This is my original blog – all my blogs  since I started in 2009 - are here including those from The Ale Archive – all the beers I’ve sampled at home and on our travels since 2012.
 
Since 2012 most of our travel has involved a caravan. I now have a specific caravanning blog called (Get Your) Legs Down which not only documents all our trips but includes product reviews, site listings, storage locations, mobile service engineers and much more. It too is on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

A Canarian carry on

Yep, it's that time of year again. With the busy pre and post Xmas rush of parcels, parcels and yet more parcels over and done with for another year we are back in dear old Gran Canaria for some winter sun and fun. However, this year it is slightly different.

You may remember that last year, whilst in Ibiza, I told you of the passing of our dear friend Roy, aged just fifty. Well, we are here this time, as guests of Roy's parents; Arnold and Rosemarie to celebrate Roy's life, and to scatter his ashes at sea. Roy loved diving specifically, but water and this little part of the world more generally, and late last year the idea was hatched. And when I say we, there are nine of us here altogether. Roy's brother Alan is here too along with friends and former colleagues; Tanya, Cerianne, Dorothy and Gee, all courtesy of Arnold & Rosemarie. Roy had many more friends and family of course and this blog is being written for them too.

Monday 14th February

An early start, with the minibus making it's first pick up at 05:30, but, hey, I can deal with an early start when we're flying off somewhere nice and warm! It's coming back when it can be a pig but thankfully that won’t apply this time.

I had the honour of 'carrying' Roy for the first part of the journey and, with the usual passport and security formalities completed we parked ourselves in Wetherspoons and ordered breakfast. I have to say at this point that, as much as I love a full English breakfast, it was really set off by the pint of London Pride that accompanied it. I should add at this point that the holiday that Arnold & Rosemarie have arranged is 'all inclusive'
which could be a good or bad thing considering my love for the amber nectar, the red grape, and just about anything else with alcohol in it!

We gathered for a group photo outside the boozer which hopefully is attached, or below, depending on whether you are reading the email or blog version of this incomprehensible drivel!

The flight itself was pretty uneventful, though delayed by about an hour or so. Food, chat, several short naps, and some music helped the four hours or so pass reasonably quickly.

We were to be staying in Maspalomas, just south of the more well known Playa Del Ingles on the south of the Island and about a 35 minute drive from the airport about midway up on the east coast. Formalities were completed at the complex reception, and indeed they seemed more complex than necessary.
However, it wasn't long before bags were dumped, jeans discarded and replaced with shorts that the gang reconvened at one of the pool bars for an inaugural holiday drink or three. Beer on offer was San Miguel, which, attentive readers will know is not my most favourite of Spanish beers generally, but given the location, company, the fact that it was ice cold and I didn't have to pay for it made it seem rather tasty. Funny that.

We allowed ourselves at least half an hour to freshen up before we met up again for a pre-dinner drink at the bar next to the restaurant. It was well after eight when we eventually made it to the restaurant. There was plenty on offer, food that is, and what I had, which was a bit of nearly everything tasted good enough, but given the liquid consumption prior to dinner, a more in depth appraisal was not possible.

We adjourned back to the bar after dinner, the general consensus being that just 'one for the road' was required before an early night. Someone, (me, I
think) mentioned brandy and several of the gathered ensemble agreed to partake. Arnold & Rosemarie did the sensible thing and retired soon after.
The rest of us stayed and it is for this period of time that events are a little hard to accurately recollect.

Doubts were cast on the apparent strength of the aforementioned brandy (mainly by me) but those who had partaken agreed to another sample. And another. Anyone who has been to Spain or any of it's dependencies knows that generally, speaking spirit measures are quite generous. Getting the picture yet?

Tanya and Trevor have something of a love/hate relationship akin to that of an old married couple and trade mostly playful insults whenever they meet.
On this occasion however, things got more er, physical but only to the extent of an arm wrestle or two. Trevor came out on top, but as you will read, Tanya was to get her revenge.

It was soon after this that the gang dispersed, slightly giddily and roughly in the direction of their accommodation.....

Tuesday 15th Feb

A rather sluggish start to the day, unsurprisingly, but I resorted to the usual cure of a huge, cholesterol, salt and sugar laden fry up washed down with a gallon of black coffee to bring back some semblance of humanity.

