Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Is Playa de las Américas just Blackpool in the Sun?

Playa de las Américas – people either love it or loathe it. It is often described as Blackpool in the sun; a place where chavs and chavettes go to try to drink themselves to death, picking up the occasional STD in the process whilst gorging on all-day breakfasts served with a pint of beer and a packet of Bennies.

That's the way the media had portrayed it and that's the image I had of it. Even after I moved here I treated the place like Will Smith's New York in I Am Legend; a place to be visited with extreme caution during the day and totally avoided at night.

When it came to having bias against Playa de las Américas, I was at the head of the queue. I looked down from my elevated position in the authentic north at what to me amounted to a theme park; a Sodom and Gomorrah that had nothing much in common with Tenerife, but which infected the whole island with its tacky reputation. I despised it for that crime.

In my mind it was made up of no more than cheap tourist shops, Brit restaurants that served meals straight from Birds Eye's packets and run-down bars selling watered down beer whose mock Tudor décor (if it was as sophisticated as that) went out of fashion quarter of a century ago in the UK.

But then I started writing about the island and that meant having to visit places that I wouldn't normally have chosen to spend time in; places like Playa de las Américas. Because like many, many, many people my vision of Playa de las Américas had been formed not by experience, but by what I'd read and heard about it.

The reality was far removed from the image I expected – I found sophisticated restaurants, smart avenues, style bars, tastefully luxurious hotels and well dressed visitors representing a whole host of European nations. Even its beaches surprised me – Las Vistas, considered by some (not me) to be the best beach on Tenerife, Camisón (a better beach in my view) and the surf dude scene at Playa Honda. Much of its sea front promenade was lined with modern sculptures, ideal for a romantic sunset stroll.
What I didn't encounter was the Britain in the sun I'd expected. Parts of it were over the top in a kitsch sort of way, but I don't mind that – I'd much rather have outrageous Las Vegas style pizazz than unmemorable mediocrity.

Maybe there are some people out there who know (or knew) Playa de las Américas who are guffawing in disbelief at this point, but let me share a couple of little things. One of the first times I visited was with a friend from the UK who had stayed in the resort quite a few years previously...and hated it. He didn't recognise it.

Recently we recommended Playa de las Américas to two friends who are unashamed travel snobs. A few years ago I would have cut off my right arm with a butter knife before doing something like that. But I know PDLA now and realise that it isn't quite the demon it is made out to be.

The other thing that has changed is that much of what was Playa de las Américas is no longer Playa de las Américas. The young upstart Costa Adeje has reclaimed areas that people once knew as PDLA. So today's PDLA definitely isn't the same. The modern PDLA only stretches from Los Cristianos to Veronica's.

Okay I've mentioned the name, so before anyone says 'AHA', I'll come clean. The old style PDLA still exists in parts and people still flock to it, but the tide has turned. It isn't what defines the resort anymore, or it shouldn't be. Costa Adeje is considered by many as the more upmarket resort. I don't necessarily agree. There are sophisticated areas and not so sophisticated (the diplomatic term) in both resorts. In fact a couple of weeks ago I saw more 'euro a pint' offers in parts of Costa Adeje than I did in PDLA.
All of this might make me sound as though I'm now PDLA's biggest fan. I'm not. It's not the sort of place I would ever choose for a holiday, but that's because I prefer places with local culture and the sort of atmosphere that comes only from being in existence for centuries. However, I do recognise that PDLA delivers exactly what it says on the packet and it does it well and also feel that it deserves a fair hearing.

What PDLA isn't, is Blackpool in the sun (unless Blackpool has completely re-invented itself as well). But if you give a dog a bad name it sticks...even if that dog has had a shampoo, cut its hair and swapped its mongrel coat for some posh designer fur.



Gary Rosson said...

Hi Jack,
I agree with a lot of what you say about PDLA but it's amazing how peoples perceptions of the place remain, despite these opinions being based on little more than media hype and cliches like the 'Blackpool with sun'you mention.
On the subject of beaches, our favourite was El Camison until the arrival of Las Vistas. Don't know about it being the best but the extra space and the much more 'interesting' waves that you can get here have replaced it as our favourite. By the way, and apologies for being pedantic, but Las Vistas is in Los Cristianos.

Real Tenerife said...

Hi Gary,

It's amazing how long perceptions persist - the power of the media eh.

No worries about being pedantic...but I'd argue the western end of the beach is in PDLA LOL.

Gary Rosson said...

Hi Jack,
I used to be under the impression that a short section of the western end of the beach was in PDLA. At one time, if you walked along the pedestrian walkway from the beach between Vista Sur and Compostella Beach, past all of the Brit bars to the road opposite where Zara's now stands, there used to be a sign on the road that said 'Welcome to PDLA' on one side and 'Welcome to Los Cristianos' on the other. I was told by someone many years ago that this was the boundary between the two and the walkway down to the beach formed part of the line. Now, if you walk the whole length of the beach, all of the information signs along the back (the ones telling you what you can and can't do) all say Playa Las Vistas - Los Cristianos). This includes the western section that I used to think was in PDLA. I wonder if this bit of the beach has been 'hijacked' by Los Cristianos! LOL!