Fri Jun 17 2022: Grand Canary Adventure!
¡Hola! from the Grand Canary Islands! We're currently hanging out just a couple hundred kms off the coast of the Western Sahara in Africa. However, these islands are autonomous communities of Spain, so technically, we're in the land of matadors, tapas and Antonio Banderas!
Flying into the main island of Gran Canaria
From out the plane window, we stare greedily down at the arid, rocky landscape. All of this is framed by sunny skies, which is super-awesome, because the main reason we're actually here is to escape the deluge of unseasonable rains back in BC. That, and cooler weather and stubborn snowpack still cling to the trails where we like to ride, up in the mountains. *sigh* It's a little bit depressing for motorcyclists right now...
Our hastily compiled research last week revealed that the Grand Canaries are known as the Land of Eternal Spring. It's 25C every single day of the year here.
OMG yes! Plane tickets were booked almost immediately, and several days later, we find ourselves stepping out of the airport into the glorious warm sunshine that was promised. From there, it's a quick 20 minute cab ride from the airport to Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria. We hang our heads out the window of the taxi like dogs; basking in the warm air. As we close in to the big city, the cloud cover increases alarmingly, but we're told that Gran Canaria has multiple micro-climates, it's pretty much always overcast in the north. However, the clouds rarely make it over the mountains so the southern side gets more sunshine.
Phew. Ok. We'll spend more time in the south then!
We've made our headquarters in the La Isleta neighbourhood right downtown. Historically, it was known as a fisherman's village, but these days it's the commercial district of the city; its narrow streets dominated by shops and restaurants. We both remark to each other that these buildings look so familiar. We spent a month hiding from the winter in a tiny town outside of Barcelona, and the streets here look so similar!
Makes sense, I guess. This is as much a part of Spain as the mainland. Even if it is over 2000 kms away from the southern tip of Spain. It's kinda like if Canada had an autonomous island in the Caribbean, and you flew down there and saw TTC buses and Tim Hortons everywhere, plus CBC News on every TV... and also half the island constantly threatens to break away because the other half won't speak their language...
RideDOT.com Gran Canaria Base of operations
Our apartment is right across from the local bus station transfer point, and is sandwiched right between a... well, a sandwich shop and a pizza parlour. :) It's a tiny one bedroom apartment, with a good view of the barrio from our 9th story window:
Oh man, these buildings are pretty tightly packed. I'm just imagining the labyrinth of narrow streets we need to negotiate tomorrow. When we were doing our research, the island seemed so small. It's only 48 kms (30 miles) from end-to-end, so I said to myself "GPS? We doan neeed no steekin' GPS!"
Might be a bit of an adventure just getting out of the city!
The beach is not too far away from where we've set ourselves up, so we take a little stroll to take in the town and grab some dinner. Along the way, we make note of all the important places we'll need while we're here: the local supermarket, gas station, etc.
Castillo de la Luz
There's a mini-photo shoot happening at the park right across the street from our apartment. Ah, this is the girl's Quinceanera, a celebration of her 15th birthday. We saw a lot of this while we were traveling through Latin America. The Quinceanera isn't as widely celebrated in Europe, but Latin immigrants still continue the tradition. Conversations in Spanish fill the air all around us, and all of a sudden I'm transported back to the year and a half we spent riding from Mexico down to South America.
We stumble upon a restaurant on the malecon (boardwalk), tables set right by the playa so we can people-watch while chowing down on some delicious seafood!
Calamari, Garlic Shrimp and Octopus! Did you know there's no Spanish word for cholesterol? At least that's what I tell myself...
After being landlocked for over two years, it's so good to scarf down fresh shellfish.
Also, I think all that time away from Latin America has actually improved my Spanish! While talking to our waiter, the Español seems to fall effortlessly out of my mouth. But then I realize I'm mistaken, that's just some uneaten garlic shrimp that's made it's way onto the front of my shirt...
In addition to not understanding a word I said, he also seems mildly embarrassed for me. Neda resumes her expert translation duties while I just sit back and wipe shrimp off my shirt. :( No bueno.
I'm very surprised that I don't hear any English or other languages spoken here, just Spanish everywhere. But of course. We're in the business centre of Gran Canaria. Most of the folks here are all locals or ex-pats. All the gringo turistas are hanging out in the resorts down on the south shore.
Do they call tourists gringos in Spain? I don't know, but I've been here less than a few hours and no one's yelled, "Chino!" or "Jackie Chan!" at me yet, so maybe not? Feels good to be in Europe.
But more importantly, after being locked away in Pandemic Jail for over two years, it feels like Glorious Wonderful Freedom just to venture out into the world once again to experience new sights, sounds and tastes!
Playa de las Canteras
Although Gran Canaria is a popular tourist destination because of it's sunny beaches, we're not here to lie on the sand roasting like beans in the sun (not that's there's a lot of sun up here in the north).
We're here to ride motorcycles! And those mountains behind the city are beckoning to us...