This is my original blog for all our non-caravanning trips since 2009 and more recently posts about coming to terms with being single again having been widowed in 2018. And anything else too really!

My caravanning blog is (Get Your) Legs Down and all our trips in the caravan are there. My grog blog is The Ale Archive where I list every beer I’ve ever tried.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Puerto de Mogan - Pt 2

Ah! Just when you thought it was safe to go back to your PC, I'm back with yet more illiterate drivel! But first a correction; Part two should have read Friday, not Saturday, just in case you thought you'd lost count! Anyhow, two for the price of one today so it's Sundays carryings on first:

Rejected the considerable lure of a full on Irish breakfast this morning for a bit of continental at the kitchen bar then it was up to the roof terrace to do what we came here for, namely sunbathing! Ok, there's other stuff we came to do as well but that sure as hell ain't going in no diary! Anyhow, the temperature is absolutely divine - around 24 in the mornings rising to nearly 30 late afternoon. Just perfect when you are adjusting from a cold miserable winter in the UK.

Lunchtime was upon us and a stroll around the shops as a new pair of Speedos was called for. Things were getting a bit saggy - the Speedos that is not the body, however it does seem strange as I get older that size medium seems to be getting smaller - pass the tape measure!

More rays in the afternoon then a nice evening meal at an English owned restaurant - pate, Cajun chicken and apple crumble for me, Trev done the lamb roast and treacle sponge. All finished off with coffee and brandy - very enjoyable.

More entertainment on offer this evening, this time in the little bandstand in the square on which our apartment overlooks. A German duo were doing the honours, one on the keyboards and sax, the other on flute and vocals performed a varied selection of songs making for a very pleasant atmosphere. The crowd in the restaurants below certainly enjoyed it.

On to Monday, decided to take a break from the relentless toil of sunbathing and instead head up to the capital Las Palmas for a wander around and a bit of retail therapy. We picked Lawrence up from Ingles about 10am and an hour or so later where weaving our way through the side streets trying to find that all elusive parking space. Eventually we found one and having checked that it wasn't going to break the bank we parked up and headed off to what is nearly always our first port of call; the department store that is El Cortes Ingles. Caffeine levels were restored at the café on the top then we headed down the escalators to see what was on offer. Almost immediately Trevor found what I had been looking for - a smart leather blazer - and at a reasonable price. A note to Roy here - no sign of that beautiful longer leather coat that we saw here four years ago, however I'm sure you will like this one, and will make sure you see it when we catch up on our return. Five minutes later and several Euros lighter we headed back outside where it had started raining.

Las Palmas can be like this. It can be brilliant sunshine down south yet near arctic conditions in the capital, ok maybe not quite arctic but a lot cooler and sometimes wetter! We got talking to a Canarian on the flight over - he hails from Las Palmas but now lives and works in London and said it had always been the same.

So decide to cut short our visit and headed back south, the rain vanishing at almost the same time as we crossed the city boundary!

Dinner this evening was at the bizarrely named Zoo Bar - which promised the best burger in Mogan - I can't confirm this as I've not tried 'em all (yet!) but it was very tasty - proper ground beef and all the trimmings. No room for desert tonight!

Tuesday was in diary terms pretty boring - but for us it was great. Late start, leisurely breakfast, sunbathing, snack lunch, more sunbathing, shower, shave, restaurant, food, nightcaps (several) then bed. See, told you it was boring!

Hardly watched any TV here, not that we are that bothered. There is a satellite dish on the roof but the cable has been chopped off half way down the wall. A tiny Spanish equivalent of a Freeview box is perched on top of the TV. Selecting this produces thirty plus channels of crystal clear programming - unfortunately all in Spanish (funny that) so not a lot of good to us. Selecting 'normal' TV produces just one English channel - and that’s the American version of CNN. There is some international news on though.

The entertainment vehicle of choice though without doubt has been the laptop - its has copies of all my cd's (and some LP's, yes I am that old!) and I always load on some films and TV programmes in case we get bored. Wi-Fi is a bit patchy, you can get it for free at the aforementioned Irish bar, but even more usefully, if you position the laptop at a certain angle in the window overlooking the square you can still pick up their signal. Some days it's really good and I'm getting download speeds similar to at home. Other times it's barely faster than dial-up. Mostly though its adequate for surfing the net, catching up on the news and watching the pound continue to nose dive against the Euro! More usefully it allows me to bombard you all with this rubbish!

