César Manrique

This was our day to depart Lanzarote but we were not due to leave for the airport until 17:00. So, having heard the name César Manrique on a daily basis for the last week, we thought we’d spend much of our free time on a visit to the Fundación César Manrique which lies a few kilometres north of Arrecife, the capital.

Sr. Manrique seems to be Mr. Lanzarote. He was a local artist who wielded quite a bit of influence. Not only did he create many works of art but he also specified architectural requirements on Lanzarote, such as the colours that should be used for doors and window frames of houses according to their location. He also was instrumental in keeping Lanzarote low-rise rather than high-rise. (One building has now broken that, sadly.)

Getting to the Foundation would be about 20 minutes by taxi. People are fond of saying, “just hop in a taxi”, a phrase that I regard with suspicion following experiences in Singapore. Getting a taxi from your hotel is generally very easy, they can be booked or they often just lurk about. Getting a taxi back from your potentially remote destination can be more tricky since taxis often don’t lurk there and passing taxis frequently already have a fare. On one occasion in Singapore we had to walk kilometres before coming across a shopping mall with a taxi rank (and a queue).

Our Lanzarote hotel reception was happy to book a taxi for out outbound trip. They then said they couldn’t book a taxi for the return trip “because the foundation is in a different district and only local taxis can operate from it”. “Bong!”, went the alarm bell. For the same reason, we couldn’t ask our taxi driver to return for us in 90 minutes. When we were dropped off, however, our outbound driver did point out a taxi rank (2 bays) in the foundation’s car park. OK.

_22R5962The foundation is one of the eminent Sr. Manrique’s houses … with a difference. It looks like a single story construction but it hides a secret. A lower floor, essentially a basement, of five rooms is constructed in originally natural gaps beneath the top layer of now solidified volcanic lava. Here’s what happens: during an eruption lava flows, the surface lava cools and solidifies but the underlying lava remains molten and continues to flow, leaving void spaces. Good ol’ César turned some of these voids into subterranean rooms that were cooler in summer. Clever. There’s a pool, too, not to mention a bar and couches on which to womanize. César liked the ladies.


_22R5927The place was filled with photos of the man himself, many depicting him enjoying life to the full. We went “ooh, ah” dutifully – more Francine’s thing than mine – before having a coffee and then trying to return to our hotel.

One of the two taxi slots in the car park contained a cab. The radio was playing. The cab contained no driver. After several minutes another couple arrived also looking for a cab. The cab continued to contain no driver as the radio played to itself. As suggested, Francine went back to the Foundation reception where a man helpfully summoned a cab. A cab turned up before Francine did. There was some confusion but, as Francine finally returned to me, it seems the cab was indeed ours.

We got back to Playa del Carmen safely for a relaxing lunch of some very good tapas looking at the ocean to bid farewell to Lanzarote.

A 17:00 taxi ferried us and two fellow travellers to the airport without any trouble. The airport was a zoo but we finally boarded, spent four hours flying and landed back at Luton in time for midnight and to collect our car before it turned into a pumpkin.

One slight panic awaited. I had pre-booked the 10-day parking slot in Terminal Car Park 1. Our car behaved, started and I drove to the exit barrier whereupon I was greeted by a message saying “Excess charge £627”. Very witty. I summoned a helpful man on the intercom who checked our registration and let us out. Phew! We’ve had that happen once before in Long Term parking but for a mere £260. So much for ANPR and pre-booking.

OK, we’re home; Lanzarote in retrospect. It was interesting to have seen but I wouldn’t rush back. It is not a place for those whose main interest is wildlife. I am fitter than I was a week ago, though.

Posted in 2022 Lanzarote

Earworms and Nudists

Yes, I thought that might get your attention.

