Dia de La Cruz

The Day of the Cross or Dia de La Cruz is celebrated throughout Spain and is a very old religious ceremony with an interesting history.

Legend has that in the 4th century the Emperor Constantine and his army were due to fight the Huns and Constantine feared his small army was no match against the might of the opposition.  The evening before the battle it is said that he saw a vision in the sky of an angel and a shining cross and a message “In hoc signo vinces” which roughly translates to “With this sign you shall win”. The next day, Constantine ordered a cross to be made and he used it to lead his army into battle. As you would expect of such a story, the Romans emerged victorious.

Following the battle, the Emperor discovered the cross was a Christian symbol. He subsequently became baptised and was the first Christian Roman Emperor.  He not only built churches but sent his mother Helena to Jerusalem to find the original Cross of Christ. On arrival, Helena had to resort to torture, to find the hiding place of three crosses that were believed to be used at the crucifixion of Jesus.  In order to determine which cross she wanted, each was placed upon a dead body and miraculously the true cross brought one of the bodies back to life.  To celebrate her finding on her deathbed she asked Christians to celebrate its finding which was allegedly on 3rd May.

Constantine and Helena with the true Cross

The date was quite fortuitous because as well as the date she found the cross, it also coincided with the celebration of Flora the Roman goddess of flowers, and coincidentally in Tenerife the date the city of Santa Cruz was founded. On May 3rd, 1494, a ceremony was held on the beach, where Fernandez de Lugo, the military governor at the time, erected a wooden cross to establish Spanish ownership of the city.

So back to the current day, the 3rd May is an annual fiesta in Santa Cruz as there is a double reason to rejoice and the town is adorned with colourful, vibrant floral crosses, placed on churches, public buildings even private homes.

As part of “Adeje Living Traditions” on the 2nd May, crosses adorned with flowers and other organic materials are prepared by the various neighbourhoods and displayed the following day on buildings throughout the town.  However, the pièce de résistance has to be in the north of the island. The residents in Calle del Sol and Calle del Medio in Los Realejos hold a spectacular firework battle that lasts between 2 – 3 hours this has been held for almost three hundred years and is the largest fireworks show in the Canary Islands. No surprise then that visitors from all over the island flock to Los Realejos to watch the spectacular display.

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Romería de San Marcos – Tegueste

Celebrated toward the end of the month, the Romería de San Marcos is an event that is great fun for the whole family. Towns and villages all over the island hold their own romerías but the Pilgrimage of San Marcos in Tegueste is emerging as a traditional fiesta well worth experiencing.

The historical background of this particular romería comes from the old rural ways of life and customs of the people of Tegueste. In ancient times, spring was celebrated by asking the gods to bless livestock, pastures and crops.  After the Spanish conquest and settlement in Tegueste, Marina Hernandez de Vera founded the first Church of St. Mark who became the Patron Saint of the town.  From that time, each year around the end of April, the townsfolk would pay tribute to the patron saint beseeching his protection for their fields and animals.  This coincided with the ancient guanche celebrations and in the beginning, it was just in essence little more than a cattle fair but over time, the fiestas got more lavish.

 Fiesta de San Marcos (1)

In the 17th Century, the plague ravaged the islands and by some miracle, Tegueste remained free.  In thanks, the townspeople built wooden boats on wheels as an offering to the patron saint for once again not only protecting their livestock but also protecting them from the disease.  Boats seem a strange choice to make in a area that is nowhere near the sea but no doubt someone, somewhere knows why this symbol was chosen.

In time honoured way, every year on the feast of San Marcos the celebrations include these boats with billowing sails along with elaborately decorated wagons drawn by teams of oxen and cows. It is a truly original festival.

As on other occasions, there will be herds of goats and flocks of sheep and from 13.00 the carts and boats will travel through the streets of the town. Local people wearing traditional white clothing and colourful hats with ribbons and feathers will dance the Flower Dance to the traditional island drum ‘tajaraste’.  From the floats, they will hand out Canarian food to all comers. The party then moves to the square in front of the church where bands take to the stage and drinks are served well into the night.

