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A magic I can't explain
Member Name: sue.51
Date: 18/03/02, updated on 25/03/02 (1809 review reads)
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I don't think I realised before going there, that in theory this place is still an active volcano. If driving around the island you will see many black molten ash fields with sparse greenery and a lot of walls, much discussion could not ascertain what these were for, and we can only assume that they are to cash and trap some of the ash should the volcano decide to erupt again. You will also see active geezers dotted around the island, which caused much fascination to the kids.
Unlike the other Canary Islands I've visited, there is something about this place, the natives (with the exception of some of the 'charming' taxi-drivers who didn't appreciate us using their seatbelts) were so friendly and welcoming, most spoke at least a smattering of English, and welcomed the kids with a fervour and joy we have not seen since Majorca. For driving the roads are better than Gran Canaria but not as upmarket as Tenerife.
We were staying in a hotel in Matagorda, which is a purpose built resort that has developed at the end of Puerto del Carmen, a little further on that Playa de Los Pocillos, and a taxi ride into the centre of Puerto del Carmen cost around 500ptas (soon to change to the Euro).
Main resorts on the island are:
·Puerto del Carmen - bouncing with narrow pavements, and I should imagine a nightmare in high season - difficult for those with buggies and those in wheelchairs
·Costa Teguise - had a drive around, but seems to be built up around hotels and much quieter than its near neighbour.
·Playa Blanca - quite an upmarket resort I believe, didn't actually get there.
Transfer time from the airport will be short wherever you are staying, and if it is Matagorda or Playa de Los Pocillos, picture you
r hotel with a plane inthe distance, if you can't hack this, then look elsewhere.
Both resorts have commercial centres offering a wide range of pubs, eateries and gift-shops. If you are using the transfer coaches, watch your luggage carefully, one of mine got stolen during a 10 minute bus ride, necessitating a lot of frustrating calls to the Thomson 24 hour help line, a visit to the police station and a 3000 charge for the interpreter, typical when I leave the Spanish speaker at home.
Puerto del Carmen spans the seafront for a good few miles, and is awash with restaurants, bars, gift-stores, amusements arcades and supermarkets. If you enjoy Chinese or Indian cuisine you really will be spoilt for choice at affordable prices. If like me, you are travelling with two very fussy teenagers, one who like Chinese, the other Indian, then I am afraid your taste buds might not be tickled as much.
A chain called LANI's take up much of this parade in Puerto del Carmen, they have a Grill, Pizzeria, Meat restaurant, in fact about 8 restaurants within a 1 mile or so stretch. The food was OK, the service appalling, and we felt like we were all being squashed in together - and to add insult to injury, they served us with what we thought were complimentary bread rolls, only to find out afterwards we were paying c.80p each for the privilege. Main meals are not served with the customary fries and salad but potatoes and vegetables - although to be fair they did agree to let the two kids share a Pizza between them - cost for 3 including desserts and drinks c.£25.
The remainder of the time, we ate either in the hotel or La Brasa, a family run restaurant loning it in between the variety of LANI's outlets, food here was good, although service varied dependant on the time of day.
Don't forget that menu prices do not include VAT at 5% and if you rate the service you will be expected to leave a service charge. Toma
to Ketchup and Mayonnaise is plentiful,but you might struggle to access HP Sauce.
PLACES TO VISIT
Aqua-Park - Situated in the resort of Costa Teguise
Standard fare - 2450ptas for adults, 2150ptas for children - doesn't take credit cards - and very cold in Winter - we were actually warned off this by Thomsons who demonstrated concerns about the safety of some of the rides.
For about £10 per foot passenger, you can catch the ferry over to Fuerteventura, although we decided to give this a miss - £40 for a car and three passengers.
TIMANFAYA NATIONAL PARK & THE MOUNTAINS OF FIRE
Whilst I have driven abroad many times before, I was a little nervous at not having my navigator with me this time, and was worrying about how I would cope. Trust me, if you are staying in Puerto del Carmen, all roads on the island point to the capital Arrecife (6kms away), so finding your way back is easy.
Back to the park, as you drive up through the mountains of Fire, you will see the camel rides, not amount of cajoling or persuading would get the two girls to take me up on the offer of paying for their rides, the whole surrounding area looks like nothing I have ever seen, alternating between huge amounts of Hardened lava and black/golden sanded mountains.
Access to the park itself is controlled and charged for - 1100ptas (c£4.50 - c2.5 Euros) for adults, 550ptas for children, and trust me, you won't walk it up for the trip, you need a car or an organised tour.
Once inside the park, you will be guided to a tightly controlled parking area on a very steep slope, definitely not for the fainthearted. There is a restaurant in the park, serving food cooked in natural ovens from the heat from the ground, and glass walled bar where you can just sit and watch the world go by, viewing this not beautiful, yet breathtaking island.
Part of the payment into the park, provides you with an opportunity to
take a guided coach tour of 14km this area, with history narrated in Spanish, English and German. This seemed like a good idea at the time, and you get to see the mouth of the volcano and various other sights, but trust me, if you don't have a head for heights, then think carefully as the road is narrow, and seeing a bunch of tourists diving over one side of the bus to take photos is not necessarily my best idea of how to spend an afternoon. Access is forbidden by any other means, as is removal of any part of the volcanic matter.
Temperatures under the ground range from 140C up to 600C, and if you stand next to the craters outside the restaurant, you will feel it, you might also being to wonder whether the heat is actually coming from the sky or underneath.
I must confess, with the exclusion of the hotel bar, we only visited one bar all week, the Barge Inn in Puerto del Carmen, run by English staff with a nightly fun quiz, and shot questions all night. The kids decided the DJ was worth looking at, hence we never got to go anywhere else. Still, the beer was cheap, the food good (if actually pricier than the restaurants) and sorry they don't take VISA/Master-card, although they are widely accepted elsewhere - there are also cash machines aplenty.
I say the island is supposedly very windy, as for the first 4 days, we didn't see a hint of it, but I recognised what they meant during the last three, as the wind nearly took our breath away and the sea was wild. The weather was variable to say the least, sun as sometime during every day, but lowest temperature whilst we were there was 21C, highest 31C, so we couldn't really complain. Two tips, if you are travelling to this part of the world during the winter months, take a jacket for the evenings as it can get quite nippy, and if you like swimming, book a hotel with a heated or acclimatised swimming pool. Because believe me, the water is COLD.
Car Rental was £109 for the week, including air conditioning (booked in the UK through Thomsons) , and diesel was around 25p/litre.
Would I go back? You bet - tomorrow if I had the chance - so far we have not been overawed with the Canaries, but this place has something, and there are so many things I didn't get to see because the kids were more interested in the hotel swimming pool.
The holiday was relaxing and pleasant and I am already looking for something for October half-term. I am waiting to have the hotel listed, but in the meantime, if you are looking for a short-warm break on a cheapish basis, and don't mind basic accommodation but with good facilities and a heated swimming pool, situated right on the beach, then I can recommend the Sol Lanzarote in Matagorda, available with Thomsons and JUST up to April 2002, although I believe JMC, Airtours and Direct Holidays are also there.
Finally, if anyone can tell me what the small walls are for in the fields the length and breadth of the island, then you really will put us out of our misery.