Sun, Sea and Smuggling Cigars
March 9, 2013 1 Comment
By Robert Hainault
When I’m not blogging about poker, I’m a composer. And the time came – as it does in every project – to write up scores, which is the mindless paperwork of my profession. So rather than sitting at home, shivering and filling my cheeks with endless crumpets I went away with my father to the ever-sunny island of Tenerife to bask saurian in the warming rays.
In true British style we opted for an all-inclusive getaway to Costa Adeje on the south coast: a strip of tobacco and liquor stores and karaoke bars. Karaoke has never been my idea of good fun, but tobacco and liquor certainly is. If there is one thing that endears a place to me it is cheap fags and booze and sweet Jesus did this have them in abundance. Twenty L&M Red came in at €2.30. That’s £1.99 to you and me. And though I might not have a great singing voice, (the smoking probably doesn’t help) a pint of Dorada – the ‘official beer of the Canarian way of life’ – was the same price as a small coffee in the bars. Upon my return my producer perspicaciously observed that my scores looked ‘as though they had been written drunk’.
Apart from the bountifully-carcinogenic shops, Tenerife has plenty to offer the curious tourist. I could tell you about the striking landscape forged from volcanic eruptions over millions of years, or El Teide which is the third-highest volcano in the world. But I’m not a geologist. Let me instead tell you about the bananas.
Tenerife has acres upon acres of banana plantations, obscured from view by great net tents, and they are one of the island’s primary exports (as well as carmine dye which is made by mixing the crushed bodies of the cochineals that live on their cacti with aluminium or calcium salts). The Canarian banana is smaller, sweeter, and more aromatic than the ones usually imported to Britain, and its skin is covered in small black spots. They’re absolutely delicious and our hotel had dozens of them. As I’m fond of saying, a banana a day means you can eat more custard.
Tenerife offers more than just kicks for banana-fanciers. Fish-fanciers are well-looked-after, too. Along the south coast there are few beaches, and the rocky coastline offers both a wealth of fishing opportunities as well as a wealth of fish, with piscine markets in most towns. One of the smallest but most charming we stumbled across was that at Las Galletas where the fish would be gutted before your eyes and sold by the kilo at generous prices.
However, if you don’t like cigarettes, volcanoes, bananas or fish, you might be a little disappointed. The south of Tenerife is a tourist hotspot for Brits abroad and, as such, attracts plenty of the kinds of people you don’t want to meet in a dark bar. Which is exactly where you’ll meet them.
The ‘world-famous’ Rumpot in Los Americas became my haunt because it had free wi-fi whereas my hotel charged €4/hour for the privilege. A charming bar in the daytime, the genial atmosphere quickly evaporated to reveal a bedrock of mindless entertainment in the evenings. For three consecutive nights I was accosted by MCs with the line ‘look, it’s Harry Potter heading to the toilet’. On the third night ‘top comedian’ Billy Porter followed me in there and did ten minutes of material about my giant penis. Which I would have found funnier if I actually had a giant penis, or if I hadn’t had to wait with grudging anticipation for him to make a dozen wand jokes before I was allowed to go back to the game of poker I was playing on my computer (and not until I was promised that if I let him make me breakfast I would wake up to ‘sauce between your chops’.)
But, if you steer clear of the bars in the evening, take some knitting and join the many geriatrics who flood the island in the winter you might have fun hoofing cigarettes and building up the beer belly. (And you can make a scarf to bring back with you to the wintry chill of Blighty.)
But one word of caution. Customs and Excise do not recognise the Canary Islands as being part of the EU. Something I only discovered upon landing back in Britain with 600 cigarettes, 50 cigars, and two litres of spirit, putting me decidedly in the ‘something to declare’ category.
The resolute Right-winger that I am I decided to flout the law and smuggle my goods in without declaring them. Having never been stopped at customs before it was bound to happen when I was illegally bringing in a tobacco plantation.
Did they notice? No. They were only x-raying the bags. My sun-blanched aromatic leaves were safe. Hainault one, Her Majesty zero.
Aside from having a hundred people laugh about my penis and escaping a cavity search by a whisker, it was a good holiday, and I would recommend Tenerife to every hardened smoker, drinker and banana-fancier. Thankfully I am all of those things. If you are not, perhaps try mainland Spain. They have better art galleries. And blood sports, too!