Christmas in the Canary Islands – Day 6

December 30, 2009

After being on the island of Tenerife for five days, we finally had the opportunity to see more than just our hotel. Today we went on a Teide and Island Tour. It was another early morning as we had to meet the bus at 8:10am. After the late night, it was difficult to stay awake on the bus as we traveled around to different hotels to pick up more people. The worst part was sitting at one hotel for 30 minutes waiting for someone that never showed up. It also didn’t help that our tour guide was not as interesting to listen to as our guide on the La Gomera tour. Her explanations were rather monotone. She would talk in English first and then go on in Italian and Spanish. I wish she had been as interesting to listen to as she dressed!

Another sign that this tour was not quite the same quality as the other one was the fact we had stopped for coffee twice before we stopped for our first photo opportunity. The main reason we took the tour was to see Mt. Teide, the dormant volcano in the center of Tenerife, and the national park surrounding it. We were disappointed that the bus only stopped once in the national park.

After leaving the park and stopping for coffee again, we drove to Puerto de La Cruz on the north side of the island. Here we had about two hours of free time to eat lunch and explore a little. The tour guide led us to a buffet and told us it was one of the cheapest places to eat in the area, but we quickly dismissed it and went to look for another restaurant. We found La Casona right along the city square where we sat at an outside table and enjoyed the food and the people watching. After lunch we had some time to walk to the seafront before meeting the bus.

Our next and last stop was in the town of Candelaria to see the Black Virgin Madonna, patron of the Canary Islands. From there we headed back to the hotels in Las Americas. Brandon and I both took naps on the way back, but I don’t think we missed anything.

We just relaxed the rest of the evening, enjoying dinner at the buffet and some time on our computers. Overall, the day was a lovely way to spend our third anniversary.

To view more photos from today, visit my Picasa Web Album.


Christmas in the Canary Islands – Day 5

December 29, 2009

Today began much like yesterday. We got up, ate breakfast, and were picked up around 8:30am by Geoff. However, we knew what to expect this morning, so I was not so anxious. We got to the dive shop and set up our equipment. Today, only Keith, Stuart, and Laura would be diving with us and Kerry would be our leader again.

This third and final dive was at “The Mushrooms,” where the underwater lava formations looked like mushrooms. (I’m beginning to discover that the names of dive locations are not very creative!) The third dive was a charm for me, because I was finally able to relax and enjoy myself under the water. Keith was supposed to stay with Brandon and me around a depth of 20 meters while the others went to 30 meters. However, we ended up around 30 meters also for a very short time while we were exploring some of the rocks. We saw some fish, but nothing too unique. The 30 minutes underwater went very quickly and I only used about half of my oxygen.

Here are some stats from our three dives:

#1 “The Steps”

  • Water temp: 20°C
  • Visibility: 20-30 meters
  • Depth: 20 meters
  • Time: 30 minutes (Erika); 45 minutes (Brandon)

#2 “Yellow Mountain”

  • Water temp: 21.6°C
  • Visibility: 20 meters
  • Depth: 25.2 meters
  • Time: 40 minutes (Erika); 50 minutes (Brandon)

#3 “The Mushrooms”

  • Water temp: 22°C
  • Visibility: 15 meters
  • Depth: 30 meters
  • Time: 30 minutes (both!)

After that last dive, Kerry took us back to the dive shop. The others were going on a second dive in the afternoon. I think the next time we go SCUBA diving, I may be willing to do two full days of diving, but I was happy to end our experience this time on such a positive note.

Geoff drove us back to our hotel where we cleaned up and ate lunch before relaxing by the pool for the rest of the afternoon. I think we both took a much-needed nap in the sun.

That evening we ate dinner at the buffet and checked our email briefly before heading out for some entertainment, Airam, a musical by Carmen Mota. This flamenco-inspired production was at the Pirámide de Arona, about a 10-minute walk from our hotel. I was excited to see the show, but Brandon was quite tired and not as enthusiastic.