Fiesta de San Marcos (2) Fiesta de San Marcos (3) Fiesta de San Marcos (4) Fiesta de San Marcos (5)

This year, the Pilgrimage of San Marcos will be held on 27th April and the poster features the two most important elements of the romeria, the old boats and the Dance of the Flowers.  The image dates back to around 1940. As you can see, the dancers are all men because women’s were not allowed to take part until the 1970s.

Many centuries have passed, but the festivities of the spring and the Pilgrimage of San Marcos, still reflect ancient beliefs, traditions and more importantly, the great joy of life. The only concession that has to be made today is to the height of the boat masts due to overhead power cables but otherwise for all lovers of tradition the village becomes the capital of folklore for another year.

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Di nuovo Italiano

For me the words Italy and food cannot be separated so when I knew that I was meeting Chris and Ann for lunch I decided I couldn´t go far wrong by choosing somewhere typically Italian.

Even in the tourist resort of Los Cristianos, you can eat reasonably well, but you generally need to look beyond the passing-trade tat to eat half-decently. In my opinion, the rule of thumb is the closer you are to the seafront the worse it is likely to be, either quality or monetary wise. Of course, there are a few places that break the rule but there are also a lot that rely on the constant change of tourists and a new source of clientèle.

So, we three ladies found ourselves strolling along the Mirador Strip on a sunny Wednesday lunchtime and we seized our chance to find out whether we too could see the stardust that had been enthused over in the reviews on Tripadvisor for the Restaurante Locanda Italiana.

Initial impressions were of a remarkably stylish and airy space. (Even the loos have style!) We sat on the outside patio and the blinds were pulled over us so we were sheltered from the blistering sun, however the downside to this is that I didn´t make any allowances when taking photos so every dish is bright red (the colour of the awning).  I am therefore, cheating a little bit and have taken an image from the internet and two from a previous post of mine so readers can get a better impression of what we were sampling.

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The menu is classic Italian, and we shared a large but simple focaccia with lean slices of prosciutto, and sliced tomatoes

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This we followed with Spaghetti and seafood, the mussels looked plump and tasty. Annie said her tagliatelle with salmon and prawns was delicious and mine with chicken and mushroom was excellent too.  (I will put an internet image or an old one of mine next to those taken under the awning so you get the idea).

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On the food front you can argue that the dishes we sampled were almost too satisfying, not just by the size of the portions but the flavours however like Italians I don´t normally do lunch as a main meal so ended up leaving some of mine, which grieved as it was superb. The coffee was impressive but only Chris could manage the cheesecake but only after waiting a long time between courses.

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Staff are friendly and helpful doing a pretty creditable job and they won’t throw you off the table if you’re enjoying a long meal, which we did for over 4 hours.

Based on our lunch, I think I can speak for all of us. It offered a good overall experience – what you love about Italy is here in this restaurant charm, warmth and friendliness of the Italians as well as their cuisine

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Easter in Tenerife

With the arrival of spring comes Easter, one of the most important and deep-rooted Tenerife celebrations.

Across the island, you will see expressions of faith and spirituality in the most authentic and emotive of festivities. Nowhere more so than in Adeje where on Good Friday the streets become the stage for religious fervour and devotion as the people of the town take an active role by re-enacting La Pasión de Cristo (the Passion of Christ).

Thousands of residents and tourists flock each year to see some 400 actors, all amateurs, provide special moments in an atmosphere unlike anything you have ever witnessed.  The residents and council rebuild the environment of the time by combining a market with food and animals such as goats, horses, sheep and camels together with various tableaux to represent events leading to Christ’s death.

Representation of the Passion of Jesus in Adeje.

The depiction of the crucifixion is the highlight of the performance and this usually takes place in Plaza España with Roque del Conde and the Barranco del Infierno as the backdrop. After the performance, a solemn funeral procession accompanied by crowds of people carry the image of Christ to the Iglesia de Santa Ursula Márti. The event has significant media coverage as it is broadcast live throughout the Canary Islands by Spanish Television.

Religious and cultural events these days are many and varied and staying in the south of the island, Guia de Isora offers a very different approach to the traditional celebration of Easter with the Pascua Florida.

