Having visited Lanzarote in December 1983 I declared the Canary Islands my number one place to go on holiday and so the next time I was booking a summer vacation I choose the neighbouring island of Gran Canaria.
It was May 1986 and this was a special holiday because since the last time that I had been away I had become a father and so this was to be the first of a sequence of holidays to Spanish islands in search of a beach, a swimming pool and a kids’ club.
Unlike Lanzarote, Gran Canaria had been quicker off the mark in terms of developing and encouraging tourism and hadn’t had the benefit of a famous architect like Cesar Manrique to protect it against unsuitable development so here were all of the things that I expected of a Spanish seaside holiday and we were staying in the tourist developed south of the island at the resort of San Agustin, part of the Maspolomas conurbation.
Gran Canaria was formed by a volcano that grew out of the sea and continued to spew enough lava onto the surface to break through the ocean and form an island. It is circular in shape with a mountain peak in the middle which separates the island into two distinct sectors, north and south. Viewed from above it looks rather like a beached starfish. In the north is the capital Las Palmas and there is a wet tropical climate but in the south it is dry, arid and desert like. I didn’t get to visit Las Palmas and I regret that now.
To be honest, it seems to me that there isn’t an awful lot to do in Gran Canaria (except go to Las Palmas) except lie around the pool, occasionally swim in the sea or find a bar or a restaurant for evening meal but perhaps I am being a little unfair.
Mid way through the holiday we did hire a car, a little blue Seat with an open top and on the first day set off into the mountains in the interior. This turned out to be rather hard work as the road swept in extravagant loops around deep valleys and gorges and followed a precarious route to the top. Actually, we didn’t get to the top because after an hour or so we got a puncture and I had to change the wheel at the roadside. We were high up and close to the edge and part way through the process the car started to slide off the jack and I wondered how I was going to explain to the hire company just how the car had fallen off the road and disappeared into a ravine.
That rather put me off driving in Gran Canaria and we sensibly abandoned the journey and returned carefully to the Montenego Apartments with its attractive little garden and swimming pool and we didn’t attempt anything so adventurous again that week and there were places to visit close by so we concentrated on these instead.
Next to San Agustin was the noisy 18-30 holidays resort of Playa del Ingles which was a bit too boisterous for us but just beyond that were the sand dunes of Maspolomas which, although not all that large provide a spacious and, despite the crowds an almost solitary contrast to the over developed promenades of the town and we used to like walking there and watching the camel trains taking people from the town to the lighthouse and return but mindful of how uncomfortable the camel ride had been in Lanzarote we declined to repeat the experience here.
Just around the coast a little, heading west, there was a new purpose built resort of Puerto Rico where layers of concrete rising up the sides of the cliffs like artificial geological strata have permanently disfigured what I imagine was once an attractive landscape.
Back towards the mountains of the centre there was a wildlife and bird park called Palmitos Park and we drove there one day to see the exotic gardens, the birds and the afternoon performing dolphin show but I don’t remember it being especially memorable. A few years ago the park was destroyed by forest fires on the island and a lot of the birds had to be released but I think it has reopened against since.
After the car had been returned without them noticing the punctured tyre in the boot we were once more confined to the resort area but there was one last attraction to go and visit which was quite close to our apartments so one day towards the end of the holiday I walked to Sioux City (not Sioux City in Iowa USA but Sioux City at Canon del Aquila in Gran Canaria) which is an old movie set from the days of the spaghetti westerns which had been transformed into a western theme park with cowboys and Indians, US cavalry and show girls in a succession of staged events and shows that were performed throughout the afternoon. It was entertaining enough but seemed curiously out of place it seemed to me.
And so the holiday came to an end and my assessment at the time was quite firmly that I didn’t like it as much as Lanzarote but having said that it didn’t stop me going back a couple of years later for a week away with my brother.
I am fairly certain that I wouldn’t go back again now.