Monday, July 25, 2016

Hola La Palma

I continue our hop around the canaries this week with a stop at La Palma. We were told La Palma is the world's steepest island. Whether true we were also informed it's lush and green, and that's definite. We've never seen so many banana plants.

Drive from one side to the other and emerge from a tunnel between contrasting landscapes; this is because the climate varies on the two sides. The north is divided by deep ravines and surrounding mountains. The south has small volcanoes with smatterings of volcanic scenery that in pockets of land reminded me of Iceland, while the whole isle enjoys high temperatures all year and plenty of rain.

Though the island has a turbulent history, more recently it's a peaceful, prosperous place. Locals have no wish to see huge holiday resorts or high-rise hotels so though welcoming it's more unspoilt than some islands.

I want to finish with one highlight. We heard good feedback on Plaza La Glorieta in La Las Machas. It's much smaller than we imagined and one comes upon it quite suddenly in a landscape where it's unexpected and even seems a little out of place. We anticipated a more typical tourist location, not this small quiet, tranquil area. The mosaic park is open with no admission charge. Designed by Luis Morera, a local artist, the detail on the mosaics made this a delightful place to stop and is artistically inspirational.

Adios, La Palma

Monday, July 18, 2016

La Gomera

When people talk of the Canary Islands one instantly thinks of noise, lager louts, and the party scene reputation of tourism, none of which are to our taste. One of the main reasons we travel is to view stunning scenery, of which the islands have plenty.

Our second stop on our recent wanderings was the little-known island of La Gomera, which lies fifteen miles west of Tenerife, and thirty miles south-east of La Palma. In fact, it's easy to see Tenerife on a clear day and one of my favourite photographs I took on the whole trip had to be of the highest peak seeming to grow out of the clouds.

The roughly circular island is just thirteen by fifteen miles and is full of contrast. No one is certain from where the original inhabitants came to this small island where there is little to do, though North Africa is a possibility, and the Greek and Romans definitely knew of the area. Mediterranean civilisation knew of the islands as the Elysian Fields. Its population of 24,000 (10,000 of which live in the capital of San Sebastian) largely subsist on fishing or agriculture, with a small but growing tourist industry. Note: Columbus came this way, and though we didn’t have time to see it, the house in which he stayed and drew water from the well for his voyages has been fully restored.

Though essentially arid, La Gomera is varied in its landscape. With cliffs and deep valleys at first glance one might expect to spot a film crew shooting a wild west movie in a place like this:

The average temperature ranges between 65 to 75, though to us it felt far hotter for the time we were there. This was definitely the hottest island we visited in the area that is known for year round ‘springlike’ weather. In fact, we wanted to get out of the heat for a bit so decided to head for Garajonay National Park, which, we had been told, was liable to be cool and misty. Not so the day we went. Take your rain jackets they said. People were giving us funny looks.

Reminded us of Puzzlewood in the UK.

No, I didn't take the tree shot at an angle--that's how it is.

The forest looks primeval in places and we had heard many good things and read some wonderful reviews calling the place magical. Our own take… Yes, we loved it, and it was good to get a chance to really ‘walk’, get away from crowds, take in the trees and flowers, but maybe one needs a misty day to find the place magical. Indeed, the online photos I've found look far more mystical than the views we saw on a dry, sun-baked day.

Maybe we weren't the only ones who wanted to rest in the heat.

We’ve also been rather spoilt by our visit to Puzzlewood near the Forest of Dean in the UK, which rivals the national park in scenery if not size. Anyone who has been to and loved the forest on La Gomera might be amazed what is on our own doorstep.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Bom dia, Madeira

Over the next few weeks, I thought to share some holiday snaps with you as I sort through them. It takes time. I do tend to get carried away with the camera and it's difficult to choose a 'few' shots. We went somewhere new for us in the world.

When visiting the Canary Islands it's too easy to forget where you are. We'll start where we began: Madeira. The archipelago lies in the Atlantic Ocean, north of the Canaries, and west of Morocco. I've been to Portugal a few years ago yet never spared a thought for the Portuguese islands lying 600 miles south-west of Lisbon.

Bom dia (Good day), Madeira.


Though a comparatively short stop, I knew right away I'll happily revisit (and hope to). I opted not to ride the cable car this time, though I would if we ever return. If interested, footage can be found on someone's trip aboard on youtube. There's much else to see and do in Funchal, not least of all to try Madeira cake which puts our supermarket variety to shame. I was also rather taken with Poncha -- the traditional alcoholic drink made from the island's sugar cane, containing honey, and aguardiente de cana (a distilled spirit) and different fruit juices, though we were told usually orange, and the best way to describe ours is as 'alcoholic orange juice'. Locals imbibe to 'ward off colds and flu'; I guess the orange juice makes it healthy, right?

My second highlight has to be the good reason it's referred to as an island of flowers. I was naturally going to be instantly fond of Madeira because it's green. Mountainous with deep valleys, it's scenic qualities is one of those I love best.

I decided to visit the caves at Sao Vicente for personal grounds I had heard these caves were like visiting no other and it's true. It's cool and wet so I needed my rain jacket, not outside once on this holiday, but underground exploring Madeira's geological past. The display at the end of the cave walk is a little dated but the film shown enlightens the visitor on how the islands formed and change. A volcanic eruption 890 years ago created the caves, and after creating the inner world for my Space 1889 story 'A Fistful of Dust' set on Phobos, I wanted to explore. These are lava tubes. The idea of walking where lava once flowed was too good for me to ignore.

(What do you think, Andy? A good setting?)


Adeus (Goodbye)

Monday, July 04, 2016

Happy Anniversary

Been absent for a couple of weeks, away on holiday to celebrate a special anniversary. Some highlights on what we saw in other blogs but for now I’ll say the holiday was good, never as relaxing and restorative as people hope they will be, but we had an amazing meal on our anniversary in a special restaurant. Another couple we met went the night before so told the staff it was our anniversary and they decorated the desert plates.

Mine was the rectangle plate and smaller dessert, a chocolate pudding with sorbet. Best chocolate creation I may have ever tasted. Want the recipe. The husband wondered why they felt he needed to chill. lol