Posts Tagged ‘Al Campo’

There was a Martin Scorsese film in the mid 80s where a computer programmer picks up a girl and subsequently experiences quite the maddest and most bizarre New York night. Friends visiting from La Gomera have just lived the Tenerife version.

It started very early yesterday morning with a flickering battery light on La Gomera that Gordo insisted wasn’t a problem.

Switch to mid afternoon somewhere on La Laguna’s back streets and Jo (the friend who we stay with when visiting La Gomera) and her neighbours (from across the other side of the valley) Gordo and Ushi are standing beside a broken down car full of goodies purchased in Leroy Merlin, Decathlon and Al Campo.

The three were on Tenerife to buy skylight windows for Jo’s house and whereas Jo visits Tenerife a lot and knows it well, for Gordo and Ushi it was their first trip north. They’d had an extremely successful shopping trip, purchasing everything they’d been after plus a load more (shopping on La Gomera is limited)…and then the car broke down in the middle of nowhere and the Gomeran trio experienced a true alternative taste of Tenerife.

The Good Samaritan
As they pushed the car to the side of the road a Lagunero stopped and asked if he could help. Gordo told him he thought it was the battery and the Lagunero opened the bonnet of his car and tried to start Gordos car using jump leads, but with no luck. After that he attempted to charge the battery from his and whilst this was going on suggested they decamp to the nearest bar where he insisted on buying the beers.
Unfortunately the battery didn’t recharge and the Lagunero even went as far as removing the battery from his car to check if the battery really was the problem – it wasn’t. The car was kaput and they didn’t know even where they were.

A quick phone call to the insurance company came up with the name of a local Grua who luckily the Lagunero knew. A short time later and the Grua driver – another sweet man according to Jo – had hooked up the car and was on his way to the nearest Ford dealer with Jo and Ushi in the cab, leaving Gordo to phone for a taxi.

Despite telling the local taxi company the name of the street he was on Gordo was unable to make them understand where he was, so he elicited the help of a passer-bye.

“We’re near Bar Tabaiba,” the passer-bye told the taxi company.
“Ah, why didn’t you say so? Now I know where you are,” was the response. “I live on that street.”
Even though he lived on the street, the controller only recognised it by the name of the bar. Brilliant.

A taxi arrived within minutes and they reached the Ford garage at 4.50pm; ten minutes before it was due to shut. A mechanic took a quick look and told Gordo they’d have to check the car out properly in the morning and that they’d phone him back then.

So at 5pm on a Thursday evening Gordo, Ushi and Jo found themselves in deepest industrial La Laguna wondering what to do next.

The Drunken Magician
They decided to catch a taxi to the north airport and hire a car. Seemed logical…except for one small detail. When they got to the airport they discovered that not one of the five hire companies at the airport had a car available.

A decision was made to take refuge in the airport bar and call us. We’d been expecting them at around 6pm and were on the banana road walking the dogs when the plea for help came through.

Twenty Five minutes later I turned up at the airport as Gordo had ordered another beer, including one for me, to find that they had acquired an addition; a quietly drunk magician from Berlin who to me looked more like a business commuter, albeit a slightly scruffy one, than a magician.

As Andy pointed out later what did I expect a magician to be wearing when he was travelling; a cloak with stars on it?

The magician was on his way to Las Vegas via Playa de las Américas and somehow had ended up at the north airport having been robbed of all his money (or had drank it more likely) somewhere else on route. He was so sloshed he couldn’t tell me his name – not a good advert for someone who was supposed to be able to tell your fortune. We finished our beer and left the penniless magician to his fate. When he said a garbled goodbye to Jo he tried to kiss her hand, but was so inebriated that he didn’t manage to actually connect and gave up with a shrug about three inches off target.

As we headed homeward with Mount Teide visible in the clear night sky, the three recounted their day’s experiences. Despite having a mini disaster far from home, they were in great spirits and very philosophical about what had happened. In fact they were overwhelmed with the friendliness and kindness that complete strangers on Tenerife had shown them. The Laguneros had done themselves and Tenerife’s reputation proud. They’d experienced a Tenerife that was muy amable.

