Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

We are always, always late putting up our Christmas decorations. This year was no different except that this year we toddled off to Portugal shortly after Christmas Day to return on the night when the decs were due to come down again. So we didn’t really have a lot of time to enjoy them.

Instead of leaving them up in the house for 12 months and risking bad luck, I thought I’d post some pics on here, so I can enjoy the house dressed for Christmas for just a little bit longer.

Instead of a Christmas Tree we have a Sprayed Branch, Lights and Old CDs.

Our Only Tree.

By the Light of the Stars.

Bucks Fizz on Christmas Morn.

The Door Handle that Requires a Strong Wrist.

Symbols of Good Luck.

Stars and Discs.

On the Outside Looking In.

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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'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.

Somewhere around 10.30 we woke up. It was a beautiful day and Mount Teide had a surprise for us. It had snowed during the night on the peak, so we officially had a white Christmas to go with the turkey, the blue skies and the 75 degrees temperature.
Most of the day was spent preparing the Xmas dinner, drinking bucks fizz and listening to the sort of music we like – start off with a bit of mellow Miles Davis and eventually built up to some Faithless and Leftfield at the height of the cooking.

The dishevelled invalid on his makeshift hospital bed

The dishevelled invalid recovering on his makeshift hospital bed

We had mulled over whether to invite our neighbour, Jesús to have dinner with us, but there was no sign of life at his house and anyway he’d announced a couple of days previously that he didn’t really ‘do’ Christmas, so it was just us and Whiskas, who wasn’t much company as he’d been in a fight during the night (no peace and goodwill to all creatures in his philosophy then) and had damaged his right paw so that he could hardly put any weight on it. He was in a bit of a sorry state, so feeling sorry for him, we made a hospital bed out of a cushion and left him to sleep off his wounds (which took him coincidentally till almost exactly the point where the turkey was being carved).

The nice thing about when it’s just the two of you is that you can prepare the dinner at your own pace, with no pressure to keep to a strict timetable. By about 16.30 we sat down to roast turkey with mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, roasted sweet potato (here’s a tip: parsnips are difficult to get hold off here, but sweet potatoes aren’t and taste quite similar) broccoli, carrot and chestnut and sweet potato puree, chipolatas (in this case small local sausages), home made stuffing and gravy followed by some very light home made meringue with a variety of fruits and crème freche.

Andys homemade dessert - perfect after a heavy dinner

Andy's homemade dessert - perfect after a heavy dinner

We had no sooner scoffed the lot, cleaned up and were looking forward to a fat and happy snooze on the sofa when Jesús appeared on the path limping badly.

For some reason he’d been jumping about in the driving range – he said because he’d felt happy – and had gone over on his ankle (same leg as Whiskas) which was now swollen up like a balloon. He’d also been invited by Sorraya, the receptionist at the golf course, to share Nochebuena dinner with her family, but that hadn’t gone very well. Something to do with Jesús’ inappropriate choice of clothing (looking a bit like a refugee wearing kung fu pants)and some mumbo jumbo about the main dish being lamb and Jesús thinking that it was some sort of a sign connected to him accidentally burning a lamb dinner when he was working as a chef the other week. Anyway to cut a long story short, he didn’t feel that it had been a great success and was looking as sorry for himself as the cat.

After Jesús told us all about his Nochebuena he hobbled back to his house and we collapsed into the sofa to slob out and spend what was left of the day watching Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull (okay for escapist non-challenging entertainment, which was just about all that we could handle, but not the best of the Indiana Jones movies).

We’re not ones for roast dinners, partly because at our ages the price on the waistline is much too high, but mostly because the temperature here, whatever the time of year, isn’t one where you feel the need to stock up on body fat to get through long cold winters. So plates piled high with roasted meats, potatoes, gravy, Yorkshire puddings etc don’t really fit the bill…except at Christmas when we do have a full blown turkey dinner.

A foodies treasure trove

A foodie's treasure trove

The Al Campo hypermarket in La Orotava stocks up on turkeys from about a week before Christmas, so no problem with that, but buy it too early and you’ll have a seriously whiffy fridge by Christmas Day. However, although we normally buy our veg at Al Campo, it isn’t the greatest choice or quality. For that you have to go to one of the agricultural markets. This year for a change we decided to take a trip to the market at La Laguna to stock up on veg.

