Gran Canaria Treasures and Trinkets

Given it’s tuesday now. I don’t want to have the same sort of present request failings that I had in Cyprus πŸ™‚ So, any particular presents required from Gran Canaria. Leave your comments now!

Examples of presents seen so far include phallic wax candles. Or a vast array of alcohol – the supermarkets here lure you in the same way the UK ones do with fruit – right at the entrance. Or perhaps a scary looking cuddly camel – it may well be made of real dead camel.

Gran Canaria tea towels, perhaps? A mug? Or a camel hat that matches my “Look at me, I’m a tourist!” hat I bought yesterday? I’ve even heard rumours of a holographic Virgin Mary from our scottish friends in the apartment over at number 30.

So, if you do want anything cool – leave me a comment here. If you want the surprise of some total tat – then wait until I get home. No guarantees though – I might have trouble find just the right tea towel for you. But you might as well ask πŸ™‚

Komodo Dragon, and Eagles

Before I start on anything we did today, I’ve got to finish off last nights entertainment.

We went to eat in a restaurant overlooking the sunset in the Faro 2 shopping centre, I had a great Steak and Ali managed to leave the fishbone from her grilled Sole entirely intact. When the waiter returned to take our plates … “Great, very nice” we said, “lovely jubbly” he said. Never thought I’d hear a Canarian say the words “lovely jubbly” … But I’m kind glad I did πŸ™‚

Anyway, this morning we stood at a bus stop for a long time before Ali asked an English-looking woman, “are you going to Palmito’s Park?” … And that’s when we found out we were standing on the wrong side of the road…

A short bus trip through the mountains later and we arrived at Palmito’s Park, an animal / bird sanctuary a little way into the mountains. It was really really nice up there, a lot cooler than the hot sun-blazing area of Maspalomas. The entire park was made up of cactus plants, and palm trees, and lots of open type cages. Walking through the entrance led us to see the small group of Meerkats. Unfortunately Ella didn’t appear to be there, but they were very cool all the same – with a small litter of younger Meerkats (do they have litters? I think so). Next door to them is Spain’s only Komodo Dragon, and onwards a huge array of tropical birds, birds of prey, parrots, alligators, rabbits (!!!), and more and more and more.

We sat and watched the Birds of Prey demonstration – with a bald eagle and hawk circling above the entire time, (the hawk that didn’t want to come back). Cliche’d as it is, a really magnificent bird – and great to see up in the mountains. It seemed more natural than seeing them on Southsea common at farm shows.

There was also a brilliant moment when the falconeer asked for four kids from the audience, announcing the imminent arrival of the world’s largest bird, with a four metre wingspan, and weighing over 45 pounds. The falconeer and his assistances handed over the gloves to the kids and ran and hid behind the restaurant area. But the intense fear soon left as they brought out the koockaburra. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but be a bit dissapointed.

The other entertainment of the day was from the Parrot show. Where Ali was most disturbed by the Parrots riding bikes, and raising flags, and generally doing things that parrots don’t often do in the wild.

Clive’s Twin Brother

Seperated at birth, two hearts divided between two continents. Born of the same mother, but thrown into obscurity – these two creatures led very similar lives in very distant lands. They battle against the odds to find a place they can call home, and perhaps one day meet again, or at the hope, get a message passed against all odds to tell the tale of their lost brotherhood.

There should be no doubt in your mind that I am of course talking about Clive. And there should also be no doubt that you cannot talk about Clive without the thought of his twin brother Colin in your deepest thoughts.

This is Colin’s story…

He’s a camel, we don’t know if he’s related to Clive, but he does look extremely similar in a way that only camels can. And today, we took a camel ride across the dunes, or rather, around them. And it was great! πŸ™‚ It’s difficult to describe the sensation even with hand movements, as I tried to do earlier. “Do you remember earlier, when we on the camel going like this?” I asked Ali, rolling my hand in a circular motion. “Yeah, and we were like this”, Ali replied, flailing her arms in the air and rolling side to side.

So, riding a camel is a lot like being on the set of thunderbirds, while journeying 10,000 leagues under the sea. Amazing what early afternoon Sunday television can teach you.

