My first impression of Lanzarote was that people seemed very friendly. A taxi driver, seeing us looking lost as we emerged from the terminal directed us to the kiosk where we needed to pick up our transfer. The Scottish woman working there was super helpful, telling us about the island and what to see, obviously a little in love with it herself. An unfamiliar vista of volcanic mountains, black soil and strange contorted larva mounds beside the roads sped by outside the window of our transfer taxi. The hotel, designed by César Manrique, was beautiful. Best of all there is free wifi, ok so it doesn’t seem to be the speediest or most reliable but the price is good.
We took a little walk to get acclimatised to the twenty seven degree heat and our surroundings. The scenery is stark in comparison to England’s verdant hills and verges but it has a beauty to it, black or red soil dotted with fat trunked, stubby palms and globular spiny cacti, square white buildings and everywhere black volcanic rock. Walls, paths, sculptures all carved from blocks of grey black porous stone. I guess you build with what you have available and on a volcanic island that means igneous rock.
The sun was getting low in the sky as we walked up the hill past little supermarkets, shops and bars, low cloud hid it from view but the clouds were haloed with bright light and beams spread out across the blue sky like something in a painting. Snap, snap, snap went my phone. Strange papery petals in brilliant cerise on the bourganvillia outside the hotel were blowing about so much I had trouble taking a photo. In actual fact the papery petals are not petals at all, but bracts of leaves, the flowers are the tiny white frilled circles in the centre that look like stamens.
A pre dinner walk along the shore outside the hotel gave me even more beautiful snaps of the sunbeams radiating from a golden cloud turning the waves breaking on the greyish sand to liquid gold. Breathtaking stuff. Then there are the huge black boulders, worn smooth by the waves framing a gold flecked sea and the white buildings of Costa Teguise spread out before us. There will probably be walks along this shore and lounging on this beach tomorrow.
Hunger took us into the hotel restaurant for dinner. Our half board meals are buffet style with a banquet of fresh salads, meat and fish cooked to order, pastas and fresh sauces not to mention the array of fruits and ice creams. With good food like this every day I’m hoping for a nice healthy holiday and not too much extra poundage at the end of it. Mind you the tiramisu ice cream probably doesn’t count as healthy but still, it’s been a long day, with not much in the way of food at all and I am on holiday!
Part of being on holiday is relaxing and the next day was a chill out day. After breakfast we wandered round the pool looking for some sun beds that hadn’t already been nabbed by the early morning towel brigade. Luckily, as it’s out of season and the hotel is by no means full, we managed to find two beds in a quiet corner by a little pool with tinkling fountains and a fringe of umbrella plants. We set out our blue towels and Commando settled down to sunbathe.
Being blonde I’m not quite as big on the sunbathing, although I don’t mind a little as long as I’m slathered in sun cream, so I chose the bed slightly shaded by a tall palm. There were some canopies and comfy chairs nearby too. At first I couldn’t settle and, looking around, I noticed a little archway and wondered where it led so I got up to explore. I found a small labyrinth of narrow alleys bounded by brown black stone walls some toilets and changing rooms, which was handy, and a small courtyard with palms, bougainvillea, banana plants and an old wooden cart decorated with bright red and pink geraniums, delightful. Crossing the courtyard I came out into a games area dominated by a giant chessboard.
Retracing my steps I decided to have a little walk along the beach that we’d seen the night we arrived. In front of the hotel the beach is a mass of huge igneous boulders, black, ochre and deep red, where tiny pools have formed. The sand along the shoreline is black and gritty as I knew it would be but, further up the beach, it changes to pale gold, flecked with black as if someone has sprinkled it with pepper. Across the bay I could see the marina where Commando went running last night. He said it was filled with little shops and restaurants.
After picking up the obligatory interesting stone or two for my stone jar at home I wandered back towards the hotel. Grand Melia Salinas was designed by none other than César Manrique, the first hotel in Costa Teguise, the little town grew up around it. Having seen his house I now understand the concept, inside the huge atrium is made up of three circular gardens, just like larva bubbles, filled with tropical plants climbing their way up towards the skylights. The gardens are wound through with paths, pools, little bridges and running water just begging to be explored. There will be photos at some point I promise. Outside the gardens are also wound through with paths and bridges, tall palms and tropical plants. Strolling through the outside gardens I stopped to take pictures of the hibiscus, some tiny pink starbursts of flowers growing on low succulents beside the paths and some unidentified orange trumpets on a small shrub.
Now, the sun is high in the sky, it’s shortly after midday and I’m getting too hot, so we’re going to leave our blue hotel towels Commando’s magazine and my Lanzarote guide on our sun beds and go off in search of food. I’ll be back later.
