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January 17, 2006

Back from Mapalomas

The Travel Channel

Since both Carina and I were going to be working during most of the christmas holidays we managed to find a cheap december-offer for a one-week trip to Maspalomas at Gran Canaria with Star Tour, on Saturday the 7th of January direct from Trondheim airport with Air Europa. After a long and hard semester and busy christmas holidays we really wanted to get away on a break somewhere exotic, and at 3000 NOK per person including a good hotel, this trip was a bargain!

View island map | View city map

Day 1: Getting there
As the flight left Trondheim only on saturday afternoon we didn't get settled in our hotel-room until just before midnight. We had picked the Koala Garden Suites Hotel in Campo International just between Maspalomas and Playa del Ingles on the southern tip of the island, so the bus-ride from the airport took almost two hours because of all the stops at various other hotels before ours. Oh the joys of going on a charter-vacation. Beeing tired from the journey we went early to bed not beeing keen on checking out the nightlife.

Day 2: Checking out the sunday-beach
Sleeping in on our first day we only got up around 11a.m and started checking out the hotel and surrounding area, finding a shop so we could get some breakfast and looked up what we wanted to do the next week.
Most importantly we wanted to spend some time at the beach during our stay, so as soon as we were prepared we took a long walk along the storm-drain down towards the Maspalomas dunes and the beach. It was further than we had thought so when we got there we started looking for somewhere to eat lunch. We ended up picking a touristy cafè in the C.C. Oasis, and as expected didn't get served anything noteworthy. Since it started to get well into the afternoon we decided against renting beach-beds and looked around the boardwalk and shopping areas in Maspalomas and Meloneros instead before taking a cab back to the hotel.
Earlier in the morning we had asked the StarTour guides for some resturant recommendations since we'd like to go somewhere a bit authentic, and they pointed out a place called Tango Tapas over in Playa del Ingles. It didn't look too far on the map, so we decided to walk over. It was a bit further than expected of course, but when we got there they made the best tapas ever! Canary-mojo-potatoes, garlic-prawns in bacon, tomato&onion salad, manchego cheese were among the items on the table making a wonderful meal. Tired from all the walking we taxied back and it was another early night for us.

Day 3: Rental car to Las Palmas
We woke up to find that the skies had opened and rain pouring down. Since this wasn't exactly the perfect weather for a day on the beach we got ourselves a rental car instead to check out other parts of the island. We really wanted to see Las Palmas, the capital, so we headed north stopping only in a few small towns along the way, as well as at the Centro Commerciale Atlantico where Carina really wanted to check out a really large Zara-store.
After spending several hours in line to get the clothes Carina wanted, extra cheap because of the January-sale that also explained the insane lines at the check-out, we got back in the car and headed on towards Las Palmas.
Despite it looking quite far on the map, we sped along the GC-1 for just an hour or so and suddenly we found ourselves passing San Christóbal and entering the city centre. Our intended destination was the main shopping street in the old town, but getting there was easier said than done, so we had quite a bit of trouble locating the correct exit from the highway, especially since we didn't have a map of the city. However after we got ourselves a map from a gas-station we eventually managed to find our way to where we wanted to be, and we even got a parking spot quite easily.
The sky was still gray however, so we just spent an hour or so walking around the old town dodging the occasional rainfall, and after a while we stumbled across a very cozy resturant called Cañas y Tapas where we had another wonderful tapas-dinner before driving back to Maspalomas. Upon our return we took advantage of the car to check out a couple of the other shopping centers in the area, which wasn't really anything special, before calling it a night.

Day 4: The great island tour (Store øyturen)
Since we were travelling with StarTour we found that one of their excursions actually seemed very interesting, mostly because it was a round-trip of the island to places we most likely wouldn't have gone by ourselves.
As is usual for charter-tours we got picked up at our hotel, and ended up in a bus full of danish tourists. Not that I have anything against the danish, but some of those on this trip were quite obnoxious and tried to start a fight with me over the position of my seatback, and even with his 10yo son in the seat next to him!
But back to the trip; The first stop after picking up all of the tourists were at the
Jardin Canario, a botanic garden belonging to the Cabildo de Gran Canaria. Here we got taste-samples of unique canarian coffee liquor and honey-rum that are made in at a factory in the area, and we also walked around for a while in the sun.
Onward we were driving up into the mountains at the center of the island, past some large volcanic craters and up to the village of Teror, ironically named as it is the religious centre of Gran Canaria due to the appearence of the Virgin Mary at the top of a pine tree in the 14th century. Here we visited the quite beautiful Basilica de la Virgen del Pino (church of the pine virgin) and an AloeVera shop, which actually sold very few AloeVera products but made up for it with a wide range of souvenirs. After the stop we continued up the Valeseco valley and got a quite unremarkable lunch at an otherwise nice resturant with an amazing view of the valley below. Onwards to a very small and also unremarkable local market in Artenara, that sported a view across the sea to the snow-covered volcano Teide at the neighbouring island of Tenerife, and then to an amazing view of the imposing monolith Roque Nublo. The final stop was at a nondescript cafè in San Bartolome, which nicely rounded of the bad selection of stops on the trip. There were plenty of interesting sights along the route at which we didn't stop, so I can't fathom why StarTour chose the overly touristy, crowded and low quality places they did for their "Grand"-tour of the island. While the tour was a good way to see large parts of the island cheaply, it would have been a lot more interesting to do it on your own in a rental-car. Just do some of research of interesting sights along the way before you go!
After beeing on a cramped bus all day we wanted some fresh air, and walked down to the Faro2 shopping center after we had freshned up a little. There we found a quite nice resturant owned by a swedish woman and again we had the awesome canarian tapas for dinner. However while reviewing the menu I had noticed a good selection of deserts here as well, so I simply couldn't leave without trying Flambèed Crépes Suzette with ice cream. Absolutely amazingly good and it made the whole day for me :-)

