Friday, November 25, 2011

Laid Back Lifestyle in Tenerife, Canary Islands

Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands and is part of Spain. It is located 180 miles from the coast of Africa and has a population of 700,000. Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the capital of the island and where we docked for the day. Tourism is the only real industry, and on the day we were there, there were 130,000 visitors. At Christmas the numbers reach 200,000. The average stay is one week, but in the winter it becomes the “Florida” of Europe with people staying for months at a time.

Here we are coming into the port in the early morning.

The islands were formed by volcanoes, which made sense looking at this landscape.

Our tour guide, Rudolf, met us and our tour of several villages on the island began. This is the concert hall—a unique design.

Government offices…no square shapes here!

The “Hamburger” is the basketball stadium.

This is Mt. Tiede, the highest point in Spain at 12,198 feet. It attracts visitors from all over the world and is covered in snow for only a few days of the year.

We were stopped at this checkpoint and a lot of scrambling for papers went on. The drivers are not allowed to drive for more than 4 hours without stopping, and our driver had to produce his log book to verify this. Rudolf told us a lot of this goes on as they make commission on all tickets. I cautiously snuck a picture of him, shades of our adventures in Africa still fresh in my mind.

Bananas have become a huge export crop and there were many plantations over the island. This house covered in vines was so pretty.

Lots of bananas!

This wall is 6 feet thick to guard against the fierce storms of the Atlantic.

Our first stop was the pretty seaside village of Garachico. It is set at the foot of Mt. Tiede and is one of Tenerife’s most charming and peaceful towns. Founded in 1496, it was actually the first port in Tenerife, until a volcanic eruption in 1706 left much of the town battered and ruined.

Bread delivery! Yum!

Awww…the doggie looked so sad.

Rudolf asked us “what type of building would have only a few windows that are up high?” We said “a jail.” Nope, it was a convent. All the small villages started as convents, and at one point there were 28 on the island. In 1824, the government seized all the properties and only 3 exist today with very small populations.

This house would have been owned by a local merchant. They would watch for incoming vessels with the first one to spot the vessel claiming the goods it contained. The other merchants would then pay a fee to purchase goods from him.

Our guide, Rudolf...we were all dressed in t-shirts and light sweaters. This is their winter so he was dressed more warmly. Winter…ha!

The village square…life is very simple here. People do not rise until later in the morning. The shops stay open until 10 at night and dinner is often eaten at 10:30 or later.

This building shows the windows which are part wood and part glass. Being volcanic, the island has no quartz to supply the silica needed to make glass. Imported glass was very expensive and often suffered breakage during shipping.

By noon, all these chairs would be out and people would be sitting around drinking coffee and listening to live music being played.

This building was originally owned by a British Duke who has long since passed away. Rudolf began telling us how Queen Elizabeth has never visited Spain on an official visit, as there is one lady in Spain who has more titles than the Queen, and the Queen would therefore have to have second billing.

Santa Ana Mother Church was originally built in 1520 and then was partially destroyed by the volcano in 1706. It was rebuilt the same size, but the town never returned to its glory days, and nowadays the church is much larger than needed.


The church has three naves…

This one with the “lamb of God”…

And many stained glass windows…

Lots of narrow windy streets…

This square contains the “Puerta de Tierra” which means Land Gate. This is the only remains of the once thriving Garachico port. All people leaving or entering Garachico were required to pass through this harbour gate. Due to the volcanic eruption, it is now several blocks from the water.

Bird of paradise plant...

We stopped to use the washroom at this coffee shop…

Rudolf suggested we try the local barraquito, which is made with sweet condensed milk, espresso and milk froth. It was delicious!

Directly across from the coffee shop was the Castillo de San Miguel fortress, which was built in the 16th century and survived the volcano eruption.

There were lots of pictures inside the coffee shop. This one shows the fort in a particularly fierce storm.

Jim and Kim in Garachico…

You can see where the volcano flow ended…

On the rise again…Tenerife was very different than what I imagined it would be. For some reason, I was thinking it would be like a Caribbean island, but it was anything but.

I thought this rock was interesting and inexplicably had about 50 pictures of it. Sometimes digital can be deadly! Believe it or not, it is called El Roque.

These two men just sitting is a good portrayal of the laid back lifestyle  here. We could learn a lot from them.

Buenavista that way? Buenavista every way you turned!

We were up quite high. Oh look! That rock…

Jim and Kim…and that rock!

Our van for the day. It was very comfortable, nicely seating the 18 of us.

Interesting how the houses are built on terraces all the way down the hillside.

A good sized village…

Poinsettia plants grow wild here. Rudolf thought it was quite amusing that people pay for them...

We stopped for another walk through the village of Icod de los Vinos. Its claim to fame is an ancient Dragon tree.

Off to see the Dragon tree…

This isn’t “the” tree, but one that is about 400 years younger.

They had these cut-outs all over the village. We need to finesse our posing...

This tree was really interesting. I'm not sure what it was...

The gardens in the village square were beautiful.

The Church of San Marcos...

I’ve seen these trumpet flowers in several places, but Rudolf warned us that they are quite poisonous. Who knew?

Another interesting tree…the roots are outside.

And the infamous Dragon tree. It is said to be 1000 years old. While no study has confirmed this as they do not have annual rings, the tree is more likely to have an age of hundreds of years. It is the age old symbol of Icod.

Look at the trunks on these interesting trees in the square. 


A beautiful sleepy village with the steps going up to the village square.

A rubber tree…lots of neat trees.

A map of the village…I’m not sure you could get lost.

More poinsettia plants...once Rudolf pointed them out, we started noticing them everywhere.

Our next stop was for lunch at El Monsterio. It is an old monastery and sits on a volcanic cone overlooking the Orotava Valley. There are five different restaurants here surrounded by beautiful gardens and wonderful views.

A Christmas tree…it’s hard to remember sometimes that it’s almost December.

Lots of restaurants to choose from.

The Spaniards love their meat. We passed by this immaculate meat counter on the way to our table. You could order sausage by the metre.

I wonder how old these candles are!

We were supposed to visit the village of La Orotava after lunch. But we were starting to be a little concerned about the time. It was almost 2:00 and we had to be back on the ship by 3:30. In the attitude that is typical of Tenerife, Rudolf didn’t share our concern for time, and was a little surprised that we made the decision to skip the next village. Instead, we spent a little more time wandering around here.

A duck pond…

Beautiful countryside…

For some reason, there were a lot of frog statues…

The fruit on this cactus might be a little hard to get off...

Our group for the day. Ann, standing behind her dad in the wheelchair on the right, organized a lot of our tours and did a fantastic job. Thanks, Ann!

And then we were heading back to the ship. We passed by the twin towers of Tenerife.

We were back at the ship by 3:00 and ready to sail. And then we waited, and waited. I think it was more like 5:30 before the refuelling ship pulled away.

And we set sail. Tenerife was fantastic!

And now…seven sea days!!!

Next stop...Fort Lauderdale, Florida...


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