Monday, 19 August 2013

Gran Canaria

A belated hello, Blog Fans.  We've returned from a very atypical vacation for us:  Gran Canaria.   Talk about a place we never thought we go to.  It doesn't make much sense from the US, but from here?  Why not?

Why GC?  A number of reasons . . .  the family, Alex in particular, has been pleading for a beach vacation especially since his favorite vacation was near Cancun at an all-inclusive Barcelo resort.  I'm afraid Cornwall doesn't count:

summer in Cornwall (August 2012)

Another reason is that every two years I get to stab myself in the eye and remind myself of the worst decision I ever made which was to buy a timeshare.  Now, I didn't spend tens of thousands for a timeshare but did what I thought was savvy and picked one up on re-sale for a small sum.  However, since then I've realized that it's not that easy to exchange for what you want, when you want it.  That's combined with the fact that we aren't really resort types.  Oh well -- live and learn (and learn, and learn, and learn).

At any rate, we looked at our options and did find a nice place in Gran Canaria so that part wasn't so bad.

So, where are the Canary Islands?  Just off the coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean on a similar latitude as Orlando, Florida.

There are 13 islands in total with the 3 largest being Tenerife, Fuerteventura, and Gran Canaria.   They are one of Spain's "Autonomous Communities" and are among the outermost region of the European Union (wiki link).

The Canaries were conquered by Spain in the late 1400s and would become a key final stopover before heading to the Americas by Christopher Columbus and his peers.

We stayed in the Anfi Beach Club resort ("A" balloon above) at "7 o'clock" on the island.  The resort is between the small towns of Puerto Rico and Arguineguin.  Las Palmas is the main city (D) and the airport is off the east coast (F). 

We "hired" (rented) a car during our week long stay so we took separate trips to Roque Nublo (A), Maspalomas (B), Guayadeque (C) and Las Palmas (D).  Our final night (E) was closer to the airport.

Flights were expensive by European standards and would have been more so had we flown Sat/Sat.  I saved a nice chunk of change by flying back very early on Sunday with Ryanair (our first experience).

As a quick aside, the logistics for our travel were a little unique but not terribly so for the UK.  We flew out on Monarch from Birmingham and flew back to East Midlands on Ryanair.  Since we were departing and arriving at different places, we used public transportation to get to the airports.  Something like this:

1) Taxi to Derby Train Station (£6)
2)  Train to BHX (£28 total)
3)  Fly to Las Palmas
4)  Rental Car in Gran Canaria
5)  Fly to East Midlands
6)  Skylink Bus to Derby Train Station (£14 total)
7)  Taxi to home (£6)

Whatever it takes!

This was pretty much what it was all about.  Guaranteed weather (high 80's and sunny) and plenty of pool time.  The first day we did nothing but.  We sprinkled in some other activities but always managed to find our way back here.  This was an early morning shot as it definitely filled up such that it was a challenge to find a spot in the afternoon.

Anfi Island within the resort

and another of the grounds & pool

And our view?  Pretty much the worst in the place.  Oh well.  At least it was quiet.

Look who else was there -- didn't know P-Money had fans in Spain

Needless to say, the photos at the pool were very limited.  I only took the camera the first day.  As a European resort, there was occasionally more to see than at your typical American stay.  Being a family resort, most of what you saw was better left covered.  We had a running joke of finding GB's (Granny Boobies).  In many ways, the casual, comfortable confidence of the Europeans and their bodies was refreshing -- but there should be an age limit.

We made it to the beach on the second day.  No wetsuits required.  We also reconfirmed that we are pool people. 

A view back to the resort.  The beach filled up considerably throughout the course of the day.  The water was "refreshing" but not too cold.

On day 3, we finally got off the resort for an activity.  We made the very curvy, 1-hr drive to the center of the island to Roque Nublo.  This is a stop along the walk.  It was considerably warmer away from the coast and our energy was quickly sapped.

A rare "scenic" shot.  Not that much to look at on a volcano-formed desert.

rock formation, but not THE ONE

here's the big one

and a view to the other side

one last one up top -- we'd lost the other two by this point (they'd found a seat in some shade)

this was a stop off along the way back -- off in the haze is Maspalomas and the sand dunes.  Just haze from this distance.

