Yesterday was February 29th – the Leap Day – and early in the morning we lept into Las Palmas for a flying visit to Gran Canaria, the second most populated of the Canary Islands, and our penultimate port of call.
We docked slightly earlier than planned, around 7:30, just as it was starting to get light, but this was not a problem to me as I have been to this port and island several times before, and it is not the most exciting of ports to sail into. With our departure set for 13:00, we only had around 5 hours in port, just about long enough for the 4 hour shore tour I had selected.
The choice of shore tour was limited by two factors – the short time in port limiting the range of tours on offer, and also my wanting to do one I had not done before. I elected for one called “The Essence of Gran Canaria”. This was to visit two towns in the north of the island, one small one larger, and also a botanical garden.
The weather was not great, with light drizzle in the air at times, and while it was still mild compared to the temperatures back home, at 16 degrees it felt cold after the mid 30s we had got used to in the tropics. I had to resort to a lightweight jumper for the first time in weeks – perhaps appropriate for Leap Day!
Once on board our coach we set off for our first stop, the smaller town, called Teror. This town is an important place of pilgrimage, after shepherds saw the Virgin Mary in the branches of a tree on 8th September 1481. Teror is located high in the hills 14 kilometers south-west of Las Palmas, and to reach it we followed a narrow winding road along the side of a steep and deep valley. When we met oncoming vehicles in the narrower parts of the road, especially on the sharp bends, the name of the town seemed rather appropriate:
As we entered the town, I wondered if these were the best places to park or to eat!
Leaving the coach, our local guide let us through to the main square outside the basilica:
After telling us about the town and what there is to see, we had free time to wander around and take photographs. The main street was very attractive, many of the buildings having the traditional wooden balconies made with wood from the local pine tree:
Exploring the nearby streets I saw other attractive buildings and scenes, including the old town hall with it’s flags, and this tree – the species was introduced from Madagascar:
I was intrigued by the interlinked branches of these trees:
Returning to the coach at the appointed time, we then drove on to the main town in the north of the island, called Arucas. Here we visited the neo-Gothic Church of San Juan Bautista, which dates from 1909 and is built entirely from the local stone. The architecture and stained glass windows were most impressive:
As we returned to our coach, I was delighted to see the improvement in the weather, the skies had cleared and the sun was out, allowing me to shed my jumper. It was a short drive to our final stop, the Jardin de la Marquesa – the Marquise’s Gardens. At the entrance to the gardens we were offered a glass of banana liqueur and had our photograph taken, which we would be able to buy later as we left the garden.
As we passed bananas growing on their plants, the guide told us more about the bananas and how they are produced on the island:
We were then led to a huge glass and metal building that originally held a tennis court. It now contains a café area, and is also used for weddings. There were quite a number of peacocks roaming in and out of this building:
Here we were offered tea, coffee, or fruit juice, plus a plate of cakes. While everyone else tucked in, I decided to forgo mine, and instead explore the gardens. This proved to be an inspired move as I had the gardens to myself and enough time to see them all, which would not have been the case otherwise. The sun was still out, the birds were singing and butterflies were fluttering around – it was very idyllic:
As I reluctantly left the gardens I decided to buy my picture as a souvenir of my visit:
On our return journey the coach took a more direct route to the ship past the banana plantations and then along the coast:
We only got back on board ship around 12:45, not long before our departure. At least being on a tour organised by the ship, I knew it would wait for our return, so there was no need to worry. Once on board, I went up on deck to watch us sail away.
On the other side of our quay, someone had parked a block of flats – but I think someone had forgotten to paint “MONSTROSITY” under the word “EPIC”!
As we sailed out of the port and onwards towards our final port of call, some of the staff seemed rather exuberant:
Although our visit was rather short and rushed, it proved to be a good port of call with a nice tour – once we were past the road of terror – the town of Teror certainly didn’t live up to it’s name with it’s attractive streets and buildings; the church in Arucas impressed me, and I was so glad I took the leap and enjoyed the gardens to the full rather than filling my stomach even more!