Archive for Regional specialties

Have A Nikita M’Dear: the non-eponymous drinks of Madeira

Posted in Fun, Photographs, the Madeira archipelago with tags on October 15, 2011 by maidofmettle

(This is a bit of a jump in time, but it is going to take me a while to sort out videos etc. to write the full colour version of the sail back from the Azores – so here’s something I started writing in Madeira but didn’t get around to finishing at the time..)
Not that madeira wine isn’t very nice, but there are plenty of other options…

Although poncha is now very much associated with Madeira, some guides will admit that this was originally an English import from India in the mid eighteenth century, which was adapted to local ingredients and became extremely popular. The most common version comprises sugar cane spirit, honey, lemon juice and lemon zest.

(with carne de vinho e alho – beautifully tender pork marinated in wine and garlic)

Freshly made it is delicious, albeit with quite a kick, and is served hot or cold depending on the season. Some bars make a vast number of variations, from pescador (fisherman’s) to maracuja (passion fruit) and a rather lethal sounding verde (with absinthe as the spirit).

Bottled you mostly get the kick – or you did when I tried it once, and probably won’t again.

If you’re ordering a niquita, or nikita, that’s not really an issue since it contains ice cream. I might have had a bit more trepidation about drinking it if I hadn’t mistakenly though the alcohol content was just white wine, rather than white wine and beer, with vanilla ice cream and chunks of pineapple. It makes for a very refreshing long drink, especially on a hot day.

Having tried these, I was left with the one that definitely didn’t sound drinkable, or even edible, in whatever language. The Pe da Cabra, or the Goat’s Foot. I was rather expecting it to be a Regional Specialty very much in accord with the Pratchett usage of the term.

I knew it was a little strange, but I’d actually forgotten the full details of the ingredients list the day I tried it, so watching the barman make it was fascinating but tinged with revelatory horror at nearly every step.

He began with a small bottle of beer from the fridge.
Then he poured a small glass of dry Madeira wine, and mixed them.
Then he added some sugar.
Then he added a big heaped teaspoon of drinking chocolate powder and mixed that in too.
Then he cut some big chunks of rind off a lemon and added that in.

It was actually very good.

Now we go from the traditional to what’s apparently quite a modern idea – sugar cane juice (rum is of course very traditional). It’s unsurprisingly sweet, but not excessively so, and wonderful chilled in warm weather.

This cherry liqueur was unsurprisingly served up at the cherry festival in Jardim da Serra – a gorgeous colour and quite tasty as well, though actually a bit too sweet for me – rather surprising in comparison to the sugar cane juice!

And this is cidra (or sidra) – similar to English cider, this was quite a sweet version, but quite a few different versions are available.

I never actually got around to having a caipirinha, more famously associated with Brazil but unsurprisingly popular in Madeira and Portugal as well. They’re considerably easier to find elsewhere though..

P.S. I’ll be impressed if anyone figures out the reference in the title..

So long Sao Miguel

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Sailing, the Azores, Walking with tags , , on July 31, 2011 by maidofmettle

Oops, thought I’d posted this but it was only saved as a draft, so now to really confuse the order of things by slotting it in where it should have been. Mind you, no-one spotted me saying we’d left off hearing about the Azores on Sao Miguel rather than Terceira..

I seem to have managed to write several blog entries about the island without really ever saying much about Ponta Delgada, where I’d been staying for most of the time.

The island and the Azores were in fact originally governed from Vila Franca do Campo, where I’d spent the night at anchor, but various disputes prompted the residents of Ponta Delgada to make a secret appeal to the Portuguese King to grant it it’s own village status, and so some degree of independence, in 1507. From there it went from strength to strength, becoming the capital of Sao Miguel after Vila Franca was devastated by an earthquake, and growing to become the 3rd largest town in Portugal in the nineteenth century.

