Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Monday, April 28, 2014

A fire on the ferry that luckily wasn't a ferry on fire

The scene of the incident Friday night. Image: gomeratoday
The Armas-operated ferry Volcan de Taburiente left Los Cristianos (Tenerife) on Friday night on the regular 6:30 sailing to La Gomera. When she was a good few miles out at sea a fire broke out in a refrigerated truck on the car deck and caused a major alarm. All passengers had to assemble at the various emergency meeting points on deck and all had to don life jackets. Helicopters and lifeboats circled the ship and the Fred. Olsen ferry sailed to the scene to remain on stand-by. The fire was isolated and eventually put out by the crew and the sprinkler system while the ferry returned to Los Cristianos where emergency services were awaiting her arrival. There were no injuries and the authorities have called the handling of the emergency by crew and all services 'exemplary'. Last night the Volcan de Taburiente was back in service between Tenerife and La Gomera.
UPDATE: The Volcan de Taburiente is now docked in the harbour of Las Palmas on Gran Canaria undergoing repairs and another ferry has replaced her on the regular route to La Gomera.
Smoke billowing from the car deck while passengers with life jackets are assembled out on the upper decks.  Image:gomeratoday

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Strawberry trees

In La Gomera's mountainous north and especially around the village of La Rosas there are numerous specimens of the relatively rare strawberry tree (Arbutus Canariensis) which is more like a large bush. Wikipedia explains about the tree with its beautiful reddish-brown smoth bark:
''Arbutus canariensis, known in Spanish as madroƱo canario, is a species of shrub or tree in the Ericaceae family. It is endemic to the Canary Islands, specifically Tenerife, La Gomera, Gran Canaria, El Hierro, and La Palma. It is threatened by habitat loss.''
A close relative is the Irish strawberry tree which has always been one of my favourite plants. Again I quote Wikipedia:
''Arbutus unedo (strawberry tree, occasionally cane apple) is an evergreen shrub or small tree in the family Ericaceae, native to the Mediterranean region and western Europe north to western France and Ireland. Due to its presence in southwest and northwest Ireland, it is known as either "Irish strawberry tree" or sometimes "Killarney strawberry tree".''

The fruit, though similar in shape, are not really comparable in taste to the strawberries that grow low in fields and are sold in the shops, but are rich in vitamins as well. They take a very long time to mature and can then be used to make jam. The strawberry tree is related to the heather tree, but prefers limy soil.
Unusually large but short trunk of a strawberry tree in the garden of the visitor's centre
in La Rosas showing the typical smooth reddish bark.

Friday, April 25, 2014

New vegetarian and vegan restaurant in pensioner's social club open to all and recommended to all

Even though a good few restaurants on La Gomera offer vegetarian options there hasn't been a purely vegetarian and vegan restaurant since 'La Salsa' in Valle Gran Rey changed hands a couple of years ago. In San Sebastian de La Gomera, however, a new restaurant offering exclusively vegan and vegetarian food recently opened in what must be most unlikely location. It is in the pensioners and old folks social club right in the very centre behind the smaller square which is under the huge shady trees (see map). This location has the added bonus of being a green oasis in a courtyard with nothing but birdsong and pensioners playing dominoes and cards to disturb your dining experience. The local lady who runs the place and does the cooking is a vegetarian herself and takes pride in the fact that all
Vegan seitan stew
the food is home-made. She even makes her own seitan and spelt-pasta, etc.. The extensive menue boast 29 dishes from vegetarian burgers to salads, pasta dishes, vegan stews, stuffed peppers, and lots more. Even 'carnivores' who have eaten there because of the beautiful location did not miss their accustomed ration of meat because the lovingly prepared veggie food was so filling and absolutely delicious. Prices are very reasonable ranging from 5 to 8 Euros for a very satisfying dish.

UPDATE 2017: Sadly it's not a veggie restaurant anymore.

The entrance is on the left of the red doors

Menu (click)
Entrance  off the little lane behind the shady plaza

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Film 'In the Heart of the Sea' still in post-production

Ron Howard's upcoming film 'In the Heart of the Sea' continues being edited in post production after shooting key scenes here on La Gomera for about 5 weeks last winter. The film is due for release in March 2015 and we'll have to wait until then to admire the resulting epic. Meanwhile Ron Howard keeps us up to date on his Twitter account. Some examples taken from that below:
Ron Howard: Full day editing In the Heart of the Sea for Warner Bros. fascinating challenge to bring this to the screen
Ron Howard: Anchors away aboard our Whaleship Essex. Little do they know....the complexities of
In the Heart of the Sea make for brand new challenges in the editing room.  Headaches & Fun. Yin…
Ron Howard:Anthony Dodmantle gave In the Heart of the Sea many stunning  images to choose from.

