When a Canarian friend commented ‘Tenerife isn’t as pretty as mainland Spain’ a couple of years ago, we tried to defend the place.
“What about Garachico, La Orotava, the old part of La Laguna?” We countered.
But she wasn’t having it… and this was from someone who is passionate about Tenerife.
Over the last couple of years we’ve wandered around the Medieval wonders of Besalú, watched gladiators fight in a Roman amphitheatre in Tarragona and followed in the footsteps of Vicky Cristina Barcelona in Oviedo, and you know what? She is absolutely spot on.
Even the best of Tenerife simply can’t hold a candle to these historic centres. Whereas they have bricks and mortar dating back to the halcyon days of the great civilisations, the oldest that Tenerife can offer goes back only a half a millennium. It’s barely older than America; both are still infants in European historical terms.
Initially the scales fell from our eyes. Tenerife’s towns and cities just weren’t that pretty. We’ve been wearing rose coloured spectacles.
And then a taxi ride from Tenerife Norte Airport to Puerto de la Cruz prompted a revelationary reminder.
We’d just returned from walking through the Pyrenees where stunning historic towns are ten a penny. It should have reinforced how much of a jumble Tenerife actually is… but it didn’t.
It was about 7pm and the sun setting in the west was coming right down our throats, bathing the northern slopes in gold. The taxi was the typical gleaming white Mercedes; rosary beads and a cross hung from the rear-view mirror whilst a three-inch Madonna jiggled about on the dashboard. The taxi driver wore mirror shades and he spoke using ‘usted’ and ‘s’ (apart from the ones he dropped) instead of ‘th’.
The music blasting from the car’s radio was steamy Latino. The scenery outside of the window consisted of an endless pale blue sea stretching to… possibly adventure and the unknown. The trees lining our route, swaying gently to the Latino beat, were palm trees with huge, sexy, glistening fronds.
Ahead of us the volcano, Mount Teide, dominated the landscape, mythically misty in the shadow of the early evening sun. We could see all the way along the rugged silhouettes of the north coast’s cliffs to the lighthouse at Los Silos. The wine and mustard coloured houses on the slopes around us were irregular and mostly not particularly pretty but they oozed a certain carefree character.
The air was warm and the sun on my face soothing. Everything seemed familiar and welcoming.
Tenerife isn’t as pretty as mainland Spain. But I didn’t feel as though I was in Spain. I felt as though I was somewhere more exotic. Somewhere that had more in common with the world on the other side of that big pond to my right.
And that’s what makes it different and special.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+