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Inspiring Sunset

A few years ago we were flying to San Juan, on our way to the island of Grenada. A lovely sunset inspired me to get poetic!

At sunset                                                     sunset

A rainbow band across the sky horizon.

We fly into the blue-indigo-violet band

Taking us to a magical place

Another place, another time.

The colors deepen,

Disappear.

We continue into the night.”

 

I remember ROY G BIV,             sunset3

That BIV band has my favorite colors

Beautiful.

Peaceful.”

 

“A treasured moment

To fly into the band,

Into my colors briefly

Before they fade and die for today

We leave a golden glow behind us

Where the sun was.”                                      sunset2

 

A Tanka:

We fly into the

Blue Indigo Violet band

Of sunset rainbow.

Treasured moment, becoming

One with our cosmos briefly.”

 

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Vmannequinfemale

At the entrance to Restaurant Carmen

insideRestaurant Carmen

We arrived in Icod de los Vinos around noon, so decided to have lunch before going to visit El Drago (see previous post). We chose Restaurant Carmen, on C. Hercules 2, just opposite the entrance to the El Drago parking garage, so very convenient. It’s a free-standing building, adobe with a caramel color and wooden doors and windows. The entrance faces the street, but at the back there’s a sweeping view over some banana plantations and towards the sea.

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One of the paintings on the walls

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One of the wine plaques “Ode to Wine”

You enter, past a couple of mannequins in folkloric dress, and walk down some stairs to a large dining area. It has very interesting décor, including various urns and statues, a collection of decorative plates on the brightly-painted walls, and many tiles with sayings and quotes about wine. A central column of ferns gives a nice touch. It’s a fairly casual place, but tables are still laid with real linen.

 

 

 

 

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“Wine and sun cheer up the heart”

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Wine plaques

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Tomato and cheese salad. Note the red and green mojo sauces in the bowls behind

We had a selection of small plates, all delicious— garlic prawns, cheese and tomato salad, salad with cod and avocado, and a typical Canarian stew. Plus bread with mojo (the typical Canarian sauces I mentioned before, see here https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2018/04/05/eating-on-the-canary-islands/), a glass of wine, bottled water, and coffee, all for a total of  €42.50. Service was good and friendly, and if we were ever back in Tenerife, we would definitely return.

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Garlic prawns (shrimp)

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Avocado and cod salad

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and the Men’s bathroom

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And just for fun…the sign on the Ladies’ bathroom

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Rod M and El Drago trunk

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El Drago

signEl Drago Milenario, the Dragon Tree

In Icod de los Vinos, Tenerife

This big old tree is advertised in all the guidebooks to Tenerife, so we decided we had to go and see it. It’s in a special park in Icod de los Vinos (Icod of the vines), a town not far along the coast from Garachico where we were staying. Parking is a huge problem as this is a big tourist attraction, and as I mentioned before there’s not a lot of parking space on the islands as there’s not a lot of flat land. So it’s best to follow the signs for the El Drago parking garage (not free).

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Square Andes de Lorenzo-Caceres

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El Drago and other smaller dragon trees in the park

We paid 3 euros each to get into the park (senior rate). You can see the tree from a pretty town square next to the park, the Square Andres de Lorenzo-Caceres around the Church of San Marcos, begun in the 16thcentury. But it’s worthwhile going into the actual park and walking in it a bit: you get closer to the tree and see many other trees and plants in the park.

Why is this tree one of the biggest tourist attractions of the island?

The El Drago (Dracaena draco) is supposedly the oldest tree of its kind in the world (it looked like some kind of euphorbia to us) but the actual age is disputed: some claiming that it’s up to 1,000 years old, but most experts say that’s very unlikely. It’s not a hardwood tree so it’s amazing that it’s that old anyway. It’s also the largest D.draco tree alive, partly because of its massive trunk formed by clusters of aerial roots that grew from the bases of the lowest branches and grew down to the soil.

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A dragon tree with berries on Gran Canaria

 

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Municipal Park, Arucas, on Gran Canaria

The park has many other dragon trees, much smaller (some were especially planted to hopefully replace this old tree when it does finally die). Other parts of Tenerife, Gran Canaria and three of the other Canary Islands also have some these trees in various places, so they are emblematic of the islands. However, they are not as prolific as before and are actually on an endangered list in some places.