The first part featured the entire company performing pieces with elements of flamenco and contemporary dance with fancy costumes and lighting. I loved the costumes and particularly liked the dances with castanets. The second part was the story of María, a 1940s flamenco dancer struggling to survive in a man’s world. From the brochure, “As the result of a misunderstanding, María becomes Airam and succeeds in making her dreams come true. However, the deep love she feels for a famous bullfighter makes her have second thoughts about her success. Will love win out or will she choose her passion for dance instead?” The story line was inspired by the Broadway musical, Victor Victoria.

The experience at this musical made Brandon and I feel very old! First, the seats had really high backs, so we were worried we wouldn’t see anything on the stage. They gave the children booster seats, and we thought we might need to request some ourselves. Luckily, a small child sat in front of Brandon, so our view was not obstructed at all. Second, the music was really loud! There was a combination of live and recorded music and it was all too loud, especially the singers who sang in a flamenco style. Third, it was really late! The show didn’t start until 9pm and lasted three hours! It didn’t help that the 20-minute intermission stretched to almost 35 minutes. After the day and a half of diving, we were exhausted and not ready to sit in a theater until midnight. We agreed that the show should have started at 7pm or only the second part was necessary. Needless to say, we quickly walked back to the hotel afterwards to call it a night.

Christmas in the Canary Islands – Day 4

December 28, 2009

This was our first dive day. We were picked up outside our hotel at 8:30am by Geoff, the owner of Atlantic Divers, and taken to the dive shop. There we were given wet suits and set up our equipment. There were six other people that were also going on our first dive in addition to Geoff and his daughter, Kerry: a lady from England who was diving with a guy from Holland, Keith and Stuart from the UK, a young girl named Laura who was working on her qualifications, and Coco, who was from the Netherlands. After we had everything ready, we headed to the marina and transferred everything to the dive boat.

Our first dive was at “The Steps.” This dive was a bit rough for both of us. I was really nervous since our last dive was back in July 2007. Then, I found out we were to enter the water by falling backwards off the side of the boat. I had never done this before, so that didn’t help my comfort level. I got in the water, but it took me quite a while to relax enough to go down. Thankfully, Kerry went down with me and kept a close eye on me during the dive. I don’t remember much from that 30 minute dive besides trying to relax, breathe normally, and follow Kerri. I do remember swimming through some Grunt fish, which was kind of fun. However, my time at the surface and irregular breathing depleted my tank pretty quickly. Kerry had to take me up to the surface before everyone else due to my lack of oxygen. I was happy to be back in the boat! Brandon should have come up with me, because about 10 minutes later he completely ran out of oxygen and had to use Kerry’s octopus (spare regulator) to ascend. He swears the gauge was malfunctioning.

We ate lunch at a café right at the marina. It was ok. We both ordered cheeseburgers, but this café obviously didn’t have access to good corn-fed beef! After lunch it was time for our second dive. I was determined to do better. This time we went to a spot called “Yellow Mountain.” I wasn’t as freaked out about the water entry and managed to get down under ok. I managed to stay under for 40 minutes this time; however, I still had to come up before everyone else because my air ran low, even with a bigger air tank! Brandon did better, too, and came up with the rest of the group. There was a cuttlefish in a cave that some of the group was able to see. We tried to see it, but we weren’t able to get a really good look at it.

After the second dive, it was time to head in for the day. We took the equipment back to the dive shop and Geoff drove us back to our hotel. We were very tired from the day’s adventure, so we went to bed pretty early to rest up for the next morning underwater.

Christmas in the Canary Islands – Day 3

December 27, 2009

Today was our lazy day and it was wonderful! We slept in, but made it to breakfast before it ended at 10am. We spent the rest of the morning laying by the pool and sunning ourselves. Brandon enjoyed the free beer and I sampled some of the included cocktails. For lunch, we ate inside at the buffet. Afterwards, we decided to explore the ocean area outside the hotel. We walked down the promenade and came back along the beach, which is quite rocky. We sat by the pool again after our walk, but by this time our chairs were more in the shade. We decided to call it a day and went back to our room to get ready for dinner at the buffet. Each night the buffet has a different theme. Tonight was international cuisine. Yesterday was Spanish, and the remainder of the week will be Mexican, Italian, and Oriental. After dinner, we tried listening to the piano duo, but the music was just too cheesy for us. We spent some time checking our email in the lobby before ending this relaxing, lazy day.