Today was to be a planning day. As mentioned before Roy's ashes were to be scattered at sea so we were to take a bus trip round to Puerto Rico to secure the use of a boat. Finding a bus that actually went were we wanted to go proved to be a little to challenging however, so we trooped back to the reception and ordered a couple of taxis.

It's not that far round to Rico and about 20 minutes and about the same amount of Euros later we were deposited by the beach. From there it was only a short walk round to the harbour side where we hoped to organise our boat.

Early enquiries were far from promising however, this side of the harbour tended to have the bigger boats that offered dolphin watching trips and so on. Attentive readers may remember my recollections - in my blog from Mogan last year - about the time we were here with Roy and got bloody frozen - and didn't see nose or arse of a sodding dolphin either. Anyway, it was suggested that we ask at the other side of the harbour as there were smaller operators there that may be more suitable for our needs.

We ambled back to the corner of the harbour and whilst some availed themselves of the facilities the rest of us admired the 'Big Red' jet boat that was moored in the corner. The hatch at the back was open and it's two huge engines gleamed proudly. We thought what fun it would be to take Roy out in it and imagined him laughing away as we all hung on for dear life. We went over to have a chat with the operator. Satisfaction soon turned to disappointment however when we told him of our plans. He was sympathetic but unable to help because apparently official permission was required to scatter ashes and wasn't prepared to risk it. He did however point us to another operator by the name of Mick who ran fishing trips, suggesting that he may be able to help, so off we trudged.

Mick was indeed helpful, his empathy made all the more understandable when he explained that he too had lost his son, here on Gran Canaria, in a road accident some ten years ago. He understood exactly what was required, a fee was agreed and things were arranged for Wednesday afternoon. Happy and somewhat relieved that we now had concrete plans, we adjourned to one of the harbour side bars for some much needed refreshment.

The weather was set fair, in fact just a few degrees from perfect so we decided to jump on one of the ferries and head around the coast to Puerto Mogan. It took about fifty minutes, 20 minutes longer than usual as this particular departure did a wide sweep in the hope of seeing some dolphins.
Once again, we didn't. We had a nice afternoon snack in Mogan in one of the eateries overlooking the marina. We had already decided to return here tomorrow after the event for an evening meal and a restaurant was tentatively selected. We strolled around the marina  by the waters edge - you can smell the money here and those boat owners that were actually aboard their vessels appeared all to have taken a course in smugness! Gits!

Buses back to Maspalomas were few and far between so jumped on one instead to Play del Ingles. Once there we paused to allow the Ingles 'virgins' to see the infamous Yumbo Centre. From here we split up. The healthier ones decided to walk back to the resort, whilst the rest of us jumped in a cab.

The evenings frolics were more restrained, maybe thanks to the night before but probably more in contemplation of the day ahead. We went for after dinner walk across to the other side of the complex. An air hockey table was discovered and Trev challenged Tanya to a game. He promptly got his backside whipped, figuratively speaking anyway, as Tanya thrashed him 7-2! A Final drink back at the bar then a relatively early night was had by all.

Wednesday 16th

A very special day and one that I don't think any of us will forget.

The morning was free and some chose to spend it by the pool making the most of the continuing fabulous weather. We met for lunch then gathered in reception where taxis were ordered. We arrived in Puerto Rico in plenty of time, formalities were completed with Mick who steered us in the direction of his girlfriends bar for some Dutch courage and some moments of quiet contemplation - well as quiet as things get with Trev around anyway!

Shortly before 3pm we headed back over to the harbour to board the boat. The twin hulled Barakuda Dos was designed (and operated) primarily as a sport fishing boat but was the perfect size for the nine of us. All the fishing paraphenalia had been cleared away and the boat was immaculate. Mick had provided a fridge full of beer, soft drinks and complementary champagne for the occasion. At 3pm, the captain fired up the engines and he eased out of the harbour. The boat had an upper deck , allowing Rosemarie, Arnold and Alan some moments on their own.

At about 3.45pm we were above the wreck of an old boat called the Bluebird, a popular spot for divers and one that Roy would no doubt have loved. The deckhand lowered the anchor and the captain killed the engines, noted down the coordinates and passed the details to Arnold.

Arnold & Rosemarie had some words to read out that I readily agreed to do.