But first [he said, losing 10 points for beginning not just a sentence but a paragraph with a conjunction, in true modern BBC fashion], we began with “a result” [back to the BBC and its sports commentators]. We have the honour of having to complete the accursed British Passenger Locator Form for our return home. It is apparently to be discarded but not in time for us. The concern over having to do it is a bit of distraction for the duration of a trip – at least, for us it is. I’d had a glitch attempting it last November to return from Jalón. Happily, 4G being commonplace on Lanzarote, we managed to get it done successfully on our mobile phones with little trouble.

Scintillating LandscapeFlushed with PLF success and with a weight off our minds, we were driven to the outskirts of Guatiza, actually to a filling station. Very picturesque! 😀 Here we began heading for the east coast. It was not the most scintillating of routes. (The wide angle phone lens has done something interesting to the horizon.)

_22R5883Hitting the coast, we encountered a collection of disused salt pans. Unfortunately for me somebody was flying a kite above them in the now familiar Lanzarote wind. That was it, it was earworm time. I now had to suffer a mental rendition of “let’s go fly a kite, up to the highest height …” ♫ for the remaining 10 kms or so heading northwards along the coast. Arghhh!  Thank you very much.

What we were heading for northwards along the coastal path (“let’s go fly a kite …” ♫) was Arrieta where Francine and I had already lunched during our solo driving around. To get there, however, we had to negotiate the debateable delights of a coastal nudist colony. As we approached, we followed a pair of buttocks towards the colony. Once in the colony, a gentleman approached us with his buttocks planted firmly on a bicycle seat. Well, rather you than me, mush. (“Let’s go fly a kite …” ♫) Now there’s a bicycle I wouldn’t want to borrow for a quick spin into town. Discretion being the better part of valour, we decided not to point our cameras at the naturists, not even those on bikes.

Fishing shacksThe only other spot of variation (“let’s go fly a kite …” ♫) along this rather unvarying coastal path was a couple of now disused fishing shacks. I’m beginning to spot a pattern. The Cornish coastal path wins hands down.

We hadn’t had any climbing of note but the walk had felt like a bit of a monotonous slog, despite the undoubted interest of passing through a nudist colony. We finally reached Arrieta with visions of beer drifting before my eyes. (“Let’s go fly a kite …” ♫) OK, I’ll have another beer since I’m not driving and since it is, after all, Turia.

Cactus GardenOur bus called in to The Cactus Garden for a brief visit on the way back to home base. This was yet another creation of … yes, you guessed it, César Manrique. What would Lanzarote be without him? Since Francine and I had already visited this on our solo jaunts, I stayed outside with another traveller to chew the fat while Francine went in again.

OK legs, you can stop now.

(“Let’s go fly a kite …” ♫)

Posted in 2022 Lanzarote

My High Point

The trip notes set today’s scene:

Today’s moderate 12 kilometre walk is expected to take approximately four-and-a-half hours with a total ascent of 450 metres and descent of 650 metres.

barachitoOur start point for the walk was Haria, to which we were bussed. This is where Francine and I had bumped into hoards of people on our solo Saturday, there being a market in full swing. Today was much calmer and we took time in Haria to sample a barachito. Ramon had been encouraging us to sample one of these Canary Islands speciality coffees all week and, with the prospect of more uphill work, we finally succumbed. The key ingredient, it seems, rather than the coffee is Licor 43. The construction of the drink in layers is nothing short of a work of art in itself. Of course, the first thing you have to do is stir it and spoil the presentation.

Our route would take us up to the high point of Lanzarote at 627m. Given our previous uncomfortable scramble up a black gravel path to get to the Mirador del Rio, I was not particularly looking forward to today’s prospect but two things came to my rescue. Firstly, this path up was firm with many rocks acting rather like steps – no sliding backwards. Secondly, yesterday’s gentle 12km saunter along the Puerto del Carmen promenade seemed to have loosened up my legs which were now not feeling any ill effects.

