Contrast in the Canary Islands…the rural openess of Lanzarote on the left, the hustle-bustle of port city Tanerife on the right.
We made two stops in the Canary Islands off the northwestern coast of Africa, first at the island of Lanzarote and then the largest island of Tenerife. Both exists because of volcanic eruptions that took place a few years ago before you and I set foot on planet earth. Oh, and no, I did not see one canary while on the islands.
Lanzarote is one of those places that makes me wonder what it is that people who live there do, not only to earn a living, but also to occupy their life. There is little greenery, barren black lava deposits almost everywhere instead. Helter-skelter along the hard-edged terrain are pockets of dwellings, some stand-alones and other attached side-by-side. There must be an island rule that people may paint their buildings any color they want as long as it is white. It is one of the few places we visited where I saw no signs for Burger King or McDonald’s.
One tourist spot on Lanzarote is the caves (Cueva de los Verdes, pictured above) which were carved out of the mountain by lava flows a gazillion years ago. In the 17th Century they served as massive hiding places for the island’s inhabitants who were regularly attacked and pillaged by pirates. Today, there is a restaurant on the first level where you can eat while you wait for the pirates to go away. Seeing the caves down and deep will cost you nine euros and a 15-minute wait in line. Here is where you will also see the most people gathered together at one time on the entire island…and practically all are tourists.
The highlight of our cab tour was up, up, up to probably the highest spot on Lanzarote, called La Graciosa (above). Here you can pull off to the side of the road and take in a specular view of a neighboring island and the entire rest of the world beyond it…well, maybe on a clear day.
Tenerife (above) is entirely different from Lanzarote. About 200,000 people live here in an environment of mountainous terrain, the widest part of which is 18 miles. Here there is enough greenery to declare the island an official National Park. Center city features steep walkways lined with shops and restaurants and enough streets to allow you to easily get lost…we did. BTW, Fred.Olsen Express is a ferry that shuttles people and cars around the islands.
Tenerife reminded me of a city like many in the states with a good number of people doing city things, lots of cars and buses on the roadways and no shortage of stores and places to eat. The only variation in this imagery is that Tenerife appears to be a city built in the 1960s with little before and no after. Consequently, at least for me, there was nothing especially inviting about Tenerife.
This current trip to island nations, along with others I’ve been on previously, have led me to believe I am most at home in my big city shoes. The remote island life is not for me. I prefer the expanse of Barcelona, the chaos of New York, the charm of Boston and the history of Washington, D.C….and, of course, the tropic environs and beachs of South Florida I now call home. Below, as sunset approaches, we leave the Canaries and begin our seven-day crossing of the Atlantic.
On my next posting I’ll take you on a tour of the ship.