Teno Bajo and La Punta de Teno

Work was intensive at Alhambra, the banana export company where I worked in Buenavista del Norte in 1960. We might labour for 14 hours a day for three days and enjoy the rest of the week off. With so much free time, I was able to get to know the surrounding countryside. One of the most intriguing places was the ghost-village of Teno Bajo.

Two fishermen, Francisco-el-Diablo and his first-hand, would row me to El Callao de Márquez, a point half-way between Buenvista and La Punta de Teno. On the way, he delighted in scaring me. Standing up in the coble, each wielding an enormously long oar, Francisco and his partner would steer the coble as close as they could to las Rocas del Fraile.

At the moment the waves threatened to sweep us into the Fraile’s sharp fangs, the oarsmen would sweep away to seaward and laugh maniacally. They were consummate seamen. They knew the tides, and the rocks intimately. I was never truly afraid with them.

The first time I visited Teno Bajo they dropped me off on the large boulder near the shore. It was dangerous. I had to leap from the coble just as the wave rose 3 metres allowing me a fraction of a second to step off the gunwale onto the flat rock. There was an alternative route.

A seldom-used path from El Rincón snaked up the cliffs to Teno Alto, over the plateau, and then down the other side to Teno Bajo and on to La Punta de Teno. Villagers warned me against using it. The path was near-invisible and treacherous. Clouds might descend at any moment. Put a foot wrong and you would plunge a thousand metres into a ravine, torn to pieces on spiny cactus.

Teno Bajo was a collection of houses abandoned years before. Only Daniel and his wife remained as the mysterious custodians. They were accompanied by their son, his wife and over a hundred goats. Daniel and his family were always welcoming.

Daniel showed me the salt pans he’d dug on the shore and the bags of salt he collected after the seawater evaporated. He took the sacks to La Punta de Teno by donkey. Fishermen transported them on to Buenavista by row-boat.

Daniel showed me the first zurrón I’d ever seen. A zurrón is a crude leather bag made from the skin peeled off a kid-goat in one piece. The hair is scraped off, the skin cured and the holes made by removing the head and feet are sealed with wooden plugs. The resulting leather bag is used to mix gofio with honey to form sweet, moist nutritious balls that can sustain a working man throughout the entire day.

Why Daniel and his family chose to remain in the ghost-village of Teno Bajo was a mystery. It was whispered that he had opposed Franco and then sought refuge in isolation rather than be hanged from the notorious Puente de Hierro like so many.

From Teno Bajo, I could walk to the lighthouse at La Punta. Pepe the lighthouse-keeper was from La Peninsula. He, his wife and three children welcomed visitors. I visited often, usually by sea. Along with a few fishermen, we’d make the trip on a Sunday from Los Silos in a ‘falúa’, a boat powered by an inboard motor. To save time, we’d harvest fish for lunch, using a stick of dynamite.

One day, after we’d done our ‘fishing’, Pepe spotted the Civil Guard launch put out from Santa Catalina in La Gomera and head towards La Punta. The fishermen decided to escape back to Los Silos before the Beneméritos could catch them. Afraid that the presence of an ‘extranjero’ would complicate matters if they were caught, they dropped me off at El Callao de Márquez.

I immediately began running — first across the desert and then up the cliffs in the direction of Teno Alto. Suddenly the mist descended so thick that I was terrified to take more than one slow step at a time.

Fortunately, I met a shepherd and his granddaughter. Having lived up there all their lives, they refused to believe that I could be lost in such a familiar place. Finally, I made Abuelito understand my predicament. He had the 8-year-old child lead me confidently through the fog to the edge of the cliff and point out the near perpendicular path that led down to El Rincón.

I made it back safely. The fishermen too, made it safely back to Los Silos. But the Beneméritos poked around for days, trying to discover who had been dynamiting fish on a Sunday! Fortunately, Tinerfeños are loyal to their own – and by then, I counted as one of them!

Doña Lutgarda Méndes Hernández and her large family, my co-workers and the villagers of Buenavista del Norte taught me a great deal. For their warm hospitality, for the gifts of their language and friendship, for sharing their culture and their ways, I salute the people of Tenerife with respect and gratitude.

Text and photos by Ronald Mackay

To discover more of Ronald’s amazing year-long adventure in Tenerife, take a look at his book here:

Fortunate Isle: A  Memoir of Tenerife

 

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How to Enjoy a Unique and Exclusive Excursion with Living Tenerife Tours

When people think of Tenerife, probably some of the first images that may spring to mind are sunshine, sandy beaches and the ocean. It’s also quite likely that they picture themselves sunbathing on the beach or having a refreshing swim in the beautiful blue water, then later enjoying some tapas and a drink (or two) at a nearby beach bar. This is the Tenerife that many know and love, thus leading over several decades to the island being one of the most popular year-round tourist destinations in the world.

If you think you know Tenerife based on a beach holiday or two, or maybe some photos you’ve seen online, then you might be quite surprised by the fact that it is also a destination filled with fascinating culture. Yes, you read that right! Tenerife is not only a place for sun worshippers and families looking for a cheap getaway, but has a rich cultural and historical heritage that is just waiting for you to discover.

Museo Militar Regional de Canarias. Photo Credit: Simon Turkas

While the island will always be an amazing place for those seeking a year-round warm sunny climate, top-quality excursions and attractions for all ages, breathtaking beaches, excellent resorts and hotels and amazing places to eat and drink, it should also certainly be considered as somewhere for those who enjoy immersing themselves in culture.

This doesn’t have to be for the whole trip of course, but can certainly be combined with other aspects of your holiday. Perhaps one day you may want to enjoy a day at the beach and then the next experience the more cultural side of Tenerife.

You don’t just need to take our word for it though, as there are tours to be taken which will help you fully appreciate and take in some of the unique aspects of Tenerife’s rich history. One such tour that our team recently enjoyed was with the highly knowledgeable, engaging and entertaining Jorge F. Ballesteros and his brand new company Living Tenerife Tours.

Jorge F. Ballesteros . Photo Credit: Kate Michelle Conti

Jorge is a native of Tenerife and was born and raised on the island, and now lives in the north which if you decide to take one of his tours, focused on the upper half of the island, you will be able to fully appreciate is very different to the southern half.

During his school years, Jorge was sent several times during his summer holidays to different locations within the UK including to the lovely Hampstead in London, to study and improve his level of English. During this time he also developed a keen interest in British culture and history.

So while Jorge was born and raised in Tenerife, he speaks English to an excellent level including with what could be considered a fairly “posh” accent. This certainly suits the exclusive and unique style of his tours, and the information that he offers to his guests, perfect for English speakers looking for something quite different from typical, cliched trips that can be booked here. His tours will be of particular interest to British tourists as they explore the longstanding links between Britain and Tenerife, many of which have been amicable, some of which less so, as you will discover!

The particular tour taken by our team, some local British writer friends based here on the island, and another Canarian guest who works within the travel industry, was a fascinating cultural and culinary trip around the stunning capital city of Santa Cruz, located in the north of Tenerife.

While there is certainly some interesting history and culture across almost all parts of the island, if you want a true taste of the real Tenerife, then you need a trip to Santa Cruz and this excursion offers the perfect opportunity to discover some real hidden gems, even if you have already visited before.

Saint George Church. Photo Credit: Simon Turkas

What you will certainly notice about Santa Cruz is that it seems a world away from the modern tourist resorts of the south such as Playa de Las Americas and Costa Adeje. It might seem ironic to head to Santa Cruz to learn about the British connection with Tenerife.

You will see though, that despite what some may believe, British people didn’t simply start arriving in Tenerife (and the Canary Islands) with the advent of cheap flights and package tours, but instead have been heading here for hundreds of years, albeit for different reasons.

Our tour began in the morning after we met with Jorge outside of the Real Casino de Tenerife, an exclusive private members club with a fantastic location within Santa Cruz. The large and impressive building is to be found very close to the Plaza de Espana, one of the many iconic features of this beautiful city.

Jorge, Real Casino de Tenerife. Photo Credit; John Beckley

From here we met with our driver for the tour who lead us to the nearby mini-bus that we would be transported around on. Jorge had promised an exclusive and luxurious experience and this was immediately apparent from the quality of the vehicle. This wasn’t just a typical tour bus but a stunning brand new luxury Mercedes Benz vehicle.

