Over the past three days we have visited three ports of call, all in the Canary Islands. To save time, this post describes my visit to both the first and third islands, the odd Canaries!
On the first day in the Canary Islands we visited Las Palmas in Gran Canaria. I was there only a month before for a half day visit on the way back from South America, documented in my previous post L1602 – Leap in Teror. This time we were in port all day and the evening too, sailing at 10:30pm. This time I chose a shore tour which included a walking tour of the historic part of Las Palmas – an area I have long wanted to visit, but it is a long walk there from where the ship docks, which is why I hadn’t visited it to date.
The tour started with a brief photo stop at a viewpoint overlooking the city and port area:
We then drove on to see an extinct volcano crater called Pico de Bandama. The narrow road up to the viewpoint spiralled up the hillside, and at one point we met two coaches coming back down the hill. As we reversed perilously close to the edge, our comic local guide told us that if anyone is nervous being so close to the edge, then they should do what the driver does, and just close their eyes! We managed to squeeze past, and made it safely up to the top. As we arrived, we could see shower clouds closing in coming from Las Palmas, which unfortunately reduced our view:
Our next stop was in the old picturesque town of Santa Brigida, where we visited the Casa Del Vino restaurant. Here there is a small museum dedicated to the history and production of the island’s wine.
After a short talk from one of the staff in this museum, the other members of the tour party went to another room to sample three different varieties of local wine. As I do not drink alcohol I retreated to the small garden outside, and took some photographs there:
We then took a different scenic route back to Las Palmas, and our coach dropped us close to the oldest quarter of the city, Vegueta, for our walking tour. We saw a tiled sign depicting a wooden bridge that used to cross the river there, with shops on the bridge:
Our guide led us up narrow streets to Columbus House, named after the explorer Christopher Columbus who reportedly stayed there in 1492 on his first voyage to the Americas. Today it houses a museum containing a replica of the interior of one of his ships, navigation instruments, nautical maps and charts, and models:
As we left the museum we could first hear, then see a band of local musicians and singers in a large open square. We paused for a short while to listen to the music, and to watch some other local people dancing to it:
Our local guide then led us down more narrow streets until we reached the Cathedral of Santa Ana, which was originally built between 1500 and 1570, and then refurbished in the 18th century. The interior design is very striking, based on palm trees. As it was a Sunday there was a service in progress, limiting our ability to see and photograph the inside:
In another large square outside the Cathedral stood statues of dogs. One of the possible derivations of the name Canary Islands is from the Latin name Canariae Insulae, meaning Islands of the Dogs:
Walking back to our coach, I noticed a jacaranda tree in bloom:
We then drove back to our waiting ship.
After lunch on board I decided to walk the few streets from our ship to a large sandy beach, as I knew from previous visits that there are always good sand carvings to be seen there:
On our third and final day in the Canary Islands we visited Santa Cruz de La Palma. The island of La Palma is the fifth largest and most north-westerly of the Canary Islands. Once again I took a simple panoramic coach tour with my friend Barbara, which took a circular route down to the south of the island to see the volcano of San Antonio, which last erupted in 1677.
We set off in lovely sunshine, and our route south followed a twisty road, with roadworks most of the way as they were working to both widen the road and straighten out some of the worst bends where possible.
The island is very green, and while bananas are the main crop and export from the island, we also saw many small vineyards. On the island the grapevines grow very low to the ground to stay out of the wind. Small volcanic rocks and stones are arranged under the plants to keep the grapes off the soil. These stones also help trap moisture at night, and stop it evaporating by day.
For nearly all the way down to the volcano the weather remained sunny, although there was cloud hanging over the high volcanic ridge running north-south in the centre of the island. However as we got near to the volcano we encountered very misty conditions, which unfortunately severely limited the views of and from the volcano and it’s crater:
At the visitor’s centre there was an exhibition about volcanoes and the volcanic nature of La Palma and the other Canary Islands. On the wall this artwork caught my eye:
Driving back to our ship we continued along the coast for a while, and before long we came back out of the mist and into bright sunshine. After a while we then swung inland across the centre of the island, using a 2703 metre tunnel to pass under the volcanic ridge. Apparently the weather can often be quite different one side of the ridge to the other due to the height of the ridge, and the flora changes too, for example from Canary pine trees on the western side to horse chestnut trees on the eastern side.
Descending from the ridge and looking out to sea towards the neighbouring island of Tenerife a big bank of cloud was hiding the island except for it’s highest mountain (and the highest mountain in Spain), Mount Teide, which rises to 3718 metres:
Close to Santa Cruz we stopped for a short photo stop where we could see across the bay to the port and our waiting ship:
Once again in the afternoon I walked ashore to explore the port with my camera. I have done this at least a couple of times before, and while some statues were familiar, I did get to see for the first time the inside of Iglesia de El Salvador, the main church in the town, which I found quite striking:
In conclusion while it was nice to return to these islands, and I did get to see and photograph some new things, the tours I took on each island will probably not live long in my memory. In between these odd Canaries I also visited Tenerife on the even day, and my encounters there will feature in my next post.