2014 will be the sixth year where the residents create beautiful and moving floral montages inspired by scenes from the Passion.  These are place in the streets throughout the historic centre of town. The spectacular results are admired by thousands of residents and tourists where they provide colour to those taking part in the processions of Thursday and Good Friday. This type of display is not done anywhere else on the island, or in fact in any other part of Spain.

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Moving north, Easter in La Orotava takes place in the old part of the town with many religious celebrations, each with its own personality and closely related to the history of centuries old brotherhoods that date back to the 1500s and still survive today. It is at times like this that La Orotava’s artistic heritage and sculptures of great value and historical interest are paraded through the streets to be devoutly and respectfully admired by the crowds that line the processional routes.

Holy Week in La Orotava.© Paolo Tiengo – Aurorafoto sl

Easter in La Laguna is definitely a time for all believers in the Christian faith and the city is seen as the religious capital of the island.  The intensity and fervour of the Good Friday procession of silence has to be witnessed to be believed!  The cobbled streets in the old quarter are dimly lit by lanterns.  The only sound in the darkness is the noise of shackles dragging along the ground as barefoot and hooded brothers, slowly accompanying the effigy of the dead Christ.  Scary, impressive and spiritual, the highly moving atmosphere characterizes these special days of Easter on the island.

Holy Week in La Laguna© Paolo Tiengo – Aurorafoto sl

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More traditions in Adeje

Every year on the second Sunday of Easter (which is today) in Adeje, the traditional Rogation of Virgen de la Encarnación is commemorated. This is the time when the Adejeros fulfil the ancient promise they made over 300 years ago and walk from the church of St. Ursula in the town of Adeje to the Church of San Sebastian in La Caleta.

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From what I can gather, the origin of this particular event goes back to the early years of the conquest of Tenerife. Tradition says the original statue of the Virgin was found hidden in a bower in La Enramada.  The image was later transferred to Garachico but the people of Adeje adopted a new statue Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación that was worshiped firstly in a cave and then in a chapel constructed near the sea and which was dedicated to both the Virgin and San Sebastián the patron saint of Adeje.  The image resided here until sometime around 1580 when Pedro de Ponte decided to move the image of the Virgin from the Hermitage to the Church of St. Ursula to protect it from being stolen by invading pirates.  The villagers were not happy with the decision and pledged to bring the image back to its original home every year. The pilgrims also asked Our Lady if they made this annual pilgrimage to protect them from pests, diseases and famines.

Even today, from early Sunday morning, thousands of pilgrims gather at the Church of St. Ursula and at 9 am begin the pilgrimage to the Hermitage of San Sebastián.  There are several stops along the way as the procession makes its way through the streets of the town. The first stop is at the cemetery to remember the deceased and involves musical offerings, poetry and readings from the Bible. The procession continues and follows the traditional Way of the Virgin as the route crosses the motorway and continues over rough ground where traces of the original wagons are said to be still visible.

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The last stop is when both the images of La Encarnación and San Sebastián reach the entrance of the Shrine. It is for many, particularly the elderly pilgrims, rather emotional as this means that for yet another year the people of Adeje have kept their promise. This is followed by the celebration of the Eucharist and then like all Tenerife celebrations an informal party.

Adeje

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A Taste of Tenerife Throughout the Year.

I am often asked by visitors to recommend typically Canarian restaurants, which is difficult, as everyone likes different things.  Instead of recommending a specific place, I tell people about the Gastronomic Routes and Food Fairs that take place each year right across the island.  I usually publish these when I see them on my monthly ‘Things to Do’ blog, but it can be difficult, as often these aren’t advertised until the last minute.  Case in point, Turismo de Tenerife published an article on 8th saying that one of these routes would begin on 10th in Icod de los Vinos (I’ve got to admit it was this article that prompted me to write this blog.) This particular tapas ruta will be dedicated to rabbit a speciality and favourite of the area.  So unless you stumbled across this particular article by accident or know specifically where to look most people would be unaware of when and where these delicious tapas routes are taking place.