Christmas in the Canary Islands – Day 2

December 26, 2009

On our second day in the Canary Islands, we took an excursion from the island of Tenerife to the island of La Gomera. The tour bus picked us up outside the hotel at 7:40am and proceeded to take us to the Armas Ferry. I have ridden ferries before, but this one was not a pleasant experience. The waves made the ferry rock violently and I started to fear that I might lose my breakfast! Thankfully, I was able to fall asleep and woke up as we pulled into the harbor at San Sebastian. We got back on our bus and began our adventure exploring La Gomera.

La Gomera only has about 18,000 inhabitants and has not been commercialized like some of the other Canary Islands. This is primarily due to its inhospitable terrain. There are many deep ravines that were formed when a volcano erupted on the island thousands of years ago. The only way to farm the land is to build terraces, which dominate the landscape. We were surprised to learn that they grew corn and other grains on those tiny terraces; however, many lay unused now as more young people move to the more commercialized islands to find employment. The remaining Gomerans are like a large extended family. They even leave the keys in the door when they aren’t home!

The vegetation on the island was fascinating. Near the coast, it was very desert-like with cacti and stone roses. Later, we saw canary palm, mango, avocado, and banana trees. Finally, we saw 5-meter high dandelions in the Parque Nacional de Garajonay, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This laurisilva forest consists of laurel and heather trees. Usually, it is quite misty, but we had a clear day to view the trees.

Another “ah-mazing” sight was the Roque de Agando, which is hardened magna in the chimney of a volcano that has since eroded away.

We were able to taste some of the local food and drink. We started with Gomerón, a mixture of palm honey and grappa. It was super sweet and I could only take a few sips, so Brandon finished the rest. For lunch, we stopped at a restaurant in Agula where we were served a potato soup made from a native potato. The rest of the meal was beef, rice, and mixed vegetables. There was an orange sauce at the table that we were encouraged to use on everything, and it was quite good. Otherwise, the food did not have a lot of flavor. We also purchased a bottle of wine and a jar of almogrote cheese spread made of cheese, peppers, olive oil and garlic that we will sample when we get home.

Finally, we were able to experience the whistling language that the inhabitants of La Gomera have used to communicate across the deep ravines since Roman times. Of course, this tradition is also in danger of being lost with the ease of modern communication, but it is now taught in the local schools. You can listen to it here. We ran into this man who happens to teach the whistling language. He is saying, “Welcome to La Gomera.”

That summarizes our excursion to La Gomera. The ferry ride back to Tenerife was much calmer and uneventful. The whole day was a wonderful experience. If you want to see more pictures, you can view my Picasa Web Album.

Christmas in the Canary Islands – Day 1

December 25, 2009

On Christmas morning, we got up bright and early (OK. Maybe not so bright, but definitely early!) to catch our flight from Nürnberg to Tenerife South. Christmas morning is really a great time to travel. There was no traffic on the autobahn, no line to check the luggage, and no line at security. Without our normal waiting times, we ended up waiting at the gate for over an hour to board the plane. Once we got in the air, it took only five hours to exchange the cold, dark winter of Germany for the warm, sunny weather of the Canary Islands.

We spent the first day getting settled into our room at the H10 Las Palmeras and exploring the hotel. We are staying on the 8th floor and have a gorgeous view of the ocean from our balcony. We are staying “all-inclusive,” so our meals and drinks are already paid for. We also got to enjoy the Christmas Gala Dinner that night. It was a little strange eating buffet-style at a Gala Dinner, but all of the food was delicious. We enjoyed pork, veal, and even King Prawns. While it wasn’t the same as spending Christmas Day with family, it was certainly memorable!

To see more pictures visit my Picasa Web Album.