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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Tenerife Fiestas in July

Fiestas del Carmen

In July the Fiestas del Carmen are the high spot on the calendar and are celebrated most largely in Puerto de la Cruz in the north of Tenerife, where the effigy of the Virgin del Carmen (Our Lady of Mount Carmel) is carried through the streets to the harbour, then boarded onto a boat, for a "sea parade" and a ceremony to bless local fishermen - transforming Puerto's quiet, old port area into a chaotic, noisy sea of fiesta fun.

Read about Puerto de la Cruz' July Fiestas in this feature, Fishermen's Friends: Fiestas del Gran Poder y La Virgen del Carmen.

Our Lady of the Fishermen

As well as looking after fishermen, Church Forum tells us that La Santísima Virgen del Carmen (The Holy Virgin of Mount Carmel) is the patron of the armed forces, of transporters and of retailers. With such a heavy workload, I wonder if this is how we get the saying "A woman's work is never done"?

According to pious tradition the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Simon Stock at Cambridge, England, on Sunday, 16 July, 1251. This explains why the rightful day for her festivities is July 16th, but what I wondered is how did she become implicated in the fishing trade and why she is specially venerated in the Canary Islands?

According to the Bible (Kings, 18) the prophet Elijah was praying on top of Mount Carmel, as God had punished his rebellious people with a three year summer. Eventually, a cloud formed over the sea, which brought a huge amount of rain that made up for those 36 months without water.

The Catholic church believes that this was the work of the Virgin Mary - or that The Virgin is like this cloud, signifying the end of the drought - and thus the association with Mount Carmel. Carmen also came to mean fertile lands that produce lots of good fruits, so it becomes obvious why she would be adopted as the Patrona and have festivities in her name in fertile inland locations, such as here in the El Palmar valley. The annual Fiestas del Carmen in Las Portelas, may be inland (and therefore be a little short on boats), but they have one of the best fireworks displays in the area.

Messing about in boats: When the Saracens invaded the Holy Land, the Carmelites were obliged to flee and they put to sea. Once upon a time, before electronics and GPS, sailors relied on the stars to guide them.

Ancient tradition has it that before setting off, the Virgin appeared while they were singing Salve Regina and promised to be their Estrella del Mar (Star of the Sea), to guide them through difficult waters and into a secure port.

It was a Mallorcan Admiral, Antonio Barceló Pont de la Terra (1716-1797) who promoted the celebration of the already popular Fiesta de la Virgen del Carmen amongst the sailors under his command. Since then, the Spanish Armada (Navy) began substituting their old patron, San Telmo, for the Virgen del Carmen to protect them against shipwrecks and storms.

The Virgen del Carmen is venerated wherever the Carmelite order went throughout the world, particularly where there are seafarers and, the Canary Islands have a long tradition of fishing as a means to sustain its population, which accounts for the particular importance of her following here.

The denomination, Star of the Sea, is also given because Mount Carmel "rises like a star beside the sea". Although I've not read any reports that suggest this as an additional reason for the particular popularity of the fiesta in Tenerife, the same description could easily be applied to our very own Mount Teide, which rises so high near the sea as to cast the world's largest sea shadow.

The Fiestas del Carmen are celebrated on all seven of the Canary Islands. On Tenerife, with particular note in; Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Puerto de la Cruz, Puerto de Santiago and Los Realejos.

The Virgin del Carmen Puts to Sea
La Santísima Virgen del Carmen
La estrella del Mar y los Carmelitas
Virgen del Carmen

Santa Cruz Celebrates Victory Over The English

More seafarers, of the attacking kind. On July 25th, the Tenerife capital, Santa Cruz, commemorates the anniversary of its famous and proud victory over English Admiral, Horacio Nelson, whose failed attempt on Santa Cruz, on July 25th, 1797, cost him his right arm.

As well they might celebrate, because, whilst British history claims that he "only" intended to sink the Spanish ships in port in Santa Cruz and bankrupt Spain because of the huge cargos of gold they were carrying, the Spanish version claims that Nelson wanted to take the island and use it as a base for further activities. Well, he wouldn't be the first. Isn't that exactly what the Spanish did with the islands, 300 and 400 years before?

Santa Cruz Celebrates Victory Over The English

Fiesta de Santiago

Fireworks by the sea
Fuegos acuáticos en el mar. Fiesta de Santiago, 25 de julio. Puerto de Güímar. Photo: Mataparda.

Candelaria celebrates the Fiestas de Santa Ana on July 25th. Puerto Rican singer, Ricky Martín, will be performing in Candelaria on July 26th, 2007.
Santa Cruz, along with Los Realejos and the Puerto de Güímar, celebrate the Fiesta de Santiago on July 25th. Santiago (St. James), is the Patron Saint of Spain.