Today was more interesting - well, we thought it was but judge for yourself. We caught the first boat of the day from Mogan harbour for a short trip along the coast to some of the other southern resorts. The sun was shining (yes, again - sorry to rub it in!) so it promised to be a good day out.

The first and only port of call, apart from the destination, was Puerto Rico. A nice enough beach where you can smell the flesh cooking, it has giant hotels and absolutely no character whatsoever. However there are boats that will take you whale and dolphin watching, which gives me the perfect opportunity to relay a tale of our visit here four years ago:

We had booked a cruise, departing from the capital Las Palmas just after new year. Roy was joining us for this one, the plan being to have a couple of days in the capital, do the cruise then head down to Playa Del Ingles for a bit of r & r before returning home. Flights and accommodation either end of the cruise was duly booked.

The cruise was then cancelled - it was a charter thing and presumably they hadn't sold enough tickets so they knocked it on the head. The airline, showing their usual contempt for the very people that keep them in business wouldn't help so were left with ten days to kill in Las Palmas. One of those was taking the fast ferry to Tenerife which was fun, another was a day trip down to Puerto Rico....

I'd given upon shorts a couple of days previously as the weather in the capital was being its usual wet and chilly miserable self. However when we were deposited at the Puerto Rico bus station I felt a bit silly. What was this strange phenomenon? Sun? Warmth? Can't be right.

Anyhow, cheered by this we decided to stroll around to the quayside and see what boat trips were on offer. Whale watching trips were in abundance and since the only whales any of us had seen where on the beach we handed over our Euros and jumped on. Now I'm not kidding you, almost immediately the boat left the confines of the harbour the sun went in, and within minutes all of us were bloody freezing.

The boat seemed to go out for miles - 'sophisticated whale spotting gear' was the tagline on the a-board at the quayside as we got on. What this meant in reality was the skipper performing a balancing act at the front of the boat peering through a pair of rusty binoculars with a fat cigar clamped between his chops. All we ever saw was a couple of dead fish and a bit of driftwood - and got bloody frozen as well!

Right, back to the present. The end of the line, so to speak was the fishing town of Arguineguin. Hardly any tourist development here but a pleasant enough place in which to stop for lunch - which we did. Pictures to follow tomorrow.

Back at Mogan, more afternoon sun was on offer which was gratefully accepted. At the time of typing it's nearing beer o'clock and the first of the day - honest. Dinner tonight is at the Irish (ish) bar from whom we rented the apartment. They are showing some football that we want to see so we could be there a while......

Yes, there's more!

Well in the end we watched three football matches simultaneously - for the record, Everton beat Chelsea, Aston Villa & Man Utd drew and Arsenal beat Liverpool. No Sky Sports here, tonight's action was courtesy of a combination of Spanish and Arabic TV channels - aint technology wonderful? Anyhow the beer was good but the food better; sausage & mash for Trev and fillet of beef stroganoff for me - delicious.

Thursday morning and for the first time since we've been here we woke to cloud. So with bellies filled we headed for the little Clio and into the valley to do some sightseeing. Mogan village was en route as was a number of idyllic settlements a world away from the tourist traps on the south coast. Our drive took us through some spectacular scenery as the road wound it's way through the mountains before delivering us to the tiny coastal town of Punta de la Aldea. Money has clearly been spent here on the promenade and surrounding areas in the hope of attracting some tourist pounds and Euros. However I'm not sure that the two dozen or so of us that were here today will make much difference - even though we probably doubled the population! Credit where it's due though, I had the best coffee of the whole trip on a little cafe overlooking the bay. The owner clearly knows his customers too - Trev went in to pay and he was shown a photo album full of said owner posing in some Mr Universe type of competition. Lots of extremely large bronzed rippling muscle, and a trophy behind the bar to show for his efforts.

We headed further up the west coast again along more mountain hugging roads affording terrific views of the sea. One minor irritation however; the dreaded white van man is at large here too. Now these roads can be tricky - they are narrow and you only protected from certain death by a skinny crash barrier and careful driving. The WVM's clearly don't like meandering tourists getting in their way and will honk, flash and tailgate you until they see the tiniest opportunity to squeeze past. Idiots, though I suppose to be fair they know the road better than we do.

