A Day Exploring San Cristóbal de La Laguna in Tenerife

I listened to the gentle sound of my shoes against the warm tarmac, a gentle beat which seemed to bounce off the tall surrounding hills. Above me, the sky was clear, allowing great rays of sunlight to filter down and kiss the rural Tenerife landscape.

I tried again to clear my ears, so stubborn and painful. As I opened my mouth in a sharp, rapid motion, my hearing flooded back to my left ear. Oh my God! I caught my breath, feeling excitement bubbling up within my chest. I cleared an ear! And it was the one that refused to clear yesterday.

I felt like I was making progress. Maybe, just maybe, I was on the mend. Perhaps I would be well enough to fly home in 48 hours after all.

I couldn’t believe how unlucky I had been to get so ill on what was meant to be a gentle, relaxing break. Only one day into my break and I came down with a horrendous head cold which spread to my ears. I could just about deal with my stuffed-up, runny nose but my ears were incredibly painful. Were colds always this bad? Or was the pain only noticeable because I was in a country where drastic altitude changes had to be tackled in order to move anywhere?

Our villa was up in the hills. The local village was set further up towards the mountains and pretty much every other destination involved a huge decent. This meant every trip I took in the car caused great distress to my ears which refused to equalise.

Yappy dogs we saw on our walk

I’d spent time reading up on ears and why I was experiencing so much pain with them.

Ears are complicated things. Each ear is connected to your throat and nose by a narrow tube called the eustachian tube. This tube helps to regulate ear pressure, ensuring pressure is equal on both sides of the eardrum. Having a cold can cause blockages to this tube, which I presumed was exactly what was happening to me.

Changes in altitude also mean there is a change to the air pressure around us. The eustachian tube should be able to adjust the pressure to match that of your surroundings. Sometimes it just needs a nudge to do this such as through yawning or swallowing. I know that when I come in to land on a plane I have to yawn every few seconds in order to keep my ears at the correct air pressure. This is called equalisation.

My eustachian tubes must have been so blocked that no matter what I did, I could not get them to adjust the pressure in my ears. As a result, my ears were massively out of sync with the world around them and in immense pain. The pressure inside would not match the pressure outside. As the pressure difference worsens, the eardrum can become stretched and in severe cases, it can even burst and you can experience hearing loss.

I guess you can understand why I was scared to fly home. My ears were so bad as they were and that’s without putting them through the extreme pressure involved in flying.

But now I had actually managed to pop (equalise) an ear!

Lewis and I were on a walk. I’d loved our short expedition down the road the previous day and had managed to successfully equalise an ear on the previous trip. Therefore I was more than happy to be off on another walk this morning. And already it was proving to be a grand decision as an ear was being well behaved.

We were retracting our steps from the previous day but as I was feeling bolder, we continued a little further.

For the first time in days, I was feeling hopeful. It was a massive milestone to be able to equalise my ears once a day. I must have been getting better.

As we rounded a corner, a miracle happened. My other ear popped!

“I did it!” I yelped, practically skipping on the spot.

Lewis’ eyes lit up in delight. “Really?”

“Yes! I popped both of my ears. I can hear again! This is amazing.”

“That’s fantastic!”

“You know what?” I really was feeling brave now. “I think I should come with you today. Let’s go to the bakery in La Laguna together!”

“That sounds amazing.”

And so we made our way back to the villa and prepared for our expedition down into the city of San Cristóbal de La Laguna.

San Cristóbal de La Laguna is the second largest city in Tenerife after the capital of Santa Cruz. It is located slightly to the left of Santa Cruz.

To reach La Laguna we would have to endure a huge descent from our perch in the hills. La Laguna was located at the very bottom of the hill.

For some idea of how great the decline down into the city would be, La Laguna is located at 543 metres above sea level and La Esperanza (our local village where we were situated just below)  has an elevation of 1,700 metres above sea-level. This meant we had to go down by 1,157 metres. A huge descent.

Are you getting an idea of how hilly Tenerife is now?

I was unsure how the journey would go. Part of me was incredibly nervous. When I tried to make the same descent a couple of days ago, I had to stop and give up because the pressure got too immense. Today, however, I was feeling quietly confident. I had just managed to clear both ears. Perhaps I could clear them more frequently now.

The journey to La Laguna wasn’t plain sailing. But I had expected it to be an uncomfortable drive.

As I lay eyes on the huge drop in front of us, marvelling at how quickly the road dipped down into a green valley, I felt nervous. I can do it. I kept telling myself.

At once, the pressure started to build up and I was unable to do anything about it, no matter how many times I yawned or swallowed. This is not going well. I felt so frustrated.

The trees blurred past the car and I gazed hopelessly at passing fields, so quiet and beautiful under the midday sun. I was in such a beautiful place yet was plagued by endless suffering. Why did it have to be this way?

The pressure only worsened. I tried. And tried. And tried. Finally, an ear equalised.

“Oh, thank God.” I sighed.

The other ear still burned like fury but I wasn’t going to give up. I could do it. I had to do it. I momentarily pictured my eardrum stretching into an ugly, elongated shape and felt slightly sick.