Today it’s easily the biggest city in the Azores – in fact more people live here than on most of the other islands. It’s home to about 45,000 people (similar to Canterbury), the main campus of the University of the Azores, and nearly half the businesses in the islands. Needless to say, it was quite a big change arriving there from Santa Maria and the anchorage off the Ilheu de Vila.

The arches of the ‘Portas da Cidade’ gateway are the main icon of the city, and make quite a first impression having crossed the road from the harbour.

Here they are again at night-time.

There are inlaid pavements in much of the city centre, and windows and doors are commonly edged with the same volcanic rock, creating a striking black-and-white effect.

Being a big harbour, it’s got plenty of places to buy exciting things for boats. I was actually rather excited that the prices for courtesy flags were about half what they were in Madeira, as my Portuguese one had become more of a national insult half-flag.

I’d been looking around for somewhere to buy red fabric to patch it for ages, but without success, so I decided I’d better splash out and get a new one, and for good measure an Azorean one to go with it.

The food market wasn’t bad either, though for me it was eclipsed by the excitement of the Rei dos Queijos next door. The King of Cheeses might have a small shop, but it’s well stocked in quantity

and in quality – this was tangy but not too sharp or sour, really delicious.

I also got a box of these Queijadas da Vila, made exclusively in Vila Franca do Campo. This was somewhat ironic as I’d assumed from the name that they were small cheeses until I was offered one on a French boat in Santa Maria. A surprise, but no disappointment.

All this talk of food seems to have got me some way away from what I was talking about…

There are some very nice parks just north of the centre of Ponta Delgada – these photos were taken in the Parque Jose do Canto, which has a wide selection of local and foreign plants

including some very large bamboo

and a rainbow, accompanied by a small waterfall.

As well as a park Senhor do Canto also has a street named after him – I mention this partly to illustrate the fact that nearly every street in the city seems to have been renamed at some point, presumably creating a lot of confusion!

Between the old name and the mini-biography of the person honoured, they may be the most verbose street signs I’ve ever seen, but at least they’re rather attractive.

There is another fortuitous link from this though – Jose do Canto pioneered the introduction of many new agricultural practices and crops to the island, including the introduction of tea. Along with pineapples this remains one of the most famous crops grown here – in fact the two tea plantations on Sao Miguel are the only ones in Europe.

So I went to the north coast to take a look. Both plantations are open to the public, but the Porto Formoso one appeared easier to get to by bus than the larger establishment at Gorreana.

It still nearly went a bit wrong as the bus surprisingly went along the road above the village rather than through it – in fact straight past the tea plantation but since I wasn’t expecting that it was some way to the next stop where I could get out! Thankfully not too far though – below you can see some of the tea crop in the foreground and the village of Porto Formoso below.

Tea was first grown here in the late eighteenth century on a very small scale, which increased a hundred years or so late when the local agricultural association brought experts from China to help improve the local crop.

As well as the history of the plantation there’s a little museum displaying a selection of the machinery used to dry, separate and bag the tea.
And then there’s a tasting room, with a lovely view over the fields to the coast, and some very nice refreshments.

And now finally the promised move on – after a very nice week on Sao Miguel I planned to head around 90 miles west-north-west to Terceira, very appropriately my third landfall in the Azores, as it’s named for being the third island to have been ‘discovered’ by the Portuguese.

It was a nice change to be able to leave Ponta Delgada with no likely prospect of running out of wind for an extended period, save a possible wind shadow of the Caldeira de Sete Cidades. That did happen, but I was able to motor-sail for about half an hour and then got a nice wind again. And there was a good distraction, with dolphins everywhere!

I started off sailing to windward, aiming for Praia da Vitoria on the east coast of the island, where there’s a sheltered anchorage and a very cheap marina. The island’s capital of Angra do Heroismo on the south coast was the backup option.

Maid was sailing very well through most of the day and overnight, but early the next morning I decided Angra was going to be the better option. Being able to steer slightly further away from where the wind was coming from made for a very quick sail the rest of the way, though I did lose all sight of the island at one point, as it disappeared entirely within a cloud.

