Islandmomma

Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age


Leave a comment

Fuerteventura an Overview: Can it survive modern tourism?

Arrival

Arriving in Fuertenventura’s capital, Puerto del Rosario, on the overnight ferry, my bones still felt the chill of a damp winter in La Gomera, or was it the cramp of fitful sleep? A bunk had seemed like a luxury at the time of booking, but the previous night, I saw cabin keys being doled out to the dozens of truck drivers, who clearly make this run regularly, and wished I’d splurged on one. Even so, I’d guessed sleep might have been elusive, making a bunk a waste of money.

fuerteventura landscape

Down below Trix was still snoring when I slid the van door open. By now a fearless ferry traveller, she lapped up her water, and minutes later we were rumbling over the echo-y ramps and off the boat.

Odd how the mind stores stuff without us realizing; it was over 20 years since I’d visited this Canary Island, but my sense of direction nudged me, rightly, south. I didn’t have a map at this stage – part of the adventure. When we got to a suitable spot on the edge of town, we stopped, stretched our legs. The sun was rising rapidly, and had reached that point when you feel its first warmth on your skin, when the day really takes off. Absolutely unfazed by the strangeness of heat after a long winter, Trix gobbled her breakfast. I marvelled, as I had before, at her trust in me. No indication of nervousness at being in a strange location.

That warmth was what had brought us here at this stage of our trip. My original plan had been to explore La Palma and El Hierro, before heading to the easterly islands for winter, assuming them to be warmer; but two months of damp and almost unceasing rain, and I had a need for sunshine. I am nothing if not adaptable – it said so on the letter of recommendation I had from my headmistress when left school, (though how she knew I never understood). Plan B it was then, Fuerteventura, miles of white sand beaches, and a reputation as the warmest, windiest of this island chain.

Fuerteventura Canary Islands Landscape

I had, still have, no doubt that I’d left a part of my heart in La Gomera, but after spending five months dipping up and down green valleys and hillsides, the flat openness with its sensation of freedom was seductive, as we whizzed south along an excellent road, with only light traffic at 8.30 in the morning.

It was a feeling that didn’t wear off in the two months I stayed. The island has an excellent road system. The main roads, linking important towns and villages (and almost all are of the “blink and you miss it” variety) are well maintained, flattish and well signed – too well signed really! I lost track of the number of times I caught sight of an unusual place name, and hurtled off to see if the place was as curious as its name. Even the dirt roads are good, dirt roads – and I’ve been sidetracked down A LOT of them… What else do you do if you spot a windmill, on a plain, beckoning, as they beckoned Don Quixote?

Windmill Fuerteventura

My accommodation was booked in a small, coastal village called Las Playitas, and in no time I’d spotted the sign, and realized it was much too early to call. Not knowing the state of the roads, nor the distances, I’d expected to arrive around 11 or 12, and here it was, barely 9 o’clock, so I trundled on to Gran Tarajal, and settled down to breakfast with a sea view in a promenade café.

A Real Place

Las Playitas

Las Playitas

Gran Tarajal was to be, my temporary hometown. Las Playitas boasts some nice fish restaurants and a couple of tiny “emergencies only” supermarkets, but little else apart from a super hotel, which specializes in sports groups. The long, straight road into town was always dotted with cyclists, and the running track alongside always in use, but for anything one has to do, Gran Tarajal is the place; supermarkets, post office, fishing port, sports, clothes and electrical shops, vets and dentists – all you need on a basic day-to-day basis. I sat back and watched as the town slowly came to life along the curving seaside walkway; Bars opening, fishermen trotting along with buckets and rods, delivery guys weaving their carts between the people strolling to work, and the general sleepy acceptance of another day as neighbors greeted each other. The coffee and the sandwich were nondescript but there would be two whole months to find the best places to eat.

Gran Tarajal

Gran Tarajal

Despite the foodie disappointment (little to do with quality, just lack of imagination), I came to love the island. Between the beaches, the holiday resorts and that red earth are dotted the villages. Nothing outside of Puerto del Rosario and Gran Tarajal, excepting the resort areas, would qualify for the name “town.” Sometimes, in my rambling down those back roads, I spotted a interesting sounding place name and took a turn, often it turned out just to be two or three houses, huddled together in defiance of the harsh climate, and reminding me of some spaghetti western scene.

