Oh, I see! moments
Travel Cultures Language

Three Ways to Make Travel Adventures More Memorable

by Meredith Mullins on February 15, 2016

Clown in the carnival celebrations of the Canary Islands; travel adventures of the best kind. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

Welcome to the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival.
© Meredith Mullins

Carnival Celebrations in the Canary Islands

When I told people I was headed to the Canary Islands, most folks responded with some form of a “W” word. Where? What? . . . and the ominous Why?

Some had heard of the islands, but couldn’t quite place them. Most had not.

Even as I finalized this trip from many possible choices, I wasn’t quite sure myself where or what these islands were. Or if canaries would become a dominant theme in some strange Hitchcock-like way.

I flew into North Tenerife; and, for the first time in many years, I entered a new land alone—one where I did not speak the language and one where I had few preconceptions.

Sometimes, that’s the best way to go. Travel adventures of the memorable kind.

Carnival participant with cymbals as part of the carnival celebrations in the Canary Islands, travel adventures of the best kind. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

Cymbalic travel adventures
© Meredith Mullins

Becoming an Explorer

As it turns outs, the islands are a volcanic archipelago off the west coast of Africa (and one of Spain’s far-flung territories).

I settled in on the island of Tenerife, the largest of the seven main Canary Islands, and my travel skills kicked in. Open eyes. Open heart. I became the ultimate explorer, as well as an astute observer. And I tried to make my brain begin to piece together the puzzle of the new language.

As the journey unfolded, three travel tips came to mind—all of which helped to build a foundation for memorable travel adventures.

Princess at the carnival celebrations in the Canary Islands, travel adventures of the best kind. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

A Carnival Princess in flamboyant splendor
© Meredith Mullins

#1  Visit a Place when Something Special is Happening

Check. One of the reasons for my visit to Santa Cruz de Tenerife was “Carnival.” Many places in the world have pre-lenten carnival celebrations, from Rio de Janeiro to Venice to New Orleans and from the Americas to Spain to Portugal to Germany.

Santa Cruz de Tenerife is famous for its festival. And, although most other places are overrun with revelers, Santa Cruz seemed like a town that could handle the excitement in a relaxed way.

Reveler at the carnival celebrations in the Canary Islands, travel adventures of the best kind. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

Walk wildly and carry a sequined stick.
© Meredith Mullins

I can also make a case for traveling to places when nothing special is happening and no one else is around, but, in this instance, I was ready for all that Carnival had to offer. And I was not disappointed.

Why go during festival time?

When there’s a celebration in town, everyone seems to be in a good mood and the spirit of community and joie de vivre is strong.

In Tenerife’s case, the locals had been preparing for the festivities for a year, ever since the day after the last carnival. Every event is a highlight.

Sequined dancers in the carnival celebrations of the Canary Islands, travel adventures of the best kind. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

Dancing in the streets
© Meredith Mullins

The gala for the election of the queen is sold out every year. The Friday night parade lasts for more than four hours, with more than a hundred groups, all in costumes surpassing Las Vegas flamboyance and Cirque du Soleil dazzle.

People dance in the streets. And, as the grand finale—a unique part of Tenerife’s cultural heritage—there is a procession for the Burial of the Sardine.

Girl with red eyelashes in the carnival celebrations of the Canary Islands, travel adventures of the best kind. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

Everyone in town is part of the fun.
© Meredith Mullins

#2  Ask the Locals “What is the most unusual thing to see?”

When exploring any new place, there are maps, guides, and virtual advisors that lead you to the traditional sites and specialties.

To find the real secrets, you have to seek out—ask about—the unusual.

The answer to this question led me to the hard-to-find, but extraordinary, exhibit of carnival queen costumes for the past 80 years, as modeled by our very own Barbie.

A carnival queen from 1935 representing carnival celebrations in the Canary Islands and travel adventures of the best kind. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

The first carnival queen in 1935. Costumes were a bit simpler then.
© Meredith Mullins

A Barbie carnival queen in pink, part of the Canary Islands carnival celebrations and travel adventures of the best kind. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

And now . . . feathers, sequins, exotic fruit, color, and dazzle.
© Meredith Mullins

Another answer to this question led me to the otherworldly landscapes near the Mt Tiede volcano, part of a national park and World Heritage Site. Breathtakingly beautiful.

