Posts Tagged ‘Puerto de la Cruz’

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.

The obvious answer is that Spanish dubbing is so bad that ripping out your ear drums with a butcher’s hook is kinder to those weird protrusions on the side of your head than subjecting them to The King’s Speech sounding more like Once Upon a Time in Meheeeco.

But that’s not the main reason.

There used to be two mainstream cinema complexes on Tenerife where you could catch the latest-ish movies in their original language; at La Villa in La Orotava and at Gran Sur in Costa Adeje. Each screened one V.O. (version original) a week. Sometimes the movie was good, sometimes it was bobbins.

The one in La Orotava didn’t last long; there’s just not a big enough audience for English language movies in the north of Tenerife.

The south of Tenerife is a different matter. In some municipalities up to 75% of the population are non-Canarios. Not all of these are English speaking, but there’s a massive percentage who are.

And yet every time I’ve been to the Gran Sur Cinema to watch V.O. There has been less than 10 other people in the cinema with me. Doesn’t matter how good the movie is, even the likes of Inception and The Adventures of Tintin didn’t bring in the English speaking crowds.

I just don’t get it. Andy and I think nothing of the 90 minute journey from Puerto de la Cruz to Costa Adeje if the movie warrants it. DVDs are wonderful, but you can’t beat watching BIG movies on the big screen. So, as most ex-pat residents on Tenerife live significantly closer to the cinema, why aren’t audiences bigger? It’s a mystery to me.

The apparent lack of support for the V.O has had me worried that it might be pulled (I say apparent because for all I know, the place is teeming on the days I’m not there).

Sure enough, for the last two weeks the V.O. movie has been absent from Gran Sur. They say that it might be back, but if they don’t re-introduce it I’ll be gutted.

I’ve been a massive fan of the movies since leafing through my mum’s Photoplays when I was knee high to a popcorn seller. I love movies and I especially get a thrill out of seeing them at the cinema.

And because I feel this way about films, I won’t watch dubbed ones.

You might think that as I live in Spain, I should watch movies in Spanish. I do…but only Spanish movies. I also watch French, Chinese, Brazilian, Swedish movies etc…all in their original language (with English subtitles of course).

Movies aren’t just about the visuals – without the performance of the actor, the movie is nothing. And that’s why dubbing is irritating in the extreme.

Dubbing lessens a movie (well maybe not one with Van Damme, Steven Seagal or Chuck Norris). You can’t tell whether a film is good or bad when you’re listening to some wooden performance from a professional dubber. Where’s the richness of voice? Where’s the emotion? Where’s the intonation or the subtlety in the performance? With dubbing you lose all of that…and subsequently you also lose the soul of the movie.

How can people who watch dubbed movies know how good an actor Leo DiCaprio or Brad Pitt is? The answer is that they can’t.

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold was on Spanish TV last week. I’d forgotten how delicious Richard Burton’s voice was. Imagine casting those rich vocals aside for some part-timer from Valencia with a voice that grates like nails down a board.

It would simply be a crime.

Puerto de la Cruz? Who the hell would want to take a holiday here? It’s cold all year – I have an igloo in my back garden; It never, ever stops raining – whereas folks in the south of Tenerife wear flip flops, I’ve got wellie boots. As for the people, what a weird language they speak and don’t get me started on the food; things with tentacles and all sorts of rubbish like that.

Honestly, trust me on this – I live there – stay away from Puerto de la Cruz.

After years of trying to convince people what it’s really like to live in or visit Puerto de la Cruz, I’ve decided to do a complete U-turn. There are a couple of reasons for this.

The first is more irritating than anything else. I can preach about Puerto de la Cruz until the cows come home, bed down for the night and start to dream of grassy meadows. But somebody visits the place on an excursion for 5 minutes and suddenly they know better – if they say it’s always cold, wet and cloudy, then it must be. What the hell do I know?

But the main reason is that, after witnessing an unusual situation involving pissed up young Brits making an ass of themselves a few weeks ago and then reading a couple of reviews on Tripadvisor this week, I really don’t want a certain type of Brit holidaymaker to believe that Puerto is warm and sunny all the year round – or for any part of the year. Simple as that.

Some people just aren’t suited to the north of Tenerife just as some people wouldn’t enjoy staying in the purpose built resorts in the south. The north is never going to ring their bells and these comments taken from a Tripadvisor review illustrate exactly why.

A seriously disappointed holidaymaker moaned about their hotel that –‘The staff at hotel were bad mannered,rude,hardly understood English language’ and even worse, the ‘entertainment that was on every night was Spanish and all the locals came in for a night out,nothing aimed at British people’.

