I had a moment.
It felt as if someone had reached deep inside my chest and given my heart a squeeze. It made me gasp such was the overwhelming sensation of… I don’t know… affection, maybe more, for my adopted town. It had crept up out of nowhere.
Next to me, three middle-aged Portuenses with faces the colour of my old Camel boots sang along badly to a Latino mix of I Will Survive that had the sea of people around the top of the harbour punching the air. In front of us, a group of Canarios danced the only way they seem to know how, by salsa-ing to the disco beat. Over by the Hannen Bar and La Tasquita, a young couple did the same on top of a makeshift metal beer counter fronting the two bars.
Día de la Embarcación might be about sticking a couple of religious icons onto a boat but, like most of the fiestas, its real importance lies in how it brings a community together. There might be anything between 25,000 and 35,000+ people at these shindigs but if you open yourself to it, you’ll be exposed to a community spirit that is as powerful as a blow to the solar plexus.
Coming into Puerto de la Cruz on the bus is always a reminder that there are two sides to the town. On the La Paz/Martiánez side there is often little sign that there is anything going on during fiestas. As this is where a lot of hotels are located I suppose it’s why some people’s perceptions of Puerto can be very different from the reality.
With fiestas we tend to simply let ourselves get carried along with the flow to experience every last hot and sweaty bit of them. But this time we were with a couple of visiting friends and Día de la Embarcación can be a bit ‘in yer face’ if you’re not used to Tenerife’s bigger fiestas. So we took time out from the frenzy and wandered the back streets… and discovered a new tapas bar, El Museo.
An antique portal drew us in past a rather snazzy looking interior to an eclectic little courtyard with tables made out of wine crates and cable drums. Over a beer we chatted with the owner who told us the old house used to belong to an English family and they had only been opened for four days. After a little regalo (present) of a plate of chorizo montaditos, another beer and a vow to return to eat at a later date, we went back to the fiesta to find it in full party mode.
A tour of the harbour circuit revealed that the usual rave in the car park; wild dancing throng of happy smiley people in Calle Perdomo; suicide jumps from the harbour wall; greasy pole competition and the sour-faced disapproving town’s elders protecting the shrine at the top of the harbour were all present and correct.
A couple of these tours worked up the need for a carb hit and a tortilla/cerveza stop at the Kiosk California was just the medicine. Huge catalana montaditos the size of chunky Frisbees were passed along the stall’s production line, cervezas flowed non-stop, a constant stream of aromas from fried calamari and chopitos teased my nostrils with taunts of ‘you should have picked us’ and people sang and danced all around.
The wave of euphoria was irresistible; this is what they do best; they know how to have a damn good time. This is the vibrant heart and soul of places like Puerto de la Cruz and towns like it on Tenerife. The bricks and mortar are the shell, this is the soul and it simply cannot be fabricated; it’s a soul that can seep deep into yours. Let it do so and you are rewarded with an addictive taste and understanding of what Puerto, and in fact the Real Tenerife, is all about. This is what we’re passionate about sharing with the like-minded world.
And I had a moment.