Thursday, March 10, 2016

Wintery weather has us pining for Gran Canaria

As I look out on a dreary day in the Port, I am wishing that we had stayed another few weeks in Meloneras, Gran Canaria. We've had a couple of days of warm weather but then the cold tramontana winds blew into town over the Pyrenees making walking and sometimes sleeping impossible. That is what is so frustrating as we've gone from walking miles every day and swimming, to walking only a few steps as we dodged into stores or a bar for our morning coffee.

So for me it is just fond memories of walking from our quiet end of the Meloneras promenade all the way to the sand dunes. Some days the beach at the dunes was quite sedate while the last time we were there, on a very hot day, it was memorable to say the least. There were nude sunbathers and nudes walking along in the surf everywhere. This beach extends for many kilometers as did the nude sun worshippers taking every advantage of the sun, old couples, particularly fat men, and the young guys posing. They are always in your way gazing out to sea as if they are looking for something. There are gay beaches here so maybe they are actually looking for something. The funniest sight was an older man walking along with a sock on his willy. It did seem to defeat the purpose of going nude.

We looked for places to stay on a more permanent basis in the next little area along the coast called Posito Blanco. It was a gated area with a quite large marina and lovely beach with perfect swimming. Every day you could walk right into the ocean without a shiver. It was mainly people staying in Posito or locals who enjoyed this beach. At the end of the marina was a restaurant with a roped off swimming area in deeper water.

As hard as we tried we could not find a place where we could move. Posito is very small and February was not really the time to be looking as many places were rented. The places we saw were very tired or just not suitable. We had to consider that there is a fine balance between swimming and walking every day and the best weather imaginable and the rocky, barren landscape away from civilization. Another draw was the cheap flights from Las Palmas to destinations all over Europe.

Restaurants and hotels in our village are slowly beginning to open up so there are some signs of life; however I think I am missing watching the daily promenade of Scandinavians, Finns, Germans, Dutch, Brits and Italians as we had our morning espresso at the Calabrese restaurant. Obesity is really a problem in Europe especially with the Germans and some of the Scandinavians, especially the men who loved to parade topless with their gross stomachs hanging out as if it was some sort of status symbol. Today, I would love to see again the assortment of people. But most of all I am missing what is called the world's most perfect climate. It approached 30 degrees every day, some days it was hotter. Nights were around twenty. No wonder there have been almost a million more visitors this year as holiday makers avoid their usual haunts in Africa.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

We find wonderful seafood restaurant in Arguineguin

We visited the small town of Arguineguin quite often. It was only about ten minutes from Meloneras, and it had little stores where we could buy the cooking utensils that we were lacking in our townhouse. You wouldn't think this would be a difficult task but supermarkets didn't stock simple things like cutting boards, knives and graters. You could buy a Rolex watch but not a simple knife.

Arguineguín is a located at the end of the motorway and was, until fairly recently, little more than a fishing village. Still a working port, Arguineguín has developed into a tourist resort with hotel complexes and endless high rise apartments. This end of town is very much a Norwegian enclave and we didn’t much care for it.

What we did like was the area around the harbour where the fishing boats came in. One night we watched as tuna and mackerel were unloaded from two boats that had just come in. The fishermen run their own restaurant in the same building as the fish market. I loved going there and picking out whichever fresh fish I wanted. The restaurant wasn't fancy but the fish was excellent and the prices half of what you would pay along our promenade. There was also a store selling beautiful fresh fish.

Further along the fishing pier was a shrine to the fishermen. It was covered with lots of fresh flowers and plants. This was something unusual because Gran Canaria is basically volcanic rock.

Further along the wharf was the bright orange Salvatore Maratimo search and rescue boat. Right beside it were a couple of very unseaworthy boats that had been used to smuggle migrants. One had been towed to port a few days previously. Forty-nine migrants who had set sail from the Western Sahara had been rescued from it.

There was a glass-bottom ferry that sailed to Mogan, where you could have lunch before returning. We always intended to do it but some how never made it.

When we were thinking of living on Gran Canaria, near Arguineguin, one of the draws was the David Silva recreation centre with its beautiful 25-meter indoor swimming pool that Silva had paid to renovate. In case you don't know David Silva is a Spanish football player who plays for Man City. Arguineguin is his home town.

The drive back from Arguineguin was always fairly dismal as it was through rock-covered low mountains with virtually no vegetation. In several places the hillsides would have been scoured in preparation for building that never happened because of the Spanish crisis.

Agaete on Gran Canaria's rugged north coast

We could rent a car for only a month at a time so we had to make a return trip to the airport, which is just south of the capital Las Palmas. Once we had completed our transaction we decided to continue to the north part of the island. There was a highway most of the way.

The weather became a little cooler, and west of Las Palmas there were surfers enjoying huge rollers. There are thirty-three microclimates on Gran Canaria and we passed through a number of them. The hills were covered in low scrub and yellow flowers. Lining the road were huge hot pink bougainvilleas. Banana plantations were quite plentiful. Once off the highway, the road wound around before we arrived at our destination Puerto de Las Nieves, a picturesque fishing village on the north coast of Gran Canaria. Filled with charm, Canarian character and atmosphere, it has become a popular place to visit in recent years and has been renovated into an  resort, ideal for a day trip or if you want to go island hopping as the ferry to Tenerife departs from its harbour.

It was time for lunch so we headed to the Paseo de los Poetas, a promenade lined with seafood restaurants, craft shops and galleries. It totally catered to tourists and they were everywhere. I was beginning to find the restaurants touristy. I always got the feeling that the food or the service didn't really matter because you weren't going back. As usual there were tourists from Germany, the U.K. and all the Scandinavian countries.

After lunch we strolled along to the stone pier braving incredibly strong winds. At the southern end of this village we found the Dedo de Dios, God’s Finger. This is a 30-metre slender pinnacle of basalt rock rising out of the ocean, directly in front of the impressive cliffs, which are crowned by the Pinar de Tamadaba, an extensive pine forest. When Tropical Storm Delta hit in 2005, the Dedo was damaged but it still made for an extraordinary sight.

We drove further along the north coast to the end of a steep ravine – the Barranco de Agaete – with bananas, mangos, papayas, oranges, lemons and other subtropical plants and trees growing on its slopes. Here is the town of Agaete with its narrow streets and whitewashed houses surrounded by lush vegetation.

Many artists and art-lovers have made this place their home, which also explains why you can find many art galleries here. In the Plaza de la Constitución, we saw some attractive noble houses with carved wooden balconies.

Continuing along the narrow road we ended up in Galdar, which was the capital of the island before Las Palmas. It is rich in archeological sites. The Spanish founded the post in 1484. We parked in the town hall square admiring the enormous dragon tree, believed to be planted no later than 1718 and therefore thought to be one of the oldest on the archipelago.

The biggest attraction of Gáldar, however, is El Museo y Parque Arqueológico Cueva Pintada, Painted Cave Museum and Archaeological Park. Featuring many colourful geometric Guanche paintings, it was only discovered in 1873. After conservation works were carried out between 1970 and 1974, it was closed to the public in 1982 in order to prevent the paintings from being destroyed by the increasing humidity. It was subsequently re-opened in July 2006. Of course it was late in the afternoon by the time we arrived and was closed. What we saw from the outside looked quite interesting. The buildings were dotted between dark black lava rocks. It didn't look terribly inviting.

Eventually, we found our way back to the main north south highway, which was always crazy busy. We were glad to be back in our quiet enclave in Meloneras.