A fantastic island

by Coralie Levieuge (Portugal)

A leap into the unknown France


A Fantastic Island A ballet dancer and a pirate stood near us waiting for the tram. They seemed excited but I could see she was cold. It was windy in La Laguna, as always, and her legs were huddling against each other to find some warmth. This little town made us feel like we were in Latin America, with its colourful houses framed with volcanic stone and wood. People were relaxed here. Their Spanish was smoother than in Spain. When they saw the tram arriving, a dinosaur and a clown who were crossing the street started to hurry. As they ran, the head of the tyrannosaurus was nodding from side to side and the orange curls of the clown were dancing. It made me smile. We all got on the tram. During the trip, we could see the clouds wrapping around the ancient volcanic mountains above us and the sea reflecting the blue sky and glittering 400 meters below. As we descended slowly toward the capital, painted murals rolled past and other eccentric characters climbed aboard. Santa Cruz was very different from the colonial Laguna we had just left. The architecture in the capital was modern and the vegetation luxurious. The plants had violet or red leaves and tree branches hung down to the ground. As we got off the tram, a new warmth settled over us and reminded us we were in the tropics; it was at least 5 degrees hotter than in La Laguna and here we couldn’t feel the wind from the north. Later, after nightfall, it would get even warmer, as thousands of people gathered in the streets. We had arrived in another world; we were surrounded by colourful personages, plumage, excitement, and music. Tenerife’s carnival was getting off to a good start. We went into a café to order “barraquitos,” the local coffee speciality. Julius Caesar himself served our coffees in glasses and we could see the different layers of colours: the condensed milk, the milk, the coffee and a few drops of liquor in the bottom. It was perfect, the lemon zest and the cinnamon were exalting it. The place was crowded, just like every corner of the town, and that day I met more celebrities than in my entire life. “The Pope” was here for the occasion, Ronaldo also, and Trump was more orange than ever. When my friend had told me she would be dressed as a beautician, I didn’t understand what that meant -- how could people guess that was her costume? Then I realized people were not only disguised, they were also transformed. When we went back into the street, my friend set up a little stand in the middle of the crowd and started to stop people passing by. She would grab the arm of anyone not wearing makeup and say (as she smacked her gum): “Oh my God darling, this is carnival! You CAN’T go out like this, let me fix it.” And she would spray their hair with glitter, slap on some nail polish… I thought, "Yep, she is a beautician!” The carnival really did transform her. We spent hours wandering the streets, following the music and interacting with people brought to life from other worlds. We met Mary Poppins, warriors from the ancient Chinese Terracotta Army, and some back from the dead, like Frida Kahlo. On our way home, Freddy Mercury, hanging out with his moustache and a vacuum cleaner, shouted to us, “I want to break free!”