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If You’re Guilty, Please Don’t Raise Your Hand

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

On Saturday our friend Bob carried out what was a most unscientific study… but one which yielded results which are probably representative.

Whilst we booed and hissed at dastardly, unsporting behaviour and cheered as sweet revenge was delivered in the shape of two goals from Wayne Rooney, Bob counted the number of men who washed their hands after a visit to the toilets.

Okay it might sound like an odd thing to do, but if  you’re sitting at the bar in the Beehive Pub in Puerto de la Cruz you are also sitting in a direct line with the corridor leading to the loos and the sink directly outside the gents. It is almost impossible to not notice those guys who leave the loo and body swerve the sink.

So as we cheered our lads and jeered our old neighbours on the Mersey, Bob carried out his meticulous research. By half time he presented us with results that were positively shocking.

Eight out of the ten men who had visited the toilet during the first half clearly either had rabies or suffered from hydrophobia because they didn’t go near that sink. Eight out of Ten!
Basically that equates to a stonking (or should that be stinking?) 80% of men don’t wash their hands after a visit to the toilet.

“Some of these guys come back and paw their girlfriends afterwards,” Bob pointed out somewhat unnecessarily. We got the picture. There was a plague of pissy-handed blokes around us.

In a day and age when we all know how disease can be easily transmitted, this figure was a shock. I know it was only a mock survey, but who out there really believes that the figures would be much different anywhere else? A lot of blokes simply don’t wash their hands after a visit to the loo. Is it just Brits? I really don’t know. I’m sure it isn’t exclusive to Brit blokes. On the other hand recently I remarked to Andy about having to queue up to wash my hands at the toilets in our local shopping centre. I don’t remember ever having to queue to wash my hands in the UK.

Coincidentally, the same day I’d been reading hotel reviews from early 2011 in Los Gigantes when many people’s holidays had been affected by sickness and diarrhoea. Norvirus had swept through the resort. There has been much written about it and we’ll never know the truth for certain about what caused it but the virus appeared to only affect resort areas predominantly visited by British tourists.

I mention this because the first piece of advice on some health websites regarding the best way to prevent the spread of norovirus is:- ‘wash your hands carefully with soap and water, especially after using the toilet’.

You don’t need to be Benedict Cumberbatch to work this little mystery out.

Guys, wash your hands after visiting the loo… for all our sakes.

I Live In Spain, Where Do You Live?

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Here’s a question that had me reeling, aghast and plain amazed – Why would an English language magazine publish something that was a Spanish tradition?

December 28th is Dia de los Inocentes in Spain. It’s the equivalent of April Fool’s Day in Britain and the tradition is that the media publishes or broadcasts hoax stories.

One of the main Spanish TV channels had a whole night of screening pranks, one involved fooling a man into believing he was witnessing a murder.

For the last two years I’ve published a hoax story on Tenerife Magazine to commemorate the date…and for the past two years it’s caused a bit of a stir amongst some people who aren’t aware of the tradition (even though this time the piece was clearly tagged with Dia de los Inocentes).

A few savvy people clocked it was a Dia de los Inocentes story right away, leaving comments on Facebook, Twitter and on the article itself. And most others, once wise to Dia de los Inocentes, got the joke. But the comment about why would an English language magazine print a Dia de los Inocentes story that had me reeling wasn’t left on any of the magazine’s social media channels, it was left by an ex-pat resident on an English language forum.

I’m not a judgemental sort of person (what bollocks – I’m terribly judgemental) so if someone living on Tenerife doesn’t know about or isn’t interested in the island’s traditions then that’s up to them. Live and let live and all that jazz. But if someone living on Tenerife who doesn’t know about the traditions has the audacity to criticise me for following one then that’s a very different story.

The question was so utterly ridiculous that I’d have thought it was a hoax itself, except I knew it wasn’t.

Why would an English language magazine write about a Spanish tradition?

Why would we write about carnaval…or the flower carpets at Corpus Christi…or the goat bathing at midsummer? And why do we write about eating cabra and conejo? Because I don’t see the difference between any of those and observing Dia de los Inocentes.

Why would an English language magazine write about a Spanish tradition?

Why? Why? Because we happen to live in Tenerife, Spain and not Weston-super-Mare that’s why.

Christmas at Casa Montgomery

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

We are always, always late putting up our Christmas decorations. This year was no different except that this year we toddled off to Portugal shortly after Christmas Day to return on the night when the decs were due to come down again. So we didn’t really have a lot of time to enjoy them.