As we approached the summit for lunch, slack-jawed we watched a dragonfly – yes, a dragonfly – fly by and over some bushes. It flew by again but never settled. This was a good thing since I had left my camera, now viewed as pointless ballast, back at the hotel to lighten my uphill load. Had it settled for identification I’d have been spitting feathers. It MAY have been a Wandering Glider, a species given to crossing oceans, but I really couldn’t tell. What it would do with no fresh water is anybody’s guess.

Distant FamaraThe view from near our summit lunch point down to Famara in the middle distance was undeniably very impressive. Atlantic breakers crashed in making it more of a surfing beach than a swimming beach, not that either kind of beach is of practical use to me. It’s pretty, though, being vividly blue.

Gulley to FamaraAfter lunch we tackled the majority of the 650m descent to get to Famara where we’d be picked up by the bus again. The gulley heading down was, in walking terms, quite technical for those using trekking poles. Most of the path was relatively narrow, with twists, turns and some loose rocks. It was sensible to concentrate on the technique of picking your step, planting the pole first, then and only then taking the step. I could hear distant echoes of our first skiing instructor. Incidentally, the middle distance crest along the left of the picture is a popular spot for those who’ve had enough to drive their cars off the cliff – a sort of Lanzarote Beachy Head. Cheerful!

Ultimately the path widened a little and the gradient lessened; we’d done the trickier part. Then we finished with something of a slog along a road into Famara itself to swallow a refreshing beer or two before re-joining our bus.

I’d walked past the jolly waiters at the Shai Indian restaurant every day up ‘til now, sometimes muttering “mañana” as they beckoned me in. This evening we did go and very good it was, too. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it, having chosen a hot chicken jalfrezi – the waiter/jester joshed that I was no longer his friend – and been very impressed. It most certainly beat tasteless frozen prawns in supermarket mojo rojo.

Having begun with misgivings, this proved to be my favourite day. The climb up out of Haria was enjoyable, given the stable path, and the more challenging descent to Famara provided interest and gave a sense of achievement. The beers at the end weren’t half bad, either. Capping it all off with a damn fine curry was the icing on the cake.

Posted in 2022 Lanzarote

Meet My Mate

Today was designated as a free day in the tour itinerary. I’m not usually a fan of free days on such tours ‘cos it leaves me wondering what to do. On this occasion, though, with my leg muscles aching from sudden activity after lockdowns, I made an exception and was quite looking forward to it.

Had there been any fresh water on Lanzarote and anything approaching insect life, I’d have been happy to putz about looking for it. As it was, we decided to stroll along the promenade to the harbour of Puerto del Carmen in search mainly of lunch. It would be about 12kms there and back with a total ascent and descent of almost zero metres. 🙂

The promenade of Puerto del Carmen would appear to be where the majority of holiday makers on Lanzarote spend their time, cruising the front with its bars, cafes and restaurants. On day #1 we’d met a chatty English couple on their last day of a 1-month stay. I couldn’t help but wonder what on earth they’d spent their time doing with no rental car.

There is some form of electric scooter rental scheme operating in Puerto del Carmen. Preferring Shanks’s Pony, we didn’t bother to find out how it worked but clearly plenty of people had. Scooters were almost constantly zipping back and forth along the bike lane partitioned from the road. I am self-aware enough to know that I am now not the most sylphlike of people but here were countless fat blobs on electric scooters getting fatter and blobbier avoiding anything at all approaching physical exercise. Electric scooters are bad news.

We paused for a reviving coffee at a small cafe en route. Naturally I ordered in Spanish only to find that the owner was Liverpudlian. Duh!

_22R5722Eventually we made it to the port itself which proved a tad on the tedious side, in truth. The waters of the harbour were clear and I couldn’t help but notice that I could see no fish. What is it with Lanzarote and a lack of wildlife?

