Posts Tagged ‘Playa de la Arena’

How anyone can ever be bored in Tenerife I’ll never know. Even the humdrum of everyday life normally keeps you on your toes, but the weekend before Christmas was a perfect example of how one minute you can be living the highlife here and the next completely brought down to earth and then some.

Friday had started off in a rather sad and bizarre fashion (part of one of the more fascinating Tenerife experiences that either Andy or I will write about one day). We weren’t directly involved, but it took some of the shine off collecting my mum, sister and her boyfriend from the bus station.

Despite there being a weather alert for high winds to such an extent that the cabins had been taken down from the harbour funfair’s big wheel it was actually a hot, sunny day and we spent a lovely day reintroducing my family to Puerto de la Cruz’s charms.

On Friday night we went to the Bitter & Twisted show at the Majestic where it was a great Christmas present to watch my mum in stitches at John Sharples and Barry Pugh’s clever and very funny show.

On Saturday we drove them back to Playa de la Arena where they were staying for some sun therapy prior to a snowy Christmas in the UK. The sun was shining again on that coast after a couple of days of cloud and rain and we deposited them at the beach as we drove on to Puerto Santiago and booked into the Barcélo Santiago Hotel.

Highlight of the Weekend
We’ve stayed in some fab hotel rooms and suites around the world; in Sheratons, Shangri-La’s and Dusit’s and so on, but the room we had at the Barcélo Santiago was one of the sexiest. I was completely seduced by its sophisticated, modern design and frosted glass interior walls. The views from the generous balcony of the Los Gigantes Acantilados and La Gomera simply made staying there one hell of an attractive package. I would have quite happily spent the whole visit in that room.
I could rattle on more about it, but Andy has already described our stay in her Real Tenerife blog in more beautifully described detail.

After spending the day and a good part of the night in the hotel we decided to have a change of scenery to end the night. We strolled, after a long and most enjoyable dinner at the hotel’s a la carte Sabor Español restaurant across the road to one of the top entertainment venues in south west Tenerife, Route 66.

Resident band Old Dogs New Tricks weren’t playing that night, but Los Tres Hombres did a great job of keeping the bar rocking to some classic sounds. It was a lively end to the day and all was well with the world until I had to pay a visit to the men’s room.

Lowlight of the Weekend
When I was ready to leave I turned to unlock the door and the bolt didn’t move. I tried again and again, but the little mock gold locking mechanism wouldn’t budge.

At first I wasn’t a bit concerned – in fact I figured the bottle of wine over dinner and couple of beers in Route 66 had impaired my toilet door opening skills somewhat. But as I dropped to my knees to inspect the stubborn lock it became clear that it wasn’t me at all. At some point in the recent past a new lock had been attached…and it had been a botched job.

At that point I have to admit to starting to get quite worried. No amount of rattling, cursing and pulling would make the damn lock budge. I looked around for an alternative way out, but the door went all the way to the ceiling. There was only one potential escape route; a little gap between the gents and the ladies’ toilets. If it came to the worst I figured I could squeeze through, but that option seemed a bit drastic.

Ten minutes later and still imprisoned, it started to look like my only way to escape this hell. But before I resorted to scaring the be-Jesus out of some poor unsuspecting woman I tried one last pathetic approach. I banged loudly on the door and shouted “HELP” over and over.

Unfortunately being locked in the toilet of a bar playing loud rock music meant that my cries for help must have been completely drowned out and no rescue was forthcoming.

Finally after twenty minutes of imprisonment and trauma the door started to rattle and bang and then after a few moments it sprang open…I was free.

After a wonderful day and night I’d walked into that toilet with the swagger of James Bond (the Sean Connery and Daniel Craig versions not Old Codger Moore’s) and emerged gushing relieved gratitude like a Chilean miner.

Andy, meanwhile, was still singing along to the band oblivious to my ordeal.

As I said at the start how can anyone ever be bored on Tenerife?

As a footnote, I pointed out to the barman that the lock was faulty, but as far as I could see he didn’t actually do anything about it. So guys, if you’re visiting the loo at Route 66 don’t lock the door. And gals, if you’re in the loo keep one eye on that little gap between the male and female toilets, you just never know when you might have some unexpected company.

Firstly, this might not be a typical day on Tenerife – there isn’t really such a thing for us – but neither is it untypical.

7.00am

It’s still dark when we drag ourselves out of bed. A shot of black coffee gives the brain cells a jolt and I turn from an unintelligible caveman into something resembling a human being. Whiskas purrs happily – he’s had his breakfast nearly two hours earlier than normal.

8.00am

We hit gridlock just outside Tacoronte. It’s like driving to work in Manchester. The traffic crawls all the way until the motorway opens into three lanes just past the north airport. A 20 minute journey takes 50 minutes.

