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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Britannia Rules Tenerife



If the Gala to select the Carnaval Queen in Santa Cruz, Tenerife, last year was "Amargo" (bitter), then this year's was surreal and, I'm not just talking about one of the candidates costumes, which included one of Salvador Dali's "melting" clocks and a picture of the mustachio'd artist on the flounce of her dress. Actually, that was my favourite, but I was surprised she got nowhere.

The televised gala in general was school end of term concert quality and there were the endless performances by all the carnaval groups and dancers. But, that's exactly what carnaval is all about, so it was good, despite all the technical hitches. They just added to the entertainment. The worst of those hiccups might have been that there was no sound to her mike all through Xiomara Laugart's first number, but it was surpassed because the sound did work through her second one.

The Orishas were good, even if they were miming (as you'd expect.)

The surreal part for me was seeing such an ostensibly English design, chosen by a panel of mostly Spanish judges - of course - that also included, French actor, Gérard Depardieu and Italian actress, Sophia Loren. Well, I guess that's globalization for you! :)

It was reported that Loren said she would "probably" dress up in costume for carnival. If she did yesterday, she came disguised as actress, Sophia Loren.

And the winner is ... Nauzet Celeste Cruz Melo in a Santi Castro designed costume entitled, "La Edad de Oro" (The Golden Age), representing the (French owned) supermarket chain, Carrefour. When she came out onto the stage originally, she was introduced as Queen Elizabeth I (you know, of England) and the music that was played while she paraded was "Rule Britannia". You certainly can't accuse the Spanish of being bad losers, endorsing Queen Elizabeth I and Rule Britannia, given the history of the Armada!

Nor indeed of any remaining animosity over the part she played in local history. Elizabeth I is known to have backed English pirate, John Hawkins, who was slave trading partner of Pedro de Ponte (son of the man who paid for the conquest of Tenerife). Hawkins once lived in Ponte's house in Tenerife, in Adeje. The key may be that last night's "Queen Elizabeth I" is from next door in Arona.

The upshot, ladies and gentlemen, is what Nelson failed to do by force (and a few others before him), it seems we've finally managed to do with a Carnaval Queen (if only for a year) and, perhaps more surprisingly, we've achieved this Révolution surréaliste with French, Italian and Spanish help.

Canarias7 tell it (in Spanish) Magia y glamour en el Carnaval de Tenerife dejan atrás el trago 'amargo' de 2007, with the press photos here, here and here.

The Golden Age wins the 2008 Carnival in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Tenerife carnival recovers glamour after last year's deception

PS: Harry Potter and David Copperfield were magically made to disappear. That is, they were conspicuous by their complete absence at the gala and turned out to be mere Tenerife myth and rumour, as we'd suspected in the end.

PPS: That's all the contests done now, so today everyone gets a "day off" from partying. :) Tomorrow night, the Carnaval Party takes to the streets. The big parade in Santa Cruz is on Tuesday. More Carnaval news in due course.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Canarian Cowboys and Preposterous Pets

Canarian Cowboys and Preposterous Pets

If there was a large number of both people and cattle at Buenavista yesterday, then there seemed to be an even greater number - and, it has to be said, much better weather for taking photos, if not for walking around in the heat - at Los Silos for their Fiestas for San Antonio Abad and Crafts Fair the week before.

The craft fair was held in the square around the kiosk, as well as inside the bunting-decorated former convent.

At Los Silos were many horses, more goats with red ribbons, sheep and a ram upgrade, a fully-grown mini-goat, tweetie-pies, rows of racing pigeons and, as in Buenavista, an ever increasing number and diversity of pets.

At this fiesta, to which animals are brought to be blessed, or at least gawked at, there were far too many dogs to count and, besides, they seem rather boring and ordinary next to some of the more exotic and unusual specimens.

People brought rabbits in hutches on wheels. There were large reptilian chaps on leads. Many people seemed to have a snake round their neck or wrist and, a young girl brought along a small basket of lettuce (with handle). This last item, I discovered upon closer inspection, was not a salad, but a tiny little turtle or tortoise.