We went in search of an appealing restaurant. Those with a sea view are predictably more expensive but the cost isn’t great anyway so we settled into one which was, at least Spanish. Francine opted for sardinas, which she pronounced excellent, whilst I plumped for the pulpo [octopus] with a few Lanzarote potatoes. It was good but not as good as the trusty old Aleluja Bar back in Jalón.

El Robalo_22R5822Having walked off lunch returning to home base. We wandered beyond our hotel to a roundabout adorned by another César Manrique wind toy, this one called El Róbalo. Being a wind toy, this has more cone shapes to catch said wind, decorated as fish. The problem for me is that the wind makes the fish swim backwards. Artists, eh? Being a moving artwork, Francine indulged in a little artwork of her own featuring multiple exposures.

Having had a decent lunch, we elected to self-cater for the evening. This turned out to be a bit of a disaster. There are a couple of local sauces, mojo rojo and mojo verde,  which the Spar supermarket has in bottled form. I chose to chuck a pack of frozen prawns into mojo rojo. The prawns proved to be almost completely tasteless. I am not accustomed to tasteless Spanish prawns. The local Indian restaurant visible from our balcony looks like a much better option when we have more of an appetite; it smells good, too.

Collared Dove feedingI’d been making friends with a Collared Dove which had been frequenting our balcony back at the hotel since we arrived. He nervously began taking food from my hand with my arm resting on our balcony table. After a few days, I was a bit taken aback when he quite suddenly got considerably bolder and perched on my finger tips to take crumbs from my palm. I felt a little bad about habituating a bird but this was quite a thrill and it clearly wasn’t the first time this character had been fed by humans, though maybe not from the hand. We didn’t get visits from any of the local Parakeets, though.

Posted in 2022 Lanzarote

Volcanoes and Vineyards

Today was a bit of a rest compared to yesterday, being just 10kms with an ascent and descent of 300m. Come on legs, you can do it. 🙂

_22R5639We started in Mancha Blanca village and began heading towards Timanfaya National Park. Our leader, Ramon, was keen to show us a “bug”, actually a scale insect, that lives on some of the cacti of Lanzarote. In fact, it used to be farmed. It was the Cochinilla, the poor things being crushed and used to make the red dye, cochineal. Ramon had been examining suitable cacti and finally found some with clusters of what he wanted to show us. Now we’re getting to the interesting stuff.

Crossing the Lava FieldIMG_20220313_33294Our route through the village farming landscape eventually got us to one side of a Timanfaya lava field which we proceed to walk across. The going was flat but rough. These volcanic rocks are quite jagged and sharp and you really don’t want to stumble and fall on them, so constant vigilance was needed watching your footing. Once again, I was glad of the steadying trekking poles.

Having crossed the lava field, we were to be met by another local guide and split into two groups. The Spanish, bless ‘em, had decreed that group sizes in the Timanfaya National Park should be limited to eight. There were 16 of us paying tourists so two groups of eight it was. We would be circumperambulating a caldera, one group going clockwise (including Francine) whilst the other  (including me with Ramon) went anticlockwise.

Ramon’s group soon bumped into the NP Gestapo. We innocent bystanders could tell that a disagreement ensued in rapid Spanish. I caught “ocho” and “nueve”. Ah ha! It didn’t take an Einstein to figure out that while we were eight tourists, we numbered nine with our leader and the Gestapo weren’t happy. Ramon apparently had an email from the park authorities stating that eight plus a guide was permitted but the message didn’t seem to have made it through to the troops on the ground. We were eventually allowed to continue. Ain’t bureaucracy wonderful? Oh, your groups of eight/nine aren’t supposed to pee in the park, either – no popping behind a bush. How curious is that? Stay dehydrated is my advice.

IMG_20220313_32174This circumperambulation was one of Lanzarote’s unvarying trudges, frankly. It used to be permitted to walk up the side of the caldera and peek into the crater but this practice had been stopped. Given that there wouldn’t be any bubbling lava to look at, I wasn’t sorry. Plants clinging to the sides made for some light relief.

