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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Orishas give Santa Cruz Carnaval a boost

Orishas in Los Realejos

Santa Cruz' carnaval is to get another boost, when Hip Hop Conga, the official tune of Carnaval 2008 (with all it's references to the city, the fiesta and the word shared by Cuba and the Canary Islands: guagua (bus)), written and performed by Orishas (the Cuban hip-hop band, who we saw in Los Realejos at the beginning of the month) appears as a bonus track on their fourth album, Cosita Buena.

Crappy photo, I know, but it proves I was there at their amazing concert on an open-air basketball court - squashed surrealistically between blocks of flats - where, as Andy says here, they went through their entire repertoire.

Actually, they did Hip Hop Conga twice (because of the local relevance, naturally) and, I think Yotuel might have mentioned the upcoming album release - about a dozen times or more. :-) Fair exchange (of promotions) is no robbery!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Santa Cruz' Monstrous Carnaval 2009

Corpus Christi was only yesterday, it's still officially Spring, we haven't had summer yet, let alone autumn, or heaven forbid let's not talk about Christmas at the end of May ...

And yet here they are, making plans for next February's carnaval already. Surely, this is proof that the partying in Tenerife never stops?

We learn that a poster design has been chosen for the Santa Cruz Carnaval 2009, which on it's own would not be monstrous news, but the reports also tell us what the theme is to be.

It's entirely optional - come in whatever costume you like - but if you're planning on being here for carnaval you might like to have a costume to match the theme, which next year, will be el cine de terror (Horror Films). Didn't Puerto de la Cruz do that theme already?

It does all seem a bit premature, but who are we to complain? The news reports give us a clue to the reason for getting an unprecedented move on, saying that this year the fiesta is going to get "exterior promotion without precedents."

With that prospect, we're sure the carnaval will be monstrous - as in huge - and you'll be in good company. (Better than being organized mañana!) It also gives you chance to book well in advance, because nearby hotels will fill up.

The poster, which was chosen from amongst 111 entries, is by Gonzalo Luis Álvarez Fernández and entitled "Bailarina Monstruosa" (Monstrous Dancer).

Yes, we're fully aware that the poster depicts Herman Munster in a bra and tutu, with pink wings borrowed off a Christmas angel, but believe us when we tell you that such an outfit would be considered quite conservative at Carnaval! :)

We don't think it matters how well you dance at carnaval, or not ...

"Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth." -- Mark Twain

Santa Cruz' main parade is on Shrove Tuesday, February 24th, 2009.

Click here for a selection of hotels in Santa Cruz.

Tenerife Carnaval Dates from 2008 to 2025

Corpus Christi in La Orotava 2008

Corpus Christi La Orotava 2008

Corpus Christi La Orotava 2008Sunshine and blue skies for yesterday's Día de las Alfombras (Day of the Carpets), to celebrate Corpus Christi in La Orotava.

The above was taken in a relatively quiet moment during the siesta hours, but earlier the queues of people had been at their usual standstill, as thousands of people flock to see these amazing works of art.

Corpus Christi La Orotava 2008Above right, this colorful combination was this year's offering from the Monteverde family, who originated the carpet making custom in Orotava back in 1847.

Left is the main, 850 sq meter, carpet in the square in front of the town hall.

Below, a few more images.

But, keep your eyes on Jose Mesa's and Jack Montgomery's photos, because they were there too. Along with Andrea Montgomery, most convivial company. Those of you who didn't venture out missed a great annual event. You also missed my shout at the bar, which comes around a lot less often! :)

The Día de las Alfombras next year will fall on Thursday, June 18th, 2009.

Mixed Messages: Masca's Road to Recovery

Overlooking the Lomo de Masca from the La Fuente terrace

A strange sequence of events on Tuesday morning, starting with the cat getting me up early (note to self: must clip his nails again), caused me to do something I'd been meaning to do for months; catch the bus to Masca to see for myself (and report back), how the village is recovering from last year's fire.

Masca, as the second most visited place on Tenerife - because it is so amazing and beautiful - captures many people's hearts, but almost everyone I know here has family in Masca and, the spine chilling part is that it was only the change in the wind that took the fire there, instead of into the valley where I live. Part of me, therefore, had been merely procrastinating normally: the other part was actively avoiding seeing any heartbreaking destruction up close.

Back in November, I'd gone only as near as to overlook the Masca valley, which you will see here was brown - and that was NOT an autumnal hue. The extent of the burnt areas was just so vast it was hard for me to take in and, still is.

More comparisons
This video was shot in the immediate aftermath of the fire and here are some comparisons between the area of the fire just 3 weeks afterwards in August 2007 and shots from 4 months afterwards, in December 2007, taken by José Mesa, who tells me he took another set of photos, 9 months after the fire, on Monday.

