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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Carnival time once again

Carnival time in the Canary Islands has begun and this is a huge event that doesn't exactly keep to the traditional carnival timetable. It goes on well after Ash Wednesday, even getting close to Easter some years, as each community stages their own and wants participants from neighbouring towns. The main events are in Las Palmas on Gran Canaria and in Santa Cruz on Tenerife, the latter being the second-largest carnival in the world after Rio de Janeiro. In Santa Cruz this year's theme is 'Carnival of the Future' (see their 2015 programme in English).
But wherever you'll be in the Canaries over the next few weeks watch out for local posters and announcements. The actual parades and main events couldn't be missed anyway - the sights and sounds are obvious.
Each community end their festivities with the 'funeral of the sardine' when a large papier-mache sardine full of pyrotechnics  is burnt and pushed into the sea, accompanied by the wailing of 'grieving ladies', i.e. men dressed in women's black clothes.
In San Sebastian de La Gomera this year's carnival theme is 'India' with events starting next week, while Valle Gran Rey and Alajero with Playa Santiago start later (see posters below).The remaining towns here will have their own carnival as well, t.b.a.later.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

La Gomera in Top 10 global destinations

The Irish Independent newspaper has included La Gomera in its recently published list of the Top Ten global holiday destinations recommended for the year ahead, describing it as follows:

6. La Gomera

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Vallehermoso, La Gomera, Canary Islands
''Why: If you love the ease of a sun holiday in the Canary Islands, but want something a little off the radar, La Gomera might be the perfect choice. The second smallest of the islands, it boasts a dramatic and rugged landscape, with volcanic peaks and lush, fertile land dotted with banana trees. Not for beach bunnies, in other words - but ardent hikers will be in their element. Rustic Rambles (rusticrambles.com) offers self-guided walking holidays from €689pps.
How: La Gomera is a 40-minute boat ride from Tenerife, which you can reach with Ryanair (ryanair.com) from €34.99.''
The full list of the Top 10:
  1. Cornwall
  2. Cuba
  3. Singapore
  4. Iceland
  5. LA & Washington
  6. La Gomera
  7. Ethiopia
  8. Ireland's South & East
  9. The Greek Islands
  10. Faroe Islands


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Largest cruise ship to visit La Gomera this season

'Mein Schiff 3' in the harbour of San Sebastian on Friday...
The newly-built Mein Schiff 3, owned and operated by TUI cruises, visited the capital San Sebastian de La Gomera again last Friday. She's about 900 ft long, 105 ft wide and can accommodate 2.500 passengers plus 1.000 crew on her 15 decks. 
It has now emerged that next year her almost identical sister ship Mein Schiff 4 which is nearing completion at a Finnish shipyard will also include Ls Gomera in her winter 2015/16 cruising schedule.
...and leaving for Lanzarote at 6pm

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cafeteria shipshape in ship-shaped ferry terminal


Los Cristianos ferry terminal, built in the form of a ship
The refurbished bright interior
Good news for travellers to an from the western Canary Islands of La Palma, El Hierro and La Gomera: The cafeteria in the ferry terminal on the pier in Los Cristianos on Tenerife has reopened under new management this week. The upstairs facility had been closed for a long time and it was a fairly long walk to the nearest bar or cafe in the port to get any food or drink. Now the refurbished bright interior with its long self-sevice counter and the large terraces overlooking the harbour once again provide sustenance and rest for weary travellers while watching life in the busy harbour. 
Meanwhile the cafeteria in the ferry terminal of San Sebastian de La Gomera is still closed, but the rental contract has been awarded to new management by the authorities (the terminals are public buildings) and it is expected to reopen soon as well.
The upstairs entrance. Photo taken early in the morning just after opening

Left and above: The ample terraces

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Oil and gas exploration ends without find

Islandconnections.eu reports:
Oil firm admits exploratory drilling in Canaries 'unsuccessful'
Spanish oil giant Repsol has announced that it has not found oil during its two-month exploratory drilling off the coast of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura and the volumes of gas discovered at the site do not justify costly extraction work. 
The Rowan Renaissance drilling ship used by Repsol
The explorations, which were authorised by the Spanish government despite massive opposition in the Canaries, where the authorities have filed a string of legal challenges to block the work, have now been halted and the drilling ship used since 18 November is to be redeployed off the coast of Africa. Sources at Repsol said early today that a total of 750 personnel had been employed in the drilling work and the results were not a surprise given that the explorations had been given "only a 15-20% chance of success". "The analysis of the samples shows that, although there is some gas, it is insuffcient in volume or quality to warrant extraction. Furthermore, the layers of hydrocarbons located are too thin to be viable" said the firm in a statement. The news has been welcomed by opponents of the search for oil off the Canaries, who have always maintained that a hypothetical oil industry would be a serious threat to the islands' tourism. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A tenor for a tenner

