The Bliss of Retiring in Bellingham

When the time comes to retire, choosing where you’d like to live in the twilight of your life can be a difficult decision. As a senior citizen, your needs are different from those of the younger generation. However, Bellingham might just be the place for you.

This is one location where you can be fairly sure you’ll have the best of both worlds. Located in Washington State, approximately halfway between Seattle and Vancouver, Bellingham promises to be a happy blend of the great outdoors and the conveniences of urban life.

In Bellingham, you’ll find that you can live in a multistoried building and still have the choice of fishing for salmon in the creek. With a population slightly over 67,000, Bellingham seems to have it all. Approximately 12% of the residents of this town are over 65 years of age, so as a retired person, you should have plenty of company.

Situated on Bellingham Bay, you’ll find as many as three freshwater lakes here, apart from plenty of streams. Here is a town that has the aspirations of a big city without the problems. There are plenty of boat slips and quays, apart from the Interurban Trail System, which cuts through the town to reach Larrabee State Park.

If you’re fond of skiing, you’ll find that you are conveniently located a couple of hours away from Mount Whistler in Canada. You could also travel further east from Bellingham to Mount Baker, about an hour away.

Looking at practicalities, the cost of a 3-bedroom house in Bellingham is in the region of
$ 170,000. This is considered quite reasonable compared with the prices on the east coast and other areas on the west coast. Major cities located near Bellingham include Vancouver, which is 60 miles away in British Columbia and Seattle, 90 miles away.

You could even get a 4-bedroom house for less than $ 350,000, close to a quay where you may like to anchor a boat. At the same time, you could be within easy distance of a golf course. So even if you’re not already a golfer, this is one sport you could consider taking up.

If you’re keen on cultural pursuits, you’ll be happy to know that the drama department of Western Washington University stages plays on a regular basis. Apart from this, you could drop in to Village Books located in the historic sector of Fairhaven. This is a popular meeting place for discussions.

As a retired person, you may be concerned about your health. You’ll probably find that St. Joseph’s Hospital will take care of your needs, particularly since it has just been expanded to include a new cardiac care unit.

Nevertheless, a number of senior citizens claim that health care facilities have not been up to the mark and have failed to deliver quality care. This has caused physicians to opt out of established networks. As a result, it is a fairly common practice for residents of Bellingham to cross over into Canada, where they have access to more inexpensive prescription drugs. Some even cross the border for dental treatment.

Temperatures vary between 75° and 32° F. It seldom snows in Bellingham, but the city has plenty of rain, for as many as 93 days through the year. Summer temperatures hardly ever cross 80° F.

Most of what you’ve heard so far sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? So, you may be wondering, where’s the catch? You’re right, there is one, if it can be called that. Property prices have been going up. They increased by nearly 10% in 2002 and could expand by another 10% in the near future.

How To Make and Present a PowerPoint Presentation

It happens to all of us. One day, we’re going to have to make a PowerPoint presentation—either for school or for business later in life. So get started learning early! Here are some guidelines to help you make something impressive.

Making the Presentation

  • Pick the proper coloring. The best way to make a PowerPoint design, especially when it’s being projected onto a screen, is to use a dark background with light text. The words are easier to see that way.
  • Keep the slides short. Too much text crowds the slide, making it hard to read and just plain confusing. Use short bullet points and elaborate on them in your speaking.
  • Keep the slides simple. Using lots of flashy, multicolored text and loads of clip art, animations, and sounds is tempting, but it makes a good presentation terrible. Keep a steady color theme throughout the presentation, and use minimal animations—only enough to make your point.
  • Make sure your audience can read your text! If the text is too small, people will have to squint to read it. As a rule of thumb, don’t go below size 24. Also, make sure your font is legible. This is a good, legible font. This is not.

Presenting the Presentation

  • Project your voice. Don’t mutter, but don’t scream at everyone, either. Keep a fairly loud and confident tone throughout the presentation.
  • Watch your posture. No one’s going to listen to a bent-over bum with his head hung. Stand up straight and hold your head high. This will also help to project your voice.
  • Use a little humor, just enough to keep the audience interested. No, everything is not a joke, and a lot of your presentation has to be serious. But a boring PowerPoint presentation is a work of torture. Slip in a few jokes here and there, just enough to keep your audience from drifting off.
  • Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, no matter what…read straight from your PowerPoint slide! That is the worst possible thing you can do during your presentation. A PowerPoint is a visual guide, not a hard-and-fast film. Make sure you’re elaborating from your own mind!

