Santa Cruz De Tenerife (pronounced Tenerifeh)
I will admit to struggling to wake up this morning after my late night blog finishing escapades. That is why I am writing this one nice and early. We docked this morning before 8am and woke up to the rugged and dramaric Tenerife mountains just outside our bedroom.
I recall going on two or three 20's and eighteen-thirtees holidays to Tenerife with my mate Sarah, her then partner and my brother JP. What I don't recall is just how beautiful this Island was.
The reason for my non recollection would be because we always went to resorts like Playa De Las Americas or Los Cristianos and we never took the time to travel to the other side of the Island and see the real Tenerife.
My memories of drink fuelled bar crawls through the streets of Playa De Las Americas will now forever be replaced by memories of green green mountains with entire villages nestled between the peaks and of acre after acre of banana plantations.
David, Barbara, Gary and myself left the ship quite early and planned to walk the short 1km or so to the city centre. Our concern was that, being a Sunday, everywhere would be closed in Santa Cruz and so even before we reached the city we had agreed as a group to book a taxi ride and see where the driver could take us.
We stumbled upon Franko just outside the city and in his very broken English he offered to take us in his taxi to a number of sights with the promise of photo stops and shopping. With a price of just 25 Euros each for FOUR hours we jumped at the chance and all climbed into his car.
Much like Michael who we met in his taxi in St Thomas on our Caribbean cruise, Franko was funny, knowledgable and very keen to show us all he could in the time we had. We would have spent over 100 dollars a head if we went with a Princess tour and probably not seen as much as Franko showed us.
The only down side with Franko was his English was not very good at all, probably a little better than my Spanish but not much! But with lots of sign language, laughs and loud repatition, we made ourselves understood. He told me that on Tenerife, the diet is fish or mountain goat...that's about it. :-\
We learned that Tenerife IS indeed pronounced Tenerifeh (like the eh at the start of elephant) and that its income is almost entirley from banana export and tourism. As much as I would likely now frown on the party Island reputation of places like Playa De Las Americas, Franko assured us that this kind of tourism is what keeps the Island going. He said without that, he would be eating bananas morning lunch and supper. I could not imagine anything worse.
Our first stop in the taxi was to the town of La Laguna which is at the Northern end of the Island. La Laguna used to be the capital of Tenerife but Santa Cruz now holds that position. It was named La Laguna because there used to be a lagoon there but this has now dried up and gone. What is left is a gorgeous university town lined with cobble streets and buildings with wooden built balconies and galleries. These types of buildings are classic Caneries style and they are lovely.
Franko pointed out the Catherdral to us and also the Bishop's palace which was a huge structure but still in keeping with the area. La Laguna was quiet, away from the hustle and bustle of the city and Franko dropped us off to walk the very straight and scenic streets for around half an hour on our own before meeting up with him again.
We popped into some local craft shops and noticed that everywhere was selling banana liqour. I have tried it before and think its taste would closely resemble monkey sick but Barbara was not put off and bought some at one of our later stops.
In between La Laguna and our next stop Franko talked animatedly about his family, his three sons and his mother. We managed to ascertain that one Son was a policeman in Madrid, another in the Spanish Marines and his third is disabled and lives with them at home. Franko explained that he had come from Venuzula with his family fifteen years ago because it was too dangerous a place to bring up children.
Turning sharply down what appeared to be a very rarely used dirt track, Franko proudly imformed me that he was taking us to his very own Banana plantation photo studio. We were all a little bemused and I wondered if I had lost something of what he was saying in translation but, no, a few minutes later he beamed as he stopped the car and pointed toward an expanse of banana plants on the other side of a very old looking stone built wall.
Just at the point where Franko had stopped, the wall was broken and there was a gap large enough to climb up and into the plantation itself. It was quite steep and Franko went up first before taking my phone for me so that I could pull myself from the road, up past the gap into the wall and into the mass of banana plants.
It was only once I was among the plants did he Franko explain that we might have to run and jump down fast if the plantation owner came! I have never really seen bananas growing wild before and it was cool to be so close to them. Everywhere you looked was bananas.....everywhere.
Everyone else kept a look out from the safety of the taxi and, after a few photos, Franko and I made good our escape and headed off to the next stop of La Orotava.
La Orotava was extremely pretty, stately homes lining the streets and the mountain scenery providing a wonderful backdrop to the town. We had to drive along quite windy mountain roads before stopping at a viewing point where we could take photographs of the valley as it opened up. Sadly.....we could not see mount Teide, Tenerife's volcano, today because the cloud was too low and it was totally covered.
Franko assured us that it was actually there and was at pains to point out exactly where it sat whilst loudly cursing the weather on our behalf.
Our final stop with Franko the taxi man took us to a coastal town of Puerto De La Cruz. Completly different from the first two towns which were non touristy, mostly residential and quiet, Puerto De La Cruz was busy and bustling with shops and people.
For a Sunday it was great to see so much open and we all really enjoyed the hour we had to look around the shops and marvel at the black volcanic sand beach and rough Atlantic Ocean coastline. David and I walked a narrow, volcanic rock, path which took us out close to the shore line. The beach was not one you would swim in because of the rocks which jutted out everywhere. (Not to mention how rough it looked!)
Mount Teide is dormant, sleeping as Franko put it, right now and has not erupted for over 200 years. Franko said that he hoped it remained that way and I am inclined to agree with him! The memories of old eruptions littered the beach, volcanric rock was everywhere, from the pebbles you walked over to great big formations on the promenade. I recall the black sand from my time at Las Americas but forgot just how striking it looked against the blue of the sea. Tenerife is so, SO much more than the image it has back home.
Franko drove us the hour or so back to the main city centre where he had found us and dropped us just outside a very strange market so that we could look around before walking back to the ship. We said our goodbyes to him and made our way through the stalls trying to find a flag Tenerife to add to the collection of flags we have around our front room at home. Barbara had earlier found thimbles and her banana liquer and so the flag was the only outstanding item.
The market was odd....it was more like a car boot sale with no cars. Some stalls had proper tables and an array of half decent looking items hanging up neatly.....other stalls consisted of an old blanket spread onto the ground and the stuff for sale on these stalls looked....broken and frankly dangrous.
There were some places selling tourist type items but mostly it did seem to be a jumble sale of old clothes, old tvs and dodgy looking power tools. It was interesting nonetheless and, amazingly, on the very last stall we passed, we found a Tenerife flag. Yay!!
After a quick pit stop for a beer we all headed back to the ship for some food and to prepare for the evening ahead. David and I have been invited to a cocktail party for platinum and elite guests tonight.....that is at 6:30. I think Barbara and gary will be watching the musicians playing in one of the bars. We may meet up after our do for a quiz but, if not, we will all enjoy our night no matter what we do.
Little little wanted me to add that it rained today, she got wet and she is not happy. Pew also braved poking his head out the bag at one point but was startled by the water hitting his ears and we have not seen him since.
Tomorrow is Lanzarote.....another place which I think has a bad reputation in the UK. If it is anywhere near as lovely as Tenerife then we are in for a treat.
Until tomorrow. x