Betancuria

The most charming of these villages is Betancuria, the island’s original capital, now beautifully restored, reminiscent of the way the French restore those lovely villages in the south. Stone-built properties, walls and window boxes overflowing with flowers, and despite the tour buses that pull in and out, tranquillity; an excellent museum, as always run by friendly, knowledgeable staff; a couple of naff tourist shops and one genuine artisan one, and that’s about it – except for the most amazing church.

The historic church in Betancuria

The historic church in Betancuria

Usually, I resent paying to see religious sites, especially those belonging to the super-rich Catholic Church. Often I give them a miss, but I was drawn to this one and handed over my €1. What I saw inside was more like a museum than a place of worship; chock a block with artefacts from the time of the Conquest in the 15th century.   It was fascinating, and clearly money was needed for restoration work. I was driven out by tour bus hoards, and when I mentioned this to the nice lady on the door, she told me to keep my ticket, and she wouldn’t charge me if I came back when it was quieter. I didn’t, but I should have.

Betancuria

Betancuria

Channelling Don Quixote or Clint Eastwood

Fuerteventura’s most iconic features are its windmills, which dot the plains, or are the first thing you see as you approach a village. Years ago they were used for grinding the grains to make the Canarian flour, gofio. Some have been beautifully restored. On an island famous for its wind the spindly modern variety abound too, these recent ones used for hauling up subterranean water.

Windmill near Puerto Lajas

Windmill near Puerto Lajas

Chasing windmills one day I mistakenly ended up in the village of Tetir (I was looking for the windmill at Tefía – you can see the similarity in the names, no?). It was eerily quiet, under the hot, early afternoon sun, so I pulled over by the church, and took Trix for a walk. What looked like they might be shops were shuttered, and there wasn’t a soul on the streets. It was getting very Alfred Hitchcock. We wandered past the church, and came to a small farmyard, and more spaghetti western stuff; pigs, chickens and donkeys all mooching around in the dirt, happily sharing it with a couple of turkeys – an unusual sight for the Canaries. It was definitely beginning to feel like Mexico or one of the US border states!

Voices drifted over the claggy air. They came from a bar alongside the church. Someone once told me that when the Spanish conquered other lands the first thing they built was the church, then the bar. It felt that way. Despite hunger, I was wary of entering, the voices were distinctly all male, and outside the bar three pick up trucks were parked. I’m quite sure they would have been friendly, but blame it on seeing too many movies like “Easy Rider,” for once I was deterred. Going to bars or restaurants alone never fazes me usually. Laughing at my over-active imagination  I left town, my van stirring up a swirl of dust as we departed!

Windmill at Tefía

Windmill at Tefía

When I did find Tefía it was a little gem, host to an excellent eco museum depicting how hard life was for the early settlers, and promoting traditional crafts like basket weaving and pottery, about which more another time. There was, also, a beautifully restored windmill. Enough to make Don Quixote quite jealous!

The courtyard of a resorted house in the Eco museum in Tefía

The courtyard of a resorted house in the Eco museum in Tefía

Even museums have a sense of humor! Eco Museum Tefía Fuerteventura

Even museums have a sense of humor! Eco Museum Tefía Fuerteventura

Many villages have adapted in their own ways to the necessities of earning a crust from tourism, some with taste and imagination, others, well, points for trying.

Pájara, a dramatic drive south of Betancúria, a town founded in the 16th century, now welcomes the hundreds of cyclists and walkers who train in the island’s unforgiving heat and wind, with “sporting bars” along its shady streets.

The church in Antigua

The church in Antigua

Antigua is a bit livelier. It’s the only place to get your car MOT’ed. But don’t expect (at least as of the beginning of May, when I left) to find the museum open. It looks the part, and rumor has it that it’s completed, but there are no funds to run it. I can’t confirm that. I had an introduction to a person in the island government, with whom I spoke on the phone, and with whom I agreed to send a list of questions, which I did, but never received a reply. One of the questions was: Why are just about half of the island’s museums closed? I was there over the Easter period, a busy tourist time, and yet they remained closed, although they were promoted. Strange. If I ever get a reply I will come up with another post.

Tiscamanita boasts a windmill, and is where you can buy the simplest, but freshest roast pork sandwich, simply meat and fresher than fresh bread (there is a marvellous bakery next door). The bar that sells them is famous for miles around. They also told me that another bar does a to.die.for goat stew, but I missed that.

