Posts Tagged ‘Christmas on Tenerife’

La Orotava - a warm, winter wonderland

I’ve just read a thread on Tenerife Forum which was comparing Christmas in the UK with Christmas on Tenerife. A couple of people said they thought that there was no Christmas spirit on Tenerife. It illustrated for me yet again that there are still a lot of people on Tenerife who really don’t know the island they live on.

During the holidays I’d been to La Orotava, Santa Cruz and La Laguna to take photos for a Tenerife Magazine article about the most Christmassy towns on Tenerife and they were all very festive with live music and stalls selling hot food.

These and the other historic towns had streets decorated like Christmas trees and full Christmas agendas which involved Christmas concerts, music in the streets, Christmas markets and all sorts of festive goodies. If you wandered through any one of them at night, it was impossible not to be infected with a jolly dose of Christmas spirit.

It’s true that because the most Christmassy places tend to be found where most Canarios live (i.e. the north of the island) and that decorations in the purpose built tourists resorts are maybe not quite as elaborate as in the old historic towns. But it’s also true that places like Arona and Adeje, where the biggest resorts are located, also had extensive Christmas agendas.

There was Christmas spirit by the sparkly bucket load to be found on Tenerife. There always is.
However, depending on where you live, or are staying, it might not  come to you; you have to make the effort to find it.

Santa Cruz - the odd light in the centre is a fire juggler.

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30th December
After our climb it was back to work full steam until my birthday. I’ve got a sort of Victor Meldrew attitude to my birthday. Not because I don’t like birthdays, but because it falls at a damned awkward time. If my mother had held on for another 16 minutes it would have fallen on New Year’s Eve and that would have been just tickety boo for partying, plus I would be sharing it with the great Sir Alex F. We spent the morning at La Villa which was a nightmare as Canarios were still shopping en masse for presents for Tres Reyes.

Morcilla con Almendras...yum!

Queuing to escape the chaos didn’t help with the birthday spirit, but an afternoon spent at tasca El Olivo and some of the best tapas I’ve tasted on Tenerife soon brought it back. The boquerones , olives in a spicy sauce and home made croquettes were above average but the morcilla con almendras (a type of black pudding with crushed almonds) and lightly grilled cheese drizzled with cilantro sauce, a spicy red sauce and honey were exceptional.

Andy played a blinder for my birthday; she got me a bottle of something that I’d wanted to try for eight years, absinthe. Its link with bohemian artists had intrigued me ever since we’d read a guidebook in Barcelona which mentioned this bar, Marsella I think it was called, specialised in absinthe and was allegedly frequented by dwarves, ladies of the night, transvestites and circus performers. We tried to find it one night, but it lay down a dark alley full of people who lurked in the shadows so that all you could see was the whites of their eyes and the glint of steel blades in their hands (well that’s what my imagination saw). We bottled it after a couple of hundred yards. But I’ve had a hankering to try it ever since, so we spent the evening trying to perfect how to pour absinthe properly – it involves sugar lumps, ice cold water and a special absinthe spoon.

The 'Rave' street in Puerto

New Year’s Eve
I thought bohemians drank absinthe to be creative. We woke up on NY Eve morning feeling about as creative as a pair of amoebas and the malaise lasted all day. The idea of traipsing the three kilometres into Puerto de la Cruz for the Nochevieja celebrations didn’t appeal in the slightest and we considered giving it a miss this year.
But you’ve got to do these things, so at around 10pm we deseeded our grapes, stuck a couple of bottles of cava into a Zara bag and dragged ourselves off to the party.
Of course as soon as we got there the infectious atmosphere took hold. As usual the place was full of smiley, dancing people looking fab. This year the style of evening dress seemed to be from the 50s and many of the girls had dresses of green silks with wide stiff hems. There were enormous waves pounding the harbour walls, so the firework display took place from the direction of Plaza Europa. We had the usual grape eating fiasco at midnight. I managed to get all mine down as the bells rang out for midnight, but Andy still had some in her gob.
“I didn’t know I was supposed to swallow” was her excuse, something I attribute to a good catholic upbringing.
After the fireworks it was party time again and the streets around the harbour filled. Calle Perdomo, the ‘rave’ street was particularly impressive this year as the fairground’s big wheel added the disco lights to the scene.
However, the effects of the absinthe hadn’t fully worn off, so we only managed to last a couple of hours this year before being party poopers and heading for home.

New Year’s Day
Pretty much a rerun of Christmas Day, except with a lot less alcohol. It was a beautifully sunny day, but we didn’t venture outside at all. Once more it was a case of overeating and slobbing out on the sofas; this time to watch Slumdog Millionaire. What an incredible film and a rollercoaster ride of emotions – There were tears before bedtime.

2nd January

Another walk to try to combat the effects of overeating throughout the festive period. This time we headed down to El Médano to meet our friends, Richard and Nikki for a hike across Montaña Pelada. The island’s volcanic cones are fascinating places to explore. Pelada’s surreal slopes lead to a flattish plateau which overlooks the windmills at the Institute for Renewable Energies.
In typical Tenerife fashion, this Eco centre lies right beside the area where a big new and controversial port is planned. I wonder if the windmills will power it and if the Tenerife authorities understand irony?