In all honesty true Canarian cuisine isn´t that exciting – it is tasty but not refined, basically what I would call home-style food, filling and using whatever is in season.  However, to taste island cooking at its best I would recommend people try these initiatives organised by the various councils to sample local food. The overall programme is called ‘Tenerife through Taste’ and celebrates the products by season.  It is also a great way for both tourists and residents to sample perhaps unusual island cuisine at a reasonable price.

I have listed the routes or activities that I know are taking place this year, although no doubt there will be plenty more that have not yet been advertised.

1 -30th April “A Taste of Traditions” held in different locations in Tegueste where you can sample not only tapas but also the outstanding wines of the area.   You can download the full programme as well as a list of participating establishments HERE

10th to 24th April (as mentioned above) it is worth a visit to Icod to sample some of the most popular rabbit dishes
12th and 13th April Canarian Food Fair – Near the Harbour, Los Cristianos You can not only try but also take home some of the best produce of the Canary Islands , spices, potatoes, sweets, wines, spirits and sauces.  The fair is open each day 10am and 8pm and you will see displays of crafts and folklore performances.

To 20th April Tapeando Isora is the offering made by Guía de Isora where you can sample tapas and a small beer for just €2.50

Later in the month 29th April to 19th May, Vilaflor will feature white potatoes in its menus.

17th May to 9th June, the municipality of Granadilla de Abona dedicate their route to oily fish such as tuna, sardines and mackerel. With lots of the area being on the coast this will be very popular with both holiday makers as well as residents.

To 17th July ‘Saborea La Laguna en miniatura’ (A Taste of La Laguna in Miniature’) every Thursday almost 100 establishments offer the public a miniature selection of the best dishes on the menu at an affordable price and accompanied by a drink.

12th July to 4th August Los Realejos gastronomic theme is potatoes a favourite vegetable of the island.

A little off topic but still relating to great food. Between 22 / 25 August is celebrated ‘Heaven & Earth Ocean’ sponsored by the Association of Entrepreneurs and Professionals Gastronomy, the aim is simply to bring together the great personalities of the world of gastronomy on the islands and in the rest of Spain at the Magma Art and Congress Centre, located in Las Americas

Now this is a bit confusing as Tourismo say that during September Santa Cruz features potato products like borralla and batata rajadilla (sweet potato) melon and bubango (courgette) yet the programme published earlier in the year has this listed as 18th November to 19th December, so who knows – is this a typo or a change of plan?

However we do know that from 1 – 29th September Adeje favours the flavours of cheese, honey and gofio as their speciality products.

1 – 25th October Puerto de la Cruz will be serving up fish and banana, hopefully not together.
4 – 27th October Guimaras sweet potato,
18th October – 1st November La Matanza de Acentejo will produce dishes featuring apples.
27th October to 17th November Guia de Isora almonds and honey

1 – 30th November La Matanza de Acentejo this time dedicated to the chestnut.
8th – 30th November Candelaria – Sweet potato
15th November – 15th December Arafo sweet potato and chestnut and although specific dates are not yet published I believe sometime in November Arico will feature honey

Last year more than 300 restaurants from different municipalities took part and we as residents and tourists were given the opportunity to sample 14 regional products.  So no matter where you are staying in Tenerife if you like your food check out the local Tourist Office to get details of your nearest Ruta de Tapas.

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Not much fun being a kid!

I recently received one of those emails that remind you of the things we used to do when we were kids and yet we still managed to survive.

You know the sort of thing, where your mum would use the same knife and board to cut chicken, chop eggs and then spread butter on bread, but we didn’t seem to get food poisoning. Or when we played in the woods and we got hurt where were the antibiotics – our mums would pull out the 2/6d bottle of iodine and more than likely we would get a slap on the backside for being careless.

Of course that was in the 1950s and I wasn´t a particularly sick child, on the occasions when I was kept home due to some contagious disease I remember spending the days propped up on the couch with a pillow and a stack of books (no TVs back then). At the time, I felt incredibly lucky and it was only later that I realise just how lucky.

