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Puerto de la Cruz - Tenerife 2016

Introduction

This trip to Puerto de la Cruz was to celebrate Pauline's birthday, and the destination was chosen because we spent many happy weeks there in the 1970s and recently have often taken the bus across from Santa Cruz to Puerto for lunch when visiting on a cruise.

Our hotel, the H10 Tenerife Playa is a pleasant 4 star hotel with a direct sea view onto the black sand beach of Playa Martianez, and overlooking the Lido Martianez which was designed by Cesar Manrique. Manrique (1919-1992) was a native of Lanzarote and a famous contemporary artist who did projects in all the islands. The Tenerife Playa Hotel was one of the first in Puerto and has one of the best positions if not the best. When we stayed there in the late 1970s it was already well established and linked to its new sister hotel, the Gran Tinerfe in Playa de las Americas in the south. In those days the only airport was in the north, but following a disaster in 1980 a new airport in the south was constructed. The weather in the south is much drier and warmer and once the new airport was completed an increasing number of tourists demanded to go there. There has been an explosion in hotel-building between Los Christianos and Costa Adeje, including Playa de las Americas.

We flew into the airport in the south and then had a coach transfer to Puerto. Due to delays in departing Gatwick we landed almost 2 hours late and then arrived at our hotel at midnight. Not what we had intended. We had previously stayed in the 4 storey part of the hotel, with a room looking out towards the ocean. Now these rooms do not generally have a sea view because of the growth of bushes and trees so we were pleased that we had been allocated a room in the taller part, on the seventh floor, which had a balcony and a direct view of the Playa Martianez and towards the Semiramis Hotel. Rooms on other side have a view over the garden and pool, and can see Mount Teide when the weather is clear. We paid the extra 6 euros for use of our minibar as fridge and on the birthday were given a cold bottle of cava to celebrate.

Breakfast was good and, to our surprise, there is free vodka (for "bloody mary") and free cava (for mimosa). Lunch and dinner are self-service buffet, as seems to be normal in Spain. Dress code is informal and to our surprise many people wore shorts for dinner; in the past it had been suit or jacket-and-tie. Dinner was excellent, with different themes each evening, including Thursday which was canarian specialities. We like the typical canarian rabbit stew and the wrinkled potatoes, as well as local cheeses and pastry deserts. There were always four icecream flavours to go with the puddings and fresh fruit, so our problem was how to enjoy the food without gaining too much weight. It would have been a disaster to have full board or go 'All Inclusive'. Because we had arrived late and had missed dinner we were offered a free lunch. This is also self-service and is very similar in content and variety to the dinner buffet. We discovered that lunch has to be booked in advance. When we visit Puerto from a cruise we usually have lunch at the Hotel Marquesa where they have a good menu including local specialities. It is an old historic hotel, one of the first in Puerto de la Cruz, with some new rooms with balconies and sea view as well as old style balconies looking onto the Square and the Church of Nuestra Senora de la Pena de Francia.

The road outside the Hotel Tenerife Playa had been pedestrianised and our end of Puerto was quiet of traffic and there were no noisy bars. During the daytime there was a lot of activity around the beach and most days there were flocks of single and double "parapents" many of which landed on the small beach just outside the hotel or even amongst the pedestrians on the wide pavement. As well as the standard double/twin rooms, mostly with balconies, there are also Suites. These are much larger, double or more the standard floor area, and with a proper separate living area. We guess that they were made by combining two standard rooms. Comparative prices were 110/154 euros when we visited and there are pictures of typical rooms on the Internet. September is low season and the hotel was not full, and room prices are cheaper. We joined the H10 Club and so get benefits when we stay next time.

One minor disadvantage of the Hotel Tenerife Playa is that it is a good 20 minutes walk to the Titsa bus station to travel around the island. We planned some walks and it is a nuisance to hire a car because that only works for circular walks. The BonoVia bus card is valid for one year and gives reduced price travel and also removes the need to have the correct cash. Tickets are in 15, 25 or 50 euros and we used one 25 euro ticket for our three days out walking, with 95c left over for next time!

The walks were from the Sunflower book "Landscapes of Tenerife". Our first walk, Walk 1b, was from Puerto de la Cruz to the Mirador of San Pedro. Leaving the hotel we first passed the bus station where we bought our BonoVia card, and continued west along the coast to the Castillo de San Felipe and the Playa Jardin designed by Cesar Manrique. This area has been improved since our visits 35 years ago and there is now a nice beach of black sand with facilities and bar, with good promenade and gardens.

