We were looking for both a longer holiday and a warmer one this year, and planned to visit the Canary Islands again, as a sure thing for hot weather and not too long for flight times. A colleague suggested the hotel he'd stayed at a couple of years ago and so we plumped for that. He was returning this year and so we ended up with some friends for company as Colin, Evonne, Alistair and Jamie stayed for the same two weeks we did.
Our hotel was the Marylanza in the south of Tenerife, a golf and spa hotel (in neither of which we partook) on the outskirts of the lively Playa de las Americas. The location was fairly quiet, our only disturbances being the concert for two consecutive nights in the nearby football stadium and the car horns being sounded for most of the night when Spain won the Euro 2012 tournament. It was an ideal place, formed in a rectangle of apartments surrounding the central courtyard which held three pools and a pool bar. We were in one corner of the block, on the upper floor. Opposite to the restaurant, which at least gave us a bit of exercise at each meal time. We were all-inclusive, so generally filled our boots at breakfast, had a light meal at the pool bar for lunch and were starving by the time the restaurant opened at night (7pm).
Our apartment had a living room and bedroom, the living room also having a bed for Cate. We had a fridge, hob and microwave as well, though never tried any home cooking. The rooms looked slightly worn in places but the whole place was kept spotless by the cleaning staff, who always gave us a friendly "ola" as we passed. The block was done in an attractive north African style, with covered walkways between the rooms and regular stairways meaning there were always a few different paths to get from one part of the complex to another.
The pools were a delight to use. We spent most of our time in the main pool, which was warm enough from the sun's heat to avoid the sharp intake of breath usually caused by entering an outdoor pool. There was the usual faff of people booking sun loungers by putting their towels on them first thing in the morning, but there were generally still a few available when we went down, and I had no qualms about chucking off a couple of towels if they had obviously been there for hours without being used. Cate got an inflatable penguin from a nearby shop on the second day, and played with that and the other kids throughout the fortnight.
The other big plus was the entertainment staff. There were events on throughout the day for adults, kids and younger kids, and the organisers were very good. The kids especially liked Dana, who kept them all in line with alternate Spanish and English commentary. In the evenings there was generally a kids disco, followed by an entertainment spot, which varied from tribute acts to magic shows and snake handling sessions. There was enough to keep us interested for the two weeks without feeling cooped up in an endless cycle of pool games and dodgy entertainment.
The food deserves a mention as well. For each meal an amazing spread was laid out, with a bit of variety night by night (Mexican night was my favourite), but generally plenty for all tastes, with an emphasis of sea food. We ate well and had to schedule in a good few lengths of the pool each day to mitigate the effects of the three (or more) courses from the night before.
We didn't spend all our time in the hotel though. Here are the highlights from our excursions, long and short, outside the Marylanza.
The market runs on Sunday mornings. It's basically a tourist trap, but has plenty of trinkets, knock-off football strips and the like to be worth a quick visit. We got a taxi down, stayed for an hour or so and walked along the sea-front and then back up to our hotel for lunch time.
A 10-15 minute stroll down from the hotel took us through Playa de las Americas and down to the beaches. We picked the one on the left and booked a couple of sun loungers. Cate loved the waves, which were quite strong both in rushing in and also in sucking you back out again. The black sand heated up quickly and we didn't stay too long, but our beach trip broke up the days between our main trips.
We booked a half day excursion through First Choice to visit the volcano which dominates Tenerife, Mount Teide. The bus took us on a fairly lengthy journey inland and upwards, until we entered the caldera of the volcano, where we had a smoother ride to the base of the highest peak on the island. Already at about 6,000 feet, a cable car (extra cost) took us up to within about a thousand feet of the 12,000 feet summit. Here we got to walk about a bit and take pictures before the cable car ride back down. The bus took us to another spot, where a rock formation has become one of the most famous in the Spanish territories. Another quick stop to view Teide's Nostrils, then we were taken back down and dropped back at our hotels. All in all an interesting excursion but a long and windy journey and perhaps a bit steep in more ways than one.
We had booked tickets for both Siam Park (very close to us) and Loro Park (at the other end of the island). We tried Siam first. This is a water park, claimed to be the largest in Europe. It's themed on Thai architecture, and the attractions are nicely done. There are a number of rides, ranging from tame to "there's no way I'm going on that". We got there nice and early, so were able to get on most of the rides before the queues built up. As well as the rides, there's a huge artificial beach. Every so often the wave machine generates a series of huge waves, which sweep into the beach, lifting you off your feet and sometimes sending you tumbling. We enjoyed the park, and took the option of buying cheapish return tickets on the way out.
We used our cheap return tickets for Siam Park on the Tuesday when the entertainment staff at the Marylanza have the morning off. This time I'd promised I'd go on the Tower of Power, so I duly climbed the stairs, lay in the starter pool and left myself in the care of the pusher-offer. It was over quickly but I did get a glimpse of the shark pool as I hurtled through it.
We spent the rest of the morning going round all the rides again. The Dragon was probably the favourite, but we could have spent ages in the wave pool if they'd kept it going and sunburn hadn't started setting in. By the time we got back to the hotel we were famished, so enjoyed our one visit to the restaurant for lunch.
Into our second week and we booked the bus for Loro Park for Sunday morning, though Claire wasn't happy this would mean missing the market and we'd be lucky to see any of the Wimbledon final. The bus took around an hour and a half, dropping us off in Loro Park just after ten.
Loro (which is Spanish for parrot) Park began life 40 years ago as a parrot sanctuary. It has expanded over the years and while it still holds many birds, especially parrots, the main attractions are the shows put on regularly throughout the day.
The dolphin show was first for us. Lots of leaping, tail walking and so on, as you'd expect, plus a chance for a member of the audience to be towed along in a boat by a dolphin while the others jumped around behind it.
The orca show was next and, while they aren't quite as agile as the dolphins, this was compensated by their sheer size. They'd also been trained to leap and splash the audience near to the edge of the pool. Thankfully we'd bought a waterproof cape at the start of the show and it just about covered the three of us.
The sea lion show was different again. They had a very well rehearsed routine with a good bit of comedy involved and were a delight to watch.
We didn't visit the parrot show, after a democratic process was followed, but took in the rest of the park, which had meerkats, otters, tortoises, a white tiger (Cate's favourite), alligators and elusive jaguars as well as plenty of parrots. There is a fairly good aquarium with a shark tunnel, and an excellent penguin house with a frozen environment for them to live in. We had enough time at the end for another wander round before the bus took us back to the south of the island again.
Fourteen days seemed a lot at first, but it flew in, and after a couple of days by the pool it was Friday and time for the long trip home. After bus, plane and car, we were home at midnight.
I'd highly recommend the Marylanza to anyone looking at Tenerife for their holiday. Our days were full, even when we stayed in the hotel, the staff were excellent and the food delicious. It was also great having friends at the same place and we'll miss our table for 7.
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