In Güímar at least, as the image shows, this is celebrated with an impressive firework display from the sea.

Also around the time of St. James Day on July 25, you can buy the traditional, almond, Tarta de Santiago, from the Spanish region of Galicia, usually decorated with the Cross of Saint James.

July Fiestas in La Laguna

Former capital and World Heritage city in Tenerife, La Laguna, also celebrates fiestas in July. Last Sunday was their Romería San Benito Abad (the official date is July 11th, i.e. nearest Sunday before) a day of dressing up in local costume, with music, dancing, much wine and food.

Not unlike the January fiestas for San Antonio Abad, the accompanying processions included lots of animals and, particularly herds of goats, who all filed neatly past the town's Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, founded 1511 and, which was the first church in Tenerife.

Also notable and worth seeing; traditional to this parade were some beautiful floats, drawn by horses and made to look like galleons, all rigged and with their sails set. These, I guess, were about 20 or so feet long and of a scale height, so they were quite an impressive sight.

On July 27th, La Laguna celebrates the Fiestas de San Cristóbal, the full name of the town being San Cristóbal de La Laguna, will give you an idea that these will probably also be of some importance. In the meantime, events continue with Pasacalles: Noche de Burros (literally, a Night of Donkeys, a procession of carts) on 13/7, at 20:30 in the Plaza del Adelantado.

Sunday, July 15th, there are Arrastre de ganado y Juegos Tradicionales (Ox pulling contests and traditional Canarian sports and games) from 10:00 a.m. at Camino Tornero (behind the San Benito College). Country fair, with exhibitions of livestock and also threshing with oxen and horses.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Fishermen's Friends: Fiestas del Gran Poder y La Virgen del Carmen in Puerto de la Cruz

On, or around the 16th July, fishermen all over Tenerife hold emotional processions in honour of their patron saint, La Virgen del Carmen. In Puerto de la Cruz these celebrations go overboard, almost literally, when the town honours not only La Virgen, but El Gran Poder de Dios as well. Oh, and San Telmo, the patron saint of Spanish and Portuguese fishermen, is thrown in (metaphorically speaking) for good measure. It's all part of the town's month long festivities, known simply as the July Fiestas.

Merrymaking includes the obligatory crowning of the fiesta queen, traditional Canarian dances, jazz and rock concerts, antique car rallies, sporting events, air displays, the procession of the Gran Poder and the popular 'Sardinada', where the air around the ermita de San Telmo is filled with the aroma of grilled fish and a couple of euros will get you a plate of sardines and a beaker of robust country wine.

The highlight of the fiestas is the 'embarcación de la Virgen del Carmen' on the 17th of July. If you're a newcomer to Spanish fiestas, don't expect a quiet, reserved affair. This is big, boisterous, wet, noisy and chaotic as well as being good natured, great fun, an unforgettable experience and a spectacle for the senses.

The best way to get into the fiesta swing is to buy a couple of beers and a plate of pinchos (lip-licking seasoned pork kebabs) from a harbour-side stall, chill out and enjoy the fun.

For anyone under twenty, the idea is to get as wet as possible and stay that way all day. This involves holding running water pistol battles, which amuse the older townspeople until a stray squirt hits them in the eye resulting in much use of the word "coño"; jumping, or being thrown into the harbour; and being drenched by basins of water cascading from balconies around the harbour. You don't have to be Einstein to deduce that shorts and t-shirts, preferably over swimming togs is sensible dress for the day. To really fit in, buy a Virgen del Carmen t-shirt from one of the stalls around Plaza del Charco.

By late afternoon finding a space by the harbour is nigh on impossible. If you're not of basketball player proportions, try standing behind a group of Canarian women. As they're normally five foot nothing, or less, it affords a good view.

At around 6.30, La Virgen and St Telmo or, as one Canarian woman mischievously described him to me, 'La Virgen's boyfriend', appear swaying on the shoulders of local fishermen with a motion which represents the rhythm of being on the ocean. The couple pause en route to the harbour for a heartfelt rendition of 'Ave Marie' (tissues definitely required), before being carried through the crowd to the water's edge.

After 'a few squeaky bum moments' as Sir Alex Ferguson might put it, San Telmo and then La Virgen are transferred aboard their brightly decorated boats amidst a frenzy of splashing and chanting of "no pasa nada, la Virgen está embarcada" (which pretty much means, "all's well with the world, the Virgin's safely on board") and taken on their annual sea trip around the bay, ensuring that a good fish supply is guaranteed for another year.

This excerpt was written by Jack Montgomery, freelance writer, photographer and editor of Real Tenerife Island Drives.

Read the full feature on the July Fiestas here »

Copyright © 2007 Real Tenerife Island Drives. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be copied or reproduced without the written permission of Real Tenerife Island Drives.

