Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Pictures of Tenerife – The Island of Contrasts

They say a picture paints a thousand words; well if that’s the case, then I can pretty much shut up and let the photos tell you what I want to say.

The following are a few images of places and fiestas included in ‘Going Native in Tenerife’ and are designed to illustrate what Tenerife is really like.

If you recognise them and it fits your picture of this incredibly diverse island, then hat’s off to you, you know the real Tenerife pretty well…on the other hand, if they’re nothing like the Tenerife you imagined, or thought you knew, then there’s a wonderful island out there just waiting to be discovered.

Click here to see more scenes of the Tenerife where the 'natives' live.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Going Native Across the Pond

This week we've got a virtual house guest, the sort of guest who's a real pleasure to have; he eats whatever we're eating, causes no extra washing up or expense and is as funny as an MP's expenses claim. However he is moaning (a lot) about the lack of scones here!

Mike Harling has come to us from the US, via West Sussex and has an extremely funny book out called 'Postcards from across the Pond' about his life as an ex-pat. Buy it, it's a real hoot and a perfect holiday read.
So here, without any further ado, is Mike Harling...

Going Native Across the Pond

Ahhh, back on the beach. Tenerife is nice; I like visiting a place I have to look up on Google Earth to find. Turns out, it's one of the Canary Islands, so I've been in the neighborhood before. If you don't know where the Canary Islands are, I suggest Google Earth.

My new best friend Andy (anyone who invites me to their home, supplies me with unending amounts of barbecued shrimp, cold Corona and Cuban cigars and allows me to post about my book on their blog--which is supposed to be about their book--is automatically my best friend) not only located Tenerife on a map, she moved here. Seems she got tired of the stunning scenery, the variable climate and amazing history of Britain and decided to settle for constant sun, sandy beaches and spectacular mountain vistas.

Not satisfied with that, she wrote a book about how you can do it, as well, if you are so inclined. Strikes me as a bit of a niche market; my book may be about life in Britain but it's a humor book. So if you want to laugh, buy my book; if you want sun and sandy beaches, buy Andy's

Actually, I completely understand the allure of moving to someplace like this; it happened to me once:

In a long ago December, I left my land of cold and snow in upstate New York (try minus 28 degrees centigrade, Sparky, and we measure our snow in feet, not centimeters) for a week of sun and surf and scuba diving in St. Maarten. I was so totally captivated by the sunshine, warm ocean breezes and laid-back life style that I actually did begin looking into moving there.

It turned out to be a daunting task. What I needed was an Andy Mont of St. Maarten to have written "Going Native in St. Maarten," but there was nothing of the kind. Too bad, I could now be enjoying a life of simple pleasures, making a living carving drift wood into tourist-pleasing shapes or serving drinks with umbrellas in them to sunburned New Yorkers, rather than having to go on these grueling tours just so I can sell enough books to help me pay my heating bill through the long, damp British winters.

"What's that, Andy? A margaretta? Why, thank you, I'd love one."

Now where was I? Oh yes, Britain, and leaving it.

Being a relative newcomer to Blighty, I still regard Britain as an exotic place, so I'm happy to remain there. Besides, dark and dreary as it can be, the climate is still paradise compared to what I left behind. It's all a matter of perception.

Even so, Andy won't have a hard time convincing me to come back for a visit.

Would you like to participate in the 2009 KINDNESS of STRANGERS TOUR?
Visit the Tour Page to sign up or to view the latest Tour updates.

Michael Harling is an American author living in the UK

Monday, 22 June 2009

What is there to do in Tenerife?

One of the biggest events in the fiesta calendar took place on tenerife last week; the Corpus Christi flower carpets of La Orotava, but this blog isn’t about them…well maybe a tiny bit is.

As I was preparing my camera for Corpus Christi by freeing up space on the memory card I got sidetracked into checking what images were already on it. Odd though this may sound (because…well I was obviously present when they were taken), I was quite taken aback by the diversity of the photographs that charted events over the last couple of weeks.

La Caldera and Aguamansa – We’ve just put together a walking guide for this area and had the most wonderful walk along country lanes where local farmers still get around on horseback.

