A June 2001 trip
to Lanzarote by MichaelJM
Quote: Winter sun has become an essential requirement for us, and Lanzarote's got decent weather on a relatively unspoilt island.
Reception was extremely small, giving an initial impression of a somewhat seedy bed and breakfast establishment -- television on with a feeling that we, as guests, were a little in the way. Having been given our key and pointed in the right direction, we negotiated a few steps down into the main complex. This was a complete contrast to the reception area.
The complex was superbly set amidst mature palm trees and boasted a supreme view of Pico de las Nieves, the highest point of the island, and more than a glimpse of the sea. The terraces of white apartments fringed with dark green balconies and eaves providing an interesting skyline, especially at night as the sun set. Our apartment was a little away from the pool and in an extremely quiet section of the complex, with a small patio to the front. Very pleasant, if we didn’t fancy making the extra few yards to the pool. Indeed, some days we just dragged the two easy chairs and coffee table and used it as an extension of the lounge. I’m not sure that the staff liked us doing it, but hey, we were paying to stay there.
San Marcial wouldn’t be suitable if you were unsteady on your feet, because everywhere you went involved a flight of stairs. The ones down to the swimming pool and well-equipped shop were particularly difficult to maneuvre. The pool area was adequate, mainly because residents tended to go down to the beach, but it was a strange one to swim in. There was a clear demarcation between the shallow end, effectively creating two separate pools. I’m no great swimmer, so I got by, but if you wanted to swim, you’d have to leave the complex (perhaps that’s why so many people didn’t stay by the pool).
Our accommodation was perfectly acceptable, with a larger-than-average lounge, settee, chairs, table, and sideboard (stuffed with information leaflets about the island), well-stacked kitchen area with good cooking facilities, and sufficient utensils for four. A short corridor off the lounge led to a large bedroom, which was comfortable enough.
At the bottom of the site, there was an exit leading to the sea and the shops. We tended to use this route, because it was a far more interesting route, and we avoided the less-than-friendly reception staff. Following our preferred route, you could be at the sea front in less than 10 minutes, and within a quarter of an hour at the shopping centre, with numerous restaurants. We preferred to walk for another 20 minutes, where there was a greater choice of restaurants, all with a great sea view.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on December 4, 2004
San Marcial Apartments
C/ Alpahor 4
+34 928 511 610
Attraction | "Jardin de Cactus"
You don’t have to like cacti to enjoy this oasis of tranquility, but there are some gigantic specimens to wonder about. Manrique makes full use of natural and local products, combined with the many succulents that weave their way around each other, twisting and turning to achieve a prominent position. But prominence in this garden it not about size-it’s about presence and surroundings. At the foot of the huge Pilosocereus azureus, which stretches towards heaven, sits the comparatively small and rotund Mammillaria chionocephala; the tall furry Cleistocactus juyjuyensis tries to dominate the Espostoa melanostele, but its snowball appearance, with lethal bright yellow spikes, will always win.
I could go on, but you get the picture–hundreds of cacti (including flat-leaved and tree-like succulents) have been strategically placed in the volcanic ground and combined with water features, fountains, and a variety of stone sculptures. Some interesting and bizarre-looking fish swim lazily through the channels of water.
To counterbalance the windmill, Manrique built a modern cavernous structure, which has within it a superb, delicate structure stretching to the sky. The light glistens off this work of art, and the whole experience is complimented by the sound of the manmade waterfall and gentle atmospheric pipe music. It truly is better than I can describe it! On the top of this structure (which actually houses the café) is a flat roof covered in red volcanic grit. The grinding wheels of the windmill are the given pride of the place with the occasional cacti. You need to crouch down to get the best impact from this vantage point–you’ll get what I mean if you do it.
As you progress around the grounds, you’ll be able to view the garden through intricate trellises and convex-framed windows–both change your perception of the uninterrupted view.
Manrique always wanted the features in his creations to blend into the environment, and I’d commend a visit to the toilet (even if you don’t need to go!). The amusing frescos will leave you without doubt as to the correct toilet to choose, and the attention for detail inside is truly amazing.
I’m not sure what Manrique wanted to say, but I was impressed by the way his manmade garden blended seamlessly into the surrounding landscape, and I know that he believed that man’s structures didn’t have to dominate the countryside.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 5, 2004
The Cactus Garden
Near Village of Guatiza
Having entered the site, you immediately start to descend through lush vegetation, huge cacti, and suspended above you, a gigantic ship’s anchor. Your attention will now be drawn to the natural arched cave in front of you, enclosing a pool. This is a confirmation of Manrique’s dedication to his beloved island and its heritage. Here, in a seawater lagoon, is the home of a unique species of white, blind crabs. They are extremely small creatures but seem to glow brightly in the dimly lit cave. Light reflects from both sides of this natural tunnel and although the walk down is not difficult you will need to watch your step. As you walk from end to end, clusters of white dots flick through the pool –- I’m not sure if the crabs are very nimble or just move with the gentle currents in the pool.