As a footnote, at 9.20 this morning Gordo’s phone rang. It was the garage to say that they’d be able to fix the car and Gordo could pick it up later today.

I’ve just deposited them in Puerto de la Cruz . Jo’s going to show them around until they catch the bus to Santa Cruz for another leisurely stroll before it’s time to collect the car and head back to La Gomera full of wondrous tales of adventures on the big island.


It felt like that scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark; I stared bewilderedly at a wall of identical looking objects, unable to tell which held the treasure I wanted.

Choosing papel higiénico, or toilet paper to use the more crass English term, in Tenerife can be an overwhelming task. Without going into the details, it’s taken us years to find good papel higiénico. This is partly because a lot of the stuff out there is crap, but also because I’ve been involved in a battle of wits with the Al Campo supermarket in La Orotava since we moved to Tenerife. I find something I like, they immediately cease stocking it.

They’ve done this twice with the papel higiénico. On Friday, as I stared at the overwhelming wall of white rolls, it appeared that they’d done it for the third time.

Not only was my preferred brand conspicuous by it’s absence, I couldn’t see any packs which only held 12 rolls. The aisle was full of jumbo packs with a million rolls in each (plus another million gratis). These are presumably aimed at the Spanish mainlanders and their small-town-sized extended families, on holiday here at the moment, to whom the mere mention of the word ‘contraception’ would probably have the same effect as a shaft of light hitting a vampire.

The second thing that had me wanting to scream ‘come on guys, you do know what these are used for don’t you?’ was the fact that amongst the zillion brands, there wasn’t one which was just your average no-nonsense toilet roll.

There were megarolls, ones scented with aloe vera and ones with double quilted sheets. Then there were extra thick rolls, recycled rolls (I’ve never felt comfortable with that concept), ones filled with eiderdown and packs with hand-painted traditional Canarian scenes. Okay I made the last two up, but it’s only a matter of time. There was even one which boasted that it was a kilometre long – no kidding.
At the other end of the scale, there were the no frills budget packs containing the Spanish versions of Izal; a fast track to chafe city.

I felt like falling to my knees wailing ‘I don’t want something I can use as a duvet or that doubles as greaseproof paper, I just want a pack of bog-standard toilet paper.’

And then, behind a jumble of collapsed packs I spotted my Ark of the Covenant – one lonely twelve pack of my favourite brand. I grabbed it before anyone else could and ran off chuntering happily like a demented madman.

This is what living on Tenerife reduces you to.

As it turned out the perforations on the roll didn’t actually go all the way across so, when tugged, sheets come away in shreds. My bad; I suppose a perfectly perforated ‘normal’ toilet roll was just too much to ask for.

I’ve gone right into Victor Meldrew overdrive in the last few days. Exclamations of ‘Oh for God’s sake’ have been coming thick and fast…except that’s the censored version.

The first topic which has left me exasperated is the discussions about an outbreak of norovirus in the south west of Tenerife on Tripadvisor. This is a subject that won’t go away at the moment and there are at least ten threads about it.
I fully understand visitors’ concerns about this. Every November I have concerns about picking up a bug when I go to watch Man Utd in a bar full of people snuffling and coughing with cold and flu germs transported from Northern Europe.

And there lies the irony about the norovirus. Nobody can say where it came from, but there are a couple of factors which sort of point a finger. The first is that it seems to be specifically affecting areas where there is a high British visitor count. The second is that two friends who are nurses in the UK mentioned in passing that wards in their hospitals in completely different parts of the country had been shut down because of the same virus. Oh, and add to this that the Canarian population who don’t come into contact with visitors don’t seem to have experienced the virus and the evidence mounts.

If anyone decides not to come to Tenerife because of norovirus it’s a bit like Columbus and his men saying ‘we ain’t going back to the Americas – they’re full of sick Indians’.

