Saturday, May 25, 2024

Don't call them Spanish: Canary Islands Day

Canary Islands Day - ''For the (Spanish) government from the Canaries'' says the 2nd poster

Thursday May 30th is Dia de Canarias, the Canarian 'national' holiday when the inhabitants of the Canaries are allowed to proudly say ''Soy Canario'' (I'm Canarian) and celebrate their national identity under Spanish colonial rule. 
It is the annual celebration of all things that make the Canaries and their people so unique and different from their Spanish colonial masters and for some it also means remembering the victims of the Spanish conquest during which much of the aboriginal population was brutally and heinously exterminated. So please don't call the locals 'Spanish' when here on holidays. Most will quietly forgive your ignorance and keep smiling, but they'd much prefer to be called ''Canarios''. The Spanish are called ''Godos'' (Goths) in the Canaries, all other foreigners, especially fair-skinned ones, are ''Guiris''.
There are many events in virtually all towns and villages that pay homage to the rich history, vibrant culture, and unique traditions of the Canary Islands to mark May 30th. On this day in 1983, the archipelago was granted autonomous community status within the Kingdom of Spain, same as other regions e.g. Catalonia previously, recognising a distinct culture and granting self-governance in some respects, but with little real autonomy
The annual celebrations began this weekend and continue until the next, peaking during the Canaries' national holiday on Thursday. Below the programme for Valle Gran Rey where the main event takes place behind the bus station from noon on May 30th:

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Smelly trumpets and knickers

I took the above image some time ago in the winding, often stepped, little alleyways in La Calera in the centre of Valle Gran Rey, an area always worth exploring. The ornamental bushy plant is called Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia) and originated in South America where it has become extinct in the wild. It is quite a popular plant in gardens in La Gomera and the Canary Islands, grown for its showy trumpet-shaped pendulous flowers which emit a very pungent fragrance at night. Caution is advised on approach though, as all parts of the bush are highly toxic and ingestion can be fatal. Even touch can cause an adverse reaction.
Note the ladies underwear drying beside it in the fencing. This was very regularly to be seen hanging there overnight, maybe to be 'reodorised' by the trumpets after being deodorised in the wash ?

Monday, April 01, 2024

New plans for Casa Maria yet again

I took the above photo of Casa Maria when it was first put up for sale a few years ago.

Legendary Casa Maria and its popular bar, restaurant and rustic guest house which has remained closed since it was put on the market a few years ago could finally be saved and given a new lease of life.
The building at the popular sunset meeting point sadly was deteriorating rapidly with parts of a balcony facing the sea collapsing onto the coast road and ugly security fencing protecting passers-by from crumbling masonry.
Various attempts to buy the building were made and there even were plans to turn the landmark into a McDonalds fast food outlet (see here...), but as often with any plans in La Gomera, none came to fruition.
Then in 2021 I reported that the authorities had decided to bring an additional police force, the Policia Canaria, to Valle Gran Rey to deal with all the homeless and hippies there and that Casa Maria would become their station. Well, the new police officers are there now, but not in Casa Maria.
Now it has transpired that the proliferation of police, not having much else to do in the small town, have created a large number of ''homeless'', i.e. hippies who have been evicted from the rocks and bushes under which they rest and sleep in a ''major clean-up operation''. Some of them don't have the means to travel onwards to a more welcoming place or to rent a place to stay in La Gomera. Prices for accommodation have risen considerably in recent years and with mostly full occupancy at peak times beds are hard to find even for many well-heeled tourists. Some hippies are not short of funds, though, but prefer to sleep under the stars by choice. I once met a raggedly looking 'cave-dweller' who was flashing his gold credit card around the shops, but giving all he bought away to his needy hippie friends. 
Most of the evicted hippies though have no other choice but to find another bush, rock, crevice or cave where to unroll their yoga mats and sleeping bags from whence the police will then eventually make them move on once again. Thus a vicious circle has developed which is dividing the community with some saying that the hippies do no harm and started all the tourism industry in La Gomera by adding to the island's special charm, while others see hippies as untidy and scaring off the increasingly posh and elderly tourists.
The local administration, the Ayuntamiento de Valle Gran Rey, has now been forced to come to the rescue of the homeless to defuse the situation, and will lease the Casa Maria building for an initial five years. The ayuntamiento will carry out emergency repairs first to make the building safe and will then carry out basic refurbishment to temporarily house homeless hippies.
This is a stroke of genius by the local politicians as Casa Maria and its bar and restaurant is exactly the place where hippies came to as the first tourists in the 1960s, when there was no proper road, no electricity, and no tourism at all. They were most welcome then, sitting outside Casa Maria playing their guitars and drums. If they needed food, running water and a bed, Maria offered it all to them for a few Pesetas that could easily be earned in a few hours busking.
The beach is just across the road where the same music still fills the air at sunset every day during the busy winter season since then, and long may it last...
As everything takes quite some time in La Gomera, the temporary ''homeless hippie hostel'' is not expected to be ready and filled with happy hippies once again until April 1st next year.
Sunset gathering at Playa Maria, named of course after Maria of Casa Maria

Monday, March 11, 2024

Oscar winner filmed in La Gomera

Oscar winner Cillian Murphy in bar and restaurant La Chalana in Playa de Santiago,
La Gomera late 2013. 
 Guess who's hand is resting on Cillian's shoulder...