Commando wanted to explore the little marina and I must admit I liked the sound of that, so we made ourselves decent, and set off along the beach, sandals in hands. The soft golden sand was hot underfoot so we moved a little closer to the sea where the sand was damp, firm and, most importantly, cool. The beach was filled with people on sun beds, paddling in the sea, playing beach games and generally enjoying a beautiful sunny October day. Within less than a mile we’d reached the marina where lots of small boats seemed to be milling about rather aimlessly.
At first it was all Irish Bars and English pubs, full to overflowing with English tourists, which is really not our thing at all. We strolled to the end of the marina at a leisurely pace, making note of all the different eateries, on the lookout for something local or at least not British, glancing at all the tat filled souvenir emporia as we went. Personally, I prefer my souvenirs a little more tasteful, preferably locally crafted, not something with ‘made in china’ stamped on the bottom, then again, maybe I’m just a snob.
Eventually, having come full circle, taken some photos of the wooden windmill right on the edge of the water along the promenade, a pretty orange hibiscus to add to my collection and some curious wooden poles, splashed with orange and ochre paint we were back where we began. After a quick stop to take a photo of a fairly large catamaran bobbing about in the bay, we began to look around for somewhere to have coffee and maybe something to eat.
Bypassing the heaving British establishments once again and, slightly reluctantly, the frozen yogurt shop (maybe tomorrow) we settled on Nud d’Naplun, an Italian place. Not local but at least the coffee would be good and it looked so pretty with white and blue painted tables and pretty coloured napkins wrapped around the knives and forks and tied with purple string. There were little galvanised pots of herbs on each table.
The place was empty and we were served quickly by an Italian surfer dude type, pleasantly chatty and eager to please. We ordered a small margarita pizza to share and two coffees. Sipping our coffee, dubbed ‘the best I’ve had in Lanzarote’ by Commando we sat back and watched through the window as our pizza was made. I saw the chef knead the dough with my own eyes and the resulting pizza was delicious. I’m pretty sure they had cloned my iPod because every song was one I have on it, Jason Mraz, Adele…
Surfer dude came out to chat with us for a while when we asked for, ‘la cuenta por favor.’ It seemed such a shame that a wonderful little place like this should be so deserted but he assured me it was busy at night. He came from Milan and we talked for a bit about the unemployment problem in both Italy and England, especially for young men. I guess his solution was to come and live in Lanzarote.
After a wander back along the beach with a last, regretful look at the frozen yogurt shop, we spent the afternoon toasting ourselves beside the pool again. I confess I got a little pink around the edges despite the liberal application of sun cream but, thankfully the hotel shower gel and body lotion both contain aloe vera and now it’s time to go down to dinner the pink has turned a light golden brown.
Sunday is meant to be a day of rest so, on Sunday morning, we put our blue towels on some likely looking sun beds on the way to breakfast. When in Rome… or, in this case, when in Lanzarote, do as the Germans do. We found a nice spot with a view over the pool, a little bridge, sunlight sparkling on the ripples and the pond behind us with trickling water. Heavenly.
Once breakfast was over there was the tricky job of finding a garage and filling the car up with petrol so cheap it made Commando gasp. While Commando handed over the keys to the smiley little Avis man, I wandered in the atrium garden where I found Monstera Deliciousa fruiting. Once upon a time I had one as a house plant, it grew so tall I had to cut the top off because it reached the ceiling and the aerial roots had an annoying habit of reaching out to cling to the walls. It never even thought about flowering or fruiting. Amazing what warm sun will do. I promise I’ll give you a tour of the hotel atrium eventually, just not today Ok?
Despite feeling slightly under exercised and over fed after lazing around yesterday, this is a holiday and the sun bed calls. We did make it down to the marina yesterday and had a coffee in Nud d’Naplun. While we were there we sampled the delights of the frozen yogurt shop next door. I’m not sure if the yogurt was low fat or not and the toppings most certainly were not but it served as lunch so I guess it doesn’t matter too much.
Today has been another day of lazing in the main, we did walk down to the marina again and then on past it to the next bay where there are shallow rock pools of impossibly turquoise blue water that I imagine are as warm as bath water. On the way back we spotted a larva bubble right on the water’s edge but we didn’t dare try climbing over the jagged rocks to get a closer look. Stupidly, we did all this at midday, when the sun is at it’s hottest, like the proverbial mad dogs and Englishmen.
About a mile and a half from the spot we finally conceded defeat and turned back there is a shipwreck. We saw it on our drive from the airport and, although it isn’t a glorious wooden galleon, just a rusty old wreck, and although we have enough rusty old wrecks on Southampton water, I’d thought it might be nice to take some photos. In the guide book it says you can go diving there, not that I planned on doing that of course, but turquoise water makes even the rustiest, least exciting wreck look interesting.
Now, after an relaxing, if interesting day, Commando and I sat outside the hotel bar chilling and watching the sun go down. Holidays are the only time we get to just sit, drinking coffee and watching the sunset so we made the most of it. It’s a beautiful setting, looking out over the pools and the gardens towards the sea and it feels like all is well with the world.