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.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

More Mogan mumblings


Right, another quick catch up and then the news.

Thursday – spent an hour or so on the last blog after breakfast then back to the sun bed. The forecast had promised patchy cloud and some rain and both appeared shortly after I sat down, however it didn’t really matter. We had already decided to get the bus around to Playa del Ingles and do some duty free shopping – which we did. The weather improved during the afternoon however and we returned to bright sunshine.
 
Friday, and all day by the pool. We had thought about having a stroll around the market that takes place here on Fridays, but we’ve done it in the past and decided instead to make the most of the sun. I had a couple of dips in the sea too. I should have mentioned too that there are steps from the pool area, straight down into the sea and at least ten feet of water. So you go straight in, or, if you come back up the steps dry, everyone’s going to know you're a wuss! Considering the average age of the clientele here though a Stannah stair lift wouldn’t go amiss…


Saturday, ditto. Even warmer today, at last the sun feels hot rather than warm.
 
Ok, back to today. As I type the sun is out and it looks like it’s going to be a good last day here in dear old Puerto de Mogan.

We actually should have been up and about much earlier. During the week, on one of our frequent visits to Dennehy’s  bar  we got talking to a group of rowers calling themselves ‘Titan Row’. It turns out that they are here preparing to break the world record for a transatlantic crossing. One of the guys knows Carl who, as many of you will already know, was in the ‘Row 2 Recovery’ team that recently rowed from the Canaries to Barbados raising funds and providing inspiration for injured ex-servicemen.

Well. departure was set for 0700 this morning and we decided it would be great to see them off. Complications though have put off the launch for a few days. Clearly disappointing for them, but I really wasn’t relishing the prospect of getting up at silly o’clock on the last day of our holiday anyway!

Right. The news.

Europe beckons. We’re going travelling. We going to get to practice our French phrases, so meticulously learnt from ‘Only Fools & Horses’ in France, and try very hard not to mention the war in Germany. We have no particular route and no specific destinations. If they earn & spend the Euro then they are a possibility. I guess that's Greece off the list already then…….

Why? well we’ve been talking about going travelling again for a while. Many of you will know how much we loved touring Australia and New Zealand, the first visit of which I recounted in ‘Down Under Revisited’ a while back. Trev said he wants to do it before he’s ‘past it’ – his words – I merely agreed with him!

Also, I recently turned forty (ouch) which, according to all the self appointed experts that pop up on TV and in the newspapers, means the onset of a midlife crisis.

Same ‘expert’s’ will tell you that men do a number of things when this happens: have an affair (hardly likely – no one else is that daft), buy a motorbike (not for me, I’ve always preferred four wheels to two and besides, have never needed an excuse to wear leather anyway….)  and wear inappropriately tight jeans (I’ve always done that).

No, because I’m going to buy a caravan. We’ve already had a look at some and once purchased plan to see a bit of Britain as a sort of practice run. A Pikey apprenticeship if you like. A word of warning though, when any of you invite us to dinner (hint, hint), be sure to count your cutlery…

Then, market conditions permitting we will be downsizing to release the cash needed to fund the trip. We have no idea how long we will be away – six, twelve, eighteen months, it doesn't matter. We going to take our time and have fun.

The end of October is when when we plan to start, which should give us time to sort everything out. And yes, I’m afraid this is going to mean the mother of all blogs……

Until then….

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Thursday, 16 February 2012

Mumblings from Mogan


Or Puerto de Mogan to be precise. Yes, we are here back in our favourite corner of the Canaries, on the south western coast of Gran Canaria.

It is Thursday 16th Feb, and we’ve been here since Saturday so there’s a little catching up to do but there’s one thing to mention first.
It was a year ago today that our dear friend Roy finally came to rest as his ashes were scattered in the waters just off the coast here. Still thinking of you Roy and still miss you.

Right, back to Saturday. We had to leave the apartment by 1030. I was still sending the blog and emails as the knock came at the door right on the dot. Minutes later, with emails sent and blog posted we said our goodbyes and left.