Risking a serious lynching for my cheek though, the prize for "pet who most looked like owner" (or vice-versa), must surely go to this dear little old wrinkled lady, who had brought along her turkey, on a string tied round his leg. :)

See where this picture was taken. [?]

Photo: Pamela Heywood

Sunday's Livestock Fair in Buenavista

San Antonio Abad 2008 - Buenavista
Some of yesterday's 1,500 cattle "parked" at the show ground at Buenavista


Yesterday was dull, but warm, for the annual livestock fair and Romeria in honour of San Antonio Abad in Buenavista del Norte and, because there are always lots of cute animalitos on display, of course we were there.

Along with lots of his older cousins, one of the stars of yesterday's show was this 24 day old "veal", I mean calf, which, I'm told, was given to the boy (in costume) by the Tenerife Island Corporation to foster and maintain his interest in rural pursuits.

Another star for me was this Shetland pony with a mop dog in a basket on his saddle.

There also were Teno's now famous polkadot goats; a hen in a "chicmobile" that had laid eggs en route (the woman joked with me, well I think she was joking that these were hard-boiled); dancers from the island of El Heirro and more ...

Last year, on seeing Teno's goats, dressed for the fiestas with red ribbons (as bows tied on their horns or, failing that, around their necks), a commenter asked, " ... how did they keep the goats from eating each other's ribbons?"

It's a good question, because, so the story comes down my own family: the goat that my great grandmother had, once ate bloomers off the washing line.

So, being curious and wanting to know the answer to this question myself, I took advantage of the occasion and asked the lady from Teno with the polkadot goats yesterday. Her response will astound you: "Because they're not hungry." :)

She chuckled actually and said that's all she can think of and puts it down to the fact that the goats roam free, so they are used to constantly grazing (she also supplements their diet with feed), so you could say they are neither hungry, nor bored enough to be bothered with fiddling with their ribbons.
According to Diario de Avisos, there were 1,500 cattle and 18,000 people at yesterday's fiestas. I was there early and didn't wait for the parade, which the report says began after 2 p.m., but I see no reason to dispute the figures, because there did seem especially to be far more cattle than there had been in previous years.

Now can you imagine the amount of muck there will have been on the main streets of the town once that number of animals had paraded down them? :)

There were also lots of horses, hunting dogs, an ever increasing number of pets (not just dogs, but of all descriptions), and back to the farm animals, sheep amongst the goats. Tell me, if they're mixed together is it a flock or a herd?

There were also more tourists at the fair this year. Normally, the only ones I meet in this area are lost, but I heard or found myself speaking in English on more than one occasion to people who had come to the fiesta on purpose.

Not unsurprisingly, the bars and chiringuitos (beer and food stalls), as well as the stalls selling sweets, cheap toys and other tat were doing a roaring trade.

As was the cake shop, El Aderno (more), on Buenavista's high street, who, incredibly, have installed a ticket machine to deal with customers in numerical order like deli counter of a supermarket. I don't know if that's permanent or was just for Sunday's extra fiesta traffic, but it was a bit of a revelation.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Buenavista Hosts Annual Cheese Contest

Cheese PleaseThe central Plaza de los Remedios in Buenavista del Norte hosts to the 13th annual contest to choose the best goat cheese from the hamlet of Teno Alto from 11 a.m. today. Those of you thinking a cheese contest is a bit lame haven't tasted the cheese, the superior quality of which is owing to the ideal conditions in which the goats live.

Gorgeous GoatsThis traditionally made cheese can now be purchased at various points around the island, including the tourist information point, situated alongside Buenavista's town square itself.

Tomorrow, Sunday, you can meet the goats themselves too, when Buenavista has its livestock fair, romeria and fiestas in honor of San Antonio Abad.