VineyardIMG_20220313_30455At the end of our circuit we stopped for lunch before returning along a road to our bus. Our bus took us to a bodega at La Geria, a bodega naturally being another more interesting place. La Geria is famed for its unique vineyards; the local farmers have devised an ingenious way to cultivate wine in this harsh environment, creating funnel shaped pits protected with low dry stone walls in which to grow Malvasia grapes. Guess which way the prevailing wind blows. We’d seen a few other designs to protect the vines, too.

_22R5642Our tasting in the bodega at La Geria confirmed something that we’d suspected at dinners: Lanzarote wines are actually very good. They are not cheap, though, being around €10 a bottle in supermarkets. Given the landscape and farming methods, production is necessarily quite low so they seem to be used for the local market rather than exported.

One of the more interesting days for me, so far.

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Up to Mirador Del Rio

The trip notes for today’s little jaunt say,

Today’s easy 14 kilometre walk is expected to take approximately five hours with a total ascent of 550 metres and descent of 350 metres.

IMG_20220313_35640“Easy” is not quite how it worked out in my estimation. The normal path up from Maguez village was reportedly closed – maintenance or some such mumbo-jumbo – and our leader, Ramon had been told of an alternative route up. The relatively steep path was composed entirely of the now familiar black Lanzarote gravel, which meant two steps forward and one slipping step back. With the calves a little sore from yesterday’s effort and now screaming with today’s, demoralizing is a word that sprang to mind.

Lanzarote EuphorbiaLanzarote LavenderBetween bouts of calf-screaming, which needed to be punctuated by frequent rest stops, it was possible to notice that we weren’t just slipping and sliding up a black gravel slope but that we were actually slipping and sliding past a few plants decorating the gravel bank. My botanist tells me that some species of Euphorbia and Lavender were attempting to brighten the route.

_22R5566It was with great relief that we eventually gained the summit and were greeted by good views from the Famara cliffs of the island of La Graciosa less than a kilometre off Lanzarote’s northern tip. ‘T was difficult to imagine anywhere looking more barren than Lanzarote but La Graciosa made a fair fist of it. It really didn’t look habitable but it apparently is with one small town, Caleta del Sebo (must be a town, it has a supermercado) and seemingly a smaller village.

With the worst of the climbing behind us, our route now took us along the coastal path towards our destination at the Mirador Del Rio. At one point we came across a fork in the path and dived off left but not without leaving a body at the fork to point back markers in the correct direction. Well, maybe my remonstration of yesterday had been listened to. This was more like it.

The last 3 kms were a bit of a trudge along a gently inclined tarmac road to the mirador itself; not painful but we just needed to be wary of traffic.

To quote the trip notes again,

Mirador del Rio is a 475 metre high viewpoint located at the edge of the Famara cliffs, built into the larva rock. The building, designed by local artist César Manrique, wonderfully blends into the landscape, the floor to ceiling glass windows and outdoor walkway enhance the panoramic views overlooking the Rio strait, between Lanzarote and the island of La Graciosa.

It’s him again, César Manrique, Mr. Lanzarote. You can’t move on Lanzarote without hearing about César Manrique.

_22R5574The Rio strait is less than a kilometre wide and now we could see more detail of the town and its harbour, with a caldera towering behind it. There are, of course, ferry services to and from the island (some of our number would have a day trip there later) but I’m still trying to figure out why anyone would actually want to live there.Isolation is one thing but this much of a lack of nature is something else. À chacun son goût.

The initial climb up the slipping black gravel path had been quite a pain but at least I now had some sense of achievement. It’s perhaps not too surprising how losing a couple of years to a pandemic and consequently being a couple of years older and a couple of years unfitter makes an uncomfortable difference.

