Tag Archives: Spain

Canary Islands Travel Diaries – Gran Canaria

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The last stop on our Canary islands visit was Gran Canaria, which is approximately in the middle of the archipelago.  We had travelled first to Fuerteventura, then to  Lanzarote, finding that each island had a different character, and finally arrived on Gran Canaria, which yet again had different scenery and a different atmosphere. On this island the mountains dominate, with the highest peak being 1956m. Before Europeans arrived, the island was populated from as early as 500BC by a people known as the Canarii. In their language, the island was called  Tamarán. There is a museum about this interesting civilization on the island, but unfortunately we didn’t manage to get there on our short trip. Continue reading

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Canary Islands travel diaries: Lanzarote

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For those of you who missed the last post, we started our trip to the Canary islands in Fuerteventura, then caught a boat to the nearby island of Lanzarote. After bouncing over the waves for about 45 minutes due to some strong wind, the sea grew a little bit calmer, and soon we were approaching the little harbour.

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Approaching Lanzerote

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Harbour in Lanzerote

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In the background you can see a ferry headed in the opposite direction, back to Fuerteventura.

From our first arrival at the harbour we noticed that the island was distinctly different to Fuerteventura, which we didn’t expect as they were not so far apart. Later in our trip we found the island Gran Canaria completely different too, so it seems like each of the islands has its own character. Lanzerote seemed to be a hot-spot for British tourists, more so than Fuerteventura, where we’d come across a lot of Italians, for instance. Near the harbour were many restaurants offering English breakfasts and roasts. If we were staying longer I might have indulged in some English food since I don’t get that often in Germany.

From near the harbour, we took a bus to Puerto del Carmen where our accommodation was. We’d chosen this side of the island because it was near the airport, and we had to catch a plane the next morning already to Gran Canaria. From the bus there was a great view of the volcanic landscape, with lava fields and cones. Another thing I noticed is that their traffic circles are beautifully landscaped, often with statues or cacti inside. Next time I think we’d rent a car on Lanzerote to be able to drive around and explore the landscape of the island some more. The Timanfaya national park in particular looked amazing from the postcards we saw. They also have camel caravans there, which must look stunning against the volcanic landscape.

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Salt pans

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Lava fields

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Volcano cones

I could have sat on the bus all day enjoying the scenery, but eventually it arrived in Puerto del Carmen and we had to climb out into the heat. For some reason we got off literally miles before our street and had to walk a long way in the searing sun with backpacks, At first it was interesting because Puerto del Carmen is packed with restaurants with all kinds of international foods, full of tourists doing different things, and part of the route had a beautiful view of the beaches and sea, but towards the end it was too hot to enjoy it. The best times of day here are the morning and evening, in between that the sun is too intense, and walking anywhere in its searing heat is taxing. I often thought of the South African saying “only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”, especially since we were surrounded by British tourists. In the morning and evening, green parrots fly squawking around between the palm trees, the sea breeze sways the palm trees, doves coo. In short, I was very relieved when we finally arrived at our accommodation, especially because it was so lovely (little apartment rooms in white plastered buildings surrounding a pool). We sat in a puddle of sweat while filling in forms, and were relieved to finally get to the apartment, get rid of the backpacks and freshen up.

Kitties at our accommodation complex

Kitties at our accommodation complex

Feeling revived, we then headed back out along the same way we’d walked to the accommodation, which was even lovelier when we viewed it without heavy backpacks. We thought it would be too hot to sit on the beach so first we sat in the shade for a while having lunch, then took a slow walk along the coast, with its many palm trees and white, flat-roofed buildings. It was perhaps more touristy than Fuerteventura, but also lovely. It’s interesting how many of the British tourists there were tattooed, with blue swirls on their arms or backs. I never noticed before that the British like tattoos, but normally I’ve only seen them in the UK when it’s colder and they’re covered up. Doing a little research, I read that 29% of 16-44 year olds are now tattooed. Interestingly, I read that the English have actually being tattooing themselves for over 1000 years.

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It being so hot, we stopped often to rest in the shade of palm trees or enormous succulents/cacti.

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Strelitzia – this South African plant has made itself at home far and wide

After our walk we went back to the apartment to change into our swimming costumes, then went for a swim at a nearby beach. It was in the opposite direction to the one in the main touristy area and was emptier, which was nice. By the time we left the beach the heat had started to reduce a little, and suddenly we saw a lot of green parrots flying from palm to palm, squawking to each other. Our friend, who had been staying on Fuerteventura, had also arrived in Lanzerote by now. He would be staying on for a while, while we were flying to Gran Canaria the next morning, so he invited us to meet him and some others for dinner at 10pm, which seemed very late, but why not. We changed at the apartment, then took an evening walk along the beachfront, stopping for cocktails to fill the time before dinner.

