16.08.20 — Travel

Escaping to Tenerife

As I revealed at the end of one of my last blog posts, I kicked off my summer holidays by returning to Tenerife! After having an absolutely fabulous time when I last visited my friends Cami and Sam last year, and after deciding to stay in Spain this year with all the coronavirus chaos, I booked my flight and to the island in earnest.

Once again I was to spend my time staying with Cami, Sam, and Cami’s family, which I was very much looking forward to after they were the most gracious of hosts last year. The odd thing this year would be the whole experience of travelling under new coronavirus restrictions and safety measures, as this two-hour flight represented the first time I have travelled in any real capacity since Madrid was plunged into lockdown back in March.

The trip began as my holidays usually do, with a frantic last-minute check that my flat was secure, my plants were watered, and my electronics were turned off. I then headed up to the airport on a practically empty train, arriving at T4 with time to spare in case of social distancing related holdups. Apart from an abundance of hand gel stations and social distancing markers – all of which I feel we are now accustomed to – the airport experience was quite normal. I filtered through security as usual, headed towards my gate, and began to look for a bite to eat for lunch before my 3pm flight.

This is where I managed to royally cock everything up. I had noticed that the usual offer of shops and restaurants was all but shuttered, and so had headed out towards my gate in the hope of finding a little sandwich stall to bag myself a meal deal. This, it turned out, involved catching an underground shuttle train, as T4 is split into a main building and a “satellite terminal”, which is a fancy name for a smaller building with even more gates surrounding it.

Well, upon arrival in this “satellite terminal” it soon became clear that no such eating establishments were to be found. Not to worry, I thought, as I had plenty of time to spare before boarding began, I would simply return to the main terminal and carry out a more comprehensive search there: I was sure I could at least find a McDonalds. I thus hopped back on the shuttle in the opposite direction and arrived at the other end only to be immediately stopped by security.

The two security guards in question began to ask where I’d flown in from, whereupon I explained that I’d just come back to the main terminal from the other building in order to search for some lunch. They were very understanding, but told me that I’d have to go through the security checkpoint which is otherwise only used for connecting flights in order to return to my gate. This I did, only to be spat out of the other side of the security control and straight into the jaws of another couple of security guards.

These two also asked where I’d flown in from, and so I explained that I hadn’t come from anywhere, that I’d come from here, from Madrid, and that I’d yet to set foot on a plane. This was received with some suspicious looks and a thermometer aimed at my forehead, and one of the guards persistently asking if I’d come from Marrakesh. I rattled off the story of how I’d ended up stuck in the connecting flights area of the airport just because I wanted a bloody sandwich, and I was eventually let back through to the shuttle, where I resolved never to make a u-turn in an airport ever again.

I was stuck in the wrong part of the airport just because I really wanted a bloody sandwich.

There’s a happy end to this story, as I eventually found a kiosk, grabbed myself a sandwich, and made it to the gate in time to get confused by the boarding procedure, which is now undertaken in rows of five in order to maintain some level of social distancing. The tinny sound of the airport PA meant that I was left as one of the scragglers at the end who had no idea what was going on, but I had no trouble eventually finding my seat (at the very back) and settling down for two hours of trying to sleep in a stiff airplane seat with a mask bound to my face.

At the risk of making this whole blog post about my misadventures in airports, I shall skip to the bit where I arrive in Tenerife, leave the airport building to get some sun, am immediately greeted by an unbearably cold breeze, and then try to head back into the airport only to be told that I couldn’t enter as I didn’t have a boarding pass to fly.

I was soon saved from my this blustery debacle by Cami and Sam, who arrived in their car for a hug-filled greeting and the half-hour trip down to the south of the island where they live. After setting me up in a spare room of Cami’s parents’ house (complete with en suite and balcony, I may add), the three of us headed out to pick up some snacks from the British shop and then for a delicious street-market tea, which involved a mix Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish dishes.

The next day I woke up to the news that Cami’s parents were to prepare a barbecue, which I was very excited for after my delicious experience last time. Before that, however, Cami’s parents took me down to a car boot sale just down the road whilst Cami and Sam were busy with their two dogs, Luke and Nas.

If what you were seeking wasn’t in this car boot sale, it simply didn’t exist.

A selection of goods on the floor of a car boot sale.

After a snoop around the endless stalls of odds and ends, we returned home and began to prepare four our barbecue lunch. Once again I had brought my film camera, and so I took plenty of photos on that which I’ll have to wait to see in a few weeks time, but I was way too busy enjoying the delicious meats and fresh salads with homemade sauces to even stop and take a photo of any of the food!