On Day 4, we played the very nice mini-golf course on the resort.  They had some long and tricky holes with Pars up to 7.  Par was 95 for the course but that seemed a little generous.  Kuk jumped out to an early lead but I stormed back to take the crown with a 72 to her 75.   The kids shot in the high 80s and we all had a good time.

Family shot along the course.

On Day 5, we went to a water park, Aqualand, in Maspalomas.  It was pricey but fun (no photos).  We all got in on the act with the various slides, wave pool and lazy river.  Hate to sound like a snob, but King's Island is better.  Still a good time.

On Day 6, we ventured to the Guayadeque Valley to have a look at some pre-Hispanic cave dwellings and an interesting museum.

What's a museum without a mummy?  They were wrapped in many layers with the closest one being goat skin for comfort.   We all enjoyed the museum, particularly Kuk.  We all felt a little smarter afterwards which was a bonus on this vacation!

Next stop was a small church further up the hill.

a view down the ravine

outside the church

We had light tapas for lunch at a restaurant in the cave next to the church.  Pretty neat.  We feel in love with
Gambas al Ajillo (shrimp in garlic oil) and tried it in numerous restaurants.  I'll have to try it at home.

some cave dwellings in the distance (it was about this time that I flubbed up my (new) camera settings without realizing it and started getting fuzzy (artsy?) effects -- apologies)

It was interesting to learn that the earliest caves were picked for their defensibility.   After the Spanish conquest and more trade opened up, they moved to more accessible caves to make it easier to get around.

We had a brief stop at Maspalomas to see to dunes (sorry, fuzzy again).  It was pretty hot and we couldn't be bothered to actually walk to them though (much to Kuk's dismay).

On our last full day, we ventured to Old Town Las Palmas.

This is a former governor's house that is now a Christopher Columbus Museum.  Another worthy stop.

Another stop was to the large, Santa Ana Cathedral which was started shortly after the Spanish took over.

unique sword to the heart

look at my boo-boo

I didn't get the direct connection, but they also had a few of St. Christopher (not to be confused with Christopher Columbus).  We saw a very large sandstone version at Norton Priory outside of Liverpool.

and another

final stop was to the Musero Canrio -- more info on the cave dwellings (and my cursed fuzzy photos)

interior shot

cut-away mummy to see all the layers of wrappings

neat skull collection

random photo that I liked

outside the Cathedral

view from a rare cafe stop outside the cathedral-- Alex asked "Are we actually going to buy something?"  (hmm -- seems I take a lot of picnics, doesn't it?)

inside the Christopher Columbus museum

Alex with 500 year old canons

ancient navigational device (no wonder he thought he was in India)

another in the museum

interesting relief map of the island

and finally a pair of macaws in the courtyard

Our resort was not all-inclusive which was fine with us.  Despite the convenience, we were not interested in dining in the resort and we ventured out into the nearby towns.  No OMG-Wow places, but pretty good fare in general.

mussels for Kuk

a marlin "cigar" for her main

I had the blue marlin catch of the day.  The salad and potatoes (Canarian style) were typical sides.

Stuffed eggplant/aubergine at an Italian place -- very good.

Grandma's special recipe -- rabbit.  Interesting spices; liked it.

lobster pasta

and finally Chateaubriand at a steak place -- also very good

Our favorite meal was our last and unfortunately I didn't take any pictures.  We stayed in a hotel by the airport for our last night and ventured to an inland local place for tapas.  Outstanding.  We are looking forward to more during our trip to Spain in October.

So, there you have it.  A different kind of vacation and a different kind of blog post (a little short on details I'm afraid.  Returning on Sunday and being dog-tired has taken me off my game). 

Four showers later and I still haven't gotten all the sunscreen off.  Glad we went though -- we needed the decompression.  Back to it.  Have a good week everyone.


  1. It's always nice to actually have a relaxing vacation! Looks like a good time!

  2. Great post - perfect length and level of detail for me, haha! Your pictures brought back some good memories and reminds me to try to make some wrinkly, salty potatoes sometime. Your resort looked beautiful, even if your views weren't the best, you didn't let that stop you. Hope you all feel refreshed!

  3. Thanks, guys.

    Thought of you, Jeff. You certainly manned up relative to our stay -- public transportation, long hike and no checked bags on Ryanair!