Published: January 22nd 2009January 4th 2009
The Canary Islands are a haven for middle-aged northern European holiday makers on package holidays, a place where they can warm their pasty bodies and eat food from their homeland. Does it sound like somewhere that we'd like to go? No, but the call for sunshine was too much for us and after ruling out our preferred destinations (Morocco, Egypt etc) as too expensive, off we headed to Gran Canaria and I must say we were pleasantly surprised!
We arrived in the early hours of Sunday morning, had a big sleep in and then tried to work out what we should do during our week of sunshine. We realised the important thing to do would be to get out of the resort areas of Playa del Ingles (Beach of the English) and Maspalomas where there is just mile after mile of resorts, with the occasional mini-golf and Chinese restaurant thrown into the mix. So we hired a car, a Fiat cinquecento (the smallest and cheapest car available) but when our little car arrived it was actually a Suzuki Vitara which Al was not entirely thrilled about.
We set off on our first trip to drive around the entire island
Casa de Colon
stopping at interesting points along the way. Al drove and it was his first time driving a left-hand drive car. We started in Puerto Mogan, a cute little fishing village which is as far as most day-trippers make it out of the resort areas, after admiring the cute little villas and all the flowers we decided to head up into the mountains and leave the majority of tourists behind. Gran Canaria is covered in huge, volcanic mountains and the roads are narrow and twisty making for some interesting driving in the best of times, let alone when you are changing gears with the other hand! However he managed brilliantly and we got to see some amazing scenery - not something you would expect from such a tiny island! We stopped in the little town of Mogan, higher up in the mountains from the port and had a bargain lunch in a little food place. We continued up and up, driving along in the cliffs above the ocean with views of Tenerife in the background before arriving in Agaete. Once famous for 'El Dido de Dios' (the finger of God), a rock formation that looked like a finger sticking up in
the air, Agaete has become a quiet little village since the finger fell in a storm in 2005. From there we headed back to Maspalomas, the drive having taken us the whole day!
The following day we headed up into the mountains in the first storm Gran Canaria has seen in 18 months and the driving was a little hazardous. There were large rocks on the road, waterfalls all over the place, strong wind and in some parts there was thick fog. Unfortunately the view wasn't always that great and we drove straight past Gran Canaria's most famous rock formation, Roque Nublo without even realising. We stopped in a small town for lunch and had paella and some delicious flan (creme caramel) before spending the rest of the day getting back down from the mountains.
The next few days we spent wandering the dunes in Maspalomas, eating as much seafood as possible, celebrating New Years with drinks by the beach and plenty of fireworks and lying by the pool in an effort to get some sun before heading back to the freezing temperatures in London.
Once we were over pottering about we went and did some scuba
Flowers and sunshine - what more can you ask for?
diving. It was great to get back in the water again after almost a year and we even had an Australian diving instructor. We were the first Australians he had seen on Gran Canaria since he arrived almost 12 months previously- so there is somewhere in the world that isn't full of Australians! We managed to see a few cool things including stingrays, plenty of octopus, barracudas, a spider crab and a Christmas tree which someone had put in the bottom of the cave to celebrate the festive season.
Our last day in Gran Canaria was spent taking in the sights of the capital, Las Palmas which is also Spain's forth largest city. We did all the touristy things like seeing the cathedral and visiting the museum in the Casa de Colon. We also wandered along the shore, ate in the Kangaroo Bar and checked out the shopping areas before returning to Maspalomas to await our flight back to the UK in the early hours of the morning.
Our flight was supposed to depart at 3.20am (this is the bargain flight) but good old Thomas Cook delayed our flight for 3 1/2 hours after we'd all checked in,
meaning we got to spend a lovely night at the airport. We arrived back in London to temperatures of -3 degrees without having had much sleep and pretty much wanted to just turn around and head back on more holidays in the sun! Unfortunately we both had to return to work the next day so will have to wait awhile until our adventures can continue!
There are more photos below