Saturday, December 25, 2010

Feliz Navidad!

Yesterday we visited Igueste de San André, a little town at the end of the street north of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. It is a fantastic place, you can reach the upper part of town by car, but you have to walk into the rest of the town which descends to the oceanfront in a little canyon. In the middle of the canyon are gardens, on the sides going up the mountains are the houses. Here you can see the church, we stopped there at a little playground to have our lunch. It was so peaceful with no cars, all you could hear were birds singing and dogs barking.

Here is a look from the direction of the ocean into the canyon, you can see the gardens in the middle and the houses on the left and right.

And here's a view of the Atlantic from Igueste.

Walking toward the ocean you could hear rustling in the brush by the cacti and other succulents in addition to the birds singing and dogs barking, that noise was caused by these fantastic scaly friends scurrying about.

I was completely enthused by the lizards, but then I met Jola the white rabbit! We were chased by her owner Esther, who took us into her house to sell us some mangos. Esther lives right on the coast in a fantastic little house. She got Jola from a family in Santa Cruz who got her for their daughter, but she just kept growing and growing and got too big for them. So she came to live with Esther, and Esther can't eat her. I got all of this out of a conversation with my broken Spanish. I think we got the grand tour including Jola because of our two little blonde boys, they always seem to score us some extra points in Spanish-speaking countries.

This is Esther.

And there's her house. I wouldn't mind living there and selling mangos.

Today we had a Christmas picnic on the beach and then hiked a bit in the forest. Later we continued on to another little town at the end of the road, Afur. It was also in a very picturesque location, lush green mountainsides with a little waterfall in the middle. As we were driving out of the village, a girl was running along the street and motioning to her mouth. We stopped, rolled down the windows, and as soon as she saw us, exclaimed "Oh, ellas blancas, no hablan castellano!" ("Oh, you're white, you don't speak Spanish!") This absolutely cracked me up. I speak enough to understand that!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas in the Sun

We are spending our winter holidays in Tenerife this year...thinking back, we've had some adventurous times at Christmas the last few years: La Gomera, a road trip to California from Michigan, Gran Canaria, and this year Tenerife.

A nice little town in the West is Alcalá, a former fishing village that hasn't yet succumbed to the jaws of mass tourism. It's still pretty normal there, though there are lots of Brits in town. Above is the coastline by Alcalá with a banana farm in the background.

There was a hole in the wall around the farm, so you could peer in and see the bananas growing.

This is just up the coast a bit from the banana farm by Alcalá, the resorts are creeping in there too. The banana farm will probably be the next to go to free up some prime real estate for another of these lovely bunkers....I guess not too surprising when you consider that 74% of the economy here is accounted for by the service industry and only about 4% agriculture.

On the road behind a banana truck...

We stayed the first few days in Puerto Santiago, where I spotted a whole bunch of these scaly friends sunning themselves.

The coastline of Puerto Santiago by the little harbor.

Also by Puerto Santiago. The Atlantic is rough, and the giant waves crashing in made mist, which created some nice rainbows.

We walked to the harbor in Los Gigantes to show the kids the boats, there were also lots of hungry fish and we even saw this fishing boat come in. Their hunger was the downfall of the fish in all those giant boxes on the boat. On the boat I spotted a 650 kilogram sack of fish food, all they have to do is put out the nets, sprinkle in some food, and there comes dinner!

Today we departed from Puerto Santiago on our way to our next hotel in Puerto de la Cruz, which is our starting point for day trips into the Anaga Mountains. On the way we drove through the national park, which included scenery such as the lava fields above. You almost feel like you're on another planet going through there!

Another neat effect of the eruptions that formed the island are these layers of different colored stone.

More of the landscape, with El Teide peeking above the clouds.

We made it to Puerto de La Cruz in the afternoon and after checking in at our new hotel (which is quieter due to a lack of loud British tourists), we stopped in at the botanical garden, which is just a hop, skip and a jump away. We got to see this Australian tree with its giant roots, lots of palm trees and some lovely flowers...

 this Brazilian one on a tree...

...and of course, the bird of paradise.

Here are some of my favorite food things here. Since we are not all-inclusive travellers, we shop for ourselves and cook for ourselves. So we come across funny things like this milk package. It cracks me up, I love the udder.

And then there are neat local specialties, like palm syrup from Gomera. It kind of tastes like molasses, but thin like maple syrup.

And queso tetilla! Mmmm. It's firm on the outside and kind of soft and yummy on the inside.

