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Sunday, March 30, 2008

La Laguna - What a Cool Place

On Good Friday, or Viernes Santo as it's known on Tenerife, I travelled to the Island's former capital, La Laguna, to watch the Silent Procession. I deliberately bypassed the gridlocked traffic vying for spaces around Plaza del Adelantado on the edge of the old quarter, so that I had to crisscross the old town's atmospheric streets to get to where the procession was taking place.

It was no hardship; I could happily stroll along La Laguna's cobbles for hours, soaking up the sense of history that oozes from every unevenly plastered old cottage and smooth basalt stone façade of aristocratic mansions.

The policy of having street lighting designed to reduce light pollution means that you don't get 'bright lights, big city' on Tenerife. Streets are dimly lit at best, bathed in soft, golden hues reminiscent of cinema's numerous depictions of Victorian London. In most European cities, the dim lighting would have had me quickening my step and glancing around nervously for danger lurking in the shadows, but not here. On these streets and alleys, it only enhanced the notion that I was somewhere else in time. If I had passed Harry Lime lighting up in a doorway, I wouldn't have looked twice. Every so often the darkness was broken by the inviting glow radiating from tascas whose modern chic interiors somehow complimented their colonial exteriors.

It's one of the things I like about La Laguna; although the old quarter is a wonderfully preserved treasure chest of old townhouses and mysterious convents with latticed balconies; an open air living museum, if you wish, it also has a modern underbelly which borders on bohemian.

The mix of old and new was evident all around. An abstract sardine tin doorframe fronted an 18th century townhouse; intricately carved wooden balconies from the 17th century were reflected in shop windows displaying the latest fashions. In Plaza del Adelantado old guys in fedoras shared benches with ultra modish students from the city's university.

The sky was clear and a bright full moon cast a silvery glow on the darkened streets, but a vindictive northern wind was racing through the streets doing a passable impression of 'The Day After Tomorrow' and the warm ambience of a tasca seemed a more inviting prospect than waiting on exposed streets which would have a brass monkey gulping nervously. However, I resisted their lure and took my place, folding my arms against the cold.

When the first of the hooded brotherhoods emerged from the darkness and passed silently in front of me, all thoughts of feeling cold dissipated; I was transfixed. For just under an hour, the hooded figures flowed silently by. The scene was almost medieval and yet around me, stylishly dressed Laguneros looked as though they could have just stepped from the pages of Vogue.

That's La Laguna. I think it's fair to say that, whichever way you look at it, it's definitely one of the coolest places to visit on Tenerife.

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, March 20, 2008

Tenerife Easter Eggs

So as Britain prepares for an Arctic Easter, what does Tenerife have in store for this year's Extreme Early Easter? (If you want to find out why it's early, read this.)

A Heavy Cross to Bear

The top Easter "attractions" here are the Passion Plays or The Stations of the Cross (or Way of the Cross; in Latin, Vía Crucis) that take place in various towns on the island and, which reenact scenes from the last hours of the life of Jesus Christ.

Only a short hop from your resort hotel, in Adeje is one of the largest and best examples of this amazing quality street theatre, with detailed performances by more than 300 actors. This takes place on Good Friday, from around mid-day, though you may want to get there a little earlier to get a good spot. The entire performance is in the streets and squares of the town, public buildings taking on new roles for the day. It's also important enough to get televised.

Candelaria too is staging a Representación de la Pasión de Jesús, in the town streets and plazas, again featuring a cast of hundreds, the Municipal Choir, the Band of Cornets and Drums, 40K watts of sound and 150K of lighting to recreate scenes such as; The Last Supper, the hanging of Judas and the Crucifiction.

On a smaller scale, on Saturday, 22nd March, approximately 30 local actors will present a Pasion Play at the farmers market in Santiago Del Teide.

Penitent Processions

Holy Thursday procession #4
Holy Thursday procession in Puerto de la Cruz. Photo: palestrina55
This step-by-step guide to Semana Santa (Holy Week) in La Laguna may be in Spanish, but it has lots of illustrations of the various cofradias (brotherhoods); who dress in Klu Klux Klan style garb, plus photos of some of the icons that will be paraded during the processions.

The brotherhoods, which date to the 16th Century, are faithful catholics who follow a particular image of Chirst, the Virgin or a saint and it is the penitent type who parade at Easter. More from the Holy Thurdsay parade in Puerto de la Cruz Photos here

Semana Santa events in Santa Cruz and La Laguna (in Spanish)

El Via Crucis de Icod de los Vinos, made by Tenerife artist, Santiago González Arbelo, known for his work on nativity scenes, is a model that represents the life of Christ, from birth to Crucifiction, in miniature. It's on display in the Casa de los Cáceres, near the church in Icod de los Vinos, until March 30th.

Meanwhile, the Loro Parque in Puerto de la Cruz is offering more secular Easter activities, including their annual corral de los conejitos (bunny enclosure) and other diversions for both grown-ups and children, until March 23rd.

Eggstra Easter Patrols

Take extra care while driving on the islands' this weekend, as there are a total of 351 Civil Guard officers taking part in special Easter patrols on Canary Islands' roads (in Tenerife, especially on the TF-1 and TF-5 motorways) starting today, Thursday, March 20th. And, in the fight against excess speed and alcohol abuse, their surprise feature, is radar and 9 unmarked cars at their disposal.

You thought Spring here was Eternal?

First Day of SpringSpring Sprung too today in the northern hemisphere - Tenerife is about 28° North - but, it's already known as the "Island of Eternal Spring", because it enjoys a mild temperature all year round. Blossoms and spring flowers do appear at this time of year and, in theory, we should be getting into the drier season now. In theory, she says, so as not to tempt fate! :) So the BBC forecast rain for Monday, but that's not a bank holiday here. Today and tomorrow, Good Friday are.

OK, so there won't be that many Easter Eggs in Tenerife, except in stores serving visitors and expat residents, but who needs them when the "Easter Surprise" is a temperature of around 20 degrees?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tenerife brings you Snakes on a Moped ...

(Pitón de la India albina. Photo: Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA 3.0)

No doubt you've found yourself in this situation before: you buy a two meter long python and all the store gives you is this thin, crappy plastic carrier bag that wouldn't even support the weight of two yogurts. So you think to yourself, "What can I do to get this home through the many streets of La Laguna?"

And, after the appropriate amount of mature reflection, you come up with a plan:

"Oh yeah, I'll hop on my moped, wearing the python as a scarf!"

Never mind that neither of us has a crash helmet.

This news appeared in today's La Gaceta de Canarias apparently, but I've roughly translated this from an item at Canarias Bruta, which indicates that the only reason police were suspicious was the guy's of the lack of crash helmet.

We assume otherwise, he'd have been able to be "a bit more slippery?"

Once apprehended, the officers of the law then noticed that the rider had a yellow lump about his person, whereupon the said youf showed them the receipt, proving that he had indeed just purchased Hissing Sid.

We've had Snakes on a Plane, Snakes on a Blog; Suddenly Snakes in a Cartoon seems a bit tame, but Snakes on a Moped just seems, well, kinda ... Dare I say it? Yes, bloody typical of this island! Last time, as Canarias Bruta also remind us, it was a goat on a moped. That time the animal was wearing a crash helmet.

Apart from wondering WTF people want such weird critters as pets for - what's wrong with a nice little, fluffy, pussy cat? - all I can add is this, by Python Lee Jackson. Snake transporting dream broken, as he pushed his luck too far ...

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