There were no free tables at La Maison Belge, it was a disappointment. The stylish fusion of Belgian speciality beer bar and deli had become a favourite early evening (10pm) venue for a bottle of Duvel before hitting the livelier bars in the old town. However a free table at another bar/deli next door meant that we got to try La Ventita, a chic Spanish vinoteca, for the first time.
It was an equally amiable place to pass time and made all the more pleasurable when they brought us a bottle of Inedit, the beer with the El Bulli seal of approval. As we sat, surrounded by mainly Spanish customers in their early 30s tucking into yummy looking contemporary tapas dishes, we got to talking about Puerto de la Cruz and the perceptions people have of our adopted town.
Puerto de la Cruz has the reputation (in Britain) of being a quiet Tenerife resort with a Canarian atmosphere and I understand exactly where this comes from. If visitors stick to the same patterns they follow in their own country, there’s a good chance they’ll never experience the same Puerto de la Cruz that someone who adapts to the Canario timetable does. Basically, if visitors, or ex-pat residents for that matter, eat lunch at midday and their evening meal between 6pm and 7pm, their eating patterns just aren’t going to coincide with those of the Spanish and Canario population. Subsequently you can read about restaurants in Puerto being quiet or full of mature northern European diners. It doesn’t take Dan Brown to work out why people have this perception.
It’s similar with night life. Puerto is regularly described as having low-key night life, not the place you come to if you want to party. That’s true…if you want to party British style. Again, Brit hours and Canario hours aren’t compatible. Where many British visitors hit the bars between 8pm and midnight, the Canarios are out and about post work between 6 and 9pm approx, then there’s a lull (right at the time British visitors are wondering where everyone is) before things liven up again around midnight, hitting their peak at around 2am. It’s often a case of never the twain shall meet, especially if visitors stick to the few British themed bars, which aren’t very busy in Puerto at the best of times.
At the start I mentioned hitting La Ventita early evening at 10pm – it wasn’t meant as a joke. That’s how it really is; we were out too early. Our friend Jo was staying with us and we’d planned to head to the Blanco Bar to see a promising sounding band called Korsak. As bands don’t start playing till midnight there’s no point getting there till at least 11.30. Even then, the bar’s outside terrace was quiet, only filling up as though a coach load had arrived a few minutes before midnight.
The band were exceptional and rocked a packed out Blanco Bar until somewhere between 1.30 and 2am. At the weekend in Puerto that’s too early to go home, so we crossed the road and joined the throng pouring into Azucar, a Cuban bar whose fiery Latin vibes are a full-on assault on the senses. It is an exceptional bar but it isn’t going to be the sort of place where visitors looking for the quiet sedate Puerto de la Cruz are going to want to hang out…and there are plenty more bars like that. When we left at 3.30am, it was in full, frenetic swing and people were still arriving.
For me, it’s what makes Puerto de la Cruz such a wonderful place. If anyone wants a town with a Canarian atmosphere that is quiet and safely sedate then to find it, they simply don’t have to do anything different from their normal routine. There are people who have been visiting for donkey’s years that would swear that Puerto de la Cruz has no lively night life. It’s almost as though the Puerto we inhabit exists in a parallel universe.
On the other hand, travellers who throw open the doors to the cultural differences will find something very different…a town where an early evening drink takes place at 10pm.