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It was a cold dark February morning - much too early in the morning for my liking. The snow was falling gently as I anxiously checked the departures from East Midlands airport. Well it looked like there were no flight delays so clutching route planner downloaded from the AA we set off for the airport with a car loaded with suitcases and high hopes of leaving the snow behind and getting a few days of very welcome winter sun.
The journey to the airport wasn't much fun but at least we didn't get lost and arrived just in time to join the end of the queue to check in for our flight ...Two hours of boredom in queues at the airport and we were finally on the plane and ready for take off...and just over 4 hours later it was goodbye to cold and snow and hallo to warmth and sunshine.
Las Palmas Airport.....
Situated in the north of the island. Much bigger than I expected with usual airport facilities nothing exceptional or missing..quick collection of luggage and no long queues through passport control..Leaving the airport you couldn't miss the reps waiting to meet the passengers that were arriving from all over Europe. Amongst these were a large number holding up cards with Anfi on them ...More of Anfi later. We had booked accomodation in Arguineguin near to Puerto Rico in the south of the island and not wishing to drive on holiday we set out to find a taxi. No problem they were right in front of the airport.
I'll start this review by giving a few details about transport, important if you want to get to and leave your resort and explore the island a bit.
All are white cars most have leather seats. Lots of them are Mercedes so you are assured of a comfortable ride to your destination. Most taxis have screens in the headrests of the front seats which show non stop advertisements for places to visit during your stay.
The taxi fare from Las Palmas airport to Puerto Rico costs between 40 - 50 euros which for a 20 or 30 minute journey isn't too expensive.
On shorter trips taxi's are plentiful and cheap (around 4 euros from Arguneguin where we stayed into Puerto Rico).
There are designated taxi stands in all the resorts we visited. I also saw taxi's waiting outside tourist attractions in the hope of picking up fares. If you want a taxi the reception desk at your accomodation will call one which will arrive in a matter of seconds.
Like Tenerife, the public transport system in Gran Canaria is reliable,cheap,clean and crowded. It is possible to catch a bus from resorts to most tourist attractions and from the airport to most resorts. This coupled with the cheapness of taxi's makes hiring a car an expensive waste of money unless you want to get somewhere off the beaten track.
I can only comment on these in the region around Puerto Rico. There is a regular glass bottomed ferry running between Arguineguin Puerto Rico and Mogan. holding about 130 passengers. The ferry has an open upper deck and an enclosed lower deck with a large square viewing area that allows you to look into the sea under the boat. The ferry is equipped with a bar and toilets. No smoking is allowed. From the ferry you get a wonderful view of the spectacular volcanic coastline. The journey to Puerto Rico from Arguinegan takes about 15 minutes. and from Puerto Rico to Mogan also about 15 minutes. If you take the
full trip there is about a 30 minute wait at Puerto Rico where you can while away the minutes watching the activity of all the other boats in the harbour. If you are really lucky dolphins will swim close by the ferry which slows down to give the opportunity to watch them leaping in and out of the water. I think it cost 18euros for the return trip from Arguineguin to Mogan. Much more expensive than the bus but well worth the extra cost.
If fishing is something you feel compelled to do whilst you are on holiday there are numerous small boats that will take you out for a days unintrerupted sea fishing complete with lunch for around 40euros. I think that these only leave from Puerto Rico but as I am not a keen angler I didn't investigate further.
A few things struck me immediately. It was VERY warm.
The northern part of the island was much greener than the south in more than one respect ..Loads of wind farms dotted the landscape on our route from the airport.
The whole island was VERY VERY clean.
This is a small town just along the coast from Puerto Rico. If you want a quiet peaceful holiday this is definitely the place to stay. No noisy nightclubs and the winter population is mainly in the 50+ age bracket. Many Scandinavians over winter here to escape the rigours of their cold winters, they arrive like migrating birds in October and returning to their native land in March or April.
The holiday accommodation is mainly situated along the sea front and is now beginning to extend to the hills behind the resort. All the accommodation along the front is of a good standard and much is booked through timeshare or holiday club membership. Knowing this may lead you to expect to be accosted by the dreaded touts, you may be but it will be extremely low key and unobtrusive not like the awful hassle that can be experienced in Tenerife.
The restaurants are also mainly situated along the seafront with stunning views of the waves of the Atlantic Ocean rolling and crashing into the rocky shoreline. Unfortunately in many of them the standard of the food does not match the spectacular views. It is perfectly acceptable but not that little bit special considering the price charged. Most main meals cost between 10 - 15 euros. Considering that fishing boats land in the nearby harbour the fish dishes were generally unspectacular.
There were a couple of exceptions but unfortunately I didn't write down the names. In the harbour itself is a lovely fish restaurant which charges the same prices as other restaurants but serves really yummy fish dishes. Try the fish soup if you go there it's a starter but a meal in itself.
Along the promenade walking towards the harbour on a corner location is another superb fish restaurant with fish tanks containing your dinner - if you are eating lobster (again I have forgotten the name) It should not be missed as the food, although costing a few euros more, is worth every penny as all the food is freshly prepared to order from fresh ingredients to a very high standard.
For lunchtimes do not miss the Tapas bar Ramon, full of friendly Norwegians drinking away their pensions and Ramon himself who is a very genial host. The tapas was not quite what I expected being used to the olives and various meats provided as tapas in England A huge plateful of cold potato salad with a difference and a selection of cooked meats (including rabbit) with a curry type dish. Once a month he provides a superb evening buffet with flamenco music and dancing provided by his son and 8 year old granddaughter and as much beer and wine as you can drink for 12.50 euros. Plus his son does a very good line in flattering older ladies with a pinched bottom thrown in. All is very informal and needs to be booked in advance - you tell him you are coming and he writes how many of you will be there on a board no cash in advance.