Congratulations to 2024 Oscar winner for best actor Cillian Murphy whom I met in La Gomera in late 2013 when we talked mainly about the island and music. Cillian was in Playa de Santiago shooting 'In The Heart Of The Sea' directed by Ron Howard. I had the luck to have been one of only six 'locals' picked out of over 3.000 applicants as picture doubles. The above image was taken in lovely beach bar La Chalana which was closed to the public at the time as only actors and crew had access. Cillian was one of very few Irish involved and we just bumped into each other there at a quiet time after a day's shooting scenes. I still owe you a beer, Cillian, I couldn't have met a nicer guy !
...and yes he looks tired and hungry above, but he's supposed to as he's playing a starving shipwrecked whaler. I looked much worse. 
Loads more posts about the time Hollywood came to La Gomera HERE...

Friday, February 09, 2024

Carnival season 2024

The carnival season 2024 has begun in La Gomera and the island capital San Sebastian's festivities are already in full swing. The main parade will wind its way through the streets tomorrow, Sat. 10th of February 2024, followed as usual by dancing until sunrise, see poster above for the full carnival programme, which is themed 'The Jungle'.
The capital will barely have recovered from the jamboree when the celebrations begin again across the mountains in Valle Gran Rey where this year's theme is 'Hawaii' and the  main carnival parade takes place there on Saturday, February 24th 2024 from 5pm(-ish).
See VGR programme below:

Then carnival and all aficionados move to Playa de Santiago in the deep south of La Gomera where the fun begins on March 28th, themed 'Pirates of the South', see their poster below. 
Agulo and Hermigua in the north of the island will of course have their own distinct carnivals as well, but I don't have their programmes yet. Watch this space...

Nice poster (below) out now for the carnival in Vallehermoso (March 7th-9th):

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

The Trap

Above image shows part of the spectacular landscape at El Cepo near the village of Las Rosas, close to La Gomera's northern coast. 'El Cepo' translates as 'The Trap' and indeed there are many traps in the area, as there are precipitous drops and no marked paths. However, La Gomera's steep landscape contains lots of vertigo-inducing cliffs and mountain passes, so caution is always advised. 

Monday, November 13, 2023

This strange video is a must see and a great laugh

I found the above video on the web accidentally and I had to laugh so much it actually hurt. It purports to introduce first-time visitors to La Gomera and give ''essential tips'' for tourists.

It gets really mad from about 0!:15 into the video when a lioness is seen striding through the grass with the voiceover saying that La Gomera's wildlife boasts animals that are ''otherwise extinct in most places''. Now, why is this 'La Gomera lion' wearing a collar ?

No prizes for spotting the many more ridiculous errors in the video and the disjointed imagery. The voiceover and pronunciation are hilarious, too.

This video was obviously generated using artificial intelligence (AI) and confirms my reasons for always calling same artificial ignorance

There is some nice footage from La Gomera in it, too, and some factual information. But there's definitely no tuk-tuks in La Gomera bringing you into a jungle, etc., etc....

The author's travel vlog even dares to call itself ''Official Travel Guide'' and states: ''Whether you're planning your travel for 2023 or simply seeking inspiration from travel magazines, our La Gomera - Essential Tips for First-Time Visitors to the Canary Islands video is a must-watch.'' Yeah, no, essentially wrong.

Just imagine some poor innocent who doesn't know anything about La Gomera viewing this video and then deciding to visit to see the non-existent lions...

Friday, November 03, 2023

Unusual series of earthquakes

The latest tremor (above, red star marks epicentre) occurred late at night on the first of November 2023, again near the island's capital San Sebastian de La Gomera and was of 2.5 magnitude.The other markers show where and how intensely it was felt by the population.  (Source: IGN)

There has been a series of minor earthquakes reported by the Spanish agency IGN (Instituto Geografico Nacional) in or very close to La Gomera , some of which were widely felt all over the island. Most were on the eastern side near the capital San Sebastian de La Gomera. This somewhat unusual event began last Saturday night and by Monday about 15 minor quakes up to magnitude 2.8 on the Richter scale had been reported by IGN. Some of these quakes were widely felt across the island with reports of the typical low rumbling noise that accompanies earth tremors also coming from various parts of the island. Even the director of the Canarian branch of IGN, Itahiza Dominguez, called these events ''un poco anomala'' ( a bit abnormal) when asked for an explanation by the press. She also said that since the installation of the latest seismograph in La Gomera in 2017 there had been only 17 earth tremors registered by said station previously.
More than that six year total has now occurred in the past few days. However, La Gomera has been volcanically 'dead and cold' i.e. inactive for more than a million years. As it is one of the oldest Canary Islands in origin, the latest activity is unusual and probably points to tectonic movements of some kind, according to Dominguez.
The depths of the epicentres initially were between 10 and 23 kms, but the latest quakes had their origin only 4 to 8 kilometres underground.
There's a rumour going around that the seismograph was triggered by undersea cable laying preparation works for the electricity inter-connector between Tenerife and La Gomera, which is to come ashore in the municipal area of San Sebastian de La Gomera, causing the rumble similar to those heard and felt across the island. It has also been known that very heavy swells at sea pounding La Gomera's coastline will cause the sensitive seismic station high in the mountains of La Gomera's Garajonay national park to register tremors, as do rock blasting operations and tunnelling for roads. However the scientists at IGN are no fools and usually are wise to these causes. They will not report those tremors  as earthquakes and won't list them in their bulletins. 
Overall, La Gomera remains one of the safest places in the Canary Islands in general and seismically in particular. Maybe the vibrations were caused by some blown-in minstrels blowing their didgeridoos too enthusiastically...

