Playa de Las Americas – Tenerife

After a long, difficult year ( the reasons are many and varied ), I needed a break away from everyone and everything! Saying that I settled for Tenerife seems a little unfair. After doing some research on the internet, it seemed quite a popular destination in the winter months. Having been there, I can see why. I booked 7 nights in Playa de las Americas with MyTravel. Flying from Newcastle Airport takes approximately 4 hours. Confirm your check-in times with this company. They will probably tell you when the check-in desks open, not close. I made the mistake of not doing this, turned up at the airport at some ridiculous hour of the morning then had to wait around for ages.

Arriving at Aeropuerto Reina Sofia was hassle free except that the travel reps for MyTravel didn’t exactly stand out. I wasn’t expecting a neon sign or anything but I was expecting a clipboard held aloft at least. I finally found their desk in the arrival area and got the transfer information I needed there. The transfer from the airport only takes 20 minutes so it’s really easy to get to.

Even in mid-November, the temperature reaches upto the mid-20 degrees Celsius so always have your sun cream handy and especially when you first arrive. There are numerous information points dotted around the resorts. Throughout the holiday, I never saw a temperature reading less than 18 degrees Celsius and that includes at night. Even on the beach front where there always seems to be a noticeable onshore breeze, it’s warm enough for a short sleeved shirt. During the day, what seems to happen is that early morning cloud is quickly burned off by the sun and stays clear for most of the day. Occasionally, it can become dull during the day but more so in the late afternoon and without the direct heat of the sun, it can feel a bit chilly.

I chose the Hotel Bitacora which has a 4-star rating. The rooms are comfortable but I found the bed too hard to be really comfortable for me. The en-suite bathroom was small for the number of people the room could sleep but very practical. There is a safe available in the room but using it is extra depending on your reservation. For a VIP stay, the 12 euro deposit is refundable. The hotel complex is clean and comfortable with 2 heated swimming pools, loads of sun loungers and a games area. There are loads of free activities everyday from 11 o’clock, for example, water aerobics, pistol and rifle shooting, french boules.

The food in the hotel is excellent with quite a varied selection of foods available, both each evening and throughout the week. It’s self-service from the buffet-style counters but it does give you a chance to see the food before you choose. The waiters/waitreses wear a different style every night but it didn’t seem to have any bearing on what type of food was being served. From 10pm each evening, there’s a show of some kind in the bar; a singer, a magician, acrobatics.

Another of the hotel’s facilities is massage. Someone rear-ended me in a car accident in July and I’d been having physiotherapy treatment to ease back pain. During the flight, it had flared up again and no amount of swimming would ease it. Instead of the gentle back rub I’d expected, it felt more like a half-hearted beating that I agreed to. However, to give the guy his due, 2 half hour sessions was all it took to fix me up. Even if you’ve no particular complaints, give it a try. I promise that you’ll feel much better afterwards.

The shopping in Tenerife is fantastic. You can get everything from cameras and perfume to designer clothes far cheaper than in the UK. Late night shopping means exactly that. Some places are open until midnight. I bought an SLR camera lens for about 100 quid less than the UK. It even comes with a European guarantee which is important if you’re buying electronics or some kind of technology.

There are numerous excursions available whilst on holidaying. I chose whale watching with Freebird Sailing and a visit to Loro Parque. To be honest, the whale watching excursion could do with being better organised. It seems very popular but my impression of the Freebird crew is that their clients are a necessary evil for them to enjoy themselves sailing a posh catamaran. On the up-side, standing on the bow, watching a pilot whale swim right underneath me and then surface to breath is quite moving. I’d certainly recommend the trip but maybe not with Freebird. Diametrically, the trip to Loro Parque is fantastic if you’re into getting up and close to exotic animals. For me, it was another brilliant photo opportunity, especially the sea lion and dolphin shows. My only criticism would be that the excursion doesn’t allow for enough time at the park.

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Madrid & Valencia, Spain

This holiday did not have a good start at all! Some stupid idiot left some luggage on the plane. This was mistaken for a bomb and so emergency procedures were put in place. The whole airport was evacuated and a lot of flights were diverted. We were over 6 hours late in taking off so I was really NOT impressed!

We arrived in Madrid late on the Saturday afternoon. The taxi drivers in Spain are absolutely bonkers so if you’re a nervous passenger, take my advice and sit in the back. Nothing happened to us while we were there but it wasn’t for the want of trying by the taxi drivers we had.

All the stuff we’d planned to do in Madrid that afternoon/night was ruined because we were so late. To whomever owned that bag, “Thanks very much, you pillock!” We just went for something to eat and to stretch our legs. We had a really nice meal in a square somewhere in the old part of the city. I couldn’t take you there again if I tried; there’s loads of squares like that and the whole place is just 1 big rabbit warren.

While we were eating, along came a couple of buskers who were really quite good!. They stood there and played for about 10 to 15 minutes and then moved off to the middle of the square. It was really pleasant.

I guess I’m the typical english-speaking tourist in that I expect everyone in the whole world to be able to understand what I say. I was in for a nasty surprise the next morning. We almost missed our train to Valencia because I couldn’t get it across to the guy in the tourist information office what I wanted. Our train was boarding in another building; it’s all part of the same station but Madrid Central Station is HUGE! To cut a long story short, we just made it. We settled down for a comfy and very relaxing journey towards the coast – nothing like UK trains.

The rest of the week was relatively boring really but then again we were on holiday. Valencia is a beautiful place, full of interesting little nooks and crannies. It was amazing the shops, buildings and squares we found just wandering down side-streets and what looked like dead-ends. I’m not into architecture at all but even I could appreciate the skill that went into building various monuments and buildings.

The weather was fabulous! It wasn’t too hot during the day – it averaged about 35 degrees Celsius each day. I expected it to get really cool in the evenings but not at all. More than once we ended up sitting in pavement
cafe-bars after midnight in just short-sleeved shirts; the beer helped I guess.

The food is excellent but I guess it could get a bit boring if you’re not that adventurous when it comes to food. There’s a huge choice of places to eat on the beach-front and in the centre but instead of having completely different menus, they each have their own variation of certain dishes.

By the way, the architecture isn’t the only thing of beauty in Spain. Several times, myself and a lesbian friend would get caught out, drooling like idiots as absolutely drop-dead gorgeous girls walked by. We saw some truly amazing creatures.