The outside was gleaming in the sunlight which had started to heat up the day quite considerably. Not to worry though, as inside was fully air conditioned providing a perfect temperature for our tour. The bus was spacious and extremely comfortable, with high quality leather seating. This felt more like sitting on a private plane than a tour bus! 

Our friendly driver and Jorge sat in the front of the vehicle and then there was seating available for an additional 12 passengers. There were only 6 of us on the tour so we had a huge amount of room. With Living Tenerife Tours, the aim is to always keep the size of the tour groups smaller and more intimate, rather than large, noisy groups, thus definitely another contrast to some of the other tours on the island!

There were drinks on board and during future tours there will relaxing music. This really was a brilliant way to start our journey around the city. It also provided an interesting contrast between this modern, luxurious minibus and the historical and cultural views and information.

During our tour around Santa Cruz, Jorge imparted a significant amount of cultural and historical knowledge over to us that he had built up over many years of studying the history of the city and island, and his strong interest in the many unique areas of the city that likely even many locals don’t know about.

Across Santa Cruz. Photo Credit: Kate Michelle Conti

He explained to us how this vibrant and fascinating port city and capital of Tenerife was founded in 1494 by the Kingdom of Castille, and  although initially it began as a small fishing village, over time due to its excellent location it became transformed into the most important and fortified port in the Canaries, becoming the main sea route between Spain and the West Indies.

You will see if you choose to take this tour that Santa Cruz has a grandeur and splendour not found in much of the rest of the island, especially in the southern modern tourist hot spots. This is owing to it being the capital city of Tenerife since 1723 (previously the capital was neighbouring city La Laguna) and co-capital of the Canary Islands, a title it shares with Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (although it was the sole capital of the islands from 1833 until 1927).

Santa Cruz. Photo Credit: Simon Turkas

Due to its historical and modern importance the city has a significantly impressive level of architecture and now surprisingly has the sixth highest building level height of all Spanish cities. On top of this, in a 2012 article written for The Guardian newspaper, Santa Cruz was ranked as one of “The five best places to live in the world, and why”!

As the article points out, rather humorously, and as mentioned earlier in this post, this is certainly not the Tenerife you think you know. As opposed to many areas beloved by Brits and other nationalities in the south, Santa Cruz actually feels like you’re in Spain.

As pointed out on our tour though, this city of around 200,000 inhabitants within its administrative limits (538,000 within the total urban zone), is more than just a wonderful place to live, or for enjoying a sightseeing wander to view the impressive buildings, park and other features, it is also a destination with a rich history and culture to discover. This includes the links between Britain and Tenerife that stretch back centuries, way before the modern influx of British holidaymakers.

During our tour we learned about the peaceful and fruitful connections that grew between Britain and Tenerife in terms of trade produce such as tomatoes and bananas, and the much more aggressive history that preceded that in which British naval captains attacked Santa Cruz, including 2 attempts to conquer the island. The inhabitants remain proud of their city which was able to remain undefeated despite these various invasion attempts from Britain. several centuries ago.

Paseo de las Escuelas Pias. Photo Credit: Kate Michelle Conti

The first place we stopped off at during our tour of the city was at a beautiful building constructed in the 19th Century by a man named Henry Wolfson with a fascinating story. He was originally born in Russia, but emigrated to Britain at a young age, and became a British citizen to escape persecution of the Jews there in the late 18th Century.

Subsequently he decided to move to South Africa but on route he stopped off in Tenerife by chance and decided to stay after seeing the significant business potential there, and his immediate fondness for the island. While in Tenerife he enjoyed many entrepreneurial successes during his life in Tenerife, including becoming one of the first businessmen to export tomatoes from Tenerife to the UK. This proved to be a lucrative business which made him quite wealthy.

Among other enterprises, he later bought the biggest plot of land in Adeje to cultivate the production of bananas and tomatoes there for export, plus also created the first gas company on the island, the Tenerife Gas & Coke Co. Due to all of these endeavours he became a highly respected businessman on the island.

Escuelas Pias. Photo Credit: Simon Turkas

The building we visited is now one of the most esteemed educational centres in Santa Cruz, the Escuelas Pías which is where Jorge studied various subjects including English, where he developed his keen interest in the language.

Originally though, this building was constructed by Wolfson as a palace to live with his wife, Jane Mariner, but sadly she passed away before they were able to live together there. Following her death, he decided to change the house into a hotel which he named Hotel Quisisana, an Italian name which was popular at the time for hotels related to health and rest.

Escuelas Pías. Photo Credit: Kate Michelle Conti

During the successive world wars and Spanish civil war the building became severely damaged and was closed as a hotel and sold to the local authority. It later became what it is today, an educational centre. Quite the transformation from palace, to hotel to school. As you can see the building still looks splendid and enjoys some of the most impressive views in the city.

Following this stop we set off on our journey in the luxurious minibus around the city, as Jorge continued to impart fascinating stories such as the fact that in Santa Cruz General Francisco Franco organised the national uprising that led to the Spanish civil war in 1936. He also pointed out information about various buildings along the way such as the British Hotel which is one of the most attractive buildings in the city.

It was once known as the Battenberg hotel as a tribute to the King of Spain, Alfonso XVIII’s wife Ena Battenberg, granddaughter of Queen Victoria, but it’s name was changed to Mountbatten due to George V’s decision during World War I to change all German names of all the members of the British royal family.

We also had a quick stop off at the attractive Saint George Church which was constructed to serve as a place of worship for the significant community of British people who were living in Santa Cruz by the middle of the 19th Century. Once again this goes against what many people know of British inhabitants in Tenerife, because as opposed to now where most British expats reside in the south of the island due to the sunnier and warmer climate, two centuries ago most of the British in Tenerife were living in Santa Cruz and Port of La Orotava (now Puerto de la Cruz), for economic and trade purposes.

Saint George Church. Photo Credit: Simon Turkas

The church remained an Anglican church from when the first stone was laid in 1897 right through to 1990 when it was sold to the Catholics, on condition that Anglicans could still use the church for worship. As you can this is certainly an attractive church to go to for worship, or simply to take some photos!

. Exploring the hidden secrets of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is so much fun! 😄 Have you ever visited this lovely church in the center of the city? 💕 . Thanks to @livingtenerifetours for the amazing tour 💃 . . . ♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡ #theitalianchica #tenerife #santacruz #tenerifemagazine #canaryislands #canarias #islascanarias #latituddevida #ok_spain #ig_canaryislands #loves_canarias #ok_canarias #ig_spain #canon6d #canon_official #canonphotography #femaletravelbloggers #girlslovetravel #gltLOVE #travellingthroughtheworld #exceptional_pictures #earth_shotz #spain_vacations #wearetravelgirls #beautifuldestinations #wonderfuldestinations #travelblogger #epicphotographers #europe_vacations

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We then continued onwards to the Regional Military Museum of the Canary Islands (Museo Militar Regional de Canarias) to find out about the other side of the British connection with Tenerife. As Jorge had mentioned earlier on the tour, on three separate occasions Santa Cruz had been attacked by British ships.

On 20th April 1657 23 British ships sailed into the port of Santa Cruz led by Admiral Robert Blake on board of the flagship HMS George. He had received orders to steal a large cargo load of silver and gold from Spanish ships that had been forced to shelter in Tenerife, due to the British blockade of the Port of Cádiz.

While Blake had been able to sail into the port and destroy 12 Spanish ships and capture five more which he subsequently ordered the destruction off due to heavy gun fire, he was unable to steal the treasure as it had been taken well ashore two weeks before. Despite his overall failure, Blake was hailed as a hero by Cromwell; while in reality it had been a success for Santa Cruz and Tenerife against the British.

On 6th November 1706 a small Royal navy fleet commanded by Rear Admiral Sir John Jennings on board of his flagship HMS Saint George sailed into the port of Santa Cruz, with the intention of actually conquering the island. Again though, this was a failed attempt with Jennings and his fleet being forced to withdraw and retreat.

The most serious of the three British attacks came from the most famous of  all British Naval heroes, Admiral Horatio Nelson in 1797. During our visit to the Military Museum which started its life in 1854 as a military fort to protect the shoreline from attacks, we learned about the attempted invasion by Admiral Nelson.