The Dragon Tree is one of the most unusual plants on the Canary Islands. These are actually sub-tropical tree-like plants that are native to the Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Madeira and a part of western Morocco. They are, interestingly, a member of the asparagus family Asparagaceae! It has branches on the top, in a kind of umbrella shape, that end in tufts of spikey leaves. As Wikipedia says, “When young it has a single stem. At about 10–15 years of age the stem stops growing and produces a first flower spike with white, lily-like perfumed flowers, followed by coral berries. Soon a crown of terminal buds appears and the plant starts branching. Each branch grows for about 10–15 years and re-branches, so a mature plant has an umbrella-like habit. It grows slowly, requiring about ten years to reach 1.2 metres (4ft) in height but can grow much faster.”

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In Arucas

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At Casa del Vino on Tenerife

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In Orotavo, Tenerife

Its red resin-like sap (known as “dragon’s blood”, el sange de drago) and its fruit were used in Roman times to make a medicinal powder, and it was used in pigments, paints and varnishes. The Guanches (original inhabitants of the Canaries) worshipped this tree and used the sap in their mummification process.

We were very happy that we visited this park to see this tree and learn something new about Nature. Around the islands we noticed many plaques, boards with emblems and/or names of places, and local flags that have the dragon tree on them in some form.

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Hotel San Roque in Garachico

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Crest on the square in Icod—with Guanches and the dragon tree

Germ of an Idea or What goes Around Comes Around

As I wrote earlier, my husband and I chose to go on a special trip to the Canary Islands, the destination prompted by my memories of a trip taken with my grandmother many years ago.

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My grandmother and I

As I wrote “The inspiration for this trip all started many years ago—to when I was an 8-year-old girl to be exact. At that time my grandmother took me from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), to Cape Town by train and then by steamer ship to England, a trip that took 2 weeks. On the way there, and back, the steamer stopped in Las Palmas on the Canary Islands. I was fascinated by the new culture and the new language, Spanish. Recently I was writing up my grandmother’s memoirs, which reminded me of that time again. So, when my husband suggested we go somewhere special for a “big” birthday, the Canary Islands were top of my list.”

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One of the Union Castle Line ships in Cape Town harbor in the 1950s

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I was a gypsy in the costume parade

The steamer ships were part of the Royal Mail service, run by the Union Castle Line, delivering mail between England and southern Africa. As far as I remember, my grandmother and I went to England on the Stirling Castle and returned to Cape Town on the Pretoria Castle. We lived on each ship for 2 weeks and I can vaguely remember some special events, like kids’ activities and a film evening. The biggest event was the “Crossing the Line Ceremony”, when the steamer crossed the equator. It was like a festival, with a costume competition, a party, plenty of shaving cream sprayed around, and lots of champagne for the adults.

Here a few pictures from that trip, very evocative pictures that got us dreaming.

 

Eating on the Canary Islands

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Entrance to La Perla

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The bar counter inside

La Perla Bar Restaurant, Garachico, Tenerife

On Jesus Diaz Martin, just a block off the main plaza, opposite the Quinta Roja Hotel.

The lady from our hotel recommended this the first night we were here in Garachico when we said we wanted to try local cuisine. We liked it so much that we returned another night.

It’s quite plain on the outside, but with pretty décor inside (lots of green plants and statues) and linen tablecloths, and doesn’t seem too touristy. There’s also a large bar, with wood trim. But, the main draw is the food—large servings of really tasty dishes. And the amazing thing is that it’s all produced from a tiny kitchen off to the side, run by just the owner and his wife and a helper.

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There’s the small kitchen where it all happens

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Attractive interior

All the wait staff are very pleasant and we managed fine even though we don’t speak much Spanish really and their English is limited. Luckily the menu is in English, Spanish and German.

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The wine made on the Canary Islands is actually very good

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Ham and melon

The first night we had sopa de pescado(fish soup—Rod) and Melon con Jamon(melon with ham—Viv) as starters, then Cherne plancha(seabass platter). Plus 2 bread rolls (as I mentioned earlier, on the islands you pay extra for bread), a large bottle of water and a bottle of Canarian rose wine, and the total was only 43 euros!

We also had our first experience with two of the famous Canarian sauces: they are called mojo saucesand are served with every meal, usually with the bread, but added to anything. The most common are the green sauce (mojo verde) and the red (mojo picon), which is much spicier. We also had the famous wrinkly potatoes (batata arrugado), served at almost every meal and a traditional Canarian food. These potatoes are boiled in their jackets in salted water and when tender are drained and left to dry over a low heat until they become wrinkled, hence their name.