Passing the town of Agaete from which the giant jet cat leaves for Tenerife several times a day then right around the top, we brushed the outskirts of Las Palmas before heading back south, stopping only in San Agustin for what turned out to be an extremely overpriced snack on the way back.

It was mid-afternoon by the time we returned. It was still cloudy so short of something to do I decided to paint my toenails! Black, obviously and with a cheap bottle of nail varnish procured I set to work. Now I quite like it although it's probably the nearest I ever get to my feminine side. Must be something to do with wanting to be a Goth when I was younger. The black leather and PVC was clearly the attraction, but I never had the hair for it and anyhow I couldn't be doing with the miserable music. My tastes were and are much different - how many Goths listen to James Brown or the Bee Gees?

This little anecdote however does give me the chance to relay another story from the past and the things we get up to when away from home.......

It was 1995 and our first trip to Australia - and my longest time away from home at the time too. We were there principally for the cricket but to do some travelling as well and in-between matches we found ourselves in Alice Springs, right in the 'Red Centre'. We had three days there and when we arrived it was raining. Even the Todd River, which runs through the centre, was flowing and this is very rare. They say that if you see it flowing twice you must be a local. The next day it rained too but our last full day presented brilliant sunshine, so with the mercury climbing to over 40 degrees we headed to the motel swimming pool. Swimming pool is perhaps not an accurate description. Bird bath would be closer to the mark, however it provided a welcome relief from the searing heat. All this jumping in and out of the pool had worked up a thirst so we ambled over to the bottle shop to buy a six pack (if only 'twere that easy to get a real six pack!). A short while latter we went for another. And Another. And Another. Then we decided I needed a haircut. My hair at the time wasn't long but a bit wavy and no amount of gel, wax or hairspray could reign it in. So Trev set to work, first with the clipper attachment on his ageing Phillishave then with a Bic and eventually I had my new look - and it weren’t bad either although it did look a little odd. We'd been in Oz for about three weeks by now and had gotten quite substantial tans - so my head looked something like a reverse fried egg! As most will know, I don't keep it quite that short now, but apart from one time a few years back when I decided to let it grow again, I've had essentially the same haircut ever since - there was no grey in them days though! Attached is the picture taken 'the morning after'!

So, back to the present. Showered, shaved and with toenails gleaming we headed out for our evening meal. Pizza was a distinct possibility this evening and we found a busy little Italian restaurant just off the square below our apartment. There were tables free on the terrace outside so we sat down. And Waited. By the door there was one of those vertical strips which displays the symbols of the types of credit card the establishment accepts. At the bottom was also the rainbow flag, the international gay symbol. So presumably you can pay with your Visa, MasterCard and homo. Interesting!

The reason for the rainbow became obvious however after, when what seemed like the next millennium had past, the owner flounces up and dramatically drops two menus on to our table. Another millennia passed and he returned to take our order and eventually we got our pizzas. They were delicious, no question but I'm not sure weather they were worth the wait. I'm not sure too whether I'd want to patronise a place where the owner seems to treat his customers with such disdain. Perhaps he should work for an airline, an easyjet uniform would have suited him!

"They think it's all over....", and it nearly is, as I'm typing this on the plane following our take off from Gran Canaria about fifteen minutes ago.

We arrived at the airport in good time, and having dumped the rental car in the designated bay we headed to the departure terminal. There was no need to look at the departure board to see we needed to check in, we just looked for the longest queue! Sure enough, right at the end of the departure hall, was a queue snaking around the corner. A glance at the screen confirmed this was for our flight, it also confirmed an as yet unspecified delay. Great!

Soon though, check-in was open and we look on longingly as those needing assistance were ushered to the front of the queue. If only HRH had come with us we wouldn't have had to wait as long. Mind you she would have needed two seats.....

Anyway, half an hour or so later we were heading to security having been advised at the desk that the delay was likely to be an hour or so due to bad weather at Gatwick.