Posted in 2022 Lanzarote

Waking Up Lockdown Legs

‘T was time for our first hike. Happily the relentless strong winds that had been battering us since our arrival had finally abated, which was a good job since we’d be going up a mountain. Our first route was to be a 10km limb-loosener from Femés, at the base of the southern mountains, with 350m of ascent followed by 650m of descent to Playa Quemada on the south-eastern coast.

IMG_20220313_37431We began with a 20-minute minibus ride up to our start point in Femés sporting a belvedere with a decent view of Playa Blanca and the southern points of Lanzarote. On the coast in the top right corner you can just make out [it is a crappy phone shot] a lone white building which is an illegally built hotel that is reportedly to be destroyed. It’s good to see Spanish traditions being maintained on Lanzarote, too. 😀

IMG_20220313_36826IMG_20220313_36591We were off and began by attacking most of our ascent up a rough track into the Ajaches hills. Gaining the first crest, the volcanic origin of this landscape was starkly apparent, there being no colour to break the desolate brown-black scenery. Scenery? Well, yes, I suppose so. This barranque goes down to roughly where we were heading but our route took us around the other side of the lumpy bit on the right.

IMG_20220313_35938This was nothing more than a desolate lunar landscape with no variation all the way to the coast. Vegetation was there none, apart that is for a single plant about 30cms across and just a few centimetres high in which Francine spotted a small lizard hunting the flies that also visited it. A rare example of Lanzarote wildlife.

The path was decent but like walking on rocky ball bearings so care was always needed not to trip or slip. I was glad I was wearing good boots with a moderately firm sole against the rough stony ground and poles were a must, for us, though not everyone chose to use them. I have to say I’ve been on more appealing walks but at least my legs were holding up, though my calves ached on some of the climbs. Ain’t lockdown wonderful?

Secret GardenLunch break was taken at the coast where we quite unexpectedly stumbled across a “Secret Garden” of cacti. Good grief, more vegetation! I’m not a big fan of stopping for lunch ‘cos my legs are prone to thinking that their job is done; I have trouble kick-starting them again.

After lunch we finished of by completing the walk along the coastal path to Playa Quemada, going up and down a few more barranques just to finish off the legs completely. Our revered leader shot off ahead with a small band of the young and fit leaving some of more measured individuals to follow the path themselves. This was not good. Not one of the advanced party gave a backward glance to check that half the merry band was still on track. There was a fork in the path and we luckily chose the correct route. Losing touch with half your number is not how to lead a walk, and you certainly don’t pass a fork without at least stationing someone there to point the way.

When Mr. Leader did finally stop and give a backward glance I remonstrated. That’s me in everybody’s bad books then. We’ll see if it has any effect. Francine and I chose to eat alone in the evening. That’s probably two black marks. 🙂

Posted in 2022 Lanzarote

North of Lanzarote

Lanzarote has much in common with Shetland – both are essentially treeless. There are exceptions on Lanzarote in peoples “gardens”, where we spotted a few Norfolk pines (which is about my least favourite tree). Haría is also a bit special in that it is known for its palm trees. This is where tour guide Francine decided to head today.

We set off heading north, keen to avoid the one-way streets of Puerto del Carmen which seem to act like a non-return valve, planning a first stop at Teguise, which is the old capital of Lanzarote.

The hooley which had been blowing for two days and nights entered its third day, this time accompanied by a spit or three of drizzle, as we entered Teguise. We found a useful parking spot and bailed out.

Dragonfly ShopTeguise sculpturesHeading for the small centre of a modestly sized town, the first intriguing sight we saw was some wag’s garden/yard, inventively decorated with varied collection of very basic sculptures. As we neared the centre, I got the impression they must’ve known I was coming when we bumped into a Dragonfly Shop. We’ve clearly moved from weird to considerate. 😀

Aside: this is perhaps an appropriate time to mention that there is absolutely no fresh water on Lanzarote. The entire island is kept alive by a single desalination plant, situated right next to the power station. Desalination is apparently quite power hungry. Aim a missile at these two and Lanzarote would be disabled. The lack of fresh water meant that this would likely be the only dragonfly I’d see. There are records of dragonflies but in truth, I have never seen anywhere so devoid of insects. Temperatures are in the lower 20s centigrade and flowers are out but so far we’ve seen just see a handful of butterflies, mostly white, and a ground hopper beside a clump of vegetation on a beach.

