From the deck of the Rotterdam, off the coast of West Africa, almost midnight after a day at sea...
Adventures in the Canary Islands
Finally off the ship! Not that I mind being on the ship. I love being on the ship, but after the disaster of Morocco it was nice to feel land underfoot again. Our bus left at 9:15 for the Cesar Manrique and Canary Culture tour, a four hour tour through the eastern and north central sections of the island of Lanzarote. Our first stop was in the tiny resort town of Costa Teguise with its four and five star hotels, tiny shopping strolls and tiny apartments on the beautiful beach coast. Then we drove on up to Guatiza where the Jardín de Cactus is located. With more than 10,000 cactus, and more than 1,700 varieties, in a multi-layered bowl designed by the Lanzarote-born artist, architect and politician Cesar Manrique, the hour there was magical. We wandered through the converted amphitheater quarry completely carved from lava-stone, experiencing something we’d never known before, a garden of untouchables in an atmosphere that reeked of moonwalking. (Note: Photo of me at the entrance to the men's room at the Cactus Garden, next to an art-work by Manrique. Click to see it larger.)
From there it was on to the former home of Manrique, partially constructed in a series of underground bubbles he found in the hard lava surface of the land near the town of Tahiche. Now a museum, it contains works of art by Picasso, Miro and a host of other Spanish artists of the 20th century along with Manrique’s own painting, sculpture and murals. But it’s the house itself, left as Manrique designed it, that was fascinating. This was a man who pioneered legislation in the island to help it retain its natural look and feel, while developing it for tourism. This house, made too popular by his personal appeal, was deserted by him and converted into its present use by the Fundación César Manrique.
From here we headed north past deserted quarries, through lines of volcanos to the Tiagua and the El Patio Museo Agricola, a living agriculture museum in an 18th century farmhouse comples with three mills (one animal driven, two wind). One of the only places in the islands where grapes are grown and wine produced, we eventually were treated to a wine tasting and ended up with a lovely bottle of muscatel (2003) for our room. On our way back to the ship we had a quick look at Arrecife, the capital.
Everything here is in shades of brown, black and white with small accents in pale orange, green or blue - the only colors legally allowed. You look over the vast landscape, with the volcano hills everywhere and dots of bright white in the distance - each of them another town or settlement. If the moon were brought to earth and deposited in the ocean and inhabited, you might have a place like Lanzarote.
We watched the ship pull away from the dock and leave the port. That was fun. We strolled the deck, as we would later that night, and enjoyed the sea, even in the semi-tropical humidity. The night lights off the coast of Africa are fascinating. Not knowing the region every gleam is a mystery.
George Solomon in the show room. Who is he? He received a NY Drama Critics Award for Best Actor in the recent revival of Come Blow Your Horn. A pity it didn’t run longer. He doesn’t sing as well as he performs a song and his comedy is cute, quasi-ethnic and, like his smile, very broad and not long-lasting. The show curtain wouldn’t go up, which was the highlight of the evening, and so he performed in the audience. I think that improved his act.
On Bob’s bed tonight, a towel elephant. Very cute. Apparently our steward is really aiming for a high tip. Tomorrow Tenerife and a shore excursion that begins at 7:15, so its off to bed - early.
Tenerife - we were up early enough to see the ship in its final stages of docking, just before dawn. Breakfast in the cabin at 6:05, then off the ship by 7:05 and onto our bus. A local guide, Connie, has lived here for 37 years. She’s Dutch. I don’t know what her field is, or was, but she is an expert on the flora and fauna of this island, a fascinating place indeed. Our bus tour was a 7 and a half hour trip, getting us back to the Rotterdam just before it sailed, so we spent the entire day on this volcanic island driving and walking through, around, near and always in view of active craters. I’ve never seen anything like it. Lanzarote was black and lava driven, but the topography here is so varied it boggles the mind and unlike the previous island there are no, or almost no, level places. The world here is at an angle. Mount Teide, which dominates the southern section of Tenerife was our principal goal. At 12,950 feet high, from sea level, it is the highest mountain in all of Spain and the Spanish territories. It has been 97 years since it last erupted and its due any time now. Historically it blows every 95 to 120 years. They thought it was ready last November, a year ago, but it didn’t happen.
As we drove through and out of the main city, Santa Cruz, we immediately ascended the near hills. Traffic here is impossible. 93 out of every 100 adults has a car and drives it everywhere. Then there is the bus traffic and the rental cars. Here they identify rental cars by their tires: all black means a rental. Miguel, our driver, got us through the difficult portions of the city, and the mountains as well, with aplomb. As we proceeded through the foothills of Mount Teide - and that’s everything else on the island basically, we saw the development of the island, learned much of its history and saw how the foliage alters drastically as you reach different levels of land. We learned about water and its sources on a volcanic island. Our stops were all dynamic and photogenic. Described by writers, scientists and romantics as a paradise, sometimes as THE Paradise - Biblical, you know, it became easy to see why. There’s nothing else like it that I’ve ever seen.
Ultimately we came to the Cañadas, the third largest crater on the earth, conceived when three volcanos blew simulataneously, utterly destroying themselves and leaving this large, moonscape place in their stead. To know that as we progressed through this area that at any time any part of it could shift, alter, explode was overwhelming. The island keeps a close watch on this and all its "vital" areas so I knew we were safe, but still, it was amazing. I learned that Cecil B. DeMille filmed part of his Ten Commandments in this park. Now I have to watch the movie again!
We finally came back down to sea level and had a marvelous lunch in the western port town of Puerto de la Cruz. This day has been one I will long remember as especially special.
Dinner was silly. Dancing waiters and the ultimate chocolate dessert. About the show - let’s just say the Roumanian gentleman was pretty and played the accordion.
A day at sea. Lovely and spacious and easy. Enough sun to keep us warm and enough overcast to keep us safe. Had a wine tasting and a party to go to in the Crow’s Nest Lounge. Then the Thermal Spa to recover from it all just in time for dinner. Tonight the Indonesian waiters and crew members are doing a special show. I may have to see some of it. Otherwise how do we face them in the morning?
11/10 - 11:28PM
The show was the best so far on board. Just a great evening. No moon tonight and the sea and air are sultry as we head ssw to the Cape Verde Islands. Tomorrow Mindelo. More to come in the next few days!!