It was certainly a great place to stay – fabulous views, a great location and for a family of four or even six, excellent value. It rates as number two in our list of favourite accommodations – Mark & John’s place – where we stayed at Calahonda last year - still tops it. (I’ve no shame, anything in the hope of a discount – only kidding guys, but we will be seeing you again at some point)

On the way to the airport we stopped at the holiday resort of Puerto del Carmen – much bigger than where we had stayed, many more shops and restaurants although the offerings varied little. We stopped at ‘Ye Olde Spanish Pub’ for a full English – you get the idea.

We was at the airport far too early, at the smaller terminal too which was very quiet. The good people at Binter Canarias – the local airline - allowed us to check our bags in early. We sat down and waited for our flight.

After about three days our flight was called. It didn’t take long to board and the process was far more relaxed. There was only about forty of us on the little seventy-two seater. The plane was comfortable with leather reclining seats – easyjet take note!

The flight itself was smooth and uneventful, they even came around with a choccy bar and soft drink – hardly necessary for a forty-five minute flight but certainly welcome. We had toyed with taking the ferry, but it’s a long crossing and the times didn’t work for us – and there was very little in the price.

Unusually for us we’d booked a hotel in Mogan. Attentive readers will note that we normally have apartments – but I’d left the booking to late and the hotel was all that was left in the harbour area – which was where we wanted to be. We had looked at it a couple of times on previous visits though as a possibility mainly because of it’s location – and that’s where it wins. The pool and sunbathing area is at the water’s edge overlooking both the beach and out to the ocean, from the restaurant the view includes the harbour, as it does from the room. It is fair to say that it does look a little tired in places – a lick of paint here and there would not go amiss. The food has been good though – we’re doing half board (as that was all that was offered) and the offerings for both breakfast and dinner – served as a buffet – are plentiful, varied and tasty too. Our room is fine although again looks a little tired in places. And so does some of the clientele. Made up largely of Northern Europeans, though not many from Britain it is clearly popular with retirees.

Dinner the first night was good, then we had a walk around the harbour stopping for a couple of pints on the way.

The weather on the Sunday was pretty disappointing. We grabbed a couple of sun beds after breakfast and huddled up under towels waiting for the sun to come out. It did at one point but brought with it some rain. I resorted to playing with the camera and taking pictures of some crustaceans – not the other guests but some crabs on the sea wall.

By lunchtime we had given up on the sun and went for a walk. Some shopping was required. The hotel room had a fridge but no tea making facilities so our first stop was to by a kettle and a couple of mugs (yeah, I know, we already had those!) The ones in the little electronic shops scattered around were predictably over priced as was everything else they had on show. A little plastic kettle that was marked up at forty Euros was, after delicate but prolonged negotiations, purchased for twelve Euros. Quite a reduction but you could probably pick one up in Asda or Argos for less.

Better weather on Monday – in the morning anyway and at last we could sunbathe without a coat on.

Tuesday was better again. Sunbathing in the morning than a walk around and a bite to eat for lunch followed by a couple of pints. Followed by a couple of beers from the fridge. It was then that I decided that I wasn’t going to be shown up by the wrinklies, who daily were braving the cold waters of the Atlantic and swimming from the steps down from the pool area. I stripped off and dived in for a few jaw chattering minutes.

Wednesday, we took the bus up to the capital – Las Palmas. The driver was clearly in a hurry which, considering the roads around the southern resorts, is a bit worrying. At one point we actually  skidded whilst overtaking a car that itself was overtaking a cyclist. Bear in mind that there is no room for error on these roads – on one side is the mountain side and on the other is a sheer drop in to the ocean. We made it in one piece though.

Unusually Las Palmas was in sunshine, we stopped as usual for our annual visit to Spains main department store – El Corte Ingles but purchased nothing more than a couple of coffees. We strolled around for a while, taking in the terrific beach of Playa de Las Canteras before stopping for lunch at a little cafe.

