Family Report

Christmas in Tenerife
by the Bentham family
John, Karen, William (9), Robert (8) & Jack (6)

Early morning flights from long distance airports are not top of my wish list, but with three small boys the prospect is terrible - so it was with a great deal of smug satisfaction that we set off for a lunchtime flight from Blackpool Airport - only three miles from home. Just four hours later we touched down at Tenerifes' Reina Sofia and made our way towards the West Coast resort of Puerto de la Cruz - the youngest of our party still clutching a federation of small plastic wrestlers and a talking trash can.

Puerto de la Cruz is a modern resort full of apartments, hotels, restaurants and all kinds of shops, but in the old quarter you'll find stately homes, convents and churches - so there is a nice contrast if you like a bit of culture with your sunshine.

If I were to say 'Surf's Up' it would perhaps give an indication as to the astonishing vista of the sea. Never before have I seen crashing waves like these - all under a cloudless blue sky with not a hint of a breeze.

Beaches in Puerto de la Cruz are few and far between, so the Canary artist Cesar Manrique came up with the idea of creating a huge artificial lake and several sea water pools where tourists can swim and sunbathe in a tropical paradise known as Lake Martianez. It was a little too cold for me to be practising my front crawl, but not so for the intrepid threesome William, Robert and Jack who have an eerie compulsion to fling themselves into pools and oceans - usually when all we have is a packet of kleenex to dry them with.

So far , so good - sun, sea, very black sand and plenty of food and drink at reasonable prices.

A short drive away from Lake Martianez is Loro Parque, which houses the largest collection of parrots and other endangered birds in the world. Bred and reared in captivity, many can fly freely around the park which has a distinct tropical theme - once again designed by the Canary artist Cesar Manrique.

After removing most of the water from our hotel pool with some far from perfect diving displays, the boys decided that Loro Parque might be a 'Lorra' fun, and much to the delight of the other hotel residents we set off for the day.

The three musketeers weren't disappointed, but thrilled to find gorillas, tigers, jaguars, dolphins and alligators as well as the parrots after which the park is named. Fairly new to the park is 'Planet Penguin' - the largest penguin enclosure in the world, which allowed us to see the penguins living in recreations of their natural habitat, complete with a constant fall of snow and chilled seawater.

'Wicked' enthused Robert, mentally adding penguin to his Christmas wish list.

There's a whole days entertainment on offer at the park, with plenty of restaurants and watering holes to relax in between shows in the largest dolphinarium in Europe, an aquarium with an underwater walkway and parrot shows, where the birds ride bikes, use vending machines and wow us with their adding-up skills.

The next day we decided to venture a little further afield, strapped ourselves into our horrid little rent-a-car (not top of the pops on the MOT front) and set off to try and find the small village of Candelaria some 23 km's away from the capital of Santa Cruz. Legend has it that the tide washed ashore a statue of the Virgin onto the beach where the Basilica de la Candeleria now stands, and that it was found by the Guanches (eary settlers) who took it to a cave and worshipped it, until Tenerife was conquered by the Spaniards and the statue was lost. There is a copy, made in 1827, but unfortunately, whilst the boys re-fuelled on juice and goats cheese toasties in a cafe across the square from the beautiful cathedral, they 'closed' said beautiful cathedral for the rest of the day.

John and I sighed as the boys threw themselves into the sea. Fully clothed.

The Canary Islands are the result of volcanic eruptions which has meant that they have grown higher and larger with time - the highest peak being El Teide, which at 3,718m is also the highest peak in Spain. Being a compulsory visit for all tourists, it was decided to put horrid little rent-a-car to the test and 'will' it up the mountain to look for the cable car that takes you to the very top. As the car whined and our ears popped, we all pulled on jumpers as the temperature dropped. At over 2,000 m trees gradually disappeared, along with most signs of life. Planet of the Apes was filmed in this National Park, and with the amazing lava rocks, peaks and craters it felt quite spooky. In olden times it was believed that the tip of the mountain was the column upon which the vault of Heaven stood , but this legendary point was to remain as far away as next Christmas - 'Cable car closed, due to high wind and ice'

"I need a wee" said Jack.

Leaving Puerto de la Cruz and driving Northbound along the coast road, surrounded by banana plantations and vineyards, we headed towards the Village of Icod de los Vinos. The main attraction in this little village is the existence of a millenary dragon tree - about 3,000 years old and to which medicinal properties were attributed in ancient times. The three wise men thought the tree was boring and shuffled off towards a dusty playground. John and I thought the tree was great - maybe because it was the first thing we'd found that wasn't closed - and marvelled at its great twisted trunk dating back 3,000 years.

Lunchtime next day took another cultural turn as we embarked on a journey to discover the ancient Piramides de Guimar. Resplendent in new plastic sandals (the Atlantic having embraced - and ruined - all existing footwear by now) the boys hunched together in the back of grotty rent-a-car as we shunted our way through the back streets of Puerto de la Cruz towards the Valley of Guimar.

Thor Heyerdahl was the first scientist to recognise the cultural importance of the six Chacona Pyramids at Guimar, which were brought to his attention by some amateur observers. The main pyramid complex was found to be astronomically oriented to sunset at the summer solstice, suggesting that there must have been contact between early civilisations on both sides of the Atlantic. Interesting stuff.

As we parked up, the boys jumped out, glad to stretch their legs. "Why won't you let me watch Hellraiser Two?" whined William. I ask you.

Sunday saw us hurtling towards Los Gigantes on the Southern coast of the island, where 500m high rocky walls overlook a modern resort dominated by the cliffs of Los Gigantes. White water was the order of the day, so it was off to the the neighbouring beach of Playa Santiago for some serious fun in the sea. By 5.30pm my three little fishes showed no signs of tiring as they jumped wave after wave to a backdrop of a glorious sunset.

It came as quite a shock when we realised it was Christmas Eve - but what a Christmas Eve - better than trying to re-light the boiler in your frozen semi, or rowing with the in-laws over where to go for Christmas lunch !

Karen Bentham

January 2001

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Peurto de la Cruz

Peurto de la Cruz

Loro Parque Parrot

Loro Parque Sea lions

Guanche statues at Candelaria

The Basilica de la Candeleria

El Teide

3,000 year old Dragon tree

Piramides de Guimar

Replica of Thor Heyerdayl's Sun Ra


more pictures below