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Fish dish, 2 sauces, and wrinkled potatoes

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Rod M with ham and melon

Rprawns

Those are giant prawns!

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The mussels were delicious

The second time, we both had the melon and ham, as it was so good. Then I had Mejillones (mussels) and Rod had Lagostino(giant prawns), plus the wine, water and bread rolls, all for a total of only 50 euros.

Many of the other hotel guests also seem to come here and they were all very satisfied too. And plenty of locals come, so it must be a good place. Definitely recommended.

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On the first zig-zag on the road going to the right uphill, the statue is where the white umbrellas are at the roadside cafe

statueOn the edge of Garachico, on a bend in the road going up the hill out of town, we passed a small car park, with a viewpoint, roadside café and an intriguing statue. It’s called “Monument to Canarian Emigrants” and we wondered about its significance. It was erected in August 1990, and the sculptor is Fernando Garciarramos.

Well, it turns out this is a big part of the history of the islands.

One of the important stories about the Canary Islands is the history of migration out of the islands. Because the islands are a crossroads in the Atlantic, they soon developed a very important relation with the newly conquered territories across the Atlantic. Canarians, both of indigenous and European descent, were present on some of plaqueColumbus’ journeys.

The flow of people from the Canaries to the Americas was constant from the late 15th century to the middle of the 20th century. This was due mainly to the small size and poverty of the islands, and the lure of a better life. For example, in the early 1800s more than 18,000 Canary Islanders emigrated to the Americas. Most to Cuba, and fewer to Venezuela and Puerto Rico. There are also Canarian communities in Louisiana, Florida and Texas in the USA.

statue2Many Canarians in the Americans played important roles in the bid for independence from Spain in many of those countries. For example, leaders such as Francisco de Miranda (Venezuelan military leader) and Simón Bolívar were of Canarian ancestry, and the iconic leader of Cuban independence, José Martí, had a Canarian mother.

The last large migration of Canarians towards the Americas took place in the 1950s mainly to Venezuela. Since then, Canarians have started, for the first time, to migrate to Europe. Most settled in Spain, but a few small Canarian communities are in the UK, Germany and Sweden.

A small minority of Canarian emigrants and descendants have also returned to the Islands from the 1960s onwards. As living conditions worsened in Latin America and at the same time improved on the Islands with the boom of tourism, many American-born Canarian descendants applied for Spanish passports so they could return settle back in the land of their ancestors.

A really interesting part of the history of the islands, which is way more complex than we ever realized before coming here.

 

 

Canary Islands Part 2

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The town of Firgas on Gran Canaria has a sloping street with tiled maps and illustrations of all the Canary Islands, plus a relief model

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Firgas also has this lovely street lined with tiled benches and plaques, one for each of the island’s main towns.

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Many towns have outdoor cafes on or near the main square—note palm trees and balconies

Canary Islands: Part 2: Summary of islands

(I’ve put a lot of photos in this post, so please enjoy and scroll through).

We spent 10 days on the islands—a week on Tenerife and 3 days on Gran Canaria—so we were able to explore a fair bit. On both islands we stayed on, and visited, the north part of the island, rather than the south, as the south is a bit warmer, has more beaches and many big tourist resorts. We’ve always shunned resorts as we feel that’s not a good way to find out about local life and culture.

In some ways the two islands are very similar, but different in other ways so we’re happy we visited at least two of the 7 islands. If we ever revisit we’ll try to visit another one too, as well as return to Tenerife.

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Courtyard in garden of main cathedral of Las Palmas

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Mountain village view—the sea is never far away

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Main plaza in Garachico

(Here are some general observations. Later I’ll try to describe specific places and events.) It was interesting to be on an island with an island culture and the sea a constant presence. We enjoyed hearing Spanish (although we speak very little), and it was wonderful to see the architecture with a strong Spanish influence: towns and villages with a main plaza—the hub of local life—surrounded by a big church, usually with a belfry, and many government/official buildings. The plaza is usually pedestrianized, so kids can run around, throw balls or ride bikes, and adults/families sit around a central kiosk selling drinks and snacks, or at café tables spilling out onto the square or side streets.

