Since we returned from a festive visit to Britain we’ve been lighting a fire in the house most nights.
Lighting a fire? But this is Tenerife where it’s warm and sunny all year round, why the need for a fire?
Pop into any Leroy Merlin (Tenerife’s version of B&Q) on the island and you’ll find an impressive selection of wood burning stoves. In winter months, the higher up the Tenerife hills you go, the cooler it becomes.
You don’t even have to go that high. The other night at 8pm we left a Puerto de la Cruz where the thermometers were showing 19C. By the time we passed the Cupula shopping centre in La Paz, about 100 metres above sea level, we’d lost two degrees.
It’s the same all over the island, in case anyone thinks of this as a northern trait. We’ve stayed in towns and developments above the southern resorts in March and April when there’s no way we could sit outside after dark, not without being well wrapped up. A friend lives 1000 metres up on La Gomera. At this time of year her fire is blazing all day. Before she insulated her house it was like being in the Arctic up there (maybe a slight exaggeration).
It’s just a fact that in winter it’s cooler when you climb. In the Teide crater this week the temperature could feel as low as -2C. On the peak of Mount Teide it could be -15C.
We live at around the 100 metres above sea level mark. Between January and the 20th February the night time temperature in the house will be somewhere between 13 and 17C. Don’t ask me why it’s the 20th February, all I know is that when we set a fire then it doesn’t get lit until January of the following year.
When the sun is low, it doesn’t heat up the house. It’s an old house with thick walls (it used to house animals). Those walls keep the house cool in summer… and even cooler in winter. Even during the day at this time of year it’s chilly inside. It’s no joke, we take clothes off to go outside.
Seventeen degrees at night might not sound very cold when you’re experiencing winter in northern Europe. The thing is, we don’t have central heating. Nobody in the houses we stayed in England and Scotland had their central heating set as low as 17C. Inside at least, people were living in greater warmth than us.
In truth it was far too hot for us, almost claustrophobic. When you don’t live with central heating, it feels unnatural when you do experience it.
So for six weeks a year we chop wood and light a fire.
It’s cosy and warm, a real fire is hypnotic, and we love it. There’s still something magical about sitting in front of a blazing log fire.
Who says you don’t have seasons on Tenerife?