Sunday, 7 December 2008
As most of you will know I have just returned from a fabulous week in Lanzarote with my husband, we both needed a break from work and when you are self employed you have to get away to really switch off. We stayed in a gorgeous 200 year old finca in the north of Lanzarote in the tiny village of Soo, if any of you are thinking Lanza-grotty then think again, thanks mainly to the work of Cesar Manrique Lanzarote is, in my opinion, the best of the Canary islands. In addition to its stunning Volcanic landscape Lanzarote has a special charm, a great climate and some amazing fish restaurants (I will come to them shortly). The other reason for our visit to Lanzarote is the convenience of travelling from Exeter airport, it is only a 4-hour flight so you can travel door to door - Plymouth to Lanzarote in just over 6 hours!
Firstly let's mention our home for the week - Casa Margerita - pictured below left - has been lovingly restored by ex-pats John and Jacky Kennedy. The finca is named after the previous occupant, Margerita who lived in the house for many years with her husband Juan. The finca features three bedrooms (2 en suite) situated around a traditional courtyard, it also features a tropical garden with a large heated swimming pool. It was missing a pole and despite my attempts the wooden posts around the gardens were simply not adequate so I have had a much-needed break from the pole. I think most of my energy was used up in the practice of eating and drinking.
We used our hire car extensively throughout the week soaking up much of Manriques work across the island. Our first visit was to Jameos del Agua, an amazing underwater cave formed over 3000 years ago. The underwater lagoon has its own unique species of blind albino crabs as well as many great photo opportunities. Our next sight was Mirador El Rio - pictured below right - the most northerly point of the island. This spot is not suitable for anyone who is scared of heights although if you are scared of heights you would not manage to overcome the twisting, death defying roads needed to get you to the El Rio. The Miraodor El Rio, like jameos del Agua is another Manrique creation and it demonstrates his ability to work in harmony with nature.
Our last Manrique hotspot was the essential attraction that is Timanfaya (Firemountain), this huge volcano is still active and all the food cooked in the restaurant is cooked from the heat of the volcano, Timanfaya is situated within the national park so is highly protected. The entrance fee of 8 euros includes a coach trip around the volcano, again a warning that if you don't like heights then you won't enjoy Timanfaya!
If you are visiting Lanzarote then any of the Manrique spots are a must do with Timanfaya being perhaps the most essential visit. One word of caution - don't bother eating at any of these places as the food is pretty poor, opt instead for any of the fantastic local restaurants dotted around every village. One of my favourites was Casa Ramon in Caleta de Famara where we enjoyed the 5 fish platter- pictured below- a mouth watering grill featuring 5 freshly caught fish accompanied by Canarian boiled potatoes and the essential mojo sauce. There are more good fish restaurants in the picturesque village of El Golfo, I recommend walking / driving a few minutes past the main car park in El Golfo and trying the smaller restaurants rather than the two main restaurants that you first see on your arrival in the village. Whilst in El Golfo it is worth visiting the green lake - pictured below- formed from the collapse of one of the islands many volcanoes.
Another tip for getting the most out of Lanzarote is to get a hire car, ours cost only £60 for the week and as fuel is cheap on the island it is a very cost effective way of getting around. We found out that coach trips from Puerto del Carmen can cost up to 100 euros whereas if you visit by car the entrance fee is only £8 euros, the coach trip may include a meal but it is still an expensive option.
If you really want to enjoy the island then make the effort to learn a few words of Spanish, most of the islanders have some English vocab but I think it is polite to try to speak the islanders language whilst you are there as you will be looked after so much better. Just simple words such as please and thank you and of course the essential phrase - dos cerveza por favor (2 beers please). Also worth noting are the Spanish words for cold and hot - Calor or Caliente means hot so when you use the letter C on a tap don't expect it to mean cold! Another phrase worth learning is 'con leche' meaning with milk, as most coffee is served black.
Perhaps the fish of the week must have been in the lofty village of Femmes (more dodgy roads if you want to eat here!). Femmes is a sleepy little village with a restaurant overlooking the south coast, the restaurant doesn't look that inviting but trust me the food was amazing and there was even a village cat to entertain you whilst you eat.
As Lanzarote provides the perfect environment for cacti and succulents take advantage of the opportunity to buy lots of aloe vera based products. I treated myself to some aloe vera lip balm and soap both of which are lovely.
Regular readers of my blog will have read my rantings on the ridiculous refuse collection the UK seems to be adopting so how refreshing it was to re-live the Mediterranean way of getting rid of your rubbish. During the week my husband and I made only two trips to the local refuse collection points, it is within walking distance of the house and can be used as often or as little as you like, so the day you cook fresh fish you can get rid of any remains quickly and easily without waiting for the swarm of flies and ants to move into your bin. This way of getting rid of rubbish suits all, even the oldest occupant of the island seems to be able to manage to carry a carrier bag sized bin to their communal bin and of course each refuse collection point also features an array of recycling bins so that you can effectively dispose of your rubbish. I didn't see one overflowing bin or any litter - take note Plymouth!!
My final meal of the holiday was eaten at the capital of Areccife and was a Canarian speciality of black spaghetti with garlic and king prawns - trust me it is absolutely delicious. I know most people haven't been convinced by the picture below but the proof is in the eating:
I could carry on writing all day but I am sure that I have bombarded you with enough smugness for the whole week. To summarise Lanzarote is a great island getaway which I can highly recommend to anyone, it is renowned for its surfing, para gliding, hang gliding and cycling so can be a great activity hotspot if you like a little more action. If, like me, you prefer the ultimate relaxation then go and simply enjoy the weather and the food! I am now feeling completely revitalised and ready to take on the world so be warned!