So what's it like? Great, if you avoid the south end of the island. There's a wonderful sand dune nature reserve which is slowly being squeezed away to nothing by the twin turds of Maspolamas and Playa del Ingles. We took a day trip on one of the fore mentioned Gua Guas, which incidentally provide a cheap and efficient way of getting round the small island. 11€ for two from Las Palmas for the 40ish Km really puts the £1.50 for one stop in London to shame.
The centre of Gran Caneria is all step valleys swithcback roads and extinct volcanoes. We took a trip to Teror where the Virgin of the Pines appeared to the local priest who was looking out from his balcony one April night some 500 plus years ago. This is now the spiritual centre of the island and is host to a pilgrimmage every year. We didn't get the full perspective until we later found out that the particular pine tree in which the BVM manifested, and knocked down - she really should cut back on those wafers, was the centre of a local pagan cult. So perhaps not such a miracle as one might suppose. Teror itself is a pictaresque little village with a solid church, a good line in buns on the market stall and some pretty decent tapas in the local bar we ate in. We had grilled fish, some kind of medium sized white things with a decent fishy flavour in parsely and pepper (with chips) and Papas arrugas y mojo rojo. The latter is boiled potatoes in red sauce, a sweet mix of peppers, herbs and enough garlic to stun a Frenchman at ninety yards.
Our other excursion was to the Jardin Botanico Canario, a stunning mix of cactuses, pines and flowers stuck on the side of a steep ravine. We caught a gua gua to the top and climbed up and down the 300 steps admiring the flora and avoiding the fauna - a mangey cat and a duck that pecked my shoe laces. Signs had warned us not to interfere with the wildlife but offered us no such protection from them.
Las Palmas itself is a busy large city and we came at just the right time of year, Carneval. There's a picture of our hotel here. It's a 4* business hotel that's just had a face lift and so was reasonably priced, had classy wooden floored rooms with a free mini bar a friendly staff. It's just on the edge of Parque Santa Catalina which seems to be the centre of the month long Carneval celebrations. We just missed the drag queen parade but on the night we arrived floats sponsored, and probably manned, by local businesses were parading down the main streets, most people, whether on floats or in the crowd, were in costume, and everyone was happy. Many of tha men were in drag and cats and dogs were popular costumes. It seems the right place to go to pick up cheap LARP gear in the post carneval sales.
A few nights later it was the drag queen competition held on a stage in Santa Catalina. We couldn't get near the place so sat in a bar 50yds away eating paella valeciana and watching the competition on TV. The format is simple. A guy in a massive drag suit with 9" heels appears on stage to a 70s or 80s English pop song, takes off his costume to reveal a different one underneath and does a bit of a jig to a different English pop tune and it's all over within about 3 minutes. The winner was dressed as the Alien.
The next night was the only time it rained. Unfortunately it was the kiddy parade and so hundreds of dripping wet teenagers danced their way passed out hotel. We didn't come kitted out for a downpour so we tried to watch the show from our hotel balcony but it was just to windy. Also, although we had a fine view of Playa Las Canteras and the mountains from the 17th floor is was a bit hard to make out the dancers just below us.
We also did most of the museums, saw some local dancing and singing at Pueblo Canerio and a children's play about a wicked brujah in Parque Doramas, ate excellent pizza (most of the restaurants seem to be Italian), rabbit stew with gnocchi another better paella, drank sangria and peach schnapps and on the whole had just about one of the best holidays we've ever had. And all that in just 6 days including pretty much 12 hours each way travel due to stop offs in Madrid.
¿Las Palmas? ¡Me gusta mucho!