Inside the museum there is a rather fascinating historical display of Santa Cruz with models of all of the British and Spanish ships, with a detailed commentary of the battles that ensued and lights to help you pinpoint exactly where these happened. The level of detail that has gone into this model is excellent and it really helps you to understand what happened.

Nelson’s Attack display. Photo Credit; Kate Michelle Conti

This display and the memorabilia of this time including guns, uniforms and the flags from the ships, really help to illustrate how much times have changed. It seems incredible to think that back in those days Britain was attempting to conquer and overthrow Tenerife and just shows how far British and Spanish relations have changed over the centuries. The Canary Islands have experienced a kind of British invasion in recent years, but thankfully only of the touristic side which has strongly boosted the economy of these islands.

We saw many interesting things on display such as the flag from Nelson’s ship which as Jorge pointed out is different from the modern day Union Jack because it only represented the flag of England (St George’s Cross) and the flag of Scotland (St Andrew’s Cross) combined. It wasn’t until 1801 following the union of Great Britain and Ireland that the Union Jack flag came into use, after the attack of 1797 by Nelson’s ships.

Are you even just a bit a history geek, like me? Sometimes I get shivers just seeing something which brings history alive, even more so if I can touch it. Well, I couldn't touch this exhibit in Santa Cruz's military museum, but it did give me a wee shiver. This is the British flag which Horatio Nelson would have had flown over the Castillo de San Cristóbal had he triumphed at the Battle of Santa Cruz in 1797. This is the one museum I'd never visited, and I was totally intrigued. I was delighted that this was on the itinerary with @livingtenerifetours last week. We concentrated on that battle, because the tours aim to highlight the shared history between this island & the UK, but there was much more. Hope to go back soon to explore the museum fully. But if you are a history geek visiting the island this tour will grab you 😁 #islandlife #islandliving #Tenerife #CanaryIslands #IslasCanarias #SantaCruzdeTenerife #militarymuseum #flag #unionjack #battleofsantacruz #bandera #historicbuilding #islandhistory #history #livingwithhistory #nelson #horationelson #admiralnelson

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We also saw the coat of arms of Santa Cruz which displays three black lion’s heads to represent the three British attacks on Santa Cruz. Ultimately just like the two previous attacks, Nelson suffered defeat and it was also during this attempt to conquer the islands that he was shot in the arm, leading to it needing to be amputated.

Inside the museum you will see many different types of uniforms, weapons, pictures, flags and information about various battles. Outside there are some huge cannons which were used to defend the city from invasion attempts plus more modern weaponry such as helicopters and tanks.

Military Museum. Photo Credit; John Beckley

Following our tour of the museum it was time for the culinary part of the tour, but not before a quick stop at one of the most iconic buildings in Santa Cruz and Tenerife, the Auditorio de Tenerife – Tenerife Opera House which has a certain resemblance to the Sydney Opera House with its incredible design! 

Auditorio de Tenerife. Photo Credit: Kate Michelle Conti

We we were then driven back to the Plaza de Espana and said goodbye to our driver. We wandered from here back to the Real Casino de Tenerife. Inside the building Jorge first gave us a brief tour around to fully appreciate how impressive it is and also to be able to take in the incredible views out over parts of the city, including the Plaza de Espana. As this is a private and exclusive members only club, these are views that ordinary members of the public do not usually get to enjoy, unless of course you decide to take one of the Living Tenerife Tours excursions.

Plaza de España. Photo Credit: Simon Turkas

After a brief speech from Jorge in a large and impressive sitting room he thanked us all for attending his tour which we had all very much enjoyed.

Photo Credit: Kate Michelle Conti

It was then time for the final icing on the cake in the beautiful dining room of the Casino; what can only be described as one of the most delicious meals I’ve experienced in not only the Canary Islands, but also anywhere in my life. There was a strong consensus on this from all of our group!

Meal in Real Casino de Tenerife. Photo Credit; John Beckley

Views across Santa Cruz. Photo Credit: Kate Michelle ContiThis was true fine dining of a Michelin Star standard. What was also so great about the meal was it consisted of a selection of several courses showcasing some of the best local Canarian foods that the islands have to offer. This included a starter of award winning goats cheese from Fuerteventura with jam, the famous papas arugadas with mojo sauce, sweet gofio and fig, a fish dish for the second course, a main course of the popular Cochinillo Negro (a type of pork from locally reared pigs) and a delicious local desert.

During the meal we were also served local wines from Tenerife of which the quality was excellent. Wines from the Canary Islands have been produced for many centuries and were even written about in some of Shakespeare’s plays. They are now beginning to once again gain the international recognition that they rightly deserve as they really are of top quality.

This was a superb end to what had been a truly excellent exclusive tour, that really showcases some fascinating insights and sights in the stunning and city of Santa Cruz. This is Tenerife, but almost certainly not what you think you already know about the island. In fact you will see a totally different side to the island, and discover a British connection to Tenerife that you probably never realised existed!

All of us here at Tenerife Magazine would like to thank Jorge and Living Tenerife Tours for taking us on this excellent cultural and culninary trip around the city. If you are interested in booking an excursion with Living Tenerife Tours then make sure to head over to their website: www.livingtenerifetours.com

You can also follow the company via their social media channels for all their latest announcements:

Living Tenerife Tours. Photo Credit: Kate Michelle Conti

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How to Experience Luxury at its Finest at Las Terrazas de Abama

Many people feel that they know a destination from one or two visits, or even just from what others have told them, or they may form a stereotypical image of a place based on a few cliched photos or articles. These stereotypes often seem to persist despite significant changes or the fact that these perceptions have relatively little basis in everyday life.

For example, the cliche of Brits all loving a cup of tea and sitting down for an afternoon tea break together in the afternoon is very antiquated but is still seen as typically British. Sure many Brits do love a cup of tea, but you’re just as likely to find them enjoying a latte or cappuccino as tastes are changing, with some surveys suggesting coffee is now even more popular than tea in the UK!

The point is, don’t take so-called “common knowledge” for granted, because one of the only constants in life is that it is constantly changing. Sometimes this change is for the worse, but very often it is for the better which is something not reported as much in the mainstream media. A great case of a significant improvement in action, is tourism in the Canary Islands which is evolving to become increasingly more upmarket, luxurious and sustainable. This is happening across the islands, including here in Tenerife.

For many, the image they have of Tenerife is somewhere full of cheap, low-quality hotels, restaurants and bars, and defined by sunburnt Brits baking on the beach. This though is a completely tired stereotype that doesn’t do the current travel and tourism scene here in Tenerife justice at all. Sure you will find plenty of sun, sand and sea here all year round, perfect for an amazing family beach holiday, but for those looking for something more luxurious, active and different from what you’d expect, Tenerife has so much more to offer!

One such amazing example of this is Las Terrazas de Abama Luxury Apartments located in the south-west of the island, in a beautiful area between Los Gigantes and Playa de Las Américas. Unlike these resorts and other areas in the south, Las Terrazas de Abama is a world away offering tranquillity, privacy and luxury at its finest!

While you are only a short drive away from some stunning beaches and more touristic areas with shops, restaurants and bars, you also have a real sense of exclusiveness and undisturbed peace. There are two excellent on-site swimming pools, including an incredible infinity pool with gorgeous views across the adjacent Abama golf course, out towards palm trees, banana plantations and the amazing Atlantic ocean with La Gomera in the distance.

If you have an image of Tenerife in your head of packed beaches, noisy bars and all you can eat buffet restaurants, then relaxing in the infinity pool gazing out at the picture-perfect panoramic vista with total peace and relaxation, will make you completely forget this stereotype.

The apartments themselves offer a true touch of luxury with incredible attention to detail, what’s more, you will find wonderful on-site facilities as well the swimming pools, such as the top-class Abama golf course where you can enjoy a round of golf in the stunning palm tree-lined surroundings or take some private classes.

You will also find the Annabel Croft Tennis Academy where you will be able to enjoy some private tennis lessons with the tennis coaches. As well as these sporting facilities if you also want to stay in shape there is also an excellent onsite gym.

