We approached the 4-month mark in our "home free" adventure and decided on a couple of "kicked-back" weeks on the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago in the Atlantic, 100 km (62 mi) off the west coast of Morocco. Weather on the Canaries is described as the "Eternal Spring", with high temperatures averaging between 61° in February to 73° in August - not at all a tropical paradise, but pleasant shirt-sleeves / jacket temperatures and very rare rain. First stop is Las Palmas ("The Palms") de Gran Canaria, the largest Canarian city and one of the two "shared" capitals.
"Adventure Day" starts with a brisk walk to the Plaça de Catalunya to catch the efficient airport shuttle bus. The VIP lounge at Barcelona Airport featured all the fixings for Catalan Tomato Bread - cloves of peeled garlic to rub on the toast and chopped / pureed tomato to spread on top - where else! The 3-hour Vueling Airlines flight from Barcelona is smooth and easy, and the hour-long bus ride drops us off a couple of blocks from "Josefina Las Canteras Luxor" where our AirBnB host Maxi meets us for the check-in to the bright and airy apartment.
We are on "La Isleta", what used to be a small island at the northeast corner of Gran Canaria and a short walk from Playa de Las Canteras - the island's nicest beach. Not many swimmers, but plenty of sun-bathers and even more strollers along the broad "Paseo las Canteras", lined with restaurants and shops. On our first night we had paella at the beach-front Restaurante la Marinera - a tad on the touristy side, but a fine meal and good service. The location, at the tip of a small peninsula at the end of the beach, was prime.
Checking out the AirBnB "experiences", Richard noticed Sunrise Yoga and signed up for our first morning. We took a 30-minute pre-dawn walk to the smaller, but east-facing beach, Playa de las Alcaravaneras. Nancy's a regular sunrise yoga enthusiast whenever we visit Chatham on Cape Cod, but this was Richard's first-ever yoga practice. We were the only two students, so Toms, our instructor, was able to give him plenty of coaching. We were back for more later in the week.
After several aborted attempts to buy concert tickets online, we hopped onto a bus to see if we'd have better luck at the box office. Reason we couldn't buy online? The show was SOLD OUT for both nights. We were really disappointed, because the venue - the Alfredo Kraus Auditorium - looked really interesting, and the artist - Quiana Lynell from New Orleans - sounded great on Spotify. As we sat watching a brilliant sunset behind the auditorium, Nancy hatched a plan.
The next morning Nancy reached out to Quiana through her website, explaining our plight, and offering to make a donation to her favorite charity if she had any guest tickets left. Sure enough, she got right back to us and said she'd check. Ever confident, Nancy donated to BTD Foundation - Music for the Mind, fostering mental health awareness through musical culture in the city of New Orleans. Minutes later a second email let us know that there would be 2 tickets waiting for us at the box office that night.
The venue was indeed beautiful. We enjoyed a pre-concert glass of wine with a charming couple from Sweden who have been coming to Gran Canaria for years to help the wife's asthma problems. We jotted down their tips on places to go and then settled into our FABULOUS seats at this sold-out show. Quiana was backed up by the Perinké Big Band - local musicians who were really amazing. The set was a mix of jazz standards and New Orleans sounds, and the audience reaction affirmed that Quiana was outstanding.
Click here for a video of one of her songs from the concert.
Just one more example of why Nancy always says,
"They can't say 'yes' unless you ask!"
Our Swedish friends from the concert had encouraged us to check out "Old Town" Las Palmas, so Saturday morning we set out for a visit. As we start our stroll through the cobble-stoned streets we hear traditional music wafting out of a tiny bar - we stopped for a glass of cava and the olives - add a bag of chips for good measure. Not a seat was empty. The musicians sat at one end, reminiscent of an Irish session, the singers stood proudly for each verse, and the whole place joined in for the choruses. Click here for more video of the singing.
Old Town was charming, with its ancient buildings and a gothic cathedral whose columns resembling palm trees reminded us of Gaudi's Sagrada Familia. The organist was practicing and really rocking the "trumpet" stops.
We stopped for a healthy lunch and a glass of copper-hued "vino rosado". Next door to the restaurant was an art school with an interesting facade...do you see what we see?
For our final day in Las Palmas we returned for another yoga class with Toms - this time at 9:00 and in the company of about 12 students. During the final minutes of meditation we were showered with the tiniest of raindrops giving us an unexpected connection with nature. Wearing our beach towels as raincoats we were curiosities on the bus ride back to the apartment to read the Sunday Boston Globe and NY Times on our iPads while we streamed Sunday morning Jazz from WMVY Radio from Martha's Vineyard.
Our final sunset over Las Canteras beach was the perfect farewell to this lovely island.
Some Las Palmas travel tips:
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