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My top 10 highlights from Gran Canaria

Jenny and I went to Gran Canaria in October this year. It was our first time there and we loved it. I came back slightly confused. It was the first time I had a really strong feeling of belonging in a place I have never been to before. There were so many highlights that I put together a ranking.

Thanks to my dearest Jenny for editing 🙂

10 – The view from the cathedral tower in Las Palmas

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Plaza de Santa Ana from Santa Ana Cathedral

We decided to do the touristy stuff on day one. So we left in good time to go to Las Palmas. Jenny had put together a list of interesting things to see and David, our satnav, guided us safely through the traffic the guidebook describes as „chaotic“. After we had left the motorway and driven into the city we took the first car park we could find and realised we were exactly where we wanted to be.

So we started our tour through the market hall and part of the old town of Las Palmas. I had completely different expectations and remember that I was quite disappointed.

When we reached the cathedral we decided to take the elevator up the tower. The elevator actually takes you up to a platform connecting the two towers, where you get stunning views over the sea, the city and the hills surrounding it on the west side.

It was the view of the hills that struck me. I looked at the colourful houses and completely breathed in the warmth and the feeling of being free. I lost myself in the imagination of living up there looking down over the city. I felt like a part of the place already. I took several pictures just to capture this feeling and take it with me. It was the first time I thought that Gran Canaria could seriously be a place for me to live. It was a moment that surprised me. I have seen so many wonderful and impressive places but I never had the feeling of belonging. Over the next two weeks this feeling would return several times and become stronger and stronger.

9 – Two bottles in the El Roque restaurant

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El Roque

It was the day of the hiking tour in Santa Lucia (see #8). When we returned to our apartment we had a nap and then decided to have our dinner in the local Italian restaurant, which is run by the partner of our host. The restaurant Locanda El Roque is just a three-minute walk from the house and offers a spectacular dinner experience. The place is set at the end of a high rock just above the breaking waves of the Atlantic. When it is still light you can see the waves coming in and breaking below you. When it gets dark you still hear the majestic roar of the ocean. Fantastic.

The owner of the restaurant had seen us before and remembered who we were. We received a friendly welcome and had a very well-deserved dinner. It was a proper reward for the day’s exertions. So we sat there in our comfy chairs with soft cushions around us keeping us warm. After we had paid for the marvellous dinner the owner came out again carrying two big bottles and two glasses. Both bottles were half full. „Grappa“, he said putting down the chilled bottle, and „passion fruit“, as he introduced the other one. Then he gave each of us a glass and left. We both understood quite well that it was a sign of trust that we wouldn’t simply empty both bottles and leave (since it was free). We each enjoyed a delicious glass of that generous hospitality before strolling back to our apartment. I had never experienced such a thing before.

8 – A Coca-Cola in Santa Lucia

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Hiking path

You think a Coke is not worth mentioning? It is when you get it where we got it.

It started out as a normal hiking tour. We had chosen a red labelled tour from the guide which was supposed to be medium difficulty. The sun was shining down on us nicely and we managed to find the starting point in Santa Lucia. We were quite confident even though we managed to miss the right path twice in the first ten minutes. But then we were on track until….

At some point the description says something we must have misunderstood. For more than 30 minutes we walked down a narrow path between cacti and many other huge plants. When we had a break and a quick GPS check we figured we’d gone north but should have gone south. So we turned around and walked all the way back, found the right path and continued. Another 30 minutes later we got stuck in a huge area of bamboo three metres high. The description said there was a path through it but we couldn’t find it and fought our way through the bamboo. By that time the sun had reached its highest point and was burning down on us. We had a rest in the shady dry bed of a stream and walked on. Feeling like explorers conquering new ground we somehow escaped the bamboo and found that we were not so far away from the route we were meant to be on.

To get back on it we had to overcome a steep climb and follow a stone path further up. The description said that we would see a finca at some point. We looked around and saw it way above our heads. So we took another exhausting climb in the burning sun. But that was just half the way.

The trail flattened out but offered us no shade whatsoever. We drank a lot of water and tried to get on as quickly as we could. We passed a small village but didn’t meet a single soul. Then we turned onto a steep road downwards. That was more tiring than you would expect. At the end of that road we had to walk up another, even steeper one, which almost took the rest of our energy. We took a break at almost every turn. By this time we had little water left although we knew we still had to walk for at least another hour. We carried on upwards and reached a fork in the road. Our book told us to turn right, but after looking at the map we decided to turn left and take a shorter route back to Santa Lucia. By chance, it was exactly the right decision. Just a couple of minutes later we happened upon a small café where the owner was having a siesta. Luckily he didn’t mind being woken up, so we had a chance to sit in the shade, drink ice-cold Coca-Cola and fill up our drinking bottles with fresh water. After that we walked on for almost another 90 minutes in the hot sun. But that break, and that Coke, revived us so much that we were able to carry on in much better spirits.

