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


Traveling with Trixy

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.


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.


The Ferries

That morning we were off to Los Cristianos to take the ferry to La Gomera, a crossing of only an hour, but we were setting off into the unknown, however close to “home” it was!

It’s a powerful thing when a pet trusts you, and if I had any doubts about this trip at all it was when I left her in the Spartan kennel on the ferry, knowing that we had far longer ferry trips in the months ahead. If ever looks spoke louder than words it was when I went to “rescue” her as we docked in San Sebastian. At that point the trip became as much about traveling with dogs as about anything.

That turned out to be the only time I used the kennels. By the time we came to do the five-hour trip to Fuerteventura we’d both become accustomed to her staying in the car. Sometimes I checked with the ferry staff, but honestly they didn’t really have a clue whether or not it was permitted to leave a pet in the car, and Trix was definitely much happier with her own blankets on the comfy back seat.

Two ferry companies ply this route daily, Fred Olsen Ferries and Naveria Armas. I used both, depending on which website was working, or which office was staffed when I arrived at a terminal.

The only reservation I now have about doing this arose a couple of months back, when there was a fire in the hold of one of these ferries. A truck apparently caught fire, and though, happily, no one was hurt, you have to wonder if a dog is really safer (i.e. easier to rescue) in kennels in those circumstances.

1-DSC_2424Getting from La Gomera to Fuerteventura means taking 3 ferries. The first was the accustomed crossing to Tenerife, then a drive from Los Cristianos to Santa Cruz and a ferry to Gran Canaria. We’d been able to crash with friends (Trixy’s adoptive “godparents”) overnight so there was plenty of time to exercise luckily. The second goes from Santa Cruz to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, where at midnight we drove clear to the other side of the port to board the Fuerteventura ferry.

In Santa Cruz there was a moment of panic as an Armas staffer noticed Trix in the car, and told me that I needed some special paperwork for her. This was the first I’d heard of it, we were next in line to board, and I had to rush over to their office to fill in the form, which basically said I wouldn’t sue them if anything happened to her.

My instructions were to check in and do the same at reception onboard the second ferry, where a mystified staff member asked me if I minded waiting as she doled out cabin keys to the dozens of truckers who needed their sleep, and then went off in search of instructions, clearly this was something she’d never dealt with before. Eventually, all signed up, I curled up on a seat and resolved to take a cabin if I ever did this crossing again. Trix, snug as a bug on her comfy bed on the comfy back seat of the car, apparently snored her way around the islands.


After that it all became a familiar routine, surrounded by her own blankets or bed, she didn’t show any signs of nerves at all. If I was traveling on foot I’m not sure how I would feel about having to leave her in the kennels. You can’t expect luxury, but they seemed a bit harsh, and several times, descending to the car deck at the end of a crossing, I heard dogs that seemed to have been barking the entire trip. Trix isn’t a barky dog, but other dogs barking relentlessly would have upset her.

When I booked our last trip, from La Palma to Tenerife I noticed a paragraph on the Fred Olsen website I hadn’t seen before, which indicated that if you travel with your dog it has to be insured. That seemed fair enough too, but I ignored it, knowing that Trix is too old now to be accepted for insurance, and I wasn’t asked for any proof.

All in all there were no real problems. I always arrived early, so we could have a walk, and make sure she had plenty of water. It meant that I was calm and relaxed about leaving her, if I hadn’t been, chances are she would have picked up on it, and not settled down so well.


Trixy thrived in La Gomera, and perhaps her happiness was something to do with me extending my stay there. I think the cooler weather agreed with her, and some of the stiffness in her back legs seemed to ease up. Odd that, you’d think it would be better in the warmth.

1-DSC_2482Finding the La Gomera apartment had been one of those twists of Fate that leave you wondering about how the universe encourages you sometimes, but I will write properly about accommodation another time, this post is specifically about the canine side of my “adventure.” I’d been able to introduce one of the apartment owners to Trix when he passed through El Médano, so I was happy that he knew she was old and quiet.

