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mapatlantic

Maps in the Casa Colon museum in Las Palmas

mapNatlantic

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Volcanic rocks along the north coast of Tenerife Island

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.

And it was a great choice—new destination for us, a new culture, fascinating landscapes and mountain villages, and great food, especially seafood. We spent a week on Tenerife and 3 days on Las Palmas. I’ll cover those and various attractions and excursions in upcoming articles. But first, a brief introduction.

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A wonderful meal of cuttlefish, octopus and “wrinkly” potatoes

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Canary coat-of-arms

Part 1: Bit of History.

First, how did the islands get their name? Contrary to what people might think, they are not named after the little yellow bird, the canary. They got their name from a Latin term, Insula Canaria, which means Island of the Dogs. The early Romans who first visited these islands gave them this name. Some historians believe it was because the original residents worshipped dogs (and kept a lot of dogs), but others think that the dogs referred to were actually Monk Seals, which in Latin were translated as “sea dogs”. The canary bird is native to the Canary Islands, the Azores and Madeira, and got its name from the islands.

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Gran Canaria. The islands are all very mountainous

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Tenerife Island, with volcano Mt Teide in the center

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Rod M, with Mt Teide in the distance

This group of islands, just 62 miles off the southern coast of Morocco in Africa, has a long history and a fascinating mix of cultures. Because of their strategic location in the north Atlantic they’ve always been a crossroads. There are 7 main islands and all are volcanic in origin, emerging from the sea millions of years ago (the oldest between 16-20 million years and the newest 8-13 million years). Plato located the huge island of Atlantis here, which supposedly was destroyed by an earthquake and sank. This is probably just myth, but all the volcanic rocks and the volcano Mount Teide, on the island of Tenerife, attest to actual volcanic activity. Mount Teide is the third highest island volcano in the world, and Spain’s highest mountain.

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Mt Teide National Park

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Much of Mt Teide National Park looks like a lunar landscape

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Guanches pintaderas

Plutarch wrote about the islands in 82BC and the Romans called the islands Las Islas Afortunadas (the Fortunate Islands), presumably because of the good climate allowing for bountiful production of crops etc. Waves of peoples came from North Africa to settle and a thriving Guanche culture evolved. The name comes from “guan” meaning “man” and “che” meaning “white mountain”, referring to the snow-capped Mount Teide on Tenerife. According to Spanish historical records, the Guanches were tall, strongly-built and blue-eyed. Their society was based on a tribal structure, with a king or chieftain at the head. They worshipped Arbor, a powerful god who could bring rain and stop the flow of lava.

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One of the mummies in the Museo Canario

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Some of the pintadera patterns

Much of this very early history can be seen in the Museo Canario in Las Palmas (on Gran Canaria island). The collection includes religious statuettes, pottery, tools and weapon (from roughly-cut wood, stone and bone) and jewelry of the Guanches, as well as skulls, skeletons and mummies (which show a direct connection with Egypt). Noticeable are copies of paintings found in Galdar, a town on Gran Canaria where archeologists found the last vestiges of the Guanches, including stone houses and megalithic burials. There is also a good collection of pintaderas, which are terracotta stamps used for printing geometric patterns on cloths.

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Viv M outside a restaurant in Icod, Tenerife, with more modern folk costumes

Europeans learned of the islands when the Genoese explorer Lancerotto discovered them, giving his name to the island known today as Lanzarote. Spanish conquest of the islands began in the early 1400s and was complete in 1496 when Tenerife was conquered. Sea trade from the Far East, Africa and Europe all passed through here, so the islands had great strategic importance. An early example of the vital role the Canary Islands play in Atlantic shipping routes was when Christopher Columbus stayed on Gran Canaria in 1492 en route to his famous voyages that ended in discovering the New World. He used Las Palmas as a base when setting out for the west—what he thought were the Indies but were in fact the Americas.

 

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Front of Casa Colon

A lovely museum in Las Palmas is Casa Colon (Columbus House). It’s in an attractive Canary-style mansion in the oldest district of Las Palmas, built around indoor courtyards with beautiful wooden balconies. It was the palace of the first governors of the island and Columbus stayed there in 1492 while one of his ships was being repaired. Since 1952 it has been a museum, with models and artifacts relating to his voyages.