The guidebook said the tour should take no more than 4 hours. After exactly 6 hours we arrived back in Santa Lucia where we had started the tour. All we bought in the local supermarket was another Coca-Cola and an ice cream each. We sat on a bench in the shade, had a cold drink and recovered from a tiring but memorable day.

Two tired hikers

Two tired hikers

A few days later we learned that the day of our hike had been exceptionally hot all over the island and the hottest day of the entire year so far.

7 – Hacienda del Buen Suceso

When we tried to decide on a place for dinner one evening Jenny remembered a place she had read about in one of the guidebooks. It looked quite close on the map and the description sounded clear enough to find it even in the dark. So we set off and asked David for instructions. He took us right up to a marvellous place.

When we arrived we parked the car in a big car park close to a huge banana plantation. I love wild bananas 🙂 We followed the signs („for guests only“) to the hacienda. Jenny had read that it had been completely restored by the current owner and turned into a five-star hotel.

Although we both like interesting hotels, we were more interested in the restaurant. The waiter greeted us warmly, offered us a nice table and gave us the menu. We both had some very good food and wine, and then decided to have a quick look around the grounds. It was an extremely pleasant, cosy place. Everything was well-kept and clean. There were comfy chairs and recliners everywhere. The bulding itself looked fantastic from the outside and we tried to imagine what the inside would look like. We found an outdoor pool and jacuzzis. Although it was already late and dark, people were sitting outside having drinks. The entire arrangement reminded us of the *erandah in the Forest we once went to in Matheran, India. We thought it must be the perfect place to stretch out and do nothing but relax. What a lovely place to stay, and definitely one to consider when we come back one day.

6 – Acusa Seca: clouds and caves

The plan was exciting. When we checked AirBnb for nice locations to stay on Gran Canaria we found a cave house. What do you think a cave house looks like? I had no idea. The pictures on the website looked promising, the description sounded very exciting and the reviews were very positive. So we went for it and booked it.

Since the owner lives on Teneriffe she told us that a man would meet us at the only petrol station in Artenara, and that he would give us the keys and tell us how to find the cave. When we arrived there we saw a car waiting and a person got out of it when we pulled over. It turned out to be the promised messenger and he handed us the keys. He then explained, in rapid Spanish, where we had to go. All I got was „3 kilometers, left, 3 kilometers, left“. It turned out that the description was good enough to take us via some very interesting roads to a car park. After a short walk we found „our“ cave.

It would take too much time to explain all the details of the location but it was fantastic. The only sound you would normally hear during the day was a single bell of a sheep or goat somewhere over in the hills a few kilometers away. The patio in front of the cave offered us lots of space to sit outside and enjoy the sun. It is probably one of the most relaxing places I have ever been to.

On three days we had quite cloudy skies. It was an amazing view when the clouds moved into the valley below us and covered the top of the hills around us. I took some time-lapse videos with my camera which made the slow motion of the clouds clearly visible. The clouds made the mountain scene around us even more spectacular. Luckily we always had sunny weather when we decided to go for hikes. So we could just enjoy the dramatic cloudy skies from our cave.

5 – The GC-300 and GC-30

Does 30 kilometers sound like a short distance to you? To me it did. But on Gan Canaria I found out that there are places in the world where it can take you 90 minutes to drive that distance, even with no traffic jams.

As soon as you leave the motorway that runs along two-thirds of Gran Canaria’s coast, you get into a very hilly environment. The roads become winding and driving becomes a challenge for both your arms and your tummy. A 50-metre straight section of road makes your heart rejoice. Because overtaking is almost impossible, the slowest car on the road sets the pace for everybody.

I enjoy these roads when there’s no traffic. There is a racer in every man. And pushing your little red car up and down the hills through narrow turns and steep climbs makes you feel like a real driver. However, the passenger next to you might not feel the same. So it is always a compromise between the driver’s passion and the passenger’s tummy. When we left our apartment on the north coast we headed straight south into the mountains. I was prepared for some intense driving.

Yet the first part turned out to be a real driver’s paradise. The GC-300 and the GC-30 were quite wide, the turns not too sharp and the road surfaces was immaculate. And the views were simply stunning. I didn’t feel stressed at all. When we finally left the GC-30 I thought I would definitely go back and try the road once more. I didn’t make it after all but I now have a perfect reason to go back.
People of Top Gear: You’re looking for the perfect road? Try the GC-30.

