A March 2002 trip
to Gran Canaria by MichaelJM
Quote: By sheer luck, we had decided to visit Gran Canaria at the time of its carnival. And what a carnival...
At the centre of the island is the often snow-capped volcanic peak of Pico de las Nieves. There is a particularly challenging drive inland, as the closer you get to the centre, the windier and more potentially treacherous the roads become. There are some superb views up here and some unspoiled villages, but you’d be wise to try and pick a cloudless day to go, otherwise some of the fine vistas won’t be available to you. On a good day you’ll see Mount Teide on neighbouring Tenerife. Keep an eye out for the Roque Nublo (not that you’ll miss it, the caves of Artenara, and the hill town of Teror. Do remember to take your camera (I forgot mine on the day of our tour)-there’s plenty to snap at!
Playa del Ingles is the place to go for entertainment, and I read somewhere that there are more than 350 restaurants in this single resort. From our experience, many are very similar and should be avoided (you’ll spot them from 100 paces), but amongst them are some where you can enjoy traditional quality Canarian food. There are loads of shopping centres (Yumba Centre being one of the larger ones) and bar areas around Playa, and because of the over abundance of similar shops, you’ll be able to pick up bargains in the leather or perfume department. If you want garish pottery, then this is also the place to buy it.
Puerto de Morgan is a pretty place to visit. It’s a small fishing port made up of pleasant white houses around a flash marina. The shops are generally classy, and it’s a great contrast to Playa.
Overall, Gran Canaria is a great place to chill out–it’s easy to avoid the hustle and bustle of the larger towns if you want. The big plus is that it has a great Carnival in February/March each year.
The restaurants and clubs will often hand out discount coupons for quieter nights–grab them because many are worth cashing in if you fancy the entertainment.
There are loads of chances to participate in a range of water sports, like sailing, water skiing, wind surfing, snorkelling, diving, and deep-sea fishing to name just a few. Golf, horseback riding, and tennis are also big on the island.
In contrast to most places, a motor bike hire is not discouraged here. The roads do seem to be in good condition, and the pace of life seemed to proceed somewhat more leisurely than on some of the other Canary islands. We also saw evidence of bike hires and hill climbers.
Buses, guaguas, don’t run frequently outside of the main conurbations and taxis are not overly cheap.
The apartment complex had a small café which had decent snacks during the day, but it really seemed to make an effort at night by preparing a local dish-of-the-day and normal tourist fare. We never ate there, but the portions we saw looked plentiful and appetising.
The two-story apartments were clustered together in groups of ten, and the arrangement was such that most people had private space. The pool area was extremely pleasant, with plenty of terrace space, sun loungers and parasols, and one heck of a suntrap. Although not a huge pool, it was never over occupied, and I always had plenty of space to splash around with my water wings. The loungers, however, didn’t have any mattresses, so they were not the most comfortable, but as a hardened sun-worshipper, I persisted despite the discomfort! Just off the pool area was an outdoor table tennis set with a plentiful supply of ping-pong balls.
The accommodation was great; we entered our "front door" via a small garden with brightly coloured and regularly deheaded flowers. This was a really private area. We often sat out here in the early afternoon and would be quiet and undisturbed. Inside was a roomy lounge and comfortably furnished lounge (which could double up as a second sleeping area if there were four of you). The kitchen was more than adequate for our needs, but if you were anticipating cooking a meal, I think you’d struggle. If I’m to be picky, I’d say it was a little on the dark side, but during the day, we weren’t in there anyway. Upstairs was the bedroom, which had a very comfortable bed with plenty of good-quality pillows (often not the case in self-catering apartments). The toilet and shower facilities were also up here and were clean and bright. Our bedroom had a great balcony space overlooking a small residential area and the hills of central Gran Canaria. Perhaps a pool view might have been more desirable, but if we wanted to enjoy some quiet time, we were not disturbed by the activity from the pool.
We think that the apartments were all privately owned and maintained through a corporate letting agency –- that would certainly explain the high quality of the fixtures and fittings.
Although the grounds were not huge, they were incredibly well-cared-for, and it was evident that gardeners worked hard to maintain the site.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 4, 2004
Gran Canaria, Spain
Attraction | "Dunas de Maspalomas"
Round the bay, passing sand sculptors as we go, the long golden sands stretched out before us. There were rows of sunbathing bodies laid out on this section of the beach, and we were unsure if the walk was going to be worth the effort. We saw in front of us Playa del Inglés and decided to head inland. This proved to be a shrewd move, because we were then treated to the amazing view of a classic desert landscape. The wind-sculptured crescent-shaped dunes seemed to go on for miles, and they had been protected from future development by being declared a nature reserve. What they aren’t protected from is the attack from the hoards of tourists who descend on them each year, some leaving their picnic litter strewn about the place.
The winds in this exposed part of Gran Canaria are fairly brisk, and it's particularly difficult walking in this area. We paused to rest toward the top of a dune, sheltered from the wind. This was the life, playing Lawrence of Arabia and getting a tan at the same time. Then, as if from nowhere, I spied the torso of an elderly gentleman who passed by me and stood at the top of the dune. Strutting and posing in his bronzed, wrinkly skin, he was joined by a similarly clad elderly woman. The view I had was not one I wished for, as they stood, legs astride, a matter of feet from my reclined body. Time to move on. As we progressed, we passed many a similar sight –- this, after all, was Maspalomas nudist beach. I just wondered why all these older people, clearly at ease with their bodies, needed to stand and pose on the crest of the dunes!