The gate at the back of the boat was opened and Alan loosened the lid of the casket and placed it in the water. The ashes started to seep out as I read:

            The people stood silently on the shore to bid their loved one farewell,
            sadly they watched as the little boat sailed towards the horizon,
            carrying it's precious cargo, they waved their final tearful goodbyes.
            Someone says "There he goes, there he goes.... he is gone".
            Gone where? Gone from our sight, that is all. In our memories he is just the same
            as when we knew him, the loss of sight is in us not in him.
            The little boat disappears from view. Ahead in the distance, land appears, others
            are gathering to greet the one they have waited so long for, their excitement rises
            as the little boat approaches and someone says "Here he comes, here he comes...
            He is here. Where Roy is now, all is well.

As the ashes began to sink to the bottom we opened the champagne and had a toast, a toast to a wonderful Son, Brother and friend.

After a while the captain restarted the engines, and we headed inland, to the lovely resort of Puerto Mogan. It was a quiet journey, everyone appearing to be lost in the own thoughts. Even Trev's jaw remained uncharacteristically still.

The captain deposited us at the end of the harbour and we strolled round checking out restaurants and grabbing a look and a brochure at a lovely hotel with it's own pool overlooking the little bay. Rosemarie and Arnold expressed an interest in returning here some day and this place looked ideal.

The restaurant we chose was the 'Mozart', right on the quayside overlooking the boats and yachts gently bobbing about in the harbour. The hostess (and owner) was Austrian (hence the name of the restaurant!) and she made us feel very welcome. We sat in no particular order but Trev was at the head of the table (well, well) with Dorothy to his left. The owner, obviously not aware of the various relationships within the group enquired if they were man and wife. Much spluttering of beer and raucous laughter followed. But there seemed to be a pattern emerging. On our arrival in Puerto Rico earlier on we had got separated and Trevor was walking along with Tanya and Cerianne. A Dutch tourist information bod approached them with some maps and the promise of free entry into a draw to win something or other. He said to Trev that, if he won, he could take his wife and daughter, pointing to Tanya & Cerianne. Well, withering is a probably a good word to describe the look that Tanya gave the guy. His expression suggested that he was aware that he had single handedley regressed Anglo-Dutch relations by about a century. It was difficult to know who was more horrified. Him, for realising he had caused such offence, Tanya for being considered old enough to be Ceriannes Mum, Cerianne for being Tanya's daughter, or both of them for being related to Trevor! The guy put his hand on Tanya's arm to console her and only made matters worse. The withering looks were accompanied by some verbal encouragement. Fortunately he had the good sense to remove it. Quickly.

Anyway, back at the restaurant. The food was delicious. Most people stuck to beer or their usual poison, but Arnold was keen to have some wine and I was only too happy to share with him. The deserts, crepes being a popular choice were delicious. By the time the complimentary liqueurs came I think everyone was well and truly stuffed. It was a great feast and very generously provided by Arnold & Rosemarie.  Taxis were summoned and we headed back to the complex;

Both Trev and Alan had brought their golf clubs and early start the next day was somewhat reluctantly agreed upon. Me and Arnold would join them to drive the buggies.

A couple of drinks in the bar brought a close to what had been a very special day.

Thursday 17th

It's not often that I use an alarm clock when on holiday but this morning was one of them. At 7.30am the four of us met up, a little bleary eyed in reception and ordered a taxi. The sun was still rising and it was a little chilly but the clearness of the sky suggested another terrific day. The taxi pulled up and we jumped in, the taxi pulled away, turned a corner and stopped. We hadn't realised just how close the golf club was - no wonder the driver looked a little grumpy! Sheepishly, we paid him and headed through the entrance and towards the clubhouse.

It was already a hive of activity around the club shop despite the early hour and some of the sprinklers were still running. The woman on reception looked at us as if we were mad when we said that we hadn't pre booked, then gave us a slot in just 10 minutes time. In truth we wouldn't have minded waiting a little longer as we had left the complex too early to have breakfast but weren't gonna turn it down. We climbed into our respective buggies and trundled the short distance to the first tee. Trev & Alan had been paired with a German couple who were already taking practice swings on the tee. The woman looked terrified at the thought of all these men, but was quite friendly and done the introductions. Her name was Eva and she had a reasonable grasp of English. I forget the name of the husband but he was a miserable bugger and didn't say a word. Needless to say none us could speak a word of German. Trev voiced his observation that it was England against Germany again, Alan looked on somewhat aghast until Trev clarified the matter - he was talking about football not the war! At least that was what he said anyway!

