This year for the first time ever, we headed off to the Canary Islands for our summer holidays. We've already visited Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey several times but with the current terrorist threat, it seemed unwise to head over that way again this year. That said, we flew out from Zaventem airport in Brussels which was blown apart by terrorist bombs earlier in the year - we recognised the places that have changed, especially as we saw the photos straight after the explosions, but if you didn't know, you'd never be able to tell. There were a few armed military personnel standing around holding machine guns but apart from that, it was business as usual.
So Lanzarote it was ! When we first got out of the airport in Arrecife, our first impression was ... it's quite cold ! Usually, you get that immediate wave of heat striking you when you set foot outside the plane and dash across the tarmac to the relative cool of an air-conditioned coach. This time, it was blowing a gale and we all looked at each other, regretting not bringing our jumpers ! The wind did drop after a couple of days but it's certainly much cooler than the other countries we've visited - in the mornings, the pool was so cold we had to repeatedly tell Pierre to get out because his teeth were chattering so much ! We wandered around in shorts and T-shirts but could have done with a light jumper on a few evenings. Temperatures were usually in the 20's/low 30's rather than the high 30's/40's that North Africa offers, even if it's just across the water from Lanzarote.
The initial views from the coach as we headed to our hotel were slightly disconcerting - endless black lunar-like lava landscapes with little or no vegetation and nothing else to see. I started to wonder how we'd manage to fill the two weeks that were stretching before us ! Once you start looking, the island's hidden treasures are there though, as I will be showing you in upcoming blogposts, and we did have a good time.
We were based at the Paradise Island hotel in Playa Blanca - it's a 10 minute bus ride to the beach but there was a free shuttle bus to take you there and back about once an hour during the day.
We went there a few times and wandered along the prom, looking for crabs and lizards in the rocks and souvenir-hunting in the touristy shops. There are plenty of knick knacks to buy, including natural sponges, ornaments and even jewellery made out of lava and numerous decorative objects representing lizards, owls, fish and dolphins.
There was a "living statue" who had us in hysterics because he scared Pierre to death the first time, but the subsequent times, he wanted to go and put the money in the tray to make him move !
I had my reservations about the Canary Islands - from what I'd seen on TV, it was very geared towards Brits with nothing but cafes offering full English breakfasts and English-speaking bars wherever you look. I've got nothing against those kinds of places in England but when I go abroad, I want to discover the local culture, not just the same old same old ! It was definitely very Brit-oriented, both in the hotel where the restaurant had English sausages, beans and cooked breakfasts on offer every day and the shop was full of UK brands for teabags, brown sauce, chocolate and other "essentials", but there were more local options available too.
As you can tell, our first impressions were a little on the cool side, but we soon started looking below the surface and finding out that there is more to it than endless empty lava fields ! I'll soon be telling you about visiting volcanoes and cactus gardens, hiring a car to go exploring and even going in a submarine !