Brazilians at the harbour – There’d been a batucada competition beside the old customs house at the harbour which had lasted all afternoon.

Peaches – lots of shots of our peach tree, it was jam and chutney making time…which reminds me I’ve still got to design some labels for the jars.

Elephants on the streets – The circus in Santa Cruz drummed up a bit of business by holding a mini parade of clowns, acrobats and two elephants through Puerto’s streets…leaving a lot of open mouthed tourists in their wake.

Agatha Christie in Puerto – it was also the second Agatha Christie Festival and there was an interesting exhibition of old photos of the town in the Santo Domingo Convent.

Exposaldo 2009 – Big trade fair where lot’s of businesses were selling old stock at knock down prices, but the €3 entry price was a bit strange…like paying an entrance fee to a shopping centre (can’t see it catching on). The out of place ‘barrow boys’ were a hoot though and spending time at the Auditorio was good. The highlight was a detour to the El Tanque Cultural Space where we couldn’t figure out if we were viewing modern art, or were just in a big room with the lights turned out.

Promotion for CD Tenerifemad scenes in Santa Cruz and an unplanned wash for the camera as CD were promoted to La Primera of La Liga…historic.

And finally, the alfombristas putting the finishing touches to the massive sand tapestry in La Orotava the day before Corpus Christi.

And that was only the things that we managed to do, as always there were a whole load of other events taking place as well.

What is there to do in Tenerife?

More than you can ever possibly imagine.

Monday, 8 June 2009

The ‘Going Native in Tenerife’ Test – Have You Gone Native Yet?

For me part of ‘Going native in Tenerife’ means making the effort to enjoy the same sort of events and activities as my Tinerfeño hosts. These are the sort of things which can make the difference between simply scratching the surface of visiting or living on Tenerife and really trying to get to the heart of what makes Tinerfeños tick.

Here’s a purely subjective fun quiz to take if you want to check how ‘native’ you’ve gone:

Visited the Mount Teide crater: (1 point) – any visitor to Tenerife, who hasn’t been to the Mount Teide crater, hasn’t really been to Tenerife. Add a bonus point if you’ve been when there’s snow in the crater. This is a real Tinerfeño thing to do.

Have eaten one of the islander’s favourite dishes: Conejo (rabbit), Viejo (parrot fish), or Puchero (Canarian stew) (1 point for each) – if you’ve tried gofio amasado add a bonus point and if you’ve eaten in a Guachinche award yourself an extra bonus point.

Dressed up for Carnaval: (1 point) – This is a must; the biggest bash of the year and the only way to submit to its hedonistic charms is to get into fancy dress. Add a bonus point if you’re a man who has dressed as a woman (only during Carnaval though).

Been at a Romería: (1 point) – there are so many of these throughout the year that you have to go out of your way to avoid them. Free food and wine dished out by gorgeous girls and handsome hunks in traditional costume. If you’ve bought and used one of those little glasses that Romería-goers wear around their neck add a bonus point. Award another bonus point if you or your kids actually own a traditional costume.

Picnicked in the woods: (1 point) Every Sunday, fiestas, birthday parties etc Tinerfeños head for the hills laden down with food. Zona Recreativas become jam packed with picnickers. If you’ve ever actually used the barbecues at a zona recreativa give yourself a bonus point.

Cheered when the Virgen del Carmen is placed onto a fishing boat during the fishermen’s fiesta: (1 point) In summer every town, village and hamlet with a fishing community celebrates this one.

Bathed in the sea on Midsummer’s Eve: (2 points) This may be a bit specialist, but it dates back to Guanche times and thousands of Tinerfeños from abuelas (grandma's) to niños (kids) take to the ‘magical’ waters at midnight.

Parked on a Pedestrian Crossing: (2 points) Almost the ultimate in ‘Going Native’ (immediately subtract 1 point for breaking the law). Striped lines represent ‘exclusive’ parking spaces for some Tinerfeños. Award a bonus point if you never use the inside lane of a roundabout on Tenerife.