We called our Camel, Collin, as you might have guessed and he led the way in the group of three camels on our small trekking party around the dunes. I presumed that meant he was one of the coolest of all the camels. Which was evident because; everyone followed him; when he stopped to see what some plants smelt like, we all stopped; if he wanted to send Ali into the bushes, well he just had to move a bit to the right; and if at the end, he wanted to sit down and not wait for the other camels or the humans to say “you can sit now” – well he was damn well going to sit down.

The camel safari is proudly stated as “The most hilarious excursion in Gran Canaria”. And they’re not wrong, even if I do suspect they just have crap translators. “Uhhhh, Dave, did you send those leaflets out to the printers yet? I think we have a typo”. And it was without a doubt hilarious, and a definate plus on the things to do front.

We left the camel place and argued over what was better. The lizards that live in the Barranco de Maspalomas, or the camels. I still say the camels are better, as I left the camel place quickly forgetting the glee I had at staring at the lizards earlier on in the day. “No, we should love Gran Canaria as a whole, not forget the old toys because a new one has come along”, says Ali. I agreed – but silently, and between you and me….the camels ARE better πŸ™‚

So tonight we’re going to go and visit Terry Bull at the bar. He’s the guy who was singing to himself in the empty bar on our first night. Well, it’s only fair that since we laughed at him every day – we go and laugh in his face. Which reminds me, that bar has a job opening at the moment. Ladies wanted, Must be Flexible. If you’re interested πŸ™‚

And then tomorrow, it’s off to Palmitos Park, so we can go and laugh at some more animals – including their new Komodo Dragon. I’m also on the lookout for Conejo, or Rabbit. Because the wildlife reserve says they have them – but all I saw were birds and lizards. So maybe the park will also give a big check mark there too πŸ™‚

The Case of the Missing Fruit Juice

Right, let’s get all of the crap stuff out the way first. The apartment (No. 12) is directly above Scandalo, the Flamenco Music Bar. So if it wasn’t enough that we were kept up half the night by the coke-heads next door to us (the barman mentioned they had big red eyes when they went hunting for munchies in the bar at 1am); we also had the joy of being awakened in the early hours of the morning by the sounds of spanish music thumping through the walls. Joy.

Not only that, one of Ali’s rings has also gone missing in the 15 minutes we spent by the pool on Sunday. Weird enough that a single ring would go missing when there was another, and a necklace right next to them. Could’ve just lost it somewhere – except that they also took … wait for it … our fruit juice from the fridge! Yep, plenty of other things to take, more rings, clothes, some chargers, hell even some ham and cheese – but the criminal masterminds set their sights on a large carton of fruit juice, and that was enough for them.

Anyway, sad as the loss of the ring is – we’re determined not to let it ruin our holiday we now have a big safe in which all of our mildly valuables are stored in (and we’re carrying most of them around anyway).

So onto the good stuff! On Sunday we did lots of wandering around and some extreme meandering. This involved heading the 4-5km down to the beach. Past Holiday World (that’s the blackpool place) and along the Barranco De Maspolomas (a dried out canal looking thing) that leads into the Charca De Maspalomas (the huge lagoon / nature reserve by the sea). Along the way, passing briefly through the very closed looking shopping centre (Faro 2).

I remember booking my holiday to Cyprus in an effort to have a beach holiday. I didn’t particularly have any kind of holiday in mind for this one, except THIS is where I should’ve come for the beach. We strolled up and down the beach for a while (Ali wisely turned us back before we got to the Nudist beach – bah), and to one of the highlights of the holiday so far – Dunas de Maspalomas. Everything here seems to be called Something De Maspalomas. “Paper sir? You need Newsagents de Maspalomas. Turn right on Cosmos Avenue de Maspalomas, and you can’t miss it”.

The dunes are awesome. 10 metres high in places and stretch on for ages. Feeling like I was running around the set of Star Wars was great – and there were hardly any people around! We almost had a dune each! Thoroughly recommended, and definitely not something you can’t afford to miss.

