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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Spectacular New Attraction:

Mirador de Abrante complex
The 'sky walk' (above and below)
High in the cliffs over the small town of Agulo on the northern coast of La Gomera a spectacular new viewing point, the 'Mirador de Abrante', has been constructed. The area is known for its red soil and overlooks Agulo about 1000 feet below, offering sweeping views over the Atlantic (a further 500 feet below Agulo) with Tenerife and mount Teide (Spain's highest mountain) in the background. Agulo is said to be one of the most beautiful traditional Canarian villages, nestled picturesquely in the cliffs over the Atlantic. The new viewing point has a 7 metres long platform suspended in the air that is made almost entirely of glass (including the floor !) and will be a challenge for those suffering from vertigo. A building housing a cafe and an information point has been integrated into the landscape. The whole complex will be officially opened on Wednesday, Jan 2nd 2013, by the president of the Canary Islands. 
Teide in the background (centre)

A few days ago we got a sneak preview and were very impressed. However,the road and car park aren't finished yet and it is so well integrated into the landscape that it is a bit hard to find. It is located not too far away from the interpretative centre of the national park at 'Juego de Bolas' and it is advisable to ask for directions there.


Agulo

Several viewing points have been integrated



Agulo 1000 feet below, the Atlantic ocean a further 500 feet below the La Gomera village

Friday, December 28, 2012

National Parks Threatened By Cutbacks

We all know about the financial situation in Spain and the Canary Islands, and for 2013 even more severe cutbacks in public spending are expected. The budget for the four national parks in the Canary Islands (La Palma, Tenerife, Lanzarote and La Gomera) is proposed to be cut by nearly 75% next year. These cuts have been described as brutal and scientists have warned that this will threaten the mere existence of the internationally acclaimed and unique areas of nature. It would also mean the loss of hundreds of jobs.
For La Gomeras 'Garajonay' national park this will come as a particularly severe blow after the damage caused to it during the devastating fire this summer. To restore the affected areas and to repair damage to its infrastructures the budget for the coming year should have been increased instead of being severely cut. The cutbacks will also mean less protection against fire during the dry summer period for 2013.
There has been a public outcry locally, nationally and internationally. You can help by signing a petition against the cutbacks - just click the following: http://www.change.org/petitions/parlamento-y-gobierno-de-la-comunidad-autónoma-de-canarias-no-al-brutal-recorte-presupuestario-de-los-parques-nacionales-de-canarias?utm_campaign=friend_inviter_modal&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition&utm_term=18059413  (The English version is found directly below the Spanish one)


Sign of the times ?
(Fire damaged sign and trees in the Garajonay national park, La Gomera)
Sign the petition and enjoy the park while it is still well-kept               .


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Solidarity Calendar Published

A calendar for 2013 with 13 beautiful photos has been published by 'Plataforma Valle Gran Rey', the association of victims of the fire this summer. All proceeds will go directly to those affected and the price is 10 Euros, as for each calendar sold one fruit tree will be given to those who lost theirs during the fire. It is available in some shops and offices in Valle Gran Rey (e.g.: Cibermatika in Vueltas,  Tourist Office in La Calera, etc.) or can be ordered by mail directly from plataformaporvallegranrey@gmail.com

The 2013 La Gomera Solidarity Calendar

Monday, December 24, 2012

Photo of the annual Christmas decoration in the
'Bistro' cafe in Vueltas, Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Weather In Canary Islands

Good news: The Canary Islands weather forecast for the festive season is for mostly sunny, dry and warm weather with light to moderate winds. Maximum daytime air temperature will be in the mid-twenties. The sea water temperature should remain between 20,5ºC and 22ºC, warmest in the western Canaries .

Thursday, December 20, 2012

End Of The World Party

Local rock band 'Wisdom Weed', known for their 'last' concerts will be playing another 'final' gig tomorrow, when the world will end according to some:
If the world does indeed continue to exist, then there is plenty of action to be enjoyed in the harbour area of Valle Gran Rey here on La Gomera on Saturday, Dec. 22nd. There will be all kinds of live music in the streets of the village from early evening on, and the shops will remain open until midnight with special offers and drinks and snacks for free. This is the annual 'noche blanca' (white night) Christmas shopping promotion. 
After that, there will be a DJ night on the new pier with lots of DJs to keep you entertained until daybreak, in fine weather with a temperature of around 20ºC forecast.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Fiesta Continues

