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Monday, 20 August 2012

Visit to the Coastal town of Garachico

Some evenings when I need some fresh air, I like to go for a drive to the picturesque town of Garachico.

As soon as I see the big rock in the middle of the sea and a long promenade along the seashore, I get ready for my niece to stop the engine and walk with me on the promenade..

Further down the path are the amazing natural pools carved out through the rocks (which resulted after the volcanic eruptions in 1706), making it a safe place to swim with tropical fishes.

There is even a mini children’s park where kids can play after the swim.

Garachico was once a port where ships anchored but this port was completely destroyed during the volcanic eruption. However the castle with the stone doorway of ‘San Miguel Castle’ still stands there at the end of the promenade. This is the finest building, a 16th century stronghold belonging to the Count of Gomera’ that survived a volcanic eruption in 1706 unscathed.

Further up, there is a natural beach with black sand and more rocks where people can swim and fish too.

Garachico is a beautiful quaint town with rustic houses. It is very Spanish in Character with narrow, cobbled streets with cars parked on the one side of the road. It is still arguably the least spoilt coastal area of Tenerife.

During festivals, the balconies are dressed with a certain theme, for example you will find them dressed up promoting products of the village

There is a plaza in the center of the town where people can enjoy the traditional cuisine with the glass of local wine or with the tiny cup of Cortado (strong coffee)

After a short drive I come back to Icod de Los Vinos, to sit at my brother's store at 'Teban S.L.'  at Calle Sabastian, also known as 'Bazar Hindu', My brother has lots of tourist visiting our store to buy souvenirs and electronic products to take back home. I love too talking English with the tourists, which is a welcome change from speaking Spanish all day with other local clients.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Visit to Basilica: ‘Our lady of Candelaria’

While Indians celebrate ‘The Independence day’ on 15th August, People in Tenerife celebrate ‘Dia de la Candelaria’

Thousands of pilgrims arrive on the eastern coast of Tenerife at Candelaria to visit the Basilica that houses the statue of Black Madonna. Many people spend the night on the roads on their route that leads them to this town to pay their tribute to their Patron Saint.

The festivals in the town of Candelaria are rich in religion and popular fervor, closely linked to five centuries of faith, belief and love for the Virgin.

Last time I couldn’t go to Candelaria, but instead went for a drive up to the mountains closer to my house and met up with the trekkers who were on their way to the church.

Many people trek through the steep beaten path of hills, trees and shrubs. There are signs-boards at regular intervals directing the proper route to follow. There is one meeting point on the route where different groups from different parts of the island meet. This point offers the most beautiful panoramic view of the island. It is the leisure place, they share their eats and drinks and let their hair down.

On 15th August there is a big celebration at the church. Since I hate crowded places, I decided to go few days before the real festival.

The road leading to church is a walking plaza. There are shops on either sides of the road selling souvenir articles, flowers, clothes; there are many small cafes, bars and patisseries that churn the hunger pangs and make me drool. 

All the houses overlooking the road have flags and pictures of their deity decorated on their balcony. The street is decorated with colorful streamers, flags, pictures of Virgin Mary and blinking lights. 

The road is neatly tiled, opening to a large open space that has a line-up of bronze statues (running parallel to the sea wall) of Guanche leaders, the original inhabitants of Tenerife overlooking the huge plaza. 

The square is dominated by the Basilica de ‘Nuestra Senora de Candelaria’, built to house the famous statue of the Virgin and this is the site that is popular annual pilgrimage.

Basilica de ‘Nuestra Senora de Candleria’ was built to house the famous statue of Black Madonna that appeared on the beach in 1312 and was found by two Guanches. The current statue inside the church is the replica of the original one that was swept away by tidal wave in 1826, after surviving a fire that ravaged the church.

Indians in Tenerife believe it to be the reincarnation of Goddess Devi and normally come to this church to offer their prayers during Navratas and during other Indian festivals.

Inside the church, it is very peaceful. During the festival, the statue is placed out on the altar for full view. It is the magnificent building with high walls and intricately designed ceiling, stained glass windows depicting the figurines, flowers and abstract designs. Every wall emotes a feeling of bliss. In the inner room, there is a smaller alter dominated by a huge painting of the last supper.

Devotees offer flowers, as they enter the church, placing them in the buckets of water, lined up against the wall, they then walk to the inner rooms, which is filled with electric candles, you insert a coins to light the candle. This is the new addition to the church because initially there used be hundreds of wax candles burning all day and the room used to be very dark because of the smoke. I inserted one Euro in the slot and three candles lit up.

After spending fifteen minutes inside the church, we are out in the square. There is a fountain outside the church, where people used to throw a coin in the small pond surrounding it and make a wish. Unfortunately, Tenerife is undergoing recession, probably saving on light and water, I think, hence most of the fountains in the city are dry and this one was too.

There was lot of activity at the plaza. A big stage was being organized in the center of the plaza for the big day. There will be folklore music and dance till late hours after the mass on the celebration day.

We walk behind the church, on the promenade along the stone wall. The angry waves make a roaring sounds as they approach the shore in groups with rising crest, and splash against the shore, sending the spray of showers, two meters up in the air. There were some very old houses behind the church and a big cave at the end of the path. 

We spend one hour walking along the shore, watching the angry crest and trough of waves, its splashing against the seawall and I squeal with joy whenever I feel the sprinklers against my face.

The beach on the other side of the path has black sand and is not safe for swimming in these rough waters, nevertheless, it does not stop tourists from braving the waves and enjoy few moments of swim.