At Las Terrazas you are very well catered for in terms of dining with the onsite MELVIN Restaurant with their top class team and excellent food and drink options for breakfast and dinner. This includes a variety of different themed dishes, created using excellent high-quality ingredients, by the highly trained professional team lead by head chef Diego Dato, who trained under Martín Berasategui, who with eight Michelin stars, is widely seen as one of the best chefs in the world.

So, if you think you know Tenerife already, based on a stay you had years ago, or the stereotypical images of sun, sand, sea and cheap beer, then this post should show you that there is certainly a more energetic, stylish and luxurious side of the island that is really starting to take off. Places such as Las Terrazas de Abama are certainly at the forefront of this revolution!

For more information head over to the Las Terrazas website:

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How to Be Vegan in Tenerife

Over the years, Tenerife has built itself a bit of a reputation as a party island. So you’d be right in thinking that a lot of the resorts on the island cater to northern European tastes. Just a short stroll down Costa Adeje’s main boulevard leads you to a mass of bars and restaurants serving meat heavy dishes. But, you’ll be pleased to hear that things are starting to change. Tenerife is not only attracting a different type of tourism, those there to see its incredible landscape and wildlife, but it’s also nurturing a very up and coming vegan scene.

Mount Teide

This vegan scene is not only flourishing in the main holiday resorts but also in some of Tenerife’s traditional towns and villages and they aren’t just carbon copies of vegan restaurants found elsewhere. Many take advantage of the local produce, like bananas, papayas and avocado which grow aplenty across the island. In doing so they create original and fresh dishes which blend traditional Canarian flavours with popular vegan cuisine.

El Guanche, Masca

Take the restaurant, El Guanche. Located in Masca, one of the prettiest and smallest villages in the Teno Mountains, this family-run vegetarian restaurant offers a fantastic opportunity to try traditional Canarian cuisine with a twist. Most things can be made vegan and the family adapt their small menu to what they have growing in their garden.

El Guanche, Masca

It’s the perfect setting to try Canarian soup with homemade bread, or one of the many salad dishes with papas arrugadas, a traditional potato dish usually served with a chilli garlic sauce. Be sure to try one of their fresh smoothies and one of their sweet desserts, usually made with locally sourced palm honey. While the food is tasty, it’s the view which makes this restaurant stand out. Surrounded by sweet-smelling flowers and lush vegetation, the
balcony looks out onto the Masca valley which blooms with citrus trees, palms and cacti.

For those keeping to the main towns, there is even more to choose from. K Vegan is situated in the popular tourist town of Los Cristianos and it’s a neat little food stall found in the La Pepa Food Market, on the top floor of the Passarela Oasis shopping centre. It’s a great place to stop and grab a quick bite to eat on the go.

K Vegan, Los Cristianos

The menu is entirely vegan and offers a range of fast food dishes including falafel wraps, burgers (grain, soy and seitan-based) as well as a few specials including Spanish-style potato tortillas. It’s vegan fast food at its finest and the falafel wrap is, to date, the best I’ve ever had. On top of that, there’s also a variety of homemade kombucha drinks to try, including raspberry and mint, and mango!

For those wanting more vegan fast food, there’s even a vegan chain restaurant in Tenerife called Burger Mel! It has a few establishments in the north of the island and offers a range of vegan burgers, hot dogs, fries and desserts!

Veggie Penguin, La Laguna

For something a little more unique, the main towns are also home to several independently run restaurants. One of the best is Veggie Penguin, located in the historic university town of La Laguna. Its vibrant and botanical inspired interior is the perfect setting for lunch and, with its fresh menu, it’s easy to see why this place is a popular hangout for locals.

Veggie Penguin, La Laguna

From fully customisable salads and pasta dishes to its lentil based burgers in the softest brioche-style pumpkin bread buns, it’s no wonder it’s advisable to book a table in advance. Make sure to try the turmeric almond latte!

Veggie Penguin, La Laguna

For those holiday-makers going self-catered, finding vegan food in the supermarkets is also a lot easier today than it was a few years ago. While meat substitutes are still yet to hit the market, most shops stock a wide variety of plant-based milk substitutes, including soy, almond and oat. Pulses are easy to come by, as are fresh vegetables and fruit and even soy yoghurts. Likewise, one advantage of the island being a holiday resort is that most packaged
food lists its ingredients in different languages. This makes it really easy for non-Spanish speakers to check whether items are suitable for specific diets.

While most of the established cafes and ice cream parlours are slow to catch up and as yet don’t offer milk alternatives, there are a few places you can treat yourself to a vegan-friendly hot drink and sweet treat. Sweet Paradise is one of those bakeries you don’t want to miss. Located in the capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, it serves a variety of vegan cakes, cheesecakes, brownies and doughnuts – enough to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth. On top of that
it also serves a small selection of lunch options such as salads, sandwiches and burgers – making it the perfect lunch and afternoon stop off.

As well as that, I’d highly recommend paying a visit to Il Gelato del Mercato, a tiny ice cream shop located in the capital. (There’s also another branch in Los Cristianos.) It’s one of the few places I found that serves vegan ice cream, as well as gluten and sugar-free options, and every day they make different flavours freshly in their kitchen. The dark chocolate ice cream was absolutely divine, and mixed with the orange sorbet; it tasted just like Terry’s chocolate
orange. I wish I had brought home tubs of this stuff!

Il Gelato del Mercato, Santa Cruz

So with a little research, it’s relatively easy to find vegan-friendly food throughout Tenerife – and this food isn’t second best. These small establishments, which are promoting veganism, experiment with exciting fresh flavours to create food that closely rivals some of the best you can find in the well-established vegan cities of Berlin, Edinburgh and Amsterdam. It’s only so long before veganism becomes mainstream in Tenerife and that’s when things get
really exciting.

Text and Photos: Jessica Gray (www.veganadventurist.com)

 

 

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My First Job in Buenavista del Norte

In 1960, I spent my first three weeks in Buenavista del Norte exploring the region on foot and mastering the language. Because everybody was Spanish-speaking and curious about the solitary young ‘extranjero’ in their midst, they all greeted me and asked countless questions. Every evening, I looked up new words in my dictionary and studied  Spanish grammar. Soon I was able to hold my own with anybody.

Doña Lutgarda’s cousin, Mata Cabra, offered me work, helping to construct a banana plantation. Juan Gonzales from Los Silos was our ‘encargado’. Juan, only a few years older than I, was a highly capable foreman. He was supportive and respectful of his work crew. Some dozen men and women, we made the daily ride to the worksite on the back of a lorry. We left the plaza at 7.15 a.m. and returned at 6 p.m. five days a week. The work was very hard but I had lots of fun and I earned enough to pay for my keep in the Pension Méndez.

Our job was to excavate the plantation from the prickly wasteland. We did this mostly by pick and shovel. The men filled woven baskets full of clay and rock. The women carried these on their heads and dumped them into the lorry.

Occasionally we used dynamite to blast rock that defeated our picks and crowbars. Juan taught me how to lay sticks of dynamite, insert the explosive caps, and wire everything to the plunger. None of my fellow-workers dared to use explosives so I earned a reputation for fearlessness. Juan was an expert in all things from construction to managing plantations. We became good friends and I learned an enormous amount from him. We remain friends to this day.

When we’d finished excavating, we had what looked like an empty swimming pool the size of a football field. Then we built a stone wall as a foundation and brought soil from the mountains. We planted Irish seed potatoes and local banana corms. With water that came from reserves inside the mountains through complex networks of pipes and channels, we irrigated the planting.

Finally, we built a cinder-block wall around the plantation to protect the future fruit from the constant wind that blew in off the Atlantic.

At weekends, we would hunt octopus among the rocks. Sometimes we’d go inland and find ‘mora’ trees laden with mulberries. I’d take my straw hat full of ripe berries back to the pension and Doña Lutgarda would make mulberry pies. Juan and I scaled Teide and explored the ice cave and the crater.

Don Juan-Pedro came from Arico and also lived in the pension. He taught school up in the tiny hamlet of El Palmar. One day, he invited me to talk to his class. Juan-Pedro used a blue motor-cycle but because the gravel road was so steep and dangerous, he asked me to walk the few kilometres up a rocky path to the tiny school.