The great fiesta (see previous post The Great Fiesta ) continues, and tonight a candlelight procession passed my house.  The statue of the 'Virgen de los Reyes' was carried shoulder-high to spend the night in a small chapel nearby,  one of the many stops on her journey through the extensive parish, until she will be finally back 'at home' in her church in early January for the culmination of the festivities. It always amazes me that the church services are poorly attended in Catholic Spain, but the fiestas and processions draw big crowds. Maybe it is the food and drink that is freely available...
Beautiful clear sky just before the procession tonight

Worshippers and tourists coming to see the 'Virgen de los Reyes' (left of altar), just arrived in the chapel 
The pavement is typically decorated with pictures made ot dyed salt
 Free food an drink
awaiting the crowd












Saturday, December 15, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12-12-12 : 77 Posts

...anyway there's news: British Airways have announced flights directly from London Gatwick to Tenerife five times a week from next spring and pre-bookings are said to be beyond expectations. 
New figures released here today reveal that arrivals in Tenerife from the UK and Ireland were up considerably this year. Let's hope that some will 'DISCOVER LA GOMERA'. Even  if it means taking a ferry to the 'forgotten island', it does add a dimension of discovery to any holiday in the Canaries.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Major Recording Studio For La Gomera

''Eclectic Quality''

A few years ago musician and producer Peter Van Hooke (best known for his work with Van Morrison and Mike Rutherford, and the TV show 'Live From Abbey Road') bought a secluded house near Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera and started a recording studio which soon attracted major artists like Bjork to the island. His plans for expansion were thwarted by the fact that the area is environmentally protected and the authorities could not give planning permission. Now Peter is coming back with a larger project for which he has teamed up with one of the best known studios in the world, AIR Studios of London, and  P. Olsen (of the shipping dynasty) who owns a former tomato cannery near Playa Santiago on La Gomera, known as 'La Roseta'. This disused building is being converted into a large studio complex with the help of British designer and engineer known as John T.M.. Work was progressing nicely on my last visit, and many unusual and interesting features will be included, e.g. a landscaped outdoor swimming pool overlooking the Atlantic, etc..
Artists will be accommodated in private luxury houses belonging to the Olsen family.
I'll quote the site of the promoting Olsen company http://www.terrafortunata.com/en/our-developments/ :
"Richard Boote, Peter Van Hooke and Petter Olsen have teamed up to create a residential recording studio on the  island of La Gomera  in the  Canaries. Richard Boote  is the  owner  and business entrepreneur of AIR Studios in London. Peter Van Hooke is a world renowned musician, television and music producer,  and the  creator  of the ‘Live  From Abbey Road’ television series which is broadcast in over 120 countries. Petter  Olsen is the partner/owner  of Olsen Shipping Lines and a prominent figure and major land owner on La Gomera.
This major opportunity has arisen due to the existence of Peter Van Hooke’s personal recording studio on La  Gomera and Petter  Olsen’s appreciation of both the artists the studio has already attracted to the island which all resonate with his interest in the arts and the establishing of a major international arts centre on the island. Peter’s studio became very successful, attracting artists such as Bjork, David Saw, Paul Carrack, Mike and The Mechanics etc.
What quickly became apparent was that there was, and still is, a demand for a larger facility allowing artists to take up residence and concentrate  on their business, namely the making and recording of music. Unfortunately planning issues did not allow for the expansion of the existing facility and it was at that point that Petter  Olsen expressed an interest in becoming involved in the project and offered the properties that will now form the recording studio complex.
Add to this the introduction  of Richard Boote, owner and business brain of the world-renowned AIR Studios in London, and the picture is complete. The history of AIR Studios reads likes a ‘who’s who’ of popular music culture and it’s reputation as one of the best recording facilities in the world adds a stamp of quality to this exciting new prospect.
The intent is to now develop a studio that will be called AIR La Gomera. The use of the AIR brand and its resources provides the final touch to what will be a facility located in a unique and inspiring setting, backed up by the technical excellence that  AIR Studios is renowned for, giving artists the true freedom needed to create.
Air La Gomera will be built in a converted factory owned by Petter Olsen and situated in La Roseta in the province of Santiago. The conversion has been designed by Dave Bell of White Mark, one of the top studio designers in the world  who has designed and implemented scores of projects at major facilities throughout the world including AIR London, Real World, Hit Factory (New York).
White Mark will work in conjunction with Terra Fortunata’s architects, based on Tenerife, who will be  responsible  for  all the design  and  building regulations  for  the  rest   of  the  building. Local builders will be  used  for  the  construction  and conversion of the building.The studio will feature SSL’s  latest  console, the  Duality, and  be  based around a Pro Tools system. In addition, the effects and other facilities will equal those at Abbey Road, AIR London and other  acclaimed facilities.
The    concept   is   to     recreate    La   Gomera’s inspirational atmosphere  in a world-class studio with a large, comfortable control  room  so that artists and producers  will be able to work in a relaxed, creative enviroment and make music that reflects both the islands creativity and that of the studio layout."