Travelled on local buses: (1 point) It would be unfair to exclude non-drivers, so here’s an easy hit. Add a bonus point if you have a ‘bono’ card. If you don’t know what a bono card is, subtract a point.

Undertaken the annual pilgrimage to Candelaria in August: (3 points) The ultimate in going native. If you’ve done this all I can say is…WOW.


Cheer on CD Tenerife: (1 point) As CD Tenerife stand on the brink of glory, it’s only fair to include a point for anyone who’s supported them at the Heliodoro Rodriguez Lopez Stadium. ‘Adelante Tenerife’

So How Did You Do?

15-20 points: You’re more Tinerfeño than most Tinerfeños. In fact you’re probably a Guanche.

10-15 points: You’ve really gone native.

5-10 points: Okay, good start. You’ve dipped a toe in the water, now it’s time to dive in.

3-5 points: Could try harder, but the good news is that you’ve got a lot of great things left to experience.

Under 3 points: Admit it, you’ve never left your hotel or apartment complex have you?

Monday, 1 June 2009

Beaches on Tenerife – Beach Habits of the British, Germans and Spanish

Until I moved to Tenerife I hadn’t realised that which country you came from determined how you acted when you headed to the beach. But since moving to Puerto de la Cruz I’ve noticed different beach behavioural patterns for various nationalities.

The Germans and the British are remarkably similar. At Playa Jardín the sunbeds are situated at the top of the beach. There’s a line beyond which they can’t be taken. It’s an idea I approve of; personally I detest the unnatural order of neat rows of sunbeds ruining a beach’s natural beauty, so Puerto’s compromise works well for me.

During winter months, these sunbeds are filled with German and British visitors; the sand in between them and the sea is the domain of the Canarians and those too mean to fork out for a bed (i.e. us).

The Spanish at the Beach
Around June, the balance completely changes. The Spanish mainlanders begin to arrive in their droves and although a few Brits and Germans occupy a handful of sunbeds, the majority are left empty.

Generally speaking the Spanish don’t use sunbeds, opting instead to find a space on the beach; the closer to the water’s edge the better.

There could be any number of reasons for this. If I gave them the benefit of the doubt I’d say it was because the sand gets uncomfortably hot in summer months; too hot to walk on. The sand closer to the water is less hot, so scalded soles are less of an issue.
If I was being mean I’d say it was laziness; the closer to the water, the shorter distance to walk to the sea – similar to the approach they have to parking.

There’s also another distinctive factor which identifies when the beach is full of Spanish…umbrellas. The space between the sunbeds and the ocean is transformed into a sea of colour as everyone erects an umbrella. Where some Brits and the Germans will lie in the sun until they’re the colour of a horse’s saddle, the Spanish sensibly take long breaks in the shade.

Sights to Look Out For...If You Dare
Apart from that there are plenty of other little quirks that act as a giveaway to whether your beach companions are British, German or Spanish:

The middle aged woman on the right has wrapped a humungous towel around her and is performing acrobatic contortions to change from her underwear to swimsuit to ensure nobody might catch a glimpse of her white bits – British

The man standing up in the middle of the beach has just whipped off his swimming trunks, exposing his meat and two veg to all and sundry, and stands surveying the beach with his hands on his hips for a few moments before pulling on his underpants – German

Two girls in their twenties with heads bent over are carefully plucking away at their pubes with a pair of tweezers – Spanish (this one always brings a gasp of horror from our female visitors)

The man in front of you has the perfect outline of a brilliantly white vest type T-shirt burnt onto his skin – British

The woman behind you changes her bikini every five minutes. She has one for swimming, one for going to the beach bar, one for lying on her front, one for lying on her back…etc – Spanish

And the worst of all…

The couple sunbathing on your left have both rolled down the bottoms of their swimming costume so that it creates a sort of crossroads effect half way down the crack of their backside – this is definitely German and quite the worst crime on the beach.

Our friend who lives in a predominantly German valley once did this when she was sunbathing beside us and was told in no uncertain terms to pull her bottoms up or move well away from us.

I used to find sunbathing terminally boring…not on the beaches of Tenerife.