Anyway that was the first trigger. The second was a tweeter from an American who was worried that a 70s degrees forecast they’d read wouldn’t be warm enough. That was okay, Andy replied to them reassuring them that it would be warmer and gave  them links to some of our web pages.

Well she’s arrived on Tenerife having opted for Playa de Las Américas and what was her first tweet? It was one asking if anyone knew where she could get Spanish food in Tenerife with a comment about ‘who knew it would be difficult?’

The answer to that one, love, is anyone who did their research first and didn’t opt to stay in what is probably the least Spanish/Canarian place on the island. Las Américas is a great tourist resort, but it is purpose built for visitors – it doesn’t pretend otherwise. It is not the place to go if you want to experience local culture and food. So don’t stay there if that’s what you’re looking for.

Next one to have me shaking my head in despair was a guy in the Beehive Bar in Puerto de la Cruz on Saturday. The bar was screening the Formula One race on Spanish TV before the Man Utd V Fulham game. A bloke walked up to the bar and asked if the commentary could be changed to English. When Adrian, the bar manager, replied that it couldn’t the customer went into a right strop, mumbling about how he wouldn’t be able to understand it. Another customer pointed out that it being in Spanish didn’t change the names of the drivers or who was in what place, but he wasn’t having it.

“That’s it, I’m finishing my pint and going back to my hotel,” he whined whilst Adrian took it all calmly and without comment. He sees it every week, people moaning about the commentary being in Spanish; he’s much more patient than I could ever be.  I don’t understand these people – they’re getting to see the race/game whatever. Who the hell cares whether the commentary is in English, Spanish or Swahili?

The final rant is reserved for the Canarian management team in Al Campo supermarket. It’s our friend Jo’s birthday this week and she specifically asked for a couple of CDs by Eva Cassidy and Nick Cave. Jo lives on La Gomera and sees Puerto as the big metropolis where you can get anything, she forgets that whilst there are a couple of aisles of CDs in the supermarket, the majority of discs are by Spanish groups. But there are some international artists, so we headed up there yesterday afternoon and started searching through the CDs and that’s when we hit a wall.

Get this – the CDs were not in any order whatsoever. They weren’t in alphabetical order and they were classified by music type. They’d been thrown in willy nilly. It was impossible to find out if they had specific albums without searching through every last one of them. Now whether this lack of organisation is down to laziness or stupidity I don’t know but what it isn’t, is customer friendly – and it’s not smart from a business point of view. How many people walk away without buying saying ‘stuff that for a game of soldiers’?

Anyway, that’s my moan about Americans, Brits and Canarios over – tune in next week for the French, Germans and the Innuits.

They must hate me in the Al Campo supermarket in La Orotava. I’ve become a Victor Meldrew type pain in the culo stalking the aisles seeking out ‘mistakes’ and then when I spot one (not a difficult task it has to be said) pointing it out to bemused shop assistants who seem to be shocked that anyone should do such a thing and therefore don’t really know what to do.

In truth I don’t consciously stalk the aisles looking for ‘errors’ and I like shopping at Al Campo, it’s just that even if you possess the brain cells of an amoeba with learning difficulties you can’t help but spot the ‘inconsistencies’. On our last visit I notched up three.

Making You an Offer You Can Refuse

The first instance came in the guise of a TDT box which was €19.95 last week. This week it had gone up to €25. Nothing wrong with that, it’s their prerogative; however, it was the big yellow sign which read OFFER above it that amused me. On it was the ‘original’ price of €29.99 crossed out in red.

I don’t know about you, but a product which has gone up in price by €5 euros isn’t exactly bargain of the week, even if you write a ‘fictional’ higher price next to it.

This is an Al Campo favourite. Every week I see ‘offers’ which were cheaper the previous week. Are we not supposed to notice this?

We’re Going to Screw You and You’ll Be Pleased About It

The next little example of being ‘creative’ with the prices was in the fruit and veg section where I spotted packets of dates on offer for €1 (under another big yellow sign). It sounded good and a few people were throwing packets into their trolleys.