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Courtyard in Casa Colon

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Model of Columbus’s La Nina ship

Garachico

Garachico is a lovely town on the north coast of Tenerife

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Market in Las Palmas

Great prosperity came to the Canaries due to the booming overseas trade and sugar cane industry. But, the islands’ fortunes have fluctuated, affected by the dangers of pirates, eruptions by the volcanoes that damaged farmlands, and the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). General Franco seized control of the islands in 1936, which led to the Spanish Civil War. Since then, the economy depends mainly on agriculture (lots of bananas) and fishing; trade, boosted by their free-port status; and tourism. Since 1982 the Canaries have enjoyed a statute of autonomy under the Spanish constitution, with the cities of Santa Cruz on Tenerife, and Las Palmas on Gran Canaria sharing the status of capital.

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Many huge banana plantations dot the islands

fishIt’s an amazing story and one that many people know very little about (including us until now). Because of the tourist industry they are fairly easy to get to from many cities in Europe and UK.

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The main plaza in Garachico—the Spanish influence is very obvious

 

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Harrisville library overlooks the mill pond

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A typical narrow lane

One of the pleasures in traveling is discovering places with local flavor and Harrisville has that in abundance, as we discovered in May.

Nestled in the Monadnock Highlands of southwestern New Hampshire is the tiny brick mill village of Harrisville, where yarn has been spun since 1794. It is about 15 minutes from the town of Keene, and about an hour from Manchester. Some houses cluster in the actual village, but many are strung out along narrow winding lanes through the woods, or around the edges of the many lakes and ponds.

 

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Houses on a lake

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View of Mt Monadnock

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Another view of Mt Monadnock

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Rod M and Veronita G at Silver Lake, a short walk from our hosts’ house

Mount Monadnock (3,165ft) looms above pastoral farmland and tiny villages, such as Harrisville. Hiking to the top of it for the spectacular views became popular in the 19th century and today it still is one of the most frequently-climbed mountains in the world. A monadnok is an isolated mountain, the remnants of ancient crystalline rock more resistant to erosion than the surrounding rock strata. Geographers used the name of Mount Monadnok to describe similar formations elsewhere.

The village of Harrisville was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977. It is recognized as the only 19th century textile village in America that survives in its original form, and some say it’s the most photographed village in the state.

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From the library we look across the mill pond to an old mill building, now Harrisville Designs

 

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Veronita G, Phil G and Claire G (Phil works in the Harrisville General Store)

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Harrisville General Store

Harrisville is a lovely little place and we were lucky to visit with extended family living there (the Gargan family), who were very happy to show us around and tell us about their special place.

For example, Harrisville General Store one of the oldest general stores in continuous use, is perched on a hill overlooking the mill complex. It opened in 1838, but in recent years was facing an uncertain future, due to competition from big-box stores. About 10 years ago, the preservation organization Historic Harrisville Inc. took over ownership and leased it out to new management and M’Lue Zahner and Laura Carden took over. The managers are

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Inside the store

Phil Gargan and Samantha Rule who are committed to selling and preparing fresh local produce. They make pies, soups, sandwiches and salads fresh daily (try their signature kale salad with feta and dried cranberries), have a great pastry selection and also prepare dinner menus to take home. I’m told we shouldn’t miss cider doughnuts and grass-fed burger too. Besides being a popular place for the local community, it’s become a tourist destination in its own right and people are willing to make the detour to visit it, www.harrisvillegeneralstore.com .

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Harrisville library

The library is in a gorgeous old building overlooking the mill pond. It too has become a place to socialize.

Bit of History:

Water power attracted settlers to various remote locations in NH beginning in the late 18th century. In 1794 the first of several mills was built across the Nubanusit River to harness the water-power necessary for carding fleece brought down from local hilltop farms to the village. The Harris family built many of the original mill buildings and houses for their family and workers. Hence the name of the village.

In the mid-1800s the Colony family bought out the Harris holdings and created Cheshire Mills. When that business closed in 1970, a group of citizens and preservationists joined together and formed a non-profit organization called Historic Harrisville Inc. (the same group that saved the General Store). It soon bought several of the main buildings to renovate and lease out to businesses.

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Harrisville Designs

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Some of the yarns for sale

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One of the looms made by Harrisville Designs

John J. Colony III was very much involved in this venture. He realized that, as the mill buildings were being cleared and machinery was being broken down and sold for scrap metal, textiles would disappear from the village. So he started Harrisville Designs in 1971 to keep the textile tradition alive and to create jobs in Harrisville to help the village economy. Harrisville Designs still makes high quality 100% natural yarns for knitting and weaving, plus they make wooden floor looms in several sizes and styles. We enjoyed looking around at all the goods for sale. They also offer many different workshops and classes, and it’s become a place for locals to socialize too.