As part of the 31st International Music Festival of The Canary Islands the renowned tenor Manuel Gomez Ruiz will perform in the cultural centre of Valle Gran Rey tonight at 8:30 pm. The centre is located near the town hall in La Calera and doors open an hour before where tickets are 10 Euros.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Dancing in the dust

video

Live music is making a bit of a comeback in Valle Gran Rey these days after a long musical drought. There are quite a few events taking place in various venues. Last night the ska band Skazz from Ireland were playing in the sociocultural centre Casa La Familia to a very large enthusiastic crowd of tourists, who were dancing in the dust of the unpaved grounds in their fashionable footwear alongside barefooted hippies. Casa La Familia is a private initiative where homeless people are given food and shelter and it is the best venue by far for live music on La Gomera. It is in the walled yard of a former car rental premises, set back a bit from the coast road between La Playa and La Puntilla, where there are no neighbours to complain about the music. It has some of the old 'La Gomera hippy vibe', but attracts many well-dressed tourists who are looking for something special. Their fantastic generosity and support keeps the place going and the musicians who pass the hat around playing. Last night there were visitors from at least a dozen countries all having a wonderfully good time - see short video.
Regular La Gomera visitors Skazz will be playing at 'Salsa Burger' in La Playa tonight at 8pm, on Tuesday Jan 20th they'll do an acoustic gig in the new 'Cafe del Sol' in the harbour village of Vueltas, and on Sat. 24th of January amplified again in Casa La Familia at 9pm.

               Peter, the charismatic Skazz trumpet player who can sing like 'Satchmo', in action last night.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Ron Howard's new movie to be released much later

While trailer and poster still say that the Ron Howard movie In the Heart of the Sea, which was partially shot here on La Gomera late 2013 will be released on March 13th, the latest post on the film's facebook site (see below) now states that it won't be released until December 11th 2015. Ron Howard has posted a reply stating that he favours this later release. 
We'll soon find out if we really have to wait almost nine additional months to see it. Personally I feel that  it suits the mood of the story better than early spring.
However, in my opinion Friday, November 20th 2015 would be the perfect day for the release as it is the day of the 195th anniversary of the whale attacking the Essex.


‪#‎IntheHeartoftheSea‬ will now be released on December 11th, 2015.
Award season aside I've always felt Nov/Dec was the best time of year for people to experience ‪#‎IntheHeartoftheSea‬
Like ·  ·  · 1,88780

UPDATE: The official website for the film has now changed the release date:

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Dust from Sahara for a few days


The current weather situation with very deep low pressure systems that are bringing storms to much of Northern Europe and very strong high pressure in the central Atlantic is now steering an easterly air current from North Africa directly over the Canary Islands, bringing some dust from the Sahara desert. This current is called calima in the Canaries and much dreaded. More information: Calima: Weather from the Sahara
This time of the year the heat wave normally associated with calima is more like a cool breeze as the Sahara is pretty cold in the depth of winter, and while the regions further up in the mountains may become a couple of degrees warmer, it is a bit colder than normal around the coast and in the lower regions. The presence of cold air in the upper layers adds a chill to this 'cold calima'. However it won't be as bad as last weekend and no warnings have been issued.
This present spell of calima is expected to last well into next week and once again the eastern islands are bearing the brunt of the dust due to their closeness to the Sahara while La Gomera will get less of it. Above is the forecast chart of the University of Athens' SKIRON model for noon today showing the relatively minor surface dust concentrations, and below the same for Tuesday, January 13th.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

La Gomera weatherman working like a slave

I had drawn the attention to this story in a Canary Islands weather forum recently, but here's how IslandConnections.eu reports the poor working conditions at La Gomera's airport weather station:
La Gomera airport lounge
“Slave” weatherman
The plight of the only person currently manning the Met Office’s weather station at La Gomera airport has been highlighted by a local trade union, which says he is being forced to work like a slave due the lack of personnel.
08.01.2015 - Union CSIF says that the long-term sick leave of the head of station and the departure of another Met Office employee at the tiny airport means that the only remaining member of staff has been working 21 days in a row, on shifts of 11 hours, to make sure weather data are collected and entered into the system.  The union demanded a meeting with the head of the Spanish Met Office recently to discuss the working conditions, which are in breach of working time regulations.  It has also written formal complaints to various Government departments at regional and national level. 

