Tag Archives: Canary Islands

Postcard from Lanzarote

Lanzarote Postcard 1

What now seems an awful long time ago I used to like going on holiday to the Canary Islands, that agreeable part of Spain which is located just off the north-western African coast and in December 1983, before I was even thirty years old, I flew to Lanzarote with a group of friends with the intention of having a pre-Christmas party week in the sun.

Read the Full Story…

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

My Holidays in Malta, Popeye Village

Popeye Village

As a rule when I am on holiday or travelling and reporting back on a place I try and remain positive and upbeat, I try to find the best in a place, I try not to be disappointed.

Today is an exception – I am going to tell you about Popeye Village.

Popeye Village is in Anchor Bay, Malta and it was constructed as a film set for the 1981 film starring Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall.  When the film was shot and the actors had all gone home the set became a modest tourist attraction.

I first visited the place in the summer of 1997 and in those days it still looked like a film set.  Entrance can’t have been too expensive because in 1997 I wasn’t that keen on parting with unnecessary cash (still not actually).  The buildings were much as they would have been for the shooting of the film, a lot of timber and the smell of sawdust.  There were a few little embellishments of course to try and amuse visitors but really nothing too dramatic.  In fact I think I remember thinking that it was dangerously close to falling down, one Mediterranean storm and it would be surely washed away and gone!

Popeye Village 1

Fast forward twenty years…

Returning to Malta and the Mellieha Bay Hotel it seemed like a good idea to visit again and take my grandchildren.  I thought that they might like it there.

Not wishing to rely upon the dreadful bus service I booked a taxi at several times the cost of the bus and it arrived on time and took us to the entrance of what is now marketed as a theme park.  I arranged to be picked up in three hours time and the taxi driver gave me a card and a sympathetic look and said if we needed picking up earlier then we should give him a call.  There was a message in there which I missed.

The first shock was the entrance fee, I nearly collapsed on the spot and had to be held up while I tapped in my credit card PIN number.

Popeye

As soon as were inside I knew that it was terrible.  The place has been given a gaudy paint makeover, all horrid primary colours; at the centre was a man who was dressed as Popeye but didn’t look anything like Popeye, a man dressed as Bluto but didn’t look anything like Bluto and a woman dressed as Olive Oyl who I have to concede did look a bit like Olive Oyl.

We stayed for about one hour, the children were bored, even they couldn’t find anything to amuse them, the boat ride was late and overcrowded, it wasn’t even a boat, it was a rubber dinghy, the water park was a paddling pool, the free drink (adults only) was barely a thimble full of something cheap and horrid and after sixty minutes or so (less probably) I searched though my pockets for the taxi driver business card.

On the way out Sally set out a list of complaints to the staff –   this is usually my job, I am the one to get irritable and argumentative but Sally completely upstaged me today and eventually I had to drag her away from the ticket booth before she trashed the place and thankfully the taxi turned up to take us back to the sanity of the Mellieha Bay Hotel.

Popeye Village 2

As I remember the film wasn’t that good either.  Rubbish actually!

I cannot find any single reason to recommend this place, it is expensive, it is amateurish and it is really quite dreadful.  It took me a couple of beers to get over the experience.  TripAdvisor gives it a rating of Four Stars, I give it minus four!

If you are going to Malta do not waste your money on this so called attraction.  If you are determined to see it then walk or drive to it and take a look from the other side of the bay, do not waste your money going inside!

So now I am thinking.  Where else have I been that has also been underwhelming and a disappointment.

If Popeye Village is top of the list then second has to be Gatorland in Florida which I had the misfortune to visit in 1990.

050

And in third place it will have to be the Wild West film set in Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands where I went with my daughter Sally in 1987.  She was less than one year old so happily for her she has no recollection of it.

009

What is the most disappointing place that you have ever visited?

Travels in Spain, Canary Islands in Postcards

Fuertuventura Postcard 02Lanzarote island map postcardGran Canaria Island Map postcardTenerife Island Map Postcard

Entrance Tickets – Jameos Del Agua, Lanzarote

Jameos Del Agua Lanzarote

“Wherever he saw a hole he always wanted to know the depth of it. To him this was important.”  –  Jules Verne –  ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’

After the drive to the west of the island to Timanfaya we had the knackered old jeep at our disposal for another day and this time travelled north along the eastern coast to visit the volcanic caves just north of Arrecife.