Left are two palm trees near Masca that are easily recognized by their attractively curved trunks and, what I saw on Tuesday was much the same; lots of palm trees with "exotic" black trunks and "regulation" hair cuts. Most of rest is slowly greening up, but I think you'll agree, comparing the image taken this week with one taken around 15 years ago, that everywhere is much browner than it used to be. That is not just caused by the fire, but from climate changes.

And seasonal differences, of course. And it's not to say that it's all bad, because some ecologists opine that the fire has aided in doing cleaning that nature badly needed. I agree, but it's a bit difficult to maintain that kind of positive attitude when someone gets you up at 5.30 a.m. and a wall of fire is coming your way.

MascaEven so, as Andrea Montgomery pointed out in her blog post, entitled The Eye of the Beholder, last December, anyone who hadn't known Masca before the fire, simply wouldn't know the difference. And the tour guides aren't telling them either.

If you do know and actually look for the signs, as I was doing, they're obvious.

Then, when you consider why those palm tree trunks are black and then notice how many of them are and how close to the houses in the village they are, you suddenly have a lump in your throat and are wondering how the *expletive* there is anything left of Masca at all.

MascaWhere reconstruction work is still being carried out to buildings that were fire damaged, such as to the restaurant La Fuente, the casual observer would probably come to the conclusion that these were regular "improvements", or that they were simply having an extension built.

And all this is good, for Masca, in the sense that visitors have been largely unaffected.

But, just to play devil's advocate for a moment and, human nature being what it is, I think there's a grave danger that such unapparentness of the damage could lead to a bit of "memory shortening".

This is already showing locally, because the town hall has published leaflets advising people to keep areas around houses weed-free and, of course, they're anything but. Just after the fire, they all knew that abandoned land full of easy burning material was a danger. Now that it's passed, it's out of sight ...

The town hall has already come under criticism from the opposition, because, back in February, works on restoring buildings that had been damaged, seemed to be taking a long time. And, from what I saw this week, they still are.

Those issues aside, the biggest "carnage" that Masca has suffered is that I was charged 30 cents (37%) more for coffee there than I would be in a non-tourist bar elsewhere locally. Everywhere I looked, there were notices warning of a charge of 50 cents for use of the toilets by non-customers. Whist I don't doubt there are plenty who take liberties, it's quite another thing to treat all your potential customers as though they're unwanted invaders and I found it off putting. I might use a loo, then become a customer, but not after being subjected to suspicion, locked doors, serious inconvenience ...

Not just Masca, but everywhere HAS to address this problem, because it sucks to be treated like "we don't really want you, but we do want your money."

The gorge was reopened last year, despite the missing bridge, but it has recently been confirmed by the Tenerife Island Corporation, that the gorge is to be gated and a charge to be levied. This has drawn criticism that ordinary folk; locals, poor people, will no longer be able to visit the Masca gorge.

And then, if no money is charged, how can we expect anywhere to provide professional services, guides, security, etc? (Toilets would be good! :-)

MascaMasca isn't what it was when I first used to go there, to get away from it all, 15 or so years ago. Then show me somewhere, anywhere, that is!

Someone who had been to Masca 15 years before me, would have seen it less developed still.

15 years before that and they probably would have had to make their way there by donkey!

The point being that, for someone who has never been there before, Masca is still light years away from anything they know; is magically, fictionally beautiful and is very certainly Shangri-La.

The best news: maybe they weren't as noticeable as before, but there's more people now, more restaurants, more traffic, work being carried out ... but in Tuesday's cool early morning, I could hear that some birds - which the fire and lack of vegetation had driven away - were back.

Picture This - Masca. Images of Masca Photos here More images of Masca Photos here

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tenerife Prepares to Celebrate Corpus Christi

Carpet Kit

The actual date of the Corpus Christi feast was on Thursday and in some parts of the Canary Islands, such as Mazo on the island of La Palma, the event is celebrated then. Here in Tenerife, most of the celebrations will take place tomorrow, Sunday, or on the 8th Day of Corpus Christi, next Thursday.

As in previous years, in many towns and villages in Tenerife, as well as the grander celebrations in the island's former capital, La Laguna, the carpets and processions for Corpus Christi will take place tomorrow, Sunday, May 25th.

The culmination of these spectacular celebrations, however, involving carpets of flowers and of sands brought down from Mount Teide, must be those in the town of La Orotava, which will take place on Thursday, May 29th. From early in the morning on that day, local families will make flower carpets in the main streets of the historic center of the town. See photos of Photos here Corpus Christi 2007.

Día de las Alfombras 2007On this occasion, the main carpet in La Orotava; the 850 square meter carpet made in the square in front of the town hall (which last year gained an entry in the Guinness World Records), being made by 22 alfombristas (carpet makers), is dedicated to Christ, Saint Peter and Saint Paul, as pillars of the church. For the first time, because of its declaration as a World Heritage Site, the Teide National Park will also be represented in this carpet.