La Oliva probably the heart of the Guanche kingdom of Maxorata; Tuineje where tourism meets agriculture; Tarajalejo, Puerto Lajas, Las Lajitas and Ajuy – former fishing communities still struggling to come to terms with modern tourism – some looking as if there is still hope, others chomping at the bit for the re-emergence of new construction; Las Lajares which has a great Saturday morning craft market, and which seems like surf city although it’s some kilometres from the coast – all have have their own charms, and interesting quirks. There is certainly plenty to see inland, away from those fabulous beaches.

Beach at Las Lajitas

Beach at Las Lajitas

The church in Las Lajitas, almost on the beach!

The church in Las Lajitas, almost on the beach!

I missed out on Pozo Negro with its Guanche history and the volcanic tube of Cueva del Llano because they were closed, and the salt museum at Las Salinas because it closes quite early. I have deliberately not mentioned today’s capital, Puerto del Rosario, because, frankly, apart from some quirky street art, I couldn’t find anything to recommend. Despite the cruise ships which now call in regularly, it remains very much the sort of port city which no-one bothered to beautify, and whose history seems to have been lost in the rush to build haphazardly.

Cotillo

Cotillo

My favorite place, however, was Cotillo, on the northern coast, which perhaps does deserve the title of surf city. Whereas further along the coasts it’s all about windsurfing, in Cotillo it’s the real thing, and all about weaving those boards over the incoming swell off gobsmackingly gorgeous golden beaches, which lie at the foot of black, volcanic cliffs. It looks frighteningly as if this, too, may be all concrete by the time I return, but for now it’s hanging on to a beachbum vibe, and if the authorities have any sense, they will build on that instead of creating yet another mass tourism monstrosity.

One of the beaches at Cotillo

One of the beaches at Cotillo

The Resorts

And, then, there are the resorts. A resort is a resort is a resort. Worldwide. Cement and plastic. For somewhere like the Canary Islands to survive, they are necessary, nowhere more so than on this island, bereft of the winsome beauty of parts of Tenerife or of La Gomera, and I try to look for something to recommend them. Other than their wonderful, natural settings, I found nothing in the resorts of Fuerteventura to recommend. Morro Jable was soulless and expensive, though there is an older part that has more appeal. It’s the gateway to the deserts of the far south, and has a port, which connects you with Gran Canaria. The best thing of course is the incredible, white beaches, and I found the guys in the bars and shops very cheerful and helpful.

I didn’t even set foot in Caleta del Fuste, an hour in the flea market by the main road was sufficient to tell me that I didn’t want to see more. Likewise Costa Calma, which could have been anywhere from Marbella to Florida.

Lanzarote and Isla del Lobos can be seen from Corralejo on Fuertventura's northern coast

Lanzarote and Isla del Lobos can be seen from Corralejo on Fuertventura’s northern coast

The only resort with appeal was Corralejo, on the northern tip, somewhere I remembered from my first visit all those years ago. The first time I returned, I was so shocked at the change that I drove around the streets and turned tail within five minutes. The outskirts are sheer concrete hell, but when I eventually went back I found the old village, turned into the sort of tourist trap you might call “cute.” That is to say, I’ve seen worse. And then, there are the exotic sand dunes, to which the camels add a surreal touch, and the shimmery blue vistas of La Isla del Lobos and Lanzarote on the horizon.

Corralejo

Corralejo

I nosed around the mostly pedestrianized streets close to the harbor, and decided I’d been unfair on my first visit. Nevertheless, it held no charms for me. Clearly, as soon as the recession lifts more concrete is set to go up, and most of the people I met looked bored with their lot, and disinterested in their customers.

Camels on the dunes at Corralejo

Camels on the dunes at Corralejo

In fact, one of the features of the coast reminded me of Tenerife twenty years or so ago, half finished buildings, abandoned hotels and malls. In time, they will all be finished, and no doubt those white sands will be crowded. La Pared, Giniginamar, Majanicho all these coastal villages have turquoise seas and wonderful views. La Pared, the point at which the island was historically separated into two kingdoms, has that seedy, rundown air so familiar from years of living in the Canary Islands. Although clearly people stay there, the air is thick with apathy, and the beaches crowded with wannabe surfers. I went back several times, because they told me that the best island sunsets could be seen from there, but each time it seemed sorrier than before.