The walk continued along the coast and passed the Loro Parque. Originally famous for its collection of parrots it has expanded to include an animal portfolio which includes a penguin house with real snow, a subterranean aquarium and dolphin and orca shows. Families can easily spend a whole day there, and for people who don't want the coastal walk there is a little free tourist train from outside McDonalds at the Hotel Las Vegas at Plaza Reyes Catolicos. The instructions were clear and we could see our next target, the blue Hotel Maritim, ahead. The promenade then continues as a coastal path, with views down onto water channels, and we were glad we had put on our hiking shoes. Once we reached the Playa de los Roques we turned off to the viewpoint, then climbed to the La Romantica II development. It was hot and sunny and we wished we had brought more water with us so we were pleased to see a cafe in the row of little shops on the left, and they also had "Magnum" icecreams. Refreshed we continued along the road until reaching the coastal path again. The path is high and there are more good views of the old water channels and there is a (closed) path down to the ruins of the Victorian Gordejuela pumping station. The pumping station was built to power a flour mill and to pump water from the springs in the Gordejuela area to the Oratava vineyards and banana plantations. Descending to the bridge over the Barranco el Patronato there was a steady climb on a concrete track, and then a steep drop to another bridge and into the Barranco del Agua. There are then many options to reach the Mirador and we chose to follow signs to La Casona, the old manor house belonging to the de Castro family. Other detours went down to the sea and other remains of waterworks. The Mirador de San Pedro has a popular bar and cafe, but we were keen to find out bus stop on the main road back to Puerto. We eventually found the bus stop, on the other side of the TF5 road and just before a tunnel, but it was no longer in use due to the danger of stopping there. As we wondered what to do next the 363 bus arrived, and turned down a side road in front of us. We followed and managed to catch it at the next bus stop.

There are interesting places to visit in Puerto de la Cruz, and we like to visit gardens and museums. After a day walking we decided to spend an hour resting in the sunshine and then go out in the local area. The wide promenade, the Avenida Aguilar y Quesada, alongside the Hotel Felipe led to the steps up the cliff towards the Botanical Garden. There is a good supermarket in the Centro Commercial on what was once rough parking ground. We wondered where it was possible to safely park a hire car now. This is the first part of the Walk 1a, from Puerto de la Cruz to the Playa del Bollullo. After climbing several steps we reached the Mirador de la Paz, with excellent views back to our hotel and the Lido and beach opposite. We hoped to follow the Camino de la Costa along the cliffs to the Hotel Semiramis but the path was being repaired, so we returned to the top of the steps at the church of San Amaro and joined the main road to the Botanical Gardens.

The Botanical Gardens are a highlight of any trip to Tenerife, and we always take too many photos of the trees and flowers. Our walk back was through La Paz to the Semiramis Hotel and we were able to walk through the public rooms and chat with a few British tourists in their special Saga lounge.

The next day we began with an easier walk, to the Sitio Litre Orchid Garden. We last visited on a Cunard tour and it took time to find the garden, which was much closer than we remembered. The garden has a large pond with very plump tame fish, but is generally famous for its Orchids.

There is also an aviary, a large dragon tree and the usual small souvenir shop and cafe. The famous physicist Alexander von Humboldt visited for tea on 28 June 1799 and this was recognised by erecting a monument in 1999. Agatha Christie visited the garden and she is said to have written a book here; there is a display of copies of the book and mannequins representing her and Mr Quinn. Marianne North spent time here painting and copies of her pictures are on display.

Climbing away from the ocean we reached the Taoro Park and its waterfalls. There is a cafe but the old Taoro Casino Hotel was not open. The gardens have been redesigned and include the Parque de la Sortija with gritty paths, a childrens play area and exercise machines. Just outside, the Anglican Church has a memorial rose garden of the air disaster of 25 April 1980. We then walked back down the hill to the Hotel Marquesa for a refreshing glass of local Dorada beer

Our next trip was to Icod and then onwards to Garachico. There was not so much walking but a good day out on the Titsa buses, again on the 363 bus with destination Buenavista, and departing Puerto at 1000. Icod de los Vinos is a busy bus interchange town which is famous for its giant dragon tree, said to be more than 1000 years old. To visit it is only 5 minutes walk uphill from the bus station. The tree is now contained within a private Park with entrance charge but there is still a good view from the Plaza de la Inglesia. Unfortunately the church itself was closed due to repair work. We had arrived on one of the festival days and there was a stage being prepared and many little stalls setting up for a wine festival. There were market stalls in the narrow street leading down to the Town Hall in the Plaza, where there is a small church. The craft stalls included proper locally made embroidery (much of the craft work in the shops is from China) and pottery made from volvanic lava.

