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The Other Side of Tenerife
Nathan Davies

Tenerife has something of a reputation as a rather gaudy, lager soaked, paradise for the promiscuous, the carefree and the foolhardy. So, it is perhaps understandable that, when I heard that I would be spending my precious two weeks abroad there, I was slightly worried. When I learned that the first week would be spent on the outskirts of Playa de las Americas I outright panicked!

Playa, and its sister resort town of Los Cristianos are, quite simply, the main reasons for Tenerife's reputation today. They are sprawling abominations comprised of hideous sea front hotels and cramped streets, lined with a variety of bars, clubs, and other forms of adult entertainment. There is obviously a large market for this sort of thing, but I for one, was glad to learn that the Paradise Club, at which I was staying , was largely self contained (although I have a feeling that this was more a nod to the typical partygoers need to rest during the day than to truly distance its patrons from the beach-side 'attractions').

Considering where I was, I had expected quite basic accomodation, but on the whole the resort was well turned out. My apartment, for example, was clean and comfortable, and had a full kitchen , which was a bit of a surprise. There was also the cool heaven of air conditioning in the main rooms, but this was offset by the hell of Spanish cable TV (which, after struggling through half of the dubbed version of 2001: A Space Odyssey, was explantion enough as to why so many of the locals also spend their nights in bars). The thing that struck me the most about my apartment, however, was the pointless inclusion of a balcony, that offered neither view nor privacy.

The rest of the complex consisted mainly of a courtyard onto which all the tiers of apartments opened onto, the main feature of which was the swimming pool (which I used as much as possible before the inevitable build-up of fallen leaves, dead insects and discarded beer cans). There was also a bar and a restaurant/cafe, where I was rudely told by the waiter to stop trying to order in spanish. Despite this, however, by mid-week I was beginning to have difficulty faulting the Club (beyond its location, lack of consistent pool sanitation, and a number of other members of staff, who, for some reason or other decided they had a problem with me); then, as if by some horrible miracle, the poolside cabaret made a revival in the form of a drunken, dancing drag-act. My sense of disaproval happily renewed, I was once again counting the days until I was expected to make my arrival in the north of the island.

Upon leaving Playa de las Americas I was pleasantly surprised, and more than a little shocked, to discover that Tenerife's entire reputation rests on, at most, a ten by six mile stretch between Playa and Reina Sofia airport. The rest has somehow remained free of the taint that has claimed the southern tip, and in my mind should not be tarred with the same brush. So different and refreshing was the countryside, even during the terrible draught that the island was then suffering, that by the time I had reached Puerto de la Cruz my preconceptions about Tenerife had been shattered.

Puerto de la Cruz is the principal 'city' on the north coast, and is about as different from the southern resorts as you can get on such a small island. For a start, the streets are much cleaner and everything feels brighter and more welcoming. This is probably due to the greater use of whitewash and tiling in public areas, at least in the more wealthy districts, such as La Paz, where I would be staying for my second week.

Though I never thought that I would say it, I was actually glad to find that my apartment complex was in the town, however peripherally. There was so much to discover, so much to do, and it was all within walking distance; and after hiding out for a week I really felt the need to participate. Shopping was first on the agenda, and there is plenty to be done in Puerto de la Cruz, from chain stores to trinket shops. On most days there was even a market set up in the old quay, but as I was interested in acquiring some Spanish language fiction and there were no book stalls, it held little interest for me. It was, however, the place to find lace, pottery and leather goods.
For those with an interest in history, further along the seafront to the west, beyond the maritime park stands the Castillo de san Filipe, which appears to have been a coastal fort of some significance. According to the timetable outside it was apparently open to the public at various times throughout the week , but I never got to see the inside. There is also a naval and maritime museum in Puerto de la Cruz, but it is, rather ironically, further inland. Set even further from the sea are other attractions, such as the botanical gardens and the bull ring, which for me embodies the whole spirit of the north coast; it symbolises a piece of Spain that exists there that does not translate to the south of the island.

The one thing that, should you go, you will notice that Puerto de la Cruz does not have. A beach. However, this is not unusual as Tenerife is a volcanic island. What little sand there is, is black and coarse and does not lend itself to the popular idea of the beach holiday (if you ever see pictures of Tenerife where the sand is golden or white, I guarantee that it has been imported; there is even a stretch beach of in Los Cristianos called las playas artificiales). What this town has instead is an Olympic class swimming pool and the Lago Martinez; a large, landscaped, open air swimming pool that is open from about nine in the morning till dusk. Although it gets crowded when it's hot it is well worth a visit.

