The Beautiful Tajinaste

I read on a Facebook page at the weekend that the Tajinaste are now in blossom on Teide. In fact, wherever you look on social media there are comments and pictures of these beautiful jaw-dropping towers of flowers. This is always the case, after the almond blossom earlier in the year, it is then the turn of the gigantic Tajinaste.

There are a number of species blooming in the Canary Islands, but only the red Tajinaste or Echium Wildpretii grow on Tenerife. Because of the subtropical climate, with long warm summers and moderately warm winters, the plant thrives on the island and blooms in late May or June. It is during this period of the year Teide Natural Park changes into a fantastic colourful landscape.

Blooms in Vilaflor

The flowers enjoy moisture which they get from the spring showers particularly at levels of 4,200-6,500 feet above sea level of the island.

While the plant stands at nearly seven feet tall, it’s tiny, salmon-coloured flowers are what make it truly magnificent.

The first year the plant develops a dense leaf rosette of hairy, oval flowers. In the second year, it produces a tall, thick flower spire with slightly ragged silver foliage with hundreds of pink to coral-red flowers. Each of the blooms has white anthers reaching out from the flower. These catch the light and along with the foliage, making the plant appear to be dipped in pixie dust.


Then after flowering unfortunately the plant dies but not until it has spread its seed abundantly.

The spear-shaped flower grows not only in the national park but also in La Fortaleza, Los Azulejos and Barranco de Ucanca areas. This is where honey bees thrive, where pollen and nectar are collected and honey that has a smell reminiscent of the Tajinaste is made.

Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey

There is doubt about the plants origins, however, it is believed that the Swiss botanist Hermann Wildpret who was responsible for the Jardín de Aclimatación de La Orotava (Jardín Botánico) gave it its name.

It is best to leave the flowers in the wide, picking them and planting in your own garden is equivalent to vandalism because the flowers once removed from their environment will immediately die. If that isn’t enough to prevent picking them, ignoring the regulations regarding conservation will receive severe fines from the Government.

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La Despensa Gastroteca – Los Cristianos

Before our holiday I was given a heads-up by Rita a facebook friend to La Despensa Gastroteca so on our return we gave it a try.

It is located below the San Marino Apartments in Los Cristianos which means on an evening, and especially at this time of year, parking is easy. There have been several restaurants located here, one of my favourites was Frydays Fish and Chips, sadly long gone. La Despensa Gastroteca is where Los Fuegos used to be (also gone and not much more than two years old 😦 ). Next door is L’Italiano Trattoria which turns out to be owned by the same people who have this new restaurant, so presumably, they know what to expect from this location.

The images we had seen of the food looked spectacular and the comments on the service were all good, so we were looking forward to adding somewhere new to our list of good eateries.

As it turned out we were welcomed offered a table in the covered area at the front which was fine as you can smoke there as opposed to sitting outside by the car park. We had not booked but apart from the four of us, there was only one other couple although it did fill up throughout the night although still no need for a reservation (unless lunchtimes are different).

After a slow start, we were given the menu and ordered our drinks which we thought would arrive quickly. After what seemed an age, we presumed we had been forgotten, a young man came to the table and told us which beers they had and asked for Andrew’s preference. He wandered off and our drinks eventually arrived. This was not the best start to the evening as there were more staff than customers and drinks only needed pouring from beer or cola bottles and 1 measure of vodka, so to wait almost 20 minutes for our first drink did not impress us.

We placed our orders with a waitress who at first seemed rather formal but as the evening wore on warmed to us and she gave good service. The menu is interesting and as well as plenty of meat and fish dishes there is a good selection of tapas as well as dishes that sound oriental.

Image from Restaurant’s Facebook page

We were given (yes free) tasters of Gazpacho that was flavoured with mango and pineapple. I was the only one who had it – the others took a sip and put it back on the plate. However, I enjoyed it if a little on the bland side.

Our starter of caramelised morcilla con foie pato (black pudding with duck paté) came as 4 pieces and was delicious, as were the 6 croquetas de Jamón Ibérico whose flavour bounced off the tongue. We also had a bowl of chips which I didn’t try but the others said they were really good.

 

For our mains, we shared two Woks of fillet steak and vegetables, another dish that hit the mark and was more than enough for four people. We also ordered the ribs although I didn’t try these I guess they were good as there was only one left to take home as a doggy treat.

Between all this enjoyable food we ordered more drinks and sadly witnessed something I’ve never seen before – Christine’s Vodka and Cola came already mixed. It could have been anything and when she placed her next drink order asking for it to be separate, it was clear to see she had far more than in the pre-mixed version.

