Some far-flung friends express curiosity about where life’s journey has landed me at the moment, and so, for them, this.
Sometimes I wonder why I am so attracted to this town I’m living in. I lived here once before, about six years ago, but my ever-itchy feet propelled me to wander off for a while, and when I returned, a bit disoriented, as you are when you come back from travels, I drifted elsewhere. It felt as much like home as anywhere does to me these days when I came back this February. Odd, in a way, that, because all the friends I had here back then have moved on too, which means making an effort to get together with folk. Maybe that’s a good thing though….except for the drink/driving thing!
I can’t say that El Médano has any of the bucolic cottages, grand modern architecture or restored buildings I am attracted to in other towns, and the streets of what must have been the original village are narrow, not really meant for modern traffic. That’s part of the charm though, you wander down what looks like a perfectly bland, uninteresting, little thoroughfare and come across a little shop or bakery or bar, just quietly waiting to be found. Chasing along the back streets on Saturday to snap the triathlon, it amused me to realize how much I liked it – how different from the well-planned city grids of the new world, which I also love. Variety is the spice of life!
Old, squat cottages have mostly been replaced by small apartment blocks, and every now and then you find a site which is ripe for development. Someone is biding their time, waiting for prices to go up. That’s a game that’s always been played here, not just now on account of the recession. It doesn’t make for pretty to be honest.
We do now boast a European Union Blue Flag, which waves proudly at either end of the main beach. As you can see from the photo, there are still places in the area running along the beach, which will be developed sooner rather than later, I imagine, when the recession lifts. The last development was carried out with the minimum of disruption, I have to say. Hoardings were erected, and mess kept to the least possible. It was quite impressive.
This area is most certainly blessed with beaches, and it’s easy to see why this one earned the blue flag. The main beach is always immaculate. It was upgraded a few years back, and now you can walk its length on boardwalks reminiscent of California, which also provide wheelchair access to the beach itself. Protección Civil are responsible for beach security, do an excellent job, have bang up-to-date facilities, and well, all I can say is – David Hasselhoff eat your heart out! It’s one of the few beaches I know which is used equally by locals and tourists. You don’t see many locals on the shores of Playa de las Americas, Fañabe or even Los Cristianos, these days, and not many tourists wander down to the little villages like Tajao or Poris de Abona.
El Médano has the best of it in almost any weather it seems. A strong breeze keeps us cool almost all the time, except when it blows hot, straight from the Sahara, and we bake like turkeys in an oven. The breeze is kind of the lifeblood and the salvation of the town. Firstly it keeps away that kind of tourist who is picky and moany – much too windy for them, thank god. Secondly, it attracts windsurfers and kite surfers (and I suppose the girls who fancy them), which keeps the place young and vibrant. They lend their energy to the general atmosphere, sporty, competitive and vital. Maybe it’s because they are up with the dawn, waiting for the right conditions, that the nightlife here is quite subdued compared to our noisier neighbours up the coast (again I say, thank god).
Not that the local bars are quiet. It takes me about three minutes to get to the town center, and walking down there the other night, the little bars and restaurants I passed hummed with life. All along the seafront wall the local hippies had spread their wares on pareos and towels, mostly handmade jewellery and leather goods, not imported from China or Africa, but made by themselves.
And there you have it – this unique mix of types which makes this place so different – wind and kite surfers, hippies, ordinary local folk celebrating the end of the working week, and the tourists who are in seek of something a bit less cookie cutter than the famous resorts.
oh, and did I mention the shops here, which offer things just that bit different? This is one of my favorites. Beach stuff, yes, but not mass produced, cool cottons from Thailand and India, sold by a French lady on a Spanish beach in a shop with an English name :=)
On the days the wind drops the beaches are flooded with families, which the tide forces back to the boardwalk as it comes in, until the pocket of sand remaining looks like an ant colony. It might be my imagination, but there still seems to be a vitality, which is missing from the big resorts, where the day’s exercise consists of turning over every half hour to baste the other flank. People here are swimming, playing ball, walking or running. For me, I like it better when it’s windy, it feels more select………like you’re making a statement by being here.
So far there is no McDonalds or Burger King. Maybe the resort is too small for them. It’s to be hoped that if they ever do give us a look over they are forced to keep their exteriors in keeping with….. well, exactly with what I can’t say, like I said, it’s not as if the place has a particular kind of architecture or anything! Don’t get me wrong, I like a Big Mac from time to time, but look at just a few of the alternatives we have here.
More usual local bars, front and back views. These are the properties threatened with demolition, which are alongside the El Médano Hotel which I mentioned before. You can sit on their terraces and feel the spray – and I don’t jest. They serve the sort of local tapas and seafoods you would expect in Tenerife.
Believer in variety that I am, I’d rather leave the Big Macs for the right place and the right time!
Even the Saturday market seems a much more authentic and interesting experience than ones in other towns, even though the majority of the traders hawk their wares in those other venues too. It might be the hippie element again, which hugs the market’s edges (they are harassed by the police from time to time, but not on a very enthusiastic basis) , or it may be the buskers and other street performers who give it a different sort of vibe. The guy below I saw, just sitting on the street today. I asked him if I could take his photo, and afterwards approached him to offer him money, but I couldn’t see anywhere to put it. He just smiled and said it wasn’t necessary. I fancy he was a friend of one of the bar or shop owners around there, and that’s the norm. Siesta-ing on the beach one afternoon I woke to a haunting sound which had been drifting through my dreams for a few minutes. My friend and I sat up and looked around to see what it was, and spotted a guy sitting on the wall playing a didjeridu – not the way you expect to be woken from a slumber on the beach, and there we go again – variety, suprising, stimulating variety.
As well as variety, I like balance, which may, or may not, be the same thing, depending on how your mind works, so I was trying to think of the negative things.
Well, now, yes the wind can get a bit too much from time to time, but pluses far outweigh the minuses there, so that doesn’t count.
Outside of the main part of town, i.e. around where I am living, the streets could definitely be cleaner – not because of any lack of effort on the part of the authorities so far as the actual cleaning goes, but because of the laziness of residents. Dog pooh abounds. Needless to say, Trixy and I always clean up after us, but in six months I’ve only seen one, other person do it. Our habitual walks are littered with cans, plastic bags and bottles, old mattresses, bits of furniture and the odd dead bird (don’t ask, but someone suggested voodoo to me!) The beach of El Cabezo, which is where I live, was only cleaned up for the second time in said six months because it hosted the National Windsurf Championships a couple of weeks back. The first time was to clear it of debris about three months after the winter storms. I don’t remember it being this bad when I lived here before, so what changed? Well, just population growth, like every place, I guess.
On the odd occasion it irritates that small shops and businesses close from 2 to 5 for siesta. Even though supermarkets and seafront business are open, a stillness manages to permeate the afternoon air, but to be honest, it’s just another part of what makes the place what it is. What it isn’t, is the big city.
End of the day I couldn’t really think of anything which didn’t also apply to the island in general……and that’s another story.