Instead of leaving them up in the house for 12 months and risking bad luck, I thought I’d post some pics on here, so I can enjoy the house dressed for Christmas for just a little bit longer.

Instead of a Christmas Tree we have a Sprayed Branch, Lights and Old CDs.

Our Only Tree.

By the Light of the Stars.

Bucks Fizz on Christmas Morn.

The Door Handle that Requires a Strong Wrist.

Symbols of Good Luck.

Stars and Discs.

On the Outside Looking In.

Hotel Las Águilas, Dispelling Myths in Puerto de la Cruz

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

It seems mighty bizarre to book into a hotel we can see from our bedroom window. But this week we checked into the Hotel Las Águilas, a hotel you really can’t miss in Puerto de la Cruz as it sits atop one of two volcanic cones left in the La Orotava Valley.

A week’s half board at the hotel is the latest prize in our Tenerife Magazine holiday competition and if we’re going to recommend a hotel then we stay in it first so we can give first hand experience of what it’s like. This first hand experience is important to us…no that’s wrong, it’s essential.

Andy and I have long felt that the Achilles heel in Puerto relating to tourism is the hotels in the town, many of whom are in need of being dragged into the 21st century. Historic is quaint and you might even get away with old fashioned charm, but many of Puerto’s hotels don’t tick these boxes. They’re simply dated. I recently read a sharp piece of copywriting which cleverly described a hotel’s décor as being authentic 1960s. Well some of Puerto’s hotels have authentic 1980s décor.

Not so the Hotel Las Aguilas. It bucks the trend by revealing an individualistic style that mixes pop art and ethnic designs with what is simply an aesthetically pleasing style. It’s vibrant and a breath of fresh air and showed us that not all of Puerto’s hotels are doing the timewarp again.

The other myth the Hotel Las Águilas helps dispel is the one that I’d almost come to believe myself. In winter only ‘mature’ Northern Europeans holiday in Puerto de la Cruz.

The other guests in the hotel ranged from couples in their 20s upwards, with the average age being around 40-ish. Not exactly fitting the picture that is often painted. Of course, with each passing year ‘mature’ takes on a different meaning for me.

I was going to say that maybe the ‘mature’ tag might be related to British visitors as the majority of the hotel’s guests were not English speaking (mainly Spanish, German and Scandinavian). But as the bar I watched Man Utd see off Fulham (to the obvious chagrin of the Man Utd hating bar manager) was packed with Brits a lot younger than me, it seems as though that doesn’t apply there either.

In Puerto, and no doubt other places on Tenerife, if you go to bars that are popular with more mature visitors then guess what you’re going to find? On the other hand, if you go to different bars you find a totally different scene.

I hadn’t realised the same applied to hotels until the Hotel Las Águilas opened my eyes.

Why I Won’t Watch English Language Movies in Spanish

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

The obvious answer is that Spanish dubbing is so bad that ripping out your ear drums with a butcher’s hook is kinder to those weird protrusions on the side of your head than subjecting them to The King’s Speech sounding more like Once Upon a Time in Meheeeco.

But that’s not the main reason.

There used to be two mainstream cinema complexes on Tenerife where you could catch the latest-ish movies in their original language; at La Villa in La Orotava and at Gran Sur in Costa Adeje. Each screened one V.O. (version original) a week. Sometimes the movie was good, sometimes it was bobbins.

The one in La Orotava didn’t last long; there’s just not a big enough audience for English language movies in the north of Tenerife.

The south of Tenerife is a different matter. In some municipalities up to 75% of the population are non-Canarios. Not all of these are English speaking, but there’s a massive percentage who are.

And yet every time I’ve been to the Gran Sur Cinema to watch V.O. There has been less than 10 other people in the cinema with me. Doesn’t matter how good the movie is, even the likes of Inception and The Adventures of Tintin didn’t bring in the English speaking crowds.

I just don’t get it. Andy and I think nothing of the 90 minute journey from Puerto de la Cruz to Costa Adeje if the movie warrants it. DVDs are wonderful, but you can’t beat watching BIG movies on the big screen. So, as most ex-pat residents on Tenerife live significantly closer to the cinema, why aren’t audiences bigger? It’s a mystery to me.

The apparent lack of support for the V.O has had me worried that it might be pulled (I say apparent because for all I know, the place is teeming on the days I’m not there).

Sure enough, for the last two weeks the V.O. movie has been absent from Gran Sur. They say that it might be back, but if they don’t re-introduce it I’ll be gutted.

