The Railway Station

Following my venture into descriptive writing Annie told me that she felt as if she was on the beach with me after the crowds had left.  If you are just starting on a new track (in this case, pun intentional) that is the sort of encouragement you need to make you try once more, so here we go.

It is a miserable, wet day as I approach the white pillars guarding the hand-crafted iron gates at the entrance to the railway station that have been there since the place was built.

The stairs leading down to the track are damp and dirty from people’s feet, old ticket stubs and chewing gum.  The handrail even more gritty. The stench of boiling coffee and month-old curry wafts around the crowded platform. Travellers step over crumpled newspapers that the cleaners have missed and pigeons scuffle around, scrounging left over nibbles that have been dropped on the floor by commuters.

The swirl of mist and rain covers the empty track and crowded platform. Chaotic noises fill the air. In a corner, a young busker wearing a hoodie plays a guitar.  A cry of laughter as a young girl is tickled by her dad.  And a sleepy beggar, who smells of alcohol and vomit, grasps his cup and pleads for spare change from passers-by.  His speech is slurred, no one understands him and they quickly walk on by.

Amongst the myriad of confused people searching for their trains, stands a frail old lady, her hair a delicate grey, glasses perched on her nose.  She scans the plethora of facts and figures to try to locate when and where her train will arrive.

Information boards begin to rustle and the frantic voice of the tanoy alerts people where to go.

The tracks rumble and screeching breaks can be heard entering the station.  As the train arrives, the sound of thumping feet gets louder as more and more people run down the stairs and businessmen and women scamper to get a seat on the train.

Clunking and rasping, the engine again kicks into motion, pushing the sleek, modern train down the beaten track.

Here I am again. The same too small, hot and crowded compartment. The same horde of half-awake creatures in ties and business suits that hide behind newspapers that need a small rainforest to construct. People tuck themselves away with no concept of what is going on around them, completely oblivious to all the other passengers.

The man with the raised arm in the middle of the train holding on to the rails hasn’t showered again.  The stuck-up guy with his large watch, new laptop and self-motivated air sitting next to me turns another page of the ‘Times’ that seems even wider than the previous page. I discreetly attempt to get his sleeve out of my mouth but fail miserably.

I managed to keep cool and the train finally approaches my station. I stand, walk through the sliding doors and make my exit off the train.  Once free, I sprint out of the station vowing never to return again.  Well at least not until like thousands of other workers it is time to pack my bag and return to a loving family at the end of the day.

I should say that I based the above on when I used to commute to the Barbican many years ago and the last time I was on a train which was going from Farnborough to St Pancras it was a totally different and indeed pleasant experience.

For weather & news updates around south Tenerife check Queenies Daily Snippets

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Colourful Collioure

Côte Vermeille or vermilion coast is the name of the region near the border with Spain and stretches from Argelès-sur-Mer along the Mediterranean coast to the border village of Cerbère.  We explored the towns of  Port-Vendres and Banyuls-sur-Mer and spent quite a long time in Collioure before reaching the border and the start of the Costa Brava on our return to Barcelona airport.

Collioure is a beautiful little town clinging to the hillside around a picturesque Mediterranean cove. A former fishing port, full of history, charm and a little je ne sais quoi.

There is really only one word for it STUNNING – stunning scenery and such vibrant colours.  Even the drainpipes are brightly coloured with faces and the rooftops with their warm orange tones do not disappoint. It is a lovely place to spend a few hours wandering through the quiet winding streets full of pastel buildings and feel the charm of the old town.

Collioure has a rich history, probably because of its strategic location, where you can still see around the historic harbour the impressive fort and castle. The Spanish have had their fair share of occupation and the town has only been part of France since 1642.

Even during the quiet season, life goes on and the tapas scene is active. Rows of tables and chairs line the front, making it the perfect place to sit back, in the sweltering sun sipping a café crème, relax and watch the world go by.

With approximately thirty art galleries Collioure is known as the “City of Painters”. It’s no wonder that so many artists set up their easels to try and immortalized the small Catalan harbour. They all see themselves as a would-be Matisse or Picasso who took much of their inspiration from this area who can blame them in such beautiful surroundings.

