One of the must-see places on our sightseeing itinerary for Lanzarote was the Jardin de Cactus, a surprising cactus garden created by the island's most famous artist, César Manrique - yes, him again ! It makes you wonder what there would be to visit in Lanzarote if it hadn't been for him and his artistic talent ! Driving along the main highway, you can't miss it because there is a gigantic cactus sculpture outside.
You can see that it has been thought out by an artist because it has strategically placed oval windows that perfectly frame the cacti-filled vista, with the obligatory Lanzarote volcano in the background !
Some of the windows even have spiky-looking cactus designs so you can take arty shots of cacti through the cacti. I didn't even notice Pierre peering through the middle until I'd taken the photo.
The garden is laid out in a disused quarry with an old restored windmill at one end. There are paths all over the place with steps up and down and you just wander around wherever you want.
There are over 1000 different species of cacti represented from all over the world, which is pretty amazing - I never dreamed there were so many different types.
Some are enormous cacti that grow straight up and are covered in fine thorns that make them look furry to the touch, while others have evil-looking thorns that are so uniformly spaced out in perfect lines that they look man-made.
I was surprised to see just how many had burst into flower - the expression desert rose suddenly made more sense.
I love these black rosette-shaped growths that look like gothic roses or something that would adorn a wicked queen's palace in a Disney movie.
Other cacti have delicate blooms that are a surprising contrast to the sharp spikes.
Pierre was obsessed with wanting to touch a cactus, probably because I'd spent so long telling him not to, so I chose this impressive-looking specimen with wicked looking spikes that were widely spaced out and let him put his finger on the green fleshy part between the thorns, which put a big smile on his face. Boys will be boys !
As it was so hot, it was nice to have a few water features burbling away in the background, including a pond full of fish and pretty water lilies and a very original waterfall !
I thought that this cactus had water droplets on it, which surprised me, but looking more closely, they were tiny flowers - maybe they are designed to attract passing insects looking for a drink.
Speaking of which, we were feeling as parched as the baked earth around us, so we headed to the shady cafe for a refuel. Aahh, never has the clinking of an ice cube against the side of a glass sounded so good !
After having a drink, it seemed like a good idea to head to the toilets and we had a good giggle at the signs depicting ladies and gents. Naughty Madhouse Daddy even decided to strike a cheeky pose !
The next stop was investigating the windmill. While the kids took the winding stairs up, I made myself dizzy looking down through the spiral staircase instead. I love the way this photo makes your eyes go funny so that you can't tell if it's going up or down - maybe this will end up like the white dress/blue dress photo that broke the internet !
Oops, the kids were already on their way back down ...no rest for the wicked !
Just time for the obligatory selfie ! ...
I didn't realise that the cross-section of a cactus is so pretty. It looks just like a child's drawing of a sun !
I'm not sure if these growths were fruit or flowers but they looked like strange kiwi fruit. I couldn't help but smile at the desert-style graffiti that some naughty people had left, carving their names in the flatter, less spiky cacti.
As we headed outside, there was a sign advertising cochenille production, so we headed over to investigate.
There was a lady lurking in the shade of the sign who came out when we walked over and explained how she uses a little trowel to scrape the bugs off, then leaves them to dry out in the sun for a few weeks before bagging them up and selling them to make red colouring that is used in everything from food and medicine to lipstick - ewww, that certainly makes you think !
I always thought cochenille came from ants but it's a small white bug that is particularly fond of prickly pear cacti, apparently. It's usually seen as a pest but is cultivated in Lanzarote on purpose as a commercial venture. I was very impressed that I managed to understand her whole explanation in Spanish (although she did use gestures and point at things to help us out !) but I still turned down her offer to buy some to bring home - yuck !