Guest Blogger Lisa Risager takes us off the mainland, to an often-ignored paradise in the Canary Islands…
This island is a continent, and if you were born and bred here you wouldn’t call La Concha in San Sebastian the most beautiful beach in Spain. My mistake… it is of course Las Canteras!
Most visitors to Gran Canaria head straight for the south, the sun, the sand, the sangria… and so did we. A perfect place for a family holiday. Sunbathing for the teenage daughter, scuba diving for the 12-year old son and his father – and for me? I pottered about which is what I love doing on my holidays.
Warm days in the sun, sitting in the shade at a cafe, drinking cafe con leche, reading a paperback from the hotel lobby. I wasn’t bored… but jumped at the chance to join the scuba divers on their excursion to El Cabron marine reserve. And the nearby town Arinaga. “You’ll like it”, Annette said. “Take a walk by the shore and there’s a little cafe by the old lime mines.”
Annette was right and the next time we returned to Gran Canaria we didn’t even consider returning to the wonderful climate of those southern beaches. We headed straight for Arinaga in the municipality of Agüimes. So should you.
This year we went back for a longer stay at Nautilus Apartments. I was working most mornings but the afternoons were spent walking by the sea, stopping for a coffee or a drink, relaxing and trying to be as laid back as the locals. This is a town where you actually greet strangers you meet, where you chat with the shopkeepers – if you happen to speak any Spanish, that is – and where you do take that siesta in the middle of the afternoon.
Excursions were made to Guayadeque, Agüimes, Santa Lucia, Telde and Las Palmas.
We shopped for dinner at the local shops or headed down to the muelle for some pescado fresco del dia and cool white Bermejo wine from Lanzarote.
On weekends the locals meet at the Universitad de Autonoma de Arinaga by the muelle. Cold beer and tapas on a first-come-first-served basis. The food is a plate of cheese or a hardboiled egg or a dish of fish, potatoes and mojo picante and it’s good! The place is only open on Saturdays and Sundays and only for a couple of hours from noon till the food is sold out. I’ts a tiny, tiny place with only a bar and two small tables so most people sit outside on the steps.
At the Vaqueria you can buy fresh cheese and if you sit down for a cafe con leche you could try adding some gofio like the locals do. I’m not recommending it, though, it seems to be an aquired taste…
The history of the Canary Islands and the indigenous people is fascinating as is the crafts and the caves. In the valley of Guayadeque you can visit the Centro de Interpretacion de Guayadeque before heading into the valley with the caves.
The old towns of Agüimes and Telde are nice places to wander about. The Podcasts of Gran Canaria are great for preparing a visit, but not so great for actually listening to while walking the tours. In Vecindario you can shop till you drop if that is what pleases you.
For some stunning views and hairpin bends on the way visit Santa Lucia. Have a cup of coffee at the cafe with the view but pop inside Casa Antonio across the road for your meal. Rule of restaurants in Gran Canaria: pick the restaurant without a view for the best meals and don’t be afraid to ask which dishes are the most delicious.
All of these places are quite close to Arinaga. If you get a little restless – and this does happen sometimes when you’re trying too hard to relax – you have the whole continent of Gran Canaria to explore and even though it is small it is a grand, grand island!
I’ll be back. Untill then I’ll do my best to learn to speak Spanish.
Do check out Lisa Risager’s blog for more of her wonderful writing!