Harrisville Lake, which has loons as well as other water birds, has a small beach with imported sand and a nice kids’ playground. Our family there assures us that the water does get quite warm enough to swim. In fact, one family member swims regularly in a small lake near their home on a side road.

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The lake where Claire G swims—she goes across to that rock on the far side

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Harrisville Congregational Church

All around New Hampshire we saw churches with a very typical style of architecture and Harrisville is no exception. Many New England churches gained their familiar front towers and steeples between 1720 and the American Revolution. They were often adapted from the published designs of Christopher Wren and James Gibbs. The Harrisville Congregational Church, the Harrisville Designs building and the old library, all around the mill pond, create a very attractive picture of an early rural mill town—and it’s especially lovely when all are reflected in the mill pond.

Nearby, is Aldworth Manor, an old Italian-style Manor house being renovated as a wedding venue.

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Aldworth Manor

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Blueberry bushes early in the season

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Fiddlehead fern fronds for sale

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Phil G looks for fiddlehead fern fronds in the woods near his home

New Hampshire is well known for maple syrup and for blueberries, and we saw plenty of maple sugar trees and blueberry bushes, although it was early in the season so the bushes had nothing on them yet. It was also the season for fiddlehead fern fronds, which are delicious just lightly sautéed in butter. We saw some for sale in grocery stores, but our host also went foraging out in the woods next to his home.

 

 

 

 

HInn

Harrisville Inn

Where to stay:

Harrisville Inn, 797 Chesham Road, run by Maria Coviello a charming lady originally from the British Virgin Islands, www.HarrisvilleInn.com

Where to eat:

The Harrisville General Store (mentioned above) makes great food, fresh every day. Or drive to the nearby village of Jaffrey to the Kimball Farm Restaurant, which has soups, salads, all kinds of fish dishes and an amazing selection of icecreams. Open mid-April to Columbus Day, Kimballsignhttp://kimballfarm.com/jaffrey/ .

 

 

 

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summerfield

Summer view to mountains

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Winter view

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Entrance to the farm stall

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Many creatures on the approach road

MOOIBERGE FARM STALL

This is always a good place to have lunch in the Stellenbosch winelands area as it’s easy to get to, the prices are very reasonable and it’s a lot of fun.

Mooiberge means “pretty mountains” in Afrikaans and the view out here certainly is that, as it’s right below the Helderberg Mountains.

 

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A Springbok (SA rugby team) and a Wallaby (Australian team)

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A Stormer (Cape rugby team)

On the R44 road between Somerset West and Stellenbosch, this landmark farm stall is hard to miss, as much of the property is “fenced” with a line of colorful art creatures/’sculptures’ (can we call them sculptures?) that the farm calls scarecrows and transportation creations. They are colorful, whimsical, and sometimes naughty scarecrows! Many of them are animals representing various sports teams, both South African and other countries. For many people, Mooiberge is “that farm with the crazy oversupply of scarecrows.” We wondered how it all began and in fact, the menu explains some of the history.

It started off in the 1950s as a farm stall selling strawberries, run by the Zetler family (Samuel and Josie Zetler and 5 sons), who later added sweet peppers too. As the roadside cart grew too small, they built a bricks and mortar stall that blossomed/mushroomed out into what we see today—a colorful, sprawling complex.

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Some of the crafts in the modern farm stall

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Cape gooseberries for sale

sauces

What about some Mama Africa’s hot sauce?

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Thirsty Scarecrow play area

Some might say it’s a kitschy produce market-cum-wine shop-cum-market for bottled goods (jams, sauces, olive oils for example), cakes, nuts, biltong, local crafts, wine barrels, fruits and vegetables. But, it’s undoubtedly a lot of fun. We once bought a bottle of wine for R25—one of their advertised specials. They seem to have many of the specials for various airlines.

It’s a great place to take kids in the strawberry season (November-January or February), as the strawberry picking is very popular. There’s a wonderful play area called the Thirsty Scarecrow, which the kids in our group loved on the last visit.

 

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Caroline M, Rod M, and Anthea K enjoy lunch

Over the years we’ve been here many times to eat lunch and it’s always been great. In the winter, there’s obviously no strawberry picking and the rows of plants are all covered in plastic. But, it’s still a great lunch place, as it has a fun atmosphere because of the setting and very good food—a tasty meal, with very generous servings, of fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.