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At 10pm we met the others for dinner at an Italian place, expecting the restaurant would be quiet by that time, but to our surprise the place was packed and we had to wait for a table to free up. It remained packed up till the time we left – the food was delicious, so it was worth the wait in the end. It was quite late by the time we walked along the beachfront back to our apartment, so not too much sleep because we had to get up relatively early to take a taxi to the airport. Luckily the airport was only 15 minutes away and not big, so we didn’t have to be there too much in advance. it’s easy to wake up when the mornings are so fresh and beautiful. After packing we sat for a while watching the green birds flying between palm trees, until finally it was time to go. Next stop, Gran Canaria!

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Favourite things of the day:

Me: lava fields and green birds

Husband: fuzzy cactus

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Canary Islands travel diaries: first stop, Fuerteventura

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In August we took a last-minute trip to the Canary islands, as a friend of ours was working there for a while as a digital nomad, and he invited us to join him there for some exploring. The volcanic landscape of the islands is amazing, and there are also lots of beaches for swimming and watersports. We visited Fuerteventura, Lanzerote and Gran Canaria, all of which had very different atmospheres. I’ll start with some travel notes from our first stop, Fuerteventura. Continue reading

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On the road…

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You may have noticed a bit of radio silence lately…this is because we have just returned from a short trip to the Canary islands, a volcanic archipelago lying in the Atlantic ocean off the coast of southern Morocco. Now we are back in Berlin…stories of sun, sea and volcanoes to follow soon!

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Tinto de verano – a Spanish summer drink!

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J and I recently went to southern Spain for four days, a glorious four days of hot sun, blue skies and beautiful buildings with Moorish architecture such as the Royal Alcázar in Sevilla and the Alhambra in Granada. We still need to sort out our photos, so more about that later. For now, I want to share a new drink I tried for the first time on this trip, very popular in Spain. It is called tinto de verano, red wine of summer, and is perfect for a hot day. Here is how you make it:

Add 1 part of red wine to 1 part of lemonade (e.g. Sprite or lemon Fanta), add a few slices of lemon and some ice blocks, and voila! Tinto de verano. So simple and yet so delicious and refreshing for summer. Drink it and picture that you are sitting at a cafe in a cobblestone street in Spain, enjoying the warm summer evening 🙂

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Travel memories and trinkets #1 Spanish souvenirs

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Whichever travel destination you go to, you are bound to come across souvenirs for sale. Why are souvenirs so popular? Well, after a great trip, it doesn’t take long until the realities of everyday life make the holiday seem like just a lovely dream. That’s when it’s nice to look at or hold your souvenir and remember: I was really there. The word souvenir itself comes from the French word for memory. Looking at the souvenirs triggers memories of the place where you found them. And of course, some people like it when you bring back some little presents!

Leanne, author of the blog Nihongojapongo about life in Japan and other travels, has come up with a blog challenge: the Travel Trinkets and Memories challenge. J and I just got back from a 4 day trip to Spain, so I thought I’d write a bit about my Spanish souvenir and some of the other Spanish souvenirs on offer.

I guess not many women could resist coming home from Spain without a fan. They are both beautiful and functional! We visited Seville (Sevilla) in Andalusia, the home of flamenco, where the fan is used artistically by flamenco dancers. Seville is also in the hottest area in Spain, where a fan seems almost a necessity (we were there in a cooler spell – 38 degrees every day rather than the 41 degrees they had on either side of our visit!). Fans were first pictured in ancient Greek art from around the 4th century BC, and in China there is still a fan in existence that was made in the 2nd century BC. The European fans used to be rigid fans, until the folding fan was introduced from Asia in the 17th century via the travels of explorers, and became very popular.

My friend living in Spain said that fans are usually cheaper there because they are a specialty of that area. It’s true that they were cheaper than in Granada. There’s many different kinds of fans, made of different materials and with different paintings and decorations. I came across mine within an hour of arriving in Seville, as my friend had mentioned that there was a market on Feria street near to her apartment, so we stopped there on our way through the narrow cobblestone streets from the train station. At the market were lots of interesting secondhand toys, books, ornaments, music, stamps and so on. A lady sold me this beautiful blue fan for only 1,50 euros.

Other souvenirs we saw for sale in Andalusia included summery colourful skirts and dresses in Granada, orange, bergamot and jasmine scented soaps and perfumes in Seville, little bull and flamenco dancer figurines, bottles of Spanish olive oil, and books about the different towns, as well as Andalusian and Spanish history. The library in Granada was especially good for picking up some Spanish history books, and because of the heritage of Islamic architecture in the area, they also had colouring books of Islamic geometric patterns, which are very tempting once you have seen the beautiful designs at Alhambra and feel like decorating your own house. In fact many souvenirs for sale (notebooks, pencils) were decorated with Islamic patterns, and they also sold tiles in some places, although these were more expensive. And in case you wanted to remember Spain by preparing some local dishes back at home, they also had many books of tapas recipes for sale!

What interesting souvenirs have you seen in Spain, and do you have any favourite Spanish trinket or memory?

 

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