Using the natural features of the volcanic eruption, Manrique formed a unique theatre using part of the crater, a prestigious restaurant, and a fascinating garden. As you ascend from the crab pool, you’ll be faced with a celebration of colour: Manrique’s bright blue swimming pool, surrounded by brightly coloured flowers, edged with palm trees, and dotted with numerous varieties of cacti. As you look down on the pool it almost seems that the surrounding area is covered in newly fallen snow –- Manrique has managed to create a soft appearance within the harshness of the crater.
There are numerous contrasting surfaces as you pass though the gardens -- decked areas that seem to lead directly into the sea, pebbled volcanic rocks, and terracotta stones all serving to give variety and compliment the natural flora of the garden.
Off this garden area, there are numerous little caves giving interesting views of the garden and the surrounding landscape through round windows and vine-covered archways.
There is a superb exhibition on vulcanology and indigenous flora and fauna –- it’s well documented, but occasionally a little technical for the layperson. There was an interesting art installation with mirrors, presumably demonstrating the notion of infinity and in a way Manrique has been able to recreate some of this in the views from within the complex. The views from the top of the buildings were absolutely superb, with the sea and the cliffs stretching for as far as the eye could see.
Keep your eye open for the artwork of reclaimed sea timber –- I know it sounds uninspiring, but Manrique could make even the mundane seem interesting and challenging to the senses. What would Lanzerote have been without his artistic heritage?
Jameos Del Agua
Las Palmas / North of Lanzarote
Attraction | "César Manrique Foundation"
The house is the perfect presentation of the artist’s sentiments, as Manrique’s creation merges with nature’s own contribution. To greet you at the entrance is one of Manrique’s early colourful wind toys, with the volcanic peak in the background, a real contrast to the simple white arched entrance that takes you through to his magical mystery tour.
The garden is yet another of his masterpieces, blending the volcanic landscape with the palm trees, bright flora, and naturally, the Manrique Cacti. Superb views of the mountains and lava flow are framed through large picture windows, seen alongside modern sculptures or fine specimens of cactus. Not forgetting a colourful Picasso-type mural providing the perfect interim background for more cacti and the foreground for the garden extension in the form of Lanzarote’s own landscape.
Below ground level, within the volcanic "bubbles" are created surreal "Daliesque" living spaces, with beautifully handcrafted furniture set in bright white interiors. Sometimes Manrique left the black volcanic rock exposed, emphasising his "at oneness" with nature and to contrast with the highly polished white floors. Vibrant red is used in other living spaces, with white walls and jet-black floors. And then, in a living space, there is a glimpse of the sky, partially hidden by vegetation from the garden. Natural products abound to compliment and contrast with Manrique’s intrusions.
Walking from one room to another, we pass through an elaborate indoor pool exposed to the elements. I know that’s contradictory, but so is Manrique’s creation. This is a tranquil space, with the gentle sound of water from the various fountains and the bright blue sky reflected in the azure waters of the pool.
Keep an eye out for Manrique’s toilet signs and make sure you pay them a visit.
As you enter the house, there is a small art exhibition, but on the lower floor is a collection of Manrique’s own artwork alongside his collection of those by Picasso, Miró, and Klee. You have to spend time pondering these masterpieces.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 6, 2004
Cezare Manrique Foundation
Taro de Tahiche
We entered the park just north of the village of Yaiza and within yards saw rows of camels waiting to give short rides to the tourists. We’ve never really fancied a camel ride, and the sight of these heavily muzzled beasts didn’t really encourage us. We paused, took a few photos, and then entered the park (the entrance fee includes an hour’s bus tour of the park from Islote de Hilario).
The bus tour gave an amazing incite into the history of the area with atmospheric music playing, accompanied by the powerful words of Father Lorenzo Curbelo's personal account of the eruptions. Factual information was presented in a very straightforward fashion and the bus regularly stopped to pander for the photographic wished of the passengers. The scenery is quite haunting in places and the caverns and shapes caused by the eruption as fascinating to check out. Your guide will point out the lines of volcanoes, the tongues of lava, partially collapsed craters, and leaking fissures. Even the bus route through the man made roads on a bright sunny day, is somewhat eerie. There is bizarre but incredibly interesting scenery to observe as the bus picks its way precariously through the dark black lava flows. The volcanoes desolated the land but I suspect the Lanzarote tourist board would be lost without this fantastic landscape.
At the end of our tour we joined the rest of the tourists to witness the unleashing of Fire Mountains’ true power and to confirm that this volcano is truly dormant and not extinct. Local guides push brushwood into fissures and after a few seconds the twigs burst into a ball of fire as the assembled audience gasps with amazement. We were invited to grab some volcanic grit off a nearby ledge and were staggered at the heat, and finally, we waited as water was poured into hollow pipes and startled as a jet of steam erupted from the ground. We were ready for it a second time around but it still made us jump!
Up in El Diablo, the restaurant, we watched as the natural heat of the Mountain cooked fast food on a large griddle –- apparently temperatures of 600 degrees Centigrade are recorded only 10 metres below the surface. We took in the panoramic views of the lunar-type landscape from this amazing restaurant designed by (yes, you’ve guessed) Cesar Manrique. Incorporated into the building is an olive tree that allegedly survived the eruptions but has since then failed to bear fruit (it looked dead to me!)
Timanfaya National Park
Montanas del Fuego