La Noria – beautiful place to go for a Sunday morning stroll

Many people who visit Santa Cruz tend to stay in the main drag, Plaza de España, Calle Castillo, and miss some of the oldest parts of the city

One of my favourite places is La Noria and the surrounding area. It’s a beautiful place to go for a Sunday morning stroll after a visit to the nearby rastro (flea market), or maybe just to contrast it with the movement on a Saturday night. La Noria means the ferris wheel, or a water wheel, for taking water from one level to another, which is probably the origin of the name.

The street itself, La Noria, was renamed in 1917, but ask anyone where Dominguez Alfonso is and, chances are, you’ll draw a blank. Ask for La Noria and most people will know.

To get oriented, start at the post office in the Plaza de España, near the monument, in the centre of Santa Cruz. With your back to the sea, go left down Calle General Gutierrez. This street is named after the Governor and Commander General of the Canary Islands and commander of the troops in Tenerife during the defeat of Horacio Nelson. Compared with Calle Horacio Nelson (near the bull ring) it is a short street. At the end you will find a bust of the general himself. The bust was erected in 1999, which seems a long time to wait, considering he was responsible for the only defeat suffered by Nelson.Cut across Imeldo Seris to Calle Candelaria. The extensive road works here are for the laying of the tracks for the new Tranvia, which will link Santa Cruz to La Laguna and, eventually, Los Rodeos airport. You will see some paintings here, on canvases nailed to the wall of a deserted building (although one has disappeared, either because of wind or some light-fingered art collector). These were put up by Pepe, the owner of La Balsa Blues, as the sight of bare bricks in front of his door was more than he could take. He was also responsible for the organization of the series of open air blues concerts “Santa Blues”, which caused a lot of controversy among the neighbours. La Balsa Blues is a good place to stop for a glass of wine and some tapas, or even a meal. It won first prize in La Ruta del Vino of Santa Cruz (the wine route) of 2005.

Going left at the Balsa Blues takes you down into the Plaza de la Iglesia, and the church of Our Lady of the Conception.

On the corner as you get to the Plaza you’ll find Santa Cruz’s only Irish bar – JC Murphy. If not the only pint of Guinness available in Santa Cruz, given the surroundings, it’s probably the best. The Church of Our Lady of the Conception was built in 1500, not long after the conquest of the island. It was extensively damaged by fire in 1652 and rebuilt in 1653. The tower, dominating the area, was erected in 1786, so it was an easy landmark for Nelson to see on his approach to the city. Inside the church you’ll find, among many outstanding works of art (including the organ, which was built in London in1862), the cross from which Santa Cruz gets its name, La Cruz de la Conquista.

This is the same cross set up by Alonso Luis Fernández de Lugo on first landing on the island in 1495. There is a small chapel opposite the auditorium which, some say, marks the exact spot. However recent scientific studies have placed this on the vacant plot beside the Plaza de Europe, opposite the Plaza de la Iglesia. Who knows, it’s doubtful if de Lugo was particularly worried. The church also holds the remains of General Gutierrez. There are no opening times posted on the church, but it is usually open in the morning. Leaving the church, go across the barranco, where you will find El Museo de la Naturaleza y del Hombre (Natural Science Museum).

This beautifully restored building, formerly a hospital, is well worth a visit, housing, as it does, mummified bodies of Guanches found in excavations on the islands, and gives a better understanding of the Guanche way of life.

Stop for a short while in the patio, have a cup of tea or coffee and enjoy the peace and tranquility to be found there.

Coming back across the bridge to continue our stroll, you’ll see Bar Casa Nelson – nothing to do with Horacio. It’s the owner’s name. At least that’s what everybody calls him. There are many bits and pieces crammed into the little bar, a feast for curio lovers.

Back at the door of the church, go left away from the sea. You are now in the heart of carnival preparation land. The organization offices of carnival, and all other fiestas, are located in number 7. If you want a preview of carnivals, this is where to go. In the old houses along here the murgas, comparsas and rondallas (different groups of singers, musicians and dancers) practice their songs and dances and discuss strategies in the bid for 1st prize. And if there is one thing that is taken extremely seriously in Santa Cruz (and the Canary Islands in general) it’s the annual carnival. Not even the darkest days of the Franco dictatorship could stop it. Curiously, at the time of writing, there was a case going through the courts, brought by members of the local communities, trying to stop the carnival taking place in the streets. The law clearly prohibits live, open air music in residential areas, however it was declared that Carnivals are above the rights of the citizens. Many of the houses here date from the 1700’s.