His pupils had never seen an extranjero before and plied me with questions. When I told them I’d attended school for 13 years, there were cries of disbelief. Juan-Pedro talked to them in rapid Spanish and calmed them down. That night at dinner, he told Doña Lutgarda and the girls about my visit. “Why was there such a commotion when I said I’d attended school for 13 years?” I asked.

“Children in isolated hamlets attend school for only a few years,” he explained, “so 13 seems like a lifetime to them.”

“What did you say that pacified them?” I asked.

“Oh, I just told them we Canarios can learn in three years what it takes the feebleminded Ingleses 13 to master!”

Doña Lutgarda and the girls laughed. But they believed him!

When the construction job ended, Don Salvador offered me employment. Don Salvador lived in Puerto de la Cruz. He and Don Pancho owned ‘Alhambra’, a firm in Buenavista del Norte that exported bananas to Scandinavia. With a mixed work crew, we collected green piñas from the plantations and packed them in straw or pine-needles for protection.

Miguel the lorry driver drove them overnight to Santa Cruz to be shipped to Stockholm or Helsinki. Banana stalks are cut green. They must be packed, kept cool and shipped rapidly to their market. Sometimes we worked 20 hours straight to get a lorry-load to the cargo boat waiting at the port.

While working for Don Salvador, I fulfilled my ambition and graduated to carrying a machete. Epifanio, a quiet man with a lifetime’s experience of banana production around El Rincón, taught me how to judge the ripeness of a growing banana stalk. He showed me how to reach up with the machete and cut one so that it rested its 20 or 30 kilos comfortably on my shoulder.

Doña Lutgarda Méndes Hernández and her large family, my co-workers and the villagers of Buenavista del Norte taught me a great deal. For their warm hospitality, for the gifts of their language and friendship, for sharing their culture and their ways, I salute the people of Tenerife with respect and gratitude.

Text and photos by Ronald Mackay

To discover more of Ronald’s amazing year-long adventure in Tenerife, take a look at his book here:

Fortunate Isle: A  Memoir of Tenerife

 

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Fantastic Unveiling of the Incredible MELVIN Restaurant

Both for visitors to Tenerife and those lucky enough to live here permanently, this is an island where you are veritably spoilt for choice in terms of places to dine out. Whether you are looking for somewhere for a quick bite to eat, or something a bit fancier, there really does seem to be something for everyone, whatever your budget and taste. While competition may be fierce in the food and drink scene though, we are always excited to see new options appearing, especially if it is somewhere offering a truly unique dining experience.

Because there are so many restaurants competing for people’s attention and interest here, it really does take somewhere truly special to stand out. Well, one recent addition to the excellent stock of places to dine in Tenerife, that has recently arrived is the incredible MELVIN Restaurant, based at Las Terrazas de Abama in the South of the island. This is sure to make a significant impact on the fine dining scene in Tenerife, with exceptional food, a stunningly beautiful location and a top-class team.

As is befitting of such an incredible restaurant, there was an exclusive event to unveil it yesterday to a select group of invitees which the team here at Tenerife Magazine were invited to. As we arrived we were greeted very kindly by all of the staff including the organisers of the event, Laura Soruco, Hotel General Manager at Las Terrazas de Abama and Desiree Lopez, Sales Manager. We also spoke to head chef Diego Dato, who trained under Martín Berasategui, who with eight Michelin stars, is widely seen as one of the best chefs in the world.

Fine Dining Experience @ The Melvin Restaurant

The Grand opening night of THE MELVIN RESTAURANT UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF MARTÍN BERASATEGUI

Posted by Las Terrazas de Abama on Tuesday, April 24, 2018

MELVIN is a fantastic concept that combines the personality and vision of well-renowned architect Melvin Villarroe, with the amazing culinary expertise of Martín Berasategui. The influences of these two forward-thinking individuals can be seen in all aspects of the restaurant, from the delicious menu, right through to the beautiful design which fully incorporates natural light.

The inside area of the restaurant looks out through a number of sets of glass doors onto the huge terrace area. This wide use of glass within the design allows those dining inside to be able to fully appreciate and enjoy the fantastic view outside and the stunning natural light offered in Tenerife. The design helps to combine the inside and outside of the restaurant, by blurring the distinction between the two.

The overall style of the restaurant is modern, elegant and sophisticated, without seeming pretentious. The kitchen area is also fully on view, creating a feeling of theatre as the food is prepared in view of those dining, again creating and adding to the feeling of openness.

Outside there was a live band playing a selection of different jazz tunes which fit the mood of the evening very well, perfectly complimenting to the chilled-out ambience of the evening.

Throughout the event, those who attended were served a selection of different beverages.

Later on, a huge variety of different finger food prepared by Diego and his team including gazpacho, different types and croquettes and seafood paella were brought out to attendees, who were more than happy to try.

There were also speeches from Laura, Diego and others to thank everyone for coming to the event and talk about how excited they are to launch such a fantastic addition to Las Terrazas de Abama, and the contemporary fine dining scene in Tenerife.

All in all this event provided a fantastic unveiling of the incredible MELVIN restaurant which we’re more than certain will continue to become a huge success in Tenerife. You can already see from the reviews that Diego and his team have received on Tripadvisor that the restaurant is quickly moving up through the ranks due to the quality of food, excellent hospitality of the staff and fantastic views. We hope to see you there sometime in the future!

Photos by Kate Michelle Conti (aka The Italian Chica)
Video by John Dale Beckley

To find out more about MELVIN restaurant and make a reservation, then head over to the website and follow them on Instagram.

 

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How to Enjoy a Luxury Boat Trip in Tenerife

There is an outdated perception among some, that Tenerife is just a destination you head to for a budget getaway of sun, sand and sea. Of course if you are looking for a cheap and cheerful vacation, then it is certainly possible here as there are many great value hotels, resorts and apartments, plus of course you can spend a week by the pool or relaxing on the beach, but what many don’t realise, is that Tenerife is so much more than this!

One particular feature, among many of the incredible things to discover in Tenerife that surprises people, is what a great location it is to see whales and dolphins in the wild! In fact, the waters around the Canary Islands are one of the best locations in the world to witness these incredible creatures in their natural habitat, where they most definitely belong.

Keeping these animals in captivity is generally very cruel and hopefully, this practice will be ended in the not too distant future. Instead of going to see them in tanks, here in Tenerife you can take a boat trip and see these beautiful creatures enjoying life as it should be, wild and free!

While there are a number of different companies that offer boat trips from various harbours around Tenerife, one that we most certainly recommend is Blue Jack Sail. This is a family run business that offers luxurious trips abroad either a stunning sailing yacht or their luxurious motor boat.

Recently the Tenerife Magazine team took a trip on their motorboat to see the dolphins and whales. The excursion started from Puerto Colón in Costa Adeje and lasted 3 hours. The boat was expertly controlled by Jesús who
owns and runs the company with his partner Monica. Their ethos is very much centred around providing a more personalised trip with the focus on providing the best possible experience for their passengers.

The boat certainly has a lot of power and it raced through the waves at certain moments, but Jesús always steered the boat with control and the safety of all of us in mind at all times. As well as this he made sure we got the best possible views of whales and dolphins. We got great glimpses of pilot whales surfacing near to the boat and absolutely incredible views of many different pods of dolphins. At times they were literally racing in front of the boat right beneath our feet!

It is so obvious when you see these animals in the wild, how much they enjoy being free in their natural habitat. The whales swim peacefully through the ocean, minding their own business, and the dolphins race about leaping in and out of the water. They seem genuinely curious about humans and the boats as they followed us around and chased alongside and raced in front, putting on an awesome show with no need to be forced to perform unnatural tricks.

Following these awesome views, we then headed back towards the coast, towards the tiny El Puertito. This picture perfect typical Canarian village is located between Playa Paraiso and Costa Adeje and provided a perfect backdrop for a swim after the captain dropped anchor.

