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 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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Grease

Title: Grease
Location: Santa Cruz Auditorium
Description: The hit stage show in its Spanish version. Weds 3 & Thurs 4 at 8.30pm, Fri 5 & Sat 6 at 6pm & 10pm, Sun 7 at 6pm.Tickets from 25 to 50 euros. Book in person at the Auditorium box office 10 am to 3 pm Monday to Friday and 10 am to 2 pm on Saturdays, or phone 902317327 from 10 am to 7 pm Monday to Saturday or on line from entradas.auditoriodetenerife.com

Start Date: 2013-07-03
End Date: 2013-07-07

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César Manrique, The Awareness Of Landscape

Painter, sculptor, architect, and environmental crusader, Cesar Manrique is regarded as the father of modern Lanzarote but his influence touched all corners of the Canary Islands. As I learnt more about the man and his legacy at a new exhibition in Santa Cruz my mind wandered to the Parque Maritimo swimming complex a short walk across the Tenerife capital. The functional and stylish design was inspired by the great man and the park is adorned with samples of his work. I could have just as easily stretched my recall to the south of Tenerife and Plaza Cesar Manrique in Adeje and many points in between.

“Atlantic Ocean, my master, supreme and constant lesson of enthusiasm, passion, and freedom. My capacity of observation was tenacious in those summertimes.”

Observation was the key to Cesar’s work, he had a great love of his island and its people, early sketches, paintings, and photos showed locals working the vineyards, the salt pans, and the sea. The first of two floors reflected the rich colours and textures of a volcanic landscape that was born from eruptions between 1730 and 1736. Each alcove included a centre piece such as a model of the island, a video of the moving clouds, or a 3D frame of fishing nets. Where many would have seen destruction and burning, Cesar rejoiced in the creation of new shapes and rich colours left in the wake of fire and lava.

In the early 1960’s Cesar’s hunger for knowledge took him to New York and the Avant Garde movement, this phase of his work takes over on the second floor. Many of the paintings are abstract and surreal but his love of life and people still shines through. Travel added a new focus to Cesar’s life, he was determined to help Lanzarote develop sustainable tourism, years before it became a mantra for the industry. Returning home he worked closely with government to lay down basic laws and guidelines but first he made in depth studies of his island to assess traditional accommodation and to find out what new infrastructure was needed. Water supplies, communications, and even the airport featured in his plans to ensure the pieces all fitted together.

“My absolute worry was to defend the landscape and the environment, I believed habitat considered as a whole was an important factor since landscape and architecture can be perfectly integrated and adapted to the land.”

The exhibition includes sketches and plans for his building projects and there is even a recreation of one of his surreal designs, used here to link two of the display areas. Not everything Cesar created was purely functional, there is a sense of fun in much of his quirky landscape architecture. Each stage of his life and work is accompanied in the exhibition by background information and the published thoughts and teachings of Cesar Manrique in Spanish and English. The scope and diversity of the works here strike the right balance between the different mediums that Cesar worked in and give a great insight into the motivation of the man. On my visit there was a school party doing the rounds, it’s good to see his legacy carried on not only through his foundation but also in a new generation sharing his affinity with the diverse environments of the Canary Islands.

Cesar Manrique, La Conciencia del Paisaje; Espacio Cultural Caja Canarias, Plaza del Patriotismo, Santa Cruz; open Monday to Saturday 11am to 2pm and 5pm to 8pm

Entrance €3 (free for clients of Caja Canarias, €1 residents)

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Salsa Open Canarias

Title: Salsa Open Canarias
Location: La Cascada, Parque Maritimo, Santa Cruz
Description: A feast of salsa with 8 pairs competing for passage through to the international final in Puerto Rico in July. Plenty of guest musicians and dancers in the events hall inside the swimming pool complext next to the Auditorium. Starts at 10pm, tickets 12 euros from the box office.
Start Time: 22.00
Date: 2013-05-03

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Circo de Los Horrores Is All Fright On The Night

On the way into the big black top I was charged by a zombie waving a chain saw, and taking the steps to my seat I felt a werewolf nuzzle my leg; this was not going to be an ordinary night out. Before you load up with silver bullets and holy water, I must point out that it was a traditional welcome from Circo de Los Horrores at their blood curdling circus in Santa Cruz.

Circus was never a favourite of mine as a kid and the undead have a pretty bad image so what a good idea to give them a fair crack of the ringmaster’s whip by combining the two. Not that there was a ringmaster here. Our guide and MC was Nosferatu the vampire, fresh from his coffin. The pale, blood-drained one had some strange friends; as I settled into my seat a gravedigger with a spare head bursting forth dragged his shovel on the floor outside the ring and that chainsaw buzzed around my ear while I was distracted by a blood stained nurse with a knife big enough to outdo any politician’s NHS cuts.

The circus ring was marked out with a pentangle and decorated by grave stones and piles of yucky skulls with the cemetery gates doubling as a gateway to hell. There wasn’t much room for the performers but a decaying mummy made good use of it by rotating and spinning inside an iron wheel. Grimo the killer clown made his entrance and plucked a victim from the audience to humiliate and torture with a king size syringe. It was enough to have some of the audience squirming and screaming but the children in the crowd were loving it.

One of my favourites was the possessed children tucked up in bed before writhing above the covers in tortured positions performed by two female contortionists. Even a sweet, innocent looking young nanny turned out to be a murderous soul thrown into a coffin and set alight by Nosferatu. The fire juggling that followed was as expert as the Spanish bolas ( metal balls on chains) being spun and lashed in a frenzy.

A short break allowed the living part of the big top crowd to get our breath back and the second half opened with another clown, Enric, luring out a lady from the front row to ride in his imaginary car. Some daring climbing and twirling by the Black Widow on a sash suspended from the ceiling showed off some traditional circus skills and Grimo and Devora followed up with a bit of guillotine action.

In the first half they had gone straight for the jugular but the horror theme wasn’t as strong in the second half. The slow motion acrobatics with a hangman and prisoner showed great control but a lengthy return from Enric the clown lost the tension. Some of the grisly characters could have been used more but it was all ghoulish fun and a very enjoyable two hours.

 

Photos 1, 3 and 4 above © Circo de Los Horrores

FACT FILE

Circo de Los Horrores until 9 December.

Thursdays 8.30 pm, Fridays & Saturday 7& 10 pm, Sundays 5 & 8 pm. Extra shows 4 Dec 8.30 pm, 5 Dec 7 & 10 pm, 6 Dec 7 & 10 pm.

Parque Maritimo car park, next to the Auditorium.

Tickets from 15 to 38 euros from the big top office or online

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