'AIR Studios' in London is one of the most important facilities in the world, founded by the legendary producer of 'The Beatles', Sir George Martin, who has now handed over the reigns to Richard Boote . Their list of clients reads like a 'Who's Who' of the music industry and goes from Shirley Bassey to U2. They've also produced the soundtracks for many celluloid blockbusters.
Here's a video of their headquarters in London, housed in a large former Victorian church:


In Playa Santiago designer and mechanical engineer John is working hard on site to make things happen. The roof construction was a challenge, as the old rusty tin roof was retained as a feature while a secondary new roof with acoustic and thermal insulation had to be constructed below that. 
John is also working on a project of his own design. It is an aircraft-propellor driven speedboat with a futuristic look, powered by a converted, air cooled VW beetle engine.John has previously designed and built racing cars and boats all over the world. His latest work will be a stunner when finished and I must say the unique seat is very comfortable:


Saturday, December 08, 2012

Benefit Gala continues tonight

The benefit gala kicked off last night with lots of great bands and artists and will continue from 9 pm tonight with plenty more acts live on stage.
Below a video from last night showing local folk-band 'Hupal':

video

...and another one showing Cuban band 'Charanga Sound' :

                                     

Friday, December 07, 2012

Pageant last night

Last night a pageant in the harbour of Valle Gran Rey re-enacted the arrival of this painting many years ago:
According to local lore a Portuguese merchant brig or a pirate sailing ship (depending on the narrator) anchored in the the natural harbour of Valle Gran Rey and the sailors rowed ashore looking for provisions and water, sometime in the middle of the last millenium.The area was very sparsely populated in those days, and the the locals were very poor but they made the sailors welcome and brought goats cheese, honey, water and more to provision the ship. They were promised the religious painting  above in return for the goods and a feast to celebrate the deal was held on the beach. When the locals were asleep the sailors re-took the painting and tried to steal away, but the previously calm weather suddenly changed to a storm that made it impossible for them to leave the bay. They repented and  returned the painting to the locals. Miraculously the weather immediately calmed again and they could continue their journey. The much venerated painting has since been housed in the oldest church in Valle Gran Rey which is the focal point of the annual fiesta of Epiphany (see:The Great Fiesta).
Here some images of last night's reenactment:






Thursday, December 06, 2012

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Benefit Gala this weekend


The benefit gala originally planned for early November that was postponed due to the bad weather will now take place this weekend.
On Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7th + 8th, the benefit event with more than 20 participating artists and bands will take place in the harbour of Valle Gran Rey. All tastes will be catered for: From Canarian folk music to pop and salsa. Activities for children will be on offer during the day on Saturday. The concerts start at 8pm each day and will continue 'till the early hours of the morning. Tickets are 15 Euros for the two days, one day only costs 10 Euros. Tickets are available at the entrance. All proceeds will go to the victims of the recent fires on La Gomera.
Among the many other artists is a satirical musical comedy group from the island of La Palma called 'Trio Zapatista' who have a huge following. Here's their title 'Paracetamol':http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHfCnSL92zY

Monday, December 03, 2012

Richard M. Lee still missing + UPDATE July '13

It has been 8 weeks now since holidaying British citizen Richard Michael Lee was last seen in San Sebastian de la Gomera (see 3 previous posts in October). Sadly, the investigation has not produced any more information regarding his disappearance...
I've come across another photograph of the missing 56-year-old man, which is different to the passport image released by police here, and shows him wearing spectacles. I'm posting both below in the hope that someone may have seen the missing person.
See also:http://www.missingabroad.org/missing-profile/richard-michael-lee
Update July 2013:
On Wednesday, June 19th 2013, the body of a man was found at the bottom of a steep ravine near La Gomera's capital San Sebastian. The corpse was described by the police as being in 'an advanced stage of decomposition' and it was speculated that it may have been the body of missing British citizen R.M.Lee. It also appears that the listing of him as missing on 'missingabroad.org' has been taken off the website shortly after the find, fuelling speculation that it was his body. Anyway,the case appears to have been closed.
I would like to offer my sympathies to his family and friends.
New photo R.M.Lee
Passport photo R.M.Lee