La Plaza de Los Remedios acoge este sábado la XIII edición de la cata de quesos de Teno Alto

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bananas Are Not the Only Fruit

Green BananasIn Three Random Facts About the Spanish, Notes from Spain's Ben Curtis says, Bananas must come from the Canary Islands. He adds, "And if they come from anywhere else, many a Spaniard will rather go banana-less until the next shipment comes in."

We're certainly glad to hear that the marketing is still working and hope that continues, because it is by no means a foregone conclusion.

You'd have to be very old to remember a time when the small, flavorful Canary Islands' bananas were the favorite in Britain too. Now they can't be found there and can't be exported outside of Spain and the Balearic Islands (though those exports were increased in 2007), as Lavengro in Spain tells us:

The Canaries are of course famous for bananas. We learnt in fact that Canarian bananas can't be exported (except to the Peninsula of course) because of EU regulations. We were told that they are too small, which they are; small they may be though but perfectly formed they are too, and it is not their curvature that is the problem. In fact I suspect that EU banana-growing (France grows them too in Guyana) is being phased out in favour of Caribbean ones to support underdeveloped countries. The Canarian industry is converting itself to mangos, papayas and so on.


In the 1870s Thomas Fyffe, a London food wholesaler, went into partnership with a fruit dealer named Hudson who had connections in the Canary Islands. In 1878 they shipped their first cargo of bananas to England. Within five years the business had become so successful that they purchased land in the Canaries to be cultivated as banana plantations. Then the WWI British maritime blockade of Europe destroyed the banana trade. Canarios voted with their feet and fled the poverty in droves for a new life in Latin America.

Gran Canaria info gives us more history of Bananas on the Canary Islands.

For now, if you want to taste one, you have to come to Spain.

Grapes of dubious parentage? Vintage 2006Lavengro also reminds us that one of the grape varieties in the Canary Islands is called bastardo negro. He adds, "I don't suppose it is discussed widely on British TV wine programmes." We certainly wonder how that has managed to survive the political correctness police!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Santa Cruz Celebrates Nonexistent Anniversary

Yes, you read that right. The town hall in Santa Cruz in Tenerife is, apparently, making the final preparations to celebrate the 186th Anniversary of the city being declared the capital of the Canary Islands, which in 1822 was one single province.

These festivities, on Sunday, January 27th, will be held in the Plaza de San Francisco, before the monument (see photo) to José Murphy y Meade (1774-1841), who was [obviously] of Irish decent and "Tenerife's most famous early 19th century politician who fought for economic independence of the Canary Islands and for Santa Cruz to be recognized as the capital of the islands." [Source.]

But, never mind that Santa Cruz is not still the capital of the Canary Islands and now only capital of the western province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife since the two were split in two in 1927. I'd be tempted to suggest that there's some Irish logic in here, because surely, this would be the same as me celebrating my 30th wedding anniversary this June, even though I got divorced in 1982? :)

The thought of celebrating the divorce instead crossed my mind too. As it did the folk in Las Palmas in Gran Canaria, who celebrated the split last September, which is probably what gave Santa Cruz the, lets be honest, daft idea.

Then Tenerife already has some weird fiestas and even stranger reasons for celebrating them, and as El Dia suggest, "Everyone, without doubt, can celebrate what they estimate to be adequate and convenient."

Celebrations Should Be Fun?

Well, we think so, if you want people to take some interest and, history shouldn't be forgotten. So also forgive me for saying that here's an event I won't be submitting to this list of January Holidays You Don't Want to Miss: The Good, the Bad & the Unbelievable. Well, maybe under the last two categories.

Nothing wrong with honouring Mr Murphy again, but it's some of the other items in the service that bother me. We expect the mayor to speak, the band to play and the historical reference added. There is to be an interpretation of the Himno de Canarias (Canarian Anthem) and another of the Spanish National Anthem (hopefully without the officially scrapped, divisive words.)