Much of the island is, however, protected. It’s hard for the average observer to understand what needs to be protected on the sterile hillsides around Entallada, the point at which the archipelago comes closest to the African continent, or the wilderness of the Jandia peninsula, where hoards of goats, as always, forage. Though flora and fauna are sparse (an understatement), there is still much to be learned about the geology of these areas.

The starkness of Entallada

The starkness of Entallada

Barren hillside in the Jandia peninsula, nevertheless, a goat pen, where they are corralled for branding

Barren hillside in the Jandia peninsula, nevertheless, a goat pen, where they are corralled for branding

When you finally top the mountains of Jandia and dip down to the west coast, to Cofete, it’s easier to appreciate those “you are entering a protected area” signs. Endless yellow beaches, lipped by white waves stretch along to La Pared and beyond, like a scenario from “An Endless Summer.” In the third world-style shack that passes for a bar, where donkeys and goats mooch in a corral alongside, they don’t even accept credit cards (so make sure you have cash if you plan to eat there!). I offered up a prayer in lieu of grace, as I tucked in to my delicious and predictable grilled fish, that perhaps this, particular slice of the Canary Islands might never change.

Cofete

Cofete

Chastened by the realization that I’d fallen into a happy stupor in La Gomera, I raced around Fuerteventura, trying to absorb its different faces, its sleepy villages; its dazzling beaches; that evocative, red earth; the goats; the waves; the energy; the civic pride; the Mercadona supermarkets (after five months without supermarkets); those protected spaces. I tried to balance those against the rumors of historic sites destroyed by construction and covered up; the feeling that Fuerteventura seemed not to have observed nor learned from the mistakes committed in Tenerife in the name of progress in the 80s and 90s; and, of course, the knowledge that Spain’s central government has authorized oil drilling just off the island’s coast.

Mystic Tindaya in the north west of the island

Mystic Tindaya in the north west of the island

Whilst the world recession, La Crisis as they call it here, is responsible for some of the eyesores dotted around – unfinished apartment blocks and hotels looking even worse than completed ones – perhaps this pause might prove beneficial if it gives authorities time to stop and think about what they are allowing to happen. Fuertventura is beautiful in a wild, wilderness way, totally unlike the lush green of La Gomera, and it would be devastating to see that crumble under the pressure of greed and mass tourism in the way so many spaces on the island of Tenerife have.

My question about whether the cabildo (island government) is aware of this dilema is still unanswered, but there are some hopeful signs. Whilst I was there some friends also visited, investigating walking routes (a propect so different from those of La Gomera that it’s hard to believe these, two islands belong to the same archipelago), and there was an abundance of signs indicating rural accommodation. I was lucky to visit one of the island’s few remaining potters to see his workroom on his isolated finca, and he talked about letting off a cottage on the property for those who truly want to “get away from it all.” Encouraging these types of accommodation is one way the cabildo can stimulate a better level of tourism. The other opportunity is sporting holidays, in addition to its famous windsurfing beaches, Fuerteventura now plays host to cyclists and surfers, as well as hikers, and there were some dive schools around. Clearly, this needs to be controlled and not allowed to get out of hand, but now is the time for decisions and action, before the world economy picks up and the race to construct is on again.

 


Leave a comment

Battle For The Net

If you woke up tomorrow, and your internet looked like this, what would you do? Imagine all your favorite websites taking forever to load, while you get annoying notifications from your ISP suggesting you switch to one of their approved “Fast Lane” sites.Think about what we would lose: all the weird, alternative, interesting, and enlightening stuff that makes the Internet so much cooler than mainstream Cable TV. What if the only news sites you could reliably connect to were the ones that had deals with companies like Comcast and Verizon?On September 10th, just a few days before the FCC’s comment deadline, public interest organizations are issuing an open, international call for websites and internet users to unite for an “Internet Slowdown” to show the world what the web would be like if Team Cable gets their way and trashes net neutrality. Net neutrality is hard to explain, so our hope is that this action will help SHOW the world what’s really at stake if we lose the open Internet.If you’ve got a website, blog or tumblr, get the code to join the #InternetSlowdown here: https://battleforthenet.com/sept10thEveryone else, here’s a quick list of things you can do to help spread the word about the slowdown: http://tumblr.fightforthefuture.org/post/96020972118/be-a-part-of-the-great-internet-slowdown Get creative! Don’t let us tell you what to do. See you on the net September 10th!

via Battle For The Net.