    Lying on a beach all day every day might make for a relaxing holiday, but memories of it fade as quickly as your sun tan. Island Drives is aimed at travellers who want to experience the real essence of Tenerife, not just its pools and beaches. If you want an unforgettable holiday as opposed to a good one, Real Tenerife Island Drives will make the difference.

Featuring: Real Tenerife Island Drives

Meticulous research, excellent writing, plus absolutely stunning photographs, makes Real Tenerife Island Drives the very best on-the-road guide to Tenerife.

After 15 years on the island, I've seen a lot of guide books. Jack and Andrea Montgomery's Real Tenerife Island Drives is one that actually lives up to all it's promise. They've spent three years researching the island's history and culture (as well as travelling it's roads and visiting it's countryside, towns and villages) to produce this beautiful volume and, it shows.

Those wonderful little facts that make it so interesting are not just the usual re-hashed, regurgitated information covered in every other guide book and that, almost invariably, is wrong.

Jack and Andrea kindly sent me a copy of the book to have a look at and it's obvious to me that they have gone back to the source and done original research. Consequently, when you take yourself off one one of their 6 carefully planned trips, you get an accurate and complete guide.

This is kinda important, if you don't want to get lost (mind you that's pretty hard on an island), but the fascinating facts that you'll be rattling off to your friends will open their eyes to Tenerife in an entirely new way.

You'll discover Hidden Depths and Forgotten Roads; places that Francis Drake sacked or or Nelson attacked, but you'll also know how long it takes to get there and where to eat, park and find the loo when you arrive.

There are just the right amount of driving and other tips that you need to know and the book is written in a readable and amusing way, giving you an insight into the island's culture. Such as this on the use of horns:

"Horns are rarely used in aggression; instead used mainly as a greeting to friends, a warning at blind corners on narrow roads, or when Tenerife FC win a match."

To be fair, they don't get much use in that final capacity, so where I live, car horns are also used for other announcements of almost similar importance, such as politicians winning their seats back at elections.

The more I dip into the book, the more impressed I am actually with the depth and detail of the things they have managed to discover - and then condense so beautifully - in just a three year period. You can be sure that you will not miss important items that make your visit truly memorable.

This 66 page, soft-cover, book has all the information you need for exploring Tenerife by car, without bogging you down with too many facts and it's size makes it small enough to carry around or fit in the glove compartment.

More information and ordering, visit, Real Tenerife Island Drives

New Monthly Tenerife Feature

The other piece of good news is that we've pressed the authors of Real Tenerife Island Drives, Jack and Andrea Montgomery, into providing a new monthly feature here at Secret Tenerife, which may be about happenings in a particular month, or excerpts from the routes. (Finally, some good and interesting writing here!) The first of these features is upcoming.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Tenerife Duty Free Prices & Allowances

UPDATED 4 March 2018

There still seems to be no end of confusion about Duty Free allowances on returning from holiday in Tenerife and the Canary Islands, so from the UK Govt: "The Canary Islands, the north of Cyprus, Gibraltar and the Channel Islands are not part of the EU for customs purposes - follow the rules for countries outside the EU instead." [Source]

Alcohol allowance

How much you can bring depends on the type of drink. You can bring in:
  • beer - 16 litres
  • wine (not sparkling) - 4 litres
You can also bring in either:
  • spirits and other liquors over 22% alcohol - 1 litre
  • fortified wine (eg port, sherry), sparkling wine and alcoholic drinks up to 22% alcohol - 2 litres
You can split this last allowance, eg you could bring 1 litre of fortified wine and half a litre of spirits (both half of your allowance).

Tobacco allowance

You can bring in one from the following:
  • 200 cigarettes
  • 100 cigarillos
  • 50 cigars
  • 250g tobacco
You can split this allowance - so you could bring in 100 cigarettes and 25 cigars (both half of your allowance).

Do check their website for up-to-date full details, including age limits, etc.

Anyone who needs specific advice should contact UK HM Revenue & Customs directly by phone (0300 200 3700; Mon-Fri 8am-6pm) or by email (using the online enquiry form).

We're no longer happy to link to prices, as information goes out of date too quickly, however, if you really needed to know, at the World Duty Free Stores page for Tenerife Duty Free there are opening times and telephone numbers, including one from outside Spain.  

Taxes, in particular IGIC (the Canarian equivalent of VAT) are lower in the Canary Islands, because of their peripheral location, so you can buy alcohol and tobacco in the shops on the island for less than the prices in the Duty Free shops at the airport.

My personal advice, if you must, buy your tobacco that way.