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Sunset sky

                                                                        

Saturday, December 01, 2012

The Great Fiesta

The religious fiestas in the Canaries are too numerous to mention, and peak during the summer months.
Here in Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera it is no different, but a special fiesta of our local saint 'Nuestra Señora de Los Reyes' is starting today and will continue until the 7th of January 2013 ! 'Los Reyes' (Epiphany) also is the celebration of Christmas in the Canaries and X-mas  presents are given on that day, Jan. 6th. 
This year It is the 'bajada' which is celebrated only every 5 years and means that the statue of the saint is going to be taken from the church to be processed through every hamlet and part of the parish and staying temporarily in many different locations. The processions are noisy affairs with loud firecrackers being shot into the air along the way. A traditional dance is being performed by many worshippers during the processions, accompanied by 'chacarras y tambores', the former being a locally made very large type of castanets, of which there is a 'male' and a 'female', the 'female' having a slightly higher pitch. 
Procession passing Las Orijamas,Valle Gran Rey, 2008
The 'tambores' are homemade goatskin drums with a muted snare sound.The percussion beats a steady, restrained rhythm that could put you almost into a trance.To all this the participants chant a repetitive song that has a distinctly North African feel and probably originates in pre-Christian times. So the processions go from place to place, stopping here and there for prayers, followed by shouts of 'VIVA...'
The 'ramo'
 Ahead of the processions, and even ahead of the statue of the saint, the 'ramo' is being carried which is an artfully bound bouquet of fruit and vegetables of considerable weight,and even the fabrication of this offering is celebrated with music, food and drink by the volunteers and onlookers. 
'Chacarras y tambores'

















Culture aside, the fiesta is a perfect occasion for just having a good time. The secular parts of the proceedings usually begin after mass and mostly start with Canarian folk music followed on stage by salsa and merengue bands  who play for the dancers and revellers until the early hours of the morning through professional (and loud) sound equipment, often even until the sun has risen. Stalls serve food and drink throughout the proceedings and young and old are having a party.
The main program for the 'bajada' 2012/13 can be found on this page (look for 'descargar programa'): http://www.vallegranrey.es/es/component/eventlist/details/480-vi-bajada-de-la-virgen-de-los-reyes.html
Bangers going off in the valley
Church 'Ermita de los Reyes'
















Idyllic setting, but mind your step coming
 down the steep path after a night's  dr...ancing.
Worship

Note: All photos in this post
        were taken during the
      last 'bajada' in 2007/8

Friday, November 30, 2012

Gold for La Gomera firefighters

A prestigious national Spanish jury (APAS) has awarded this year's gold medal for firefighting to a brigade from La Gomera who heroically battled the forest fires for many weeks in the national park and finally succeeded in extinguishing a three miles long front that was  extremely difficult to reach on the ground and could not even be tackled from the air. This fire-front also spread to thickly forested cliffs in a ravine and was even burning underground through roots and other organic matter. Had this fire not been put out it would have posed a grave danger to valley and town of Vallehermoso.
The jury also commended the work by all the many other brigades and organisations involved in battling this year's fires. The 'Batefuegos' Gold award is an initiative that intends to reduce the number of forest fires that are caused each year in Spain.
For a video of another brigade in action on La Gomera this summer click: http://vimeo.com/47707399
See also new page 'Fire on La Gomera 2012' (tab beside 'Home')
The front mentioned above is seen in the top left of the picture (August 2012)  © acfi press


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Weather better today in Canaries

As I write there's a howling gale blowing with blustery showers occasionally pelting the roof. Don't despair, however, as today should bring more sunny spells than yesterday and the winds should ease for a while. For the forecast see yesterdays post  Weather remaining unsettled  and don't trust the forecast being put out by the electronic gadgets (some of them on this blog). Just for a laugh I'll give you a GOOGLE translation of the official AEMET forecast for today :

"CLOUD mostly cloudy, with light rain LOCALLY MODERATE IN NORTHERN ISLANDS most striking and possibility of rainWEAK IN THE REST, more likely, in Lanzarote and FUERTEVENTURA. Falling temperatures, BEING LIGHT IN COSTS And moderate in mediocrity. NORTHEAST WINDS moderate to strong,More intense in southeast and northwest COASTS AND mediocrities."