The journey back was quicker and less tortuous – we got a direct bus to Puerto Rico then caught the last boat back from there to Mogan.

Right, so bang up to date. There will be just one more blog, just before we leave on Monday, then that will be it for a while. Be sure to read that for some info on what we are planning for our next trip…
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Saturday, 11 February 2012

Lanzarote Log - the end


Blimey, I can also hear the sights of relief from here! Well I don’t want to get your hopes up too much -  the relentless flow of drivel is not about to cease as tomorrow we fly over to Gran Canaria. We will be back down in Puerto de Mogan for just over a weeks relaxation and to try and and plan out  a few things – more of that later.  There may not be a blog everyday though…….

Anyway, back to now.

With just one day left, and the mercury still not climbing high enough we set off north again, right near to the top of the island to the little town of Orzola. Nothing of particular note here – more of the little ‘sugar cube’ buildings mainly, although like many places it boasts an excellent fish restaurant or two. It does however serve as a port for the regular boat service between the mainland and the little island of La Graciosa. Attentive readers will remember this from a previous blog. Having talked to someone in a restaurant the other night, we decided that we would head over there.

Lonely Planet warn that it can get very rocky on the first bit before you get around the headland – and they weren't wrong. The boat pitched and rolled quite violently at times and a few of our fellow passengers were looking distinctly uncomfortable.

Once  around the headland though it calmed considerably and it gave us a chance to marvel at dramatic coastline and the almost sheer drop from several hundred metres up.

Not half an hour later we were docking at the port town of Caleta del Sebo, one of only two real settlements on the island. There are just five volcanic peaks here, and less than 1000 permanent residents in less than 28 square kilometres of mostly barren scrub land. No buses or coaches and the only real motorised transport comes in the form of old Land Rovers. More of the little sugar cube houses fronting right on to the sandy beaches. It is like stepping back in time and absolutely delightful. There are plenty of places to stay, mostly above restaurants but there are some purpose built apartments, although nothing over two storeys. There’s a couple of internet cafes and the mobile signal is better than at our apartment! 

We paused for coffee than a little later for lunch. The owner, showing off his grasp of English proudly reeled off the various types of fish he had on the menu. We thanked him and ordered a ham sandwich and grilled chicken.

The boat ride back was no less rocky, and the boat was even smaller which made it seem even worse. The captain was working hard to avid the worst of the waves. We both thought and said the same thing – our  dear friend Roy would have loved it.

Our last supper was excellent, as have all the meals we’ve had at the restaurants here. It’s just a pity there are not more people around to generate some atmosphere.

So, all in all an enjoyable few days. The weather was a little disappointing but didn’t stop us exploring. The highlights for me were the El Golfo on the south western coast on the first day, Caleta de Famara on the other side, and finally La Graciosa. Great places to just chill out with a good book and a cold drink.

By the time you read this we will be on our way over to Gran Canaria or may have even arrived. As I said at the top, the flow of drivel will not cease but it may lessen slightly!

Until then….
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Friday, 10 February 2012

Lanzarote Log pt 5


Back in the car today for some more exploring. We headed out west to Yaiza then turned north into the ‘volcano trail’. A particular area has been designated a national park which you can drive through – for a small consideration obviously  - we paid up and drove in.The landscape is simply amazing here although similar in a way to the area that surrounds Mount Tiede in Tenerife. You get to park up at a look out point which offers some stunning (and today at least) VERY windy views across the park and out to the western coast. Evidence of the extreme temperatures still present below the surface are demonstrated by the staff. A bucket of water poured down a blow hole returns very soon after as a fierce jet of steam. Set into the rock is a ‘volcano powered’ bbq allowing you to grill your own grub – all courtesy of mother nature.

We drove out and north through Tinajo to the little village of La Santa on the north western coast. You can drive across to ‘La Isleta’, a little Islet that reminded me a little of Dungeoness in Kent. Attached, if you reading the email version is a short, very jerky video which may give you some idea of what it’s like here.