8 Comments

“Believe You Can” is Marieke Vervoort’s Motto: Something We Should All Remember!

Traveling is good for you; it broadens the mind; it opens us to experiences, opinions, and ways of life we are unlikely to see if we don’t stir from our hometowns; it makes us more tolerant of different opinions, and raises our general knowledge and our empathy for others. Mark Twain famously said

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Passionate as I am about landscapes and seascapes, the best travel memories always come back to the people I meet. It might be the waiter who makes you laugh, the good old guys playing dominoes outside the bar you stop to joke with, or the kindness of strangers who go out of their way to put you back on the right road when you are lost. Sometimes people who are totally extraordinary cross your path, making your travel really inspiring.

In April in Lanzarote I met someone who is, simply, one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. Meeting her was an experience not to be forgotten. Her name is Marieke Vervoort, which is likely a name you don’t know unless you are familiar with her world of Paralympic competition. This story is as full of positivity, determination, focus and inspiration as you will find anywhere.

Until she became ill at 14, Marieke lived the active life of a sporty, teenage girl. Without warning, in 1993 a, then, mysterious illness struck. It is rare, it is degenerative, it is progressive and incurable.  By the turn of the century she had lost the use of her legs, and the condition, which few in her home country, Belgium, suffer, had confined her to a wheelchair. To use the word “suffer” in the same breath as her name seems a bit insulting. She does, but she takes it in her stride, deals with each day as it comes.

Marieke Vervoort

To hear her tell it, her reaction to learning that that the rest of her life would be spent in a wheelchair wasn’t to feel sorry for herself. Nor did she dwell on what she was missing; but, having conquered the tasks of learning to cope with day-to-day life, she looked around for what she could do, given her new circumstances (what most of us would think of as limitations, another word I hesitate to use). She recognized that she needed a challenge, and was lucky (wow, so many words seem inappropriate, but that’s her observation) that the hospital in which she’d landed had rehabilitation programs and links that could, and did, set her on the path to where she is today.

She discovered that there is a whole world of sports that have been adapted for folk in wheelchairs. Her first venture was wheelchair basketball, which she still enjoys. This is the only Paralympic sport I’ve watched consistently enough to know anything about. Even at the small club island level I used to see, it isn’t a gentle sport. It’s very competitive, and I saw some falls that had my heart in my mouth. She also took up scuba diving. These, people, are things most folk in full health only do in their dreams.

As her illness progressed she had to give up diving, which she had done with a specially adapted kind of board that fitted on her legs. Around the same time, she realized that the basketball wasn’t challenging her enough, despite that she had become the only woman on her team. This was when she discovered athletic wheelchairs.

If you’ve ever experienced that lump in your throat as you watch the first athletes over the line in the London Marathon you’ll be familiar with these; longer and leaner than a normal wheelchair they look every bit the racing machine they are.

When we met, she was about a month away from the European Championships in Switzerland, and I asked about training. It was one of the reasons she was at Sands Beach Resort, with her coach, as she has been each spring for some years, to train. My sons are athletes, so I have an inkling of what it takes for someone in peak fitness, how much harder is it for a wheelchair athlete? It’s a six day a week commitment, and gruelling. In Marieke’s case everything physical is concentrated in the upper body, especially her arms, but she adamantly and passionately says that the most important part of the body for an athlete is the mind.

All the same amount of energy goes into preparation, and needs to be replaced. We were chatting over lunch in the Mai Tai Bar at Sands Beach Resort, and she laughed when I commented on the size of the plate placed in front of her, “Oh this is just my starter, wait until you see the main course!” She was right. Gobsmacked doesn’t really cover my reaction. She told me that basically she eats whatever she wants, because she uses up so much energy. The staff at the Mai Tai know her likes and needs, so she leaves her menus to them.

By now you will have gathered that this very courageous lady doesn’t ever take the easy route. Her chosen field became triathlon. This is a sport that challenges only the toughest, and the training is exhausting, even when you’re not in a wheelchair. She began in 2004 and by 2006 she had become Women’s World Para-Triathlon champion. In 2007 her sporting journey took her to the Ironman in Hawaii.