It was along these roads that Captain Hood led his marines in 1797 during Nelson’s frustrated attempt to take Santa Cruz. Lost and confused, they ran past these very houses as they tried to find their companions.

Look out for the “Casa del Miedo” the house of fear. This was once home to the writer Verdugo y Masseau. Fed up with being distracted by the kids playing in the street under his window while he wrote, he eventually got a skull and put candles inside it to scare them away. It must have worked, although nowadays it’s doubtful if it would have too much effect. Strangely enough, his surname, Verdugo, means executioner or hangman.

Further up the road you can take a breather in the chill out bar Bulán Restaurante Chill Out, an excellent place to relax with some liquid (or solid) refreshment, in unusual surroundings. This is another old house and each room has been done out in a different style: Moorish, Indian etc.

Tearing yourself away from the Chillout (or one of the other resting places along the street) climb up the steps to the recently renovated bridge “Puente General Serrano”. The low style street lighting set into the walls and pillars give this bridge an extra magical touch at night.

The building under construction on the other side is to be the cultural centre, with new photography centre, library etc. A very interesting looking structure.

Leaving the bridge behind you, turn right down by the Recova. Here you’ll find the present photography centre. With any luck there should be some interesting exhibitions to be seen there. On the left is the Teatro Guimerá. This was built on the site of the old Dominican convent where, on 25th July 1797, Captains Hood and Troubridge took refuge and demanded, for the third time, the surrender of the Spanish garrison.

Gutierrez, who had the convent surrounded, wasn’t terribly impressed. Hood and Troubridge finally got the message and, in a strange form of surrender, agreed to leave Canary waters and make no further attacks if they were allowed to go back to their ships.

Gutierrez not only permitted them to go back, but looked after the wounded and had his own troops row the British, still armed, back to their ships along with a cask of wine. Nelson had no choice but to accept the terms of surrender and took his own surrender papers to Cadiz. The act of a gentleman on Gutierrez’s part, or a very astute general? Probably both.

Continuing down the street of Santo Domingo you get back to the square, making a nice little stroll of between 15 minutes and several hours, depending on how you feel and what you feel like doing. More information on the wine route can be obtained from the Tourist Information

Centre in the Plaza de España

A good place to visit for more information on Nelson’s attack is the Military Museum on calle San Isidro, near the end of the Avenida de Anaga (Entrance is free, but you will need some ID, residency card or passport).

Los Silos – Blessed with splendid architecture

On the northwest coast of Tenerife is an area known as Isla Baja, the Lowlands; a fertile, verdant carpet spreading across the westernmost tip of the island, creeping up the foothills of the seven million year old Teno Massif in the south, and sliding silently into the ocean in the west. Nestling in the folds of the plain, between Garachico and Buenavista, is picturesque Los Silos.

Named after three grain silos built here in the fifteenth century, its wealth came initially from the production of cereals, and later from sugar cane and vines. Blessed with splendid architecture, much of it designed or renovated by the celebrated Canarian architect of urban regeneration, Mariano Estanga, who moved to the town in the 1920s, Los Silos has a compact old quarter easily explored on foot.

A virtual recluse from the guide books and tourism sites that chronicle the island’s treasures, Los Silos is a delightful town whose physical charms are matched by the warmth of its inhabitants and the sweetness of its famous dulcería.

Part of the Daute Kingdom in pre-Hispanic times, the area of Los Silos was quickly recognised by the Conquistadores as being a potential source of wealth due to its rich soil and abundant rainfall.

Wealthy Portuguese landowner, Gonzalo Yanes, is credited with founding the town; it was he who oversaw the construction of a sugar refinery and of the grain silos which gave the town its name in 1509.

The growth of Los Silos was a spin off from the fortunes of its neighbour, Garachico; as Garachico’s port grew and flourished, so the population of Los Silos grew to produce the grain, sugar and wine to meet export demands.