Once past security however the screens suggested only a twenty minute delay, this was later extended to thirty five minutes - we actually took off almost exactly one hour late in the end. The captain came into the cabin to apologise for the delay advising us that it was due to shortage of pilots, not bad weather as previously advised. What honesty - and from easyjet too! He also hoped that we had coats and jumpers to hand as it would be very cold on our arrival back in the UK. Those travelling on to Kent and East Sussex (us!) would also have snow to deal with. Cheerful Git! Cue another backlog of parcels to deal with tomorrow. Just hope that the car starts.

Anyhow, winding back a bit. Not much to report on or last couple of days here. In truth it was probably time to leave anyway, the weather turned on our last full day here and the long range forecast suggests more wind and rain to come. It also appears that half term school holidays are starting as the number of kids has swelled significantly in the last few days. Still we had a great time, and got exactly what we came for; rest, relaxation and a bit of sightseeing all under a clear blue sky - most of the time anyway.

We love it here. It's the second time we have stayed and will no doubt be back, although we may try one of the other islands next year. Those looking for a holiday home here better have deep pockets - a one bedroom apartment in 'Little Venice' will cost something in the region of £200,000 - over twice the price of most places on the island. A two bedroom one, well appointed will set you back nearly half a million. All donations gratefully received!

Well that’s about it, the food trolley is making its way ever so slowly down the aisle - hopefully there will be something left by the time it gets to us! Cheers until the next time.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Puerto de Mogan - Pt 1

Yep, here we go again! More illiterate drivel designed to cure even the most severe cases of insomnia.........

The gentle dulcet tones of the 'Tellytubbies' theme tune emanating from my mobile signalled the arrival of 03:00 and the start of a long day of travel to our favourite corner of Gran Canaria, namely Puerto Mogan.

Now the thought of getting up at three in the morning may fill some with dread. However I would have happily got up even earlier if necessary as long as it meant the start of a nice long relaxing holiday. And by Christ we feel we've earned this one. Since our last jaunt (in October) we've delivered nearly 10,000 parcels, picked up about 800 returns and dropped something approaching 2000 catalogues. That's a awful lot of cheap Chinese tat that people have bought!And what with the bad weather both before and after Christmas - we're ready for this one.

Anyway, we arrived at the airport in good time and, I'm not kidding here, we were off the car park bus, through check-in and security in less than 10 minutes - fantastic.

Even at this early hour, my belly was beginning to think that my throat had been cut, so we headed to Wetherspoons for a good old fry up and a cuppa. Now one thing in particular gets to me about airports, (well lots actually but one will do for now!) everything post security or 'Airside' as it's called is supposed to be tax free - so why is everything so damn expensive. Our breakfast was twice the price that you would pay at most Wetherspoons - and don't get me started on what you have to pay for that most basic of requirements - water. Our politicians should spend more time looking after the people they are there to serve, but most of 'em seem rather more concerned with keeping their snouts well and truly buried in the trough!

There is not a great deal of choice of airline from Gatwick to Gran Canaria. Sleazy, sorry, Easyjet took over the old GB Airways route a couple of years ago. The alternatives are the likes of Thomson's or Thomas Cook which only go on certain days, or flying via Madrid which makes it longer and expensive.

Soon it was time to board - well go to the gate anyway. It is at this point, when you see the number of kids that will be on the same flight that our blood pressure starts rising. We've got nothing against kids - blimey, I even remember being one some say Trevor still is, however Easyjet may be a 'no frills' airline but I wish someone would start a 'no kids' airline. I have a feeling there would be quite a demand!

The boarding process was, well chaotic and slow. With everyone on board we eventually took off about half an hour late, giving us time to get used to some of the refinements of what appeared to be a fairly new Airbus A320, such as er, non reclining seats and well, that’s it really. We managed to grab one of the emergency exit rows though so there was a bit more leg room.

The flight was just over four hours long but felt like twice that. It was largely uneventful apart from one old soak over doing the vino tinto and making a general nuisance of himself and eventually depositing the contents of his stomach in a brown paper bag. The poor sod who had to sit next to him was having a right go at one of the flight attendants as he left the plane and I don't blame him. The guy would never have been allowed to board the plane in the condition that he left it, still Easyjet have made a few quid on the drink sales and that is obviously all that matters!