Here, Marieke’s story came up against even more odds. Her very specialized gear failed to arrive on time for her to train properly. She wasn’t able to prepare any of the three disciplines, because as a para-triathlete she needed special equipment for every section. Going to the store to buy new running shoes or a new bike wasn’t an option. Disappointed and stressed she decided to simply do her best, and when her baggage arrived at the 11th hour she was able to complete two of the three sections, a tremendous personal victory.

The stress, however, had taken its toll, and her illness was also manifesting itself in other ways, her eyesight was deteriorating, she had developed epilepsy. I don’t need to tell you that she didn’t give up at this, do I? Most of us would have given up long before this, agreed?

Yet another spell in hospital followed, and as she recovered, Marieke realized that she was going to have to stick to shorter distances. Her dream of returning to Hawaii Ironman had to be forgotten. The silver lining was that, honored for her fortitude back home for her performance and bravery in Hawaii, it was easier for her to find sponsors, something that hadn’t been difficult before.

One of the things very close to her heart now is convincing governments and sponsors to support paralympic athletes. She was very serious when she said to me that she would like to see athletes have the same sort of recognition that soccer stars get, and my personal opinion is that they deserve even more, but I don’t need to jump on that soapbox, because there is more to Marieke’s story, and it utterly proves her point.

Having dallied with other sports, like wheelchair skiing and blokarting (no I’d never heard of it either! Check it out), she finally began to race seriously in 2011, and by May of 2012 she was breaking European Championship records, and earning herself a place in the London Paralympic Games later that year.

 

Marieke is the current ParaOlympic 100m T52 Class champion. She also took the silver medal in the London 2012 Paralymic Games for the 200m. Told you there was more to her story!

 

For someone who has overcome so much, with such courage, it was humbling to watch the pride and excitement on her face as she spoke about the ovation she received, as she sped over the finish line in the 100m, describing it as the highlight of her life, together with the reception she received when she arrived back in Belgium. “How do you top that?” was the inevitable question, and her reply was that each competition is a new challenge, and facing challenges is pivotal to her life.

She was faced with yet another in 2013 when she tore her shoulder in a fall during the World Championships in Lyon. The scar is extensive, but healing nicely, and did it make her give up? Of course it didn’t!

Honestly, I can’t conceive of the will power and focus it takes to do all of this. The thought muddles my mind, but you have to think, “If Marieke can do this much, being in constant pain, with all the setbacks, and the overwhelming problems of simply getting from A to B, why can’t we all achieve our dreams? I didn’t put that to her, it seemed trivial compared to her achievements and the obstacles she has faced, but I know what she would say. Her motto is “Believe You Can!” It’s blazoned across the top of her website.

Not only, however, is she stunning proof that believing in yourself works, but she is also proof that you can achieve great things and still be a down-to-earth and thoroughly nice person. It was clear that the staff at Sands Beach Resort all adored her, and I’d watched her earlier in the week posing for photographs and chatting with a little girl and her mom. To be honest, the feeling is mutual, she is a Sands Beach Ambassador, and told me with real warmth about how she loved to be there.

Marieke Vervoort and Zenn

And you want to know who that handsome dog in the photo is, don’t you. That’s Marieke’s best friend, helper and confidant, Zenn, who’s been with her since 2009, and whom she trained herself. On the day we spoke, Marieke had apologized for not feeling 100%, like many folk with an ongoing illness she has good days and bad. Despite it being a bad day, she was patient and willing to answer all my stupid questions, and Zenn sat patiently at her side, until she jumped on her lap as we left. The next day, when I came across them in the hotel lobby, Marieke was back in good form, and Zenn was running rings around her chair. It was quite unbelievable to realize how in tune with her mistress she was.

So, what was next on the agenda in this amazing life? Marieke speaks excellent English, and does motivational speaking in both English and Flemish. Now there is something I would queue to attend! She has written a book about her life, but so far it’s only available in Flemish, as is her website, though at least we have Google translate for the latter.

Oh, and those European Championships she was training for when we met? She broke the 16-year-old record in the 800m. In interviews afterwards she remarked that she would like to call the doctors who had told her in 2013 that she would never again reach the top of her sport. She’d already told me that every time a doctor tells her something like that, it just fuels her determination to prove them wrong. Defying the odds is her rasison d’être. Her message to anyone out there is that you CAN do it, when things go wrong, sitting around and moping does not help at all, getting yourself out there and doing something is the road to recovery.