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Scampi’s – Playa de las Americas, Tenerife

Having been brought up on the coast and being used to FRESH fish, which I loved, since leaving the NE of England I am not a great lover of fish and chip.  In the majority of cases I find the fish is often what we in Hartlepool called ‘overland’ so it had been travelling for a long time before reaching the plate.  The only other place I really enjoyed fish and chips was on a visit to Blackpool and that was literally a flying visit, drive down the illuminations, buy the fish supper and continue to pass through.  I wasn´t impressed with Blackpool and can´t see how people can compare it to Tenerife either with or without the sun.

So back to the fish and chips.  Friends suggested we had a meal at Scampi’s in Las Americas.  I have eaten there once a few years ago and from what I remember the food was OK but I was put off by the service, which was horrendous.  However, things change, people move on so I was happy even if a little apprehensive at giving Scampi’s another try.

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Jim and I were the first to arrive and the place was very busy, all the outside tables were taken except one small one and two that had been pushed together with reserved notices on them.  I asked the young man if these had been reserved for us and suggested names they may have been booked in.  He said he had no idea but suggested the waitress might know.  She told us ‘We don´t make reservations’ …. My immediate thought was well there are three reservation notices on tables so what the heck… Don´t say she was the person who hacked me off last time!

We sat down anyway. Above the serving counter, a television plays to itself, as the images flickered and danced their way across the small screen.  We did a bit of people watching and after a few minutes, our friends arrived.  They were greeted warmly and we were given the menus.  I asked if the fish really was cod as often it is advertised by rarely served.  After this was guaranteed we all ordered, three large cod with mushy peas, 1 haddock with mushy peas and two small cod – mine without peas (I was erring on the side of cautious because I hate mushy peas and I was still unsure about the fish).

The moment of truth arrived it all looked lovely, the aroma of sizzling batter that smothers the freshly caught cod made my nose tingle and my mouth opened slowly waiting for the first bite.  Wow, they were delicious, I ate more and more, in fact, I cleared my plate, which is totally out of character, but the taste transported me back to my youth – this was the beginning of an evening to remember.

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By now the crowd had thinned and the waitress that I thought at first was surly turned out to be quite nice, I suppose being rushed off your feet (she was no spring chicken) means at times you can be a bit sharp.  However when I was talking to her afterwards, like wot you do in the ladies, she was very pleasant and kindly give me a couple of tooth picks from behind the bar.  I asked the cook if he minded me taking a picture of the frying area that was spotless but there were not many fish left to photograph as it was now  almost closing time. Even the man having a quiet beer by the door, who I presume to be the owner, wished us an enjoyable evening.

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All in it was a nice experience, good service and delicious food – more so because it was far better than I had anticipated and I will certainly not be leaving it another three years before my next visit.

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Beer and Tapas in Los Abrigos

As festivals go, the Beer and Tapas Festival in Los Abrigos is tiny. Then again, the sleepy fishing village of Los Abrigos is also tiny. Tucked between the resort of Golf del Sur and the town of El Medano the only thing tourists seem to know about it is that it has some great fish restaurants.

Festivals South TenerifeHowever, for the past 5 years it has been successfully holding a beer festival that is now attracting around 1000 people.  It runs for 12 hours starting mid morning and a large number of restaurants and cafes join in by offering beer, wine, soft drinks and tapas for €1.  There are also some stands and kiosks around the picturesque fishing harbour and the Church Square cooking food and displaying crafts.  All this is set to live music which adds to the festive atmosphere.

It seems as if I have slipped into the habit of talking about something after the event. Obviously turning into an island native! If you missed it, you could try the Bavarian Week in Puerto de la Cruz which runs from 20th to 30th August and ends with the traditional ‘Oktoberfest’. Or just add the date to your diary for next year.

For weather & news updates around south Tenerife check Queenies Daily Snippets

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Pilgrimage and Fiestas in August

There are several fiestas around the island in August; the most important is probably the one I wrote about last year the Virgen de la Candelaria, when thousands of Canarios honour the Patron Saint of the Islands.  On the serious side, paths and roads on the island become a pilgrims trail as locals whose numbers are swelled by visitors make their way to the Basilica in Candelaria.  After the religious ceremonies, an amusing piece of theatre takes place on the beach when the town residents dressed in sheep skins re-enact the first meeting between the Guanches and the Black Madonna.  This takes place on 14th and 15th August.

