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Trip 29 -- Tenerife Walk

Day 13: Santa Cruz to La Laguna
Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Today: 10165 steps/7.61 km/4.73 mi/1h 31m
Grand total: 415876 steps/306.74 km/190.60 mi/62h 29m

The calima abated, but yesterday I awoke to a weather phenomenon new to me on Tenerife: water descending from the sky. I'd gone more than two weeks without experiencing any rain. I marveled at the timing. Rain along the mountain trails or open roads would have been most unpleasant. In Santa Cruz it was merely a nuisance.

Tenerife's original Guanche inhabitants lived under one kingdom and one king (known as a mencey) until unrest among his heirs led to its division into nine separate kingdoms, each with its own mencey. When the Spanish arrived in the 1490s, further squabbling caused some of the menceys to negotiate with and welcome the invaders. Such is how Alonso Fernández de Lugo came to erect a cross on the land now known as Santa Cruz.

Nobody is going to target Santa Cruz as a main holiday destination and stay there; Tenerife's appeals are elsewhere. The capital is short on museums, La Laguna is prettier, and the seafront isn't great for a stroll. The Mercado de Nuestra Señora de África lacked the bustle of its La Laguna counterpart, though admittedly Monday wasn't the best day for a visit.

That doesn't mean the city was without charm. It has wonderful public parks; the Plaza del Príncipe de Asturias was just outside my hotel, and it's hard to beat sitting with a hot chocolate in a leafy square in Spain, or anywhere in Europe. Around the city -- stretching through the industrial port all the way to San Andrés -- were the remains of old fortifications that were decommissioned in the early 20th century.

One such ruin was the Castillo de San Cristóbal, located right under the Plaza de España in the city center. Its small but engaging display contained a few meters of the 16th-century fort and the cannon known as El Tigre, supposedly to whose fire Admiral Horatio Nelson lost his right arm in 1797. For several days in July of that year, the British attempted to take the capital, but a combination of nature's strong winds and the people's strong will led to their surrender. Having secured their win -- if only all wars ended with such sportsmanship -- the Spanish forces fed the British and treated their wounded. By way of thanks, Nelson sent the Spanish commander beer and cheese, and the commander responded with Canarian wine.

A stroll along the Rambla made for a lovely hour, with sculptures sprinkled in every couple of blocks; the simplest and most striking was 40 metal rods angled to achieve a pinwheel effect. The Rambla brought me to the Parque García Sanabria, named after the city's mayor in the late 1920s. With numerous pathways, fountains, a floral clock, a garden of aromatic plants, and a musician singing just higher than his ideal key, the park was a picturesque and comfortable place to walk and sit for a specific amount of time.

Near the supermarket with the liter bags I'd seen a modern restaurant advertising itself as the Bárbaro Meat Bar, and so my final dinner on Tenerife was a departure from the usual bread with mojos, meat or fish, and papas arrugadas. I'd never enjoyed leeks as I did here, in a foie sauce with seaweed and scallops. The server warned me that the stewed bull's tail with mashed potatoes would be too much for one person, and though it was a heavy dish, I won the challenge.

Tenerife gets late sunrises, and I departed my hotel just before eight -- a few minutes before the official dawn -- for my Madrid flight. The streets were still wet, either from more rain or from cleaning, and the sidewalks' slippery tile slowed me down until I had left the center. The route to La Laguna followed the streetcar line for a while and then veered steeply uphill. A mixed-race population was walking dogs and bringing children to school. I would have loved to stop for chocolate con churros, but there was no time to lose.

Most island airports seem to be on the coast, but Tenerife North is up in the hills by La Laguna. This morning was overcast but not rainy, and the air at the airport's elevation was noticeably cooler than Santa Cruz's. As usual, I'd considered on which side of the plane to sit for the best takeoff scenery. I looked intently out the window as we accelerated. The wheels left the ground, and immediately we were in the clouds, with any views of Tenerife left to my memory and a thousand photos.

Go on to the epilogue