We’ve been lucky enough through a mixture of work and pleasure to have visited two of our neighbouring islands in the past two weeks and the contrast in the landscapes and our locations couldn’t have been more marked.
Our first island hop of 2011 was to Lanzarote where we discovered a very different world from the one we had left here in Tenerife. Gone was the mountainous horizon with its dominant volcano and the tropical jungle of north Tenerife where everything grows as if it’s been swigging on Alice’s drink me bottle. Instead we found an island with a different beauty; a stark, flat terrain of volcanic earth where clusters of low rise white buildings were strung together along roads delineated by miniature palm trees in a dot to dot landscape of predominantly black and white.
Our home for two days was the delightful Sands Beach Resort in Costa Teguise where we had an apartment on the beach front of the resort’s salt water lagoon.
Bleached rafters, white walls, pine furnishings and bright, modern artwork dominated the apex-roofed apartment with its fully equipped kitchen, double bedroom, large, comfy living room and oodles of wardrobe and storage space.
In the mornings the sun rose directly in front of the apartment, so that breakfast on the patio would be a warm and golden one as we watched the rose coloured rays spread across the lagoon.
Despite being almost occupied to capacity, the overwhelming impression at Sands Beach and indeed at Costa Teguise was one of unhurried tranquillity.
Less than a week later we found ourselves flying in to La Palma on the 7.30 am Binter Airlines flight. It was our second attempt at making the hop to La Palma, storms the night before diverting our plane back to Tenerife when we must have been within sight of the La Palma runway – had we been able to see it through the pitch dark and driving rain.
As the aircraft banked towards the airport at Santa Cruz de La Palma, we could see the sheer cliffs and rocky coastline of the eastern flank of the island which make the Tenerife obsession with beach building all but impossible on La Palma. It’s a blessing in my opinion as it means that hopefully, La Palma will never appeal to the hordes of suntan seekers whom the developers are so keen to court.
From our aerial vantage point we could clearly see a landscape given over almost entirely to agriculture where, behind the compact cluster of the capital city, small hamlets nestled amongst the banana plantations and the neat rows of tropical fruits and almond blossom of the Isla Verde (green island).
We arrived in Santa Cruz de La Palma in time for breakfast and we ordered strong coffee, fresh juice and tostada with mermelada (jam and toast) in the Havana Cafe and watched as the city came to life.
In the narrow, cobbled streets lined with tall, Colonial buildings with their carved wooden balconies, the morning sunlight was forbidden from entering as commerce got under way. I felt as though I’d taken a 30 minute flight and arrived in down town Havana.
Shop keepers were raising their blinds, opening their doors and sweeping their steps.
Stylishly vogue shop and office workers threaded their way past delivery vans to their favourite morning haunts for pre-work coffee and pastries. One street back, on the promenade, cafeterias raised umbrellas over their tables as the sun spilled onto the wide pavement and crept up the walls of the iconic casas de balconies the flowering cascades of their abundant window boxes.
Our accommodation was in Apartamentos La Fuente, right in the heart of the city. We’d stayed here before and had tried to request the beautiful rooms with their mudejar ceilings and window seats that overlooked the street. Alas those room were occupied and so we had an apartment in the rear of the building instead.
The room was perfectly adequate for our needs but it was in dire need of a little TLC. The curtains were cheap and shabby and didn’t match the décor or each other; the shower head was old and plastic, the bath was chipped and stained and the sheets, towels and quilts had all seen far better days in their youth.
But the shower was powerful, the water was piping hot, there was a fast WiFi connection in the apartment and we stepped straight out onto the main street to shops, cafes and restaurants.
Tenerife, Lanzarote and La Palma may share the same geographical location and language, but differences in climate and rainfall have created markedly different landscapes and each island has its own history, culture and identity.
For me, the joy of living on the Canary Islands is that there are seven different worlds on our doorstep.