There was a homely coffee shop in Teguise where we could shelter from the wind whilst sharing a very tasty wedge of cheesecake, then it was on to Haría …

PXL_20220305_121338197.MP… where we bumped into masses of parked cars littering every road with the drivers and passengers of said cars swarming in the streets. It was Saturday and it was market day. We did find somewhere to park and joined the throng. The market square did have some real trees (Eucalyptus trees, I think) to augment the palm trees and cacti.

After as much thronging as we could take, we decided that enough was enough, returned to the car and headed down out of Haría towards the east coast and Arrieta.

Just about the most notable thing about Arrieta is the roundabout at the entrance/exit to town, which is decorated with one of the so-called wind toys of César Manrique. (I’m sure we’ll get to César Manrique later but he was an artist/sculptor and pretty much the main man of Lanzarote.)This particular “toy” is known is some circles as the Madonna installation because the shapes that catch the wind most resemble Madonna’s inventive old pointed bra cups. A better image can be seen here. So, if anyone fancies joining me using Madonna’s bra as a toy while she’s wearing it …

Arrieta - CarolArrieta proved to be somewhat calmer and much easier to park in. We bailed out on an outskirt and wandered in to find lunch. Somewhere in the middle of this picture is our chosen restaurant where we sat looking out of the ocean munching lapas. Yes, lapas not tapas. Lapas are limpets and, like snails, are a damn fine excuse for garlic butter. We’d first encountered them to eat on Madeira 10 years ago. [Good grief, how time flies with age and pandemics.] They are served, inverted, on a sizzling griddle. These weren’t the best but they are fun and I love ‘em. We followed up by trying their steamed mussels which proved to be just that, plain steamed mussels. You really can’t beat good ol’ French moules marinière made preferably with Scottish rope-grown mussels or the French equivalent moules de bouchot, both of which are smaller and sweeter.

This was our last free day before the walking tour proper. In the evening we handed our rental car keys to the hotel reception and met our tour leader, Ramon, together with most of our fellow hikers. We went out to dine as a group. This is not something of which Francine and I are greatly fond because it often ends up with a confusion concerning the bill for 16 orders and contributions. The process is further complicated by those who insist on paying by card instead of adding cash to the kitty. Our leader got off to a poor start by walking out to attend to something before the bill arrived. [Alarm bell rings.] One of our brave companions sorted it, happily. It’s worth noting that group tour leaders are usually provided with free meals of their own for bringing sizeable groups to restaurants.

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Out for a Blow

Lanzarote can be windy; VERY windy. It was blowing a hooley when we arrived yesterday, it blew a hooley throughout the night and it is still blowing a hooley today. Still, we have a parked rental car and it’s time to unpark it, brave the unfamiliar roads and the unfamiliar Spanish language satnav, and go exploring.

Tour guide Francine decided that we should head west to Timanfaya National Park. This is volcano territory where much of the island got covered by lava during the eruption of 1730-1736. Yes, apparently a series of eruptions lasted for 6 years. Part of the plan also included a stop at El Golfo for lunch with its reputedly fine collection of fish restaurants.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’d seen the famous black soil – actually more like black gravel – of Lanzarote wandering about along the promenade near our hotel. Now we saw a whole lot more of it. It looks a bit weird but makes a dramatic backdrop to the plants planted in it.

We headed off for the Timanfaya National Park but it seemed as though most of the population of Lanzarote had had the same idea; traffic was jammed up trying to gain access which looked as it it was being strictly controlled. The Spanish can be good at strictly controlling things. The road was blocked in both directions by cars attempting to turn into the park whose approach road was already full and stationary.

