Thursday, 21 January 2010

Photographing Tenerife – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

We’ve recently been writing a series of short guides to many of Tenerife’s towns and resorts.
I’ve got an extensive library of photographs for most places on Tenerife, but the job made me realise that a couple of years had passed since I’d taken new photos of some locations.

In that period I’d been concentrating more on fiestas, events and walking locations rather than the towns and villages, so I decided it was time to bring my photo library up to date.

When we wrote the in depth location reports for Living Tenerife Magazine, part of the remit was to provide photographs which made each location look as good as possible. Sometimes this was easy – I could have sent the cat with the camera and the results would be great; sometimes it took a bit of creative thinking – a flowering oleander, or hibiscus bush could be a godsend for partly obscuring an eyesore which could ruin an otherwise attractive scene; and sometimes I’d spend ages staring and staring at places to try to spot something that looked remotely photogenic – an unusual doorknob, a bright flower in a glass on a restaurant table…anything.

Anyway, having been spoiled with the spectacle and colour of numerous fiestas and the drama of the epic countryside I’d partly forgotten that some places, like some people, don’t pose well.
I know my personal preferences are partly to blame. I like old places whose character positively oozes from the brick and plaster work so locations like La Orotava, La Laguna, Garachico, Santa Cruz and parts of Puerto de la Cruz are on the whole easy. Imaginative modern architecture is also good, so that’s another plus for Santa Cruz.

Marinas and harbours are usually good subjects, especially if there’s also a resident fishing community – Los Cristianos, Las Galletas, El Médano and to a lesser extent Puerto Colón, Playa San Juan and Los Gigantes (but that does have those stunning cliffs).

A nice beach can make up for dull characterless buildings, lack of expanses of greenery or unique individual touches – parts of Costa Adeje and Playa de las Américas; however, in the more upmarket areas of both, luxury hotels with individualistic architectural styles, trendy shopping centres and pavement cafés have added some interest.

But for me there are a couple of places on Tenerife which have me praying for photographic inspiration. Resorts where there are no beaches, the architecture is decidedly seventies, there are no plazas, quaint or otherwise and there’s an absence of creativity in the décor of the restaurants and cafés.

They are nice places to visit on holiday I’m sure; plenty of decent restaurants and loads of sunshine, but for the life of me, I can’t find anything that gives either an individual character.

 And these places are…well it wouldn’t be fair to pass my photographic prejudices on to you and I actually quite like one of them despite the fact I can’t photograph it for toffee. So you’ll just have to figure it out for yourself while I try for the umpteenth time to try to take a half decent shot of the damn places.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Looking for an Atmospheric Tapas Restaurant on Tenerife

Anyone who enjoys spending a leisurely lunch lingering over a taste-bud teasing selection of tapas dishes accompanied by a carafe of local vino will find that, depending where they’re staying on Tenerife, finding an atmospheric tapas bar will either be as easy as falling off a log, or as difficult as getting a flight out of a UK airport at the moment.

On my birthday I enjoy having a long tapas lunch. In Puerto de la Cruz we’re spoiled for places to have tapas. There were twenty eight bars and restaurants participating in a recent ‘ruta de la tapa’ (a council sponsored competition to find the best tapas in town). These aren’t all the places in Puerto that serve tapas, just the ones which had opted to participate. We only managed to get around six of the restaurants and the tapas in each were a delight. But what added to the experience was the ambience and surroundings which ranged from interior courtyards of colonial mansions to stylish terraces to pavement cafés overlooking charming squares. Like I said we’re spoiled in Puerto.

On my birthday I opted for a place we hadn’t been to before, Tasca El Olivo, on one of the back streets behind Plaza del Charco. It’s not the most picturesque location in town, but being situated beside a Cuban bar whose salsa music added a South American soundtrack to the scene, it was atmospheric and we whiled the afternoon away eating the most delicious tapas and people-watching.

Rewind a few weeks and we’re researching in Costa Adeje around the San Eugenio/Torviscas area. There are hundreds of places to eat and if we wanted burgers, toasties or bocadillos (filled baguettes), or even a meal in a nice restaurant we’d be fine. However, when we’re out and about working, we like to try a couple of tapas dishes in a quaint little bar/restaurant if possible. We were on a hiding to nothing.

A couple of days later we’re in a couple of other resorts carrying out more research – same result. There just wasn’t anywhere that fitted the bill and in the end on both occasions, we settled for baguettes in pleasant, but run of the mill establishments.

Admittedly it’s difficult for resorts which have only been in existence for a few decades at most to meet the ‘quaint’ requirement. If you’re in Santa Cruz, La Laguna or La Orotava, you’ve got five hundred years of history to add to the overall ambience and that’s something that’s almost impossible to replicate.

But it’s not impossible. Los Cristianos has a wonderful selection of contemporary tapas bars in the San Telmo area. El Médano has great tapas restaurants overlooking the harbour and even small places like up and coming Alcalá has a couple of inviting tapas bars around its small square. And there are plenty of others like them.
But then these three were towns or villages first and that’s where for me the difference lies.

For many years establishments in some parts of the main southern resorts have occupied the culinary middle ground, offering familiar ‘international’ menus to appeal to the masses.Recently that’s changed in the newer, more upmarket areas.

But generally speaking, if you want to try some local tapas in an ambient bar where the atmosphere complements the food on your plate, look to the towns that were already in existence before the mass tourism boom of the 70s.