Puerto itself fared little better as the reviewer continued their moan – ‘No British entertainment on in area either,just Spanish singers with Spanish locals sitting in all the seats’.

Their final piece of advice was ‘I would seriously urge anyone from the UK not to go to Puerto de la Cruz…as it will be the worst holiday you’l ever have.’

Absolutely…if the idea of being full of Spanish and having no Brit bars has you penning an ‘outraged’ letter to Puerto’s tourist board for not turning the place into Britain in the sun then please, please, please follow the reviewer’s advice.

It’s not just Puerto who has to suffer these Philistines. On the same day I read hotel reviews for La Gomera; an island ‘more discerning’ holidaymakers head for (or so some of them would like to have you believe) and came across a scathing review from a holidaymaker who, clearly having been seduced by a tour brochure description, had opted to stay in the hill town of Vallehermoso – which is a ‘real’ Gomeran town.

First they complained that their receptionist didn’t carry their bags (it’s a small rural hotel in the country, not a 4 star All Inclusive) then they bitched about breakfast (coming face to face with the continental variety was clearly a shock to the system). They commented that there were a few pubs but nothing special (PUBS? PUBS? Where did they think they were – the Lake District). But the most inconvenient aspect of the place was that families filled the local plaza at night, music was played and everyone had the nerve to have a noisy good time (obviously no-one had told them they would have to come into contact with any foreigners).

The best line of the review was their conclusion that ‘Vallehermoso is a total DUMP’ to be avoided at all costs.

Vallehermoso means beautiful valley in English – it is aptly named…but not if you’re a total moron. It has not, however, been built for tourists. It is the real deal. These plebs apparently couldn’t even find the hotel’s sun terrace they were that clueless.

Finally they were moved to the Hotel Tecina – ‘a lovely place’ where they decided that La Gomera was indeed beautiful…that would be the La Gomera found inside the biggest hotel complex on the island then.

So here’s a tip for everyone out there of similar mind to these two, Puerto de la Cruz and anywhere remotely Canario should definitely be avoided at all costs. You really won’t like it.

The sad truth is that I fell out of love with Tenerife in June 2011. But I didn’t realise I’d fallen out of love with the place…until it charmed me back again.

Saying I’d fallen out of love with Tenerife is a bit misleading. Whatever happens in the future, Tenerife will always hold a special place. It wasn’t the island I was tired with, it was some of the people who inhabit it.

I can trace the problem back to our trip to Costa Brava in early May. There we met professional, forward looking and ethical people who put themselves second to what was best for the location they were promoting.

It highlighted for me that this isn’t always the case on Tenerife. On returning to the island this growing dissatisfaction with how things and businesses are run here was added to by an unfortunate sequence of experiences. The sad thing about Tenerife is that I now expect a lack of knowledge and professionalism…and I’m rarely disappointed. There are examples of business practices here that would be laughed out of any serious business in the more savvy parts of Europe. People who don’t turn up for appointments or worse, bugger off somewhere when they’ve made an appointment don’t appear big or important to me. They come across as unprofessional and incompetent. Busking doesn’t make me think they’re knowledgeable and flashing bling doesn’t impress it merely makes me think that the person hasn’t a clue about what they’re talking about and that they’re crass.

When you’re used to dealing with highly professional people, as we were before we moved to Tenerife, dealing with people who employ the business tactics above is just depressing as hell. So, after an unusual run of experiences related to the above, by the middle of June I was well and truly hacked off with the place.

There’s a story super video blogger Diego Pons told me recently about sheep standing in the way of the Transcantábrico luxury train in Asturias. The train driver blared his horn but the sheep didn’t move. He hit the horn again and again, but still they stood on the track, their blank eyes staring at the oncoming train until it ploughed straight into them. They were too dumb to move out of the way of what was inevitable. Sometimes business dealings on Tenerife remind me of those sheep.

But then came the week beginning with the 23rd June. And what happened that week swept all the buskers and bling brigade under the carpet.

A sultry night in Santa Cruz listening to wild man Andy J. Forest growl his way through spicy Louisiana blues whilst swigging from can after can of beer, playing a harmonica and what looked like my mother’s washing board as well as entertaining us with tales of nonsense brought me back. Santa Blues reminded me what I’d been dealing with over the previous few weeks wasn’t the real Tenerife.

The next morning I dragged myself out of bed to watch goatherds and caballeros from the Orotava Valley drag their livestock kicking and screaming into the harbour waters of Puerto de la Cruz.

The following evening at a music festival I stood beside an old fort at Playa Jardín as the sun illuminated Mount Teide. It was a sight that caused one of the performers at the European Music Day concert to gasp and proclaim it was the most beautiful setting for a concert she’d seen.

