Lanzarote [Canary Islands] winter sun break
The power of the internet! Can you resist a good deal? We could not and spent a week on this island in the Canaries. As part of Spain the currency is the Euro, but it's not in the EC so the Customs and Excise rules are different — so beware, we were inspected on our return to Manchester for illegal importation of cigarettes! The Canaries are about 100 miles off the Morroccan coast and on Lanzarote virtually everything is imported and water is produced by a de-salination plant. However, prices are similar to mainland Spain, although vegetables don't feature too much in the cuisine — except for potatoes cooked 'wrinkly style'.
We found a great deal via Voyage-Prive.com for a week in the sun flying from Manchester with Monarch. Although there are flights later in the day, our deal stipulated that we could only fly at 7.30am, so an early start was essential.
We also rented a car for a few days to get a feel of the island — it's volcanic and very bleak: few trees and not much ground cover, but we went to some interesting places associated with artist César Manrique [died 1992].
Our Voyage-Prive.com deal was for staying at the 5 star Hesperia Lanzarote hotel just a brief walk from the Porto Calero marina, shops and restaurants. Great hotel, with very few guests this time of year, immaculate gardens and pools [a bit cold in December!] and luxury spa. Excellent buffet breakfasts, but we plumped for the restaurants at the marina for evening meals, rather than eat in the hotel.
Ensure that you book and are allocated a room with pool view — our initial allocation was for a car-park view! So we had to get reception to change it to a much better room, which was no trouble, just an oversight.
The César Manrique Foundation, near Teguise, is a collection of the artist's own works and other significant Spanish artists, housed in the house he built over subterranian vocanic spaces that he linked together to provide living space and access to a small plunge pool. An intriguing experience going through the tunnels with bright white floors and walls contrasting with the dark volcanic rock.
Manrique was also instrumental in getting the Castillo de San José converted into the MIAC contemporary art gallery just outside Arricife and adding the curving bar/cafe/restaurant at it's base overlooking the commericial port facilities of Arricife. It was opened in the 1970's and the design is very much of the time, with Manrique signature white tunnels down from the art gallery to the restaurant and down again to the toilets with views across the harbour! We could not resist having lunch here, the bow-tied waiters were very proud to serve beatutifully presented starters and mains with local wine for about £50.00 for us both.
Playa Quemada is about 30 minutes walk across the headland from the Hesperia Lanzarote hotel, by either the cliff footpath, or a broader track used by dune-buggies, that's better for vertigo sufferers. It's a little village with some four bar/restaurants specialising in fish and seafood. The fish on offer looked a bit bony to us and we left the couple who ordered barnacles and green chillies to contemplate their lunch in peace — it didn't look too appetizing to us — we just had a few beers and hit the track back to the hotel.
Porto Calero is a big development of apartments, houses and it's own hotel with the marina, shops and restaurants as it's focus. A paved 'promenade' commences at the Hesperia Lanzarote hotel and terminating behind the marina boatyard, separating the residential properties from the cliffs with black volcanic rock walls surrounding each property. The marina has some beautiful yachts, sport fishing boats and pleasure boats at anchor and offers a variety of watersport activities: diving, sea-kayaks, submarine cruises, windsurfing. Flotilla yachts were on the dockside until the new season next year. The bars, cafes, restaurants are backed by a row of fashion boutiques, a small supermarket, car hire office and chandlery. Amura is the most up-market restuarant, although not prohibitive, with many others offering good value meals: La Pappardella for big, thin base pizzas; La Taberna del Porto for local cheese from Uga, spaghetti, rabbit, mussels; El Tomate for big local fish fillet and the La Portena grill for Argentinian empanada, lamb chops and excellent steak. The Casablanca bar has big sofas under umbrellas and the Buda bar does exotic cocktails and sangria.
The inland town of Teguise was the capital of the island, until Arricife was developed when pirate raids were no longer a threat. It has a number of streets of older houses in typical Canarian style: white painted stonework with small windows having a single colour for the frames; bars, cafes and restaurants and shops with a decidedly hippy tendency.
Between Teguise and Yaiza, the village nearest the Hesperia Lanzarote is the wine-growing area of the island: semi-circles of black volcanic rock or long, low-walled terraces with very low growing vines producing a slightly sweet white or red wine. Grapes must be harvested by hand — a back-breaking task, so local wines are a little bit more expensive than imported basic wines from Spain.
Part of our deal was a morning's access to the Spa at Hesperia Lanzarote: a range of different showers including a cold 'fog' shower and a 'Scottish' shower and lots of powerful blasts of water from various spouts in the warm pool. With a few goes in the Jacuzzi, nearly 2 hours had gone by!