An open air gymn at Las Caletillas

9.00am
We reach Las Caletillas in Candelaria and the smell of fresh bread from little bakeries is intoxicating. The sun is out and the only people about are Canarios of all ages running, power-walking or strolling gently listening to their iPods whilst kidding themselves they’re doing exercise. It’s got a nice atmosphere.

10.00am
We’ve got about 30 minutes in Los Abrigos to take photos and to check that restaurants haven’t changed etc. It’s only a small fishing village with good fish restaurants, so not a lot of ground to cover. I don’t find it particularly picturesque, although it’s got quite a nice harbour area. Still the sun’s shining and there’s one old guy mending fishing nets whilst five more watch – this is a typical Tenerife work scenario.

Los Abrigos - tranquil in the morning sun

11.00am
We meet Nikki from Tenerife Dogs in Los Cristianos and head to the Mestizo bar for a meeting with Colin Kirby and John Beckley to discuss how we’re going to continue our mission to make Tenerife Magazine the most interesting, original and best looking magazine on the island. This takes three hours and more black coffee than is good for us.

2.00pm
We haven’t eaten so we stop off at a little café where the music is jazzy cool and the lomo in the bocadillos chunky. A plan to also visit stockists of Island Drives is disappearing out of the window.

3.00pm

We’re in Chayofa, a residential area above Los Cristianos. Some parts are very green and picturesque and the area around the Finca del Arte is charming. But the cloud has descended over the whole area, draining colour from the scene – it isn’t looking at its best, but photos are required pronto.

5pm

Some more work in Playa de la Arena and a short meet up with another friend. By the time we head up the hill towards Santiago del Teide we’re flagging badly.

5.30pm
The Erjos Pools are bathed in late afternoon sunshine revealing that the pools, which were desert-dry after the fires a couple of years ago, aren’t actually pools anymore…but small lakes. Unfortunately we don’t have time to stop to take any piccies.

6.37pm

Reach home, have a quick check of email, jump in the shower, get changed, feed the cat and go out again.

7.30pm
Pick up Bob, a friend who spends three months in Puerto de la Cruz every year. It’s his last night before returning to the UK and we’d arranged to go to a restaurant where the garlic chicken was supposed to rival Adeje’s. All Bob knows is that it’s up a steep street and has big chimneys.

8pm
Thanks to some inspired navigation we find the restaurant Casa Francisco above La Victoria first time. We’re the only non-Canarios in the place.

Casa Francisco - By this point just about everyone else had left

8.15pm
The waiter is a mind reader – he tells us we want vino tinto before we ask and also that we want garlic chicken. We order a salad, morcilla and some croquetas de pescado as well. The mind reader bit turns out not to be so impressive – everyone is eating big plates of garlic chicken. It’s so good that Bob orders a second portion. The waiter fills up the carafe of wine without being asked.

1030pm

We’ve managed to munch our way through the mountain of food and ask for the bill, the waiter brings it – €39. As he hands over the bill, he brings another small carafe of wine on the house. It looks like we’re never going to get out of this place.

11.30pm
Shattered, we drop Bob off to party away his last night in Puerto and head home. We reach the car park at the same time as our taxi driver neighbour who, despite having lived for 6 months in the little casita which we pass daily, we’ve never actually said hello to. In the pitch darkness we introduce ourselves – he’s called Pierro and seems like a really nice bloke.

11.40pm
Stretch out on the sofa, ignore the cat at the window who has got a face like he’s sucked a lemon and turn on the telly to catch the last 20 minutes of ER before collapsing into bed hoping to sleep the sleep of the dead – which doesn’t actually happen because of the super strength coffee earlier.

You can quote all the arguments why people opt for ‘all inclusive’ deals when they go on holiday, but in the last week I’ve witnessed first hand why for local businesses they are as a welcome in a resort as an outbreak of swine flu.

First of all it was Playa Paraiso. We wandered around the little resort during prime lunch time hours. What we saw came as a complete shock.

Every restaurant and bar was almost completely empty – it was a ghost town. And yet there are big hotels right in the centre of the resort… and they weren’t empty. But their occupants weren’t leaving the premises. Even the little beach was empty and the rows of sun beds lay unused.

Lonely Sunbeds

I’ve been reading constantly about the decline of Puerto de la Cruz, but of course we have a thriving and vibrant local scene here; there’s always something going on and Canarios flock here at the weekend, so the reports never quite match the reality. The same can’t be said of the smaller purpose built resorts where the AI hotels are draining every last bit of life from the streets.

Our next experience of the dramatic impact of AI was in Playa de la Arena at the weekend. We’d spent the Saturday night in Puerto de la Cruz, showing my sister and her boyfriend the town.
We’d eaten tapas then strolled along the streets of the old town, where living statues and unusual puppet shows entertained the throng of visitors and locals, before heading to a packed ‘The Majestic’ to watch what must be one of the best acts on the island, ‘Bitter & Twisted’, perform their show which had us all in stitches. It was two in the morning before we knew it.