A day later I was at my neighbour’s Moroccan barbecue with people who were the antithesis of those who’d caused me to fall out of love with Tenerife; a Canarian teacher from La Camella with her two talented sons; one of whom was a musician/painter the other a marine biologist with his charming wife. They were smart, witty, interesting and interested and despite their obvious talents possessed absolutely no airs and graces.

A few days after that I was strolling the streets of La Laguna admiring the Corpus Christi flower carpets when a girl engaged me in conversation because I was photographing her friend’s alfombra. We debated (me poorly as it was in Spanish) whether La Orotava’s or La Laguna’s flower carpets were the best whilst people around us ooh’d and aah’d at the displays. I’m never completely comfortable talking in Spanish, but I felt more comfortable on that old street than I had during the first part of the month when most of the dealings had been in my own language.

By the end of the week these experiences reminded me why I feel so passionate about Tenerife. The antidote to falling out of love with Tenerife had been to dive deep into the real Tenerife once again and completely cleanse my body and soul of that other place.

We returned from Britain to discover that some strange creatures had taken up residence in the trees around the house. When we stumbled home at 3am on Thursday after a 10 hour journey we were met by haunting calls piercing the darkness from at least three different locations. They carried on throughout the night until daybreak.

Thursday night was exactly the same, some of the calls sounded as though they were coming from directly outside our bedroom window. It’s wonderful that we live in a place where nature can make itself known but hell, these ‘moans’ were a bit disconcerting.

A bit of internet research came up with the answer (I think). These are possibly female owls left on the nest whilst Mr Owl has buggered off somewhere (men…eh?). She’s calling for him to return. We’ve always had a big owl that swoops past the window every so often scaring the bejesus out of us, but from the sounds the other night it looks as though he’s moved in the extended family whilst we were away. Not that we’re complaining, the sight of an owl is always magical.

I tried to capture the sound on video, but by Friday two of the creatures had stopped calling. There’s nothing to see (it was dark) but hopefully this gives an idea of what we’re sharing the night with. BTW, the other noises are just the resident frogs – much more soporific.

The creature dancing in the rain had us spellbound; not because she was a Dalmatian with a girl’s head (that’s commonplace); she was doing a sizzling hot routine that turned the rain to steam as it hit the ground.

If Dal-girl wasn’t a professional pole dancer she should have been; her long black mane swirled in MTV music video fashion sending spray in all directions. Beside her, a basketball player-sized African man-women in bikini top and thong danced in circles oblivious to the downpour. It was 1.30am and it was wet, wet, wet…but it was 17C and the carnaval drug was coursing through the veins like an electrical current. This is what carnaval is really all about.

The carnaval day had begun nine hours earlier with the Gran Coso Apoteosis (closing parade). It’s a visually vibrant affair and I always go to take photographs. But it’s a spectator event and to be honest, jostling with the united nations of visitors to try to get a decent shot isn’t my idea of fun. After an hour I’d seen what I’d wanted to see and swapped the jostling for watching Man Utd defeat Arsenal in the FA Cup before heading for home, making dinner, watching two episodes of Desperate Housewives on Spanish TV and getting into costume to head back into town.

Where we live you can forget calling a taxi or catching a bus on the last night of carnaval. The only way in is to drive (that means no drinking) or walk the three kilometres into Puerto de la Cruz. We opted to walk.

However, two unexpected downpours had us pausing mid dressing up. The first was the rain which had made an appearance most nights at about 10pm; the second was something I’d eaten decided to turn everything in my intestines into liquid. Three visits to the loo in an hour presented a much worse prospect than the rain. Carnaval toilets aren’t exactly Glastonbury levels, but neither are they places where you want to spend a lot of time.

As it was the last night of carnaval we decided to take on the fates and, telling myself that at least my brown monk’s robe might act as camouflage in the worse case scenario, at 11pm we set off through the banana plantation.

The walk into town is always bizarre. We pass through the tourist areas of La Paz and the newer side of town where virtually no-one dresses up and it was unnervingly quiet to the point that we though the carnaval street parties must have finished early (we go through this year after year).

Then at Plaza del Charco you enter the world where the wild things are; the domain of the weird and the wonderful where dullness has no place.

Almost as soon as we arrived the rain returned and we sought shelter at a beer kiosk – cañas (glasses of beer) €1; combinados (triple spirit measure and mixer) €3. It was here that Dal-girl started her dancing in the rain routine.

