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Tenerife’s Heavenly Fiesta – The Flower Carpets of La Orotava
(Monday, 09 June 2008) Written by IslandDrives

Streets paved with delicate petals of such vibrant colours that they’d turn any rainbow in the vicinity green with envy; smiling people plying me with more food and wine than I could safely consume without doing a Monty Python's 'Meaning of Life'. It might sound as though I'd shuffled off this mortal coil and, through some administrative error, entered Nirvana, but I was somewhere far more accessible... La Orotava, for the Corpus Christi celebrations.

Ever since Leonor del Castillo y Monteverde decided to jazz up the Corpus Christi religious procession by paying a prole to lay a floral display outside her house in 1847, the tradition of decorating the streets with images crafted from seeds, moss and petals has positively bloomed in La Orotava. The already world famous carpets became even more prestigious last year when the massive sand tapestry outside the town hall earned an entry in The Guinness Book of World Records as the largest of its kind on the planet.

The Flower Carpets of La OrotavaI enjoy visiting the town on the day before the Corpus Christi procession. The tapestry outside the town hall is almost complete and there’s always plenty of room to get a good view from the town hall’s balconies overlooking the plaza. It also gives me the opportunity to see the alfombristas (carpetmakers) at work. These guys are maestros; they squat on wooden stools with their tools, buckets of multicoloured sand from Las Cañadas del Teide, spread around them painstakingly creating intricately detailed scenes from grains of sand.

The actual day itself felt like a summer fete. Food stalls lined the approach to the old streets where the carpets were laid; traditional bands played jaunty tunes and the air was filled with the intoxicating essence of freshly cut flowers as whole families, from Grandma and Grandpa (sitting on a chair supervising proceedings) to tots, laid out their exquisite carpets. From early morning the place was a hive of activity as the cobbled streets were transformed by the most incredibly detailed images constructed from mother nature’s goodie’s; eyes made from seeds, beards from moss, skin tones from geranium petals. Although thousands of people descend on the town to see the carpets, it was quiet during siesta hours, allowing loads of space to enjoy the wonderful floral images at my leisure before they were trampled during the procession later that evening.

Oxen pull carts through the streets The Sunday following Corpus Christi was the Romería de San Isidro when, instead of being filled with flowers, the old streets are filled with ox drawn carts and locals dressed in traditional costume; the men in scarlet waistcoats and dark breeches, the women in scarlet bustiers and rainbow coloured skirts, resembling lusty wenches from a bawdy romp – an attractive look I felt. From the depths of each cart, impossibly cute children handed out potatoes, gofio cakes, eggs, sandwiches and slices of fruit; at the rear was the serious stuff; barbecues with slabs of meat and spicy sausages whilst taps in the side of the carts flowed with never-ending rivers of gutsy vino del país (country wine). All of which was free. For hours upon hours, carts passed by dispensing their gifts to increasingly merry onlookers. It was a much livelier affair than the floral carpets, but then it doesn’t take a genius to work out why.

All in all it was an enchanting experience. Who knows if there is a ‘Nirvana’ waiting for us when we say the final adios, but if there is I’m hoping it’s a bit like La Orotava.

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