Day 5: Driving west to Puerto de Mogan
While there had been sun during our bus-trip on Tuesday, once we were back in Maspalomas wanting to go to the beach it started raining again. We didn't want to just stay inside and waste a whole day, so we rented a car again to see some more of the island. After a short detour up the mountain where we came down with the bus to get a view of the city and visit a replica of a native village, we headed out west towards Puerto de Mogán. After a few hours drive with the last miles in a traffic-jam due to roadworks, we got to a beautiful small village in a tiny bay in between the cliffs. It was very picturesque even if the weather was a bit gray, so we walked around for a while and had lunch at a cozy beach-side resturant, before heading back east towards Puerto Rico, another crowded but cozy beach-town where we walked around and enjoyed some ice-cream. As there wasn't much to do here either we kept going east to the next larger town, namely Arguineguin where we met up with Bjørn, a close friend of my parents, and Stine, one of his daughters. They showed us around Anfi del Mar, a luxury apartment complex where Bjørn is renting a unit, and we had lunch at a mexican resturant nearby. When it was time to return towards Maspalomas, we took Stine along with us and stopped by Zara again, and both she and Carina shopped for hours. This time I also found a shop more to my own liking, and ended up getting four Billabong and NatureEarth t-shirts from Cutre Windsurfing.

Day 6: A rainy day in Playa del Ingles
To our dissapointment we woke up to find the rain pouring down yet another day, but luckily it cleared up somewhat around lunch so we took a cab over to Playa del Ingles. We walked around in the city centre and checked out the beach before having a really great pizza for dinner at an Italian resturant.
Also we checked out the Beckham Bar which while it was closed it looked to be a very cool club with the Ministry of Sound as resident DJ's. Definitively a place I would like to go party sometime.
On our way back to the hotel, we decided to get some dessert first and took another cab down to C.C. Faro where we had pancakes with chocolate, banana and icecream. Yummey! The rest of the night we just relaxed in our room, having some drinks and reading our books, enjoying our vacation.

Day 7: Finally some beachlife
At last we got a day with the sun shining brightly and not a cloud in sight. We hurried down to the beach in Maspalomas as soon as we got up in the morning, and got several good hours of sun before it started clouding over again. Then we returned to the hotel and had lunch in the pool-bar, and when we were done the sun had returned so we stayed by the pool a good while longer to get the most tan that we could. A good relaxing day like we expected most of our days to be had it not been raining so much. In the evening we went to Bar Capaco, the sister-resturant of Tango Tapas which we visited the first day, and got another great tapas-dinner with the famed Canary-potatoes in Mojo-sauce, tomato and onion salad, garcli-bread with Alioli, garlic fried prawns, bacon wrapped scampi and an assortment of cheeses and meat.
In addition I had Rabbit in a Red Wine sauce, a dish similar to the Goat I had the first night at Tango Tapas. Both were equally grim, as they were served just the pieces of bone and meat in sauce and a single potato, long after the rest of the food. While the meaty parts were good the entire thing looked rather nasty and was too much work to eat to be worth the effort. Stay with the small dishes if you go there! With this our vacation was almost at an end, so we went satisfied back to our room after a short stop at a grocery-store to pick up some Mojo-sauce, wine, cava, rum and liquor to bring back home as souvenirs from our stay.

Day 8: Going home
After a long and actually quite eventful vacation we had to get up with the birds to catch our flight home. The bus picked us up at 5:20a.m and after spending another 6 hours in a cramped charter-flight-seat we were back in rainy Trondheim. While the trip is now at an end the memories will live on, and perhaps we will have some cava and strawberries on Valentines day! :-)

So long, and thanks for all the tapas!

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