On Sunday, in the Plaza del Adelantado in La Laguna also, there'll be a market with proceeds going to support Cáritas, the charity who look after the homeless. Both days will draw many thousands of people, both locals and tourists.

Tenerife se prepara para celebrar el Corpus Christi

Saturday, May 10, 2008

24th Palma Canaria Norte Rally

The crowd goes wild for #2 José María Ponce's BMW M3
"Liveblogging" the 24th Palma Canaria Norte Rally, only 'coz it comes right past the door and the road was closed to traffic today, so I have no option, but while in previous years the rally took us by surprise, this year I was ready for them!

#14 Escuderia Club ADEA. Driver: Evelio Rodriguez. Copilot: Samuel Martin. Vehicle: Mitsubishi Evo 8
#11 Escuderia Team Sinco Sport. Driver: Roberto Negrin. Copilot: Zebensui Valiente. Vehicle: Mitsubishi Evo 8
For a change, I was even up before the "capacity crowd" (of five blokes) had assembled at the bottom of our lane. They were well prepared for the day with their huge bocadillos for breakfast and, tell me they are rally fans who go to all of these events around the island.

And I was pleased that I was ready in time to see the #1 car, a Citroen Xsara Kit Car, of this year's favorite, Ricardo Avero (La Laguna) flash rapidly past and get the shot above of #2 José María Ponce's BMW M3, because even I know that invoking the name of Ponce in relation to rallies on these islands is the kind of act that draws fans to pay homage (in a way we Anglo-Saxons might think was a bit mushy between straight adult blokes.)

Nevertheless, the names of Gran Canarian brothers, Antonio (Toñi) and José María Ponce, have been synonymous with the sport in the Canaries for many a year now: José Maria having won the Spanish Rally Championship for Drivers with the BMW M3 in 1991, with both achieving many other world class classifications.

At Toñi Ponce Sport, you can buy models of their cars, including a limited edition slot car version of the green BMW M3 pictured above. (Via: Rally Fans Club)

Bit of excitement too when a police helicopter appeared over the mountain pass coming from the direction of Masca and then zig-zagged down the route through the valley in pursuit of one of the cars. We doubt the driver is a known fugitive. Safety perhaps, or the Guardia Civil is moonlighting for a local TV station?

A total of 98 cars will be whizzing past today apparently. We (that is, the dog and I, because she barks at the unfamiliar noise if she's indoors), took a break after the Renault 5 at #34 and not long after, the road was reopened again.

Spectators are gathering again at the roadsides now for part two.

Map of the route of the Palma Canaria Norte Rally

Tenerife Rally Calendar for 2008

As today's Palma Canaria Norte Rally is the first major event in the Tenerife Rally season each year, this provides me with a reminder and an ideal opportunity to tell you what else is coming up on the schedule ... all the rest of which are in much more accessible areas for visitors to reach for a fun day out.

At the website of the Federación Interinsular de Automovilismo de Santa Cruz de Tenerife, you can download a calendar of the season's fixtures (PDF). To save you the trouble, the main rally sport events in Tenerife in 2008 are:

Jun 21/22: Granadilla Rally
Sep 13/14: Adeje Rally
Nov 15/16: Tenerife Rally

Jul 12/13: Arona Hill Climb
Oct 4/5: Tamaimo Hill Climb
Oct 18/19: San Miguel Hill Climb
Dec 6/7: Guía de Isora Hill Climb

Watch this space and our calendar for more details.

Friday, May 09, 2008

A Chimp walks into a bar in Tenerife

Shocking report, she says!

Two chimps, mother and daughter, according to the Civil Guard, escaped from zoological park Oasis del Valle in La Orotava, Tenerife yesterday and one of them spent two hours in the bar Los Rechazos (ironically, the name of the bar translates to The Rejects.)

You just can't make this stuff up!

Sources at the Civil Guard, says the report, said that at 15:30 hours they were alerted by the zoo that two chimps had escaped and added that one of them was found and captured by the agents on the roof of a neighbouring home.

The other chimp entered a bar in the Camino de Los Rechazos (The Rejects Walk), where she caused alarm among the 20 or so clients, declared Moisés Álvarez, one of the bar's owners. Álvarez explained that around 2 p.m., a chimp of medium size opened the door to the bar and entered, running towards the kitchen, where she also burnt herself and cut her legs on some shelving she destroyed. Many customers left, but two people had tried to get her under control, but were unable to do so because of the animal's strength.

The bar was left without television too, after the chimp's rampage, but presumably customers will have plenty to talk about in the meantime.

