Thursday, December 4, 2008

Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Looking to trade the dark, dreary London weather for some fun in the sun, this past weekend we headed to Lanzarote. Lanzarote is one of the seven islands that make up the Canary Islands. Although the Canary Islands belong to Spain, Lanzarote is actually only 79 miles from the coast of Africa! Lanzarote is a small volanic island filled with amazing views of the ocean and its coastline. It was very hard to go more than 10 minutes without snapping a picture! Despite its large tourist community (50% of which are British), Lanzarote has remained rather low key. Yes, it has resorts, souvenir shops, and restaurants that cater to tourists. However, everything seems to fit into the landscape of the island's natural resources. We stayed at the Iberostar Costa Calero in the sleepy harbor town of Costa Calero. Since it was low season, it was especially peaceful. Our room had a nice balcony with a great, unobstructed view of the ocean!

Our island adventure begin when we landed and picked up our rental car. Wanting to save a few euros, we decided to rent a manual. Since Jignesh has never mastered the skill of driving a manual, I became the official weekend driver. I have to admit that my knees were literally shaking and I had a moment of panic when I first turned on the car as it has been almost 7 years since the despise of Sputnik (my beloved manual Mazda 626). The thought of driving in a foreign country did not help either. I guess driving a manual is like riding a bike as it all came back very quickly (thanks for all those lessons in the parking lot Dad!). In no time flat we were zipping around the island in our little Toyota Yaris and getting somewhat dizzy on all the traffic circles! We spend the rest of the day exploring the area around our hotel and the neighboring villages.

Our first full day on the island found us enjoying an early breakfast and then heading to the setting for the movie Plant of the Apes. Unlike most national parks, there is no exotic wildlife or lush vegetation to be found at Parque Nacional Timanfaya. Instead there are rocks, rocks, and more rocks! Parque Nacional de Timanfaya was the location of one of the most important volcanic eruptions in volcanic history and thus resembles what I have always envisioned Mars to look like. Jignesh and I both thought it was very interesting but a bit creepy. While the volcano is no longer erupting, it is still active. The on-site restaurant even cooks all of its food on an outdoor grill that uses the heat from the ground!

After coming down from Mars, we spent the rest of the afternoon strolling the southern village of Playa Blanca. There we enjoyed some amazing views of the coast and spotted the neighboring island of Fuerteventura. We endulged in one of the Canary Island's speciality dishes, mojo. Mojo is a trio of flavorful sauces that can be paried with just about everything from potatos to seafood. Of course, we had to take several breaks to sit back and just enjoy the sun with a glass of wine in hand! As the sun was setting, we ended the day at El Golfo. El Golfo is a meeting point between the devatastion between Timanfaya and the power of the Atlantic waves. The result is a green lagoon surrounded by steep rock cliffs of various shades of red and oranges. We finished the night of at a lively bar in Puerto del Carmen.

The next day, we hopped in our Yaris and headed to the northern most point on the island, Mirador del Rio. Mirador is literally a viewpoint and rio (river) refers to the narrow strip of water that seperates Lanzarote from the small sister island of La Graciosa. The view was breathtaking! We spent quite a bit of time here enjoying the view, trying out our photography skills, and just enjoying the scenery. Heading south back to our hotel, we stopped at several little villages and scenic overlooks including the former capital of Teguise and Jameous del Agua (an underground volcanic tunnel). Since it was our last night in Lazarote, we celebrated with an amazing dinner at Bodego. The food and wine was delicious. They served my chicken kabob hanging from a tall rack (similar to a banana rack but much taller!). It was riot and attracted quite a few stares. After dinner, we found a live music bar and enjoyed some great music (ok, the drummer was not too bad either!).

Our final day did not leave us much time as we had an early afternoon flight be we did manage a quiet lunch by the ocean! We had almost forgotten about the cold London weather until we landed and felt the burst of cold air from outside the plane. At least we had slight tans as souvenirs. Let's see how long they last.


Lynne said...

Kat, I like reading your blogs - they are so informative and descriptive, I sometimes feel as if I was there with you. Thanks for sharing your travels!

Anonymous said...

Kat - It looks beautiful! Sounds like a wonderful vacation. This is the first time I've checked your blog in a while, but it's great to see you and Jiggy doing well. Merry Christmas!! Leighann Swanson