"Welcome the present moment as if you had invited it. It is all we ever have, so we might as well work with it rather than struggle against it. We might as well make it our friend and teacher rather than our enemy." Pema Chödrön ————————————————— I recently had a fantastic trip with Blue Jack Sail (www.bluejacksail.com) on their luxury speed boat to see dolphins and whales in the wild! We also got some time for a refreshing swim, and as you can see I took that opportunity 🌊 😉 Overall this is an amazing excursion which I definitely recommend you try here in Tenerife! It's a perfect chance to disconnect and live in the moment 👌🏽 #WhatsSimonSaying ————————————————— Which has been your favourite excursion recently? ————————————————— @visit_tenerife @thecanaryislands @spain @tenerifemagazine ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ #ThursdayThoughts #qotd #tbt #throwbackthursday #quoteoftheday #Tenerife #CanaryIslands #IslasCanarias #latitudeoflife #latituddevida #Spain #españa #travel #explore #adventure #ocean #sea #wanderlust #wearetravelguys #swimming #YearOfCalm #TenerifeMagazine

A post shared by Simon Emilio Turkas (@simonturkas) on

While the girls took the opportunity to top up their tans on the deck, the guys took turns jumping in and showing off, by braving the slightly chilly water. 

Following the swim, we were provided with delicious fresh fruit (strawberries and pineapple) and drinks including a chilled bottle of cava. This was the icing on the cake of a fantastic trip with Blue Jack Sail. While at the start conditions had been unusually cloudy, by the time we had our swim and were then lounging back on the deck eating fruit and sipping cava the sun was shining gloriously.

The trip seemed to have raced by as we had all been having such fun, but it was then time to head back to Puerto Colón. The anchor was raised, the engines powered up and off we went. As the boat headed along back to base, we sat out in the sunshine, with the wind in our hair taking in the amazing views of the Tenerife coastline, such as the beautiful town of La Caleta.

This was certainly a trip to remember with a company that really puts its clients first, and are clearly passionate about providing the best possible service. We’ve been invited back on the boat in the future and will certainly be taking them up on that offer!

Your own Private Boat is not as expensive as you think!

Just an awesome day out …one we highly recommend! You can book directly with Blue Jack Sail! A big shout out to Kate … The Italian Chica for making this video for us while staying at the @Jardin Tropical Hotel! If you do go please let us know how you enjoyed it.

Posted by Tenerife Magazine on Friday, April 13, 2018

Video by Kate Michelle Conti aka The Italian Chica 

Thanks to Jesús and Monica for sponsoring this excursion which was an absolutely brilliant experience. To find out more about their trips, head to their website – www.bluejacksail.com/ and follow them via Facebook.

Around Tenerife, there is an incredible variety of different places to see and discover, new things to try such as paragliding, helicopter flights, incredible trekking adventures, and many excellent upmarket hotels and resorts. In fact the whole profile of Tenerife (and the Canary Islands in general) have been significantly raised in the past decade, with increasing numbers of more discerning visitors arriving on these beautiful shores.

This is a trend that we envision will continue long into the foreseeable future. While there should always be a place for families and others travelling here on a budget, this should not dominate the whole of the local economy, as this doesn’t benefit the island or those living here. We hope more people will take advantage of the amazing experiences such as a luxury boat trip with Blue Jack Sail and truly see the best of what Tenerife has to offer!

 

 

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Exceptional Relaunch Event at the Stunning Hotel Jardín Tropical

If you are looking for somewhere to stay in Tenerife, you will find you are spoiled for choice as there is something to suit practically any budget or taste. For those searching for truly exceptional accommodation with sophistication, class and a real air of exclusivity, then you needn’t look any further than Hotel Jardín Tropical in Costa Adeje!

Don’t worry though, this is definitely not an old-fashioned boring style of luxury, but instead a far more modern, stylish and chic variety that is ideal for every generation, and is perfect for couples, families or solo travelers.

Simona Gattone (@_simona_fit)

 

One way in which Jardín Tropical have managed to maintain their coveted position as one of the top hotels in Tenerife is through continuing to innovate and update their brand, accommodation and services. The demands of travelers are constantly changing year after year, so it is important to adapt in order to stay relevant and meet these needs.

Too many hotels are satisfied with staying the same, but this is certainly not the case with Jardín Tropical who decided that is was time for a major renovation to enable them to stand out from the increasingly crowded accommodation competition that now exists in Tenerife.

The team here at Tenerife Magazine were invited to the fantastic relaunch party that took place recently, and it is clear to see that the owners of the hotel are not ones to merely settle for half measures. This was an absolutely brilliant evening, that was befitting of the exceptional  full-scale renovation that has taken place at this beautiful tropical-themed resort, that stands out superbly from the crowd.

Before the actual relaunch event started we were able to take a look around one of the newly renovated apartments. Inside, all the furniture, fittings and design had been completely updated, creating a truly stunning interior. It is no exaggeration to say that this is somewhere big and comfortable enough to live in.

Re-opening Night

As the major 18-month refurbishment of Hotel Jardin Tropical comes to an end, our iconic hotel reopens with a night to remember! Thank you Gina Akers TV & Radio Presenter, TV Beauty Expert & Writer for taking part in this special night of ours.

Posted by Jardin Tropical on Wednesday, April 11, 2018

 

As we stepped outside of this incredible room, we were greeted with an absolutely giant terrace area which is bigger than a lot of the gardens people have at their homes! This was an area more than sufficient to host a party and had a selection of tables, seats and sun loungers. What’s more, the panoramic view of the palm tree lined pool and ocean are absolutely sublime.

Simona Gattone (@_simona_fit)

After this, it was time for the party, and those invited were in for an absolute treat. Befitting the event, everyone that showed up was dressed to impress with the men in shirts, smart trousers and shoes, and the women in stylish dresses and high heels. The guests’ chic clothing choices certainly matched the mood of the evening perfectly and of course the gorgeous surroundings of the redesigned hotel.

The evening began with a wide selection of different drinks at the superb new bar near reception. The atmosphere was buzzing and everyone was having a brilliant time, with conversation flowing and plenty of compliments from the guests about the hotel redesign, friendly staff and of course the beautiful setting.

Following this everyone headed to a spacious upper terrace area with a bar overlooking one of the hotel pools located next to the ocean. Here attendees were treated to more drinks and a selection of delicious food such as oysters and tasty mini crab burgers.

There was also a live DJ playing chill out music, creating the perfect ambience as the sun set behind neighboring La Gomera in the distance. With beautiful weather (as is to be expected in Tenerife), stunning palm trees, an excellent selection of food and drink, music to fit the mood and plenty of great conversation, it didn’t seem as if the evening could get any better!

Once the sun had set, everyone headed down to the picture perfect pool by the ocean where we were treated to an acrobatic performer, a group of live drummers and then music from a live band! Just as with the complete makeover of the hotel, those who had designed and coordinated tonight’s event seemed to have thought of everything!

There was yet more fantastic food and drink to enjoy, and  speeches by a number of different people including Saad Azzam the General Manager of Hotel Jardín Tropical, Fernando Clavijo Batlle, Presidente del Gobierno de Canarias, Carlos Enrique Alonso Rodriguez, Presidente del Cabildo de Santa Cruz de Tenerife, José Miguel Rodríguez Fraga, Alcalde de Adeje and others.

Following this, to top off the evening there was even a fireworks display which really did feel like the icing on the cake of a brilliant evening of entertainment and fun. This was an event that really did do this incredible hotel and beautiful full-scale refurbishment justice.

We would like to offer our thanks to everyone involved and for the invitation to enjoy this exclusive party which our team all thoroughly enjoyed. It is without a doubt that Hotel Jardín Tropical will continue to grow from strength to strength as they retain their position as one of the very best places to stay, in one of the greatest destinations in the world!

Jardin Tropical – Re-Inauguración 2018

Fiesta de Reinauguración del Hotel Jardin Tropical! 🎥: Alex Bournay

Posted by Jardin Tropical on Friday, April 13, 2018

 

To find out more about Hotel Jardín Tropical, make sure to head over to their:

 

 

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Settling in Tenerife

A man brandishing a machete was responsible for my settling in Tenerife in 1960. He emerged from a plantation overlooking Puerto de la Cruz. As soon as I saw him, I knew I wanted the kind job that demanded I carry a cutlass!

At 18 and just out of school in Scotland, I had to choose my future. I’d failed to win entry to the BSc course in agriculture at Aberdeen University, so I decided to head for Argentina. My great-grandfather had gone there to build a railroad and never returned. But by the time I reached Santa Cruz de Tenerife, I was close to penniless. None of the cargo boats in the harbour were heading across the Atlantic. I was out of luck.