That last aside, what kind of person spends their Sunday reading out loud the whole of the document of the "original concession as capital"? I'll tell you who; the mayor's First Lieutenant, Ángel Llanos. This is the same man who made himself (in)famous over his, shall we say, not quite accurate pronouncements about Elton John coming to Tenerife. Well, reading an historical document should make for an increase in accuracy, but I dread to think what they have lined up for the 200th Anniversary: for fun they might read it twice! :)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Happy Birthday, Leopoldo O'Donnell

Don Leopoldo O'Donnell y Jorris, Count of Lucena, 1st Duke of Tetuan (1809-1867), was Prime Minister of Spain for three separate periods between 1856 and 1866 and fought for Isabela II in the Carlist Wars.

He was of Irish ancestry, a descendant of Calvagh O'Donnell, chieftain of Tyrconnel and, according to Typically Spanish, was born in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Spain On This Day - January 12

Friday, January 11, 2008

Tenerife Carnaval: Creatures of the Night

With the Carnaval season about to begin again this month, Real Tenerife Island Drives' Andrea Montgomery writes about her and Jack's experiences at Carnaval in Puerto de la Cruz.

We're standing at the Plaza Charco end of Calle Perdomo. A family walks past and the youngest child looks back, catches my eye and screams. There's a steady trickle of flashes from cameras as people ask if they can take our picture.

Three hours earlier we'd been watching the Barcelona match on TV, still dithering about whether or not we should attend Carnaval's opening party and not having given a moment's thought to a costume. After raiding the 'Halloween and Xmas Panto' box from our former lives in the UK, Jack emerged as a fiendish werewolf and, with the aid of a recently discarded mosquito net, I'm the Corpse Bride.

A sudden hike in volume in the music persuades us to abandon our diorama and join the throngs of furry animals, transvestites, super heroes, ghouls, witches, Smurfs, Cardinals and nuns (to name but a fraction) who've turned the street into an open air rave.

The small beer stands dotted along the centre of Perdomo and around the plaza and harbour area are doing brisk business in JDs and coke and the tapas stall has removed its high stools to make standing room only for the hordes of revellers whose attack of the munchies can only be sated by a Desperate Dan sized montadito or three.

By 3 am the whole of Plaza Charco, the harbour, Calles de Mequinez and Perdomo are dance floors and a circuit of them takes us through different music zones and their respective audiences. In the main plaza, a Latino band is pumping out salsa to couples who sashay and swirl in synchronised rhythm within the confines of their floor space. On Perdomo, Mequinez and Marina, the disco beat provides the background for a Club mix of grime and hip-hop with hot Latino undertones and one or two classic anthems riding the airwaves en route.

The circuit, which would normally take us 2 or 3 minutes to stroll, takes upwards of an hour to negotiate, only moving forward when the crowd permits and stopping at regular intervals to dance or order a drink. At one point we detour to the car park on Parque Marítimo, where we've abandoned the car until the sober hours of Sunday, and stumble across a whole alternative Carnaval.

Every other vehicle has its boot open and is distributing drinks from the small off licence within to throngs of teenagers who surround it. On the roof of an old battered VW van, a devil is standing at decks, lining up the next track in between swigs from a bottle of Soberano Rum. The van is shaking from the impact of the bass beat that pounds out across the car park. Everyone seems to know each other and they're all partying like it's their last chance ever to do so. But it's not, it's just the first night and over the course of the next 7 days, there'll be six more just like this one.

It's 5.30am before we finally arrive home having walked from the Plaza. I drag my weary limbs up the path to begin the tiresome and messy job of removing my theatrical make-up before my head can hit the pillow. By the time I wake up, I won't need the make-up to complete the look tomorrow night.

Click here to read more about Carnaval in Puerto de la Cruz


Copyright © 2008 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.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Fiestas of San Antonio Abad 2008

Coming up next on the island's calendar are the fiestas of San Antonio Abad, which I euphemistically refer to as the Fiestas of Animal Poo, as that more accurately reflects what the streets become knee deep with after thousands of farm animals and an increasing number of pets are brought into towns for their annual blessing.