On to puddings, I had a barraquito, the guys had Irish coffee, Jim had the apple tart which was flambéd at the table and it came with apple ice cream, I had a taste and it was one of the best ice creams I have ever tasted. Andrew had the red fruit cheesecake. Having seen photos of the elaborate and showy plates of food, I expected a little more finesse as his dessert was lost in a sea of plate apart from 5 dots of jus so slightly lacking in elegance although he said it tasted great.

So how would we as a group rate La Despensa?

On the downside, the ladies loo smelt of wee and the guys had toilet paper scattered across the floor. Some, not all, of the waiting staff appeared to be more interested in their phones than interacting with the customers so we felt more attention to detail was needed.

On the upside though, the location is good, the décor modern and contemporary which includes a couple of impressive display cabinets for wine and food. You can partially see the kitchen if you bend down and look between a gap in the back wall and the food we had was stunning and of a good price.

Overall, we may not RUSH back but we would certainly visit again, especially as they do a menu del dia which is under €12.00.

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Hoo Farm – Telford UK

I have said on numerous occasions the older I get the more I dislike zoos. It was different when my family were small, we enjoyed a day out be it London Zoo or even Sea World, but with age comes discovery and the more I learnt the more I avoided visiting places that keep animals captive particularly in my opinion for the wrong reasons – to make money. If others wish to visit that is their choice and I would never criticise them as I said I used to do the same.

Nevertheless, on our last visit to the UK we visited Hoo Farm a small family run sanctuary/zoo specifically because the owner who runs this Telford attraction warned visitors against expecting animals to “perform on cue”. In fact he had received a number of complaints about empty enclosures – despite only one actually being empty which just goes to show that the animals in their care do their own thing and if they want to stay inside on a chilly day they will and if they want to sunbathe, should the weather be nice, they will, it is all about what the animals want not the public.

So while staying with my daughter we decided to visit. It isn´t the cheapest of attractions, considering what you might or might not see but we opted for the family special which for five people irrespective of age is £45, this worked out the cheapest option saving us £7.75. If we had known we could have saved an extra fiver by booking online but that has to be completed 24 hours in advance. Still, as we found out during our visit, every penny was worth it as it all goes on taking care of the animals.

Upon arrival, we were banded and given the opportunity to explore. This involved seeing everything from a lambing shed and general farm animals, quite the thrill for people living in urban Telford. However, it was cool to see some parrots, lots of different owls including one called ‘Specsavers’ (especially as I had just been there to order new specs 🙂 ) a pair of kookaburras then on to the lemur enclosure, meerkats, foxes, and more exotic animals such as Capybara, wild cats and even the odd wallaby or two.

There is signage that points out individual animals hiding areas which are far enough from the public so the animals are not harassed and while 90% are viewable from a distance they take a bit of looking for. The zoo specifically provides hiding places because many of the animals are rescued and want to get away from people throughout the day. So despite some enclosures looking as though they are empty, they are not and the keepers refuse to compromise on the quality of care so these hiding places are 100% necessary.

Visitors are given a piece of paper with the day’s activities and those activities give people a chance to see animals that would usually be hidden away, such as feeding time with the otters who came out for their lunch while we were there.

It would be hard to say who the stars of the show are, all the animals looked contented. The funniest are probably the meerkats, all different sizes and ages. They were friendly and were more than happy to sit on your lap and snuggle into your coat. The only downside came as we were about to end our visit when the heavens opened and we had to run to the car but we were in the UK so not totally unexpected, it is afterall only May 🙂

I’ve attached some pictures I took during my experience to give you an idea of what is there should you want to visit and do click the link above for more information on the animals in Hoo’s care.

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Black Country Living Museum – Dudley

I guess that most of us have been asked the question at one time or another: “If you could go back in time, what period would you most like to visit?” I always say early 1900s, purely because I’d like to wear those big flowery picture hats and ostrich feather boas and be the lady of the manor, but knowing my luck and my strong opinions I would probably have ended up a suffragette. Although whether I would have been brave enough to endure a prison sentence is a different matter.

This inkling to step back in time is probably why I enjoy places like Beamish, Blist Hill and now a new one to add to my experience the Black Country Living Museum.

In my ignorance, I thought the Black Country was just another name for Birmingham and its suburbs but ‘The Black Country’ is very different (it even includes its own dialect and vocabulary). What’s slightly confusing is there doesn’t seem to be a definitive boundary. According to Wikipedia it includes about 20 towns, including West Bromwich, Wolverhampton and of course Dudley where the museum is located. And they are rightly proud of their heritage.