It is a rather odd thing but people seem to like to go below the surface of the earth and go down caves and caverns, grottoes and mines and I have to say that I am no exception.  I used to live near the Peak District National Park in Derbyshire (UK) and would go down the Blue John mines near Buxton pretty much every year.  Well, the guide book pointed out some caves in Lanzarote so that is where we made for today.

Jameos del Aqua Lanzarote Canary Islands

La Cueva de los Verdes is what is known as a lava tube and was created around three-thousand years ago by lava flows from the nearby volcano Monte Corona, flowing across the Malpaís de la Corona toward the sea. The lava streams cooled on top, developing a solid crust, before the lava drained away leaving the top part as the roof of a cave. In a number of places along the tube the roof of the cave collapsed, forming a cavern known locally as a jameo.

The cave system at Cueva de los Verdes is around six kilometres long and claimed to be the longest lava tube in the World but I am willing to wager that somewhere else in the World will be making exactly the same claim!

Visitors can take a tour along about a kilometre of illuminated path and so we handed over our money and prepared to leave the sunshine and like Otto Lidenbrock in ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ * descend below the surface.

We followed our guide through an intriguing maze of gigantic caves, carved by lava and gnawed by erosion, through a succession of caverns and galleries with lighting displays arranged to illuminate the colours of the rocks and the eerie shadows that they cast.  As usual in underground caves he kept pointing out natural sculptures that, with a lot of imagination, had a resemblance to familiar icons – the Madonna and Child (several times), Bulls, Matadors and famous Spanish Kings and Queens.

Lanzarote Postcard Multi Picture

After an hour or so we returned blinking to the surface and drove the short distance to nearby Jameos del Agua and prepared to go straight underground again.

This time we descended steeply down a flight of steps and arrived in a rather gloomy café area where we stopped for a drink and an overpriced bocadillo before continuing into the cave.  There was a walk now along a narrow path on one side of a flooded cavern where in the water the main attraction were hundreds of blind albino crabs, apparently the only ones like it in the World, which is another claim that I am unable to confirm.

Jameos del aqua Lanzarote Canary Islands

We didn’t spend nearly as much time underground at this cave because it opened out quite quickly into the collapsed cavern where the afternoon sunshine was pouring into a luxurious tropical garden with exotic plants and scarlet flowers, fish ponds with turtles posing obligingly for photographs and a brilliant turquoise swimming pool and recreational area.

At the end of the day we drove back to Puerto del Carmen and as we were running low on fuel we were forced to find a garage so we pulled into a filling station where the smiling attendant approached probably in expectation of filling the tank and a big sale:

‘Si Seňor?’ he beamed,

‘two hundred por favor’ , we said calculating that this would be enough to see us through until we returned the vehicle to the car hire office.

‘two hondred?’  ‘two hondred?’  the man pushed his black beret up over his forehead scratched his head in that puzzled sort of way, twisted his face into a squint, wrinkled his walnut sunburned face and looked thoroughly confused as he searched for clarification, finally he just said – ‘not enough room in tank!’

We looked confused and then we realised what he meant and were more specific, ‘no, not litres – pesetas!’

Now, this was the equivalent of about seventy-five pence so this required great precision on his part to deliver only just the required miniscule amount into the tank.  We handed him two one hundred peseta notes and he walked away shaking his head and repeating over and over to himself ‘two hondred, two hondred…’

This had been my first time visiting the Canary Islands and I liked Lanzarote even though I have never been back but for the next few years I did make it an annual event to visit some of the others.

Do you like going underground? Which is your favourite cave?

Puerto Del Carmen Lanzarote 1983 

* Rather interestingly in the book the Professor and his assistant search for the Centre of the Earth by entering a lava tube at Snæfellsjökull glacier in Iceland and eventually comes back to the surface through another one on the slopes of Mount Etna on the island of Sicily.

Click on an image to scroll through the gallery…

__________________________________________________

Other Cave Stories:

Drogarati Cave and Blue Lagoon, Kephalonia

Cueva del Aguila, Spain

Altimira Caves, Spain

Blue Lagoon, Capri

Krakow, Wieliczka Salt Mine

__________________________________________________

Car Hire Misadventures – Gran Canaria, 1988

Gran Canaria Car Hire

In the 1980s I used to like to go away for a few days with my brother.  In 1988 we had a short holiday in Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands.  Naturally we hired a car.

It was the cheapest that we could find and was a clapped out old white Renault.  We did a bit of driving but I remember most going to visit the sand dunes at Maspalomas.  After we had parked the car and walked across the sand to the sea it was time for a beer so we found a beach side bar and wandered in.  We sat at the bar and ordered our drinks.