I’d love to hear one of those motivational speeches because she truly both believes and proves that if you believe in yourself you can achieve your dreams…..there are times when you have to adjust them, but you can still achieve what others term miracles.

I was a guest of Sands Beach Resort back in April, and meeting Marieke was icing on the cake of a wonderful week for me. You can read about my stay if you click on the link. It’s usual to say “all opinions are my own” or something to that effect, and mine most assuredly are.  Almost everything in the entire week was outstanding, so if it comes across that way that’s fine. It’s because I found the resort, its staff, their recommendations for me exceptional, and that is sincerely meant.


2 Comments

Things I Learned from My Islands Trip: No.3 My Need to be Near the Ocean!

 

The lush and very beautiful Hermigua valley in La Gomera

The lush and very beautiful Hermigua valley in La Gomera

I’d long been aware that I had the good fortune to live somewhere so easy to enjoy both ocean and mountain scenery. Running through my list of pros and cons of continuing to use Tenerife as a base (and there hasn’t been one year in the 27 I’ve spent here that I have not done that), it ties for first place with the pleasant climate. But now I have that same certainty about the seas that Juanjo has about the mountains. I’m lucky I don’t have to choose, but if I ever did, I know which one makes my heart beat that bit faster.

Continue reading


6 Comments

My Best Fish Dinner Ever: Casa Tomas in Lanzarote

I’ve been doing it for years, and sometimes I don’t give it a thought, other times, I am a tad wary of eating alone. I was looking forward to eating at Casa Tomas in Las Caletas on Lanzarote’s Costa Teguise. It came highly recommended. It was the end of my week’s stay, and I was floating on a wave of bonhomie, that had engulfed me from the moment of arrival. What could go wrong?

Casa Tomas is located right on the main street that winds along the seafront of Las Caletas. Easy to find; easy to park; I trot jauntily down the street, to see a group of good old boys hanging around the door, blocking the entrance. I’d had mixed experiences with bars which still seem to be the male domain in these islands. I hesitate.

Casa Tomas Las Caletas LanzaroteOne of the guys thumps his friend playfully on the arm and says, “Hey let the lady pass!” and the entire group smile and wish me a good day. Passing into the restaurant is like surfing on a wave of goodwill.

Continue reading


7 Comments

Home for Now

The morning air is utterly neutral on my skin. Those Atlantic breezes do their thing overnight, and bring down temperatures, so we don’t suffer the way, say, Florida does (Orlando is on almost the same latitude as Tenerife).

Outside the main door of the apartment block the delivery guys are sitting on the low wall that surrounds the grassed, center part of the walkway, waiting for the supermarket to open its back doors for their deliveries. They chat quietly and smoke. Soda cans and plastic bottles have been tossed onto the grass overnight, and, mysteriously, yoghurt cartons and a handful of curtain rings.

This is a barrio, a ‘hood – even in a town so small there are divisions. It’s the sort of place where people hang out of their ground floor windows and chat with friends on the street. Sometimes I’ve passed one of these conversations on my way out to walk Trixy, and it’s still going on when we return.

Conversation is a serious business around here. Already in the couple of weeks I’ve lived here I’ve hurried to the window thinking a big argument was taking place outside, but it was only the delivery men flirting with the supermarket girls, or women hanging around outside the hairdressers a little way down to smoke their cigarettes.

Continue reading


11 Comments

Traveling with Trixy: What I Learned from My Trip Part 2: Travels with a Dog

Trixy, my long-suffering and almost constant companion for most of this century….. let’s be honest, if not for Trixy I might be lounging on a Thai beach or puffing my way up to Machu Picchu right this minute…… might be. Click the link for Trix’s story.

1-2-IMG_5720

The most fundamental belief I hold is that everything is possible in some form or other, if you give it enough thought, want it enough, and are willing to make compromises, so when the foot itching became unbearable over a year ago, it became clear that the only way I could travel was with Trixy. Thus it was that she squeezed into my van at an unspeakably early hour on a dark morning last October, and nestled between bags and boxes, eager not to be left behind, wherever I was off to.

Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 222 other followers