Singing the praises of Plaza del Charco
Plaza del Charco in Puerto de la Cruz is without doubt the social hub of the town and my favourite place in Puerto.The raised square sheltered by age-old, long-established trees and bordered by tended flowerbeds is the chosen gathering place for both local residents and tourists alike. To be honest it is nothing to write home about, a bar, a fountain, a children’s playground and an ugly chunk of concrete and tile which is best described as a bandstand or stage area, but at least there are plenty of benches. Haphazardly laid paving slabs and raised manhole covers which together with the hard packed soil, not a blade of grass or the luxury of gravel, all go to give the square that quintessen-tially unfinished look that visitors to the town have become accustomed to. On the whole the square has re-mained unchanged for years, with the exception of perio-dical changes to the child-ren’s play area, it has thank-fully managed to evade the cosmetic makeover brigade within the local council and long may it continue to do so.
So what is the attraction? Spend time in the square and you soon become absorbed into a little bit of the local culture. The small kiosks that surround the square serve the needs of the community. Be it newspapers, ice cream or confectionery, a flutter on the local lotteries, a hotdog or a burger, it is all is catered for and don’t forget the kiosk that is continually changing its stock, wigs and false boobs during carnival, football shirts and flags during Euro 2012, memorabilia during local fiestas and recently toys and Santas in the run up to Christmas. Just sit in the square and watch the world go by, indulge yourself in a spot of ‘People Watching’, I guarantee that within a short time you will have found something interest-ing or humorous to occupy your time.
An hour here is about the optimum amount of time, any longer and the uncomfortable slatted benches threaten to leave a semi permanent imprint on your derriere. Perhaps there is something the council’s makeover squad can provide after all, some more comfortable benches would not go amiss. So if after an hour of avoided shopping, you feel that you need a little longer just move on to the fishing harbour, sit down and start it all over again.
It is in the evenings when the square is at its best, particularly at the weekends, when local residents, many of whom live in apartments, join the throng of tourists to fill the space and create an amazing atmosphere. The bars and restaurants that ring the square all play their part; alfresco dining is the norm throughout the year, they all helps to create the most popular place in Puerto. Most nights you can enjoy, if that is the right word, live entertainment, both in the square’s bar and at least one other. In fact sit in the right place and get the benefit of surround sound, music in each ear, albeit different songs from different singers.
The stage area is used throughout the year for all sorts of entertainment, visiting brass bands, dance troupes, drum groups, local singers in traditional costumes, even lederhosen puts in an appearance during Beer Fest when the Oompah band is in town. It is also used for even the most impromptu of events. Local protest groups, always loud and vocal like to culminate their protest by rallying there to emphasis their concerns often to an audience comprised mainly of bemused tourists who haven’t a clue what is going on. The square plays host to lots of events during the year when stalls set up selling all manner of things. The square and the area around it is very much the centre for the many fiestas, especially during Carnival and Carmen when the whole area becomes one great big street party.
There has been one recent change in the square and a detrimental change at that. The public conveniences, or what for years I had assumed were public conveniences, are no longer open to the general public. These very public ‘loos’ have always had the look that epitomises the norm, subterranean, slightly dank, tired and cracked sani-tary ware, and always had that unique, barely describa-ble, vaguely disinfectant, smell. I am of course referring to the ‘Gents’. However the new tenants of the nearby bar have decided that these facilities are now strictly for patrons only.
So visitors beware the number of places in Puerto where you can ‘spend a penny’ are diminishing, the belief that you can walk into any bar or restaurant just to use their restrooms is fast becoming a myth as more and more establishments are no longer prepared to bear the cost.
So next time you visit Puerto take a little time to chill out in Plaza del Charco, soak up a little bit of the local atmosphere, after all it is the only place in Puerto where you can be sure there will not be any noisy roadworks or at least not at the moment.
By Brian Eldridge