Ron Howard: A still-very-early run-thru of In the Heart of the Sea was very
promising tho we immediately began an intensive stop-&-go editing session

...and somewhere there was this photo of a fellow-Irishman, taken in Playa de Santiago:
Memories of the time of Ron Howard's shooting of the film here on La Gomera.
Guess who's hand is resting on actor Cillian Murphy's shoulder in bar 'La Chalana'...
(Photo by Carlos)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fire-jumping tomorrow in Agulo

Tomorrow at 10pm you'll have the annual opportunity again to test your faith and jump through the bonfires (hogueras) at the San Marcos Fiesta.  Make sure to avoid wearing clothes that are highly flammable and cover your hair. The fire-jumping custom on La Gomera is very old and probably pre-dates the arrival of Christianity in the Canaries.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A hidden delight in Santa Cruz

Right in the heart of the big city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, but modestly tucked away in the old part of the city near the church Iglesia de la Concepcion and the museum of nature and humanity (Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre), there exists a quiet and hospitable refuge in all the hustle and bustle of the capital of Tenerife.  Since I first discovered it many years ago it has become one of my all-time favourite bars for a lunch break in the world. 
The clock, too, ticks differently here
The walls in the simple but atmospheric interior are covered in bric-a-brac and little pieces of wit and wisdom on scraps of paper left there by guests and by the owner. The display keeps changing constantly and includes posters and other interesting items waiting to be discovered. You'll always find something new and inspiring, so you'll end up philosophising, discussing, or just letting the mind drift.
Casa Nelson's host Felix
Felix the amicable host seems to be always quietly smiling to himself and serves you with excellent   Canarian open wines and perfectly composed snacks, light meals and tapas - again all sourced from producers he knows very well. The menu is unpretentious and the purity, flavours and quality of the food is excellent.
All in all a visit to the unique Casa Nelson is a  highly recommended experience which you won't forget. The motto of the house is 'ONG' which stands for 'Otro Nivel Gastronomico', i.e. 'a different gastronomic standard'. There are loads of restaurants and watering holes including an Irish bar just a stone's throw away, but these can be saved for later as Casa Nelson has only very short opening hours: From 12:30pm 'til  5pm(-ish). The place is very small and can fill rapidly at lunchtime but you can make a reservation by phoning 658984448. 
When I'm in Santa Cruz I always allow extra time for a visit to this very special establishment.
UPDATE 2017: Sadly this gastronomic and inspiring gem doesn't exist anymore.
The counter at Bar Nelson

Map source:MMM

Monday, April 21, 2014

Meet Anzac and Peggy

I saw these two first on Queenie's daily snippets and found the orphaned Australian animals just too cute to resist posting one photo here. Nothing to do with La Gomera at all, but there you go...
Kangaroo Anzac and wombat Peggy are best friends

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Fiesta tonight in aid of a fiesta

Tonight from midnight until dawn there will be a fiesta in Valle Gran Rey's harbour village of Vueltas at the Plaza del Carmen. 
This fiesta is held to raise funds for another fiesta, the Fiesta del Carmen, which is the largest fiesta in Valle Gran Rey and held in July.
Tonight two bands, 'Grupo Caribe' and 'Orchesta Atlantic'  will play the usual pop-salsa mix for dancing and there will be food and drink available for revellers.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Busy Easter Season

There's room for more guests at La Gomera's visitors centre
At last there's some good news: The Canary Islands are having a bumper Easter season and La Gomera is no exception. Tourist figures are up on recent years and even the 'foreigners from the Peninsula', i.e. the tourists from mainland Spain are starting to make an appearance again. Keep the fingers crossed - this could be a sign of recovery from the recession in Spain. Accommodation these days is hard to find and hotel occupation rates are reported at around 90% throughout the Canaries. 'Semana Santa' (Holy Week) traditionally has always been part of the peak season but it all seems more 'busy but relaxed' and more affluent this year. On La Gomera the tourists generally appear to be more mixed internationally and the traditional Easter family reunions with the 'visitors' who now live elsewhere and are coming home for a holiday should have increased their numbers a bit. Ferries and airlines are moving a lot more people anyway...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Rock with food and wine this Saturday afternoon

The 'Sonidos Liquidos' cycle of events touring the Canary Islands is coming to La Gomera this Saturday, April 19th 2014. The idea originated in Lanzarote and brings local and international bands to various venues to play. During the gigs four tapas will be served and each will be accompanied by a different matching wine. All this is included in the cover charge of just € 10. This Saturday the rock band Cumbria Ebria from Lanzarote will play the Parque Maritima by the sea a couple of miles below the town of Vallehermoso in La Gomera's north. Note the somewhat unusual time of 1pm, but on an Easter Saturday it will make a lovely lunchtime excursion to this beautiful location with Tenerife's Teide as a backdrop and the nearby 'Castillo del Mar'. Food and drink is provided and tickets can be bought in advance at various outlets listed under 'venta de entradas' all over La Gomera and online through (see poster below):

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

One bus stop in Valle Gran Rey cancelled temporarily

Due to the partial collapse of the coast road between La Playa and La Puntilla, the buses serving the Nr.1 line between Valle Gran Rey and San Sebastian de La Gomera won't stop at La Playa opposite Bar Maria because the temporary diversion in place can't accommodate large vehicles. Intending passengers should take the bus from the bus station near the bridge in La Calera (best option) or from near Hotel Gran Rey in La Puntilla.
Damage to the road meanwhile is still being examined to find out who will do what to eventually repair it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Oil referendum in doubt

