Monday, 16 March 2009

Going Native in Tenerife – Is Tenerife just Britain with sunshine?

There was an article in The Daily Mirror at the end of last year where the writer mentioned that she had avoided visiting Tenerife because she had believed:

“…the food is British, the beer is British, and the people are all, largely, British.”

She was, of course, converted into thinking differently otherwise she wouldn’t have written the article. It’s a common stereotype of Tenerife and one which we were guilty of holding as well.

We made a decision to move to Puerto de la Cruz after staying in the town for just three days. Actually we made the decision after about an hour, but initially beer, sunshine and green parrots had completely charmed us. However after three days we’d seen enough to convince us that our initial judgement was sound and every Sunday when I walk through the old town, I still get the same buzz that I felt on that first visit 6 years ago.

It starts when I pass the little greengrocers whose wooden crates piled high with fennel bulbs, tiny papas negras potatoes and plump aubergines are strewn across the pavement. At the café next door, the patrons sitting in wicker chairs sipping café cortados or glasses of vino tinto are as stylish as the art deco architecture of the building they’re decorating with their presence; the women in bug-eyed sunglasses and flowing jet black hair wearing Stradivarius’ latest fashions; the men wearing simple jeans and polo shirts, looking equally cool.

Opposite even more stylish Canarios, dressed as though they’ve stepped off a catwalk, spill out of the little 17th century church followed by a bride and groom. It’s the perfect spot for a wedding. The scent of orange blossom fills the air and the trickle of water from the jade coloured swan fountain compliments the sound of someone strumming a Spanish guitar on the terrace of a hotel which has been welcoming travellers since the eighteen hundreds.

I continue along the pedestrian walkway. On one side are tulip trees with scarlet flowers, on the other living statues of a geisha girl and a golden fairy, performing little scenes with graceful movements every time someone drops a few cents into the bowl in front of them.

The narrow street is teeming with domingueros, people from the surrounding valley who descend on Puerto to enjoy the Spanish tradition of ‘dar un paseo’ on Sundays, and the main plaza is alive with the sound of laughter and chatter from the pavement cafes around its perimeter. In the centre of the plaza kids chase each other around the yam filled pool whilst their abuelas watch them from the shade of the Indian laurels. I wander past a striped kiosk selling beehive shaped rolls of candy floss on a stick down to the harbour and sit on the wall beside the charming sculpture of the fishwife who looks as though she’s just bought some pulpo from one of the small fishing boats with Greek blue hulls. The setting sun has turned the ochre walls of the old customs house overlooking the harbour golden and the aroma of grilled cherne and sardines, wafting from a ramshackle harbour side hut whose selection of seafood is like a who’s who of the fish world, is almost too much to resist.

Is Tenerife Britain with sunshine? Do I really need to answer that?

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