The outside deck where you can sit looks out over the kids play area and across the pepper/strawberry fields to the mountains, the whole view enlivened by the bright, quirky, animals (mostly) sculptures—which in general you’d say don’t fit into this (wine) environment, and yet they’ve become a local fixture and a tourist feature and attraction.

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Miss E at entrance to Farmers Kitchen

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One of their delicious salads

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Rod M has the lamb burger

The restaurant is called the Farmer’s Kitchen, which re-opened in September 2011 after new owner Kelly Zetler revamped it, to “French colonial meets rustic countryside comfort”. Its hours are 8:30am-5pm, and they specialize in breakfast, snack meals and lunch, with many dishes featuring strawberries in season.

At different times over the years, members of our party have tried many items on the menu. Some of the favorites are a huge lamb burger with Greek-style cucumber-yoghurt sauce; an avocado and chicken wrap; a bacon, brie and walnut pizza, served with salad; a parma ham and fresh fig salad; and a fresh salad with pomegranate and goat cheese. They also have very good meat and cheese platters. The house wine is Du Toitskloof sauvignon blanc and there is also beer, hard cider and all kinds of cold and hot drinks.

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Another great salad

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We look down at rugby player scarecrows from the restaurant

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More creatures

Also in the Mooiberge complex is the Thirsty Scarecrow Bistro-Pub, open Mon-Sun 11am-11:30pm.

Mooiberge the Farm Stall is open Mon-Sun 8:30am-6pm.

This should definitely be on the list for anyone visiting the Cape Town and Stellenbosch winelands.

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Mooiberge’s first tractor

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International Stereotypes of a Different Kind

The image that people have of a certain country or culture is often very stereotypical, and many people have ideas about a place even if they have never been there.

We found this really interesting T-shirt in Ljubljana, Slovenia. One of Slovenia’s tourist marketing tools is using the word “love” embedded in the country’s name. This T-shirt design has taken the heart and used it to create an image for the other countries depicted on it. A very clever idea.

Neither South Africa nor Zimbabwe is there, but Africa in general is, and that heart is probably fairly accurate for the indigenous people. The USA has a cowboy—what do you think of that?

Look at the other countries—we thought many were actually quite true at capturing what people imagine when they think of that country. For example, a koala for Australia, a sheep for New Zealand, a panda for China, or a bull for Spain. Some are not quite so obvious (to me anyway).

Is your country there? What do you think?

Tshirt

 

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Nokcha Service Area

Nokcha Service Area

Dinosaur Service Area

Dinosaur Service Area

Korean flags at Nokcha Service Area

Korean flags at Nokcha Service Area

Korea’s Highway Service Areas

We were recently in South Korea for a conference and were very fortunate afterwards to go on a wonderful road trip with a Korean colleague, Chang Hyun Kim. He went to an amazing amount of trouble to drive us around and show us as much of the SW part of the country as possible, as well as making sure that we tried lots of the delicious Korean food and learned about the history and culture. More on the trip will be coming soon.

We were very impressed with Korea’s extensive highway system. Many interconnecting highways and freeways must be a Civil Engineer’s dream, with so many long tunnels (it’s an extremely hilly country), long bridges over deep valleys, and causeways to the many small islands in the south.

A notable feature of highway driving is the regularly-spaced Service Areas—with gas stations, large toilet facilities, bus parking, many restaurants and coffee shops, other small shops (for clothes, holiday necessities, tools, food, fruits) and sometimes even a small grocery store. Usually there’s also a special closed-in smoking area, something we were interested to see, as Korea tries to cut down on the number of smokers. We were there in the summer, so the areas were always really busy and crowded—a veritable hive of activity. It was fun to stop for coffee and/or a light lunch, for us usually noodles, and watch the people and the hustle-bustle.

Can't miss what this service area is!!

Can’t miss what this service area is!!

Green is the theme

Green is the theme

Another sign at the Dinosaur Service Area

Another sign at the Dinosaur Service Area

Most of the service areas have a special name and theme, usually linked to where they are. So, for example, we stopped at the Nokcha Service Area/Boseong Nokcha (nokcha means green tea), close to the part of the country where green tea is grown. Another day, driving back from Geoje Island, we stopped at the Dinosaur Service Area. In this part of the country, many dinosaur fossils and footprints have been found.

What a neat idea.

A smoking area---very clearly marked

A smoking area—very clearly marked

Wish we'd seen some dinosaur footprints

Wish we’d seen some dinosaur footprints

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