Archive for May, 2010

An Ankle-Smashing Holiday with a Little Yellow Bird

Thirty days of paid vacation: one of the numerous, fantastic realities about living in England. This reality resulted in wife and I awake at five a.m. and on our way to the nearest airport with dirt-cheap tickets to the Canary Islands (a sharp contrast to leave the land of soft-spoken, polite Brits for a place where all conversations sound like arguments) and a hotel of similar price categorization. We had scheduled ten days of holiday, though you will see shortly how that materialized. By noon we were on a bus to Puerto de la Cruz and nearly two hours later we found ourselves in the lobby of a hotel. Though Bethany’s Spanish is rough, it is kilderkins better than my own, so she spoke with the concierge and dealt with our reservation. If you need help counting to fifteen in Spanish, then I’m your man, otherwise I would advise you seek help elsewhere.

Having surveyed the room and deciding it met with our standards, we ventured out into the city of Puerto de la Cruz to see what it had to offer. Being the misers that we are, wife and I firmly decided against renting a car and opted for walking in the city or taking a bus to the more distant sites. As it turns out, our hotel is located at the top of a moderate-sized mountain and the city lies in the valley roughly one mile below. The hike down is relatively simple (and high-speed, should you like), but the return journey demands a bit more of the body. After several days of multi-mile walks through the city we found ourselves with bulging, trunk-like leg muscles, the veins of which were pressed up against the skin in order to transport the massive amounts of blood to our lower extremities… except that genetics expressly prohibit the veracity of this statement in my case.

At any rate, after the long walk back up the mountain, we examined the immediate environs of our hotel and noticed an inordinate amount of German restaurants close at hand, not to mention large numbers of relatively pale men and women wearing fanny-packs, hiking boots, and backpacks everywhere that they went. It turns out we had landed ourselves in the German quarter of Tenerife, which boded well for our ability to communicate. In the end, we settled down at a genuine Canarian restaurant and, thanks to a multi-lingual waiter, were able to order our first meal. Typical lady-style, wife first ordered a salad, though I insisted on large quantities of meat to nourish my growing, über-masculine boy developing in her womb. She settled for some fish. For my first course, however, the waiter brought out a scalding-hot skillet full of boiling oil with chilies, garlic, and shrimp. It was refreshing for someone to consider me a person of basic intelligence such that he did not warn me “not to touch” because the skillet was hot. I suppose he figured the bubbling of the oil would be a hint enough for me. Regardless, I immediately grabbed the skillet, poured the searing oil onto my crotch, and sued the restaurant for millions of Euros, all in keeping with my American sensibilities. That pretty much brings the first day to an end.

Bubbles Galore!

The following day we began the day with a traditional Canarian, German breakfast and decided to explore our surroundings more thoroughly. Initially this led us to the impressive botanical garden north of our hotel- not much to report here. It was pretty and peaceful enough. We even stumbled upon a dragonfly that was smacking his bottom against the water for some bizarre reason. Mimicking the behavior does not enable you to get any closer to the insect, nor does it aid in flight as one might think- you just end up with a wet butt and a dragonfly (not to mention onlookers) that thinks you’re a weirdo. After fifteen more minutes of failure in my entomological experiment, I dried off and dejectedly looked at the rest of the flora that the garden had to offer. A long walk later and we had arrived at our first beach for the vacation. It looked peaceful enough, but the steep incline of the shore and the yellow flag on a nearby pole did not sit well with me. I stuck my toes in the water- not too cold. In fact, it felt quite nice. Then the first large wave came in and I instantly realized why there was no one else in the water. The steep angle of the beach, coupled with the strong current meant that each wave sent large, rounded volcanic rocks up the shore and then sucked them back out with equal force. Putting something between the path of such a rock and the ocean, say a foot or an ankle, for example, means that the rock strikes said foot or ankle with the force of a furious ocean. You would be surprised how much foot skin a single rock is capable of removing in one go. After collapsing on the sand and cursing Poseidon, I dragged myself back to our towel and slowly bled while I waited for my ankle to recover enough to sustain my weight again.

Put your workboots on and join us for a swim

As the day drew to a close, wife and I sat in the hotel lounge for some drinks and conversation to wind down. We looked at each other and almost simultaneously asked, “What are we going to do here for ten days?!?” We came to realize something important about ourselves on this vacation: what made vacations so enjoyable was the company of family and friends, or being in an area with less stereotypically touristy options. Within minutes, we were at a computer booking a cheap flight back to England. The hotel even refunded us for the final days of our reservation. We certainly missed the final few days of sun, but the benefits of coming home early outweighed our vitamin-D needs.