There's just no end to the comments you can make about this:
"Everyone's entitled to a wild time, a few drinks and a laugh, at least once, even chimps and chimps are our nearest relatives, remember."
"With the price of drinks, it's no wonder she wanted to smash the place up."
"I know a couple of girls like that in La Orotava, if they're the same ones ..."
Punters will be asking each other forever, "Hey, do you remember the day a chimp came in here and vandalized the place?" Bar owners in the tourist areas of the south of the island have probably been having very similar conversations for years already.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Tenerife Calendar for the Month of May 2008

May begins with Día del Trabajador (May Day), a national holiday on the 1st and, since that falls on a Thursday, you can be sure that lots of people will also take the Friday off and make it into a long weekend. In anticipation of which, many fiestas and events have been carefully planned to fill up this free time ...

The northern town of Los Realejos is certainly the place to start the month of May in Tenerife this year. First, there's Festival Flypa 08: the town's annual International Paragliding and Free Flying Festival, that runs from May 1st to 4th. But, if jumping off a cliff suspended by a bit of string from an old sock isn't exciting enough for you, there's always the accompanying concert schedule.

Heading the bill on Friday, May 2nd is Cuban originated hip-hop band, Orishas (MySpace), who already provided the official tune for Tenerife's Carnaval, Hip Hop Conga, taking part in the Gala for the Selection of the Carnaval Queen and performing live in Santa Cruz Plaza Weyler on Domingo de Piñata back in February of this year. In August 2007, Orishas had been in Tenerife once more, performing outside the Auditorio as part of the fusion music festival, Festival Mumes.

Of course, it's not [only] Tenerife that has made Orishas worldwide famous: that probably owes much to "Represent, Cuba" - Orishas featuring Heather Headley, which is on the soundtrack of 2004 musical, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.

Which all goes to make it sorta quaint and extremely surprising (no, really, it's the real deal, not a tribute act) that Orishas should be playing the Polideportivo San Agustin (San Agustin Sports Center) in Los Realejos this coming Friday, May 2nd, for a mere 5 euros (about 4 quid.) Starts at 9 p.m. and includes the Disco Móvil MINGO SHOW, with music from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s too. Woooo!

Fiestas de Mayo (May Festivals)

At the same time, Los Realejos, along with Santa Cruz, celebrate Fiestas de Mayo (May Festivals) or Fiestas de la Cruz (Festivals of the Cross). In Santa Cruz these mark the founding of the city in 1494. In Los Realejos on the night of May 3rd is a huge "firework battle" - fought out between two streets in the town, considered one of the biggest fireworks displays in Europe. There are also Fiestas de la Cruz in Güímar.

Fiestas de Mayo in Los Realejos 2008
Fiestas de Mayo 2008 in Santa Cruz

More Events in Tenerife in May

From May 9th to 24th there's the Festival de Música Brasileña (Brazilian Music Festival), Tensamba. Friday, May 9th at the Sala NUEVABASILICA in La Orotava, is the Salsa Open 2008. Also on Friday, May 9th and Saturday, May 10th, there's the Arona Jazz Festival 2008, from 8.30 p.m. in the Plaza de la Iglesia (Church Square), Los Cristianos. And on Saturday, May 10th is the 24th Palma Canaria Norte Rally.

Día de las Alfombras

Corpus Christi this year falls in May and the biggest celebrations are held in La Orotava, where the Día de las Alfombras (Day of the Carpets) - made of sand and flowers in the streets - is held on the 8th day of Corpus Christi, i.e. the following Thurdsay from the date of the religious feast itself. In 2008, the Día de las Alfombras falls on Thursday, May 29th.

Around 100,000 people crowded into the streets of the town to see the sand and flower carpets in 2006 and, I'm sure the number had increased last year.

La Orotava families, many still with the same surnames since the 15th Century conquest of Tenerife, start making the flower carpets from the early hours of "carpet day." Late morning to early afternoon is the best time to see them working on them, but virtually complete.

The central sand carpet made in the square in front of the town hall (pictured) made the Guinness World Record for the Largest Sand Painting; the 859.42 square meter "alfombra" or carpet of sand created in the town of La Orotava in Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain) in June 2007.

In the early evening the procession walks all over these ephemeral carpets and destroys them, so the "window of opportunity" to see them is very short. Don't miss them, because even if you have no religious interest, as works of art, they are breathtaking.

As well as the big Día de las Alfombras in La Orotava, almost every town and village also partakes in this fiesta and makes carpets, often with salt and flowers, generally on the Sunday either before, or after Corpus Christi.

Día de las Alfombras Corpus Christi 2007

And at the end of the month, on May 30th is the Día de Canarias (Canaries Day), the annual event and local holiday, which celebrates "Canarianess" and remembers the anniversary of the first session of the autonomous Canary Islands Parliament, of May 30th, 1983. Its roughly the equivalent of England's St. George's Day.

Día de Canarias - Canaries Day

More Fiestas in May 2008 in Tenerife | More events on our calendar
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