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Main plaza in Garachico (other side)—our hotel is the burnt orange building on the right

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Main plaza in Buena Vista on Tenerife’s north coast

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Beautiful balconies

Most buildings are painted in bright colors—such as blue, yellow, orange, ochre, green—and many have beautiful wooden or wrought-iron balconies. Palm trees, pointsettias (in pots and as live shrubs), strelitzias and bougainvilleas bring a bright tropical touch, and outside the coastal towns and villages huge banana plantations are never far away.

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Tenerife has many banana plantations

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Volcanic landscape on Tenerife

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Mt Teide

All the islands are volcanic in origin but Tenerife is the one where this is probably the most obvious. Mt Teide dominates the island, and the north coast is marked by coves, inlets and rocky outcrops of craggy black rocks, against which the waves pound ceaselessly.

 

 

 

 

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Mt Teide National Park

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Garachico—note black volcanic rocks

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Garachico

We spent most time in Garachico on Tenerife and used it as our base, and would do so again. It’s on the north coast, almost at the west end of the main coastal road TF42. This pretty town sprawls along the black rocky waterfront and up the mountain close behind. Established in the 16th century by Genoese merchants, Garachico was once the most important port on the island. That ended in 1706 when the Volcan Negro erupted and lava buried the harbor and much of the town. The façade of the former Santa Ana church escaped, as did the Castillo de San Miguel on the waterfront. It now houses the Heritage Information Center.

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Dogs are prominent on the Canaries’ crest

Once we got our orientation here we loved it and even returned for a day when we were staying at El Sauzal, another town further east on the coast. Garachico is a lovely town of narrow cobblestone streets, attractive colored buildings, many with striking balconies, a large plaza for pedestrians only, little souvenir shops and many restaurants and bars. It’s bustling in the day, but casual and friendly, and much quieter at night. Our hotel, the Quinta Roja, was in a huge former mansion fronting onto the main square so we were right in the center of local life—a bike rally on a Saturday morning, church services and bells on Sunday, family voltas (slow promenade while chatting) every evening.

 

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Steep street in Oratavo, Tenerife 

As a tourist on the islands it would be almost impossible to visit without renting a car, as public buses, although plentiful, will only take you to certain places. So, we did. In Garachico, and all the other towns, parking is a big problem, so it’s best to find a public parking place and then just walk. In Garachico you can park all along the seafront or in a parking area right next to the sea (all free, but all very busy at weekends when many day-trippers come visiting). Driving on the islands is not too difficult, if you know where you’re going and have a good map (the one from the Tourist Office at Tenerife airport was excellent). However, the roads are some of the steepest we’ve ever driven, with some incredible switchbacks and hairpin bends. But, considering the mountainous terrain the road system is pretty good. It’s actually remarkable that many local buses go up these steep winding roads.

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Special Canadian sauces and wrinkly potatoes, served here with fish

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Las Palmas main cathedral

On both islands you have to pay extra for bread at a meal, but it’s very good bread. Seafood everywhere is wonderful—fresh and plentiful. It’s not recommended that people drink tap water, so everyone buys bottled water. In shops and supermarkets you can buy very large bottles (up to 8 liters, which is a bit over 2 gallons) very cheaply.

We flew from Tenerife to Gran Canaria and stayed in the main city of Las Palmas, which is way bigger and more built-up than we were expecting. The port is also huge—it’s always been an ocean crossroads and still is. For example we saw oil tankers from Venezuela. It’s a very cosmopolitan city—we saw many Muslims in special robes and African people. Sadly, we also saw quite a few homeless people.

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Casa Colon (Columbus’s House) in Old Las Palmas

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In the market

The best part of the city is Old Las Palmas, called Vegueta, which we went to by bus (1.40 euro each). It has a bustling covered produce market (the Mercado), old churches, mansions and squares, all in bright colors. We had fun visiting the main cathedral of the island and the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art housed in part of the cathedral buildings. Vegueta also has the Casa Colon and the Museum, mentioned in Part 1. Here we learned a lot about the history of the islands, archeological, pre-colonial and colonial. What’s really brought home is how they have been an important sea crossroads all along.

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Pedestrianized street in Teror

We were able to get out of the city one day, and drove up to three gorgeous mountain villages (Arucas, Teror, and Firgas), all with their own special church and squares.

If you are ever able to, I’d definitely recommend the Canary Islands for a wonderful trip.

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