Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Henderson in Spain

So fair warning, this one isn't going to be about guitars. Or my Granny. Or my dad. I am going to tell you about my adventure to Spain because I figure if you read the last post you might be curious as to how my time out of the shop went. The only thing though is that the guitar plays a role perhaps equivalent to the Apothecary who sold Romeo his poison in Romeo and Juliet. He was quite pivotal in the grand scheme of things but really he only had a few lines.

I stuffed my Apothecary in the overhead bin and off across the Atlantic we took. After lugging him in his bulky black case through three airports, onto two planes, and into a taxi, we arrived in Costa Adeje, a small beach town to the south of the Canarian island of Tenerife. After instructing the driver, in the limited Spanish I retained from four years in high school, to drop us at a hotel nearby my friend's apartment (lucky for me, hotel is the same), we were left on the side of a busy one way street packed on each side with people dressed in beachwear ambling by on scooters, bright hotels, shops filled with nicknacks, and restaurants boasting their offerings on huge multilingual menus accompanied by pictures. After taking in the view I wasn't quite sure what I had gotten us into.


Sunset from our first night in Tenerife
A quick traveling tip: if you stay awake for the 30 hours it takes to travel to a new place and wait to sleep until it is appropriate where you are you'll go to bed and sleep for 12 hours and wake up with no jet lag. Maybe that is just something I do, and being exhausted isn't the most fun, but it has worked for me so far! I mean, I couldn't tell you what we did that first night in town. I know we found the beach (not too difficult at 100 meters from our front door) and a beautiful promenade showcasing the sun descending over the water where we passed more never-ending restaurants selling the same food (I assume it was the same, evidenced by the signs out front with the same stock photo of a steak, a wood fired pizza, and a shrimp cocktail) each place differentiating themselves by only slightly different decor and name. Little Italy was adjacent to Bob's American Grill which sat next to The Fun Pub. After working on the other side of the cruise ship/tourism industry for several seasons in Alaska, such artificial looking storefront-type places and people heartily peddling boat excursions tend to give me hives. I was sure though that if we made a little extra effort we would be able to find the behind-the-scenes real experience of Tenerife.

Our first full day on the island we decided to take a hike. The closest mountain I found from perusing Google Earth sat about four miles east adjacent to a town called Los Cristianos. We decided to walk there instead of finding a cab because I didn't want to whiz past an experience were there one to be had along the way. We hoped that we could find something suitable for breakfast on the walk that wasn't the "Traditional English Breakfast" pictured in each restaurant we passed. For some reason, the times I have traveled to Europe previously I made a habit of eating croissants for breakfast. I don't eat them often at home, but if they are around when I am exploring somewhere new I will go for it. Croissants are ridiculously filling for how small and airy they are (I assume it's all that butter, but let's not think about it) not to mention delicious (again, that butter). Lucky for me there were  bins of freshly baked bread and pastries offered in almost every HiperDino, which at first we thought were sketchy gas stations on just about every corner, but most turned out to be really nice grocery stores.

After walking through the bustling marina of Los Cristianos and past more tourist attractions, restaurants, and beach clubs, we arrived at the base of Montaña de Guaza where its tall rocky cliffs jutted into the sapphire colored ocean. We found a trail leading up the side and set out to explore the quiet, unpopulated mountainside. Because the island was formed by volcanic activity, the terrain changed quite dramatically whereas our Blue Ridge mountains, which were formed by glaciers and plate movement are a bit more calm and rolling.When we arrived at the top of the first bald we were surprised by the dusty arid terrain, where the rocks clinked under our feet, a sound similar to champagne glasses following a toast. Having expected a more dense sound, I bent down to examine a rock and noticed it was pocked with holes throughout its surface like a sponge. I think it was the first time I saw pumice in its natural habitat, not resting on a shelf of someone's shower waiting to scrub the excess skin from their feet. I was also amazed to see evidence of abandoned towns dotting the landscape. The area had been terraced and landscaped with rows of rock walls while an old irrigation system ran along our path toward some dilapidated buildings. After exploring the mountainside a while longer and being careful to steer clear of the huge outcropping of cacti near our path we decided to head back toward the ocean. On our walk back down the mountain we stopped and sampled the local San Miguel beer that was offered at every beach front restaurant. I am not the hugest fan of beer (don't tell anyone in Asheville or I will get kicked out) but after walking eight or so miles under a hot sun, that one euro pint of beer was one of the most refreshing beverages I have ever had. 