A canopy reached from the kiosk to Mi Pequeño Mexico (a new bar/restaurant that’s on our list to try) and Café del Mar. The canopy acted as a sort of bizarroland’s Noah’s Ark (many couples dress up the same so the two by two ruling also fitted). Vampires, witches, N’Avi, Vikings, pirates, giant mice and sexy female airline pilots in mini dresses filled the space under the canopy as the braver creatures danced in the rain. Andy and I had pole position under a metal shutter at the bar so that all I had to do was raise two fingers and a buxom wench (not sure what sex) kept refilling our beers.


The rain became heavier and the Latino music louder so that Dal-girl’s routine became more frantic and she shed the Dalmation skin until she was left dancing in T-shirt and shorts. At that point it dawned on me that the rain hadn’t actually dampened the carnaval spirit; if anything it showed how strong it is and why the street parties are so special. It’s easy to be smiley happy people when it’s dry and temperatures are positively balmy but the rain hadn’t changed the expressions on the faces around me. Some people sheltered, others danced…and everyone but everyone smiled and laughed. What the weather got up to was incidental and that is what’s addictive about the street parties. Dressed up, you’re part of a surreal community where everyone knows all the words to Shakira’s Waka Waka and strangers with painted faces hug you and talk to you for no reason other than they’re tripping on happiness. Standing in that colourful crowd with drips from the metal shutter watering down my beer I experienced one of those moments where I loved the world and the wonderful people who populated it – this little section at least. This is why Andy and I are always extolling the virtues of leaving the sidelines and getting into the thick of things when it comes to carnaval or any other fiesta on Tenerife for that matter. It’s here where the real deal is and once you plunge in you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

The rain stopped after about and hour and stayed away for the remainder of the night. We spent the rest of carnaval’s last bash dancing to the same music we hear year after year with the thousands upon thousands of other creatures who filled the streets. (Carnaval tip: the best way to get through the most crowded street is to dance your way through in a sort of chained feet, slave shuffle routine. For some reason it works.) At 4am, when the party was at its zenith, we decided to head for home. Even the forty minute uphill trek to home and bed didn’t dilute the feeling of wellbeing.

Carnaval 2011 has been demanding and exhausting but most of all it has been exhilarating. I’m already looking forward to next year’s.

By Friday night when I expected my enthusiasm for Tenerife carnaval to be very much on the wane it completely surprised me by heading in the opposite direction and soaring into the carnaval spirit stratosphere. There were a couple of reasons for this.

The first was thanks to a humongous chorizo and grilled green pepper catalana at Mesón California (basically a sausage butty Spanish style). I know I rabbit on about this stall, but the eating experience here is more akin to enjoying a culinary theatre performance than simply eating at a carnaval kiosk. The doorstep-thick chunk of bread that the chorizos and peppers rest on is too bready for Andy and she opted for the spicy pinchos (pork kebabs) which she declared to be the best tasting pinchos ever… and she’s tested quite a few. As I exercised my jaw and snapped a few shots, ignoring the warning by the camarero to not photograph the chef as his ugliness would break the camera lens, I also nosied at what others were eating. A plate of calamari on one side of me, a mountain of gueldes (fried whitebait) on the other and opposite was the king of carbs – a catalana consisting of a slab of tortilla as chunky as the bread it was resting on topped by what can only be described as an erect gherkin. Fantastic…and perfect as a carnaval alcohol sponge.

The second reason my carnaval spirit was soaring was that we were in Puerto de la Cruz to see the best carnaval event on Tenerife; the Mascarita Ponte Tacón (high heels marathon). The outrageous drag queen race has become so popular over the last few years that around 50,000 spectators turn up to see the 250+ contestants and their over the top costumes.

There are two ways to enjoy the Mascarita Ponte Tacón; either camp out along the route for hours until the ‘ladies’ stop parading and decide to run – or get close to the contestants’ free beer pump. We opt for the latter as the beer pump is a magnet to every stiletto-wearing giant chicken, Chilean miner and…err high heel shoe itself. The Mascarita Ponte Tacón goes against everything connected with sense and sensibility. Contestants have to tackle an assault course on vertigo-inducing heels after being plied with gallons of alcohol. Not only that, the more outrageous and politically incorrect the costume is, the more the crowd lap it up…oh, and brandishing a penis (fake clearly- I think) seems to be obligatory.

Add a charismatic and very funny compere; the best carnival music in Puerto de la Cruz, blasted out at such a volume that contestants sway on their heel as they pass the speakers, and an atmosphere bordering on pure elation and you’ve got an anarchic spectacle that blasts away any carnival fatigue. By the time the free beer ran out and the now staggering drag queens inelegantly headed for the race’s starting line (way, way, way behind schedule) I was relishing the prospect of donning a fancy dress costume and getting into the thick of the action for the final end of carnaval bash the following night.