Wednesday, May 14, 2014

La Orotava

Last week I returned from my holiday in Tenerife. I was there for only one week and it felt like the shortest holiday ever - and the shortest week in my life as well! I tried to see all of my friends, I did some pending paperwork, I enjoyed some cosy family dinners and a big getogether on Sunday to celebrate Mother's Day - in Spain it is usually observed on the first Sunday of May, so we were one week ahead of most European countries - and I also did a small daytrip around the northern coast of Tenerife with my parents.

May 1st is always a bank holiday in Spain. It is the International Labour Day and in Spain it is celebrated by not working, as paradoxically as it sounds. Though the weather forecast had predicted a cloudy and cool day, we jumped in the car and drove along the North Highway. Our first stop was the town of La Orotava, known for its colonial mansions with carved wooden balconies and steeped cobbled streets. I had probably been to La Orotava a couple of times before but I didn't really remember much about it. My only early memory was being there once with my two best friends when we were doing an acting course for the midterm play, which was held in the local auditorium (oh my, this sounds just crazy. Me? Taking acting lessons? Those were the days ... I was young and bold).

La Orotava, Tenerife

We parked in the street and walked towards the city centre. We stopped first in Plaza de La Constitución, a lively square with a kiosk in the middle and several terraces of adjacent bars. We entered the Iglesia de San Agustín, a simple yet beautifully ornated church dating from the 17th century. Then we walked to the Liceo Taoro and its surrounding gardens. Liceo Taoro is a cultural society located in an impressive mansion, which can be visited at times for exhibitions and concerts. The entrance is adorned by a terraced garden which was fully in bloom during this time of the year. But this is not the only pretty garden in La Orotava. Just to the right of the Liceo Taoro there is a larger terraced garden which overlooks the whole town and valley of La Orotava. The Jardines Victoria, as it is called, is a beautiful garden with many different types of roses, geraniums and several other flowers. It is slightly reminiscent of French neoclassical gardens and there is a marble mausoleum on top. It is worth a visit just for the impressive views but the pretty gardens are a delight themselves.

dragon tree, Tenerife

Iglesia San Agustin, La Orotava, Tenerife

Liceo Taoro, La Orotava, Tenerife


Liceo Taoro, La Orotava, Tenerife


Jardines Victoria, La Orotava, Tenerife

After oohing and aahing in those wonderful gardens we resumed our stroll to the city centre. First thing outside the Victoria Garden was yet another garden, but this one was closed, as it was a bank holiday. Named Hijuela del Botánico, it is a smaller branch of the botanical gardens in the neighboring town of Puerto de Cruz. The Canary Islands, and especially Tenerife, were a favoured destination among naturalists of the 18th and 19th century because of their distinctive flora and mild climate, which served good to many plant species brought from faraway British, Spanish, French and Portuguese colonies. The fertile valleys of the north became home to many of these new species and the botanic gardens of Puerto de la Cruz and La Orotava were founded in 1792 to help acclimatize new species before introducing them in Europe. 

La Orotava, Tenerife

We continued walking along many a steep street, in awe of the outstanding colonial architecture. La Orotava has one of the most important historical heritage of the Canary Islands. Some of the mansions date back to the 16th century and they have been perfectly preserved. Their carved wooden balconies are their most distinguished feature but many of them also have an inner patio and tiled floors and walls, in a Spanish colonial fashion. Some of the mansions can be visited, as they now house museums or restaurants. The most remarkable are the Casa de Los Balcones and Casa Lercaro.

La Orotava, Tenerife

La Orotava, Tenerife

La Orotava, Tenerife

On our way to La Orotava we stopped at a fancy cafe in the Mirador Humboldt, which offers superb views of the valley. At the entrace there is a bronze sculpture of Alexander Von Humboldt, a renowned German naturalist of the 19th century who spent a week in Tenerife before heading to the Americas and once said that the Orotava Valley was by far the most beautiful sight he had seen in the world. And even today, with so many houses scattered around, the views are truly outstanding. And even more when glimpsed from the coast, where the whole green valley rises till the clouds and if the sky is clear the magnificent Teide volcano will show on top of the lush Orotava valley. Apparently, even the Greeks believed this valley to be their Hesperides Garden!

Mirador Humboldt, La Orotava, Tenerife

Have a lovely Wednesday!

8 comments:

  1. How lovely you got a chance to visit your hometown. Sounds like it was jam-packed and a lot of fun! I love meeting friends that I haven't seen in ages. I am just chomping at the bit to get back to England and see my friends this summer as I have been away for a little while, so I know how it feels. I don't think I'm going to be able to cram everything into my mini visit. Glad you had such a lovely time. Rosemary x

    rosemaryofelephants.blogspot.com

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  2. Qué ganas me han entrado de viajar a Tenerife y ver la Orotava. Un lugar precioso por su arquitectura y jardines. Por cierto, por más que he releído no he visto el nombre de esa curiosa planta que nos muestras la foto donde nos hablas de los jardines Victoria. Bss:)

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  3. I'm happy that you had such a great time and that you were able to see friends and family! That tree/plant in the second picture looks so cool! I love it!

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    1. That's exactly what I was going to say -- I love that strange-looking plant. So curious what it is.

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  4. Those trees in that garden are pretty darn kooky! I'd love to see them for myself :)

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  5. Oh, what a lovely blog you have! I've wanted to go to Tenerife for the longest time and was just about to book a trip last year when I suddenly had to use my funds for an emergency. I think I'd really enjoy the flora there - from your post and what I've read, the climate and flora are similar to my home country of S Africa.

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  6. These colonial mansions are so beautiful. Love the colors and architecture. I was wondering how your vacation was going while I was on a blog break.

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  7. What a beautiful place. So lovely!

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