The best part of the visit is to sit in those restaurants facing the seawall and enjoying the seafood which most of these restaurants specialize.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

In the City of Dolls and Bears

Driving around the North of Tenerife, I noticed this sign ‘ARTlandya Dolls Museum’. I got interested because I love dolls. I have this hobby of making handicraft stuff with dolls as my specialty. I have made all kinds of stuffed dolls, Manipuri dancers, Rajasthani brides and grooms, villagers, college girls, tea pickers, etc. I don’t have any dolls with me right now, because each time I made, it got adopted. Had I collected them, I would have more than 50 dolls with me but it was difficult to find place to store my artwork, I was only too happy to give them away to anyone who appreciated.

“Where is this dolls museum?” I asked my niece

“It is in Santa Barbara, a town famous for its’ wine”

“Oh! So close to Icod de los Vinos. I want to go” said I

We drove up the main street, off Calvario lane, through narrow streets, winding through farms and chalets, colorful buildings, a convex mirror at every turn guided us of the traffic at blind spots, we turned into a steep hill, to arrive at ARTlandya Dolls Museum.

The sweet fragrance of Bougainvillea and other flowering plants transported us to a different world.  This was a beautiful farm of 11,000 square meters, separated on different terraces with breath-taking view of Mount Teide on one side and the sea view below. The weather was cool, with sun hidden behind the clouds, giving a blazing glance at regular intervals. The fresh air passed from the mountain towards Atlantic sea, stopped by to touch us, leaving behind the cool sensation under our skin.

We were warmly greeted by George Taupe, who has worked hard, brick by brick, building this museum to house the collection of more than 400 dolls and stuff toys of different shapes and sizes. George guided us as we walked up the concrete steps to enter three inter-connecting rooms that had many teddy bears and stuffed dolls.

The dolls had expressive eyes that told a story, one doll also had a tear in her eyes and it looked so real.

The teddy bears had a cheeky looks with playful poses. Apparently, the teddy bears are named after Teddy Roosevelt, former U.S. president. The story goes that on a hunting expedition, he saved a baby bear and this was much publicized, so much so, that a toy company made a baby bear in his honor. This became such a craze that they named after Teddy, hence teddy bear.

The teddy bears and dolls seemed to live in perfect harmony, each complementing the other.

We walked out to the sloping path passing through cascading fruit trees, trailing flowered plants, waterfall and fish pond to reach to the other side, that opened into two-adjoining rooms. There were many more adorable dolls made of porcelain, wood, wax and other materials from various studios all over the world.

I have no idea if they spoke to each other when they were on their own, but while I was there, I saw them standing/sitting in an inert positions, as if frozen in mid-sentence. More fragile one sat in the cabinets, while the bold ones stood out in groups.

In one small corner of the museum, there was a workshop, where there were limbs, glass eyes, doll’s hair scattered on the table, waiting to be assembled, the doll’s unfinished faces stared at me, their expressions real, some threatening. There were acrylic paints, brushes of various sizes, molds and even an oven for the curious tourist who would like to see the demonstration.

A small souvenir shop with a small cafeteria dominates one terrace. I met Ingrid Taupe, who is behind this creativity and has an artistic eye for new recruits; She started her collection twenty years ago fired by her art studies. George and Ingrid Taupe have a similar museum in Carincia in south of Austria too and they have gradually transferred their collection to their new destination at Artlandya.

Over the hot cup of coffee and cup cakes, we cemented our friendship, sharing our common interest of art and food.

If you like nature and are looking for peace and serenity, sitting on those wooden chairs and sipping a hot cup of coffee after a tour around dolls museum, is the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Walking down the Promenade

The sun is still visible behind the thick light brown clouds; the cool air from the sea makes it a pleasant walk. Sun normally sets at 9:30pm, the big open space is full of people, out for fresh air. There are few shoppers too and there are many souvenir shops surrounding the plaza. On weekends there is a big crowd of tourists and locals, watching the street puppet show. Its 6:30pm summer time; I am walking down the street called Martinez in the town of Puerto de la Cruz.

On my right I see a tourist holding two parrots in her hand, the photographer speaks to the parrots giving them some instructions in Spanish The parrots obey and one stretches on her one arm, pretending to sleep, while the other parrot lifts its head giving a peck on her cheek. The photographer is satisfied on striking a deal.

The path is broad and clean, lined with palm trees. There used to be motorway many years ago but now it is renovated and converted into a walking plaza. This strip of promenade has no traffic at all, sea front on one side, with small inlet with stone seats and row of restaurants and other souvenir shops lined on the other side. 

There are some artists who will paint or do caricatures from a live model or just from photographs.

The fish tanks on my right distract me and I walk closer to have a look and I see some tourist having their fish pedicure done in one stall. There are many more such tanks and I am tempted too. But no, it’s my evening walk, some other day, perhaps.

As I walk further, I see a couple dancing. They are dancing on a live music. Many restaurants have spread their furniture outside in the open space where people can sip their coffee or enjoy the Canary Island meal, as well as enjoy the fresh sea air. I sit down and order coffee and enjoy the vocal music that the artist is singing, some old numbers of the eighties. I sit longer to hear some more of this music before I get up to continue my walk.

The end of the path opens to a large beach of black sand. It is actually an artificial beach with sand imported from another island. This is the best place to relax and watch the waves, and the people at the beach and the beautiful view the other side.

There used to be a large water fountain here which use to light up with colorful lights, but today, there is shortage of water, or electricity or recession perhaps.

I sit relaxed on large wooden seats, watching the sun as it sets slowly, coloring the sky to pink, then dark red and finally disappears behind the waves of the sea leaving behind the dark shade of blue..

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