By the nineteenth century, there were already well established routes linking Los Silos to Garachico and to Buenavista; in 1883 communications took a leap forward when the underwater cable from Tenerife to La Palma was laid and was connected at Los Silos. The small telegraph station erected for the East India Rubber Company of London still stands today, as indeed does the sugar refinery, now a banana storage depot, on the headland at San José.

What to See
Life in Los Silos centres around the Plaza de La Luz, as do many of the town’s most interesting buildings. The Plaza itself was renovated by Mariano Estanga in the 1920s and has an art nouveau style bandstand kiosk in the centre, flanked by tables and chairs of the Plaza kiosk café.
The attention-seeking, ochre yellow walls of the former Convent of San Sebastián front a large courtyard with a wooden balcony surround. Built for the Order of the Monks of San Bernardo in 1649, the Order remained in residence until 1836. Having been the property of the Ministry of War and a primary school for brief periods in its history, the building became the Town Hall in 1916 and remained so until 1980.
Extensively refurbished, it’s now a Cultural Centre with a Visitor Centre packed with information about Isla Baja and Los Silos.

Completed in 1570, the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de La Luz shines as brightly as its name, the sun reflecting off its brilliant white walls. Inside, the light remains a feature, enabling easy viewing of its many treasures including the silver Processional Cross dating from 1580 and considered the best example of its kind in the Canary Islands, the statue of Nuestra Señora de La Luz by the Portuguese sculptor Antonio de Sylva, the beautifully detailed Crucifixion of Christ sculpted in 1632 and the perfectly preserved Christ of Humility and Patience with his bloodied knees, crafted by Gomeran sculptor Francisco Alonso de la Raya in the first half of the seventeenth century and still with its original paint.
Bordering the Plaza de La Luz is the early seventeenth century building which now houses the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall). Inside, there’s an unusual closed balcony on the upper storey, overhanging the courtyard, and upstairs, in a small recess, is the fifteenth century Gothic Tableau by Alonso Sedano; The Martyrdom of San Sebastián.

The pretty streets contain many more samples of architecture spanning the town’s history.

What to do
Take the high road
A number of walking trails lead from the town into the Teno Rural Park. The visitors centre has three easy to use maps for routes which take in villages perched on cliffs, volcanic rock formations, ancient goat paths, an historic communal laundry, spectacular ravines and deserted hamlets. Each takes approximately three hours one way; however, you don’t have to complete the whole route to discover interesting curios and enjoy some great views of Isla Baja.

On the rocks
Los Silos’ rugged coastline is dotted with coves and natural rock pools like Playa de Agua Dulce (Beach of the Sweet Water), named because of a freshwater fountain near the beach, and the disturbing sounding Charco de La Araña (Pool of the Spider). In summer, the rock pools are an ideal place to cool down; however in winter, when the sandy beaches disappear and Atlantic rollers pound the shoreline, the El Piscina complex with its sun terraces, olympic sized swimming pool and specially designed children’s area offers a more tranquil alternative from which to enjoy the coastal scenery. There’s even a gymnasium run by former Mr. Universe, Maurizio Bóccoli, where you can tone up before being seen poolside.
(+34) 922 840 742; open 10.00-19.00 (summer), 10.00-17.00 (winter); entrance €1.50, €1.80 on Sundays and festivals, children under 7 €1

Exhibiting some style
The tranquil inner courtyard of the ex convent of San Sebastián is a perfect location for a helping of culture; providing a wonderfully atmospheric setting for art exhibitions and doubling as a venue for theatre and musical performances; enquire at the Visitors Centre for details of forthcoming events.
Sala Pérez Enríquez; Convent of San Sebastián; Calle Félix Benítez de Lugo; open 17.00-20.00, closed Saturday & Sunday

The Good Life
Much of the organic produce supplied to Tenerife comes from the Isla Baja area and you can buy direct from the farm by following the signs from the TF42 opposite the car park.
(+34) 922 841 047; Finca Elisabeth; Calle Susana, 40; open Mon-Sat 10.00-19.00

Chocoholics’ Delight
Enjoy the frisson as you enter The Chocolate Cave; the goose bumps don’t just come from the cool ambient temperature of the room, they’re a reflex response to the sight of all those delicious handmade chocolates. Try the gofio ones; the ingredients belie the sublime taste.
(+34) 922 840 877; The Chocolate Cave, El Aderno, Calle El Olivo, 1; open 08.00-21.00 daily