Happily it reappeared again well before I approached the coast near Angra, and I had a nice view of the coast while I ate lunch.

Entry went well, though the water in the harbour was so clear I was a bit nervous about some of the big rocks visible on the bottom! None were a problem though, and I was soon moored up, tucked away in the very sheltered far end of the harbour.

First impressions were very good – after all, the centre of Angra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The harbour is dominated by the beautiful Church of Misericordia.

The area defined by UNESCO also includes Monte Brasil, the remains of a volcanic crater that shelters the harbour from the west. It was a very nice afternoon, so I decided to go for a walk up to the top. I started off along the road, looking back north towards the city on my left…

…and then went up a rather steeper footpath…

….until I could see the sea to the south as well.

It looks remote, but on a Sunday afternoon it’s actually picnic and barbecue central – a really nice atmosphere with lots of families gathered around the numerous picnic tables.

The top is around 200m high, plenty enough to look back down over Angra, and beyond to the woods and farmland in the hills beyond.

So my second impressions of this third island were definitely good as well…

The Divino Espirito Santo in Ponta Delgada

Posted in Fun, Photographs, the Azores with tags , , on July 30, 2011 by maidofmettle

Finally finished! I’ve had trouble writing this one – it’s quite hard work to say something reasonably concise and accurate about the religious traditions of another culture with another language – for once selecting and ordering pictures was the easy part!


The Holy Spirit Festivals date back to the colonisation of the islands in the fifteenth century. The exact origins of them are unclear, but they were probably inspired by Queen Saint Isabel of Portugal, who pledged her crown to the Holy Spirit as a plea to stop a famine, and later began a tradition to feed the poor on Pentecost, and heavily influenced by Franciscan monks among the early settlers, who worshipped the Holy Spirit according to doctrines proposed by Joachim of Fiore.

This, and the accompanying belief in a post-Revelation third age ruled directly by it with no need for the Church didn’t find favour with the Pope, and it’s probably no coincidence that Franciscans were the first religious orders to take part in the settlement of the Azores. Though they’re rooted in Catholicism, the ceremonies are now unique to these islands and parts of the Americas where Azorean emigrants have settled.

Brotherhoods of the Holy Spirit are still found in each village and neighbourhood in the islands today. Their main principles are hope, faith in the divine, egalitarianism, solidarity and charity, and autonomy from the church (I’m guessing that last was the controversial one, though the local churches appear quite involved in some of the ceremonies today).

The festivities take place over a number of weeks after Easter, based around the Imperio of the local brotherhood. This would once have been a temporary structure, but they’re now usually colourful buildings, which serve as a base for religious rituals as well as the collection and distribution of donations.

An Imperador or mordomo is chosen for that year, and  makes a pledge to provide food for friends, family and the poor of the village. They’re usualy selected randomly from the local Brotherhood, though someone who’d had good fortune during the year might step forward to volunteer.

There are a number of religious ceremonies and rituals over the six or seven weeks after Easter, and other celebrations based on sharing food and drink. Normally this is just for the village or parish concerned, but recently some cities have started holding condensed versions as big public events, including Ponta Delgada.

There were long tables and benches round all four sides of the Campo de Sao Francisco for the serving of the Sopa (soup) do Espirito Santo to anyone and everyone.

They were all packed with people sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, and crowds waiting patiently if noisily nearby ready to take their turn as soon as seats became free.

Recipes for the traditional soup vary – the one served here involved beef, cabbage and potatos, seasoned with mint. It was very nice, as was the conversation with my neighbours, though it was rather limited by Portuguese. It helped that the picture on the bottles of local wine showed where I’d been anchored a few days before!

The local papers reckon that over 12,000 people attended, which I can certainly believe, and over a tonne of meat was used, which is rather harder to imagine! The four kitchens at the corners of the square must really have had their work cut out, and if I ever see so many underage scouts hurrying around with bottles of wine again it will probably signal some kind of irretrievable breakdown of society.