So we rented a car. I thought because the island is so large and seeing the non tourist parts would 
require transportation other than our feet and motor coaches that it would be a good idea. Boy was I wrong. I mean, not really, but it was not the cake walk I had expected. They drive on the right side of the road so I figured we would be fine. Also, I feel like I can understand enough Spanish to read road signs but it turns out that was just not enough. Turns out Google does not work as well on an island off the coast of Africa as it does buzzing around a city in the US because our GPS would often give us a specific direction while the screen depicted a different instruction. We spent a good deal of time practicing U-turns on busy Spanish highways and making multiple circles on the map. The other thing that Google didn't really mention before we set off on an adventure into the hills away from the main tourist drag that the majority of the streets are single lane but two-way and are incredibly steep.


We stopped to have lunch at a place called Otelo, which boasted the best Canarian style fried chicken on the island, but in order to get there we had to fight our way up the steepest hill I think our little car has ever tried to ascend. (That is until later) Once there though, the view was incredibly beautiful, nestled into a craggy mountainside overlooking Costa Adeje and the ocean beyond. As promised, the chicken was delicious. It was served with the traditional dish of wrinkled potatoes which are salty boiled potatoes which were originally cooked with sea water. After our big lunch we thought we were strong enough to go search for some wine as we had heard there were great wineries on Tenerife. 

View from our lunch spot on the deck of Otelo

We entered the address for a winery in our GPS and set off on more turn-arounds and multiple trips around the roundabouts. We eventually kind of got there, but not before several wrong turns and missing one winery by so far that we arrived after they closed so we had to go on to the next one. I thought choosing the straightest path that Google offered on the GPS instead of her suggested route riddle with switchbacks would be a good idea for us. Boy was I wrong. After thirty minutes of clutching the armrests with white knuckled hands and sitting tipped back in my seat in the manner of a dentists chair, we slowly made our way up the single lane road through a town called La Escalona, each if its roads becoming narrower and more steep the higher we ascended. It is the second to last town on the way toward Mount Teide, the 10,000ft high volcano by which Tenerife was created. I was just waiting for a huge motor coach filled with tourists to come barreling down the road ahead of us and knock us into oblivion as had almost happened earlier, but on a regular mostly flat road. As we inched higher and higher in our poor little Volkswagen Up! I wondered who in the world lived in this town and what in the heck did they do there? 





We finally made it up to the winery, but it took a while for my blood pressure to normalize after the ride. We looked back from where we came and the clouds obscured our view of the ocean. Walking quietly with Nick through the evenly spaced rows of grape vines I have never felt to insignificant. We stood on the edge of a field on the side of a mountain on an island in the middle of the ocean. The feeling reminded me of an exercise my seventh grade teacher had us practice once. She told us to imagine ourselves sitting in our chairs. Consider where they were in this room. Where the room was in the school. The school in the town. The town in the state. The state in the country. The country in the world. The world in the universe. It was a humbling practice to think of yourself as such a small aspect of everything. It is always nice to have a reminder that we are part of something so big it is almost impossible to fathom. I am thankful for to have had this experience and enjoyed taking the time to really appreciate it.






At the bodega we were led into a tiny room set up with glasses and a bar on top of which stood gleaming bottles. No one else was there so we chatted with Frank, our pourer, and sampled the majority of the wines offered at the winery. They have a surprisingly wide distribution, producing thousands of bottles per year. Following the tasting and purchases of a few bottles, Frank scribbled a map on a Bodega Reverón napkin to a delicatessen in Los Cristianos which he said was his favorite spot for food on the island. A deli? Really? We promised to look it up when we got back to civilization. After winding back down the mountain, turns out Google was right, the two-lane road with switchbacks (that ended up making the mountain seem way less steep) was a much safer and easier choice, we set out to find the deli. After a long while of searching where my phone claimed the store was, we finally found it on a little side road a block from the address. (Frank's map consisted of a square, two straight lines and a wobbly arrow.) We decided to try a sampler of freshly cut ham that and a few slices of cheeses that had been made on the island. I like fancy food, but I will say that my favorite dinner while we were on vacation was the cutting board spread of ham, cheese, baguette and bowls of mojo, my new favorite traditional Canarian dipping sauce, while sitting on our little terrace drinking the rosé we got from that mountain. 



After several days of extra walking we managed to explore bits of the island that were off the beaten path and we ended up finding some incredible adventures along the way. I am so thankful to my new friend Tommy for his hospitality and for waiting three years for one of my guitars. I am also thankful that my job allows me to meet so many great people and explore and learn in so many more ways than just building guitars. 



Me with my new friend Tommy as we were leaving and he was arriving home. 
Now it is back to reality. This coming weekend is my dad's annual music festival at Grayson Highlands State Park. Please stop by and see me (and some awesome bands and a guitar competition) if you can! All proceeds from the festival go to scholarships for kids hoping to learn to play. 


My favorite beach, Playa Del Duque
On a walk

The waves were pretty serious

Playa de Güímar

Güímar

Sunset from Costa Adeje

Black sand beach near La Caleta

My favorite town, La Caleta

La Caleta

La Caleta and Costa Adeje in the distance

Paella in Madrid