Pampered in Tenerife

the harbour in Las Galletas

the harbour in Las Galletas

It’s sometimes nice to balance out a ski vacation with a sun vacation, and its always nice to sit on a beach in warm weather, so Tenerife became an obvious next stop. It was also so cheap and easy to coordinate Andorra and Tenerife from Barcelona, where we spent 3 nights between our trip visiting old friends and some Icelandic acquaintances. I’ve visited other Icelandic people abroad, but its extremely rare to run into a stranger speaking Icelandic anywhere in the world. However, last time I was in Barcelona, I ran into a very good friend from Reykjavik at an empty nightclub on a Tuesday night, totally by chance.

beach of the Americas

beach of the Americas

Tenerife is the only place where this is likely to happen. In high season, there are 3 direct flights a week between Tenerife and Iceland, and statistics say around 180,000 Icelanders (which is half the population) visit the Canary Islands each year. We would be strolling along the seaside and hear Icelandic, sitting in a restaurant at a table beside some Icelanders, and get haggled by West Africans selling cheap watches with phrases in Icelandic! For some reason this totally blew my mind.

whale and dolphin scouting on our catamaran booze cruise

whale and dolphin scouting on our catamaran booze cruise

We hit Tenerife on the hottest January in years, which was actually the perfect temperature around the clock. We had shirtless days, dry and warm, and long pants but flip-flop kinda nights, with clear skies and little wind. We got around by foot in our little area, Playa de la Americas, taxi or bus to tourist sights and the airport, and rented a car one day to drive around the whole island. We could always find chilled rose wine and delectable tapas, though we stayed in a hotel with our meals included. Unlimited cava was served with breakfast, and at dinner we got too full on steaks and ribs to worry about lunch.

It was a wonderful ski vacation decompression, and an even better pre-trip therapy for my upcoming Middle East backpacking trip. So after swapping out my ski clothes for my skimpy beach clothes, I’m now carrying a backpack full of big, black clothes that I’ll need to handle the gulf sun a little more modestly.

 

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Vancouver: Rainy City

sunny vancouver

The Olympic Rings floating on a barge in the Vancouver Harbor. Visible from Stanley Park on a rare sunny day.

Dec 21 has just passed, the shortest day of the year, and now we can slowly start to look forward to longer days. Ironically though, the weather will still get colder, as Vancouver gets most of its frost and snow in January and February. Even though it doesn’t get very cold (temperatures hover around 5 degrees Celsius), it is typically very damp and dreary in Vancouver from Nov until about April, and this is the worst time for bad weather since its so dark all the time. But, now we can begin to look forward to longer days, and atleast the grey clouds won’t seem as dark anymore.

It never really feels like Christmas without the icy cold chill or snow Iceland usually gets around this time. But the lights covering all the houses makes it a bit more festive. Maybe it just doesn’t feel like the holidays since all I’ve done since getting back to Vancouver is work in an office or write my thesis. I also came here from California, where the sunny days and palm trees never make you think its winter or Christmas time.

This year my family decided to do something peculiar. We are not exchanging any gifts, both because our materialist, consumer driven society has begun to make me, my sisters and my mom very anxious in an economically tight time, and also because there are much better things we can do with our spare time and saved money other than add to the clothes hanging in our closets that we never wear. We are going to spend Christmas day donating half our possessions (mostly clothes and accessories we’ve accumulated over the year, in addition to some household things), and I think it will be a much more gratifying experience than opening gifts that result in more stuff to pack into our rooms.

Vancouver seems extra rainy and non-christmasy because everyone is just thinking about the Vancouver Olympics as the games near closer and closer. February will be a crazy time here as thousands upon thousands of athletes, fans, and tourists flock this little city to try and get a glimpse of just a handful of events that actually comprise the Olympics. Tickets range from $60 to $1,100 – a hefty fee for watching the opening ceremony, but apparently a price which people are still willing to pay. Which made me think – perhaps thats why people are thinking less about Christmas and spending less on gifts, because the Olympics are occupying our minds and draining our accounts.

Eitherway, Vancouver is still the same old, familiar place in all its rainy greyness, but it makes you appreciate the sunny days so much more. Today the weather had bright blue skies, not a breeze in the air, and me and a friend actually managed to have lunch outside on a patio, basked by the sun and wishing we had our sunglasses. It felt like I had just momentarily been transported to a warm, sunny vacation destination (even though I was cloaked in winter clothing which was actually the cause of my warmness); I guess its true that without rain, sunny days wouldn’t be so special, so let it rain – as long as the sun shows up once in a while.