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|Marco Polo 2013-14
A Christmas Cruise from Tilbury to the Canary Islands & Madeira - part 3
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Brochure route is in red, actual outward journey in green and return in blue
Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands. We arrived in Santa Cruz, the capital of Tenerife, in the dawn at 0800. By 0845 we had breakfast and were on our way as the first rays of sunshine came through the clouds hit the ship. The original plan was to catch the shuttle bus to the port gates near the underpass to the Plaza de Espana but it looked an easy walk although we were not berthed as close as in 2010. We walked through the Plaza Espana which was deserted. The large monument in the centre of the Plaza de Espana is the Monumento de los Caidos and commemorates the dead of the Civil War in 1936-39. Facing the square and its large shallow pool is the government building. It was a 35 minutes walk from the port to the bus station; we planned to spend the day at the tourist resort of Puerto de la Cruz, on the north coast. There is a non-stop hourly service, number 103 Direct, which costs 5.40 Euros each way if you pay on the bus, but by purchasing a Bono card from a newsagent for 15 Euros we could both travel more cheaply. Ticket offices at the bus station were closed so we were pleased to find the newsagent and even more impressed when they spoke good English. The Bono cards can be bought in various denominations with €15 being the cheapest. You put them in a machine which physically stamps them when you get on the bus and they can be used for several people on the same trip by inputting them multiple times.
The bus left at 0950 and by 1030 we were at the bus station in Puerto de la Cruz near the Dania Park and Florida Hotels. The old castle by the black sandy beach is still there and the beach had been tidied and upgraded. We had spent many happy holidays in the town and it has not changed very much over the years, except that more hotels and apartments had been built near the bus station, and there was an enormous car park by the ocean. Nearer to town, the old Chapel of San Francisco, built between 1599 and 1608, had been restored in 1986. The old hotels and the shops were still in the same places but no flower sellers at this time of year. We walked past the fishing harbour and along the promenade and watched a few people swimming despite the surf pounding in and the cold sea before continuing past the Lido Martianez with its swimming pools. We passed the Hotel Tenerife Playa where we usually stayed when we came to Puerto de la Cruz in the 1970s - the hotel is a good 4* and now part of the H10 group.
We went back to the Hotel Marquesa where we had an excellent rabbit stew as part of a buffet last visit. The buffet at 8.50 euros looked less interesting with a choice for main course of fish or meat patty but there was a local rabbit dish with the little wrinkled local potatoes on the menu. Unfortunately it had run out so we had their assorted grilled meat platter for two (€24) with the local potatoes which was huge and very tender - worth the long wait during which we consumed a half litre of the house red (€4). We ate inside because the tables outside in the sunshine were occupied by people smoking. We continue to be impressed with the hotel; it was built in 1712 and the main part is in the traditional Canarian design with a central courtyard. It was renovated in 1995 but without destroying the old character. There are now 137 rooms, most with balconies, and the new extension can be seen rising behind the original building. Prices are reasonable, with a double outside room B&B generally at 65 euros in 2013, but rising to 83 euros at Christmas and New Year. Half board is only an extra 4.5 euros and full board 7.5 euros per person. We would stay there if we came on holiday to Puerto de la Cruz.
We looked into the church of Our Lady of La Pena de Francia opposite. It was built between 1684 and 1697 and a leaflet explained the extensive restoration work since 2008. All the statues of the Virgin Mary are clothed in the Canaries, and this was no exception. We were a bit late to climb up the hill to the Botanical Gardens, an old favourite but we did go last time although it would have been nice to see what progress had been made with the plans to treble the size of the garden to 60,000 sq metres.
We had no particular plans for shopping, although there were lots of interesting shops, so we bought a bottle of the local wine and some canary cheese in the supermarket and walked back to catch the 1700 103 bus back to Santa Cruz. We found the slower 102 Express left earlier which stopped more often and also went into the university town of La Laguna, and got back to Santa Cruz at nearly the same time. It makes a good day trip, and the bus service generally in Tenerife is very good. Although Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands, it is approximately triangular in shape and only 795 sq miles and so the distance from Santa Cruz to the south coast and the town of Los Christianos is not great making another possible destination for a day trip. The bus only takes about an hour. We have even heard of passengers who have done a complete circuit of the island during the day. In addition to buses there is a tram service from the bus station interchange terminus in Santa Cruz which goes to La Laguna which we will try next visit.
Overall an excellent day with plenty of time in Puerto de La Cruz and we got back early enough to have done a walk round town We even got a few views of El Teide through the clouds. The volcano of El Teide is the highest mountain in Spain at 12,198 feet.