Now, the non golfers amongst you will be mightily relieved to learn that I'm not gonna recount every hole and mumble on about chips, fades and topping it and all that nonsense. I will some up by saying that, had it been a competition, Alan would have gone home with the trophy, the grumpy German would have came second and Eva and Trev last. However, had there been a trophy for losing the most balls Trev would have scooped it. It was good fun though, a fabulous well kept course and everyone seemed to enjoy it. We adjourned to the clubhouse for a very tasty burger - burgers were by now becoming a regular feature in our daily cuisine - and a pint or two - ditto.

We walked back to the complex, and grabbed a beer by the pool. The rest of the afternoon was spent chilling out. The gang reconvened as usual at 7.00pm for a couple of drinks before heading over to the buffet restaurant for dinner There was quite a choice but Trevor was of the opinion (when isn't he of an opinion) that the offerings had started to become a bit repetitive. Judging by some of the looks at the diner table, several people thought that of his conversation too! Appetites well and truly sated we headed back to the bar for a couple of nightcaps before a relatively early night.

Friday 18th

Friday is market day in Puerto Mogan and a always a massive tourist draw. So shortly after breakfast seven of us trooped out of the complex and along to the bus stop. The bus arrived fairly soon after the time suggested on the timetable and we climbed on. Now, a word of advice here. When you get on a bus in Gran Canaria, sit down quickly. The drivers tend to have something of a Michael Schumacher-esque complex. Consequently, if you don't sit down quickly, the motion of the bus will do it for you. I was the last of the gang to board and scrambled wildly down the aisle to the only remaining seats at the back of the bus as the driver launched the bus full throttle round a roundabout. It was more luck than judgement that my backside made contact with roughly the right part of the seat although rather more quickly than was comfortable. Luckily it was well padded. And so was the seat!

About 45 terrifying minutes later the bus lurched to a stop at it's destination and we disembarked somewhat gratefully.

As I said, Mogan market is a huge draw but we were early enough to avoid the worst of the crowds. We split up and headed in the same direction. The market stretches from the main square to  about three quarters of the way along the harbour wall and into the area behind the beach promenade too. It sells a variety of things from genuine Canarian - or at least Spanish artefacts such as leather goods (though not the sort that interest me) to the usual range of fake designer tat and electronic gear from dear old China. We come away with some ceramic house numbers - last of the big spenders eh!

Various purchases completed we reconvened for the by now obligatory lunchtime burger. Bizarrely, they only had six hamburgers left. Surprising considering everyone on Gran Canaria knows how busy Mogan gets on a Friday. I accepted the alternative which was chicken, but to be honest it wasn't great. Clearly the chicken had gone on a hunger strike before it had had its neck wrung. It was widely acknowledged that this wasn't the best meal of the holiday, and we blamed Trevor accordingly!

The bus ride back to Maspolomas was thankfully a little more sedate. We dispersed to our various accommodations.

Tonight was to be our 'big night out', so after the usual dinner we gathered in reception and summoned taxis. Our destination was the next door resort of Playa Del Ingles and the infamous Yumbo Centre.

The Yumbo is, basically a multi level concrete jungle. By day, and early evening an array of shops ply their trade, all desperate to part sun burnt tourist from their Euros. As day turns to night and the bars open the Yumbo transforms and soon the bars are full with young and old, gay and straight enjoying (or enduring, depending on your point of view) the offered entertainment - which generally means drag shows. As the clock moves on the more 'adult' bars on one of the upper levels open and the families start to drift away. By the early morning the clientele is almost exclusively gay. Bottles are emptied, barrels are drained, and pills are popped by some as the music thumps it's way to dawn.

Anyway, we had a walk around and happened upon a small bar in one corner. It was just before eleven, early by Yumbo standards but already fairly busy. When I say happened upon, in reality we were almost frogmarched in. One of the bars hawkers accosted Trevor with the promise of free drinks so in we went. The deal was actually, buy one, get one free, the catch being that they serve both at the same time, so you feel obliged to knock it back before it gets warm. Well I do anyway!

No visit to the Yumbo would be complete without doing a drag show, so we headed across to Ricky's; a large bar in the corner where drag queens of all shapes and sizes were accosting startled passers by in readiness for the next show. We filed in, plonked our backsides down and ordered the drinks.