Snow on Teide...again

A great walk was finished off with an even better lunch courtesy of masterchef Nikki.

Tres Reyes – 5th & 6th January
The day after our walk we both woke to find we had what felt like the start of a cold. It turned out this was Andy’s fault as she had mentioned whilst chatting to Nikki, that we rarely caught colds and in saying that completely jinxed us. The symptoms got worse until by the night of the arrival of the Tres Reyes in Puerto, we were in no shape to go to the parade of the wise men bearing gifts which was a bit of a shame as the press release promised that there would be 60 animals involved. As I type, Andy is still in bed coughing and spluttering and feeling completely sorry for herself, whereas I’m feeling quite sprightly (but then she felt like that yesterday before relapsing). It’s a beautiful sunny day and there’s actually some snow on Mount Teide, so as Tres Reyes is actually Christmas Day for Canarios it looks as though we’ve got a white Christmas on Tenerife after all…even if the temperature is in the mid 20s.

Christmas Eve
There had been an orange weather alert for high winds, rain and choppy seas across the Canary Islands, but whilst 75% of Tenerife was grim and dreary, the north, funnily enough for the second year running, basked in hot sunshine with temperatures in the upper 20s.

We’d downed tools at lunchtime on Christmas Eve and after buying vegetables from the greengrocer near Plaza de la Iglesia in Puerto de la Cruz did what everyone else does, headed to Plaza Charco and one of the bars near the harbour for a cervesa or two.

The town was buzzing. The younger locals tend to meet up with mates and have a bit of a session before heading home to snooze off the booze while their mums no doubt prepare the big Christmas Eve meal. Plaza Charco had a real party atmosphere. If you didn’t know better, you’d think the town was preparing for a big night of partying, so some first time visitors were in for a shock when they left their hotels later to find that the party would be over and the place deserted by 10-ish.

Christmas Day
The weather on Christmas Day was glorious, but disappointingly there wasn’t any snow on Mount Teide, so no white Christmas on Tenerife.
Even though there was just the two of us we spent most of the day cooking Christmas dinner, which was no hardship as we both find cooking therapeutic, especially accompanied by some thumping music and plenty of bucks fizz.

I’d insisted on opting for a 5kg turkey, so by early evening we were prone on a sofa each,  all three of us having scoffed too much turkey (I’m including the cat here who was using my shoes as a sofa) and drunk too much cava (not the cat) to try to watch Star Trek over the sound of the cat snoring. We still managed to snack on some turkey butties and home-made mince pies later… well you’ve got to haven’t you.

On Top of the World... nearly

Boxing Day
Clearly being a British holiday it isn’t celebrated here, but we did what we’ve done on Boxing Day for yonks, went for a long walk to try to reduce in part our pregnant-whale sized stomachs.

Tackling Tenerife’s second highest mountain, Montaña Guajara seemed just the ticket. At 2715 metres high, it’s quite a test on the lungs and leg muscles, but emerging at the summit with quite stupendous views of Mount Teide and the surrounding crater made it well worth the effort.

27th December
It was off to the Beehive Bar to watch Hull v Man Utd. Hardly got to see much of the game as the bar was full of British and Scandinavian visitors we’ve gotten to know over the years. Still it was good fun and the result was right.

It's Not Really as Fast as it looks

A conversation I had with someone last week demonstrated once again how different a place can be, or appear, depending on where you choose to spend your time.

We were sitting in the Beehive Bar watching Wolfsburg V Man United. The bar was relatively busy, but not full and one of the regular winter visitors to Puerto de la Cruz commented on how quiet the town seemed and that there had only been a handful of people in the bar the previous night. It made us smile because we’d just queued for ages to get into the town’s big free car park which was completely stowed out and then had fought our way through crowds of people to try to make it to the bar in time for kick-off.

The reason for this was that the traditional Christmas funfair had set up in the lower car park and the night was filled with bright neon lights, loud screams and the smell of deep fried churros and boiled onions being slapped on humungous hot dogs. The place was buzzing with hordes of smiley happy people and for a split second it was nearly a case of ‘Man Who’ as I was almost seduced into swapping the thrill of the footie for the thrill of the fair. The huge over-the-top ‘big wheel’ dominating the old town area and only added to the childhood type excitement I felt at being in the middle of a whirlwind of sights and sounds.

The day before we’d battled the crowds in Al Campo to try to get our Christmas shopping completed. It felt as though the whole of the La Orotava Valley had decamped to the La Villa shopping centre and by the time we left, the place was just getting busier and busier and the roads entering and leaving the centre at a standstill.

The day after the match I sat outside the Post Office letting the sun warm my face, resigned to the fact that with 60 people in the queue ahead of me, I was going to be waiting quite a long time. At that point I remembered what the person in the bar had said to us about it being quiet.

It might have been quiet wherever he had been spending his time, but that’s because every other bugger in town happened to be anywhere that I happened to be.

Actually the week before the week before Christmas is normally a quiet time in the centre of the town during weekdays as everyone sorts out their final preparations so that they can have fun and enjoy the festive season to the full when it begins in earnest.