I've been on holiday. Not for the entire time since the last post on here, sadly, but recently enough for me still to want to tell people about it. Where? Why, to Tenerife, dear reader. That volcanic island not far off the west coast of Africa, where the sun always* shines, the sea is a crystal blue**, the beaches are pure white*** sand, and there is song**** and laughter in the air.
It's been a difficult year in some ways, this past 12 months. We lost poor old Father in law WithaY, who is still missed, despite his almost unfailing grumpiness. I had a fairly significant operation in January, from which I have almost completely recovered now, bar a bit of lingering tenderness and some bizarre scars. Oh, and we've had to do quite a lot of structural/repair stuff to the house, garden and garage which has been as tiresome and complex as these things usually are.
On the plus side, I still have a job I enjoy, we have a rain-proof garage, and a much prettier front garden, and have enjoyed some of the best summer weather ever. Oh, and we have new neighbours. That may not sound like a big deal, but our previous neighbours were a bit of a trial at times, and it is something of a relief to know they have moved on.
But Tenerife. Let me tell you all about it.
We flew from Bristol, a great little airport, where there are enough shops and cafes to make you feel like you are Somewhere Big, but small enough that you can relax a bit and not feel completely threatened by the place. Unlike Heathrow, the bastard.
The flight is 4 hours, just long enough to start getting uncomfortable in your teeny tiny aeroplane seat, and if you want a drink of water or a cup of tea, you have to buy it. Bah. I want a return to the days when you were offered a glass of orange squash from a tray, and a barley-sugar for your ears.
There was a minute or two of disconcerting confusion after landing, trying to find the transport to our hotel, but the friendly and efficient (I sound like a cheap brochure, sorry) Thomson holidays chap pointed us to the taxi minibus that had our name on it, and off we went. Mr WithaY and I had been toying with the idea of hiring a car while we were on the island, but the short drive to the hotel persuaded us that we were neither brave enough nor affluent enough to risk the almost-certain death/car accident that seemed to lurk around every corner. Every single car we saw while we were there looked as though it had recently competed in a demolition derby.
The hotel we stayed in is called the Europe Villa Cortes, and I heartily recommend it to the house. It's right on the seafront, and is built in an unusual, low-level rambling Mexican style around a large central courtyard. It looks like this:
Mmmmm. I spent much of my holiday on a lounger in this very spot, relaxing under a palm tree in the shade, occasionally popping in for a swim. There is a waterfall in the pool, which I enjoyed standing under (when I felt brave enough, it was an unheated pool.)
I saw, for the first time that I can remember, dates growing on palm trees. They are beautiful!
I took those pictures from the balcony of our room, rather than from atop another, taller, palm tree.
The hotel is decorated throughout in a Mexican style, but with Spanish touches. I loved the lights wrapped around the trunks of the trees around the courtyard, the many small bowls of fresh flowers, floating in water in intricate patterns, and even the rubber water lilies in a fountain. It was all so strange, and so foreign, and so very, very pleasant.
The house artist seems to have modelled their style on Beryl Cook's. There were fat naked ladies, fat saints, fat picadors and best of all, fat ponies on almost every wall. And skeletons on the lift doors.
The food was (predictably, by now, I expect) excellent. Here is a breakfast omelette, made to order, and garnished with guacamole, fresh flowers, and a tortilla. We also had fizzy wine with breakfast. Such decadence. I felt like I was in an episode of Poirot.
Mr WithaY added extra bacon and tomatoes, because clearly a few fresh flowers are not enough to sustain a man who intends to spend a day snoozing on a sunlounger by the pool.
Apart from waddling contentedly around the hotel, what did we do?
We went here. Proudly billed as the most spectacular water park in Europe, I have to say, it was jolly good fun. Mr WithaY went on every single ride. I went on a few, but still far more than I thought I was going to.
We arrived mid-morning, having been involved in a truly alarming bus queue scuffle, which involved two Spanish blokes almost coming to blows, and several women screaming and waving their babies in the air, found a locker, locked away all our stuff (sunblock, hats, sunglasses, bottles of water - you know, all the stuff that keeps you from being burned to a crisp in the boiling sun) because there were signs all over the place making it very clear that if you went on any of the rides in hat, sunglasses, wearing a watch, carrying a camera etc etc etc you MIGHT BE KILLED. I may be misremembering a few details, but it was something like that. Anyway, they were most emphatic about not wearing sunglasses.
Siam Park, so called because the King Of Siam visited Tenerife in about 1913. Etcetera etcetera etcetera.
It's very cleverly landscaped, covering most of the side of a large hill, and is laid out to ensure you hear terrified screaming from almost every single point you visit.
This is the Tower of Power, a 92 feet high slide which shoots you down the front of the temple-like structure above, and through a shark tank, before spitting you out into the pool at the end. I declined to have a go. Mr WithaY leapt up the many, many stairs with a glad cry, waited at the top for ages, and was then plummeted down again in about 2 seconds.
More to my taste was the Lazy River ride, a long, meandering waterway with a few "rapids", a waterfall, and some bubble jets, that you floated around on a huge rubber tyre thing, splayed out in the sun like a pale, damp starfish. Perfect. I went on that five or six times, while Mr WithaY was flinging himself down near-vertical Tubes Of Death.
We had also booked a trip one evening to go to the top of Mount Teide to watch the sunset, have dinner and then do some stargazing, but due to ridiculous admin errors on the part of the holiday company and Mr WithaY and I, that never happened, sadly.
We DID go whale-watching. We saw many pilot whales, including mothers and babies, which were lovely. Unfortunately, though, I am (always, ALWAYS, when will I learn) seasick, so the only photos I took were of the early part of the trip as we left the island. There are no photos of frolicking whales, as I was too busy barfing over the side of the boat, occasionally pausing to say "Oh, they're adorable!" before being plunged back into my world of misery.
What else? The food was superb. I drank many cocktails. Mr WithaY drank a lot of good sherry. We enjoyed chilling by the pool, walking along the seafront, looking at the blue, blue sky and palm trees, exclaiming at the sheer number of shops selling electronic items and duty-free perfume. All the usual holiday stuff.
In short, if you are going to Tenerife, I can recommend the hotel. There's not much to do on the island (not the bit we were in, at least) other than eat, drink and sunbathe, so having a hotel with plenty of top-quality amenities was brilliant. One the days when it rained like the end of the world (inevitable on a WithaY holiday) we found books in the hotel library, ensconced ourselves in comfy chairs in the piano bar and spent the day looking out at the terrible weather, drinking hot chocolate and reading trashy books I'd never have bought for myself.
And now it's November, and it gets dark at 4.30pm, and the weather has turned cold. I'm glad to be back.
*Except when we were there, when 5 people were drowned in flash floods
**Except when we were there, when it crashed relentlessly onto the beach in a white-foamed rage
***Only the ones imported from the Sahara. The remainder are composed of razor-sharp volcanic rocks
****Flamenco. Or, memorably, Mariachi music.