The road continued to wind and twist down the hill. When will it end? I couldn’t believe how huge a drop it was.

I looked at Tenerife North Airport which was on the left of us, taking in the frame of a huge aircraft and shuddering slightly. How could I possibly fly in one of those when I couldn’t even clear my ear going down a minor hill?

I tried to clear the ear again, noticing that the one I had pressurised before was already becoming muted as the pressure continued to change.

Then.

Success!

I had done it. I had cleared both ears on the drive down.

I knew the worst of the hill was behind us now and felt motivated that I’d be able to sort them out again.

The streets of La Laguna

We pulled into the busy centre of La Laguna and I soaked up the tall majestic buildings which lined the streets. There are two key parts to the city: the Historical Centre and the rest of the city.

We had entered to the south west of the city and found ourselves in the more modern part, which, in itself, was still gorgeous. The terraced shops were tall and colourful and I delighted in the fact that the shops were mostly small and independent. I also noted the lack of tourist stores.

We had journeyed to this majestic city in order to find a bakery which had wonderful reviews online called Migas Bakery. A quick stroll down the clean pavement took us to the orange-coloured bakery which was located down a narrow side-street. Delicious, warm smells greeted us before we’d even made it to the doorstep.

Inside were a selection of pastries and snacks. You could look into the back through some glass screens where more goodies were being prepared. I listened to the clinking of pans and the wiz of machinery and watched as a chef began rolling out some dough.

We purchased a range of treats before stepping out into the dazzling sunlight.

“Where to next?” I asked.

“We could go to the meat shop I found yesterday.” Lewis suggested.

Ahh, yes. The meat shop where he had purchased a pack of ham that cost €50. I was pretty curious to see it.

“But how do you feel?” His voice changed to one of concern. “Are you well enough to continue?”

“Well.” I thought for a moment. “The worst part was the drive down here. But now I’m here, I don’t think my ears will get any worse. In fact, I may as well make the most of it.”

I smiled. Was I actually going to resume explorations?

And so we continued our journey.

A cute little pastry from the bakery

We walked down the modern, colourful street whilst the beautiful midday sun kissed our skin.

The butchery was on the other side of town which meant passing through La Laguna’s Historical Centre.

My mouth was agape with awe as I took in the traditional architecture of the buildings. They were even more colourful than the modern part of town but came with unique details.

La Laguna’s Historical Centre is in fact a UNESCO World Heritage Site, after being declared one in 1999. The first designs of this centre were drawn up in the 15th Centaury.

The ground beneath out feet became cobbled and we found ourselves journeying through a pedestrianised street.

Just then, a particular building caught my eye. It was huge. Dressed in black and white paint, this special building was flanked by some grand trees.

The building which I was currently heading towards was in fact La Laguna’s Cathedral. The Cathedral was built in the early 1900’s with work starting in 1904. The Cathedral took 11 years to build. The Cathedral has a Neoclassical façade.

I was so excited about the Cathedral that we made our way to its entrance. It was there that we saw that you could pay €5 per person to enter the grand building. Entrance also came with a handset which acted as a personal tour-guide.

Lewis and I paid the fee and were given a handset each. There was so much information blasting through my handset that it was hard to keep up and take anything in. Oh, well. I still thoroughly enjoyed marvelling at the building’s high ceiling and stain-glass windows.

We visited each chapel, taking in the intricate details and shimmering gold colours.

There was also access to a stairwell which took us to an upper deck with gorgeous views of the main hall. It really was a magnificent building.

We continued walking through the old city. I took in the huge wooden doors that gave access to the colourful buildings and other traditional details.

We eventually found the butchery called Baggerman el Holandés, located at the furthest corner of the city. I spied rolling hills in the distance, an indication that we had walked the entire breadth of the city. I smiled. It had been wonderful to see so much of the beautiful city.

It also felt good to be seeing some of the mysterious places that Lewis had been visiting whilst I was ill. I hated missing out and it felt good to be a part of things again.

The city was dotted with numerous restaurants. I selected one of the closest restaurants to us to eat at, satisfied with tis reviews. We entered the restaurant and sat down at a table beside a window. We were the only guests currently dining and the staff were a little off with us.

The food was nice but not the best that I’d had in Tenerife. Up to now, all our meals had blown my socks off. I was also confused when the waitress pulled the shutter down over our window, shrouding us in darkness.

I was certain there were better restaurants in La Laguna and was slightly disappointed with my choice.

Oh, well. It was hard to dwell upon that point. I was mostly delighted that I’d had my first day out in days. It felt like my ears were starting to heal. I’d managed to equalise my ears at several points and had experienced an enjoyable day as a result.

I reminded myself that tomorrow was my last day on the island. The day after that would be our leaving day involving a plane journey. I swallowed. Was I ready to hop on a plane? I still had another full day for my body to heal. I knew I just had to be ready.

There weren’t any other options. I didn’t feel like extending my stay and wasting money on plane tickets. I was also paying careful attention to the news and the spreading of the new virus, COVID-19, was making me nervous. I had a feeling the virus was going to continue to spread and didn’t want to be at risk of catching it in an airport, or worse, becoming stranded here if the spread got too much.

On Friday I was going to fly home.

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