However, we’re wise to Al Campo’s various ‘offers’ and double check everything.
The €1 dates were for a 200g pack. I normally buy a 500g pack – price €1.85; a much better deal than the so-called offer which would have worked out at €2.50 for 500g.

If All Else Fails, We’re Just Going To Lie

The final piece of jiggery pokery involved croissants, the prices of which go up and down like a tart’s drawers (depending on who’s pricing them up I suspect). Two weeks ago 4 croissants were €0.99. This week the little label read €1.29 irrespective of whether they were butter or margarine (there’s usually a difference in price between the two).

Thankfully there are machines dotted all over Al Campo where you can double check the prices of items – a necessity as all too often prices don’t match those on the shelf.

The croissants were a perfect example of this. I scanned them and the price came up €1.49.  I tried the margarine ones – again €1.49.

I spotted two assistants from the bakery section and showed them the carton of croissants.

“This shows €1.29 and the machine says €1.49, they are all wrong, every one of them,” I told them.

“The machine? €1.49? All of them?”
One of the girls replied looking at the croissants, then the machine on the wall.

“Si, all of them,”
I confirmed.

She muttered to her friend and both scuttled off into the bakery.

I wandered off to join Andy getting some fruit and veg and kept an eye to see what they’d do about this ‘mix up’.

A few minutes later a supervisor appeared, stood in front of the croissants, scratched her head, shuffled a few boxes… and disappeared back into the bakery having done absolutely NADA.

Deliberate Scams or Plain and Simple Inefficiency? Take Your Pick.

I really don’t know if these common errors are just simple inefficiency or, in the case of the offers which aren’t offers, a specific policy. If it’s a policy, do they really believe people are so stupid that they’ll fall for it?

To cap it all, as I watched proceedings, or lack of, the bag of tomatoes I was holding split for no reason and half a dozen toms hit the floor – it was a dodgy bag (another common occurrence). I rolled my eyes and sighed under my breath ‘can anybody actually do anything right here?’

I know the island has a ‘mas o menos’ culture, but why in Al Campo does it seem as though it’s always ‘mas’ rather than ‘menos’?

Watching this Movie is Dangerous

Watching this Movie is Dangerous

You’re going to think this is ridiculous, but we both were in serious danger of drowning as we watched the movie ‘Poseidon’ last Friday night.

We hadn’t planned on watching Poseidon, in fact it was supposed to be Woody Allen’s ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’, but the 100s of copies on display in Al Campo the previous week had mysteriously disappeared. I don’t think they were sold out. For a start they were in the ‘cheap section’ (€4.99) because, if Spanish TV is anything to go by, the general Spanish public seem to prefer a diet of Steven Seagal, Jacky Chan and, for some bizarre reason, Ashley Judd films. You can almost bet that there’ll be one of their movies on every week on the main Spanish channels. So ironically, good movies end up in the cheap section, whilst the trash stay at full price (works for me).

Anyway, ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’ was a bust, so I settled on Poseidon. Okay, it was a complete change of genre, but Empire movie mag (which I trust completely) had awarded it 4 stars out of a maximum 5. Sure it wasn’t going stick in the mind long after the final credits had rolled, but a thrilling piece of escapism every now and again is part of what movies are all about.

As Empire had promised it was an exciting, fast moving film with more than its fair share of tense moments as characters (a still square-jawed Kurt Russell and a gay Richard Dreyfuss amongst them) battled against overwhelming odds and an ever-rising ocean inside an upturned cruise liner coffin.
Part of their attempts to escape a watery grave involved swimming for long stretches under water to find ways to move onwards and upwards. These nerve-jangling scenes prompted a discussion between Andy and I about how we’d fare if we were unfortunate enough to find ourselves in a similar predicament.
One thing led to another and before we knew it we were both holding our breath with the characters as they blindly swam through a murky underwater corridor and into dead end after dead end.

I’m sorry to announce, we were those guys who didn’t make it. Tragically we drowned a few feet before our heroes finally discovered a hole leading to life giving fresh air.

