Bienvenido a Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Gran Canaria, the third largest of the Spanish Canary Islands covers 602 square miles and is located in the Atlantic Ocean, only 93 miles off the north-western coastline of Africa
Gran Canaria is known as the miniature continent due to the varied landscape, long stretches of beach, dunes, deep ravines and different climates. The island’s volcanic interior is made up of 32 protected sites, and more than a third of the total area has been recognised as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The 4.5 million tourists per year include an increasing number of sports enthusiasts including cyclists, quad bikers, hikers and rock climbers eager to explore the natural environment while honing their skills.
Gran Canaria is also a popular spot for all types of nautical sports. Windsurfers are drawn to Pozo Izquierdo beach, the site of the annual Gran Canaria Wind and Waves Festival, which is held in July and attracts the very best competitors in the world including local champions and twin sisters Daida and Iballa Ruano, recipients of 27 world titles.
As a complete novice, I focused my attention on Las Palmas, which was founded in 1478 and is the largest capital in the Canary Islands.
I headed for Las Canteras beach, a protected area and diving site, which lies in the heart of the city and exudes the distinctive ‘vibe’ of mainland Spain. ‘Surfer dudes’ from far and wide gather and they are all seeking to ride the perfect wave, taking advantage of the prevailing trade winds.
I spotted several groups of inexperienced surfers at a well-known point named La Circer, which is the ideal place to learn as there are plenty of schools for beginners in the local area. After some deliberation, and watching surfers tumbling into the ocean with arms and legs flailing, my courage deserted me. I remained on terra firma and embarked on a stroll along the wide promenade beside the shoreline. Many local families of all generations were dining al fresco, bathed in the warmth of the sunshine, while hordes of laughing children were playing on climbing frames in a spacious outdoor playground.
Up with the larks the following morning, I headed for the Real Club de Golf, which is within the Bandama Natural Park and only 16 kilometres from Las Palmas. Founded in 1891, the Real Club de Golf is located beside a crater of an extinct volcano, six hundred metres above sea level, and it is the oldest course in Spain.
Designed by the Scottish architect Philip Mackenzie Ross, the first president of the British Association of Golf Course Architects and the designer of the Alisa Course in Ayr, the Real Club de Golf’s first nine of a total of eighteen holes (Par 71) were constructed to take the prevailing breeze into consideration and throughout my leisurely round I was consistently distracted by the spectacular surrounding views of deep ravines, the volcano’s soaring summit and the ocean blue.
Later that afternoon, I returned to Las Palmas and set off to explore the city’s Plaza de Santa Ana in the historic district of Vegueta.
I paused a while to admire the splendid buildings of the old Town Hall and then visited the magnificent Cathedral de Santa Ana, which is the city’s most popular attraction. Initially constructed in 1500 at the command of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile and then refurbished and reconstructed during the 1700s, it is a mesmerising example of Gothic, Renaissance and Neoclassical architectural styles.
The structure features two soaring campaniles and a beautiful rose window, and I was most fortunate to see the vibrant colours of the stained glass windows illuminated by the sunlight. The cathedral’s interior features several striking columns which resemble palm trees, and there are numerous pieces of art which demanded my undivided attention.
The Casa de Colón; a museum dedicated to the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus who accomplished four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean, under the patronage of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, is also a popular attraction. In 1492 Columbus anchored his armada of three ships, La Niña, La Santa Maria and La Pinta, in the Port of Las Palmas during his first voyage to America.
It is said that Columbus stayed in the Casa de Colón, which was re built in 1777 and now features exquisite lattice balconies, elaborate doorways and spacious, peaceful courtyards. Exhibits, within the 13 rooms, include an extensive selection of impressive paintings, a fascinating replica La Niña cabin, navigation equipment, and other maritime treasures and I spent long periods pouring over nautical charts and maps.
Following my explorations, I headed back to my spacious, airy and air-conditioned accommodation located right on Las Canteras promenade. Featured on the HomeAway website, the apartment consists of one double and one twin bedroom, two bathrooms, a kitchen with every appliance including a dishwasher, an enormous lounge with a dining area and a large balcony with two comfy sun loungers, which is the perfect spot for an afternoon snooze in the sunshine. There is a utility room with a washing machine and dryer, and the apartment also comes with a garage, which is a real bonus as parking in a busy capital is never easy.
Opposite the property, the Las Arenas shopping mall is crammed with shops including a Carrefour supermarket with an excellent delicatessen and if you fancy some additional retail therapy the 7 Palmas shopping centre, located on Av Pintor Felo Monzón, is only a ten minute ride away and includes a vast Mercadona supermarket with an impressive fresh fish counter.
After purchasing my groceries, I changed my mind about cooking and headed for VIPS, a trendy restaurant on the ground floor. Dining alfresco, I sampled the delicious BBQ ribs, served with crunchy onion rings, fries and a chipotle BBQ sauce and accompanied by a glass of Marqués de Grinon Crianza it was a delightful dining experience. I held my glass aloft in honour of Christopher Columbus and reflected on his words; ‘by prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination’.
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