Where to Stay
Casa Amarilla
Situated in the hamlet of La Caleta de Interián, this eighteenth century house was built in Colonial style for the English engineer who came to manage the sugar refinery. Beautiful rooms, an elegant swimming pool and commanding views over the Ocean.
(+34) 607 468 445/922 381 850; Finca Rural Casa Amarilla; La Caleta de Interián;; double rooms from €63 per night

Finca ‘Las Arenas’
Unless you drive a 4×4 vehicle, you’ll be hard pressed to get out of first gear on the coiled serpent road that leads to the hamlet of La Tierra del Trigo and Finca ‘Las Arenas’. But the fabulous traditional Canarian farmhouse and breathtaking views over La Isla Baja will make the burned out clutch worthwhile.
(+34) 922 840 008; Finca Las Arenas, La Tierra del Trigo; rent the house for €46.58 per person per night for 2 persons or €27.55 for 6 persons

Where to Eat
El Mocán
Excellent restaurant with a small, but select menu which includes delights like grilled cheese with rosemary and red mojo and cod and creamed sweet potatoes with a Canarian onion sauce. Warm traditional décor creates an inviting ambiance in which to savour the flavour of local produce given a fresh slant.
(+34) 922 841 131; Carretera General El Puertito, 79; average cost of a main course €9; open 12.30-16.00 & 19.30-23.00, closed Sunday & Monday

Tasca La Escuela
Delightful Tasca in the town’s old school; thankfully the only studying necessary now is of the menu. Intriguing agricultural implements on the walls and quaint wooden window seats make this a great place to enjoy some top notch tapas.
(+34) 639 444 635; Calle Estrella, 27; average cost of a main course €5; open 12.00-late daily

El Aderno
Park the diet for a day, this pastelería is a Mecca for those with a sweet tooth. A veritable treasure trove of goodies, its reputation has Tinerfeños travelling from Santa Cruz to indulge in some seriously sinful tarts and cakes; even King Juan Carlos has been unable to resist. There are also bocadillos, salads and montaditos on the menu, but the cakes are the real star attractions.
(+34) 922 840 877; Calle El Olivo, 1; open 08.00-21.00 daily

La Piscina
Popular seafood and traditional Canarian restaurant overlooking the ocean; picture windows and terrace allow commanding views of the coastline and the Teno Massif rising up behind Isla Baja. The smell of sea air adds authenticity to the wide range of fish dishes on the menu.
(+34) 922 841 335; El Puertito; average cost of a main course €8; open 12.30-16.00; 19.00-22.30, closed Tuesday

There are a couple of options in town which offer some diverting nocturnal activities. The open air ‘Alfonso García Ramos’ auditorium at Plaza Calvario regularly screens movies, stages plays and hosts concerts. Alternatively, Tasca La Escuela is a relaxing bar to while away a pleasant couple of hours, whilst the disco at the La Piscina complex, which stays open till the wee small hours, is a lively venue for insomniacs.

From Puerto de la Cruz, the 363 service departs at least hourly between 06.00 and 22.15.
From Las Americas, the most direct route is the 460 to Icod de los Vinos, departing approximately every two hours between 05.25 and 20.00. In Icod transfer to the 363 for Los Silos.

The taxi rank is situated between the church and the cultural centre. The local numbers are 922 840 164/ 689 038 852

Useful Information

Tourist Information
Los Silos has a modern and well equipped visitors centre based in the renovated convent of San Sebastian. The centre has interesting displays, informative leaflets, very helpful staff and an interactive database in English, Spanish and German.
(+34) 922 841 086; Centro de Visitantes; Calle Félix Benítez de Lugo; open 10.00-14.00, closed Sunday

There’s a decent sized cark park, behind the convent of San Sebastián, which can be easily reached from the TF42.

The fiesta of Nuestra Señora de la Luz is celebrated during the first week in September and includes the dance of the magicians, a highlight of many of the fiestas around Isla Baja.

Another popular event is the fiesta of San Antonio Abad in January; livestock are driven through the streets to be blessed for the coming year. What actually constitutes livestock is apparently flexible; previous years have seen llamas, monkeys and even an elephant get in on the act.

The most unusual pageant must be the International storytelling festival in early December. Yarn spinners from as far afield as America and Japan descend on the town, delighting children and adults alike with their tall tales, whilst life size models of ‘Grimm’ characters roam the streets adding a surreal touch to the proceedings.