One thing that differs little no matter where you go in Tenerife, as in the Spanish mainland, is that it isn't until it gets dark that things really come alive. Puerto de la Cruz has too many bars, restaurants and cafes to count. It also has a casino for the more adventurous and at least three cinemas, which, I noted, often show English language films with Spanish subtitles. Although there is plenty to do at night in the town, I would still recommend that, if you are staying in one of the larger hotels or complexes, check the entertainments boards before you decide on going out. At the Club Casablanca where I was staying, for example, I discovered that between seven and nine pm, it was buy-one-get-one-free at the bar, and the dancing began at eight.

If you do decide to go out of an evening in Puerto de la Cruz then I would have to recommend that it be for food. I ate out three times in the week I was there, twice at the same place, and the meals were all good for the money spent. The trick is to eat where the locals do, and to find a place that you like. I also found that by ordering in Spanish (remember Playa de las Americas?) I got a free round of shots at the end of the meal. The only potential problem with eating out in Puerto is that many of the restaurants are very close to, some of them even in, a rather substantial 'red light district', in which I am told most of the night clubs can also be found. My advice is to decide in advance where you are going to eat, and familiarise yourself with the area. Always make sure that you know how to get back to your hotel and to never take more cash than you think you need, even if you plan on staying in town. I would also advise against using the local taxis unless you can speak the language.

Before I left Puerto de la Cruz I took a few trips up and down the coast, and even ventured inland towards Teide, the volcanic summit that Tenerife is formed around. Although I don't drive I found that it was, at times more than simply useful to have a car on a holiday like this. For a start, the whole of the island is at its longest and widest, less than fifty square miles, as the crow flies, so it is relatively easy to head off to explore on your own. With only one motorway, it's not that easy to get lost. Also, if you do go for a drive, I'd give good odds that you would find some sort of fiesta going on in one of the smaller towns or villages (we ran into two along the north coast), as they are mostly named after saints or other local notables of times gone by. If you do decide to hire a vehicle, do so before you arrive on the island and, if possible upgrade, as not all the roads are as good as the motorway; a two door Seat will have real difficulty if you're planning to visit 'las canas de Teide'.

My final memories of Tenerife, before returning to the airport, are of the mountains, or more specifically, the national park encompassing the sheltered plateau that surrounds the volcano itself. We had set out to return south along the mountain road for a change of scenery, but what a change! At about 2192 metres above sea level we entered a desert scrubland, that could almost have doubled for the Old West (in fact it did in a number of 'spaghetti westerns'); I half expected John Wayne or Clint Eastwood to ride past.

Considering our haste back to Reina Sofia there was no time to take the cable car from Mount Majue to Teide's summit, but we did pause briefly at the national park centre to see what all the fuss was about. I now regret not having gone sooner, so that I might have given more time to understanding the formation of such a mini-ecosystem, and of course, to scaling the volcano. There is just so much more to do and see in Tenerife than I ever could have imagined, and you can't do it all in two weeks.

How odd to end a holiday I did not want to begin by wanting to stay longer.

Flights: £134.00 per person.
For details of accomodation visit: http//
For details of car hire contact your local Avis operator.

Comments from the hotel complex operator March 2002
Dear Sir,
I was very interested to read the aforementioned article, in my capacity as resort director of the complex in question.
I was not aware that we had air-conditioned our units, nor that we had installed Spanish cable TV.
The very point of our resort is that all apartments have ample balconies, as all apartments have a sea view.
The pool is cleaned every day, and does not have leaves, dead insects nor beer cans in it at any time. Your writer may not have noticed the lifeguard, who is in permanent attendance and combines her lifesaving with general pool maintenance.
We do not have poolside "cabaret" at the resort either.
I wonder whether the cretinous Mr.Davies actually became so disorientated during his stay in Tenerife that he forgot which resort he was staying on. There is a "United Paradise" resort just up the road from us which better serves his article.
A copy of your article has been sent to our UK legal department for the necessary action.
Yours sincerely,
Max Connell

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