Location // Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
Length of stay // 1 week
Travel companions // Jorge
Purpose of trip // Meet Jorge’s friends and family
In the car, we talked about the sense of smell. How it recalls our memories often more intensely than images or words.
I don’t think I will ever forget the mingled scents of eucalyptus and pine trees that floated through the window as we drove up the winding road through a lush forrest toward the ominous El Teide – Tenerife’s beloved volcano.
Christmas. Mint. Honey. I can’t quite describe it, but I can remember it perfectly.
We stopped along the way to lean over the railings and look out at a sea of trees and clouds.
We were above the clouds.
We drove through them, my hand out the window catching the freezing cold mist until suddenly without warning, the sky was clear and the landscape changed entirely.
Near the top of the volcano, it is desert-like, brown and dry and hot, yet still beautiful.
Remnants of lava flow from a past explosion stood frozen in time and it was all simply majestic and otherworldly.
After a while it was time to drive back down cruising along the longest stretch of straight road on the island.
We soaked ourselves in clouds again and emerged below them as if we had once again flown in by plane.
It was on a Wednesday that we arrived. Our plane dipped down toward the outline of the island. Tenerife’s shape from the air was precisely as it looks on the map. I looked down at cubic homes made of colourful concrete, palm trees and a beautiful coastline. And the sun glowed orange and yellow as we landed.
The island has something of a gaudy reputation, a low cost package holiday destination popular for beer-fuelled British raucousness and a lively nightlife. But go with a local and escape the resorts and you’ll find an altogether different experience.
Every evening, a sea of clouds floated down through the valleys around the north of the island where Jorge is from – La Laguna. The weather was hotter than usual and everyone was talking about “la calima”, the dessert sand that flows over the island once a year for two weeks dusting up the view of the horizon. It happened to be those weeks, but I never knew it any other way, so it was still stunning to me. But the sky is normally a deep and vivid blue.
One early afternoon, Jorge and I drove to the top of the cliffs – Acantilados de Los Gigantes. And they were definitely named appropriately as The Giants, looming and mysterious. You can almost picture a pirate ship appearing between them.
There was a small, non-threatening boat hanging out on the grass nearby. No sign of real pirates though.
We leaned over the railings and looked down at the beautiful blue sea. My camera got a workout.
There were cacti poking up from the top of the cliffs.
In fact, they pop up all over the island.
And in many different shapes and sizes.
Sometimes they grow in clumps, other times on their own.
I was pleased to have spotted some street art on our wanders.
The pieces above and below were both in La Laguna.
Equally interesting to me were the crumbling buildings, the peeling paint, the colors of the houses.
We spent a few days down on the south coast in the middle of the trip so I could experience the other side. The south was the well known tourist haven, but we avoided the tourist scene as much as possible.
We walked barefoot on the beach, watched crabs scuttle over the rocks and sipped on gin and tonics while the sun went down over the sea.
The food on the island was lovely. Lots of fresh fruits and veggies. Watermelon that still makes my mouth water when I think of it. Potatoes with a wrinkled salty skin (papas arrugadas) dipped in mojo sauce (a Canarian specialty made from coriander or peppers), some dried yellow beans you squeeze out of their skin called altramuces, rabbit smothered in a delicious sauce called salmorejo, lots of barbecued meats, fried sardines, fish, octopus covered in smoky paprika and mussels. Plus, beautiful chocolatey desserts.
There was also some delicious ice cream. We headed up to the beautiful Mirador De La Garañona to enjoy a scoop in the sunshine, looking down at the black sand beaches.
We watched lizards dash in and out of the gardens, hiding under stones or basking in the hot sun.
We visited Jorge’s family vineyard. What a paradise.
I fell in love with that bit of land in about two seconds, the vines a sloping green sea flowing down the hillside, the stone house overlooking it all.
I could picture waking up with a cup of tea there every morning.
It wasn’t difficult to envision. You can even see El Teide in the distance.
The grapes hung heavy and there was, of course, lots of wine to be enjoyed.
We spent a week or so driving through small towns and villages exploring places like Garachico, Puerto de la Cruz, La Orotava and others.
We spent a bit of time in Santa Cruz, the capital, popping into small shops, drinking coffee (tea for me) and walking through the red blossom covered streets.
They come from the Flamboyant tree which definitely lives up to its name.
While we were there, we stopped by Plaza de los Patos which is full of about 20 cool benches that feature old advertisements made from ceramic tiles.
In the nearby Parque Garcia Sanabria (the biggest urban park on the island), we sought out some shade. We stopped to check out the floral clock, fountains and sculptures.
But for most of the trip, we adapted the islander mindset and simply relaxed!
I’m looking forward to returning at Christmas this year for another round of exploration.