As it is it’s an impressive demonstration of society working together to put on a huge event while saving the council money – the food and drinks for the feast and distribution to charities was donated by local companies, only local performers were booked and there were no fireworks (for a change at a Portuguese festival!).

From the voices in the crowd it certainly sounded like it brings a lot of emigrants and their families back to the islands, as well as other tourists and of course being a big event for the locals.

The main course was followed up by a delicious rice pudding – really rich and creamy, topped with cinnamon.

And then a big parade, with all 24 parishes on the island represented in the procession: lots of ox-carts, decorated floats, folk groups and marching bands.

I think this pair of oxen may have drawn the short straw when it came to enthusiasm of the designers.

As if there hadn’t been enough food already, the bread van was distributing the very tasty sweet massa sovada to all and sundry

and I suspect the Sagres float was even more popular, though I do wonder how long the pumps were able to keep going before the driver had to roar off down a side street in search of more beer.

The next day was more solemn, with the Bishop of the Azores leading an open-air mass on the steps of the main church, followed by the coronation and blessing of the mordomos for this year. The active participation of the clergy is actually a more modern development rather than a central part of the ceremony – traditionally the community was addressing the Holy Spirit directly.

followed by the Bodo de Leite, a ritual serving of milk and the massa sovada bread to everyone – again the locals were very keen on including everyone.

The Folioes do Divino who’d accompanied the coronation were playing at various places around the square, though it did look to me as though they were going to cause chaos when they moved to the exit from the Bodo de Leite serving area..


The evening was finished off by the Ponta Delgada Light Orchestra who were definitely enjoying themselves, putting on an exuberant performance of songs from the 70s to the 90s. I think a certain group of people down in the Canaries play Proud Mary better though : )







A long walk on a small island – seeing something of Santa Maria

Posted in Fun, Photographs, the Azores, Walking with tags , on July 14, 2011 by maidofmettle

Oops,I’d meant to leave a bit more of a gap before publishing this one. Madeira to the Azores Part II is below if you missed it. Still, I do have a bit to catch up on..


The first walk on Santa Maria took me up a very steep path to a fort overlooking the harbour – the one from which I took the photo of the marina in the last post. In fact I was wondering if the path was carrying on several times.. The reception at the top was a bit guarded as well.

It is superbly sited though, commanding views not only of the harbour below but both sides of the inlet.

I also did a bit of wandering in the nearby town – Vila Nova do Porto extends further inland from the fort. Around 3,000 people live here – roughly half the population of the island. For it’s size it’s very long – the three main parallel streets are constrained by steep ravines either side. This is literally the high street..

It’s a bit of a walk up from sea level, but it’s very common for a local to offer a lift as they’re driving past.

Although there were few boats in it the harbour was quite busy as the local ladies’ fishing competition was on. The contestants usually left in the evening and came back any time between 11pm and 4 am – obviously very keen!

The final evening was finished with the inevitable fireworks display, thankfully rather earlier.

Getting to explore further on the island would be a bit tricky, though it was looking very tempting from the end of the main street.

There is a bus service, but it’s geared to local people’s needs as there are few tourists . The bus goes from the villages into the town (definitely singular) very early in the morning, and a return trip just before lunch. It then turns round and comes straight back into town again in the early afternoon, and back out to the villages in the evening.

So to see much of the island a taxi trip to the other end of it seemed the best option – it’s small enough that it’s not too expensive (ok, 12 euros isn’t cheap either), and I thought I’d quite possibly be able to walk the full way back.

Talking to the taxi driver was quite interesting – he was born on Pico, and had previously lived on Sao Miguel, and from what I could understand of the rest of what he said people are generally much more mobile between the islands than I’d imagined.

We went to Santa Barbara, a village on the east coast, on the other side of the main ridge in the centre of the island. The countryside is much greener than the other side of the island, with rolling hills all around. The rural houses are also very distinctive – blue edging and big chimneys abound. It’s been a while since we were on the Algarve, but that’s where the style was imported from, as many of the settlers of this island came from there. Interestingly, they seem to have bagged the sunny south both at home and overseas…

I took a bit of a detour from the walk described in my book to start with, passing some abandoned windmills

to visit a former quarry, now a local beauty spot.

