Las Palmas - No sight of the sites...


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Europe » Spain » Canary Islands » Gran Canaria
May 19th 2016
Published: June 26th 2017
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Dakar, Senegal to Las Palmas,Gran Canaria


...but everyone likes a sun set!!

Distance travelled from Cape Town: 4,544 nautical miles

On leaving Dakar we now had another two days at sea before our next Port of call, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. Surprisingly there were two trivia sessions on our first of the two days. Not surprisingly, Roisin and I won both (with a little help from Don and Yonkers Dave) in the evening. This is even with me talking Roisin out of a correct answer on both occasions. ‘What is the fastest breed of dog?' Immediately we both said the greyhound. However, I then had a brainwave that this seems too obvious and perhaps the right answer wasWhippet' Yes, I'm sure it was. In fact I convinced myself that I'd heard this question before and the answer is definitely whippet. The answer was greyhound!! In the evening quiz a similar occurrence: ‘What was the earliest known cultivated legume?' Now although legume means vegetable in French, we both knew a legume is any kind of pulse such as a bean, pea or lentil. Roisin wrote down ‘pea' but I convinced her it was a ‘bean.' And the answer? ‘Pea' of course!! However, I did impress everyone (in the room!) with knowing the Act of Union was in 1707 (a lucky guess!!)

During MSC cruises, certain evenings are themed. One of the themes is always Italian night and this cruise was no exception. On this occasion, the tables in the dining rooms had red, white and green runners down the centre with red, white or green napkins. The waiters wore waistcoats and cummerbunds displaying the colours of the Italian tricolour as well. The menu was based on Italian fine dining and the finale would usually be the assistant waiters marching through the restaurant parading this mouth-watering dessert to the traditional tune of Funiculi, Funicular whilst all the patrons are waving their napkins above their heads. Waiting with anticipation for the lights to dim, I noticed the portions of Tiramasu being served to a few guests on an adjacent table. I called Agus, our waiter over and asked him about the parade:

‘No parade in this restaurant, Mister. The other side of the restaurant is freedom dining. The parade is only in Il Galleone, one deck below!'

Our restaurant, Il Covo, is situated at the aft of the ship with an entrance on both the port side and the starboard side and is shaped like a horseshoe. The fixed dining use the portside entrance whilst the freedom dining use the starboard. As freedom diners come and go, they all receive desserts at different times and therefore it is not practical to perform this tradition. I tried to get everyone to wave their napkins in the air anyway but without the music to keep the rhythm everything became a bit disjointed. I did nothing more than create something like a scene from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest!!

Since leaving Dakar the wind had increased. The sky was predominantly cloudless and the outside temperature a steady 70F but with the stiff cool breeze sun bathing was not an option!! (unless you wore your parka!!)

We arrived in Las Palmas at 8am. The sun was shining but a chill breeze had brought the temperature down to the mid-60s Fahrenheit. The last and only time Roisin and I had experienced the ‘delights' of Las Palmas was two years ago. Then, I had not long sprained my ankle. Being a cheap skate, I was happy enough, albeit through gritted teeth, to forego any medical attention on board and go in search of pain relief at our first port of call after the accident; in that case it was today's destination Las Palmas in Gran Canaria. Luckily the port is only a few minutes' walk from one of the main shopping areas in the city so then I managed to hobble across the Parque de Santa Catalina were we got to see the inside of a Pharmacy, then we spent some time using the free Wi-Fi of a nearby café before heading back to the ship.

Today we didn't have any special plans and I was hobble free. Oh! What to do? A hop on-hop off bus service was available which proved very popular. Checking out the queues we decided to give this a wide birth as we had visions of being crammed in to the bus, alighting in the historic quarter where most of the interesting architecture, streets and alleys lie then in a mad rush to get back waste time having to queue up again to continue on the ho-ho back to the cruise port.

We decided to have a lazy morning whereby we didn't leave the ship until 10:30. Walking out of the cruise terminal and passing the queues still waiting to board the ho-ho, we crossed the Parque de Catalina and made it as far as the pharmacy. Now we were in unknown territory!! We walked down some of the narrow streets checking out the craft shops. The stores sold everything from arts, linen, leather ware, souvenirs, glassware but they all had one thing in common. The buildings looked very tired and at the very least were in dire need of a lick of paint!! A short walk brought us to one of the many beaches that wraps around the peninsular of Las Palmas. This is pedestianised by a very wide promenade that sweeps down the coast for several kilometres. On the walk back we stopped at a shop where the assistant proudly announced that all the produce on display is made on the island and there are no souvenirs made in Hong Kong or China. The main type of goods appeared to be sand art and glazed ceramic tiles with local designs or depicting scenes associated with the Island.