Between the dunes and the lighthouse was a large lagoon surrounded by lush vegetation and offering superb views of the dunes to the east, the mountains to the north, and the sea to the south, only spoilt by the view to the west –- cafés, restaurants, and an ant-like trail of tourists. I shouldn’t complain too much, because later on, we joined that trail of ants and had a cool drink in one of the lagoon cafés.
However, in Maspalomas, you can find solitude, cast off your clothing, hire a beach buggy, go windsurfing, play golf on the nearby course, eat, and drink. Whatever you want, you’ll find it here, and to be honest, there is some fascinating scenery!
Playa de Maspalomas
Las Dunas y La Charca
San Bartolomé de Tirajana, Spain 35290
+1 34 928 723444
The grand procession was due to start at 6pm, so we set off promptly to ensure a good view. Hundreds of others had the same idea, and we maneuvered our way through the crowds to stand right on the edge of the main road.
We heard the music start up just after 6pm, but it was a good half hour before the first of the procession reached us. Leading the way were a fleet of vintage cars, highly polished motorbikes, and well-groomed horses, all greeted with cheers from the assembled throng. Wibbly-wobbly cycles were next, adeptly ridden by clowns, and then unicyclists weaved their way precariously down the centre of the road. Woops-one of the cyclists is down, but in the blink of a gnat’s eyelid, the young lad has re-mounted and is in hot pursuit of his mates.
There’s a pause in the proceedings, the sun begins to go down, and then the noise of disco music erupts into our consciousness. The serious floats are now lining up to create their impression on the proceedings. Pubs, ocean liners, barns, volcanoes, and fishermen all passed our eyes while scantily clad women in traditional Carnival costumes gyrated in front of us. We saw groups dancing on 18-inch platform shoes and were gob-smacked by the truly marvellous sequined dresses.
There were pantomime dames with heavy make-up, camping it up to the beats of Tom Jones’ Sex Bomb. And then the real thing–the drag queen paraded on the most elaborate of floats. Strutting themselves around were his fellow competitors, some in skimpier costumes than their female counterparts. There were gasps of admiration from the crowd, and the "queen" himself waved royally to his minions. They all gave a great performance. African tribal dancers followed, dancers supporting huge ornate structures (I just don’t how they managed to stay upright) appeared, and then there were the strains of YMCA.
We took a break for a meal and watched the procession from the restaurant window. It’s still going on past midnight, and we watch the good-natured banter between tourists and local merrymakers. Think of a float theme and I can guarantee that we saw it!
We weaved our weary way home, when the procession is in its final stages, and heared party music as we approached the dual carriage way. The revelry continued, as a couple of floats had stopped to party. Yes, they were dancing in the streets, or to be more precise, in the middle of the outside lane of the carriageway. This seems to be recognized, as cars slowed down and cheerily waved to the partygoers. We continued to hear their music, from our hotel room, for another hour or so. What a night!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 5, 2004
The Penultimate Night at Maspalomas Carnival
Playa del Ingles
Gran Canaria, Spain
When dinner was over, we decided to wander to the Yumbo Centre, a shopping centre in Playa, and were surprised to see gathering crowds on what we assumed would be a quiet night. This, we found out, was the culmination of the Carnival activity and the last night of partying. Tonight there was to be a special staged performance to celebrate the funeral and the "burial of the fish." So that explained the rather somber procession we saw earlier and also why someone was setting fire to the model of the fish.
People were everywhere: hanging over first floor balconies, sitting on the stairs leading to the centre, balancing on statues, but most of all, cramming into the square. By luck we’d got there early enough to see the start of the performance, but more than often found ourselves admiring the audience itself. Many of the revellers were theatrically dressed, and we rubbed shoulders with pantomime dames, with make-up caked on to their faces, and immaculately dressed young women wearing up-to-date fashion, usually with a comical twist. Off the square the guys paraded in their ornate drag dresses, people arrived in their Mafioso attire, there was an abundance of "school girls," and everyone was just riotous.
We saw no evidence of drunkards, but all seemed to be "well oiled" and in good spirits. We would have joined in with the singing, but we mostly couldn’t understand a thing!
But it really didn’t matter–the atmosphere was electric and the spirit of Carnival couldn’t have been better.
On stage a trail of actors, dancers, singer, and "artistic performers" came and went and the "skeleton" of the fish was revealed. Occasionally we thought the fire was getting out of control, but no one else seemed to care; if anything, the stage performers became more frenzied in their actions, creating draughts of wind to fan the flames. I was left feeling, at times, that live performances should be banned, as the off-key singers yelled out their tuneless songs. But at that end of the day (and it was now reaching the end of ours!), the enthusiasm of the performers and the audience soon removed that thought.
The finale, as the dying embers of the fish floated to the floor, was a spoof wake. The characterisations on stage were great to watch, as the individual players settled down to dance the Spanish equivalent of the last waltz. The applause was deafening, and the smiles on everyone’s faces, including ours, were a pleasure to behold.
Carnival was great–long live the fish!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 8, 2004
The Burial of the Sardine
Gran Canaria, Spain