The Canarian government and its president Paulino Rivero still want the people of the islands to have the final say in whether oil companies like the Spanish-owned multinational Repsol should be allowed to begin exploration work off Fuerteventura and Lanzarote later this year. Rivero, supported by most local administrations including the government of La Gomera, believes an oil industry would have a serious impact on the environment and adversely affect tourism. The current Spanish government insists that here is no potential harm involved and oil would be of notable economic benefit for the Canary Islands. 
A referendum proposal had been tabled by an MP from the Canaries during last Thursday's meeting of the Energy and Industry Committee but it was rejected by a majority of 24 to 15. The Canarian government must now decide whether to risk legal action against it if it goes ahead as promised with its plans for the oil referendum, which Madrid has repeatedly said it is constitutionally not entitled to hold.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Another Atlantic rowing record started from Gomera

Luke Birch and Jamie Sparks entered the Guinness Book Of Records by becoming the youngest crew ever to row a boat across the Atlantic. The pair are delighted to have not only achieved a world record but also to have raised a record amount for charity. Through donations totalling more than £300,000 they have become the biggest ever individual fundraisers for the Breast Cancer Care support charity.
The British students who are childhood friends are both just 21 years old and didn't know anything about rowing  before they entered the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Rowing Challenge which started from San Sebastian de La Gomera in December. They were at sea rowing for 54 days in what was the ultimate test of their physical and mental endurance, battling 40ft waves in frightening storms. You'll get a taste of their gruelling journey in the video below:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spectacular Rockfall and Landslide: New Images

There was a large rockfall and landslide from the top of Teguerguenche mountain towering over Valle Gran Rey yesterday. Around lunchtime there was a loud noise to be heard and huge boulders and thousands of tons of loose ochre-coloured material were seen tumbling down towards the harbour village of Vueltas. No harm was done as there are no houses in the area where falling rocks and debris normally come to rest, and the area below the cliff is respectfully avoided. However, it did happen some years ago that a few small stones were thrown into the open doors of a bar during a similar incident - again without doing any harm. Yesterday's rockfall just left a huge cloud of dust which lingered for a good while.
Rockfall and landslide in Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera
A close-up of a close shave for Vueltas village in VGR
Ten minutes later dust still rose while on the right of the plume some material continued to tumble down

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Good news for flights to and from Canary Islands

EU approves aid to airlines for Canaries' flights

Aid granted by the Canarian government to airlines to open new routes to the Canaries has been ruled admissible by the European Union in a crucial test case settled by Brussels yesterday.
The scheme, devised by the regional government to provide a 50% reduction in airport charges for up to three years, does not unduly distort competition in the single maket and will help the economic development of the islands, concluded the European Commission after sudying the so-called start-up aids aimed at attracting airlines and routes. The scheme is the first of its type to be examined by Brussels following the entry into force of new EU guidelines on state aid to airports and airlines on 4 April. The green light for the 10 million euro package has been greeted with relief by the regional authorities, who see the incentive as crucial to diversifying the tourist industry here by reducing reliance on traditional markets.
The above report is from

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


The historic town of Agulo in La Gomera's north, considered one of the most picturesque villages in the Canaries

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

And the winner is...

...the satellite image of the Canary Islands.
NASA Earth Observatory comments the win:
''The second annual Tournament: Earth has come to an end, and the winner is a familiar face. In 2013, a submarine volcano off of the Canary Islands took the first championship. This year, the entire island chain got in on the action. ”Trailing the Canaries,” the #2 seed in the art bracket, romped through the tournament in 2014. The image showed interesting wind and wave patterns in sunglint on the lee side of the islands. The Canary Islands have a lot of fans!''

Monday, April 07, 2014

Dragonfly knocking on old door

 Unbelievably the insect's colours are true, even the 'tinfoil tail' which in reality glittered more than in the photo. Nature-created art on a natural surface modified by man which in turn is being gradually claimed back by nature.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

A most unusual playground

Be good now, Mum and Dad are watching you ! 
Who dares to go into that cauldron ?
There's a very unusual playground in the town of Vallehermoso in La Gomera's north-west. It is is more like a sculpture park with an added minor playground. The larger than life sculptures made from concrete will certainly impress children and even adults feel dwarfed by them. You can find it directly after the petrol station on your right when leaving the centre of the town in the direction of Hermigua.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

A beautiful dawn

Recently taken photo of dawn seen from the top of La Gomera with Tenerife's mountains
in the background and cloud over the sea between the two islands

Friday, April 04, 2014

Fancy a trombone choir ?

Now's your chance to listen to a 'trombone choir' (coro de trombones) here in the cultural centre of La Calera in Valle Gran Rey tomorrow night, Saturday April 5th 2014. The trombone ensemble from Arona on Tenerife will perform classical, popular, and modern music from 8 pm. Two local trombone players will join the 'choir' and admission to the concert is free of charge.