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Friday, September 26, 2008

Twelve hours in Tenerife

Twelve Things in Tenerife

Running with this idea (via), "If you had only twelve hours left to spend in ... (in this case, Tenerife), what would you do with them?" Goodness, 12 hours can go so fast, but the island isn't that big, so I think we can do this - that is, eat well (probably too much), as well as take in some sights. For the purposes of this exercise, I'm taking a 12 hour day to include desayuno (breakfast), almuerzo (lunch), merienda (tea) and cena (dinner).

Actually, this would be do-able. Although, all times are Canarian time anyway, by which I mean, leisurely. Don't have breakfast too early, because lunch is generally served around 2 p.m. and dinner is eaten late too. Or set your own schedule.

Breakfast: Any good cafe (show me a bad one) is capable of serving you an excellent, filling and tasty tortilla de papas (potato omelette), which is, more often than not, the breakfast of choice in Tenerife. A healthy and authentic Canary Island breakfast - as well as locally grown fruit - would be the Stone Age "Ready Brek" known as gofio.

Lunch: Truly, one is spoilt for choice, but it's worth noting that much of the best food is in smaller village restaurants and, many of those only open for lunch and close in the evenings, so make the most of them while you have the opportunity. Any coastal village in Tenerife will provide stunningly simple, but superbly fresh and succulent fish dishes, like this cherne at La Cabaña restaurant, Calle del Puerto, Buenavista del Norte. There's the backyard-raised chicken or huge ribs at the Bodegón Patamero in Las Lagunetas.

Afternoon tea: You'll find a plethora of wonderful pasteleria (cake shops) in every town and village all around the island, but my favourite, acknowledged to be the best, and that draws customers from all over the island world, is the pasteleria El Aderno. The original shop is on the Calle La Alhóndiga in Buenavista del Norte, but they now have branches in Playa de Las Américas, Puerto de la Cruz, La Laguna and Santa Cruz.

Dinner: After a sizeable lunch & tea, tapas would probably suffice, but, as we are talking about a last 12 hours: a last meal, well, you may as well go out in style. Head into the capital, Santa Cruz where, no matter the time, you'll find pavement cafes, gastro bars, fine dining, theatre, opera, bars & clubs, or I could just take a stroll through city streets and plazas. If you're really lucky and there's any sort of fiesta or carnival going on, there'll be street food, otherwise if you should happen to get peckish, or for a late supper, I'd recommend finding an arepera - bar selling the Venezuelan fast food, Arepas.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Tale of Two Tenerife Women

On the right, above the archway, is the small opening from where, it is said,
Sister Ursula, enclosed in the convent, watched church services for the rest of her life.

Sister Ursula's Forbidden Lover

The first story relates to something in the church attached to the Convento de las Catalinas, opposite the Plaza del Adelantado, on the Calle Nava y Grimon in La Laguna. To the right of the main altar, above an archway, is a small opening or window that allows a person enclosed in the room behind to attend mass. Tradition links this opening to an event that occurred in the year 1651, when Jerónimo de Grimón y Rojas, the son of the owners of the house now known as the Palacio de Nava (Nava Palace), the grey stone building next door to the Santa Catalina Convent, ran away with his lover, Sor Úrsula de San Pedro (Sister Ursula of Saint Peter), a nun from the said convent.

The couple had tried to leave the island in an English ship anchored in the bay of Santa Cruz, for which she was disguised as a page, but just before sailing, they were discovered by the forces of the law. Sister Ursula was sent back to the convent and the unfortunate Jerónimo was accused of abduction of a nun and condemned to death. The sentence was carried out in the spring of that year and Sister Ursula was obliged to witness the execution, which took place in the Plaza del Adelantado, from the Ajimez (tower) of the convent.

The head of her lover was stuck on a spike and put on display in the Plaza del Adelantado as a chastisement to the public, for several days. From then, enclosed in the religious order for life, Sister Ursula's only contact with the world outside the cloisters of the convent was to witness church services via that small window above the arch, beside the altar.

The story of Catalina Lercaro

The other tale has become a well-known La Laguna legend. Catalina Lercaro was the daughter of one of the most powerful families in Tenerife: the family of Lercaro-Justiniani of Genoese origin, whose palace in La Laguna, the Casa Lercaro, is now the Museo de Historia y Antropología de Tenerife (Museum of History and Anthropology of Tenerife)

In the rear patio of the palace, one can still see the curbstone of an old well - the well is now non-existent or has been filled in - down which the young girl is said to have thrown herself, rather than have to consummate the marriage that her father arranged for her with a much older man, who it appears was a slave trader. Legend also says that she was interred in this same patio, because, having committed suicide, she was not entitled to a sacred burial. Further, there are many who claim that the ghost of the disgraced Catalina still walks abroad in the old mansion in which she lived and died.

These two stories give us a very clear image of the situation of women in Spanish and Canarian society from the 16th to 18th Centuries, when the only thing girls were prepared for was a marriage (that was usually little more than a "business contract"), passed from the guardianship of father to husband. Women in that era were expected to be obedient, chaste, retiring, shameful and modest, as well as quiet and to be locked away inside homes, always dependent upon a man. Yet marriage was still preferable to spinsterhood, which was seen as the failure of the woman, the only solution to which was that they should profess their "calling" and join a convent, forever, which very few ever escaped.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Tenerife Fire, One Year On

042 agosto07 agosto08

My good friend José Mesa has once again been out taking photos along the route of of the forest fire that burned across 18,800 hectares (46454.8 acres) of Tenerife last year. In addition to photos one year on (the set is still under construction), but he's also stitched together numerous "before" and "after" versions of shots taken at identical places, showing the situation in August 2007, shortly after the fire and again in August 2008. View them as a slideshow. It's quite heartening to see how nature is fighting back.

Photo: 042 agosto07 agosto08, originally uploaded by Mataparda.