I’ve been a massive fan of the movies since leafing through my mum’s Photoplays when I was knee high to a popcorn seller. I love movies and I especially get a thrill out of seeing them at the cinema.

And because I feel this way about films, I won’t watch dubbed ones.

You might think that as I live in Spain, I should watch movies in Spanish. I do…but only Spanish movies. I also watch French, Chinese, Brazilian, Swedish movies etc…all in their original language (with English subtitles of course).

Movies aren’t just about the visuals – without the performance of the actor, the movie is nothing. And that’s why dubbing is irritating in the extreme.

Dubbing lessens a movie (well maybe not one with Van Damme, Steven Seagal or Chuck Norris). You can’t tell whether a film is good or bad when you’re listening to some wooden performance from a professional dubber. Where’s the richness of voice? Where’s the emotion? Where’s the intonation or the subtlety in the performance? With dubbing you lose all of that…and subsequently you also lose the soul of the movie.

How can people who watch dubbed movies know how good an actor Leo DiCaprio or Brad Pitt is? The answer is that they can’t.

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold was on Spanish TV last week. I’d forgotten how delicious Richard Burton’s voice was. Imagine casting those rich vocals aside for some part-timer from Valencia with a voice that grates like nails down a board.

It would simply be a crime.

Why You Shouldn’t Holiday in Puerto de la Cruz

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

Puerto de la Cruz? Who the hell would want to take a holiday here? It’s cold all year – I have an igloo in my back garden; It never, ever stops raining – whereas folks in the south of Tenerife wear flip flops, I’ve got wellie boots. As for the people, what a weird language they speak and don’t get me started on the food; things with tentacles and all sorts of rubbish like that.

Honestly, trust me on this – I live there – stay away from Puerto de la Cruz.

After years of trying to convince people what it’s really like to live in or visit Puerto de la Cruz, I’ve decided to do a complete U-turn. There are a couple of reasons for this.

The first is more irritating than anything else. I can preach about Puerto de la Cruz until the cows come home, bed down for the night and start to dream of grassy meadows. But somebody visits the place on an excursion for 5 minutes and suddenly they know better – if they say it’s always cold, wet and cloudy, then it must be. What the hell do I know?

But the main reason is that, after witnessing an unusual situation involving pissed up young Brits making an ass of themselves a few weeks ago and then reading a couple of reviews on Tripadvisor this week, I really don’t want a certain type of Brit holidaymaker to believe that Puerto is warm and sunny all the year round – or for any part of the year. Simple as that.

Some people just aren’t suited to the north of Tenerife just as some people wouldn’t enjoy staying in the purpose built resorts in the south. The north is never going to ring their bells and these comments taken from a Tripadvisor review illustrate exactly why.

A seriously disappointed holidaymaker moaned about their hotel that -‘The staff at hotel were bad mannered,rude,hardly understood English language’ and even worse, the ‘entertainment that was on every night was Spanish and all the locals came in for a night out,nothing aimed at British people’.

Puerto itself fared little better as the reviewer continued their moan – ‘No British entertainment on in area either,just Spanish singers with Spanish locals sitting in all the seats’.

Their final piece of advice was ‘I would seriously urge anyone from the UK not to go to Puerto de la Cruz…as it will be the worst holiday you’l ever have.’

Absolutely…if the idea of being full of Spanish and having no Brit bars has you penning an ‘outraged’ letter to Puerto’s tourist board for not turning the place into Britain in the sun then please, please, please follow the reviewer’s advice.

It’s not just Puerto who has to suffer these Philistines. On the same day I read hotel reviews for La Gomera; an island ‘more discerning’ holidaymakers head for (or so some of them would like to have you believe) and came across a scathing review from a holidaymaker who, clearly having been seduced by a tour brochure description, had opted to stay in the hill town of Vallehermoso – which is a ‘real’ Gomeran town.

First they complained that their receptionist didn’t carry their bags (it’s a small rural hotel in the country, not a 4 star All Inclusive) then they bitched about breakfast (coming face to face with the continental variety was clearly a shock to the system). They commented that there were a few pubs but nothing special (PUBS? PUBS? Where did they think they were – the Lake District). But the most inconvenient aspect of the place was that families filled the local plaza at night, music was played and everyone had the nerve to have a noisy good time (obviously no-one had told them they would have to come into contact with any foreigners).

The best line of the review was their conclusion that ‘Vallehermoso is a total DUMP’ to be avoided at all costs.