Next up was Caleta de Famara, a little further north and with a large (for Lanzarote anyway) expanse of reasonably sandy beach. Quite a delightful place with a little harbour, although seemingly almost devoid of inhabitants.  A little more exploring however found us a little cafe restaurant with a few locals and a couple of tourists imbibing. Oh yeah, there was about three dozen lycrists as well, resting from their labours and refuelling on beer, chips and nicotine. I think I could get in to this cycling thing!

We headed back through the centre – Lanzarotes’ wine region. You wont see row and rows of vines here though. Small craters are scooped out of the black lava soil where individual vines are planted. Some have low surrounding walls built of lava rock to protect the vines further from the wind. We did try a bottle of the local vino tinto on the first night but it wasn’t really to our taste. I’ll be charitable and say that we just picked the wrong one.

The sun was forcing it’s way through so we managed to grab a couple of hours on the patio. Another nice dinner at one of the bars in the marina. The food wherever we have eaten has been good, but although there are plenty of people around during the day, it’s very quiet at night.

Our last full day tomorrow, so depending on what the weather brings – the only facet of the trip that has so far been a little disappointing – we may hit the road again, or just the sun beds!

Until then…
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Thursday, 9 February 2012

Lanzarote Log pt 4


A day off today, well at least for Penelope. We decided instead to make use of the facilities that nature so thoughtfully provided for us – legs. Well, for a bit anyway.

The weather had deteriorated  another notch and the sun was nowhere to be seen so we took a stroll to the marina along the walkway that hugs the waters edge. I was going to  grab some pictures of some of the gorgeous boats tied up and bobbling away gently, but there was one in particular  I was looking out for. It had been moored over on the far side for the last couple of nights and we had admired it enviously as we sat having dinner. This was not mere millionaire money here, we are talking Murdoch/Abramovich/Oil wealth. It was massive and I was looking forward to getting some pictures of it in daylight. Predictably though, it had departed. Oh well.

There was a little ferry boat offering trips to nearby Puerto del Carmen, so we handed over our Euros and jumped on. It was quite a pleasant if chilly twenty minute ride along the coast. We got off and sauntered along the promenade stopping for some lunch.

Later, back at the apartment, the sun was making an effort to break through. There is some yachting competition going on and over a couple of beers on the patio we sat and watched the boats return, along with our missing gin palace!

At dinner later we spoke to the waitress who said that the rumour is that the owner is a Russian guy who owns one of the yachting teams. It is moored here more or less permanently, she said.

Well, a rather brief one this time. Back on the road tomorrow all being well to explore to the middle bit.
Until then……

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Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Lanzarote Log pt 3


The weather again wasn't all that great this morning – occasional glimpses of the sun but the biting northerly was keeping the temperature below sunbathing level. So after another delicious breakfast of bacon, egg, beans and toast, we coaxed Penelope in to life and pointed her north.

We bypassed the big tourist resort of Puerto del Carmen – there may be some time on Saturday before we leave so that was pencilled in for then – and stopped first at the Islands capital – Arrecife. Nothing special of note here although it does – according to my trusty ‘Lonely Planet’ - survive as a town in it’s own right without the help of tourism. We parked up briefly to have a wander around and to poke our heads in at a travel agent.

Friends of ours are staying in Tenerife and we were toying with the idea of going over to see them whilst we were in Gran Canaria next week. In fact they flew out the same day as us, but thanks to the delays didn’t get installed in their rooms until 2.00am. We got some prices and headed back to Penelope.

Next stop was the Cactus Garden further up the north eastern coast. It’s a delightful circular multi level sunken garden made of lava rock and containing over 1500 varieties of, erm cactus. The fact that it was sunken made it a great shelter from the increasing northerlies blowing across the sea, though it was no doubt designed to protect the cacti and not the tourists. It really is a wonderful place to visit though.