After that I started heading towards the central spine of the island..

..and soon I was looking back down on the hills and valleys towards the sea..

until I got a bit further along and was quite grateful for a shady tree-lined section.

This track eventually led right up to Pico Alto, the highest point in the island at about 590m. From here you could see pretty much all of Santa Maria except a few parts blocked by nearby hills, such as the south-west corner:

You could see right the way to the other end though – quite a change after Gran Canaria and Madeira. The main town and airport are in the far distance in the next picture.

The airport was actually the main stopping place for transatlantic flights for some time in the 20th century. It was built during the Second World War to support American and British operations, and it was the most modern airport in the islands when it was first used for civilian flights, though it’s since been overtaken by other airports on some of the bigger islands.

The status of Santa Maria has changed a few times like that – from the first of the Azores to be discovered and settled to becoming quite isolated at the extreme western end of the chain, to being an international transport hub and back to a largely quiet island.

It’s starting to become more developed now as it generally has the finest weather in the Azores, and some of the best beaches, making it a popular place for holiday homes, but as you can see from the photos it’s still a very rural landscape.

Next I continued in this direction:

First I went along the tree-covered ridge to the right, then passing the villages in the valley on the right to reach the ‘desert’ patches just visible in the trees beyond.

The Barreiro da Faneca is unique in the Azores – a desert of red clay created by the effect of the arid climate on the rock from the most recent eruptions on the island. I was wondering if it would live up to it’s billing, but the reds and yellows really are impressive.

They stand out especially clearly where channels have been formed.

There are quite a few plants growing there as well, mainly native species such as this Azorean heather.

All in all it’s a beautiful place, and incredibly peaceful.

From there I carried on westwards for a bit before turning back south towards Vila Nova do Porto. The western side of the island is also heavily farmed, but much flatter and dried than the other side.

By the time I’d got back to the town I’d covered quite a few miles, and was feeling rather hungry, especially noting the streets paved with fish and ships.

That wasn’t actually on the menu though, so instead I boldy selected the one sandwich on the list I’d never heard of before – the Pe do Torresmo.

For 1 euro this is probably the best value sandwich I’ve ever had, though it was a bit of a shame that ordering it interrupted the owner of the bar finger-picking on some kind of stringed instrument. And when I find out what it was (the sandwich that is) there will probably be a post or two to come on food..

Preparations part 1, and having a go with gofio

Posted in Cooking, Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Music, Photographs with tags , on April 29, 2011 by maidofmettle

I’ve now finished installing the AIS system. This recieves signals from all ships with AIS transmitters – large ships or deep-sea fishing boats, and some yachts – and tells me where they are.

It uses the same kind of aerial as my VHF radio but I’ve added a separate one so they can both be used at the same time without having to swap cables around as soon as I get hold of the right adapters.

Here it is working. The visual display is centred on my boat, and the other icons are nearby ships. The information on the right shows the details of the ship I’ve selected.

It’s useful to see the track and the names of ships, but the handiest thing will be the ability to set an alarm when it picks up any ships approaching within a given range (say a couple of miles).

I had to drill a hole out a bit more to get the cable from the aerial into the boat but otherwise it went fairly smoothly, though I had to move a lot of things out into the main cabin which is giving the boat a distinct tilt to one side.

This makes it a fairly high priority to work out how to secure the AIS display box, as it currently swings half-open and obstructs the hatch…

While I have everything out of the quarterberth I am installing a water tank underneath it again. I’d got rather fed up of flexible water tanks and chucked the last one out when it failed rather than trying to fix it, thinking I just didn’t trust them enough.

I’m still not that keen on them, but I do regret it – eventually I realised that replacing it with bottled water just wasn’t going to be appealing when getting to it would require moving all the stuff I just had to move to deal with the cable, plus the dinghy.