In La Gomera getting into the car became a happy semi-leap instead of the awkward fumbling it had been, as she went with me more often than not as I toured the island. The apartment was perfect, which meant I was able to leave her behind if I was going somewhere like a restaurant, or walking for longer than she is able to do. The peace was perfect for her. Never a fan of loud noises, the only times she was spooked were when there were fireworks i.e. for the Bajada de la Virgen and New Year’s Eve.

These days, at her advanced age, she’s happy to lie under the table, and so I could enjoy a meal and/or work in peace as she dozed – so long as we were outdoors, which was ok for the first 3 months and last couple of weeks, but which, ….. er, didn’t exactly work during the two months of torrential rain, which comprised the rest of last winter! She’d also been happy to lounge on the back seat or on a blanket by my side when I worked at the beach, but, come the rains, I had to leave her behind when I worked in bars, which, actually also worked out fine, given the great apartment.


Sitting outside the apartment just before we left La Gomera for the first time.

Sitting outside the apartment just before we left La Gomera for the first time.

Saying goodbye to Playa Santa Catalina when we left the island for the second time at the beginning of June

Saying goodbye to Playa Santa Catalina when we left the island for the second time at the beginning of June

My idea had been to arrange accommodation ahead, and so when we arrived at the home stay in Fuerteventura I knew that she would be accepted, but that she would have to sleep in the garage with the owner’s dogs. I didn’t have problem with that. Although she’s always slept in the house, she stays in an outdoor kennel when I go away, and this is a totally different thing to do in this climate than it would be in a colder one. The garage turned out to be fine, clean and cool in the hotter climate, and she got on well with the other dogs.

Waiting patiently in the shade while I take snaps in Tetir, Fuerteventura

Waiting patiently in the shade while I take snaps in Tetir, Fuerteventura

For me, however, it was different. I missed her being around for one thing, and for another, visitors often left the front gate open, and the dogs would get out. For the family dogs, in a small village, that wasn’t a huge problem, they inevitably found their way back sooner or later, but for Trix, who has no road sense and is now deaf anyway, it was different, and I worried.

It definitely meant that I wouldn’t leave her alone, so she came everywhere with me. I only once left her behind for any length of time. It was kind of nice, having her there behind me, but a problem when I needed to leave her in the car of course as the weather got warmer.


Yeah, it was kind of windy in Fuerteventura. On the dunes of Jandia looks as if she is about to take flight!

Yeah, it was kind of windy in Fuerteventura. On the dunes of Jandia looks as if she is about to take flight!


Happy on the beach!

Happy on the beach!

When I received the invite to stay at the Sands Beach Resort in Lanzarote for a week, there was no option but to leave her in kennels. I chose to use kennels on that island rather than Fuerteventura, so if there was a problem I would be closer. I reached out to fellow blogger Julie Cliffe-Jones for a recommendation, and it proved to be absolutely marvelous. In fact, the best kennels I’ve ever used anywhere! From the moment I left her I sensed that she was in good hands from what I’d seen, and I was able to relax completely and concentrate on work for the week.

Trixy loved the countryside and the cooler air

Trixy loved the countryside and the cooler air

Our final port of call on this trip was the island of La Palma. There I found the first utterly negative aspect of traveling with dogs, which I mentioned in this post, so I won’t repeat myself. Thankfully it was only an overnight stop, and thankfully it was resolved, without me or Trixy having to sleep in the car.

Working at a picnic area, Trixy tucked herself under the table and snoozed

Working at a picnic area, Trixy tucked herself under the table and snoozed

The next morning we arrived at the accommodation I’d booked, happily, subject to it being ok, and I probably have to be honest and say that Trix probably enjoyed it as much as I disliked it…..once, like me, she’d gotten used to the scuffling of lizards and god knows what else in the ceiling! The accommodation was an independent apartment created from outbuildings adjacent to the owner’s house, and it was ground floor, so there was a little, overgrown garden. Happily overgrown, which meant that she could mooch around to her heart’s content, though rigorous brushing and checking for tics had to be done every day! She loved just lazing in the sun when I worked, surveyed anxiously by the owner’s cat and her brood of five, six-week-old kittens, who gave her a wide berth, so no problems there either!