However, because of the EU baggage security restrictions, any bottles you purchase in shops on the island would have to go in your suitcase that goes in the hold of the plane. That's your decision, of course, but I wouldn't like to say how safe from breakage that might be. You can only take liquids onto the plane (as hand luggage) that have been bought in the duty free area, so basically, you're paying extra for "carry on rights" and insurance against having a suitcase full of Whiskey flavored clothes when you get to the other end!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Tenerife: Island of festivals

For once, we're not talking about the popular folk festivals that happen in every town and village on these islands, but other forms of music festivals, of which there is an ever increasing number, converting the Canary Islands into a Tierra de festivales (Land of festivals), as ABC noted recently.

Most of the world's eyes will be on Live Earth this weekend - in fact, there are three Live Earth House Parties in Tenerife, in Adeje, La Laguna and Santa Cruz. Meanwhile, here on the island itself there is much more too.

We've already had Santa Blues and Aguaviva. The latter drew a crowd of 30,000, despite Keane pulling out at the last minute.

Canaries Jazz Festival

Tonight is the turn of the headline act in this year's Festival Jazz y Más de Heineken, as the Chucho Valdés Quintet & Bebo Valdés perform at the Auditorio de Tenerife.

As the program says, there are only two or three figures remaining from the golden age of Cuban music and one of them is pianist, Bebo Valdés. Now 89, he is the father of Chucho Valdés, but if you think you don't know the name, you are sure to know his music, backing a number of big names, including the late Celia Cruz.

The festival is on from June 26th to July 9th.

XVI Festival Internacional Canarias Jazz & Más Heineken

Nocturnos de Verano

Also this weekend, the Museo de Historia de Tenerife (Tenerife History Museum) begins it's Nocturnos de Verano (Summer Nocturnal Events) tonight and tomorrow night, July 6th and 7th, from 8:30 p.m. This is a cultural activity, open to the public, combining literature, music and history.

Nocturnos de Verano

Festival Internacional de Piano

From the 2nd to the 9th of July, six young pianists will offer concerts during the XVI Festival Internacional de Piano (16th International Piano Festival) in Santa Cruz, in Tenerife. All of the concerts are free and are being held at the cultural center of the CajaCanarias.

XVI Festival Internacional de Piano

First International Festival of Film Music

The First International Festival of Film Music takes place in Tenerife between July 9th and 15th. The Teatro Guimerá is the venue on July 14th, where music by Callery, Danna and Illarramendi will be performed. On July 15th the music of Davis and Navarro will fill the Auditorio de Tenerife.

Film music in The Canaries

Festival Eólica

Aguaviva promoted the defence of the oceans and, in similar vein, coming up next weekend, is the Festival Eólica or Festival Internacional de Energías Renovables promoting the use of renewable energy that will be held at the Parque Eólico de Granadilla (ITER) (Wind farm) in Granadilla de Abona on July 14th.

The official version, from the festival's MySpace page goes:

One of the most original and charismatic events that take place in Spain is back this summer, celebrating its 5th edition. Taking place at a WindPower Park in Tenerife, below gigantic windmills and on the shore of the ocean, EOLICA feeds on renewable energies bringing over twenty hours of art, music and ecology to life. Recycling and Natural Resources are the highlight of the show, encouraging many different activities, all with one common goal: ecology. Great artists, musicians and bands from all over the world will come together to support the cause, giving their best at four different stages that will take place simultaneously. Starting at noon July 14th, the event will go on until the break of dawn on the 15th.

Brummie band, The Charlatans head the lineup.

Festival Eólica (English)

Those coming from other islands can travel at a discount to many of these events, as they are covered by the government's Días C de la Cultura (Cultural Days) program, report Bienmesabe.

And to this, we must add some really huge names in individual concerts.

Joe Cocker has a date in La Laguna

British blues legend Joe Cocker has switched the venue of his Tenerife concert on July 10 to the Pabellon Santiago Martin in La Laguna.

Tickets for his Tenerife concert can be ordered online at GeneralTickets or at the Pabellon Santiago Martin box office on the day itself. (Pabellon Santiago Martin. Mercedes, s/n 38108 Los Majuelos - Tenerife Tlf. 922 82 20 56 - Fax. 922 31 01 93) The concert starts at 9pm.

Joe Cocker has a date in La Laguna

Youssou N´Dour

Meanwhile, Senegalese singer and percussionist, Youssou N´Dour, best known for his collaborations with Peter Gabriel, Neneh Cherry or Paul Simon, his work with the United Nations and UNICEF and appearances at three of the Live 8 concerts, is to play the Auditorio de Tenerife on July 11th.

Youssou N´Dour

Chick Corea & Gary Burton play the Auditorio de Tenerife on July 13th. On the 20th and 21st, we change genre a bit for the Boston Ballet.

On top of this there are probably countless hundreds of talented individuals and bands playing in halls and bars all around the island. These days in Tenerife, you're spoiled for choice as far as entertainment is concerned.
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