The quiet composure of the Tinerfeños and Santa Cruz’s drowsy timelessness captivated me. Tiers of little, coloured houses crept up the green hills behind the town. The air smelled of salt and warm vegetation. The perfect cone of Teide beckoned. Why not just stay and work? Here were people different from my own back in Scotland. I could learn a lot from them.

“Take the guagua to Puerto de la Cruz,” the harbour-master advised. “You’ll find work in construction.” But that sleepy little town proved silent and workless. What now? Night was approaching. I walked back up the hill to the main road. Puerto de la Cruz lay spread out beneath me, quiet, compact and dignified.

When suddenly I saw that daunting man with the machete step out of the plantation, I made up my mind. “I will find myself a job where that gleaming blade is the tool of choice.”

“In a banana plantation in Buenavista del Norte,” advised the plantation worker. “That’s where the work is!” Within 15 minutes, he’d hustled me into a guagua heading to that remote 15th-century village at the end of the narrow road on the tip of the island.

Buenavista from the Sea

Throughout that journey, the driver, the conductor and the delighted locals plied me with questions. For most, it was their first encounter with an ‘extranjero’. ‘Forasteros’ and ‘peninsulares’ were odd enough, but a living, breathing ‘extranjero’ was real curiosity!

“Does your mamá know where you are?” “Do you shave yet?” “Why can’t you speak Spanish?” “Do they speak a Christian language where you come from?” “Why are you going to Buenavista?”

At the Pension Méndez on la Plaza de los Remedios, the driver presented me to Doña Lutgarda, the innkeeper. She scrutinized me from head to foot and then announced, “Forty-two pesetas a day. Room and meals. Your laundry is included.”

Snuggling around the Plaza de los Remedios, the stone church, the pension, the ‘venta’ — the general store — and the bar, together formed the beating heart of village life. In the 15th century, when Buenavista had been founded, streets were for people, mules and donkeys.

Buenavista Village Street

The village offered the warmth and comfort of timeless tradition, its simple, elegant buildings provided fitting harmony. Villagers were upright, hardworking, hospitable, friendly and above all, curious about the arrival of an ‘extranjero’.

Buenavista locals

First, Alcalde Don Paco García Martín, then his legal counsel Don Eduardo Champín Zamorano, and finally two nameless Civil Guards, checked me out with shrewd questions. They concluded that this 18-year-old Scotsman, kilt and all, was ‘buena gente’. I was welcome to stay if I adapted to village life.

Buenavista Plaza Fiesta

During the year I spent there, everyone knew me simply as ‘El Extranjero’.

I explored the village, the rocky coast and the surrounding cliffs and barrancos. I learned Spanish and made friends. The Pension Méndez was my home. Doña Lutgarda and her girls, Pastora, Obdúlia, Angélica and Lula treated me like a distant relative from abroad.

They had never met anyone who couldn’t speak perfect Spanish, so they found my mistakes a constant source of fun. With their help, I learned the language quickly so I could fit in and find work.

One day, I discovered Caya, Carmita, Toño and Mario, Doña Lutgarda’s grandchildren, in my room examining the contents of my rucksack. “What are you looking for?” I asked.

“Well,” said Caya – at 8 years old she was their leader — “you remember you told us your first tongue, the one you brought with you, was English? And that you wanted to get Spanish as your second tongue? Well, now that you have got your Spanish tongue, we’re trying to find your English one. We only want to see what it looks like!” Her tiny companions nodded soberly. “We want to see how different your first tongue is from the one you have now!”

Confusion is understandable when ‘lengua’ means both ‘language’ and ‘tongue’ at one and the same time!

Carmita, Toño, Mario and Caya

Doña Lutgarda and her girls fed me well on gofio, lentejas, garbanzos, papas arrugadas and fresh fish. Within three weeks I could handle myself in Spanish. Now I was ready to find a job!

Doña Lutgarda Méndes Hernández and her large family, my co-workers and the villagers of Buenavista del Norte taught me a great deal. For their warm hospitality, for the gifts of their language and friendship, for sharing their culture and their ways, I salute the people of Tenerife with respect and gratitude.

Text and photos by Ronald Mackay

To discover more of Ronald’s amazing year-long adventure in Tenerife, take a look at his book here:

Fortunate Isle: A  Memoir of Tenerife

 

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How to Enjoy a Wonderful Wine Tasting Trip in the Stunning North of Tenerife

If you are staying in the south of Tenerife, such as in Pearly Grey Resort in Callao Salvaje, you may be forgiven for believing that the island is somewhat dry and arid. Sure there are plentiful palm tree-lined avenidas, some stunning natural landscapes such as the Masca gorge and incredible cliffs of Los Gigantes, and of course an abundance of beautiful beaches to relax on with the sound of lapping waves washing onto the shore, but in terms of plant life and greenery, it can appear a little lacking.

This is because the south of the island has indeed got considerably less rainfall during the year than the north, so as can be expected it’s more difficult for a wide abundance of plant life to survive. This is certainly not the case for the whole of the island though. There is somewhat of a north-south divide in Tenerife.

Generally, the north of the island is far greener and more verdant, with a huge abundance of plant life which you won’t often see further south. This divide extends to more than just the climate though; the north of Tenerife has a wealth of history and culture, and in many ways feels a lot more authentically Spanish and Canarian in appearance and culture.

In the past, when tourists headed to Tenerife they often used to head to the original resorts of Punta del Hidalgo and Puerto de la Cruz. With the growth of the resorts in the south such as Costa Adeje, Playa de las Americas, Los Cristianos, Los Gigantes, Callao Salvaje and more, tourism in Tenerife has mainly shifted to the south.

While there is indeed much to see and do in the south, plus the weather is generally warm and sunny almost the entire year round, meaning sunbathing and swimming opportunities any month of the year, the north of Tenerife should certainly not be missed out on when you come to stay.

Luckily Viajes Nere Izerdie have you well covered with their wonderful wine tasting tour in the stunning north of Tenerife. Recently myself, John (owner of Tenerife Magazine) and Gemma (head receptionist at Pearly Grey Resort), were invited on this trip and had an absolute blast and also learned a great deal about the island. What could be better; fun and learning all rolled into one brilliant day out with friends.

After being collected in the morning from Los Cristianos by the friendly and professional tour guide Francisco, and Ivan the driver, we were transported aboard the comfortable and modern company tour bus to our first destination, the historic former capital city of Tenerife, La Laguna. Along the way, Francisco explained in perfect English (and Italian for the Italian guests) the history of La Laguna and other information about the island.

At first, it was difficult to tell exactly where Francisco was originally from as he spoke Spanish to the driver, but also perfect English and Italian to those on the excursion. We later found out he is originally from Tenerife, but had spent a number of years as a child in Surrey, hence his brilliant and ever so slightly posh British accent!

Both during the journey to La Laguna and upon our arrival and subsequent wandering around as a group, we learned a wide variety of fascinating historical facts about the city. San Cristóbal de La Laguna (the full name of the city) which is widely shortened to La Laguna, acquired its name from being in the valley of Aguere, where a large lake once existed (Laguna is lagoon in Spanish). The city was founded between 1496 and 1497, following the conclusion of the conquest of the islands by Alonso Fernández de Lugo, becoming the capital of Tenerife, and later the capital of the Canary Islands.

As you will see when you visit La Laguna, it is a very beautiful city, full of historical architecture, plazas and buildings, because of which it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999, the only city in the Canary Islands to hold this accolade. If you have only ever stayed in the resorts of the south of Tenerife you will feel like you’re on another island as its almost completely different!

You’ll notice that the city feels a lot more culturally authentic, with large pedestrianised cobbled streets and colonial buildings that have been there for hundreds of years. It is a fascinating place to start your trip to the north, all explained perfectly by Francisco, including brief looks inside some of the historic buildings and courtyards, where you can see attractive gardens and parts of the buildings constructed from hardy Canarian pine wood.