The Spanish barman gave us a nervous look and asked “Eenglish?”, we replied in the affirmative and he pointed to a sign behind the bar which said “German’s only” – we were outraged, what a bloody cheek, we were in Spain for goodness sake.  Anyway, he put his finger to his lips as though to say don’t speak and he served our beers.  We drank them in silence, rather quickly I seem to remember, and then left and took the drive back to the hotel.

Car Hire Misadventures – Gran Canaria, 1986

Car Hire Gran Canaria 1986

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.

Read the full story…

Entrance Tickets – Sioux City, Gran Canaria

Sioux City Gran Canaria

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 to me.

Read the full story…

Spanish Islands, Postcards from Fuerteventura

Fuertuventura Postcard 1Fuertuventura Postcard Traditional DancersFuertuventura Postcard 02

Spanish Islands, Fuerteventura and Cofete Beach

Fuertuventura Postcard 02

I can date quite accurately the time when I began to question the content and value of my annual holidays, it was in the early 2000s, my young family were growing up and leaving home and there was no longer a need for an annual visit to a beach resort for sun, sand and sea.

One of my last holidays of this kind was to the Spanish Canary Island of Fuerteventura and I wouldn’t really consider boring you with the details of long days spent by the pool at the Fuerteventura Princess Hotel near the resort town of Jandia or lying around on the sand on the twenty-five long kilometre beach and enjoying the freedom of naturist sunbathing except for the fact that Fuerteventura happens to have had possibly the best beach that I have ever had the pleasure of visiting – Cofete.

Cofete is a small village in the south-western part of the Jandia peninsula on the island and nearby it has a sandy windswept Atlantic facing beach that is about five kilometers long and so gloriously empty that every person on it gets about a thousand square metres of  space all to themselves.  The relentless surf pounds the beach and smashes the sand and the place is not really suitable for safe bathing and the advice is that you shouldn’t really swim here unless you are the man from Atlantis or Aquaman because of the high waves and the strong current and the danger of being swept out to sea with nowhere to go but North America!

Cofete Beach Fuerteventura

There is something curiously mysterious about it, deserted, solitary, lonely and brooding away in the background are the eight-hundred metre high wilderness mountains of Jandia. The spine of these barren peaks seem to separate the beach from the inhabited holiday side half of the island with the safer but busier tourist beaches.  The weather is almost constantly breezy, the waves are always mountainous and the beach appears breathtakingly eerie but nevertheless beautiful.  There are never many people on the beach because it is so inaccessible and there are no lifeguards to rely on in an emergency.

To get there it is necessary to drive over twenty kilometres of exhausting pot-holed track that in some places only allows for single file traffic.  Some of the passing places have steep drops to the side, and the journey can only realistically be tackled in a jeep or four-wheel drive vehicle (it is prohibited to take a regular hire car there) and believe me it is a really uncomfortable journey, but one worth making nevertheless.  The route there goes through the very pretty Punta Pesebre, the Playa de los Ojos (Eyes beach), which is difficult to access, and the fishing port of Puerto de la Cruz before the lovely Playa de las Pilas.

At the end of the unmade road the little village of Cofete is a collection of wooden shacks built from driftwood and materials washed up by the waves and most are only lived in by ageing hippies at the weekend.  At the end of the long ash choked track there is a simple but welcome bar where a cold beer cuts through the dust in the back of the throat and prepares you well before going to the sea to wash off the grime from the journey.

Fuertuventura Postcard 1

On a second day we drove north but stayed on the eastern coast of the island and visited the busy tourist beach of Corralajo where previous sunbathers had built black volcanic stone shelters to keep out the wind and where people stretched out naked on the caramel sand inside.  It didn’t compare to Cofete of course so we didn’t stay very long but made a driving tour of the coastline starting at Lajares at the very north where the waves of the Atlantic crash over the rocks and where two windmills are the only real tourist attraction before taking a meandering route down the coast stopping every now and again in a desperate but ultimately futile attempt to discover something interesting.

Except for Cofete I found Fuertuventura to be instantly forgettable.  It is the second largest of the Canary Islands after Tenerife and there are simply miles and miles of absolutely bugger all!  Good for that relaxing beach side holiday but absolutely hopeless for someone with itchy feet like me!

Cofete Beach Fortuventura Canary Islands Spain

Spanish Islands, Postcards from Tenerife

Tenerife Postcard

Tenerife, Mount Teide

Tenerife Island Map Postcard