Next up, and further up was the green caves, although the name is slightly misleading as there is nothing green about them. It it believed that they were once owned a family called Verdes, hence the name. The caves were formed by following a volcanic eruption some 5000 years ago. The top layers cooled forming a roof  beneath which lava continued to flow until the eruption stopped. The main tunnel is about 5 miles long, much of which extends out under the sea.Only a short section – less than a mile is open but is very impressive all the same. The highlight though is the very simple but clever visual gag at the end of the tour. You won’t see it coming and as we were all sworn to secrecy I ain’t going to tell you what it is. Google will no doubt provide you with an answer though if you wish.

Continuing on, and climbing higher and higher we paused at the Mirador del Rio which promised stunning views of the little island of La Graciosa on the northern tip and a sheer 500m drop for a mere 5 euros. We walked instead  along the road to the side and got similar views for nothing.

We were now heading back south, this side was more mountainous (or should that be volcanous) and offered some spectacular views across to the east where we had driven up earlier. We stopped for a bite to eat and marvelled at the stunning views.

On the way back we passed through Teguise, another pretty little place which used to be the capital until Arrecife assumed the crown some 160 odd years ago.

So, in a couple of days that's a large part of the island covered. We may not have seen everything but it’s given us a good overview. In the next couple of days, depending on the weather we will do the middle bit and see what are supposed to be some of the most dramatic volcano ranges on the island.

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Sunday, 5 February 2012

Lanzarote Log Pt 2

Where are we? In a place called Puerto Calero on the south eastern area of the island. If there was an original settlement here it’s been swallowed up by a shiny new marina with restaurants, shops, apartments and gin palaces as well as slightly more modest vessels. Our place was located a short walk away.

You walk in to a small hallway which opens on to a large lounge diner. Off to the left is the little kitchen and a small enclosed courtyard. Full width sliding doors open onto a covered patio, stepping down from which is a larger patio and the little pool. Beyond the end of the patio is a private walkway and beyond that is the sea – it’s that close, and absolutely wonderful.

A wooden staircase takes you both up and down. Below the lounge is a bedroom with ensuite, this one is a little dark as it’s only natural light is through a skylight set into the patio. Upstairs are two further bedrooms. One at the back with a tiny balcony and the main one at the front, with a full length balcony that overlooks the pool and of course the sea. It’s heaven and honestly, the pictures on the website where I booked it do not do it justice. It’s fantastic.

Having arrived fairly late we didn’t do much on the first night – a little excursion to pick up some essentials – bread, cheese & wine – unpack, and then bed.

The weather forecast for the next morning was spot on, a bit of sun but largely cloudy with a northerly breeze. So, with morning ablutions and re-fuelling completed we fired up Penelope and headed back to the main road and south.

Lanzarote isn't very big – in fact at about 36 miles in length and only 12 miles wide you could drive around it in a day. We were going to have a look at the southern end first though.

First up was the town of Yaiza. A pleasant enough place but of little interest to tourists other than a  crossroads. We stopped first right at the southern tip – at Playa Blanca – a popular tourist resort with regular ferries making the 25 minute crossing to the northern tip of Fuerteventura and larger and better beaches.

We headed back north, stopping off at the salt pans and marvelling at the landscape. With over 300 volcanoes active at one time or another as you can imagine there is a lot of lava about. One can only imagine the noise and the heat when the volcanoes were giving off all those years ago. It makes for a very dramatic landscape. Further up was the little village of El Golfo. Largely untouched by developers it is a pleasant little place with just one hotel but a number of apparently excellent fish restaurants dotted about. Like many places here the beach is black, for obvious reasons. We headed back, dodging the large groups of German lycrists at various points on the way. Our final stop off was Playa Quemada, the next settlement just down the coast. Again, largely untouched by development, just a number of the little ‘sugar cube’ style whitewashed houses that are prevalent on Lanzarote. There was also what appeared to be a pik-, sorry, travellers site here though most of the caravans clearly hadn’t moved for a while.

A beer, snack and a dip in the pool followed, then a nice meal at one of the restaurants in the marina brought a close to a very enjoyable day.

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