Clearly we didn’t really drown, but I can tell you it felt as though it had been a close thing as we sat on our sofas red faced and gulping in huge breaths of air.

The thought really tickled me though. What would investigators have made of finding two drowned corpses in their own living room with Poseidon playing on the DVD – freakily realistic special effects or what?

Is it a fig, or is it a peach...or is it something else instead?

Is it a fig, or is it a peach...or is it something else instead?

I have just been introduced to the pleasures of the wonderful paraguayo. I’ve seen this fruit in the Al Campo supermarket in La Orotava now and again and had assumed from its shape that it was a nephew or niece of the fig family, but after reading about it on a Tenerife Forum thought I’d give it a go.

QUE SABOR! This fruit has got to be the fruit of the gods. Its aroma identifies it clearly as being a member of the peach family – maybe an aristocratic distant cousin – and the taste, mamma mia (oh no here I go again). It’s like a juicy peach which has been dipped in honey. You’ve really got to try it – not so easy if you don’t live in the Garden of Hesperides (Tenerife mas o menos) where pretty much anything grows in abundance.

Apparently the English name (or more accurately American) is the flat peach, or doughnut peach which displays a distinct lack of imagination. The ‘doughnut peach’ sounds like something an obese kid on a buckling bmx would be stuffing into his gob.

An exotic fruit should have an exotic name and paraguayo rolls off the tongue nicely, so I’m sticking with it.

If you haven’t tried them yet, you’ve got to go out and get one ASAP and give those taste buds a sweet little treat.

Recently our new neighbour, Jesús has joined us for our Friday visit to Al Campo supermarket for the weekly shop. He wanders around getting his stuff; we wander around the aisles getting ours. Then we meet up again at the other side of the tills.
Afterwards I wander into the second hand DVD shop to see if there’s a decent film to pick up for Friday night viewing whilst Andy and Jesús chat outside.
The last time though, Jesús came inside with me.
I know what movies I’m looking for; I’ve got a mental list in my head, compiled from years of reading the Empire movie magazine. The genre doesn’t really matter; if a movie’s been given a 4 star review by Empire, then it’ll usually be worthwhile watching. Jesús had a different, more random approach. As I rifled through the DVD cases, he held one in front of me.
“What about this one?”
I looked at the cover; it had a cheap, cartoony martial arts scene on it. “No, I don’t think so.”
I carried on looking. A few moments later Jesús appeared with another DVD.
“How about this one?”
I saw the name Jackie Chan on the front.
A few moments more and there was another DVD held in front of me; this one had a gargoyle on the cover.
“Errr, not really what I’m after.”
Jesús must have decided that I was being overly fussy (probably a fair assumption) and wandered back outside talk to Andy.
A few moments later, a DVD which was on my mental list caught my eye. It was ‘The Fountain’ with Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. I paid for it and rejoined Andy and Jesús.
“Jesús has got all our Friday night viewing sorted out,” Andy told me.
“Really,” I smiled. “What’s that then?”
“Baraka, there’s no dialogue, just a series of images,” Jesús’ eyes were animated as he described it – he does have some neo-hippy characteristics. “It’s really intense.”
I raised my eyebrows and looked at Andy. I could see she was amused and wondering how I would respond.

Jesús is a really lovely guy and I’d never want to offend him and, although I’m open to watching anything if it’s well made, I didn’t really feel in the mood for spending my Friday night watching a series of images. Call me mister conventional if you will.
“Doesn’t really sound like a Friday night movie to me,” I finally replied. “Sounds more like a Tuesday, or a Wednesday night movie.”
“Oh, okay,” I could hear disappointed in his voice and I felt guilty. “Maybe we’ll watch it on a Tuesday, or Wednesday then.”

We strolled back to the car with me blathering on about how interesting Jesús’ movie sounded in an attempt to compensate for my rebuff.

I suppose I should have been more honest with him about the true reason for not wanting to watch his movie. Look at a load of images – or watch the delectable Rachel Weisz…get real.