Monday, October 16, 2023

Get a free knife just before boarding your flight

 The following article and above image appeared in Canarian Weekly last month and I'm sharing this worrying story with you below. The large knife was spotted at Fuerteventura airport, but the magazine with the free knife was probably on sale in some other airports as well:


9/21/23, 7:57 AM  By Canarian Weekly  Fuerteventura  Photo Credit: Noticias Fuerteventura

The security policies at airports following the September 11th attacks in 2001 have left us all with frustrating experiences when travelling by air. Security systems implemented over 20 years ago sometimes require us to almost strip naked before passing through a scanner, and even empty our bags.

However, having a tube of toothpaste or a pot of hair gel confiscated seems even more incredulous when after passing through security at Fuerteventura airport, you come across a newsstand selling a cooking magazine with a six-inch knife (the blade alone appears 6 inches long to me, Ed.) attached to the front, free with the publication!

Passengers were left stunned when they saw a well-known Spanish cooking magazine in departures at Fuerteventura airport, with a ‘Dafne’ kitchen knife as a free gift available to buy and take on the plane.

At the time of this publication, the magazine is still on the shelves and there has been no comment from the airport authorities. Makes you wonder why they bother to confiscate your tweezers or nail clippers! ''

Friday, September 15, 2023

I didn't expect that: ONE MILLION visits to this blog

When I started this blog in August 2012 during the devastating La Gomera fire I never expected anything and hadn't a clue about blogging. I just wanted to report what was going on here as there wasn't much information from or about La Gomera in English. The international media didn't bother checking facts, never mind sending correspondents, and just reported La Gomera's disaster as part of other fires in the Mediterranean with a bit of sensationalism mixed in.
Initially Mr. Google tempted me to allow advertising on this blog, from which I earned precisely ONE cent, before quickly realising that I didn't need  ads clutter and the possibility of maybe earning some more cents. So I pulled the advertising, but had I known that I would get to a million views in just over ten years, maybe that was the wrong decision. However I'm just as happy being poor and to still boast on the banner above: Ads-free. INDEPENDENT.
Surprisingly and unexpectedly my blog has now clocked up over one million visits (see counter on sidebar⇒) as the interest in this blog has grown over the years. While some of the clicks probably are purely accidental, the interest in the island of La Gomera has grown substantially. 
Unsurprisingly most of my readers came from English speaking countries, but was also read in every corner of the globe. Even some of the international press as well as local and Spanish media have used material from this blog, some with my permission, some without. Anyone is welcome to freely use material from this blog as long as the linked source is quoted as Indeed sometimes I use material concerning La Gomera from other media, but I always strive to clearly indicate the source with a link to same.
There's also a lot of regular readers, some of whom I may have disappointed over recent years as I don't post that often anymore. Apologies to them, but thankfully there aren't a lot of exciting  affairs in La Gomera to report, and I've always tried to steer well clear of local politics and expats' antics unless it is unavoidable.
To be honest, as I'm getting older I'm getting lazier and after nearly 1.150 posts I often don't remember what I've already covered and what not. 
So here's a call for help:
If you love La Gomera and would like to contribute, please use the comments function to contact me with a comment not to be published and your contact email and you've got yourself an unpaid job to publish posts with or without your name on this blog. Interesting images are always welcome, too. 
La Gomera is well worth the effort.
Thanks a million to you all, and special thanks  to the many readers who commented favourably and to the many new friends that I made through this blog.

               Anyway, here's to the next million or two of YOU.  Slainte, cheers y salud !

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Twin peaks and a giant's organ

Tenerife's Teide mountain, at more than 12.000 feet Spain's highest peak, seen in the background left with a rock of similar shape at La Gomera's most north-western point near the famous landmark cliffs of Los Organos. These spectacular basalt formations (below) can only be seen from the sea and a trip to Los Organos from Valle Gran on an excursion boat is highly recommended, but the seas can be rough in this windswept remote corner of La Gomera.
Partial view of Los Organos. The whole cliff, resembling a giant's church organ, is about 600ft wide and rises to 250ft tall, with enormous prismatic columns of basalt that drop down the cliff face into the sea and continue under water, all visible only from a boat in the clear Atlantic around La Gomera.