After playing in the dunes, ignoring all of the “keep out of the sun between 11-3” advice that the sun tan lotion recommends, we went for a wander to find Faro de Maspalomas. Actually, that wasn’t that hard to find – it’s a lighthouse, and as such, quite tall.

On the way stopped to look at the sand sculptures created by an artist looking rather similar to Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. A dragon, and the last supper were on display for a small price of “loose change”, which later in the evening were lit up with flames in the nose and a ruby red candle in the eye. Sand sculptures are always extremely impressive to me, and I was also enthralled by the crusties down on the beach who created them, and seemed to stay there all day and evening. What a life!

A traditional Spanish meal for the evening. Paella, and Sangria, and a curious salted boiled potato masterpiece with some strange sauce that is apparently traditional food of the Canaries. Ali even ate Mussels. Which, in the same year as Mushrooms, is quite a feat in itself!

Right, I’ve got another day to write now, too – because I didn’t blog last night. So look forward to another of these in just a few minutes πŸ™‚

Don’t Forget Your Hotel Vouchers

With Mr Black safely on the plane, we flew for about 4 hours into Gran Canaria. Apparently it was going to take a bit longer because of the strong head winds, but as our pilot assured us “It’s okay, I’ll just fly a little faster”.

Straight off the plane into the first available taxi, and trying to explain where we were staying to a confused looking taxi driver who had never heard of Parque Luz Apartments. That’s okay though, he has a radio. 35 euros for a trip from the airport to the apartments, and visiting a few other places on the way that might be the place we’d want to stay as well. Bargain.

The real fun didn’t start until we got to the reception desk though. I spoke my first Spanish beyond “Gracias” to a real Canarian… “Do you speak English?” …. I’ve forgotten what it is in Spanish already, something about englees, but check me out, conversing with the locals like a real…. Spaniard.

“Do you have your booking printout?”, we were asked. “Ummmm, no”, we replied. And after 10-15 minutes chatting with the guy over how we had an electronic copy, but no printout – and where could we find a printer (at 9pm) to print it out for him. He called his friend, and spoke Spanish a lot. Ali’s face drooped even further when he said we could stay on the beach. There are worse places to spend the night on the beach, I’m sure – but we might go see the sand dunes tomorrow. He eventually decided to let us stay anyway though, and will call our travel agent on Monday to make sure we’ve actually paid. What a nice Reception Man πŸ™‚

We’ve been for a wander around the immediate area, in order to find some water and the nearest supermarket (across the road!). We also came across what Ali refers to as a crap English seaside resort. A big amusement park style area with a big wheel, dodgems, and here’s the best part – an empty bar with a single employed DJ singing karaoke apparently to himself.

But huzzah! We’ve arrived. And I read a little bit about the history of Gran Canaria starting at 3000BC with the Cro-Magnon inhabitants, and the colonisations from Portugal, Spain and Italy in 1496 – 1525.

See, and suddenly the blog is transformed into the wealth of travel knowledge that I know you all love, rather than ramblings of the crap British Travellers who didn’t print out the booking voucher. Not that we HAD a booking voucher, at least not one that said “print this invoice, you’ll need it”. Yeah, I blame the travel agents πŸ™‚

Mr Black, I presume

“You don’t need wait in line, you can go through the fast track line, just enter the details in that machine over there”.

After a few puzzled looks at the touch screen terminal, and entering random flight numbers we came away even more confused over what was going on. “It didn’t work, we cried”, so we were allowed to go down the fast track lane anyway, ignoring the massive queue of poor travellers waiting in line.

Handed over the passports, and the tickets. “Oh dear” said British Airways Man. “Your ticket says Mr Blake, and your passport says Mr Blake”, as Ali started to giggle; “but your checkin information says Mr Black. The first 15 minutes of being in the airport, hours before we needed to be, and already we, or rather I, was in danger of being thrown out. A few phone calls later, and a sly check with British Airways woman across the desk next to him “Can’t I just add a note and leave it at that. I don’t want to have to change the booking”. And I was allowed on the plane again. Which is fortunate for both of us, because all the luggage went under my name. Hah.

So we’ve spent a good few hours wandering around the airport now. We have a Spanish phrase book. ‘Ha perdido el conocimiento’, and Ali’s favourite ‘Grassy Arse’ – we’re going to take to Gran Canaria like ducks to slowly hardening cement.