So I bought a new one. Grr.

Replacing water tanks isn’t going to do that much good if the water filter isn’t working properly, so I’ll be replacing that too, as I’m getting quite a taste of charcoal at the moment.

This should be quite easy as I had everything out of the galley cupboard (yes, the boat is a mess at present) to do work in that. We’d been putting up with lots of things wanting to fall out of it if Maid was heeling to port or rolling significantly for quite a while.

However, going to the Azores is likely to entail one or both of those conditions the entire way, so I decided it was time to deal with it. So I now have nice holders for various food containers..

(hmmm, need to refill the flour)


and plates / chopping board.

I’ve also replaced the irritating bits of string for securing the hinged  worktop in bad weather with some buckles that won’t hang down getting in the way of the cupboard door below.

The tape round the handle of the buckle is to stop them from rattling when the boat rolls. As you can see the paintwork on the top edge needs redoing, but isn’t that high on the priority list. I have managed to sort it out in the seating area though, as the paint tended to sneak onto people’s clothes when they leant on it.

There’s still a bit more work to do, especially in the galley – not only are self-raising flour and lentils still a flight risk, but I’ve realised I should buy some containers for bread flour and gofio and incorporate those.

What’s that? What is gofio?

Tricky question, actually – it’s defined quite broadly. It’s basically a type of flour, made by grinding roasted wheat, corn, barley, fern seeds, rye, lupin beans or chick peas. I’m not sure if there is an equivalent available in England or not, but if it is I suspect it’s rather harder to find. This is the gofio section of quite a small supermarket…

There are even more uses for it than types of gofio. One I was intrigued by was making a bread-like dough that doesn’t need cooking. Field workers would often make this for their lunch in a bit of goatskin.

Mine wasn’t quite authentic, but tasted pretty good for a first attempt. The flavour was quite strong so I was glad I’d used smallish balls of it in my salad. Recipe to come when I’ve carried out some more trials.

It’s also very handy as a nutritious thickening agent that doesn’t seem to form lumps – for example making a red wine sauce (in different proportions that’s another a bread recipe, possibly for vineyard workers!)…

or a very easy white sauce with some cream that needed using up:

So, when you see it proclaimed as a ‘superfood’ by all and sundry, remember you read it here first!

Experimenting aside, I’ve had a few people round for dinner – Dave, Sarah, Bethany and Bryn from Cape, and Hampus and Lotta from Ingeborg (on separate occasions, or that would have been a challenge!), and forgotten to take photos on every occasion.

I’ve also got to enjoy other people’s cooking as well – a very fine curry with Hampus and Lotta and another Chris who got in the other day:

and a very tasty barbecue cooked by Chris on his cob oven the other night.

On other evenings our music group have been practicing quite a lot, getting ready for tomorrow night’s charity concert at the Sailors’ Bar. We’ve got about 30 or so songs we’re happy with, and at least one other bloke is going to play a bit, as well as the owner of the bar singing a bit, so it should be a good evening.

Fingers crossed for the weather though, looks like there might be a depression heading this way..

Taryna’ birthday party, and back to Bandama

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Walking with tags , , on April 14, 2011 by maidofmettle

I’ve been trying to work out  the last person in whose honour I’ve attended two birthday parties in a row is, and failing.

It’s quite a surprise that it should occur now while living a fairly mobile lifestyle – I’ve ended up staying here much longer than I planned, but many other boats have come and gone.

Last year Taryna’s birthday party in Gibraltar, held on the jetty between Heymede (Taryna and Dave’s boat) and Maid of Mettle.  We were very lucky with the weather and had a great time, ending up with music lasting quite a while into the night, including Caroline and Chris playing mandolin and guitar, a couple of other guitarists and our neighbour Mark with his bongo drum.

It was a nice surprise that Mark arrived from southern Spain in time for this year’s party on the beach, and also that it stopped raining just in time!