Soaking up the rays in the garden in La Palma

Soaking up the rays in the garden in La Palma

Would I do It Again?

Yes, I’d do it again – in a heartbeat. Whether I actually will do so I’m not so sure. Trix is definitely showing signs of age now. She has a heart condition and hip displaysia, and I’m happy to be back in the hands of a veterinary practise which knows her and her history. I will think twice before I set off next time about whether it’s the best thing for her.

Obviously some dogs wouldn’t like a trip like this, some get car sick, some are just too exciteable, or don’t get on with people or with other dogs. The dog needs to be fairly tranquil and unflappable. I’m not even sure I could have done this when she was younger. I made make sure that I had the food and bedding organized, but not much more so than at home. I took a load of old blankets and throws to line the car seats, and just threw them out when they became too dirty. Always having water in the car is a must, of course, and when I had to leave her alone in the car it goes without saying that I left windows ajar and put the sun visor across the windscreen. I was lucky to be traveling in places where crime rates are fairly low, so leaving windows open didn’t bother me, given that after La Gomera half my possessions remained in the car! The first thing I did when I arrived somewhere was to make sure that I knew where the nearest vet was too, having located it, I took a picture of the opening hours and phone numbers on their door with my phone, so I had a quick reference in case of an emergency.

There are certain things I would do differently about this trip, which I will address another time, but traveling with Trixy certainly isn’t one of them, and with a younger dog, who could enjoy long walks I’d be even more enthusiastic! The secret to having few problems seems to have been in making sure ahead of each destination that it was dog friendly. On the one occasion that didn’t work out, I had researched, but there was a fault somewhere in the advertising. ******* were absolutely correct and refunded my money in full, so I was very impressed, and will definitely use them again, although perhaps, having chosen the accommodation, I will ring directly to confirm that they accept pets.


Tired out after traveling Trix just curled up in yet another new "home"

Tired out after traveling Trix just curled up in yet another new “home”

In a big way, Trixy made the trip for me. Over the ten months I met some amazing people, formed new friendships (much more so than expected) and experienced heart-warming kindness, but the thing about traveling solo is that you don’t actually share the trip with someone. Being with her in some way felt as if we were sharing, and that was a plus.



Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to clean my car – Trixy, sadly, is the world’s hairiest dog (in the sense of shedding it wildly!) and the only negative is that there is A LOT of cleaning up to do. Tips for removing dog hairs welcome!


Tanausú and Acerina: A Story of Love & Betrayal from La Palma

From Roque de los Muchachos La Palma

Islands, as I’ve said before, are full of stories; some are simply myths, tales passed down from before written history, so that any truth has been lost in the telling. In some the kernel of truth still beats at the legend’s core, and this is one of those. It happened on a Canary Island called Benahoare, the most westerly and the most isolated of the islands; that which we know today as La Palma.

Although much of the history of the island was eradicated by the Spanish, we know that when an elder knew in his heart that his time had come, he had only to utter the word “vacaguare,” (I want to die), and he was aided by family to do so with dignity. He was taken to a cave, covered with goatskins, and surrounded by chosen possessions and a bowl of milk, was left to make his peace with his gods.


Model of Guanche burial cave in museum in Zarza La Palma

Model of Guanche burial cave in museum in Zarza La Palma

At the beginning of the 15th century the people of this island, trapped in a kind of Neolithic time warp, lived peaceably within the twelve kingdoms into which the island was divided. As in all good stories, there was a beautiful princess. Her name was Acerina. Some modern storytellers** speak of her black eyes in which men drowned, as if in a bottomless abyss. Others speak of her red lips, which burned like fire.

As you may guess, Acerina did not lack suitors. The ruler of Aceró the kingdom at the very heart of the island, and the Lord of Aridane, Mayantigo, were rivals for her hand, but Acerina had no doubts. Her heart belonged to Tanausú the young and handsome king of Aceró, whose lands circled the enigmatic mountainsides of what we now know as the Caldera de Taburiente, the jewel at the center of “La Isla Bonita.”