Prior to this on 10th, there is the Pilgrimage of La Guancha or the Descent of the Beeches when hundreds of people honour the Virgin of La Esperanza

Between 13-17 August Alcala in the South West celebrates theVirgen de Candelaria  who is also their patron- the highpoint is  a spectacular firework display which will be at around midnight on 15th.  The whole of the day is a celebration, events will start around 1pm with a flotilla of boats, one of which will be carrying a statue of the Virgin will sail in a procession between Playa San Juan and Puerto de Santiago.

Held on August 16th the Pilgrimage of San Roque in Garachico has been declared a national tourist event. Thousands of people flock to the town and port to see not only the procession, which includes bands, carts and festively bedecked goats but also the local fishermen who take part in a sea-going procession in their boats along the coast. The origin of the Pilgrimage goes back to the early seventeenth century. Between 1601 and 1606, the island was hit by a terrible plague mainly focused in the Port of Garachico. When the disease sudden disappearance it was seen as a miraculous event and attributed to the intercession of San Roque. From that date, each August 16 all roads leading to Garachico.

The unusual “Corazones de Tejina” (the Hearts of Tejina) takes place on the Sunday following the feast of San Bartolomé (24th August).  I suspect that rather than stick with the 24th the people of Tejina will choose the following Sunday 31st to squeeze in an extra weeks partying before they officially honour their patron.  Enormous hearts made out of wood and metal and decorated with flowers, ribbons, fruit and local cakes called “Tortas” are at the centre of the celebrations, which is a curious blend of pagan and religious rituals and attracts visitors from all over the island.

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On 24th is the Pilgrimage of San Agustin in Arafo.  This relatively new event started in 1975 and became so popular that in 1983 it was declared a national event of tourist interest.  It commemorates a miracle that occurred in 1751, when the saint intervened to send a storm to clear the rubble from the Añavingo spring, which had been buried by a landslide.

Add to the above open air concerts,  music festivals on the beach, and if all that isn´t enough every other year there is Realexo, which is a way to learn, how people in Los Realejos lived in the past. Over 2 days more than 250 actors will guide visitors through the streets of the town re-enacting daily life and historical events that took place

If you can´t make any of the dates in August, don´t worry, Tenerife has a busy calendar of events and a plethora of exciting festivals taking place all year round but some of the best are in the summer so if you can join the locals in the serious business of partying.

For weather & news updates around south Tenerife check Queenies Daily Snippets

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The Last Post Ceremony – Ypres

This year is the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. It also marks not only the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the second front in Europe but the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.

It therefore seemed an appropriate time for Jim to take time out from his UK visit earlier this year and catch the ferry with our daughter Kate and granddaughter Tilly for a short trip to Belgium. The main purpose of their break was to visit Ypres, which will forever be associated with the Great War, its trail of destruction and its meaningless slaughter.

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Yet one hundred years later, the local people proudly carry out a simple and moving tribute under the imposing arches of the Menin Gate. Irrespective of whether there is a large crowd or just a solitary passerby just before 8 o’clock in the evening, the traffic is stopped and the noise from the cobbled streets around the Menin Gate ceases. A stillness descends over the memorial as buglers from the local fire brigade arrive.

The Last Post is played in memory of the soldiers who fell at Ypres. This is followed by a minute’s silence. The buglers play Reveille then march off and the ceremony is ended.

The ‘Last Post’ marks the end of the soldier’s day – what more fitting way to commemorate those 54,896 dead soldiers who were never found, have no known grave and whose names are inscribed at the Menin Gate than with a symbol that they have finished their duty and can rest in peace.

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They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

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I was not with the family on this visit but I have been to the ceremony before and found it extremely moving.  Although I hate war, I believe only by visiting and seeing for yourself where these battles took place can you recognise and possibly understand the depths of the sacrifices made and the heroism involved.