Vallehermoso means beautiful valley in English – it is aptly named…but not if you’re a total moron. It has not, however, been built for tourists. It is the real deal. These plebs apparently couldn’t even find the hotel’s sun terrace they were that clueless.

Finally they were moved to the Hotel Tecina – ‘a lovely place’ where they decided that La Gomera was indeed beautiful…that would be the La Gomera found inside the biggest hotel complex on the island then.

So here’s a tip for everyone out there of similar mind to these two, Puerto de la Cruz and anywhere remotely Canario should definitely be avoided at all costs. You really won’t like it.

Living on Tenerife and Trying to Understand a Different Culture

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

Living on Tenerife involves a lot more than simply moving to a climate where you can sit back and soak up the sun…well unless you live in a bubble that keeps you well away from having any interaction with the real Tenerife.

In some ways, the British and the Canarios are similar and in some ways the culture couldn’t be more different, occasionally to the extent that it can make your head want to explode.

This week as Andy dropped off some Real Tenerife guides at the post office, I spent my time waiting for her at the car by, as usual, observing daily life in Puerto de la Cruz. This normally involves listening to the old guys at Bar Aqui Me Quedo sounding as though they’re arguing about everything under the golden globe, and enviously watching the slick moves of the pupils at the dance academy opposite where we park. But on this occasion there was the added bonus of a car crash right in front of me.
Actually it was more of a gentle bump, but what developed illustrated the gulf in cultural responses to certain situations.

The road where the bus station is now located is a slow one and accidents like running into the back of another car when you’re driving at 20 kph shouldn’t occur. Who knows what had grabbed the woman driver’s attention as she drove too close to the car in front, maybe it was the moves at the dance academy, but when the car in front stopped for people at pedestrian crossing, the woman behind didn’t and subsequently drove straight into the back of it.

It wasn’t a big bump, but it did result in a small dent on both cars. Both drivers were out of their cars pronto to inspect the damage and that’s when the cultural differences came to the fore.

The car in front wasn’t a Toyota but was a hire car and was occupied by two German visitors who looked at the bump on the fender and then reached for their documents. This didn’t go down well with the Spanish driver who didn’t feel that the damage was serious enough to warrant exchanging insurance details.

The Germans couldn’t speak Spanish but clearly understood the gist of what was going on. One of them pointed to the hire car label on their car. It was obvious to me that they were trying to communicate with the woman that as theirs was a hire car, they had to do this by the book. But she was having none of it and became more and more agitated, flinging her arms in the air and pointing out over and over again that the damage was minimal. Despite their requests she refused to give the Germans her insurance details.

Then, with an impasse looming, the German woman did something really smart. She took out her digital camera and snapped a photo of the ‘culprit’ driver’s number plate. When the Spanish driver asked what she was doing a ‘helpful’ local onlooker stepped into the fray.

Instead of pointing out that the Germans were in the right, he told the Spanish driver they were taking a photo of her number plate because ‘they were German and were trying to get money out of her.’

It was an interesting take on events and not a conclusion that I would have reached. This is what I mean about the occasional chasm between our cultures. In this case the Germans were judged to be in the wrong because they wanted to do things by the book which the culprit believed justified her annoyance at them.

She was the one who drove into them…yet she was the one who was angry. That is the sort of skewed logic that makes your head want to explode.

A few months ago Andy was sitting in the car when a local man we know reversed straight into her. Our car was in a car park and was stationary at the time which made it all the more bizarre. But the guy’s reaction was even more incredible.

Instead of apologising, he rushed across to the car, furious with Andy for, get this, ‘being parked there’. This type of thinking just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

Similarly, what did the driver do when the Germans took a photo of her number plate? She jumped into her car, reversed (nearly hitting another car in the process), pulled around the bemused Germans’ car and drove off,  leaving them and their car isolated in the middle of the road.

Thirty seconds later the police arrived. I was gutted as I really wanted to see how they would have dealt with the situation.

When I witness situations like this and the approach to what I’d consider are basic laws of the road, Pirates of the Caribbean always enters my head.

I have a sneaking suspicion some drivers on Tenerife have a similar view to the highway code (codigo de la circulación) as Captain Barbossa does to the Code of the Order of the Brethren – i.e. that ‘the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.’

Live webcams for El Hierro volcano eruption

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

The council of El Hierro have, alongside Telefonica, the main telecomms operator in Spain, installed two professional webcams to broadcast the volcano eruption on El Hierro in the Canary Islands to the world. The webcams are situated to the south of the island on the coast of La Restinga where the volcanic eruption has taken place underwater. You may view them from our pages here.


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