La Palma quotation

Some claim that their love was consummated at the foot of the great volcanic tower Idafe, a rocky steeple, which the Guanche considered sacred. It is also claimed that the very next day brought news of an invasion so fearsome that all the island trembled.

This was the Spanish Conquest.

In late 1492, before news of Columbus’s world-shaking discovery had had time to register in European minds, Alonso Fernández de Lugo landed on the beach at Tazacorte, on La Palma’s west coast, to seize the island in the name of the crown of Castille. As in so many instances on the islands, and in the Americas, the Conquistadors came armed with crosses and bibles as well as swords and cannon, and many of the gentle people of Benahoare were seduced by their lies and sugarcoated promises, or simply awed by the display of arms.

Aceró (which we know today, roughly, as Taburiente) and its king were in the minority in foreseeing the tragedy that would ensue. Amongst the citizens of Tanausú’s realm, resistance was strong, fuelled by passion for a landscape not only breathtaking in its beauty, but which was at the core of their beliefs and way of life. Its severe and steep topography, often hidden by swirling mists, was the match for the superior weaponry of the Spanish. They were unable to penetrate the caldera. Nevertheless, the Conquistadors had more formidable firepower, and the Guanche did not feel secure in their mountain hideaway. Tanausú sent the women and children to shelter in a cave in the high mountains, a decision that was to haunt him for what remained of his life.

Morning mists La Palma

That winter was devastating, and it is said that they all perished in the snow and freezing temperatures that were visited upon the island. Tanausú was heartbroken. His guilt was overwhelming. Acerina could not console him. When an emissary from Alonso de Lugo arrived, a cousin of Tanausú, who had converted to Christianity to ingratiate himself with the conquerors, and who now went by the name of Juan de la Palma, promising a truce and safe passage to discuss a peaceful solution, Tanausú agreed to attend.


Juan de la Palma is to the island of La Palma what Benedict Arnold was to the US, or Judas Iscariot to Christianity – it was a trap. The noble king of Aceró was captured, not in battle, but by perfidy, and was taken away in chains, with the intention of presenting him, like a performing animal, at Court.

However, Isabel and Ferdinand were never to see this “noble savage.” Spain had taken his body, but could not trap his spirit. With a heart-rending cry of “Vacaguare,” Tanausú announced his intention to join his people already fallen. He refused all food, and died at sea before the ship could reach the mainland. His body was tossed overboard, just where is not known.

It is said that Acerina watching from her beloved mountainsides as the ship’s sails swelled with the winds which bless these islands, felt her husband’s pain, and her heart broke into a million pieces. In her anguish she turned to Tanausú’s former rival, Mayantigo, who still carried a flame for her, and, herself, uttered a grief-stricken “Vacaguare.” He, in his love of her, responded to her wish, accompanying her to a cave, and waiting until her death so that she didn’t die alone.

More legends, more about the Guanche, more about Benahoare, more about the stunning landscapes for which Tanausú fought another time. For today this is enough.

**  Wikipedia La Princesa Acerina

   Juan Reyes Chapter “Tanausú” in “Leylendas Canarias” Presumably Volume 1  because my others are numbered volume 11 etc. I’m sorry I can’t link to him, but this is such a common name that the listings in Google are too numerous to identify him! Both these references in Spanish.


















Of Dream Homes and the Internet

Do you have a dream home? Oh, I don’t mean a house as such, though that would be a part of it, I mean a place. When you travel are you, even unconsciously,  looking for your dream home, that special place which ticks all the boxes in your heart and soul? Everywhere I’ve ever been I believe I’ve asked myself, “Could I live here?” The answer invariably is, “No,” but sometimes there’s a “Yes.” To date, however, the yeses have been too expensive, forbidden (no longterm visa) or too far away from aging family.