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Today, we often associate death with old age but in Victorian times being a child was dangerous and deadly. Death was common and the younger the child, the more vulnerable they would be. Victorian children were susceptible to a wide range of diseases like diphtheria, scarlet fever, measles, whooping cough, polio, tetanus, and typhoid that we’ve eradicated or controlled in the 21st century.  In the Victorian era a lack of immunisations and awareness of the potential and often fatal dangers of childhood diseases was not understood. Standards of sanitation and hygiene were very poor. Lack of sterilisation lead to bouts of diarrhoea and dehydration and death could follow in as little as 48 hours. They were also at risk of dying from atrophy, a polite term for malnutrition.

/ Brightonleft Org.

The statistics show that approximately half of all living babies born, survived until their 1st birthday. After that only 2 out of 10 babies managed to reach their 2nd birthdays and thereafter about a third of the children died before the age of five.  Another factor as well as illness was down to living conditions which were dirty and difficult; children lived in the street and due to poverty would be made to go to work at a young age. It seems unbelievable that this could be as young as 4 or 5 years old and once at work the conditions were even more inhuman.

Victorian Children in Mill / Primary Homework

Whilst I do like reading about Victorian times, I am grateful I didn´t have to survive then, I would surely have ended up like one of my favourite Dickens characters Little Nell who died much to the dismay of the reader.

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

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Krishna II – Playa de las Americas

There are some people on Tripadviser that claim this restaurant is the best curry house in Tenerife so based on their other reviews which I had previously agreed with I had for a long time been promising myself a visit.  When our friend Kevin also claimed he had a superb meal there it was time to do something about it so 7 of us visited recently

It is located, next to the Sporting Jester.  We all met in there for 8.00pm and as it was so pleasant spent another hour chatting over drinks, after all despite the fact we hadn´t booked we could see Krishna was empty, so no mad rush.  The bar owner of Sporting Jester said he would also recommend the curries so I was sure we were onto a winner.

My first surprise was that at gone 9.00 we had the restaurant almost entirely to ourselves, especially after hearing about the amazing food.  However, judging by the warm welcome we received, point two on my measurement stick received an appropriate tick.

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Our drinks were ordered, the staff were more than polite they were friendly and chatty and didn´t assume we were tourists who would be here today and gone tomorrow but went out of their way to explain their menu with care.

The popadoms were placed on the table and fortunately we were advised which chutneys were hot.  Two of them totally blew your head off.  I don´t particularly do hot but I do like spicy so this warning was good even if the flavour of these hot dips was not to my taste.

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I ordered the vegetable samosa which when it arrived looked greasy. I bit in to the over thick pastry and the filling didn´t particularly taste of anything.  It wasn´t bad, just bland and tasteless, probably because it was all potato.  Jim and Ben had the Seekh kebab which they said were alright.  Usually these should be singing with fragrant spices but just ‘alright’ isn´t much of a recommendation in my book. Carol went for the prawns, as you can see these were on the greasy side although the one I tasted was nice and the batter crisp. Someone (can´t remember who think it may have been Jan) ordered the king prawns and these looked delicious but as there were only three I didn´t get to taste!

Main courses were good even if there wasn’t a lot of meat in the curries, they were well spiced.  I had the Chicken Malay while OH went for the Korma which is unusually as he normally has something a lot hotter.  We shared the pilau rice and a mushroom bhaji and Carol and I shared the Peshwari Naan, while Jim went for a stuffed paratha, which again you can see was greasy.  In fairness this may have been intentional and was probably ghee, but when the bread cooled it didn´t enhance the flavour.  We ended the evening with kulfi they had a choice of either mango or pistachio.

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The meal was filling and we asked to bring ours home as we enjoy a takeaway on a Friday night so this would solve the problem of nipping out for a curry later in the week.  Normally when we do this the flavours seem to intensify with keeping the food in the freezer, I often have to add a carton of yogurt especially if Jim has a Jalfrezi however this wasn´t necessary on this occasion as much of the flavour had disappeared by the time we got around to trying our second serving the following weekend.

So is it ‘the best Indian restaurant on the island’ No and for me it falls a long way short, on the negative side the curries were nice but lacked meat and the starters were on the poor side, however on the positive side the rice was tasty and well cooked, the breads were nice when hot and the mango kulfi was outstanding.  All in all a bit like the curates egg, it really depends on how much of a curry lover you are and what you are used to eating.