A bit on the mediocre side, isn't it - but light in costs as regards central heating bills, I suppose. Here's the surface analysis just published by OWS ( left) and the HIRLAM model for precipitation by AEMET  right):
                                                        
Yesterday there was heavy rain in the eastern Canary Islands . Arrecife, the capital of Lanzarote, was  particularly hard-hit with flooding. 

No weather alerts  have been issued for today.                                                                

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Weather remaining unsettled

UPDATE 7.30 pm:


Beginning of sunset 27/11/12
End of sunset 27/11/12

Loads of light showers today in Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera. The mountains in the north had heavier rain and the near-gale winds from the north blew the rain as drops-to-drizzle light rain into the valley, while the sun was shining from the sea in the south, illuminating the scene. Great day for rainbow spotters. All in all it was a more interesting 'soft day' than expected and very windy for the Canaries. The weather in Britain and in the Republic of Ireland is just sooo bad these days that here in the Canary Islands we really seem to be in 'The Fortunate Islands', never mind the economy. 



Today 8:30am:      The low pressure system has passed over the Canary Islands and is now slowly  filling and dissipating over Morocco. A trough will form to the NE of the Canaries. For today, Tuesday, there still is a warning of strong winds and heavy seas in effect, particularly for the second half of the day.
The forecast for the next few days is for longer sunny periods with scattered showers, some heavy but of short duration and more frequent in the northern parts of the islands. Winds will be moderate to strong northeasterly, stronger on high ground. Temperature will be normal for this time of the year with average values of 18-23ºC. Sea water temperature is still high with around 22ºC.

Windgenerators

The wind will in future be of more use here on La Gomera, as two huge wind turbines of 44 metre diameter (130ft) and 77m (230ft) total height are being planned to be be built in a remote area that now only houses the island's new landfill rubbish dump. The generators' combined power output will be up to 1,8 megawatts and will be fed into the grid. The project is awaiting an environmental impact study, as there  are ravens breeding in the area. Well, they would, wouldn't they - the dump being better than a convenience store nearby...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Weather update Nov. 26th, 2012


 Warnings in effect
The minor storm system has not quite followed the forecasts ! It is beginning to fill and will soon be just a gale with scattered squally showers. It will be tracking SE, passing directly over the Canary Islands, towards the western Sahara, and it will begin to dissipate later today. The altered track is responsible for the now mainly easterly gale force winds, which should later ease and become cyclonic variable, before strengthening again from westerly directions. The winds will be gusty and and may be locally stronger, especially in or near mountainous areas. Precipitation over the Canaries has become less organised, but scattered blustery showers and isolated thunderstorms could turn up anywhere. However, longer sunny spells are expected as well.
Taken this morning
Personally, this is a feast for me as we didn't have this kind of 'Irish weather' for more than a year and I was getting homesick  ;-). It's another story when you arrive here hoping for a precious week of pure sunshine after the miserable weather in Britain and Ireland. As a consolation the gales and the showers are WARM here  -  and they don't last long.
Gale warning remains in effect, and a warning of a heavy Atlantic swell.
Walking and hiking in exposed areas and on high ground is not recommended.
Take extra care when driving.
Above: Arrow showing centre of depression at 9am
Below: Latest isobaric chart (OPC)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Morning shower ! (taken at 9am) It did brighten up after that.
For more information on the weather situation go to previous post or click:

Weather warnings in Canary Islands Nov. 25th+26th


Chart for today
UPDATE 3:30 pm:
The rain this morning wasn't too bad and the wind  is still moderate, but meteorologists
here say that the low pressure system is only a little bit slower than expected in its development and that there is more to come. All warnings remain in effect until Tuesday morning or until further notice. I'll keep you informed.
UPDATE 9:30 pm:
No new developments to report. In the west of Ireland the day would have been called 'a soft day'...
Warnings for tonight and tomorrow remain, though.
Stormy skies, but the next sunny spell is coming in from the west... (taken at 3:30 pm)