite,” she corrected me.  “Maybe more like a day at the end of summer, beginning of autumn in England.”

I suppose she had a point. The coldest day was still hovering around the 20 degrees mark.

However, there’s also been an orange band around Tenerife on the weather map on the Spanish Meteorological website and it’s been at the coast where the weather has been at its most spectacular.
The other night we were watching television when I became aware of a loud rumbling. It sounded as though Mount Teide had decided to relocate and had chosen where our house stood as a prime spot.

“What the hell was that?” I jumped up from my seat and went to the front door.

We’re probably about 3 kilometres inland, yet the sound of the waves crashing on the shoreline was deafening. I half expected to see the crest of a Tsunami appearing above the palms (note to self: stop watching ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ during winter months).

Atlantic rollers at Punto del Viento

Atlantic rollers at Punto del Viento

It was only when we went into Puerto de la Cruz to watch Man United initially coast, then nearly self destruct against Derby in the Carling Cup semi-final last night, that we were able to witness how impressive (or frightening depending on your point of view) the sea was.

The Atlantic was putting on a right old show. Waves which must have been 5-6 metres high were making a mockery of the sea defences and crashing over the seawall which runs the length of the town’s free car park. Understandably there weren’t many cars in the car park, so we were a bit nervous leaving the car.

Incredibly there were plenty of ‘thrillseekers’ walking along the harbour wall to get a closer look at the waves. Most looked liked visitors, clearly unaware that the Atlantic likes the odd sacrifice every now and again and it’s not uncommon for people to be occasionally swept off the wall when the sea is throwing a wobbly.

Even the normally sheltered harbour was a seething cauldron and the little fishing boats which normally spend the night on the pebbly beach had been pulled to higher ground.

The best place to watch the Atlantic when it’s putting on a show like this is at Punto del Viento. Where from the safety of being thirty feet above the sea, you get a free show as huge rollers sweep past Plaza Europa (last night above the level of the plaza itself) and crash into the rocks below where you stand, filling the air all along the promenade with a fine mist.

This is an orange alert?

This is an 'orange' alert?

Thankfully the car hadn’t ‘gone amphibian’ by the time we returned, so with Man U winning and nature putting on a free show it was a good night all round.

The orange alert is still in place this morning, but the sun’s shining and although the waves still look pretty impressive, they don’t look much bigger than they usually do at this time of year…and the surfers at Playa Martiánez seem happy to have some big boys to play with.

Last Saturday it was chestnuts, wine and kamikaze youths on wooden trays, this Saturday it was giant Ferris wheels, bucking broncos, a grumpy Sunderland fan and contemplating nature and the universe in a darkened room.

Jesús, our neighbour, had suggested we pop down to his house for a little ‘chill’ on Saturday night, but first there was the small matter of a trip to the Beehive Bar to watch Manchester Utd against Sunderland.

All the fun of the fair

All the fun of the fair

The 17.30 kick-off is a real pain in the rear; it really interferes with Saturday night and is neither here nor there, but what can you do? The first thing that struck us on arriving at the town car park was that there was a colossal green wheel dominating the skyline – a Puerto Eye of sorts.
It was a clear signal that we’re rushing headlong into the prime Xmas season as it was the new addition to the traditional funfair which sets up beside Puerto de la Cruz’ harbour for festive season.

Time was getting on so we decided to investigate after the game which was about as one-sided an affair as you’re likely to see. Sunderland parked their team in front of goal and hoped that the human barrier would hold for ninety minutes. And it nearly worked, but unfortunately for Sunderland, there were more than 90 minutes and seconds into injury time our big centre-half, Vidic latched onto a rebound off the post and won the game for us, silencing a Sunderland fan next to me who had been laughing at every one of our failed attempts to score. It’s nice to see people who are magnanimous in defeat, but this wasn’t the case on this occasion. As I went to the gents, he came across to Andy and grumbled in her face:
“You didn’t deserve that.”

Still, relieved and happy we headed to the harbour to check out the funfair. By this time, 19.45, it was already buzzing and in the darkness the neon lights, especially those of the jolly green giant looked magical and ignited nostalgic childhood memories.

The smell of hot dogs and onions, fried churros, hot waffles with cream, candy floss, popcorn et al added to the buzzing funfair atmosphere and the night sky was filled with those wonderful funfair sounds – klazons, cheesy music, screams mixed with laughter, hissing pneumatics and the crunch of dodgems colliding head on.

Fairground stall - Spanish style

Fairground stall - Spanish style

There were also the usual goldfish stalls, shooting and dart throwing stalls decorated with rows of human sized cuddly toys. At one stall a hairy leg appeared, then another as a life size cuddly ape seemed to bizarrely come to life and be making a bid for freedom. This being Spain, the funfair had a couple of odd additions such as the Jamon tombola; a stall brimming with shanks of Jamon Serrano. There was also a bucking bulls attraction which looked like great fun as these mock Spanish bulls got their own back by dumping their screaming riders, strangely wearing Dalmatian patterned Stetsons, onto the ground unceremoniously.
However, time was getting on and we’d promised Jesús that we’d spend some of Saturday night with him, so we left the fair and headed for home.

By the time we’d escaped the town car park, got home, showered, prepared the chilli and eaten it was after 22.00 and Jesús’ house was in darkness.
With most people you’d take that as a sign that they’d gone out, or gone to bed, but Jesús isn’t most people; we know he likes to sit in the dark and contemplate life, so we grabbed a bottle of wine, wandered the few metres down the path and loitered outside his window. There was no sign of life.
“Hey, Jesús,” I half whispered, half spoke. “Are you awake?”
There was a mumble from inside which we couldn’t make out.
Another mumble which we couldn’t make out, then he appeared at his door, everything still in darkness.
“Sorry were you sleeping,” Andy whispered. “We’ll leave you alone, no problem.”
“No, No it’s fine,” Jesús laughed. “Come in…Andy you stay outside.”
Jesús pulled me inside and we looked out of the window to where Andy stood with her small torch giving off a soft blue light.
“Look, it’s amazing isn’t it? It’s like watching a movie.”
Jesús had a point. The moon was out and the silver glow from it combined with the blue light from the torch gave the outside scene a strange dreamlike quality. Once I acknowledged as much, a slightly bemused Andy was allowed to enter.

As it turned out he’d had a visit from his friend, Maria Juanita and visits from MJ always leaves Jesús in a contemplative mood and full of wonder for Mother Nature. So for a couple of hours on Saturday night, we sat in a darkened room contemplating nature. Well Jesús contemplated nature, being British we sat in the darkness feeling quite ridiculous until a decent amount of time passed and we felt it was okay to leave without appearing rude.

It’s typical of the contrasts you can experience here. One moment we’d been in the middle of the bright lights and frantic bustling of a lively funfair, the next we were sitting in a room lit by only the moonlight looking out at a silent landscape whilst our neighbour sought consciousness expansion.

Funny but after we got home I had an overwhelming urge to play some Alabama 3.