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|Queen Elizabeth 2 - 2003
South American Adventure - Part 1
Our tour began with a slow crawl out of Santa Cruz, then through the new tunnel and towards the Airport of Los Rodeos. Here we turned along the road which runs along the "spine" of Tenerife, to La Esperanza. We stopped at a souvenir bar, and then continued to El Portillo, the gateway to the Canadas National Park. Throughout we could see the signs of damage from the extensive forest fire, some seven years previously. The weather was good once we were above cloud, but it was windy, so it was no surprise that the cablecar to the summit of Mount Teide was not running. We were able to stop at the Hotel Parador and admire the views, and visit the new Museum.
We retraced our steps to El Portillo where we turned through the Orotava valley, to Puerto de la Cruz. It was nice to descend through the clouds and see the familiar fertile valley, planted with grapevines and bananas. The wine industry has expanded, and new types of smaller bananas are being planted which are resistant to the wind.
We arrived at Puerto de la Cruz with just over an hour of free time. Parking was near the Hotel Las Vegas and it is a good central spot for exploring the seafront promenade. The first priority was to find the flower sellers and buy a bunch of strelizia flowers. We even found a shop selling Tenerife Cava at 12 euros.
We continued to the Botanical Gardens. Our guide, Patsy, was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and had a good old reference book. There are no guide books available now. We kept close to her as she instructed the group, and just took side detours when something extra caught our interest. The highlights were fruit trees and nuts, particularly the macademia tree. And there was a NZ Xmas tree which had produced just one little bunch of flowers. We said that it probably flowers in June, and is the pohutukawa.
We were due to moor at 08.00, and indeed the pilot arrived on board on time. Unfortunately everyone had to be checked in person. We joined the queue at 08.10 and it took an hour before we were processed. Another problem was that the local gangplank was not suitable for disabled passengers, and those with wheelchairs had to abandon them and be helped off on foot.
Our tour took us to the Municipal Square, past the famous Elevador Lacerda and through the Pelourinho District where there are many fine colonial-style houses. We drove along the beachfront, and passed the Farol da Barra lighthouse before reaching the parking at the top of the elevator.
From here there was a walking tour. We saw a group of local ladies in traditional costume, before we visited the Baroque cathedral. The timing of our visit was good; 10.00 Mass had just finished so it was possible to walk around freely with the guide. Then it was off across Terreiro de Jesus Square, past the church of Sao Pedro dos Clericos, to admire the beautiful gold leaf decoration and the blue and white tiles in the Church of San Francis. At this point it started to rain. Sao Pedro los Clericos
Our final stop was at the Handicraft Market, just at the base of the elevator. By now the sun was shining again.
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