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

La Gomera makes ABTA top ten destinations


La Gomera features among the top ten destinations to watch in their Travel Trends Report 2015. The UK’s largest travel association, representing travel agents and tour operators that sell £31.5 billion of holidays and other travel arrangements each year has the following to say about La Gomera in the report:
''La Gomera (Spain)
The Canary Islands are a firm favourite with UK holidaymakers particularly those looking for winter sun. Temperatures rarely dip below the mid twenty degrees centigrade all year round. In 2015 discerning holidaymakers will take the short ferry ride from Tenerife to the beautiful, unspoilt island of La Gomera. It also features for the first time in the brochures of Thomas Cook. La Gomera offers a range of attractions including the Unesco World Heritage site, Garajonay National Park, subtropical rain forest and wildlife species that are unique to the island. La Gomera is largely undiscovered and is perfect for holidaymakers who don’t want the bright lights and glitz of a busy resort. They will love unwinding in its relaxed main resort Playa de Santiago or on one of the island’s many unspoilt beaches. There’s also plenty to do for the more active, with miles of walking trails throughout the beautiful interior or scuba diving over La Gomera’s spectacular reefs. ''

This is the full list of ABTA Destinations to Watch 2015:
 Austria                                    
 Botswana
 Cuba 
 Dominican Republic 
La Gomera (Spain) 
 Latvia 
 Japan 
 Norway 
 Pacific Coast (USA) 
 Singapore
 The Netherlands
 The Peloponnese (Greece)

Sunday, January 04, 2015

You need a change...

...and feel unique on the unique island of La Gomera - that about sums up the Spanish voice-over in this well produced promotional video. I'm looking forward now to the upcoming visit to my favourite Canary Island next week and I promise to report 'live' from there once again.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Christmas festivities on La Gomera start tonight

Ermita de Los Reyes in El Guro, Valle Gran Rey
In Spain and some Latin American countries,the 6th of January is called El Día de los Reyes (The Day of the Kings). It marks the day when the Three Kings or Magi, as related in the second chapter of the gospel of Matthew, arrived to worship and bring their gifts to the baby Jesus after following a star in the sky.  In Spanish tradition on January 6th (Epiphany) the kings  Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar (representing Arabia, the Orient, and Africa) arrived on horse, camel and elephant, bringing respectively gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus. Children (and many adults) polish and leave their shoes ready for the Kings' presents before they go to bed on the eve of January 6. The next morning presents will appear under their shoes as the kings  take the role of Santa Claus here . Most towns in Spain arrange colorful parades representing the arrival of the Reyes Magos to town a day or two before, so children can see them on their camels or carriages and hand them letters listing their wishes.  Wine, snacks, fruit and milk are left for the Kings and their camels. In Spain, children typically receive presents on this day, rather than on Christmas Day, though this tradition has changed a bit in recent years, and children now receive presents on both days.
The Ramo
In Valle Gran Rey the Kings begin their tour in the mountain village of Las Hayas on Jan. 5th at 4 pm and then continue through all the villages and barrios of the valley and will finally collect the letters addressed to them near the town hall.

V.G.R.'s oldest church is in El Guro and dedicated to Los Reyes. Every year the Fiesta de Los Reyes in honour of them takes place there and this year the proceedings begin tonight, Jan. 3rd with all night dancing to the usual pop-salsa bands from 10 pm. On Jan. 6th the 'Ramo' is made in the morning at the cultural centre in La Calera, from where the procession to the chapel of Los Reyes starts at midday with the typical dance steps and chants. After arrival there's a mass in the chapel in El Guro followed by more salsa bands and partying.


Friday, January 02, 2015

Great farewell session

I am packing to travel to La Gomera and will arrive once again next week. I 'accidentally' got a great send-off with a dozen musicians playing a stormer of a traditional music session for charity last night - and I won a bottle of French champagne in the raffle (to be kept here to celebrate my return soon). My 'replacement' (due to injury) was an eight-year-old girl who played in a lovely style. I will miss all the music and all the musical variety when I'm in the Canaries, though. Ireland is just ROCKING with all kinds of high quality music, thank God. That brings in many extra tourists, too... and often the music is VERY LOUD and boisterous. To enjoy life, live music music is essential. 'Music is food for the soul', they say around here. 
A very funky night one Monday in one Irish  bar/restaurant. Half the crowd was Spanish tourists...
...enjoying the freedom of high quality live music anywhere almost anytime.