Not far from the ho-ho stood a row of horse and traps. On making enquiries, the guy who seemed to be coordinating this operation showed us a number of different routes. The trips varied between 30 minutes to 2½ hours. The time was now 12:20 and we hadn't yet eaten so just to capture a flavour of Las Palmas we agreed on a 45 minute trip.

We clambered in to the back of the trap. There were two bench seats where the passengers sit alongside the covered cart facing each other. As soon as I pulled the small door closed and sat down we were off. The driver never stopped talking to the horse. We trotted along roads that run along the length of Las Palmas. The horse seemed to know exactly where to go. The blinkers that the horse (whose name we forgot to ask) wore helped the concentration without the distraction of the surrounding traffic. It's amazing how the horse recognised red lights and appropriately stopped. I didn't hear the driver say ‘Whoa' which is one of only two ‘horse' words I speak!! The other isgiddy up' and I didn't hear the driver say that either. I shared the sense of humour that the horse, a chestnut mare, had as when stopping at a ‘give way' sign she would wait until the last minute then nonchalantly pull out in front of the advancing traffic to the annoyance to some drivers. In response to the occasional beep of a horn our gee-gee would just give a swish of her tail (it was me who'd give them the ‘finger'!!)

We pulled in to the entrance to a park from which the La Palmas castle could be clearly viewed. This was the Castel de la Luz or the castle of Light. This castle dates back to 1494 and was built on the foundations of a wooden fort built by Juan Rejon captain of the conquering Castilian force in 1478. Originally the fort was built on a reef meaning the waves of the Atlantic lapped the fort at high tide but the reclamation of the land and the development of Puerto de la Luz has put some distance between the ocean and the fort!

10minutes later it was all aboard and we were off again clipping and clopping through some of the back streets of Las Palmas. Our driver shouted a few words in Spanish to a couple of passers-by who waved back. The driver turned to us and giving a toothy grin uttered: ‘Amigos!!' I don't know if he was telling us who he had signalled to or if he had just taken a liking to us!! We turned in to a side road leading to the beach area and the promenade before coming to a halt. Quite a crowd had accumulated some of which were taking selfies with the horse!! The driver was happy with the attention he was receiving leaving Roisin and I to alight the cart, examine the beach, realise it's similar to the beach we have back home then hopped back on board where the horse and driver took us back to where our journey first began.

It was only on the way back to the ship that it struck me. We should have enquired at the tourist information about local buses that could have taken us the 5.3km to the historic quarter. There were plenty of local buses that were constantly passing the main road outside the port gate so I'm sure some must go by the old town. Never mind, this can be top of the agenda for the next time we're in the neighbourhood!!

A few souvenir stalls were set up outside the port and I was pleased to see a local artist selling an array of ceramic designs and sand art. The proprietor was quick to show us photos of him in his work shop hard at work making everything himself. I was truly amazed to see that the designs of the ceramic tiles and some of the sand art were EXACTLY like the designs in the local (we source and produce everything locally) craft shop we visited a few hours earlier. Perhaps the stall was an outlet for the shop. Maybe he WAS the local source for the craft shop!

Back on board and we had mail. It was a note folded in two and wedged in the number plate of our cabin door. Taking it out and after closing the door behind us, Roisin unfolded it. It wasn't from MSC informing that we had earned another €300 free on board credit. It wasn't even our long awaited invite to the Black Card Holders party. It was a message from Lynne and Dave. They had unfortunately had to cut their vacation short. Lynne's mum who is house bound and lives in Bristol, UK, has been waiting for over twelve months for a place in a care home. A place has now become vacant and as her mum is expected to take up her new residency in the next few days, Lynne and Dave have had to fly home to help her with her move. They stated it was a pleasure to have met us and wished us all the best in future trivias. They had also enclosed an additional three trivia prize tokens that can be claimed for ‘prizes' at the end of the cruise. This was a big shock as three more tokens meant three more ‘ship' prizes. Furthermore with Lynne and Dave on the team we were definitely on a roll. We may still be on a roll albeit rolling backwards!! Time will tell.

We were scheduled to depart from Las Palmas at 4pm. At 4:30 there was still no sign of activity. There was no announcement regarding latecomers but looking out on to the quay whilst waiting to set sail there was very little movement. A few policemen were loitering, chatting to the driver of one of their squad cars whilst a few men in suits stood on the quay, possibly the ships agents. There was something missing but I couldn't for the life of me think what it was. It then occurred to me. No stevedores. We were delayed because we couldn't find anyone to untie us!! As the ship was berthed at the end of the quay there was no passing traffic so it wasn't as if the captain could stick his head out of the bridge and shout down to the next passing civilian: ‘Er, excuse me! Are you any good at knots??!' The stevedores finally strolled up at 5pm and by 5:10 we were on the road (or sea) again!

Only one navigation day and with it our third gala dinner before our next port of call Tangiers.


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