A walk around the amazing city of La Laguna in the North of Tenerife is like taking a fascinating trip back in time! This was once the capital of both Tenerife and ancient capital of the Canary Islands, until Santa Cruz later became Tenerife's capital city. Today it is still considered the cultural capital of the Canary Islands and became a UNESCO World Heritage sight in 1999. It is an absolutely brilliant place to explore and learn about, where you will find sights such as this stunning courtyard with historical wooden architecture. You can visit the city as part of the excellent wine tasting tour with @nereizerdieexcursionestenerife! This trip is perfect if you want to learn more about the real Tenerife! ————————————————- 📸 @lumixuk 📍La Laguna, @visit_tenerife @thecanaryislands @spain ————————————————- ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ #guardiantravelsnaps #Tenerife #tenerifetag #travel #CanaryIslands #traveltotenerife #IslasCanarias #latitudeoflife #latituddevida #Spain #españa #explore #wanderlust #wherelumixgoes #lumix #lumixg #history #historical #ancient #tenerifemagazine #LaLaguna Espana #visitspain #VisitTenerife

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This is a world away from the hotels and apartments around Tenerife’s coastline. I would say if you want to see the real Tenerife and Canary Islands, then you absolutely must visit this historical gem of a city, the third largest of the Canaries.

Following a wander around the streets, we were led to the La Laguna food market where there was an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables and other locally grown and produced food and drink products to buy. Here you can see the locals at work and see the produce for sale that is grown on the island. Of course, many of us enjoyed a quick coffee too, to keep us boosted for the rest of the trip.

After becoming fully caffeinated, it was back onto the bus to head further north than La Laguna to our next stop at the Bodega Presas Ocampo near the picturesque villages of Tacoronte and El Sauzal located in the Tacoronte municipality, where you will find the largest wine growing area in Tenerife. This is a verdant, beautiful area of the island that again, is completely distinct from the south. Due to the northerly aspect of this area which captures moisture from the prevailing northeasterly winds, you will discover a Mediterranean climate and landscape that is quite unlike the arid climate of the south of Tenerife and much of the rest of the Canary Islands.

During the bus journey, we passed by farms, old manorial buildings and a number of different vineyards, most of which enjoyed spectacular views out to the beautiful blue ocean. This was certainly the case for the Bodega Presas Ocampo winery, a pioneer of the Tacoronte-Acentejo Designation of Origin which we stopped at for a tour and wine tasting. The vineyard, where there were many different grape vines growing, had a wonderful view of the Atlantic ocean in the distance. There can be few more picturesque scenes than this beautiful rural scene in the northeast of Tenerife.

Inside was quite the contrast with an array of modern equipment for crushing the grapes, extracting the grape juice and separating the grape skin, rows of beautiful oak barrels for storing the wine, and a modern, efficient bottling machine. It’s clear that a lot of investment has gone into this family-owned business over the years.

Following an explanation of this process from Francisco and a knowledgeable worker at the winery, we were led to another room that looked like a kind of old-fashioned kitchen/dining room. Here we were all seated to be able to taste and enjoy the wine. We were given both a white and red wine to try, both of which were very tasty. We learned that the time from harvest to drinking for the wines produced at this winery is generally around two years, and this is the case for many wines in the Canary Islands due to the climate and type of grapes used. Therefore most wines from the Canaries are young varieties.

What many people probably don’t realise is how well established the tradition of wine production has been in the Canary Islands over hundreds of years, with the wine even being mentioned by Shakespeare in no less than 30 of his works, including some of his most famous plays such as Twelfth Night and Henry IV. This is because, during Shakespeare’s time, wine from the Canary Islands, specifically the type made from the Malvasia grape grown on the islands was regarded as one of the top drinks in mainland Europe at the time, including in England.

This led to an economic boom period for the islands, due to this substantial popularity of Canarian Wine, especially in England. Sadly this period of growth ended in 1649 when Charles II came to the throne in England which was a very important export market. His taste was for sherry and his courtiers and countrymen followed his lead, and the desire for Malvasia started to decline. Production was further hit with the growing animosity between Britain and Spain, meaning that Britain began to boycott Spanish wines in the late 17th Century.

 While wine production and international popularity has by no means reached the levels seen during that boom period, in the last decade interest in Canarian produced wines has started to rapidly grow due to their uniqueness, creating one of the most exciting wine regions to emerge in the last 10 years on the international stage. Despite the often rugged terrain, potential for volcanic activity, and strong winds which don’t seem to lend themselves well to a great wine production environment, there are some major factors in favour of the winegrowers of the Canary Islands.

 Probably the most important is that the grape vines can be ancient, sometimes literally hundreds of years old – therefore also having hundreds of years of complexity. This is due to the isolation of the region from the mainland, meaning that the disease phylloxera, a devastating root louse,  that ravaged grapevines across mainland Europe in the late 19th century never reached those of the Canary Islands. Incredibly phylloxera is believed to have destroyed 90% of the world’s grape vines, so the wines of the Canary Islands really are some of the most unique in the world.

Rather than hybrid vines that were grown in Europe by grafting European vines onto American rootstocks which were naturally immune, the grape vines in the Canary Islands are the original ungrafted varieties. To be able to taste wine grown from these varieties of grape is a fairly unique experience due to the rarity of these ungrafted vines. Added to this the year-round warm, sunny conditions are perfect for production all year round. It is fascinating taking a tour around a working winery such as Presas Ocampo, because you really do get a taste for this history of wine-making while you taste the wines and take in the tradition.

Following the tour and wine tasting, we all got back in the bus, feeling just that bit merrier, but also starting to feel slightly peckish to combine with the tipsiness of two glasses of wine on an empty stomach! Luckily we were on our way to a generous meal, of course with some more Canarian wine. We arrived at a rather amazing old fashioned bodega and tapas restaurant a short drive away where we had the option of choosing a tapas and wine lunch. While it wasn’t included in the price of the excursion, 10 euros was a very reasonable price, especially after we saw all the food.

 The first thing to mention though is how fascinating the dining area was. Downstairs as we walked in there was a large food and gift store with many different traditional products and souvenirs to buy. Upstairs was amazing though, as there was a very large dining area with chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and around all of the walls were thousands of bottles of wine as a kind of amazing wine themed decoration.

 The tapas food consisted of many different plates including Canarian Potatoes with mojo sauce, calamari, croquettes with different fillings, bread and luckily for me, some food they prepared especially including garlic mushrooms and rice and vegetables. There were also several bottles of wine for all of us to share. The food was no frills but certainly satisfied our appetites as there was plenty of it at a very reasonable price. It also offered a good chance to sit and chat with some of the other guests on the excursion with us and find out their stories and experiences of Tenerife and the tour. They all seemed to be enjoying themselves a lot too!

 Following the satisfying meal and more tasty Tenerife wine, we headed back to the bus to be driven on to the final stop on our tour of the North. Next we set off for a stop in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the modern capital of the island. Whereas La Laguna was the capital of the island from its foundation in 1496, this position was later switched to Santa Cruz in 1723 due to a declining population and economy during the 18th century.

Then between 1833 and 1927, the city of Santa Cruz became the capital of both the island of Tenerife and all of the Canary Islands. In 1927 it was decided that capital status of the islands would be shared between Santa Cruz and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

 Despite many historical buildings remaining present in Santa Cruz, especially in comparison to much of the south of the island, it is noticeably more modern in general than La Laguna with some very tall modern apartment blocks and some distinctly designed buildings, such as the amazing Auditorio de Tenerife. Despite these modern designs, it remains a very attractive city, which is perfect for a wander around and exploration, with plenty of gorgeous tree lined streets which are perfect to stop at for a coffee which myself, John and Gemma did.

 We had just enough time to finish our coffee, take some photos and wander around a bit more, before it was time to head back to the impressive Plaza de España, the largest square in Tenerife and the Canary Islands, with an artificial lake at its centre. Here Francisco and Ivan were waiting for us at the bus to drive us back to Los Cristianos.

Overall this is an absolutely brilliant tour which John, Gemma and myself all fully recommend. It was a lot of fun and offers a really great way to learn about the other side of Tenerife that many tourists never experience. If you are staying at Pearly Grey Resort then you can book this trip from reception, or alternatively head on over to the Viajes Nere Izerdie website (http://www.nereizerdie.com/language/en/homepage/) for all the details.

 We would like to offer our thanks to Viajes Nere Izerdie for sponsoring this trip for Tenerife Magazine and Pearly Grey Resort, and also to Francisco our wonderful guide and Ivan for driving us safely and comfortably around the island.

 

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