We continued on the next bus to Buenavista, descending at the coastal town of Garachico. The town is named after the rock offshore (gara = island and chico = small). We got off the bus early so we could explore the famous natural rock pools and then walked along a footpath towards the main swimming areas, between the rocks. There were lots of local people swimming in the crystal clear water or just having a picnic with their family. We continued past the 16th century San Miguel Castle to the Park of the Puerta de Tierra, where the Puerta de Tierra is all that is left of the port. It was once the Land Gate at the waterfront but is now inland following the volcanic eruption of 1706. Passing the Church of Santa Ana with its white bell tower, we followed the route of the little white tourist train to the main square, the Plaza Libertad. There is a small 2*HR hotel, formerly the house of the Marquises of la Quinta Roja and built in the 17th century. It is an interesting square with the Baroque palace of the Marques de Adeje, and the old monastery of San Francisco which dates back to 1524 and adjoins the Town Hall. We just had time to get to the waterfront ice cream counter, and consume our purchase, before the bus arrived to take us back to Icod and our connecting service to Puerto de la Cruz.

There was plenty of time to walk back slowly to the hotel and we noticed a number of houses had been decorated with large wall paintings. There are 13 wall murals and they had all been painted in 2014 as part of an artistic and cultural project of Puerto Street Art.

The weather continued fine and we decided to walk along the coast, beyond the Hotel Semiramis. This was inspired by Sunflower Walk 1a. After the Hotel Semiramis we passed a landing platform which is used as an alternative by the parapenting pilots. The path begins as a tarmac narrow road, then descends under the main road through a tunnel. There are banana plantations on both sides of the path and stone walls which support the terraces. The path descends to the Barranco de la Arena and climbs up to a minor road which goes along the cliff top to the Bollullo Restaurant with its (pay) carpark. The path continues along the cliff top with good views down to the Bollullo Beach and soon reaches the path down. There is a viewpoint and then the path clings to the walls of the banana plantations and is hemmed in by trees. It is not easy and we wished we had worn walking boots. There are steps down to another beach and more spectacular views. The next path down is closed and the steps have disappeared down the cliffside; our route turns away, climbing towards the main road at El Rincon and the San Diego Restaurant. The complete Walk 1a goes up to the Cafe Vista Paraiso, far above, but we continued along the road towards the Barranco de la Arena on a path parallel to our outbound path but closer inland. It was easy to rejoin our original path to the Hotel Semiramis and then down to Puerto.

Having brought our hiking boots the next trip was more challenging. There are many possible walks in the area between the village of La Montaneta and the towns of Los Silos and Buenavista. Our choice was the roundtrip Walk 16 from La Montaneta which was described as "fairly easy" with only just over a thousand foot of climb! The previous walks were "easy". Again we caught the 363 bus at 1000 which went to Buenavista, and got off at Icod de los Vinos to catch a much less frequent bus 360 to the Church of San Francisco on the far side of the village of la Montaneta. The walk started across the road from the church and then climbed up the hill. The route described in the book was easy to follow, although much was forestry track through pine trees and was shared with bicycles and cars. We noticed that the trees had obviously suffered from a forest fire in previous years and it must be a general risk when the weather can be so hot and the ground become so dry. The first landmark was joining the TF43 walking track at Las Arenas Negras which was an enormous picnic and BBQ place with childrens playground and lots of parking. We sat for a drink and ate our sandwiches. For future, the kiosk at the bus station in Puerto next to the 363 bus stop sells cheap bread and cakes and sandwich ingredients. Continuing upwards along TF43 we quickly reached our second target - the Montana Negra (Volcan Negro) 1401 metres on our right hand side. It is not allowed to leave the path to walk onto the volcan, so we had to be contact with a series of photos framed by the local trees. As its name suggests, it is a black, or very dark brown, volcanic small mountain. Our final target, almost in sight now, was the canal. The Galeria Vergara Alta and the canal are said to be responsible for a large supply of water since the early 1950s. The TF43 crosses the concrete water trough but we turned back towards Las Arenas Negras. The TF43 is a good walking track and we followed it all the way back to the bus stop at the church of San Francisco from where it continued north to Garachico. There are only 5 buses each day and we needed to be sure of catching the 15.45 back to Icod. Two local people arrived just before the scheduled time and after some waving of arms we all persuaded the bus to stop for us.

The weather then changed and we did not see Mount Teide very often because it was covered in cloud. This is typical for the weather we remembered on previous holidays in February, so it was no surprise that it varies in September. Our last dinner in the hotel, on a Thursday, was a Canarian style. A perfect ending to a very pleasant 11 days holiday. We will certainly go back to Tenerife again.

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Content revised: 29th October, 2016