His dog Sheila was certainly happy to be there. We felt we had to try and tire her out before we could start a game of cricket, but didn’t have much luck..

There was a bit of a sandstorm going on in the background as we started, and the ball was threatening to split in half (even without any canine assistance), but it was still an entertaining game.

We do need more bowling practice though. A ball that’s whole, reasonably heavy and bounces would be useful too!

I had a slight panic moment when I was making food to take round to Heymede for the continuation of the party that evening. I had thought I had bought some interesting-looking local chorizo sausage, but I’d been in a hurry at the time..

It turned out to be interesting-feeling cream of chorizo, in a sausage-like skin. I didn’t really think squidgy lumps of pig product would work in the tomato salad I’d been thinking of making.. Fortunately I had some bread to hand..

We ended up saving most of the food for the evening rather than taking it to the beach and getting sand in it.

The party went very well – those of us sat in shelter on the boat with the food and drinks definitely had fun, and it looked like those on the pontoon did too.

Carolyn and I had both been tempted by the floor of the volcanic crater at Bandama when we’d walked around the edge of it with Jon a couple of weeks ago.

At that time I didn’t feel ready to go down 200m and climb back up again – the relatively level circling of the crater had required taking quite a few breaks.

This time it was much easier, and the meadow at the bottom was well worth the descent – beautiful in springtime.

The next day we went to the market – or rather the nearest one. I’d been intending to go for ages, but never got around to it as I don’t need to buy that much fresh food for just me, so it’s quite easy to pick it up on the way back from doing other things.

I’m glad I finally made it there though – it’s significantly cheaper than the grocer’s and supermarket nearer the marina

This lot cost about 5 euros..

.. and these about 1.50 each. The snacks are churros, basically deep fried batter, dipped in sugar. Mmm, healthy.

Mind you, churros and hot chocolate seem to be the Spanish version of the late night kebab, so we probably shouldn’t expect any less.

Talking of late nights, there have been some beautifully calm and still ones lately..

It’s just a pity the pontoon Maid is tied up to doesn’t lend itself to pictures with flat horizons..

Past and future (?) visits, and catching up on photos

Posted in Fun, Music, Photographs, Walking with tags , , on April 8, 2011 by maidofmettle

So, what did Jon (pictured) and I get up to when he was here? Quite a lot..

(credit for most of the photos in this entry goes to him, by the way. Obviously excepting the one above, which he’ll probably berate me for)

On Sunday we went for a walk along Las Canteras beach on the north side of Las Palmas. You’ve seen plenty of photos of that before, but not any of people being able to surf so close in – it must have been very near high water.

The waves weren’t big but some of the surfers were pretty impressive nonetheless.

On Monday we travelled down to Maspalomas – one of the biggest tourist developments on the island, but also home to some impressive sand dunes. The town itself is a big sprawl of holiday apartments and restaurants offering every type of cuisine you could want, with a full supporting cast of people pushing jewellry and stuff – quite a shock having been staying in the north which is much less touristy.

Having got away from that the dunes themselves are pretty impressive – it only takes a few minutes walk to be away from all the noise of the beachfront kiosks and into a very different feeling world of sand and scrub. It’s quite something – especially when you’ve worked out which bits offer the beautiful scenery without the naked men wandering around.

On Tuesdaywe had a more restful day, with a little more sightseeing in Las Palmas, wandering around one of the parks near the marina.

That evening we (or rather Jon) rowed over to Pax Nostrum for harmonica practice  for me, photography for Jon and then chatting till the usual ‘how did it get that late?’ finish.

It looks as though none of us know the words to this one yet!

Jon sent some photos when he got back which everyone is thrilled with – thank you again!

By this time I was keen to get out for a proper walk and show Jon some of my favourite parts of the island. This is the view down into the volcanic crater at Bandama – we chose to go round the edge for a relatively easy walk – the farm on the crater floor is about 200m below.