A table is set and a BBQ is lit.

Once we were full to burst with delicious food and Chilean wine, we sat out the mid-afternoon heat indoors, before regrouping to head down to a beach next to La Montaña Roja (The Red Mountain), an interesting rock formation whose name comes from its red tint. We had a paddle in the sea before walking along the sand to dry off, but we were lured back into the water by some of the biggest waves I think I’ve ever swam in!

The red mountain in Tenerife, a rock formation.

The red mountain wasn’t a mountain or even that red really.

One particular wave left me with a mouthful of seawater and my sunglasses floating in the surf, and so I took that as a sign that I should probably make for dry ground, and we ended our day of explorations with a few drinks and a game of Scrabble at Cami and Sam’s house – we were all still too full for tea!

A lifeguard's car and flags on a beach with fog in the background.

The next day’s plans involved a trip down to some natural pools, plans which were nearly dashed by the high waves from the day before meaning that the pools we were planning on going to had been closed for safety reasons. Luckily Cami devised an alternate plan on the spot, and we eventually rocked up at another natural pool a little further down the coast.

A white wall, with leafy plants behind and mountains in the background.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I was told that we’d be visiting some natural pools, but we ended up at the base of a cliff where the constant sloshing of the waves had filled a basin with fresh seawater. We left our bags on the rocks and dipped down into the pool, relaxing in it’s tranquil waters for a while before venturing over to the wall where the waves collided. Here we could sit peacefully for a few minutes before the odd well-timed wave would hit in just the right way as to send a rush of water upwards and crashing into the pool, thoroughly drenching us and occasionally throwing us from the wall and into the pool.

A natural pool blends into the sea in Tenerife.

The black volcanic rocks of Tenerife make for a lovely contrast with the blue sea.

The sea breaks over black volcanic rocks in Tenerife.

Once we’d tired of our frolicking at the pool and I’d managed to burn my shoulders in the sun (something I’d find out later on), we headed to a pizzeria where Cami and Sam insisted that I try a pizza which had slices of potato on it. I was dubious, but after trying the potato, sausage, mozzarella, and rosemary pizza, I can confidently say that it’s an absolute winner! I am sat here in Madrid writing this now, and as I think about that pizza, I’m starting to get rather hungry…

Anyway, by this point it was getting somewhat late, and so we opted for another relaxing evening at Sam and Cami’s place, where Cami whipped up some delicious homemade chicken nuggets and the three of us called Kevin in the US. It was Kevin who introduced me to Cami and Sam when the three of them all lived in Asturias, and we had an absolute riotous time in FaceTime, reminiscing about old times and laughing at Kevin for buying a garden tool cupboard thinking it was a wardrobe.

The next day took the three of us, along with Cami’s mum Nati and a family friend, up to the north of the island. We visited one of the older towns with more traditional architecture, La Orotava, where I naturally spent the time snapping away taking photos of everything!

A pink house in front of a manicured garden.
Two old wooden windows on a yellow plaster wall.
The spire of a church behind an old townhouse.
The sea and clouds between two old houses with wooden balconies.
Black and white photo of a house on wooden supports with the sea in the background.
Multiple layers of old houses with a church spire in the background, Tenerife.
A plant pot with red flowers in the foreground, with houses, the sea and sky in the background.

Once we’d tired of wandering the many steep streets, we went to a rather special place for lunch. In Tenerife, they have a culture of independent restaurants called guachinches (which sounds like “gwah-chin-chez”, a bit of a mouthful) which are special as they usually begin with someone selling homemade wine and food out of their living room. If the food and wine are any good, and word spreads about the place, they begin to expand, installing tables and chairs in garages, gardens, basements, and basically anywhere else that they will fit!

The guachinche that we went to was unassuming from the outside, but once we were shown to our table around the back, the scale of the place became evident. There were tables abound, tucked in shipping containers and under lean-to structures and even in an opened-out basement, and all of them were full of people enjoying their lunch. I left Cami and family to decide what to order, and soon found myself tucking into sharing plates of garlic mushrooms, fried octopus, grilled pork, and the most delicious meringue-topped dessert!

Once again I was too absorbed in conversation and the food to take photos, but the camera did come out again when we headed to the second city for the day, La Laguna. Here we wandered up and down the picturesque streets of the historic centre, stopping eventually for a cool drink and to recover from a long day on our feet.

