Gran Canaria

Room with a view

Pretty only gets you so far.

Whitewashed walls, tumbling flowers and blue skies guarantee a nice shot but Gran Canaria has a dark side which I couldn’t avoid.

Land Ahoy

For a start, I wondered why the Spanish invaders snatched it off the original settlers, the ones who had so correctly named it Land of the Brave.

The Spanish on conquering the islands in the late 15th century, renamed it Land of the Dogs~ Las Canarias.

A quick tour around the island would show that it is a mass of volcanic rock and a pretty barren one at that. Living here would be tough unless they put good systems in place for the care and irrigation of plants.
Market Garden

Which of course, they duly did. I hadn’t seen plants grown in shade tents before. There is a swathe of shade tents behind the vans in the photo though you’ll probably just have to take my word for that.

But why go to all that effort for such a difficult piece of terrain? As the real estate agent would tell us, location, location, location.

Straddled between various trade routes from and around Africa, and later on towards the New World, merchants and traders made their fortunes here from the 15th century onwards. And even Columbus dropped into Las Palmas on his way to discover the New World.

As part of it’s dark heart, Las Canarias was also a handling centre for the slave trade, in less enlightened times. No doubt the native goanches, as they were known by the Spaniards, along with human cargo from Africa saw the Canary Islands as a place of great suffering for them.

But the Spanish brought prettiness too, in the form of their language, food, culture and architecture.

Canarian Houses

And they even managed to make the most of that volcanic rock by incorporating it into the building of their homes. You’ll see such rock scattered all along the flat roofs of houses. I am not sure why, however. A quick google suggests its for keeping the houses cool but is that right?
Lava rock

Time rolled on, and with changes in world demand for the supply of various goods, the Canary Islanders hit on hard times over the 20th century. In a theme common to us Irish, they headed off to other countries to seek their fortune, principally Venezuala and Cuba.

But the islands fortunes were to change once more. And once more because of its location.

In the 1980s, the advent of cheap flights from Europe meant more people could afford to travel abroad and were keen to explore beyond Spain’s Costa Brava. The fortunes of the Canary Islands were on the rise again.

And so too were its apartment buildings. Whole resorts were carved into the volcanic rock.
Hill Run

Puerto Rico in Gran Canaria is an example of this. There is very little here to tell you that you are on Spanish soil.

La Playa

And everything that says you’re probably from East London on your two weeks off to tan all your tatoos and drink as much beer and eat as many bacon butties as you can stomach. So the Lord Byron pub is about as poetic as it gets, and when that’s done you can head over to Fryer Tucks.

Puerto Rico

You won’t find museums and art galleries here. Or any clue about the island’s past. Instead, at the heart of the town is a mini-golf park, a very tacky shopping centre and a McDonald’s.


Oh, you’ll find the rare daft tourist willing to do hill repeats in the heat of the evening.
La Playa

But, generally speaking, the people have come here to lie. All. Day. Long. On the beach or..

Sun bathers

…beside the resort pool. Oh, and if they’re not lying there, they leave their towels on the loungers see? Just so you won’t take their spot…

But each to their own. I lay for an hour and had enough. Laying-despite my moniker-just isn’t my thing.

Hill Run

Obviously I am missing out on something. Everybody else was happy just to lay there and tan. And the Canary Islanders know there are big bucks in laying tourists and so they continue to build onwards and upwards.

I couldn’t help but wonder how the Islands are managing to cope with the water demand for both the building and the catering for the tourists, especially in such barren terrain.

Even to the point of sustaining a golf course in the middle of it all.

Golf Course

But the Canary Islands has its roots in survival at any price. Who can blame them? Surrounded by all that rock they know they are pitched between exploiting all that is there now, and having a better strategy to see them through the future.

Yes, it’s all very pretty. But at what price?

15 thoughts on “Gran Canaria

  1. I think the technical explanation to the use of rock to keep buildings cool is that the Volcanic rock is porous, foam like. The trapped air will act as insulation, in this case keeping the heat out rather than (as is the case in Britain and Ireland) the heat in.
    (Apologies for being clever clogs – nature of my work means I’m supposed to know about this type of stuff)

    • Oh, that’s good to know. Thank you! I was intrigued by all those rock covered roofs. I’m pretty sure that lava rock is the same kind of stuff we have in barbeques, right? And so, is very porous and light.

  2. Pingback: A Week of Summer | redhenrun

  3. I’ve never understood why people will pay thousands of pounds for a family summer holiday, to just sit at the side of a pool, sunbathing. I would get soooo bored with that. Same with them seeking out bacon buttes, egg and chips or pints of lager when there are delicious tapas to be found 🙂

  4. Oh me too, can’t bear lying in the sun – who wants to look orange anyway? You can’t blame the Canarians for cashing in on the holiday theme for us sun starved Brits but unhappily it encourages too many of a certain type all at once.
    My sister in law has just moved to Lanzarote. We are still trying to work out the attraction of full time living there. She however, is a beautiful shade of tangerine – with a similar skin texture too. Each to their own, I guess!
    Interesting about the history though, RH. Great post 🙂

    • Yes, I had heard of people moving to, or at least purchasing an apartment in the Canary Islands. Some folk just love that kind of climate. I have neither the skin, the body or the temperament for it. So I guess I’ll be living -and cribbing about living-in this neck of the woods for the rest of my days! Kinda happier about that though, now that I’ve been to the Canaries!

      Oh, the history bit is mainly wikipedia. I’d loved to have found out more via some other kind of research there. To my mind, it really does explain a lot about who we are.

  5. Well-observed RH – I didn’t know about the history. Gran Canaria seems very like Tenerife over the way there. Other than the weather and Mount Teide we found very little to commend it. The locals were, with very few exceptions, cold and unwelcoming. I imagine that they think all Brits are drunken, lascivious louts and it’s hard to blame them.

    • Honestly, the Brits I encountered were anything but. The men in particular are extremely attentive to their families and I didn’t see any drunks there. Not even on the boat where it was an all you can drink affair. Kinda dreaded-knowing my fellow countrymen-what that might mean, but nobody went crazy.

  6. Sun loungers and laying would be my worst nightmare as would the bacon butties and tattoes, I would rather do hill repeats and I hate hill repeats! Thank goodness we are not all the same or my hill would be crowded !

  7. I am with you on the lying. there. all. day. long. bit. Tedious. And hot. And it rankles me to see place-holding towels, too! I thought that was a selfish american tradition.

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