Finally Rossini restaurant situated under the Atlantico apartments is superb. Extensively advertised on the local English speaking radio station as the best restaurant on the south of the island it more than lives up to its name. Non smoking inside and with outside poolside tables with heating should it be needed the food and service are both excellent. 'Entertainment' is provided - I say entertainment but certainly not really to my taste. Although I am over 50 myself I was left unmoved and unentertained by the sort of music that I would expect to hear at a senior citizens dinner club.. I suppose it was good if you like that sort of thing.. Give me a bad Elvis impersonator any day. If you feel like something a bit more like home there are is a Chinese restaurant on the main street and for the more adventurous a Japanese restaurant in the main shopping centre.
I suppose if I had looked I would have found somewhere that sold an all day English breakfast but there was nowhere obvious - however I am sure that there were several places I could have purchased the equivalent of one of these in Norwegian variety.
There is a busy bustling market held on every Tuesday and Thursday at the end of the town beyond the harbour. There is the usual range of items for sale; tourist goods, clothes, bags, belts and shoes plus fresh fruit and vegetables. The stall holders were a mix of nationalities, several African traders with classic lines like 'Genuine fake guaranteed for 1,500 years' and all very good humoured. Barter, don't pay the asking price for anything and also recognise that no matter what it says on the labels it will be a genuine fake.
We managed to buy everything that we needed in the Supermarket Leon but then we didn't want much.. bread, cheese, ham, spiced meat, olives butter, sugar, coffee, coffee creamer, beer and wine. There are no big tourist shops selling cheap cigarettes, perfume and alcohol - well there may be but we didn't find any so they aren't obvious. There is a shopping centre in the middle of the town which is rather like a rabbit warren. We did explore but not in any great extent as 'He who used to do the ironing' is definitely not into shopping for anything apart from the essentials (lager and cigarettes).
The main beach is situated next to the harbour. Black volcanic sand and like everywhere else on the island really, really clean. No sun loungers and umbrellas on view. There are a number of smaller beaches as you walk along the front and a sea water swimming pool - where there are sun loungers if you want them. As most of the accommodation have pools there seems to be less emphasis on spending time by the beach.
WHAT TO DO Walk along the promenade stopping for a drink while you watch the waves. Be brave and
Pictures of Gran Canaria (Spain)
Best Tapas and bruised rears here
enrol at the diving school. Sit by the pool and read your book while you get a tan. Visit the market. Catch a bus to one of the tourist attractions or to other resorts Catch the glass bottomed ferry to Puerto Rico or Mogan RELAX, RELAX, RELAX! PUERTO RICO This information is based on a couple of brief visits to change money and to buy cheap goods to take home.
Most of the accommodation appeared to be situated in the hills around the bay and I suspect that you would need to be quite fit if your accommodation was in one of the upper buildings.
Again the overriding impression was that everything was very very clean.
There were walks through shady parks, to accompany 'All day English breakfast ' eating places. Definitely more geared to the tourist market with a shopping centre selling all your duty frees and usual tourist goods.
The busy harbour has a variety of activities on offer diving, submarine, small boats for hire were among the things I spotted.
Time share touts were much more evident and persistent here and all seemed to have something to do with Anfi.- See next section
The beach was very clean with yellow sand - must have been imported - and covered with row upon row of sun loungers.
Beside the beach are a number of smaller restaurants which are very cheap and sell good freshly cooked meals, as well as awful chicken nugget type meals there are loads of superb fresh fish dishes to choose from. If you are lucky you will be serenaded at your table by musicians that seem to go from establishment to establishment.
This is the latest and one of the most expensive time share resorts I have visited.. Absolutely stunning though and well worth a visit if you have time to waste.. Not really hard sell and left clutching 2 bottles of gin..Genuine branded..2 tee shirts and 2 fluffy bath towels . The final sales pitch is a weeks holiday for 2 with flights and transfers at around £600 per person. Considering the standard of the resort this seems a fair price although I suspect that further attempts would be made to sell more time share. The resort is situated mid way between Arguineguin and Porto Rico.
Being incredibly lazy we didn't visit anywhere on the island except for Palmitos Park in Maspalomas, about an hour bus ride from Arguiniguin. This is worth a visit if only to sit in the restaurant (pretty grim food unless you like chips) and look at the spectacular views. A rather amaturish Birds of Prey show proved to be most entertaining especially when one of the birds refused to return to the keepers. There is a reasonable selection of animals kept in fairly good conditions. I was particularly taken with the Orangutangs - although I thought they could have used a bit more space. The orchid house is a must see withdozens of different species. The zoo opens at 10 in the morning and stays open until around 6 in the evening
For those who enjoy the Wild West a visit to Sioux City offers The best shows or so the brochure says and a Friday Night Barbeque with a Western Show and Live country music. Situated near to Playa del Aguila. Buses run from Playa del Ingles on Tuesdays to Sunday. Cannot comment any further as I didn't go.
Like most of the Canary Islands you can go on a Jeep ride to explore the wild volcanic landscape. These can be booked from Porto Rico and possibly through your representative at the resorts.
Overall a most relaxing holiday, much less to do than in Tenerife but to me that was not a problem. Other resorts on the island are much busier and probably offer much more entertainment.
In School holidays flights are not cheap around £400 but depart from many local airports