A blue house next to a white church.
A plant grows out of the crack in a yellow plaster wall.
Palm trees seen from below against a blue sky.
Brightly coloured facades line the street of La Laguna, Tenerife.

After heading back home and recovering from our adventures, we decided to have tea at a local burger joint, where I was served a towering monster of a burger along with a mountain of chips – and all this after a huge lunch at the guachinche! I somehow managed to finish the thing, and we then headed back to bed before my last full day on the island. How time flies!

Our last day was spent rather lazily, as we met up for breakfast at Cami and Sam’s place, before heading down to a pool that they have access to in an apartment complex near their house. We would have gone to the pool that’s part of their complex, but they insisted that this one was much more tranquil, and they were right. For the majority of the afternoon we were just sharing the pool with another couple, who didn’t seem interested in actually bathing, and so it felt like we had the place to ourselves!

A swimming pool with apartments in the background.

After a good splash about, we headed back up to Cami and Sam’s place, where we had a bite to eat. I also spent a couple of hours a carrot cake for Cami’s parents as a thank-you gift, after which we equipped ourselves for an evening’s walk up the “red mountain” (La Montaña Roja) from our trip to the beach a few days prior.

The view over colourful facades and a tower, with an evening sky in the background.

Sam parked the car near the base of the “mountain” (it really is too small to be considered a mountain, let’s be honest), and we began our walk with Luke and Nas, their two dogs. Once the climb began to get steep and I began to get tired (quarantine has done me no favours with regards to my fitness levels), Sam told me to grab hold of Nas, the bigger of the two dogs, who was actually strong enough to half haul me up the hill!

The Montaña Roja (red mountain) in Tenerife.
Cami and Sam walk towards the Montaña Rusa in Tenerife.

As we scaled the large rock formation the sun began to set, and the hills and volcano in the background turned into a dark silhouette. At the halfway point we stopped to recover, taking in the views and watching a plane take off from Tenerife Sur airport, which lies just next to the rock.

A panorama of Tenerife in the dark as seen from the top of the Montaña Roja.

When we’d caught our breath we made the last push to the peak of the “mountain”, where we discovered a mysterious cage covered in red lights which seemed to contain nothing more than a solar panel to power said red lights. I would have thought it was some kind of lighthouse or wayfinding device for ships, but the lights were way too dim to have much of an impact, and so we just made the most of the interesting lighting and unique location to take some photos.

Cami is illuminated in red atop the red mountain in Tenerife.

The red light is flattering on me because it hides a lot of the grim detail.

A selfie taken with Tenerife by night in the background. I am illuminated in red.

Of course I couldn’t miss the opportunity to climb to the highest point of this rock, and so I left my camera with Cami and Sam as I climbed atop the concrete base of a metal pole which marked the absolute peak. Clinging on for dear life in the wind, I was awestruck by the 360° views over the sea and the island, and the uneasy feeling of absolute and complete exposure to the elements in the dark.

I stand atop the peak of the red mountain in Tenerife.

After taking my last pictures of the trip from atop the red mountain, the three of us descended back to sea level, nearly falling flat on our arses with the loose gravel of the decline and getting half lost in the dark as we did so. We made it back home in one piece, however, and settled down with one last evening of beers before my last day.

Said last day didn’t really consist of all that much, as I crawled out of bed relatively late, meaning I had time to do very little besides pack my bag, grab some breakfast, and say goodbye and thank you to Cami’s parents who had once again been the most fantastic hosts. I then headed down to Cami and Sam’s place, where I said goodbye to their dogs and jumped in their car to head to the airport.

On the way we had just one last stop to make, at a place which is locally renowned for selling some of the best sandwiches around. I grabbed two, one for lunch and one for if I got peckish on the flight, and we carried on our way to the airport after I’d enjoyed a delicious toasted baguette with a fresh fruit smoothie.

Saying goodbye to anyone at the airport is never a nice experience, but my farewell to Cami and Sam was made much easier by the knowledge that my holiday wasn’t ending there, as my flight was not headed to Madrid but rather to Alicante. There I was to be picked up by my auntie and uncle to spend another few days with them down on the coast of Murcia, but that is another story for another day…

I can safety say that once again I had an absolute blast in Tenerife with Cami, Sam, and family, who found the perfect balance between the rest that I so desperately needed and the trips to interesting places that they know I cherish. I can’t thank them enough for putting me up, driving me around, and generally making me feel like part of the family for the few days I was there. If there’s one complaint from the trip, it was that it was too short – next time it’ll have to be at least a week!

Until the next time, Tenerife!