Switch forward 24 hours and we’re sitting in a bar in the centre of Playa de la Arena at 23.30. There is no-one else in the bar, or any of the bars nearby. It’s uncomfortably quiet.

“It’s the AI,” the owner tells us. “It’s changed everything.”

There are plenty of people about the resort during the day, enjoying strolling around what at this moment is still a pleasantly relaxing resort. However, most of them might as well be carrying bricks and lobbing them through the windows of all the businesses that they pass.

And this is what really irks me about AI. People choose the resort because it has a nice feel to it (maybe they don’t; maybe they’re not arsed as long as the hotel gives them all they want for their handful of silver), but when it loses that feel because the restaurants and shops become boarded up what will they do then? They’ll stop coming, many of them oblivious to the fact that it was they who hammered in the nails on the ‘for sale’ signs.

I’m hoping there will be a backlash and it’ll come sooner rather than later. One business man told us that some of the AI customers who did come in to his bar moaned that the quality in the Playa de la Arena hotel had plummeted. You might say that as a local businessman who has suffered, it’s no surprise that he would say this.

But recently my neighbour, who like many Canarios spends some weekends in hotels in the south, cut her stay at the Playa de la Arena Hotel short and returned north because she thought the hotel was a disgrace.

It’s a crying shame, but unfortunately greed will ultimately consume and destroy. And in the case of AI hotels, the ‘greed’ accusation shouldn’t simply be levelled at the ‘welcoming foyers’ of the people who own the hotels.

I just hope that there are enough people out there for whom quality is more important than quantity and that the age of the AI will come to an end sooner rather than later.

We were across on the south west coast this weekend at Playa de la Arena where my sister was escaping the never ending rain in the West of Scotland by enjoying two weeks sun drenched R&R. It’s one of the best locations for watching sunsets on Tenerife as the sun drops right behind the island of La Gomera creating wonderful light shows.

This time it wasn’t one of the best, but even on a mediocre showing, it’s pretty damn impressive – especially if you happen to be relaxing with a sundowner as nature puts on her nightly performance.

Sunset on Tenerife

Things happen for a reason – sometimes it’s good, sometimes not.

Don't anyone go 'aaaw'. He's a cat, he belongs outside.

Take yesterday. We’d just had the most wonderful weekend with my sister and her boyfriend who were staying in Playa de la Arena. They’d come across to Puerto de la Cruz on Saturday and the weather had been glorious. Sunday was the same. In fact the weather only deteriorated when we headed through the crater towards the south coast where it was quite moody and overcast. Ironic to think we were leaving the sun and the heat in the north.

Andy and I returned to Puerto on Monday morning where it was still clear blues skies… and then the world ended.

The first signs were that the sky darkened.

“Hmmm, I think we’re in for a bit of rain,” Andy made what must be the understatement of the year so far.

An hour later and it was full blown monsoon and the thunderous skies were booming. The deluge was spectacular.

At that point Whiskas decided that our house was his favourite after all and appeared at the window like a drowned rat. It might seem harsh, but setting a precedent with that cat is a dangerous business, so he was refused entry to the ‘ark’. There are plenty of places where he can stay dry.

All afternoon we watched the rain come down in sheets unaware of the devastation it was causing outside.

At around seven Andy decided to make some soup and tabouleh for lunch for the next couple of days, but a couple of phone calls from the UK delayed her. Funnily enough, both started with ‘It’s horrible here, windy and raining…’ – Guess what?

So it was later than planned when we started preparing Mediterranean chickpea stew for dinner. It’s a one pot wonder and I’d barely added all the ingredients to the pan when the gas jet went off.

Now we operate a two canister system for this very reason. However, it ain’t much use when both bottles are empty. Andy had been telling me that we needed to replace the gas for days, so she was a bit tight lipped as we threw on our coats and headed out into the rainy night.

As we passed the golf course gate, Glen, who works at the course, was huddled in the darkness. He’d been waiting for his wife for two hours and had been having trouble getting through on the phone.

We offered to give him a lift, but he assured us that his wife was due any moment.

Apart from a few rivers of boulders on the main road to Puerto, there didn’t seem to be much of a problem. We collected the gas and headed back home. As we were returning through the banana road we noticed a sodden looking figure wrapped in refuse bags; it was Glen.

This was as close to the rain as I wanted to get - through the front window!

It turned out his wife couldn’t leave their house in Los Realejos, boulders were blocking the road and he was resigned to having to walk home in the shocking weather. Los Realejos is quite a few kilometres away on the opposite side of town. We could hardly let the poor man walk, so we told him to jump in and headed back into town, this time towards the motorway… and it was at that point we realised that the rains had cause much more havoc than we realised.

