Friday, April 13, 2012

Articles written by members of the writing group

Jackie has chosen to write about some of the quieter routes and beauty spots on the island:

My first visit to Lanzarote was almost 30 years ago,and I must admit my
initial impressions were not very favourable, it seemed as if I had come to a huge ash tray. After two or three days my opinions gradually changed as I warmed to the considerable charms of the island. Now of course things are very different, the bungalows which lined the “strip” have been replaced by multi-national bars, restaurants and shops.

Tourists who say there is nothing to do should hire a car and explore this beautiful island of contrasts, Lanzarote doesn’t stop at Pto. Del Carmen.

Travel south along the Playa Blanca road, take the left hand turn to Femes, a winding road up the side of a volcano to this lovely hamlet. The 18th century church in the heart of the hamlet is flanked by a very tranquil square, to be able to sit and be at peace with the world is a far cry from the usual hustle and bustle of the towns and cities. A few yards away is the lookout point, from here the views are breath taking - down across the valley to Playa Blanca and Fuerteventura beyond.

Back down to the main road, skirting the cactus lined villages of Uga and Yaiza,a visit to the villages is worth while, pop into one of the local watering holes, you won’t be disappointed.

Leaving the main road take the turning to the Timanfaya National Park, the Timanfaya Devil guarding the entrance. This is a very different island, fields of lava seem to stretch into infinity,the fabulous colours of the volcanoes, some literally with their tops blown off, looking as if a gigantic being had taken a bite out of them. I still get a shudder as I look at this awesome landscape, if you are lucky enough to see all this at sunset it is truly magical. There is a camel park where if you wish you can take a camel ride up a well trodden path, not I believe for the faint hearted. About a half mile further on is another park where cars and buses can travel to the summit where a restaurant sits the meals cooked by courtesy of the heat of the volcano, who said all the volcanoes were dormant?

Taking the road now to the heart of the island , passing through the little sleepy villages of Tinajo La Vegeta and Tao, see the farmers working the fields, some still using donkeys to help with their labours, not the noisy mechanical devices of the 21st century for them.
The Monumento al Campesino at San Bartolome is a monument erected to the dedication, tenacity and ingenuity of these farmers and their ancestors, they were able to cultivate and work the land after the devastation left by the 18th century eruptions which covered their once lush and fertile land in this region of the island.

Our next stop and the last for today, is Famara, a long road cutting down to our left off the road to Teguise. Although I love all Lanzarote this has to be my favourite. On the right side the high, dark, forbidding cliffs seem to dominate everything around until you look straight ahead at the ocean, the white foam spraying metres into the air, the small island of La Graciosa nestling in the middle of this startling, churning sea. At the end of the road is a junction, the track to the right takes you to a settlement of semi - circular Norwegian bungalows, and below the wide expanse of Playa de Famara, a beautiful golden beach, home to sun bathers, children, dogs and surfers, the latter, surf boards of every description, kite surfing, wind surfing, boogie boarding, you name it there is a board for it. La Caleta de Famara village is found by taking the road to the left at the junction. Drive onto the sandy track and park. This is akin to a “spaghetti western”, Clint Eastwood at any moment should appear on his horse . The promenade along the sea front is great, a lovely walk, and you can still see the local fishermen cleaning their day's catch in one of the many rock pools, the seagulls hovering nearby. At the end of the promenade a small lagoon and sandy beach waits, perfect for children and adults to paddle or swim. Heading back to Clint Eastwood country, I think maybe a drink, tapas or meal at one of the small bars, the food is excellent I can taste it now. I always thought of my native Yorkshire particularly the moors and dales as being “God’s Country” but I think this runs a close second, so sit and relax for a couple of hours, take in the wonderful scenery before heading back to your hotel/ apartment think about your day and where you would next like to visit - Lanzarote is full of surprises.

For the visitors who like to shop, a mini guide to some of the markets to be found all over Lanzarote.

Shopping (UK's most popular leisure activity!)
I admit to having been amazed when, several years ago, a poll discovered that shopping was Britain's most popular leisure activity. As I had never even considered it as 'leisure' I found it hard to believe. Since then however, I have witnessed the enormous numbers of people milling around in the Trafford Centre in Manchester (10,000 car parking spaces and they are still queueing to get off the motorway slip-road!) and friends who are regular cruisers tell me of passengers who disembark in foreign ports on Sundays and return to the ship grumbling because, 'The shops were shut, there was nothing to do.' So, I guess it must be true.
I have met tourists on Lanzarote who ask, 'Where are the shops?' and I suspect some of them at least are looking for Marks and Sparks, as they are usually in Costa Teguise or Puerto del Carmen at the time and the tourist shops are not exactly hidden away! I have pointed them towards the Biosfera and Deiland, which are the nearest things we have to a shopping mall, and told them about Arrecife, where there are some lovely shops (remember to avoid siesta time as most shops in Arrecife still close). But my most successful recommendations have been the markets.
It seems, if there are no large department stores or retail parks then the best remedy for those in need of retail therapy is a market, and let's face it, if you have come to Lanzarote on holiday you probably like the sunshine and fresh air so an outdoor market should fit the bill.
The largest market on the island is the Sunday market in Teguise. The whole town is closed to traffic and stalls fill the cobbled streets and squares with an abundance of wares and a delightful atmosphere. You will find quite a few bargains if you are looking for gifts and souvenirs and it is worth having a go at bartering as you may well be able to negotiate a discount. There is always pan-pipe music in the square by the church and usually a display of Canarian dancing and singing, donkey rides, outdoor snack stalls and don't forget the traditional bars and the normal shops, which you will find open as well. Teguise, the old capital in the centre of the island, is well worth a visit for its architecture and history, quaint narrow streets and shops and bars, on any day of the week but the Sunday market is a must for the first-time tourist. It finishes at 2pm so book a coach, take a taxi or just get on the local bus before 11 am or you will not have time to see it all!
There is an evening market in Costa Teguise on Fridays, in Pueblo Marinero from 6pm till 10pm. Much smaller and featuring several artisan stalls the square has a delightful ambience and the stalls are surrounded by a varied selection of bars and restaurants; Spanish, Italian, Mexican, English, French, Indian and Chinese spring immediately to mind, in the square itself or within 100 meters.
On Saturdays there is a plethora of markets; in Haria, the town where Cesar Manrique is buried, 9am till 2.30pm in the Plaza. Also in Arrecife, in Plaza Iglesia de San Gines, 9am till 2pm. Uga has a traditional market, 10am till 2pm and you might be able to fit in two if you continue south to Playa Blanca where the market is held in the delightful Marina Rubicon on Saturdays and also on Wednesdays. There are some very attractive shops in the marina area too. La Recova Market is in Plaza Anfiteatro El Pavon in Tias is10am till 2pm on Saturdays and there is a second hand/souvenir market at the same time in Playa Honda.
If you fancy something quieter, low key and more traditional on Sunday morning, the little Farmers' Market in Mancha Blanca offers really fresh local produce at excellent prices and on Tuesday and Friday mornings there is an artisans' market in Puerto Calero.
And, if all that shopping makes you tired and thirsty, you will never be far from a cafe/bar. Enjoy.

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