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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a brown belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©2004-2016 Can Sönmez

29 January 2019

Tenerife, 18th-29th January 2019

For Winter sun this year, I decided on the Canary Islands, which I've been considering for a while. It is a bit pricier than the options I normally go for, but is meant to have guaranteed heat a little higher than my usual choices of Spain or Portugal. Or at least, it is if you go to the super tourist south of the island. I plumped for the north instead, as I'm keen to get some culture in, rather than just share some bland beach with a bunch of loud drunk British people. ;)



This is the second time I've stayed at the H10 hotel chain, once again very pleased with it. Especially the food, having churros to finish my breakfast has been amazing! 😋

Although right after Xmas, I have been feeling fat, so I also set myself a rigid target of 30 lengths in the swimming pool every day. I enjoy a swim (though only in a pool, not a fan of the sea), sticking to good old breaststroke. Underwaterswimming is also fun, although I'm not sure it has a #fitness benefit or not. I was initially quite pleased with myself for doing full lengths underwater...until I looked up the world record for holding your breath. TWENTY FOUR MİNUTES! That is nuts, no idea how they didn't die. And puts my 20 seconds underwater in its proper context. 😜

Unlike my last time at an H10 hotel, I didn't get involved in the activities, not so appealing this time. Shame they didn't have yoga again or salsa dancing, İ'd have done both of those. Having said that, the music choices by the aquarobics guy were fantastic, almost enough to tempt me in. 😁



I'm not a beach guy (and definitely not a paraglider: I don't like heights, plus with paragliding I also always think 'Rolls Gracie, 1982' 😢), meaning in some respects this is a weird holiday for me to go on. I mostly treat hotel/beach heavy holidays as a nice change of scenery to do my BJJ admin (got lots of stuff organised over the last week and a bit 😍).

However, there is a fair bit of history in Tenerife, especially the more sophisticated north end of the island. I always like to read up on a place before I go, which tends to mean a Rough Guide. I didn't immediately see one for Tenerife on Kindle, but there was a self published Tenerife history by somebody called (or using the pseudonym) Derek Winterbottom. Kindle very handily lets you read a sample, which was convincing: this history of Tenerife proved to be just what I wanted. Comprehensive historical info, laid out clearly with (most importantly) an extensive bibliography listing all the sources. 😍



The Botanical Garden in Puerto de la Cruz dates back to a royal decree in 1788, one of numerous examples of the rich history in that city. Puerto has been a tourist hotspot for well over a century and is where the Canary Islands tourist boom started (it went into hyperdrive when a second airport was built in the less cultural southern end of the island, but more on that later).

I never used to be all that interested in botany, but I've paid far more attention to flowers since I started my 'languages' tattoo on my right foot. The first part (English) is in place, by @jodiebear94, as is the second part (the linking one, Belgium, which kinda represents European multiculturalism to me, along with being my birthplace) I got last December from @wallietattoo a little ways out of Brussels. Third part is in April from @ellawinchestertattoo in München, to represent German, then part four is long term, for Spanish. Part five would be Turkish, if I ever finally get a handle on that difficult tongue. 😉

My Español isn't there yet, as I want to achieve at least conversational first, but it's getting better. During this holiday, I've been able to do simple things like order food and talk to hotel staff. However, I'm still getting a lot from context rather than understanding all the words, so I need to keep practicing. Then I can earn that Spanish tattoo (and decide on the right flowers 😀).



The north of Tenerife is considerably colder than the south, with more rain and cloud. İt's varied between around 14 to 19 degrees Celsius on average, while the south has been consistently above 20. For me, that's ideal: I'm a cold weather model, so my circuits break down when it gets above 20. 😜

Also, the south of Tenerife sounds extremely unappealing, based on that Derek Winterbottom book I mentioned. This description quoted from a 2010 website sounds like a holiday hellscape:

"Virtually free from anything Canarian [...] row upon row of British pubs, fish and chip parlours [...] this is a real home from home for those who don't like Spanish food and want to spend their nights in the coolest hotspots" 😲

I'll stick with the colder but far more culturally interesting north, thanks.



A great place to find some of that culture I mentioned is the capital of Tenerife, Santa Cruz. Or it would be, if I hadn't gone on a Monday when the galleries were closed. I keep forgetting the rest of Europe often closes on Mon. 😉

Still, lots of attractive architecture and sculpture, along with excellent leapfrog with actual frogs. 👋🐸 Santa Cruz acquired its name on the 3rd May 1493, which back then happened to be a Christian holiday, the Day of the Finding of the Holy Cross. That was when a certain Alonso Fernandez de Lugo landed in the area, carrying a great big wooden cross: hence, Santa Cruz ('Holy Cross' in Spanish). Lugo is a major figure in Tenerife history, with some controversy. From what I've read, he's kinda a counterpart to the Conquistadors in South America, with a similarly unpleasant approach to indigenous diplomacy. As in, brutally kill them and sell survivors into slavery. 😮

The indigenous people on Tenerife (and I think the rest of the Canary Islands, can't remember if they had different names) have become known as 'guanches'. You can see a bunch of them looking up at that obelisk (bottom left), which given the reality of their treatment is a somewhat fanciful rendition, as you can imagine.



The other main cultural stop for me in Tenerife was Orotava, another town with plenty of history. There are several museums, with a wealth of interesting exhibits, along with more architectural treats and top notch views. 😍

To my surprise, my historical knowledge of Cuba (gleaned from my trip out there, as like with this trip I read a Kindle history of the area while there) provided handy context, as Orotava also happens to be where Jose Marti's mum was born in 1828. 👍

Finishing off with some tasty jamon iberico. I'm not a big meat eater, but I am a fan of things like salami and fancy stuff like iberico ham.



My trip to Tenerife was good for practicing my Español, but it was also surprisingly good for my Deutsch too. A large proportion of visitors each year are German, meaning that there are numerous companies catering directly to them. 👍

Der Wanderstab (the walking stick) is one of those, providing #walking tours around the island. Manuel was a friendly and informative guide, especially about the botany we saw along the way (he speaks Spanish and German, plus a little English. But yeah, all Germans on this tour 😉)

Unfortunately I was too late to do the cheese based tour (would have been perfect! 😉), but was able to book onto walk number 9. Essentially, a 700 metre descent into the biggest gorge on Tenerife. I'm not a big rambler: my calves still hurt 4 days later. 😜



To finish up this post, I'll talk about a famous CanaryIslands export: bananas. From what I read in that history book, the banana was once the most important part of the GDP, but has since given way to other industries, most significantly tourism. Not sure I understood that right, though. 😉

Either way, there are still lots of banana plantations in Tenerife. This one is in Puerto de la Cruz. The specific banana is the Musa Cavendishii, aka Dwarf Cavendish. The plant grows between 12 to 15ft tall, around 36 leaves and a single (immense) bunch per tree.

That bunch weighs on average 25kg to 30kg, containing roughly 150 bananas. Each banana is about 6 inches long and 1.5 inches diameter. I ate a lot of them, as I chopped a banana into my churros chocolate every morning. Delicious!

I'd be interested in going back to the Canary Islands, particularly as there are other culturally interesting islands in the chain to see (particularly Gran Canaria, Tenerife's longstanding rival for influence in the area). I could have trained while I was in Tenerife, as that's where the legendary Ben Poppleton is based, but frankly I'd be scared. Plus his infamous Northern charm would almost certain bruise my delicate PC-ness. Maybe one day: after all, I've loved trained with several of his old students (e.g., Neil Owen, Gret Zoeller, etc). 😉

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