Monday, 24 May 2010

It's Like Tenerife Before Tourism

I'm a nosey bugger, I admit it; it's probably something to do with being a writer. I listen in to conversations all the time. I don't mean that if I'm sitting at the next table in a restaurant, I'll be leaning across trying to catch what you're saying, but if something is said which sets off the 'interesting' alarm, my ears lock on to the conversation.

One recurring conversation I hear on a semi-regular basis concerns Tenerife and the affect tourism has had on the island.

Recently in Masca I heard two British couples discussing the charming hamlet. One of them had been before and commented that it had lost some of its charm since it became a popular tourist attraction.

Not having been to the place before it became a tourist attraction, I wouldn't know about that. But Masca still holds bucket loads of charm as far as I'm concerned. The money that the tourists bring help it to remain an immaculate thriving little hamlet.

Last week I visited another very picturesque hamlet in a valley, but the difference with this one was that there were no tourists and most of the houses in the village were abandoned. Its downfall was partly to do with the rise of tourism on the coast way below.

I think it's an interesting comparison. Two beautiful rural locations; one arguably saved by tourism, the other possibly destroyed by it.

Another thing I heard recently was from someone who had just been to La Gomera.

“It's what Tenerife was like before tourism,” was how the person described it.

I've heard and read this a number of times and have got to confess that I'm not sure what it really means. Think about the biggest tourist developments in the south of Tenerife. What was there before tourism?

I've got a great little guidebook for Tenerife from 1969 which lists accommodation around the island. On the south coast there are only a handful of places in Los Cristianos, Las Galletas and El Médano and that was it. No Las Américas or Costa Adeje. They didn't exist; they're not towns which have been turned into resorts. There was nothing there and there definitely wasn't green countryside and quaint little farms. So not like La Gomera at all.

Tourism has clearly had an enormous impact on Tenerife, but it has on all the islands. There are valleys in La Gomera which are almost deserted because families have left to work in the tourist industry. I wonder if families from La Gomera visit Masca, think of the abandoned hamlets they hail from and comment, 'it's just like La Gomera before tourism.'
If anyone really believes that La Gomera is like Tenerife was before tourism, continue into the next valley beyond Masca, or take a tour of the Anaga Mountains, veering off down roads signposted to places like Afur or Batán. The truth is there are plenty of parts of Tenerife that are still exactly like Tenerife before tourism.

So here's a little test - which of the photos above are La Gomera and which are Tenerife?

Monday, 10 May 2010

Nightlife in Tenerife – Going Down the Local

I don't know about other people in other parts of Tenerife, but we don't really have a bar that we call our 'local' in Puerto de la Cruz.

There is a bar that we watch football in, The Beehive, and we've made some good friends in there over the years, but we don't go there to socialise at night.

One of the main reasons for this is that when we go out at night, it's usually to a fiesta or to see a band. In Puerto de la Cruz, and a lot of the north of Tenerife, much of the nightlife takes place outdoors, especially around Plaza del Charco and the harbour.

A couple of weeks ago it was a rock fiesta, this weekend it was a Brazilian DJ festival at the harbour; part of the Tensamba  festival taking place across the north of Tenerife. When you've got events like this on offer, sitting in a bar doesn't really compete...especially as these events usually come with beer and combinado kiosks attached.
On Saturday we spent most of the evening sitting by the old customs house of Casa de la Aduana whilst DJs from São Paulo brought a distinctly Brazilian beat to the town, multi-coloured strobe lights danced across the harbour waters and the beautiful people came out to samba on the sidewalk.

We did drag ourselves away from the scene to eat at one point, but not too far from the action. We were completely undecided about what to eat until a waiter wafted a wagon-wheel sized pizza under our noses as we passed the perennially popular Tasquita beside the harbour.

May is a quiet month as far as tourists are concerned in Tenerife, but there was only one unoccupied table outside the Tasquita – and that was only because it was the only one which didn't have a view of Real Madrid strolling to victory on the bar's external wide-screen TV. Not being Real fans, we weren't bothered about that, so grabbed it before it was snatched up.

The Tasquita is one of those fantastic people watching spots and as we tucked into our wagon-wheel pizzas we commented on the Saturday night outfits on parade around the plaza beside us; teenage girls dressed to kill on heels as long as their legs, lads with Derek Zoolander haircuts and gawky expressions, cool dudes with dreadlocks and hippy chicks in black smocks and shocking pink tights. Around the perimeter of the bar's pavement tables up to twenty people lingered to cheer and groan at the football match on the telly whilst electric bossanova beats drifted up from the harbour.

It might be one of our quiet months, but the town's heart beat out strongly with an addictive rhythm.

We might go to the Beehive to watch football; head to The Majestic to see the wonderful Bitter & Twisted show (incontinence pants essential); down an icy cool cerveza or two on the even cooler terrace (in style not temperature) at Limbo or clink mojito glasses at hot & sultry Azucar, but if you were to ask me what our local was, I'd guess I'd have to say it was the same as most Portuenses (people from Puerto) – and that would be Plaza Charco and the harbour.

That is simply where it's all happening.