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Things to do in Tenerife in April 2014

What to Expect

The weather in April is similar to March although the evenings are getting warmer. During the day, the average temperature is a pleasant 22°C in the south of the island with highs of around 25°C and lows of 17°C. While in the north, the average is around 20°C with lows of 14°C.  By and large you can guarantee that most days, you can make the most of the fabulous weather by spending time at one of the many beaches in Tenerife.

/Página Oficial de Turismo de Costa Adeje, Tenerife Sur

April Highlights

Forget the chocolate egg version of Easter in Tenerife it is taken incredibly serious and is one of the most popular event. In the south of the island Adeje holds a world renowned event involving a huge procession as the locals re-enact the passion of Christ on Good Friday. The event is televised and never fails to evoke emotions for anyone who experiences it. The official start is mid-day but I recommend you get there early.

/ La Opinion

In the north, La Laguna takes a more sombre view and holds several religious parades.

/ La Opinion

Other Celebrations in April are:

Celebrated 27th April the Romería de San Marcos in Tegueste is a traditional event that offers great fun for the whole family.

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

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A day at the beach

After publishing a couple of Pat Cresswell’s short stories I thought I would like to attempt something similar, however I have a mental block when it comes to descriptive prose so that was the first hurdle. I decided if I stick to something I know I might have a chance so chose the beach, not because I spend time there – in fact these days I never go, but I was brought up overlooking Seaton Carew beach that must be one of the best in the north of England so this is what I visualised as I wrote. 

It’s early morning, the beach is quiet. As I stroll along I can feel the soft golden sand beneath my feet hitherto untouched as far as your eyes can see. I am comforted by the rhythmic sound of the waves lapping against the shore as they wash away the night’s debris.  Fishing boats hug the protective wall of the harbour and seagulls drift endlessly on currents of wind without a care in the world.

Soon the soothing atmosphere that encircles me is disturbed as beach shops open their doors and prepare for the day. They bring out their products and hope they will tempt excited customers to bustle in and out of their small seafront shops.

Families arrive. Young children put on their swimming costumes and are smothered with sun screen to protect them from the bright sun. With buckets and spades in hands they head straight for the shoreline, stumbling as their feet hit the ever shifting sand until they reach the ocean’s edge where finally damp sand is forced between their toes. The children spend hours playing and building in the moist sand and shout and giggle in excitement as their fortresses and castles are overtaken by the rippling waves.

Meanwhile, parents struggle with everything they will need for their day. Sandwiches, cold drinks, wind breakers, towels all bagged up and slung over shoulders as they stumble on like laden donkeys to find their spot.

As I sit in my chair I observe an elderly couple indulged in a good book. To my right excitement buzzes around the volleyball pitch as a teenager dives to make his shot and the sand cushions his landing. Beach goers spring into the waves head first momentarily stunned by the shock of the frigid water as it takes their breath away. However, they quickly recover as their bodies adjust rapidly to the temperature of the sea.

Now that I am relaxed, I allow myself to close my eyes and drift off for a peaceful nap. I dream of my youth, when groups of boys and girls visited the sand dunes on Sunday afternoons and played music on transistor radios. We called this area the Blue Lagoon despite the visions of the chemical and steel works on the horizon.   I am soon awoken as a gentle sea breeze rustles through your hair. I look into the cloudless blue sky and absorb the rays of the sun and taste the salt in the air and on my lips and listen to the soothing sounds of the ocean.

The day lingers on and the kids are dragged out of the water by their parents. Wrapped in their towels and lie on the glistening sand to dry off.  The children are tired but have enjoyed their beach experience and now wearily make their way back to their holiday guest houses.

Abandoned, nothing there apart from a few seagulls squawking and squabbling over scraps of food, left by the day trippers, their raucous cries loud and brash in the faltering light. Empty crisp wrappers, chocolate wrappers, ice cream papers and half eaten cones scatter the yellow sand. The beach is silent and it is now time for me to return home.

As it has been so many years since I have been to the NE of England I had to take the images of Seaton Carew from the internet I did ask the person who I thought was the owner but they weren’t hers she had Googled them too.  So if these are your images I am using, thank you they brought back great memories.

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