Now it's fair to say that drag shows are not my thing. Ok, if they look good, can sing and by funny without picking on anyone in the audience then ok. Sadly this lot couldn't do any of that. They mimed most of they way through and weren't really very funny - none of that caustic wit that you would expect. Having said that, this bar has been here almost as long as the Yumbo itself (so have some of the drag queens, by the looks of them - and some of the clientele!) and still packs em in, so they must be doing something right.

All dragged out, we went for a walk, eager to show some of the others delights of the Yumbo. We happened across the first floor balcony where you will find bars with names such as 'Prison', Cruise, XL and Block. You get the idea. Many of these were only just opening up.

All Yumbo'd out we headed across the road to a little Irish bar (one of many in Ingles) for a couple of late ones, then it was time for taxis and back to the complex which was, by this late hour deserted.

Saturday 19th

Given the lateness of the hour at which most got to bed last night it was agreed to do our own thing for breakfast. However most surfaced at more or less the usual time. Lots of black coffee and another plateful help compensate for the excesses of the previous night.

It is late afternoon again when the gang meet up, this time to troop to the nearby golf course and it's driving range to hit a few balls. Quite a few of the gang had never done it before so it was entertaining in more ways than one! Rosemarie threw down the gauntlet to me and Trev and challenged us to a game on the local pitch and put when we get home.

Being British of course, tea is never far from our minds so after a while we filed over to the clubs restaurant for some much needed tannic acid. Obviously tea would be too wet on it's own so we all ordered cake as well. I went for chocolate and hungrily bit into my slice as soon as it arrived. And that was the end of that. The cake was full of nuts. Within seconds my body was starting to react. Nausea and a pounding heart were the first symptoms and I immediately ran back to the complex for my adrenalin pen which I quickly stabbed into my thigh. The next few hours were not pleasant. Severe itching, nausea and a face that looked as if I'd overdone the Botox. My throat had swollen to so I couldn't eat and hardly drink (it must have been serious!). However, I've been here before, though thankfully not recently, and know what happens and by midnight most of the reactions had disappeared. I have to say that the care and sympathy dispensed by Trev was invaluable. He spent most of the evening with the others in the bar and the peace and quiet in the room was wonderful!

Sunday 20th

Bloody exhausted but breakfast helps considerably. We reconvene mid morning for the inter gang pool tournament. Tanya & Cerianne played first with Cerianne coming out victorious. Next up was Rosemarie and Arnold, Rosemarie taking the spoils. Alan beat Gee, then I beat Trev thanks to him very kindly burying the back early on. An audience of mostly kids had gathered to watch the action and after the first round some sustenance was called for (it was over an hour since we'd eaten after all!). I grabbed a load of ice creams from the pool bar freezer and Trev dished them out, including to the watching kids. Clearly they'd not had the lesson about taking gifts from strange men!

Anyway, Dorothy had a bye because of the odd number and I played her in the next round knocking in the black. Alan beat Cerianne with Rosemarie having this rounds bye. Alan then played Dorothy and won though to the final despite getting little support from his mother Rosemarie who was cheering for his opponent!

Rosemarie played Alan in the final coming out victorious. We would have presented a trophy if we had one. But we didn't!

An afternoon at leisure, then we gathered at 7.00pm in reception for our final dinner. We were going to the Barbados Restaurant in Playa del Ingles. We ate here some years ago, and everyone we know who comes to Ingles always eats here at least once, and usually enjoys it. The table was booked for 8.00pm but that gave time for procuring of various duty frees over at the Yumbo. It also gave time for a pre dinner drink at a bar just along from the restaurant, the rather camp host of which appeared to be wearing an ensemble made out of curtains.

One drink later we trooped over to the restaurant. We sat at the same table as we did with Roy when we were here five years previously. Service was a little slow to begin with but the food was good - well mine was anyway and I think most of the others enjoyed theirs too.

We went back to the British bar where curtain man had added a long jacket to his get up and was now master of ceremonies for Karaoke night. I have to say that his singing was on a pair with his dress sense. Bloody awful!

Monday 21st

The end of a great holiday. I want to say thank you again to Arnold & Rosemarie for inviting us all along. Roy was a very good friend of ours and it has been great to get to know his family and other friends too.