4 – The Samsara restaurant

Food is always a good part when Jenny and I go on holidays. We like to try local food and we are open to adventures. When we met Luis (see #1) and Roberto they suggested a restaurant west of the Maspalomas dunes. Luis said it was quite difficult to make reservations there since it was a popular place, but luckily for us he was successful. The Samsara is described as an Asian restaurant, but I think any attempt to clearly tag it will not do it justice. It doesn’t fit into any category I’d ever experienced before.

We were early when we arrived at the place and sat down in the lounge area to have a drink. In the lounge you can choose between sofas and armchairs and even a recliner with space for some 6 people. When we sat down I felt like I was in a different world and could hardly believe I would ever want to get up again. The staff were very attentive and wonderfully friendly. Once our table was ready no one urged us to get up and go there straightaway. It was left to us how long we wanted to stay in the lounge.

When we went inside to sit at our table a friendly waiter introduced himself as our host for the night and presented the menu. Luis and Roberto told us that this place is not just about the food, but especially about the presentation. That was absolutely true. The food was marvellous, but the way they presented it on the plates and served it made it even better. Without giving away any secrets, you definitely have to order dessert to get the full impression of what this place is about.

The Samsara is wonderfully eclectic. The interior is a mix of all kinds of statues and objects from all over the different regions and cultures of Asia. It adds to the adventure of a delicious and long dinner at this place.

3 – The waves at Punta de Sardina

Although we could see the sea and the breaking of the waves from our apartment we wanted more. We had heard that there was an even more spectacular view in the north-west of the island. They said there was a lighthouse and we would have some stunning views from there. So off we went to Sardina.

It is hard to describe what we found. Imagine you leave a nice, smallish village behind you and drive through a rocky desert for some minutes. The roads are poor and there is not a single house or person to be seen. Suddenly the road surface seems brand-new and there are roads and roundabouts everywhere, but not a single house. It looked like they had planned to build a complete town for tourists and started with the roads. Just when they were about to build houses they ran out of money. Just one apartment complex was all we could find.

The road took us to the lighthouse as we had been told. We parked the car and walked towards the sea. What we found was a really special place with the most powerful waves crashing against the rocks. The noise of the waves signals their power and makes you sit quietly and listen. We just watched the waves come and go. We didn’t say a word for quite some time. What an amazing place.

2 – The restaurant El Rinconcito in San Felipe

On day three of our stay Jenny and I decided to make a brave move out of our fantastic apartment we had booked via AirBnb on the north coast. The area where we were staying didn’t feel touristy at all and we both enjoyed that a lot. On the evening of day three we walked westwards up the coast to explore the village of San Felipe. The village is basically an arrangement of nice and less nice houses along the main road. A real highlight is the promenade at the end of the village, complete with exercise equipment for anyone to use.

We decided to have dinner there. Spanish people take their dinner a lot later when we Germans do. Our dinner time starts around 7pm, theirs around 9pm. That is no issue in the tourist places where everybody knows that people will be early. So we were quite happy that this remote village also offered a restaurant that was already open when we needed it.

The interior was quite basic and we were greeted by the chef, who came out of the kitchen and quickly signalled that it was open and we should take a seat. Since they didn’t have a menu he explained what he’d like to cook for us and we both chose the grilled tuna with potatoes. It turned out to be the best tuna I’d ever had. It was such a different way of preparing the fish and together with the typical papas arrugadas and mojo sauce it was fantastic.

The place became a lot busier after 8:30pm. No tourists, just locals. A waiter arrived and our chef retired to the kitchen. A very satisfying dinner in more ways than one.

1 – Meeting Luis Suarez

Jenny, Luis and in in the sand dunes of Maspalomas

Jenny, Luis and in in the sand dunes of Maspalomas

Luis and I used to be colleagues until he left the company earlier this year. We „met“ almost five years ago and did several projects together, especially education projects about the philosophy and strategies of social business. But we’d never met in person. All our work together we did remotely, using the social business tools we educated our colleagues about.

When Luis left the company it was clear to me that I wanted to find a way to finally meet him. Because he lives on Gran Canaria, the island was an obvious idea for a destination when Jenny and I planned our holidays earlier this year.

I had seen this guy so often on pictures and in videos that I had no problems recognising him when we met in the lobby of the Riu Palace hotel in Playa del Inglés. His voice sounded familiar too, as I had heard it many times in education sessions and telephone conferences. It was great to finally shake hands with the person who had always been a role model and even a mentor for me.

We spent a fantastic evening together with our partners out having dinner and decided to have another one the following week. We talked a lot and didn’t notice how the time flew. When we finally said our goodbyes it was clear that we’d met not only two very special people but also made two good new friends.

It is so good to know that they will always be only ten minutes away.

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