How did the Black Country get its name? It’s not the most romantic tale. It dates back to the 1830s when the region became the “first industrial landscape in the world”. While there were other industrial centres, the Black Country as an area was rich in coal and iron. A time when the air would have been black with smoke belching from thousands of forges, furnaces and foundries – hence the name and as one of the most intensely industrialised regions of the UK it played a vital role in the nation’s industrial history. A hint at its importance is the Black Country manufactured the cast-iron pillars and glass of the Crystal Palace built for the Great Exhibition of 1851, made the anchors of numerous ships, most famous being the Titanic “…and in 1829 supplied the United States with its first ever steam locomotive”.

Like all good things, it came to an end and in the 1960s manufacturing dwindled, the once bustling canals were deserted and railways closed. However, as I said earlier the people in the region are proud of their heritage and in the 1970s a site was secured for an open-air “living museum preserving skills with the buildings and the artefacts demonstrated by costumed demonstrators”. It opened in 1978 and now comprises 26 acres and features some 80,000 items in the collections including cars, buildings, books and photographs from the 1800s to the 1940s.

Once there, there is so, SO much to see it is easier to show with photos than words, but briefly, alongside costumed characters to chat to, there are original shops and houses to explore. If you’re brave enough (which I’m not – possibly the subject of another blog) you can go underground and visit the drift mine. There’s also a fairground with traditional attractions, St James’s School, where you can enjoy old fashioned lessons or perhaps get the cane if you misbehave. You can grab a snack in the Cradley Heath Workers’ Institute which was reconstructed brick by brick after being threatened with demolition in 2004. This fascinating building was a centre for educational meetings, social gatherings and trade union activities following a strike by the women of the area who fought for better wages and working conditions and due to the media donations for the cause poured in from all sections of society. Within a month 60% of employers had signed up to the scheme and within 10 weeks they all had. The women fought and won. If that isn’t enough, there’s a pub, cake shop, sweet shop and two very popular fish and chip shops (the queue at each was over an hour so we gave them a miss). If you get tired of walking you can catch one of the old buses.

There’s so much to see and do as you can probably tell by the number of photos. But the museum, as well as a nostalgic look at the past, doesn’t glamorise what life was like. It was hard and often dangerous making a living.

The museum has been used for filming dramas like Peaky Blinders and Arthur and George. It was the venue for six celebrities who stepped back in time to the graft of Victorian Britain as part of the TV series to show the lives led by working folk.

I would thoroughly recommend if you are in this part of the country to pay a visit I was enchanted from the word go as was my camera.

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The Club House – Palm Mar

We thought that this week we would return to our old local The Treehouse which none of us had been to for around three years. (It’s a long story, considering for the previous 6/7 odd years we had been regulars on a weekly basis). As Andrew was walking his dogs he met Tony the new owner and learnt that there would be no food served until things were spick and span so that put paid to our plans. As it happened Andrew saw the Club House in Palm Mar mentioned on Facebook and we thought we would give it a try, if we didn’t fancy it once there then we would cross over the road and return to the 360 Guanchinche which we knew to be excellent.

We parked up and walked to the restaurant and it was busy for a Thursday evening. It looks like a cafe or a sports bar as opposed to a restaurant if you follow my meaning and I really wasn’t sure whether it was our sort of place. I asked the young man who I think may have been the chef if they did evening meals or only snacks and burgers. He assured me they had a full menu so we sat down and the owner, who introduced herself as Polly, brought the menu together with a specials board. She was extremely pleasant, took our drinks order and explained what the specials were.

I ordered the Battered Frickles, frackles or maybe they were called freckles, whatever the name they were lightly battered dill that was then deep fried. The other three all said Yuk! But when they arrived with garlic mayo they were delicious and I was more than happy with my choice. Jim and Andrew had the vegetable soup. It was homemade, as could be seen by the vegetables, peas, carrots, sprouts and both said it was nice but a little bland and needed salt, but of course with Andrew’s heart he tries to avoid that as much as possible. Christine went for the pate which she thought was so good she would have been happy with just that all night. There was certainly plenty of it.

Our main courses consisted of two scampi, chips and salad very good, fish and chips with a choice of mushy or fresh peas and ribs with wedges. All were very tasty and well cooked. We went on to the puddings Chocolate fudge cake, a barraquito for me and Mr Predictable surprised us all by having rhubarb (not apple) crumble and custard. Again, all very good.

The staff were lovely we had lots of chat and laughter with them and an evening meal that I was initially a little dubious about turned out to be an excellent choice. There wasn’t a single thing we could fault, from the food, the service, the spotless and trendy loos to the bill when it came which was only €87 plus tip, the cheapest we have had for a while.

We then drove back to the village and called into the Treehouse. It was like returning home. Tony was so welcoming, we chatted about how he was planning to run it and in his words he didn’t think of it as his pub but a place for the locals and he was just the host. Friday night he had organised music but as we had an early start the next day we gave it a miss and are now looking forward to seeing how things have progressed when we get back after a few days in the UK.

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