Lunar landscape at Mt Tiede, near the carnival celebrations of the Canary Islands; travel adventures of the best kind. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

Lunar-looking landscapes formed by lava flow.
© Meredith Mullins

#3  Look Where No One Else is Looking

This third travel tip is smart advice when exploring new places and cultures, as well as when living everyday life.

Look up. Look down. Poke down alleyways. Peer over walls. You never know what you will discover.

On my first ramble down to the old town of Santa Cruz, I looked up and noticed a tree warmed with a lovely knit wrap. Then another. And another.

Small knit squares in tree, part of the carnival celebrations in the Canary Islands, travel adventures of the best kind. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

Look up . . . to see artistry in tree tops.
© Meredith Mullins

The knitters’ guild in the town decided years ago to knit outfits for the trees of the pedestrian streets—just to make the town prettier.

A knit wrap on tree, decorations for carnival celebrations in the Canary Islands, travel adventures of the best kind. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

Handknit “sweater” for the local trees.
© Meredith Mullins

I also visited the Tenerife Symphony Hall (Auditorio de Tenerife), designed by Santiago Calatrava Valls. Like most admirers, I was struck by its clean modern lines and its purity against a very blue sky.

Santa Cruz de Tenerife Symphony Hall, part of the carnival celebrations in the Canary Islands and travel adventures of the best kind. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

The Santa Cruz de Tenerife Symphony Hall
© Meredith Mullins

I was also mesmerized by the shimmering ocean surrounding it.

Sparkling ocean at the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Symphony Hall, part of the carnival celebrations in the Canary Islands and travel adventures of the best kind. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

Mesmerizing sparkle on the terrace of the Symphony Hall
© Meredith Mullins

But the real surprise came when I looked over the seawall to find the rocks below had been painted in tribute to musicians, past and present.

I am pretty sure that most of the visitors to this majestic place miss this hidden treasure. And that’s a shame.

Rocks with portraits of musicians, part of the carnival celebrations in the Canary Islands, travel adventures of the best kind. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

A rocky tribute to musicians—from Bach to Britney and Sibelius to Sinatra.
© Meredith Mullins

Discoveries Abound

My journey to the Canary Islands was filled with “Oh, I See” moments. Such is the case with unscripted travel adventures to any new and unknown place.

But after a week of carnival celebrations, seeing the secret sites, and adding at least 50 new language words to my vocabulary, I felt right at home.

Comment on this post below, or inspire insight with your own OIC Moment here.

 

 
Comments:

7 thoughts on “Three Ways to Make Travel Adventures More Memorable

  1. Beautiful pictures , as ever, Meredith.
    I’ve visited a few of the Canary islands in the past, but never realised they celebrated Carnival like that. You have given me a colourful reason to go again, Meredith, and the islands’ sunshine is so welcome at this end of winter.
    Thank you,

  2. Great article, Meredith. I am in the Canaries right now and visited all the places you talked about. Love the joie de vivre and the Climate.
    Harriet Welty Rochefort

    • Dear Harriet,
      What a great coincidence. I’m so glad the article was timely and that you get to enjoy all the charm of Tenerife. Have fun in that warm sun.

      With best wishes,

      Meredith

  3. Wonderfully written and so engaging that I wonder whether I shouldn’t make plans for this scene next year. Superb photos, as always. Thanks for sharing your adventuresome spirit’s discoveries.

    • Hi Pamela,
      Yes, make plans. It’s a very welcoming place. Thank you for your comments, as always.

      Carnival Forever,

      Meredith

  4. What a magical intriguingly splendid mystery tour! Who would have known that you could have uncovered such vistas in the Canary islands. Unbelievable photos – each an every one is a gem. Thanks!!

    • Dear Carol,
      Thank you for your vision of a “magical mystery tour.” It was, indeed, a journey full of surprises. When you don’t quite know what to expect, everything is a nice surprise.

      And thank you, also, for your comments about the photographs. It’s hard to capture the lively energy of carnival, but I hope I gave some flavor.

      Gracias,

      Meredith

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