Tuesday, December 9, 2008

7 ~ El Liceo de Taoro

In April of this year my friend Anne and I went up to the town of La Orotava to visit
a beautiful cultural building, the Liceo de Taoro, which is surrounded by terraced gardens and fountains and which has a lovely restaurant where neither Anne nor I had been before. To our disappointment, both the building and the restaurant were closed that day. So we walked around the formal gardens. We passed one beautiful example of dasylirion acrotrichum, a plant of the agave family which looks like one of those fibre optic lamps....sprays of fine green swordlike leaves tipped with a miniature flower on a thick snaking trunk.

There were several young gardeners there working so I started chatting with them and asked how they kept their roses and hydrangea so healthy and the leaves so beautifully clean. One reason I know is that the garden is at a higher level than where we live, and the plants thrive in the cooler air. So I was told they use a wettable sulphur on the leaves to discourage both pests and fungus on roses and an NPK fertilizer of 20-10-10. The double quantity of nitrogen explains the dark green of the leaves. One of the young men climbed like a monkey to the top of an iron gate to clean a flower pot poised at the top. His friend suggested I take a photo of him, which I did.

After we had looked around, Anne and I walked down the narrow street to a restaurant where we had been before. Upstairs was a typical Canary wooden balcony, decorated with a dry palm leaf left from Palm Sunday. It's a Spanish custom to attach the palm leaf to one's balcony in this way. There were also pots of orchids on the balcony. But first we looked in shop windows across the street at the display of white First Communion clothes on display. I believe it's customary for young Spanish Catholic children to have their First Communion in the month of May. The children will be dressed in their finest clothing, the boys often in white sailor suits, the girls in long white dresses. Here in the shop window there are silk short pants, satin blouses, white shoes and accessories on display.

Anne crossed the street to the old bakery and restaurant where I used to buy crispy hazlenut meringue cakes. The owner opened the door for her and as we entered we looked around at the 90 year old display cases and then passed through a narrow door to a dim hallway which opened out to a small dining room. But we wanted to have our lunch on the outdoor patio so we passed through the unusual walkway, lined with glass cases full of cakes, past the kitchen and a group of pastry chefs and cooks dressed all in their white gear. We came outside to the patio where the bananas were still growing and passed the handwashing basin, conveniently placed out in the open on the wall of the dining room. There were small groups of other diners there even though it was past 3pm.

We both ordered their 3-course set menu of the day which included bread, wine and water and cost barely over 10 Euros each. There was a choice of the soup, so Anne chose watercress potage and I took a butternut cream. The main entree was thin slices of roastbeef in gravy with chips, salad and a few vegetables followed by an apple strudel with whipped cream. It was all simple food and good value for money. The location was as charming as I remember it from the last time I was here, which was a few years ago.

Before leaving we spoke to one of the pastry chefs about the crunchy hazlenut meringue cake that I used to buy and she said, apart from that it was also her favourite cake, that they still make it and also in smaller individual cakes, called "tambores" or drums. So as we left the dining area we paused to speak to the young man in attendance in the front bakery and he said that he had some.

So I bought two to take home and Anne bought one for herself. I was surprised to see that the bakery shelves were also well stocked with liquor bottles! There were a couple of tables and chairs there so I imagine the locals must stop in here for a coffee, cake and brandy after a meal.

So we walked back through the narrow cobblestones streets, through the lovely Plaza de la Constitución, the bandstand and more gardens before making our way back to the car.
That was a nice day.
I hope we can do it again soon and do the tour of the Liceo as well on a day when it is open.

View over La Orotava

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