Wednesday, December 31, 2008

12 ~ Happy New Year!

Tonight people the world over are celebrating the ending of 2008 and the beginning of 2009. Here in Canary Islands midnight arrives an hour later than it does in Madrid but we share the hour with London, England.

A charming Spanish custom at this time is eating the Uvas de la Suerte or twelve grapes of luck which must be eaten, one at a time, on each stroke of the clock at midnight. In Madrid's Puerta del Sol, or Gateway of the Sun, enormous crowds gather to drink champagne and partake of the Uvas de la Suerte while watching the clock strike midnight.

Here in Canarias the televised version of the Canary midnight celebration will be held in Adeje, in the south of Tenerife.

Next two photos: Midnight in Madrid and Feliz 2009 from Adeje, Tenerife, taken from TVE television. The fireworks as I caught them while watching from my garden:

midnight in Madrid
feliz 2009
Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

11 ~ Christmas in Canarias

grape press, Christmas
(click to enlarge)

A Christmas tree marks the festive season, as it stands beside an antique grape press at a garden centre in the north of Tenerife. Blue skies are prevalent on this December 24th and temperatures are mild, while northern countries have snow and winter conditions.

poinsettia, camels

I found two brass camels in a second hand shop in Canada one year so I have been using them as part of the holiday decor in my front hallway. However I'm still looking for a third, matching camel so they can represent the Three Kings, or the Three Wise Men, who will arrive here on January 5th.

Spanish children receive their gifts after the Kings, often mounted on camels and bearing gifts, arrive with a celebration parade through the towns.

The Three kings arriving in Madrid last year...
Images from TVE television:

camel, three kings

three kings, three wise men

The next day, January 6th, is a national holiday when children are seen playing in the streets with their new bicycles, dolls and electronic toys, brought by the Three Kings.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

10 ~ Today in the Garden

It's chilly in the north of Tenerife but the sun is trying to come out after many rainy days. In our garden, the inflorescence of the agave attenuata grows longer, the tip ever nearer to the ground. The base flowers are dying and turning brown while those further up the stem are opening, creating a two-toned effect as the still closed buds are bright green.
(click to enlarge photos)

agave attenuata
This is the time of the year when the flame vine from Brazil, Pyrostegia Ignea is most beautiful. It covers walls and hedges, here mingling with magenta bougainvillae and pale blue plumbago auriculata to form a colourful cover for a garage roof in an urban neighbourhood.

pyrostegia ignea and bougainvillae
This fast-growing vine, also known as Binonia is seen in subtropical regions during winter and spring seasons.

pyrostegia ignea closeup
As is customary here in December, the streets in the town are filled with shoppers and people on holiday. Some dress optimistically in summer clothes and sandals while others wear windbreakers and carry umbrellas. One can usually distinguish the local residents from the visitors however, as those who live here tend to feel the cold and dress for winter, while those who have come from colder regions find the Tenerife weather almost balmy.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

9 ~ Parrots in My Garden

It is not unusual to wake up in the morning to the sound of parrots chattering in the palm trees around our house, a undefinable noise not unlike that of small puppies learning to bark.

They have taken particular liking to a large Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria Heterophylla) in our neighbourhood, as well as a Jerusalem thorn (Parkinsonia Aculeata) in our garden, although it is not often they are seen there. The parrots are not native to these parts but are escapees from Loro Parque, a theme park on the outskirts of town which began as a reserve for the protection and procreation of parrots and tropical birds, and which now includes many other species of animals.

But the parrots seem to have taken up permanent residence in our area away from their former home. Here they are in photos I took in October 2004 when they didn't mind being the centre of attention as they perched in our Jerusalem thorn tree.
(Click to enlarge.)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

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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