We chose to rent a car for the duration rather than muck about with buses or taxis. We planned to do a bit of sightseeing in-between the sunbathing and relaxation and the car worked out good value. Be warned though - if you get an 'all in' price off the 'net then it probably isn't. There is always some obscure insurance that seems to have been missed off the original quote! Anyhow, a short while later we were exiting the airport and heading south in, whilst not exactly shiny, a little black Renault Clio. The weather was looking good, clear blue skies, a slight breeze and the mercury reaching about 24 degrees. Just perfect.

We had rented an apartment from the owner of an Irish bar over the 'net but were greeted with a blank look when we presented ourselves at the bar with our reservation. The look changed to a broad smile however as we were handed the keys to our home for the next eleven days. Dry Irish humour, don't ya love it! The apartment was bigger than expected - two bedrooms rather than one - if only I'd have known prior I could have brought HRH aka the mother-in-law (yeah right!) It had a large roof terrace and two, count 'em, two balconies from which to people watch and catch the rays. We settled up with the owner over a nice cold beer (well two actually) then headed back to unpack and enjoy a much needed siesta.

The apartment was equipped with all the essentials, i.e. a kettle for the tea and a fridge for the beer. We headed out to the supermarket in our little French fancy to stock up on provisions, then enjoyed a nice meal at the aforementioned Irish bar.

At the time of typing we have been conducting a very thorough experiment into the cooling capabilities of the fridge in relation to the earlier procured slab of 'Tropical' beer, the results of which have been more than acceptable!

Anyhow, time for tubby bye-byes. It's been a long day and I'm gonna need all the strength I can muster for all that serious relaxation tomorrow!

A much more civilised start to the day today - tea in bed then cereals and toast at the kitchen bar.

The weather was set fair so we spent an hour this morning on the roof terrace before checking out the weekly market descends upon Mogan every Friday. A fair bit of tourist tat courtesy of our Chinese friends with plenty of fake designer labels on show but also some quality local arts and crafts mixed in as well.

Our good friends Kevin & Lawrence were staying just east along the coast at Playa Del Ingles and Lawrence braved the tortuous bus journey around the cliffs to join us for lunch and a stroll around the town. Now we've done this bus journey a number of times. The bus drivers here do not hang about, which is fine, they are professional and know the road well, even factoring in the knowledge that it's a sheer drop several hundred feet to the sea below, it's still somewhat unnerving when they spend the whole journey with a mobile phone clamped to their ear and only one hand on the wheel!

Anyhow, he arrived in one piece with nerves more or less intact, even so we thought that that great British cure of all ills - a cup of tea - was called for which was taken on the roof terrace. We then had a stroll around the harbour before grabbing some fresh bread rolls  and enjoying our lunchtime holiday favourite of ham & cheese rolls and crisps, all washed down with a glass of Rioja - lovely.

After lunch we had a stroll along the beachside promenade and around to the end of the sea wall eschewing the obvious lure of a cheap beer or two by a very enthusiastic bar owner tucked away at the end of the prom.

Not wishing to see a grown man cry we decided to give Lawrence a lift back to Playa Del Ingles rather that subject him to the torture of another bus ride, although it is a matter of debate whether Trevor's' driving was an improvement or not! On arrival we stopped by at their hotel before heading over to the Yumbo Centre. The Yumbo Centre, for the uninitiated is a concrete jungle of shops, restaurants and mainly (but not exclusively) gay bars.  A  the establishments here have one thing in common - to extract as many Euros as possible from the maximum number of people possible. The bars do not open until later anyway, but and eclectic mix of shops selling everything from more Chinese tat to quality leather goods and genuine designer label products do their best to haul you in and prise open your wallet. I did have a glance at a couple of leather blazers - something I've been toying with for a while but to be honest couldn't be bothered to haggle - en essential requirement if you don't want to be ripped off.

Over a coffee we entertained Lawrence with a tale of our holiday here four years ago. We were staying in Ingles and for once we had decided to go with the flow and head out to the bars late. At the time there was a bar called the QE2 bar which was our establishment of choice for this particular evening, the nautical theme perpetuated in the main by a very pleasant young man in a sailors uniform. Unfortunately he was very generous with the gin, as our friends and travelling companions at the time; Roy and Joe  will tell you! As night turned to the morning we staggered back to the apartment (quite how we found it I shall never know) for some much need kip and to start the increasingly long recovery process!