La Laguna, like La Orotava and Garachico, is one of those places on Tenerife which I never tire of visiting. There’s always something interesting to see and the marketplace is no exception.
It’s a bustling hall full of stalls piled high with tiny papa negras (potatoes), beets, courgettes, aubergines, kakis (persimmons), lemons, oranges, pineapples, melons, red and white sweet potatoes and bunches of lettuce and herbs. Then there are the salted fish stalls where great slabs of salted fish are lined up under huge bunches of dried red chillies, or the carnicería stalls where pigs’ heads look down accusingly from shiny butcher’s hooks (I tend not to spend too long looking at that one). My favourite stall is the spice and herb counter where rows of neat wicker bags are filled with mountains of sweet paprika, cumin, long sticks of cinnamon, curry and coriander.

Visiting these markets is more than a shopping experience it’s an assault on the senses. The prices are a bit higher than supermarkets, but it’s worth it for the choice available, the quality and not least, the experience.

Christmas on Tenerife

Posted: January 4, 2009 in Life, Spain, Tenerife
Tags: , , ,

I’ve been in a blog free zone for the last two weeks and have been getting progressively more jittery with each passing day; experiencing cold turkey whilst I’ve been munching on…errr cold turkey. Trouble is we’ve been doing so much that there hasn’t been the time to write it down, so the next few blogs are a backwards glance at how we celebrated Christmas and New Year in the north of Tenerife – if I can remember.

The first fire of the year

The first fire of the year

As is so often the case, it’s been a mixed week in terms of ‘ups’ and ‘downs’. Our new book, Going Native in Tenerife just came out in print, so clearly that’s a big ‘up’, the depressing weather, or as Julie from Tenerife Tattle put it, the dreich and dreary weather changed on Wednesday and the blue skies and warm weather returned (to the north of the island anyway), although having acclimatised over the last five years, we’re still wearing our jumpers when we go out.

We managed to get our Christmas decorations up relatively early for us, without too much pain and stress as I balance acrobatically at the end of a ladder trying to create Andy’s vision of a ‘simple, rustic theme’. I have to hand it to her, I’m always a bit sceptical at the start, but am a complete convert when I see the completed ‘creation’. Another up.

With the weather being a bit on the cool side at night, we lit the fire for the first time this year and cracked a bottle of cava to celebrate the publication of the book. That was lovely and cosy and with the decorations in pace, the house felt very Christmassy.

A minimalist and rustic approach to Xmas deccies in our house

A minimalist and rustic approach to Xmas deccies in our house

Then Thursday dawned and we sat down to crack on with work – no internet signal. The electricity flow had clearly decided to take an early Christmas break, leaving a version of a skeleton signal in its place. Strong enough for lights, TV etc, but not strong enough for the router. For the rest of the day the signal was on and off like a tart’s drawers. Cue a rant about the how backward Tenerife can be when in the 21st century you can’t be guaranteed a constant flow of electricity.

But this being Tenerife, we decided to do nothing and hope that it was back to normal the next day. It wasn’t.

I phoned the electricity company and told them that the electricity was ‘bajo tension’. They didn’t seem at all surprised and said that they would send round a technician. Ninety minutes later I met the technician (a little man with a white van and one of those machines for testing electricity current) in the car park an we trudged up to the contador (leccie meter) which is on the road about a hundred metres away from the house.

Despite the problems with the electricity and being unable to work properly, I felt in pretty good spirits. The sun was shining and I was having a good Spanish day. I’d understood everything the girl had told me on the telephone and she had understood me and it was the same with the technician (normally I’m a seventy percenter – I understand about 70% of what people are saying to me).

“You’ve not got any electricity?”
he asked.
“No, that’s not the problem,” I explained. “The current seems to be too low to get an internet signal.”
“Ah, the computer,” he nodded. “It’s always the computer.”
I didn’t quite understand that, so I ignored it.

He opened the contador and checked the current.
“It’s normal,” he announced. “You don’t have a problem.”
He showed me the reading; it was 210.
“Shouldn’t that be 220?”
“Sometimes it’s 230, sometimes it’s 210, or lower,” he shrugged his shoulders and smiled. ”There’s a lot of usage at the moment, so it’s down, but it’s within normal limits.”

And that was that. Nothing I could do about it and no point in getting annoyed – this is Tenerife (TIT). The amount of work I can get done is determined by the fickle nature of what is quite obviously an electricity system on Tenerife which mirrors the ‘mas o menos’ culture. Sometimes it’s up and sometimes it’s down.

I know exactly how it feels.