Generally for me it’s that middle thing, the not being allowed to live in my chosen spots. Deciding what to do a few days back, I made a list of what it would take to make my dream place. It is, of course, by the ocean, but with mountains within easy reach; it is multi-cultural, drawing color and passion from folk from many different backgrounds and nationalities;  there is good wi-fi; a variety of cuisines at reasonable prices available; it’s lively and has sports facilities; easy access to art is high on the list (bookshops, cinemas, theater, museums, concerts); it’s sophisticated (in the real sense of the word) in a laid back way. The climate is important, but if everything fell into place, and the seasons were as seasons ought to be (i.e. not 12 months of rain and cloud) then that might be less important. In fact, I guess, if enough boxes are ticked, then the ones which aren’t become less significant.Early morning El Médano

And so I come to El Médano; by the ocean; a half hour from the mountains; a half hour from theaters and concerts in Santa Cruz; twenty minutes from the cinema; reasonably multi-cultural; good choice of eateries (sushi, great pizza, crepes, Chinese, fish, original-enough snackeries, bakeries, terrific farmers’ market); decent wi-fi and availability in bars and cafés; laid back lifestyle; not overly expensive; fantastic climate; excellent sports facilities.

El Médano sure ticks a lot of my boxes, but, and this is a huge but for me, my ideal place would have English as its first language. I love the English language. I love playing with words. I love to hear it spoken in all its many guises, whether it’s William Shakespeare or Aaron Sorkin,  spoken by Patrick Stewart or Denzel Washington. The music of my soul is sung in the English language, Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll and even some Country. I miss the closeness of this. I miss sharing it.

And yet, as I sit here, street sounds drifting up, kids playing soccer on the street below, the clatter of someone stacking dishes coming from an open window somewhere above me, people laughing as they stroll home from the concert I know has taken place in the town square this evening, this feels strangely like home. Perhaps it is the familiarity – the fact that this is the 5th time I’ve gravitated back to this small town – that makes it feel this way. Perhaps it is that I simply accept that sufficient boxes are ticked at this moment, and that sooner or later the urge to get away will overcome me again. Perhaps if we stay too long in one place we see too much of the negative. Perhaps that’s why the urge to keep moving or seeking.

What I know for now is this. I need a base, somewhere which feels welcoming to return to, and for the rest, for now, there is the internet.



“Another Fork Stuck in the Road” (apologies to Greenday)

Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don’t ask why
It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time

It’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right,
I hope you had the time of your life.

It’s maybe been the longest between posts ever, I’m not sure. Not for want of trying, though, but my internet situation here in La Palma has been nigh impossible. Hence some decisions are being made. A change of plan is in the works, and that, possibly, because even travel can become predictable. Or simply, to quote one of my favorite songs, “to everything there is a season.”

It’s perhaps coincidence or it maybe a “thing” with me, but the last time I roamed off, at around the 8-month mark I became as restless with the travel as I had with the previous lack of it. As at the beginning of July, it’s been just a tad over 10 months on this trip, but I began to feel restless towards the end of May.

Roque de los Muchachos undoubtedly the point in La Palma which really touched my soul.

Roque de los Muchachos undoubtedly the point in La Palma which really touched my soul.

Perhaps if La Palma appealed to me more things would be different, but we got off to a bad start, the island and I, and although I have discovered some beautiful places, interesting stories and eaten some good (if not great) meals, since my last post, I think the bad start colored my perceptions too much, and I can’t, somehow, get over it. That happened to me with Nice in France years ago. I had no desire to return until a friend decided to celebrate her #@+%£ birthday there, some 20+ years later, and I went and fell utterly in love with it, so I know that sometimes we’re simply in the right place at the wrong time.

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La Palma: One Week In

First impressions are important, apparently. So what was my first impression of La Palma? Not good. I suppose that the bubble had to burst sometime. I’ve been almost floating around on this cloud of wonderment and some degree of happiness since last September. Not bad going really I suppose.

The Build Up

France, Ireland, London, La Gomera, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, Graciosa had all woven spells on me in different ways, and then there had been time in La Gomera with Guy and his girlfriend in May, time with wonderful friends, and times with both of my sons in those months. The journey had been going well until the not unexpected, but still incredibly sad death of my Auntie Dot (about whom I wrote a few years back). She was ready, and it was time, I know, but deaths often bring on musings about life. For that reason it may be that I didn’t anticipate my next destination with as much excitement as before……then, again, that could be a good thing. I’d been lucky. What had been the odds that all those places would have really lived up to my expectations?