And now we have a pub – all we need is time to hurry up and get on a flight. Woo πŸ™‚

Oh, and cheer for Hedgehunter, Lord of Illusion and Iznogoud in the Grand National later. If Iznogoud wins, my 50p bet stands to make me 100 quid. I’m all about the odds, me.

Blue Man Canaria


A mixed title for a bit of a mixed entry. It’s been ages since I’ve posted anything to the blog, but that’s because I’ve been busy with… sitting about. Yesterday however, a break from sitting about involved a trip to the New London Theatre to see the magnificent Blue Man Group. I’d only seen them on the Royal Variety Show (or somesuch) before, and the Intel adverts – and wasn’t really sure what to expect. In fact, walking into the theatre and seeing groups of people down the front with makeshift blue waterproof macs, and people with white paper headbands scattered across the room led me to believe I’d walked in upon some strange cult and that the Blue Man Group were next door. Of course, the Blue Man Group are exactly that weird cult I’d come to see, and before long I was chanting along with the rest of the crowd, Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday to You (no singing please) and waiting for the next “Ready Go!” And if this makes no sense to you, I recommend a night out with your new blue friends. So yes, a highly recommended way to spend the evening, and at the end of the 90-minute paint-filled, UV light toting Pringles advert, you’ll be throwing toilet paper about with the best of them and rushing home to get some Rice Krispies.

Anyway, to get to the point – tomorrow Ali and I leave for Gran Canaria, so get ready for the return of more exciting travel blogging to make you cry and question your own sanity. And I’ll leave you a great Page-a-day quote from the calendar a few days back.

A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.
Lao Tzu

Happy Mothers Day

Just an update on the asda cards, the latest series of smartprice cards available is the Mothers Day.Γƒβ€š So, Happy Mother’s Day, mum – this one’s for you πŸ™‚

Blind setting their sights on Target

My very poorly placedΓƒβ€šΓ‚ News of the World style headlines aside, I heard today that Target are being sued by the National Federation for the blindΓƒβ€šΓ‚ for having a site that is inaccessible by the blind, and other disabled groups.Γƒβ€š The story has been pretty well covered in the news, and consists of key points like:

  • No alt tags on images key to the purchasing process
  • No alternatives to image maps
  • Orders require the use of a mouse for completion.

Today, I’ve seen far too many reactions of the kind,Γƒβ€šΓ‚ “blind people, using web sites?Γƒβ€š What are they doing on a computer?”.Γƒβ€š They’ve been mixed in with “well, go and shop somewhere else then”, and “they’re only in it for the money”.Γƒβ€š As a web developer – whatever the reasons for the lawsuit, anything to raise awareness in the area is a big plus.Γƒβ€š A well written web site is useable with any number of speech browsers, that convert the text into a form that blind visitors can use.Γƒβ€š They can’t do that without text to describe the images.Γƒβ€š This is day two of web design, we’re not talking about anything complex here.

So to everybody complaining that this is just a frivalous law suit…Γƒβ€š There are laws to protect all forms of disabled users, and Target have not been listening to them.Γƒβ€š Should you find yourself in a position later on in life where accessible web sites would be of great benefit to you, I would hope that you’d spare a thought for all those before you who didn’t have it that easy.

Happy Value Valentines!

Not too many years ago, a friend of mine (Ben) was heading out to America for a year at a University where he could learn a few things more than Hertfordshire would provide. Important Computer Science courses such as The History of Communism. Part of the move held the obligatory leaving drinks, for which myself and three other friends clubbed together to buy him 4 cans of Tesco Value Bitter, for the bargain basement price of 99p. To cut a long story short, the drinks were a hit and we were all four heralded as the best friends you could ever ask for.

Feeding off of the success of Tesco Value Bitter, Asda have come up with the perfect card of choice for this year. So if you’re worried about how to tell that special someone how you feel about them on the 14th, but still keep to your budget this year – take a trip down to your local store today! Be warned, you’re still going to have to save money on those roses and chocolates somewhere, because the card is still going to set you back 8p.