That said, I’ve not found many walks on Gran Canaria I’d call flat (the word ‘strenuous’ is frequently used in my guidebook), and the southern edge of the crater rim is pretty narrow as well – here are Caroline and Jon walking along the start of that section:

At the end of the walk they were rather surprised by the way we popped up next to a golf course – it seems rather out of place here, though it dates back to 1891 and is in fact the oldest golf course in Spain!

It also seems a little odd that the green pictured is very near the edge of the crater – anyone driving a bit too far is going to land in the world’s biggest bunker.. It seems like it might be a health hazard on the crater floor as well!

On Thursday we made the rather shorter bus journey to the hospital (I had to finally post a picture of it), and sat around a lot waiting to get my results and have my stitches taken out. It was definitely good to have someone to wait with, and share the frustration of not actually getting the results that day..

Afterwards we crossed the main road to the old fishing quarter. Unsurprisingly there are several fish restaurants there with very nice views out over the sea, and being well away from the tourist areas of the city it’s quite cheap. The fish were good, and the coffee was very nice as well.

If you’re wondering about the layered effect these are the traditional ‘leche leche’, which I suspect I’ve mentioned before – condensed milk on the bottom and then coffee on top – the uppermost layer is just the milk froth.

After that we got a bus back as far as the old town centre and walked around there before returning to the marina. It’s an area of real contrasts, from the patchwork colours of houses piling higgledy-piggledy up the hillside:

to the grander architecture of the town centre

and back to the marina along the bustling main shopping street

Later that afternoon we went over to Las Canteras beach on the other side of Las Palmas to admire the sunset and dusk from the promenade.

And of course to admire the slightly intimidating sand sculpture (there was a dinosaur as well for those who prefer less polemical beach art).

On Friday we went for another walk. I’d come up with one plan for a short walk from Cruz de Tejeda to a viewpoint on the opposite side of the ridge but after some time poring over bus timetables we decided it wouldn’t really work that well. Thankfully Jon spotted the improbable sounding option of walking to Lanzarote, which we duly did.

It worked just as well – to start with we had slightly views over one of the biggest valleys in the centre of the island, and then crossing the ridge and descending the other side, we had views of Las Palmas and the northern side of the island as well as the scenery closer to hand.

This is another abandoned farm set in a crater – again impressively remote-feeling like the one at Bandama, though this one does have road access.

We also passed some basins where water draining down from the hills was used for washing clothes by the people of the village.

Some of the tourist information claims it’s still in use but it looked like it might turn things a bit green – it certainly must be a while since it was this busy!

Having got back we went for a quick swim on the beach by the marina to cool off, and also for me to see how it felt – a week or so before cold had made it very hard to move my left leg, but as with most things this seemed to have improved significantly.

It felt good enough that on Saturday morning we went over to Las Canteras again to swim inside the reef at the near end. The water is quite clear, so with goggles on we could see lots of fish swimming around the reef, and surprisingly right up close to the beach as well, ranging from brightly coloured to jet black with blue fins.

Then back to the boat for lunch, and then to the bus station so Jon could go to the airport for his flight back. It was a great week – great to see him again, and also nice to have someone around to give me a reason to get out and about more while being very patient with my walking speed (especially at the start of the week) and tendency to sit down a lot.

I’ll get on to future plans a bit more in my next entry, but I will mention one thing here – having thought everything was done for a while I got a call from the hospital to say they want to do an ultrasound scan at the end of April.

The scan is presumably just routine follow-up – nothing to worry about, but I’ll obviously stay for it. I think it’ll also work out quite well in terms of getting jobs done on the boat to be here till then.

So if anyone else is looking to come out and visit, within that period would probably be easiest to arrange – it’s rather short notice, but then any trip would probably have to be once I get sailing again in May, and travel will get rather expensive when / if I make it to the Azores.

Let me know if you’re interested and we can try and sort something out, either sooner or later.

Of course, I’m hoping to see most of my friends again on returning to the UK, hopefully in August – it doesn’t feel like all that long now!