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On the road again – Le Boulou

On the way to our next overnight stop we made a short detour to Castelnou a small village southwest of Perpignan. It is another of the Beaux Village of France but in all honesty, while it was pretty there is nothing there but a castle and even the artisan shops were closed.  Whether that was because it had turned cold AGAIN or whether because it is close to the Spanish boarder and they take siestas until late afternoon I don´t know but after 15 minutes and a visit to the loo we set off for Le Boulou.

We had no idea what to expect from the town, as all we did was look at the map and say that would be a good resting place.  As it turned out it was a very friendly town.  Our hotel was in a one-way street but there was a car park directly opposite.  After a bit of confusion entering our car registration and not getting a ticket an old man approached us.  It is at times like this we are reminded how poor our French is.  We suddenly realised that he was telling us to ignore the machine it was not working had not worked for the past 12 months and despite the graphic signs, we would not be towed away.   When we spoke to the owner of our hotel, he also confirmed this was the case and we hadn´t just been taken as mugs by the village idiot.  Our room was incredibly cheap and although basic, it was clean, the bed comfortable and the water hot even if the loo and hand basin were behind a partial glass wall and the shower was next door.

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We strolled around town, admired the sculptures and the trompe l’oeil on several houses, then had dinner in the typical French restaurant next door to the hotel .

The following morning was Thursday and Thursday in Le Boulou means market day. This set up directly below our bedroom window, fortunately the setting up didn´t start until 9.00am we were wide awake and watching as the stallholders brought out their produce. As with most towns in France the weekly market is brimming with fresh local produce and bursting with colour. With so much lovely fruit and veg around, it made my stomach rumble just looking at it – how could we resist another picnic lunch. So laden with fresh cheese, olives, tomatoes and peaches for pudding we set of for the Côte Vermeille near the border with Spain.

 

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Things to do in Tenerife in August 2014

What to Expect

August is one of the hottest month in Tenerife, when temperatures sizzle and the only thing you want to do is laze by a beach and hope there is a cooling breeze.   At this time of year, the average temperature is 30°C for the south of the island with a few days hitting 40°C and night time temperatures don´t drop below 20°C but in the main average around 23°C.

In the north temperatures are generally a couple of degrees cooler so expect it to be on average 27°C or 28°C through the day with nights averaging around 18°C or 19°C. Chances of rain during your holiday are probably zilch!

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August Highlights

The 15th August is one of the most important dates on the island as it is the feast of the patron saint of the Canary Islands, Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria. The Virgin also known as Our Lady of Candelaria and La Morenita (Black Madonna has been prayed to for such things as epidemics, plagues, droughts and volcanic eruptions of Mount Teide). Pilgrims and tourists celebrate at this annual festival.

The Festival of San Roque in Garachico is celebrated on August 16 and thousands of visitors gather in the town to see the image of the saint escorted to his hermitage by carts, animals and musicians while the fishermen of Garachico conduct a maritime pilgrimage along the coast.

Apart from being the patron saint of Tenerife, the Virgen de Candelaria is the patron saint of Alcalá on the west coast and they have their own special celebrations every August. On 17th (the final day of the week long celebrations) there is a fireworks display. The show starts at around 10pm with a procession carrying the image of the Virgen to the harbour, followed by the fireworks at midnight.  Alcala has become known as the place to see fireworks in south Tenerife.

The people of Tejina, a district of La Laguna, have been honouring their patron, St Bartholomew’s on 24th August, for a hundred years.  This old tradition is a mixture of both old and new rituals where residents create giant hearts which are paraded through the town to intense but friendly rivalry between the districts of El Pico, Calle Arriba and Calle Abajo

Other Celebrations in August

3rd Pilgrimage of Hope in El Rosario.
3rd The Pilgrimage of Maretas in Arico
5th Day of La Virgen del Amparo in Icod
6th Patrons Party in La Matanza de Acentejo
10th Descent of The Beeches in La Guancha
17th Virgen de Candelaria in Alcala
21st San Joaquin in Fasnia
24th Pilgrimage of San Augustine in Arafo
24th San Bartolomé in Buenavista
28th to 29th Our Lady of Mercy in Fasnia
30th St. Augustine in Arafo
30th Our lady of good hope in El Tanque
31st San Roque in Vilaflor
31st Pilgrimage of San Isidro in Victoria Acentejo.

