On the other hand, sunshine is ubiquitously available in glittering and glorious skyfulls. And I can’t recall a trip to see Mrs A’s sister (and there have been many) when Family Atkinson has appreciated the weather quite so much. Escaping ice-bound, frozen-track Britain for 10 days was pure pleasure.
Sis-in-law is a tremendous host. We descended on her splendid apartment on Boxing day as wild-eyed daylight starved refugees and left after New Year as bronzed, wined and dined cats-that-got-the-cream. Thanks Auntie Sue. Don’t know who let those messy locusts in.
The area Sue lives in has grown massively since we’ve been visiting. A rash of holiday apartment complexes have sprung up, with enclosed pools and security gates. But recession continues to leave its mark and there are still many empty shops and restaurants. However, the village down the road feels entirely different. Las Galletas, mysteriously translating as the biscuits, is a fishing village with a newly completed marina, a bevy of good restaurants and plenty of real shops. We regularly spend lots of time down there on the beach, in the bars, eating lunch and mooching round the boutiques. There is a fantastic detour back to Sue’s apartment along the wild volcanic coast. One of my favourite bits of the island.
|El Teide and Sue's rocks|
New Year’s Eve was a blast. In a massive break with tradition, the five of us booked a ‘junior suite’ (no sign of David Pipe’s handicap chaser, I was disappointed to discover) in a posh hotel on the outskirts of El Medano, the windsurf capital of Tenerife. The Italian restaurant on the edge of the thronging square was a gem, although it did seem that we were making rather more use of the party bags than adjacent tables…..
Approaching midnight, the atmosphere was tremendous. The streets were packed with good natured exuberance, young and old. The waiter brought us champagne glasses with 12 grapes in each. The Spanish tradition is to eat a grape on each bong of the midnight hour and wash it all down with champagne. (Mrs A’s wonderful Mum bought what she thought was a specially prepared tin of them in England last year. They turned out to be green olives! Quite a challenge to bolt them in time to the chimes). We had come prepared: champagne soda for the girls in an authentic bottle that goes pop when the cork comes out and a vintage bottle of the real stuff for the grown-ups, together with picnic champagne flutes. We wondered at the firework display, drank deeply and danced to the samba band with the massed crowds in the square. This style of relaxed, good natured, full-on celebration is something we simply don’t quite achieve in England in the same way.
Gently massaging slightly fragile minds and bodies with coffees, cakes and ice cream (and later, beers and red wine) by the heated pool on the hot sun terrace all New Years Day was an indulgence I should no more than smugly drop in as a passing reference here. See how subtle I can be sometimes?
|Hotel Las Arenas pool and sun deck|
Later, after a night of cocktail making, in which I discovered the limitations of my Spanish interpretation when Sis-in-Law gamely battled through a Gin Sling that had more in common with lemon washing up liquid, we took a trip up to the north of the island. The Loro Parque, on the outskirts of Puerto de la Cruz, is the zoo to beat them all. If anyone wants to build a zoo from scratch, this is the blueprint: outstanding conservation, superb enclosures, sophisticated breeding programmes. Whatever ones views on zoos, there can be no argument with the care, welfare and commitment shown to the superb exhibits in this park. Thanks for the tickets, Granny.
Mrs A drove us back via the peak of El Teide, the massive volcano that spawned the island. At 2,200 metres high, Sis-in-Law and the girls were fast asleep on the back seat in the rarefied atmosphere. The landscape is spectacular, drawing regular comparisons with the Moon and Mars (from those who know presumably). It’s been the backdrop to myriad sci-fi movies. I love it.
|Las Canadas, El Teide|
So after some snuffly goodbyes and thanks for a brilliant holiday, we caught our flight back home. Mrs A, blubbing away because of the best sister she was leaving behind, had daughter no. 1 to comfort her. I had daughter no 2 to entertain me. Rain, wind, dark and cold enveloped us on leaving Luton airport. Nearly as miserable at the guy from the Airparks ‘meet and greet’ (ha!) service with our car. “Hi”, says Helen. “Bit delayed in arrivals. Been waiting long?”. “Yeah”, he grunted. “Quite a bit. And I missed me bus back. Sign here.”