There were flashing lights everywhere as police and firemen tried to make some sense out of the chaos. The motorway was gridlocked and the approach roads the same. Luckily we had opted for a back road to Los Realejos and although the roads were a mess we managed to avoid the queues. In the dreadful conditions it still took us an hour to get Glen within a couple of hundred yards of his house and then get back home via the centre of Puerto where traffic was quieter.

Amazingly we crossed the barranco (ravine) where later we saw on TV a rushing torrent of water washing away cars. Funnily a couple of years ago one of us commented ‘I wonder if there’s ever any water in there’ – now we know the answer. At the time we crossed it, about 20.45, we didn’t even notice that there was any water in it. I think all of the action had taken place by then.

We ended up finally sitting down to dinner at about 22.00 having done our good deed for the day.

Had Andy not decided to make soup and tabouleh before we cooked dinner (she doesn’t usually prepare lunches at that time), or our friends phone from the UK and had I not left replacing the gas until it was too late, we wouldn’t have ever left the house last night and Glen would probably have had to walk home in the awful weather. It was one of those little series of events which worked out well for him.

We were especially glad that they did – it was his birthday and having to brave monsoon conditions is no sort of birthday present for anyone.

I realise that if you’re wrapped up in blankets freezing your proverbials off, you’re unlikely to have much sympathy when I moan that the weather here on Tenerife has been pretty crap over the last couple of weeks.

Of course being Tenerife, what that actually means is that the sun has showed its face most days, but not for long enough to strip down to the swimming cossie and get prone on the sand.

This ain’t normally an issue for us, the luxury of sunbathing is something that we tend to do only when we have sun starved and peelly wally northern British friends and family visiting. However, this week my mother, a fully paid up member of the sun worshipper’s club, came to stay, so plenty of visits to Tenerife’s beaches had been planned. The weather in Puerto hadn’t been great; the November rains had arrived early and my mum’s first night was spent listening to a monsoon bouncing off the roof with such force that it made sleeping difficult.
Pointing out that “it’s good for the farmers and the garden” and “This is really unlucky, the rain doesn’t normally arrive until later in November” doesn’t really cut the mustard with someone who’s experienced yet another disappointing and almost non-existent summer in the UK.

Still, no worries, this is Tenerife where the sun’s always shining somewhere. A search of web cams and Tenerife forums told us that the south of the island was not only experiencing windy weather, but that it was cold as well, so that was out.

The only really sunny day of my mums holiday

The only really sunny day of my mum's holiday

We decided that the safest bet was the ‘magic tunnel’ at Buenavista where you enter one side in doom and gloom weather and emerge beneath blue skies on the other, but this time the tunnel let us down. The skies weren’t quite as grey on the other side of the tunnel, but they certainly weren’t blue. However, by the time we reached the lighthouse, the sun seemed to be fighting its way through the clouds and we decided to risk it and lay out our towels on the pebble beach. Ten minutes later we were sprinting back to the car as a massive rain cloud snuck up on us from behind the Teno Mountains and unloaded its wet cargo. This was to set the pattern for the week. Apart from one beautiful day on Playa Jardín in Puerto de la Cruz, overlooked by Mount Teide who looked splendid wearing its first snow overcoat of the year, the cloud hung around like a bad smell for the duration of my mum’s visit.

Las Teresitas, shortly before the heavens opened

Las Teresitas, shortly before the heavens opened

One day we tried Las Teresitas outside of Santa Cruz and at least got a couple of hour’s sunshine before, returning from a beach hut with lunch (T5 does great lomo bocadillos), we noticed a battleship grey cloud appear over the Anagas.
“Do you think that looks like a rain cloud?” Andy asked, looking skywards.
She’d hardly finished the question before some heavenly body upended a bucket of water over the whole beach and suddenly Las Teresitas resembled that scene from JAWS with everyone running up the beach screaming (my mum losing her spectacles in the process).

Another day we tried Playa San Juan and Playa de la Arena on the south west coast, the area with the best weather (if you’re after sunshine) on Tenerife. An hour plus drive from one cloudy coast to find…another cloudy coast, but at least it was warm.

And so it went on.

My mum returned to Scotland on Thursday night, the weather staying moody to the end; a chilly wind was blowing through the airport. Despite her insistence that the weather had been ‘fine’, she must have been disappointed. For those of us who live here it doesn’t matter; the rain is essential for many people’s livelihoods and we know that in a few days the sun will be shining again. But if your holiday happens to coincide with the coming of the November rains, then it’s a bit of a bummer.

To rub salt into the wounds, we woke up on Friday morning to blue skies and warm sunshine and it’s pretty much stayed that way since. Life’s a bitch, eh?