And last Sunday in August is the Fiesta for Santa Barbara in Icod – known as Baskets and Buns. The preparation of baskets has evolved over time these are decorated in the traditional manner with pulses and cereals, fruit and vegetables. The buns are made ​​with sugar figurines and decorated with multi-coloured ribbons. The procession travels from El Calvario to la Plaza de Santa Bárbara.

There are also dozens of outdoor concerts and of course these are FREE!!  So don´t miss the opportunity to party like a true Tinerfeños.

For weather & news updates around south Tenerife check Queenies Daily Snippets

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Chiringo Atlanticus – Los Cristianos, Tenerife

Jim and I recently met friends at the Chiringo Atlanticus for a long overdue get together and a spot of lunch. None of us had been before but liked the location.

1-1-capture1The restaurant is in a prime position at the port end of Las Vistas beach only a few minutes’ walk from the harbour car park of Los Cristianos. The terrace overlooks the beach so ideal for watching people soaking up the rays or enjoying the waves.  Looking in the opposite direction I could quite clearly see Chayofa, the village where I live in the mountains and from the rear terrace there is a view across to Palm Mar. We chose a table at the end of the terrace with nothing in sight except the wide, blue, Atlantic and the ferries heading to La Gomera.

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It is a busy restaurant that attracts many customers from the beach (if there is a drawback this is it as I don´t like eating sitting next to someone in minimum clothing and bare feet). However, it also attracts the likes of our group who want to enjoy a spectacular view with they while away a couple of hours over a few drinks and a spot of lunch.

Although the menu looks like one of those brightly coloured cheapo types that many places use to attract holidaymakers, don´t be misled. The prices are certainly reasonable, the quantities quite large, but the food is definitely better than the images on the menu suggest. The staff are friendly, service is quick and the food ranges from a snack to a delightful salad, a full meal or what I spotted drifting by a delicious looking paella – seafood is the speciality here and going by the size of the prawns on the guy’s plate who was sitting at the next table I am not surprised, they were HUGE!

Our lunch was fine – nothing spectacular but it was only a snack however my barraquito was first class as was the ice cream dessert. A light lunch, a couple of white wines, a couple of beers and a couple of waters at under €10 per person including tip…. The views alone were worth that.

I have heard that at weekends the restaurant features live music but you have to get there from 6.30 or you won’t get a table and although it is typically Spanish they manage to get people singing along and dancing.  Sounds like a visit at sunset could be worth making.

 

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Still Faffing in France

After leaving Carcassonne and the herd of tourists, the following day after breakfast, we went to Lagrasse a picturesque medieval fortified village in the ancient Cathar area. Lagrasse is one of the ‘Most Beautiful Villages of France’ (Plus Beaux Villages) and sits in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

We wound our way through the countryside until we hit town and parked up.  We walked up the hill to the bridge and gazed at the river as it sparkled in the sunshine (yes, the sun was shining and it was warm).  We crossed the footbridge to look in the Abbey, then back over the old bridge into town. We continued to tour the narrow streets and decided Lagrasse rightly deserved its Plus Beaux Villages title not just for the 14th century covered market, the 12th century bridge, many medieval houses and the 8th century Benedictine Abbey but for the small and interesting bits and pieces that are dotted around the cobblestone streets. Pretty water fountains, silly signs and lovely flowers wherever you look.

The village is now home to numerous potters and artists and many were working in the sunshine, sawing huge joists of wood while renovating their historical old houses but still keeping the ancient facades. We finally stopped at the Cafe de la Promenade; most of the cafés are on the wide and shady Bvd de la Promenade along with a few shops.  We were charged over €5 for two very sorry cups of coffee and felt ripped off by the grumpy owner who was laying tables for lunch.  Anyway, we decided a picnic was in store so went to the “Ronde Des Pains” Boulanger Patisserie. We bought two quiches and two gooey cakes for the same price as the coffee – now we knew we had been ripped off!   Across the street amidst the art galleries and medieval architecture were a group of young people sitting in the shade of a plane tree and enjoy a pleasant drink and making music. Wish we had found this little cafe earlier and stopped here to watch the world go by.  Anyway after a couple or three hours it was onward and upward towards another Beaux Village – Castelnou.

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