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Archive for January, 2011

You might consider that, living in the Canaries, visiting the other islands would be a regular occurrence of everyday life. Sadly it isn’t so. Unlike the residents of La Gomera, El Hierro and to a lesser extent La Palma who have little choice but to travel to Tenerife, as International flights from their own islands are either scarce or non existent, living on Tenerife we’re pretty much self contained.

It would be interesting to conduct a poll of ex-pats to find out just how many of them ever visit neighbouring islands. I wouldn’t mind betting that for the majority the answer would be “never”, which is a lengthy way of admitting that, in the seven plus years we’ve lived on Tenerife, we hadn’t once visited Lanzarote… until last week.

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression, but I’m not sure that’s true.
Before last week, the first (and only) time we have been to Lanzarote was 20 years ago when we sought some winter sun and booked a last minute, cheap ‘pot luck’ type holiday where you didn’t know which resort or accommodation you were going to until you got there, and we got Puerto del Carmen.
To be fair to Lanzarote and Puerto Del Carmen, we had recently returned from our honeymoon in Sri Lanka and been completely blown away by the island. I suspect that no matter where we had gone next, disappointment was the only emotion we were going to feel and in that respect, Puerto del Carmen didn’t let us down. As the coach drove along the sea front passing row upon row of ‘all day British breakfast’ signs, amusement arcades and British pub names, we looked at each other in horror and  realised we had made a terrible mistake, this was our idea of holiday hell.

So it’s fair to say that when we had to go to Lanzarote on business for three days last week, it was with some trepidation that we boarded the Binter Airlines flight to Arrecife.

As we drove the short journey to Costa Teguise and Sands Beach Resort which was to be our home for the next three days, Lanzarote got a second chance to make a good first impression on us…and she rose to the occasion with style.
The first thing we were struck by was the marked contrast in the landscape between Tenerife and this eastern isle. As Jack put it: “I keep wondering where the rest of the horizon is.”
We are so used to seeing a backdrop of mountainous terrain towering above us that Lanzarote’s arid flatness was almost unnerving. On the other hand, from what we could see there were no high rise hotels; no industrial estates sprawling into the distance; no motorway or vast commercial centres and no traffic queues or gridlocked junctions.

The stark contrast of low rise white buildings against the black volcanic earth studded with cacti and irrigated rows of palm trees create a beauty that is unique to Lanzarote.
We arrived at Costa Teguise and drove through the resort to the far side of Las Cucharas Beach where the resort of Sands Beach lies in its own unique, lagoon side location.
We had a lovely, beach front apartment on the edge of the saltwater lagoon with its little golden beach beyond which a promenade led along the coast to the centre of Costa Teguise and to beautiful sandy coves and tranquil bays.

On our second day we visited the former capital of La Villa de Teguise and were thoroughly charmed by its narrow cobbled streets, picturesque plaza, pavement cafes and historic buildings. 20 years ago we hired a car and spent three days touring the island but neither of us could remember going to Teguise, or Costa Teguise for that matter.

This was a very different Lanzarote from the one we visited 20 years ago. Could it be that things have changed so much in that time? They certainly have in Tenerife so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Lanzarote too has shaken off some of the tacky image of the 1990s. Of course, only a return visit to Puerto Del Carmen will determine if that’s the case.

Or was it just that we were literally and figuratively seeing a different side to the island? Or were we simply looking through different eyes?

Whichever it is, I don’t think it will be another 20 years before we next return to Lanzarote.

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At Al Campo yesterday they had this wonderful stand with all the vegetable ingredients for puchero – a traditional Spanish stew. Incidentally, for all you veggies, the translation of puchero as a vegetable stew is a huge misnomer because it contains beef and pork.

I thought it was brilliant that there was a special display to save you gathering all your own ingredients and it’s very typical of the habits of the masses here – it’s post Christmas, so everyone will be using up their leftover cuts of meat to make puchero.

The stand had all the ingredients except the meat and the chickpeas:  cabbage, corncob, pumpkin, chayote, French beans, sweet potato, pears, marrow or courgette, carrot, leek, garlic, onion and tomato.
To make puchero, chickpeas, beef, pork, saffron and thyme are added to the above and the whole lot are simmered into a warming, fragrant stew which is usually served with fresh crusty bread.

For hikers, there’s nothing quite like a steaming bowl of puchero at the end of a long walk when the sweat is drying and the chill of the mountain air kicks in. And I have it on very good authority that the best puchero on the island is to be found at Casa Lala in Arico Viejo.

I have yet to try Casa Lala myself and will have to try out a new walking route that ties in with finishing there, but we’re planning a walk around the Erjos Pools soon and I might just pop into Bar Las Fleytas to try theirs…watch this space.

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I like Latino music, I really do, but not at the expense of every other type of music in the Universe and unfortunately, here in the north of Tenerife Latino is aired, played and listened to as if no other order of notes has ever been invented.

Still, it was New Year’s Eve at the annual street party in Puerto de la Cruz and I resigned myself to another night of salsa, salsa and more salsa which certainly improves in direct relation to the quantity of alcohol consumed.

Midnight strikes, grapes are swallowed, fireworks explode into life and the champagne corks are popped – hello 2011.
Jack, Nicole, Sebastian and I wander back to Plaza Charco where the evening’s Latino band are in full swing and the dance floor is packed with salsa dancers. I do my best to shake up an explosion by attempting (badly I suspect) to emulate the moves while carrying a rucksack in which our chilled cava supply is stashed.

Shortly after 1am Nicole and Sebastian bid their farewells and Jack and I  finish off a bottle of cava and head over to the other side of the harbour to see what’s happening.

Lo and behold, what we find is the alternative New Year’s Eve – the one that has loud, throbbing rhythms and multi coloured strobe lights and joy upon joy, the unmistakeable chords of Insomnia!
With unrestrained delirium we launch ourselves into the middle of the pulsating dance floor and let the music wash over us in a tsunami of nostalgia.
I don’t think I have ever been more happy to hear Faithless, and the atmosphere alongside the harbour with the neon Big Wheel of the funfair slowly turning in the distance is nothing short of electric.
Now this is what I call party music.

We video’d snippets of the two sides to our NYE party so that anyone who has never experienced New Year’s Eve in Puerto de la Cruz can see what they’re missing and book now for 2011/2012. Oh, and in the interests of editing, I’ve culled the 5 minute firework display down to 1½ minutes.

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