I've mentioned the British a couple of times in here. Not that I dislike them, but in the mountains we stopped at a very delicious and very friendly restaurant where we had lunch one day. I got to use my broken Spanish, and we had a really good lunch. A local man came to talk to us, and asked if we were British, probably because I spoke English with the kids. When we said no, he gave us a big thumbs down, "Oh no, I don't like the British," he said. I guess the poor old Brits have a bad reputation in certain parts of the world just like Americans... Another funny occurance at this restaurant was that they had rabbit on the menu, but it wasn't available. I asked when it would be available (not for myself!) and the boss said "Tonight!" as another man was sharpening a big knife at the bar. Oh boy oh boy oh boy. That place was the real deal!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

There's no place like home, there's no place like home...

Here's what we woke up to this morning. Yeah, we get up before it's even light outside...
But that's not the point. This mass of white greeting us this morning was strangely reminiscent of a Michigan winter. Even my students and employer were joking with me this morning, "I bet you feel like you're home!" Haha, everyone. Snow is one thing I can live without.

At the same time, I do find it really pretty. Maybe it's just relief that I don't even own a car, so I can't be tempted to drive anyplace in the snow (one of the things I hate most about winter: driving in it), maybe I'm just happy that the creepy gray, rainy fall is finished. But what's not to love about snow-covered Wilhelminian-style houses and our very fine Romanesque Martin Luther Church?

The Christmas Market on the Hauptstrasse is in full swing, complete with a giant Christmas tree, blaring bad Christmas music and the gigantic rotating pyramid!

And for whatever reason, a little part of me was thrilled when I saw the trucks putting up these Christmas lights on Louisenstr. last week. I'm not such a Christmas nut, but I do like the decorations.

On another note, I have sore toes after tramping through the snow the last couple of days to drop a certain someone off at preschool. It is a special kind of exercise pushing a stroller holding a one-year-old and dragging along a 4-year-old through that much snow.

Oh, and one final postscript: am I a horrible person for relishing the fact that someone else's kid threw themselves flat on the wet, slushy floor of the supermarket and pitched a huge tantrum? For once it wasn't one of my kids screaming and throwing themselves down. I think I'm allowed to be thrilled.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Duck Crossing

Careful! Duck crossing - take your foot off the gas!
I love it. Frog crossings, duck crossings, special bridges that are not paved but planted with grass and little trees so that animals can cross the highway -- these are all things you might see on the road in Germany.
However, I do know drivers upon whom this would have the exact opposite result: certain people who shall remain nameless would put the pedal to the metal if they see so much as a feather, let alone an actual moving target, approaching the street...

In other news I saw a nice sign yesterday on an Indian shop window: it should say "Wir unterstützen keine Kinderarbeit." (We don't support child labor) But someone scratched off the "k", so it said "Wir unterstützen eine Kinderarbeit." (We support a child labor - a sweatshop maybe?) Petty childish imbecile that I am, I cracked up right there in the middle of the icy cold sidewalk. It was more because I expected it to say something like "We support an orphanage" or something along those lines because it was in small print along the bottom of the window, and I saw "support" and "child" and then I read the whole thing...

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

As seen in Dresden-Friedrichstadt

Here are a few new gems from my daily jaunts about town. Above is not only the profile of a crazy cool balcony, but I also like these tired guy faces I see popping up everywhere. They look about how I feel lately.

Here's a neat wall that I don't really get, but it's neat all the same!

And you can't beat the potato dealer! I didn't know there was such a thing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A more non-urban look at Dresden

The Dresdner Heide! This is about 50 square kilometers of great forest and nice hiking, and lucky me, one way in is just around the corner from my house. We can go in by the Prießnitz, a little river that runs through the Heide and into the Elbe.

These sculptures are right by where we enter the Heide. Unfortunately, I don't know the story behind them, but I do like them!

The high water this fall washed a whole bunch of sand all over the place!

Here's the little sandy beach that stays amazingly cool on the hottest summer days. Instead of having air conditioning, I can just bring the kids out here to stay cool!

This past Sunday we had the crazy idea to use the beautiful weather to hoof it to the Prießnitz waterfall. We've always seen the hiking signs for this down by Bautzner Straße, and sort of wondered just what kind of a waterfall this is. Finally we didn't have any other plans, so we went in search of the water fall. It's about a 9 kilometer walk from our house, even doable by a four-year-old!

We started at Alaunplatz, and from here it was just one more kilometer. Good thing you can pretty much find a waterfall by following the water, because this was the first marker we saw on the whole trip. But what is a trip into nature without a little adventure? We didn't even think to look at a map before we left.

This little hut by the waterfall is pretty neat, too bad somebody decided to burn it down.

There it is, the Prießnitzwasserfall! Not to be a jaded, spoiled brat, but it was kind of anticlimactic finding it. I'd always had the idea of some great, mysterious hidden treasure in the Heide, but this is just a tiny little waterfall. Oh well, we made it and it was a nice walk!