Free from the concern of what we would do for so many days in Tenerife, we entered the new day with the aim of visiting a banana plantation. Less than two hours later, our hopes were dashed when we told the plantation had been shut down. Plan B: walk around relatively aimlessly until we find something to pique our interest for several hours. This led to an uphill hike of several miles to a park designed with multiple types of gardens. The apparent claim to fame was that it had been built on one of the few remaining “Plais” on the island. The information board never fully explained what a “Plais” was, so when we finally stumbled upon this legendary “Plais,” we were little impressed to see an unkempt weed-garden, populated with various cacti and low-lying shrubberies. The excitement for the view of a “Plais was only further quelled as we explored the countryside and found that this “rarity” was, in fact, ubiquitous. Perhaps they meant “rare within 500 square meters?”

The ever-impressing plais- in mint condition!

Dejected, we turned south and decided to venture an encounter with another beach. Playa Jardin promised a shallower incline, potential swimming, and a weaker current than the previous beach, but the percentage of topless women made it difficult to find a spot where wife was comfortable sitting. Eventually, we settled, swam, and sunned until late in the afternoon. After the 14-mile walk back to the hotel, we settled into an evening of playing cards and reading. At some point in the early evening, an idea came to me with such impact that it nearly erupted out of my head. You see, several weeks ago, a friend recommended that I give any children we have prenatal names. These names would differ from their birth names and, because they due not last beyond the pregnancy (not yet anyway), they can be anything I want. Therefore, I burst into the bathroom while wife was showering and shouted “Freydor Hammerhelm son of Og!” It is a collection of the most masculine names that I could envision, and even includes the name of an ancient relative in the time when names were at their manliest. At this point, we are sure Freydor will be born with a full beard… and perhaps a sword. After a discussion with some friends we determined that Freydor will fly out of the womb during the birthing procedure and, with a single stroke, slaughter all of the medical staff in the room and cut his own umbilical cord.

Freydor in situ

The next day we decided Puerto de la Cruz had offered all that it could, so we took a bus to the west coast in order to explore Los Gigantes. For those with a proclivity toward motion sickness, I would advise against the bus manned by Mario Andretti. It was as though our driver lived in a perpetual fear that the volcano on the island behind him was constantly erupting. The tortuous roads were better for little else than exacerbating the nausea. Every time we reached the crest of a hill, I thought, “Thank you, Jesus” only to see a long stretch of road and another slope in the distance.

Upon arrival, we found that Los Gigantes had more Brits to offer than our base city and an inexpensive cruise along the coast. Because of Freydor’s endless stomping upon his mother’s bladder, we found ourselves frequently in need of a restroom, but rarely one of the public variety on offer. We even settled on our cruise boat because it promised a toilet on board. After boarding the boat, however, there was no toilet to be found. I disembarked quickly and found the crew to ask about the aforementioned situation. The captain first asked, “For pee-pee only?” When I said, “Yes” he nodded and tapped another man on the shoulder. He turned around quickly and asked how he could help. So, I repeated my question. He looked at me over his sunglasses and asked, “For pee-pee only?” I nodded. So, he led me back to the boat and pointed out a secret compartment that a person could fit inside, indeed, even a toilet. Then he asked again, “For pee-pee only?” I assured him it was only for pee-pee. Then, he turned and laughingly said, “Something else for po-po!”

Our terlet situation sorted, we took off for a view of the local dolphin pod. Though our shipmates squealed with delight at the sight of the marine mammals, wife and I nodded in acknowledgment of their presence. At first, I must admit, I was overcome with the group’s excitement at seeing a dolphin surface, but, as I desperately scrambled for my camera, I remembered that I had grown up in Florida. Excitement then waned into familiarity and I shook my fist at the dolphins, shouting, “Kill a shark and impress me!” As a whole, the experience was nice, and we managed to snag a less erratic driver for the trip home.

I see you

The final two days in Puerto de la Cruz were relatively uneventful. We spent one day relaxing, and the last day up at Mount Teide– the highest peak in Spain. After marching around in the desert for a bit, we returned to the café at the tourist center and waited for our bus to arrive.

It took her twenty minutes to find the mountain.

We were up early the next morning for our bus back to the airport. The only bus that we were sure would get us there on time left at 6:30 a.m. and arrived five hours before our flight departure. Hoping that a coffee break and security would take up some time, we sluggishly proceeded through the airport. Wife passed through the metal detector first and managed to set it off. As the female security guard called her over and began to pat her down. She reached wife’s stomach and began to rub in circles. From the other side of the metal detector, I saw her ask something excitedly, then say something to the other security staff, all the while continuing to rub Bethany’s belly. She is probably the friendliest airport security guard of all time. Sixty games of gin and a Burger King break later, we were in line to board our plane.

As we filed in like so many bovine, I caught a glimpse of the prohibited items sign. I was surprised that they needed to mention crossbows, but less so to see fingernail clippers and liquid containers over 50ml. It was good of them to note all of these items in the end, however, as I had contemplated rigging up my arbalest with some fingernail clippers soaked in 100ml of travel shampoo to shoot the flight crew in the eyes. Wife wisely advised against this, so that we have made it home without a hitch.