With an area of just over five hundred thousand square kilometers Spain is the second largest country in Western Europe after France and with an average altitude of six hundred and fifty metres it is second highest country in Europe after Switzerland. It also has two groups of interesting islands, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Africa and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean.
I have visited several of the islands but each occasion was prior to 2009 when my current ‘Search for real Spain’ began. As a consequence these were generally beach or family holidays and I doubtless failed to investigate the islands adequately in groundhog days squandered in meaningless sunbathing and superficial trips around the coastal villages and towns.
In December 1983 I visited the island of Lanzarote and except for a jeep drive into the interior this trip was mostly about hanging around in bars and drinking lots of beer so I missed a visit to the capital Arrecife except for a drive through the middle without stopping on the way to somewhere else.
Two years later I went to Gran Canaria. The first time was in May when I had a one year old daughter to entertain so a fortnights holiday was spent mostly around the swimming pool and walking backwards and forwards to the beach although we did hire a car for a couple of days and did some driving around the interior. I got a puncture one day high up in the mountains and that put me off driving much more on the holiday. Later that year in November I went back with my brother and stayed in the resort of Playa del Ingles and this again wasn’t a particularly educational visit I have to confess!
In 1989 I went to Tenerife but by now I had two small children to keep amused so again there was a lot of swimming pool and sun-bed time and not a lot of opportunity for serious sightseeing although one day I got to go out by myself and took a coach trip to Mount Teide, went to the top and was presented with a certificate for having risked the rather shaky cable car ride to the summit.
My last visit to the Canary Islands was in 2002 to the large island of Fuerteventura where, to be honest, there isn’t a great deal to see anyway but it was here that I discovered what, in my opinion, is probably the best beach in the World at the remote hippy commune of Cofete.
I have also visited Minorca and Ibiza in the Balearic Islands but so far not Majorca. I holidayed in Minorca in 1987 and 1989. On the first occasion we visited the historic town of Ciudadela on the west coast and the lively port of Mahon on the east. Ciudadela was the previous capital and Mahon enjoys that status today and, by certain measures, claims to be the second deepest natural harbour in the World after Sydney in Australia. With the children getting older but not having developed an interest in anything historical, geographical or philosophical the return visit two years later was mostly about beaches and ice cream!
Squeezed in between these two holidays to Minorca was a week in Ibiza in 1988 and this was a similar Mediterranean holiday experience except on this occasion we had no money because we were going through a bit of a financial crisis for the whole two weeks because I forgot to take my credit card with me and getting money abroad was a lot more difficult twenty five years ago.
So whilst I can lay claim to having visited the islands I cannot claim that I have done them justice and so now, in my search for real Spain I just may have to put them on the itinerary for a return visit and perhaps it would be a good idea to go to the one that so far I haven’t been to – Majorca.