Anyhow, back to the present. It was time to head back to the relative tranquillity of Mogan. The late afternoon sun was calling so we climbed the spiral staircase to the roof terrace and enjoyed a pleasant hour in the company of another couple of very good friends - namely Gin & Tonic!

The restaurant of choice this evening was sort of midway between the harbour and beach areas. The A-boards on the prom advertised a three course special for the diminutive sum of just twelve Euros. The place was unusually empty but we sat down anyway and were greeted with a large smile and two small martinis, along with a couple of tapas to whet our appetites. What followed was delicious - Serrano ham on melon, steak with potatoes au gratin and roast vegetables followed by, for me ice cream and for Trev a banana split. Tasty and extremely good value. We may be back here before the end of the holiday if we get stuck for choice which is probably unlikely given the number of restaurants about!

A stage had been erected in the main square. We ambled back from our meal to see what was going on. A leaflet on each of the arranged chairs explained all but most inconsiderately it was in Spanish (funny that!). However thanks to my rather patchy grasp of Espanol (and a quick text to Ash to translate) we  established that were to be entertained by the Brass & Woodwind Band from the Mogan School of Music and Dance. A twenty odd piece ensemble performed an hour or so of popular classics such as Let It Be, Moon River and Unchained Melody. It was an unexpected treat and really very enjoyable.

A couple of beers back at the apartment rounded off a very enjoyable day.

Not a great deal to report yesterday unless you consider several journeys from the sun bed to the fridge notable so I'll bore you senseless instead with a  brief overview of the area along with a few snaps and how I came to start writing all this nonsense.

Puerto de Mogan is the most westerly of a number of holiday resorts along the southern coast of Gran Canaria and can really be divided into four areas; the original port village rising up from the beach onto the hillside, the beach area itself with lovely golden sands and a smart promenade , home to a number of shops and restaurants, the valley area which has gradually grown further inland, and the harbour area, nicknamed the 'Venice of the Canaries' which is where we are. From the roof terraces of the one and two bedroom apartments that populate the area you can see across the marina out to see, over to the beach and the prom, up the valley and across to the original hillside village, absolutely delightful. It is without doubt the pick of the southern resorts for us and offers something different to its more raucous and commercialised neighbours.

Gran Canaria is the third biggest of the Canary Islands with a population of about three-quarters of a million, the capital being Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The Canaries where not as the name suggests, named after our little yellow feathered friends but after dogs. A very rough explanation is that the Latin for 'Islas Canarias' translates to 'Island of  Dogs'. Get Googling for a more thorough explanation. Thanks must go to Ann and the girls for imparting this information when met last year on our Egypt trip - the first of tubbystar's' travel tales. At the time I was boring you rigid with tales of ancient Kings & Queens and our cruise up the Nile. The only ancient Queens you'll find here are the ones staggering round the bars of the Yumbo Centre on Playa Del Ingles in the early hours!

But anyway, back to the diaries. Abroad as at home Trevor calls his mum most days to let her know what we are up to (well, most things anyway!) Virgin Mobile wanted the national debt per minute for the privilege of calling home from Egypt so we decided instead to keep a note of what we were doing and seeing on the laptop and email it when possible. Internet access was generally horrendously expensive as well but it worked out surprisingly cheap to send a few emails using the mobile. So there you are. That is how tubbystar's travel tales came to be. The whole lot, from tales of drunken weddings to trips down memory lane can now be found on my blog at Feedback is always welcome - even bad - then at least I know you've read it!

Anyway back to the present, there was more entertainment this evening on the stage in the square, this time a seventeen piece selection of vocalists, percussionists and Spanish guitarists. Again it was very good but  - and this is gonna sound a bit ignorant and Europhobic - it had a certain air or Eurovision about it. Now those in the UK will get this as I believe the Aussies will too. However to the uninitiated it is basically a Europe wide song competition played out on a Saturday night in May every year and transmitted throughout the whole of Europe and beyond. It is without doubt the campest thing on the telly since Mr Humphries in Are You Being Served.

Another very pleasant evening was punctuated with beers on the terrace, then bed.