Eruption visitor centreEventually we manage to skirt around the blockage muttering choice phrases like, “bugger that”, and continued to a Timanfaya Visitors Centre which looked much more civilized. The building contained a mass of graphics explaining volcanic activity (for those who were fluent in Spanish) with an external observation platform looking across the now solid black lava field.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our outward journey we’d seen what was, to us, a rather surprising sight. On our way back we decided to call in and look more closely. What we’d seen was a car park beside strings of Camels taking people for rides across what looked like a black desert. Well, it WAS a black desert made of classic Lanzarote black lava gravel. This was a huge operation; I counted about 100 camels, though most today were sitting resting.

We did call in to El Golfo for lunch though our first attempt was foiled by a road being cortado [cut, i.e. closed]. So, we had to backtrack and go another way. For a starter we had some navajas [razor clams], which were the best we’ve had, followed by half a whale masquerading as a Snapper, which was the fish of the day and less than scintillating. It was good enough, just not an exciting fish.

Returning to the hotel was stressful … very stressful. Spanish satnav did not understand the beach where our hotel was located. So ever-resourceful Francine programmed in Puerto del Carmen just along the coast. We got into Puerto del Carmen but could find no way out of it heading east – at least, not without going the wrong way down a one-way street, which I did begin to attempt. My passenger/primary navigatrix screamed dutifully so I spun around. We only appeared to be allowed to go west. Having recovered from the one-way street episode, Francine programmed Arrecife (the capital) just to get us out of the mire.

We made it but needed a drink … but then, we always need a drink.

Posted in 2022 Lanzarote

First Encounters

Neither of us had ever been to a Canary Island before but today we had our first encounters with one. Our destination was the most northerly of the islands, ignoring a couple of minor rocky lumps getting in the way of the Atlantic swell, namely Lanzarote [pronounced Lan-th-arote with a Spanish lisp].

The easyJet flight was a bit of a rude awakening largely ‘cos I was an idiot. I expected a 3-hour flight based on Spanish time but the Canaries are on UK time so three hours turned into four hours. Dumbo! Anyway, we made it.

We were to have three days to ourselves before joining an Explore Worldwide walking tour. Our rental car was, brilliantly, awaiting us at our hotel. Seeing the interminable lines of people trying to rent cars at the airport, I was very grateful for this arrangement. Car rental is painful always and is now suffering a post Covid trauma (not that Covid has gone away). With the lack of business over the various lockdowns, rental companies sold many of their cars. Now there is a shortage and they are having trouble replacing their stock so rentals are in short supply. Ours was great, delivered to us without any queues and came complete with full insurance and a Spanish satnav.

Lanzarote balconyOur hotel is a complex of self-catering apartments, the Aparthotel Costa Mar. Our unit had two bedrooms and a very basic kitchen. Star turn was the sea view balcony where quaffing beer and wine looked like being a pleasure.

Though we’d got the car for three days, given our 03:30 alarm to get here, we left it parked and went in search of some tapas for lunch … and something to wash it down, of course. It wasn’t the greatest tapas on the planet but was relaxing enough for weary travellers trying to find their feet. The padron peppers were decent but the puntillos de calamar [baby squid] were a let down.

Sitting at the restaurant, everything seemed to be in the 60s: the temperature [°F, of course] and the music – we were serenaded by a collection of Bee Gees tracks. The hotel suite continued the 60s theme with its bedding – sheets and blankets. Hmmm.

There’s a Spar supermercado opposite the hotel which came in handy for a self-catering option. After a lunch of tapas, anything large in the evening would’ve been a waste so we got some albondigas [meatballs] for an evening meal which I threw in a local sauce rejoicing in the name of Mojo Rojo.

There was nothing else for it but to set about relaxing and proving me right about the balcony.

Posted in 2022 Lanzarote