That euphemism is no reflection upon the quality of the entertainment, mind you, as astonishment is probably the emotion you will feel most; at the number of animals, the sheer quantity of what they leave behind, as well as their cuteness, particularly the fact that herds of goats follow routes and round corners in perfect formation like synchronized swimmers.

Gaggle of GoatsArona, on the south of the island, is one of the first to celebrate the fiesta of San Antonio Abad this weekend. On Friday night is a traditional Baile de Magos (Dance in typical costume) from 10 p.m. There are various events on Saturday, but the main ones; the Craft Fair opening at 10 a.m., with mass at 11 a.m. followed by the Romeria and procession of carts, animals, etc., are on Sunday, January 13th.

Likewise, there are Romerías of San Antonio Abad in Los Realejos, held in Tigaiga on a Sunday in the middle of the month (13th). It's then held in San Vicente the following Sunday (20th) and finally at the end of the month (27th) in the historic centre of Realejo Bajo, next to the Hacienda de Los Príncipes.

In Los Silos, the main day of the fiestas of San Antonio Abad is Sunday, January 20th, with their Craft Fair and Livestock Fair, a tradition that dates back to 1748. In addition, I phoned the Town Hall in Buenavista del Norte, who inform me that the big day of the fiesta here is Sunday, January 27th.

Three Kings Day Parades in Tenerife

The Christmas season ended in Tenerife (all of Spain and the Canary Islands) - finally - this week, on Monday. January 6th, Epiphany, was El Día de Los Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day) and, being a Sunday this year, Monday was a day off in lieu. Schools went back and the winter sales started promptly on Tuesday!

Yesterday's PuddingThis year, as it was threatening to rain (earlier, 5 meter waves had obliged the authorities to close the road along the front at Garachico) and I wasn't keen on standing, getting wet at the roadside, we gave the Three Kings Parades a miss on Saturday night and "made do" with the traditional Roscón de Reyes (Crown of Kings) desert.

Arrival of the KingWe saw part of Santa Cruz' huge Three Kings extravaganza on the TV news. In La Laguna, the Three Kings arrived at the Tenerife North Airport, Los Rodeos (how do they manage with the one bag hand baggage limit?)

In Santa Cruz, as has become the custom in recent years, their majesties then transfer to the 24,000 seater Heliodoro Rodríguez López football stadium (packed with 20,000 parents and kids) in a helicopter, then, after some ceremony and the collection of all the kids' begging letters, the 700 person strong parade takes to the city's streets. More than 400 people, kids mostly, were participating in the Gran Cabalgata de Reyes de Puerto de la Cruz too and this scenario was to be repeated in every town throughout the islands.

All the local Three Kings Parades here in the north west were televised on Televisión Daute (and watching an infinite number of children pose with the three chaps might be interesting if one of them is yours). It did allow me to see that in Buenavista, all three kings arrive on the back of one flatbed truck.

This is the low budget corner of the island and, I'm not knocking it because they do their best, which is probably enough if you are a small kid and your only interest is getting your present and your toy. From a grown up spectator's or tourist point of view, there's no camels and not much else for you to see.

In Los Silos they seem to have gotten a bit mixed up with that Santa chap and/or a Disney Parade, with Disney characters at the head of the parade.

The only parade locally that follows the "authentic" format of three blokes arriving on real camels and who re-enact a visit to Herod then go to see a baby, is the one we usually go to see in Garachico. Because the town's architecture also adds much to the atmosphere, I will continue to say that this is the best and certainly the best one to come to see from a tourist point of view.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival 2008

Carnival 2007

  • Wednesday 30 January 2008 - Election of the Carnival Queen
  • Friday 1 February 2008 - Opening Parade
  • Tuesday 5 February 2008 - Carnival Main Parade
  • Wednesday 6 February 2008 - Burial of the Sardine
  • Saturday 9 February 2008 - Daytime Carnival
  • Sunday 10 February 2008 - Classic Car Parade
Image Friedhelm Dröge [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
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