As it happened, I’d been asked to show someone around La Gomera on the weekend before I left, so it had been like making the rounds to say goodbye to some extent. I arrived in San Sebastian early last Tuesday, to walk around and confirm to myself a decision I’d come to over the previous few days – much as I love La Gomera, I don’t want to make my base there.

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Eating Fuerteventura: The Good, The Bad and the Meh

My recent post, about gofio, made me think more seriously about food and whether I get a bit too obsessed by “eating local,” and how food is a part of our travel experience. I have several friends in the blogging community who focus on food, but it isn’t so important for me – or is it? I have to confess that I was disappointed with eating experiences in Fuertventura for instance, so did it color my perception of the island?

Luxurious Lapas

My first memory of eating there is one of the best, and it’s never a good thing to start off that way. During the very first days of my wanderings I spotted a road sign which showed I was close to Giniginamar. How could I not follow a sign to a place which sounded like something out of Mary Poppins!

Ten minutes from the main road I found a wee fishing village, quite unspoiled expect for some attempted modern buildings, and the inevitably abandoned ones, on the outskirts. And right there, on the pretty beach a bar with a half wrap-around terrace. whose menu indicated that there was a touch of the “foreign” admid its traditionally Canarian fare, I lucked out on my very first island foodie exploration. I settled back with a cold drink, and ordered lapas, one of my favorite local dishes, though by no means available in every fish restaurant.


Lapas are limpets. Like whelks or squid, done right they are ambrosial, done wrong they have the consistency of old rubber. These were very much right, served, as per tradition, in the half shell, and amply coated with the very best mojo verde I’ve ever tasted, and just that right chewiness to make each bite bring out the flavor of the ocean. I even ordered bread to mop up the sauce, which is something I avoid, and for this reason …… it generally leaves no room for desert! This time was no exception, and I’d had my heart set on blueberry pancakes, which are no way something one generally finds in the Canary Islands. I resolved to return another day to try them, but somehow never did.

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Sands Beach Resort Lanzarote: Canarian Hospitality at its Very Best!

“Yes,” I heard myself say. “I’d love to.” I’d just been invited to spend a week at Sands Beach Resort in Lanzarote, and dear reader, you know how ambivalent I am about accepting anything which might imply that I have to write effusive prose about it afterwards, be it a hotel, a meal or a trip of some sort! Truth is I’m kind of stubborn and independent. I do make exceptions in the right circumstances, and if my curiosity gets the better of me. The right circumstances are that I feel no pressure to write anything, good or bad, and that it fits with my personal interests. Both these applied, plus I was only a hop, skip and a jump away in Fuerteventura the other week – hence my enthusiasm.

Entrance Sands Beach Resort Lanzarote

Sands  Beach Resort is located in Costa Teguise, on the north east coast of Lanzarote, and is thought to be the first Canary Island to be settled by “modern man.” It’s famous for its volcanoes and caves, and its carefully controlled architectural heritage.

Sands Beach lies on the Atlantic Ocean

Sands Beach Resort lies on the Atlantic Ocean

Morning stroll (hard to break the habit even when Trixy wasn't with me!) as the sun rose - bliss!

Morning stroll (hard to break the habit even when Trixy wasn’t with me!) as the sun rose – bliss!

I arrived mid-afternoon, after driving pretty much the length of Fuerteventura, taking the ferry from Corralejo to Playa Blanca and dropping off Trixy at kennels recommended by fellow blogger, Julie Cliff-Jones (check out her website if you want to know more about Lanzarote), and then driving almost the length of Lanzarote, so in other words, a bit hot and dusty.

Just walking into my apartment-for-the-week was refreshing in itself. High ceilings with pretty little stained-glass-effect-windows and skylights let in oodles of light without the heat, but for when heat might build up there were plenty of ceiling fans. I loathe air con, but love light, so sometimes that’s a problem, but it wasn’t going to be here – stylish kitchen, cool bedroom and a long bathtub – I sank onto the comfiest couch my bum has encountered in a while, and smiled.

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Gofio: A tale of Food and History for The Day of the Canaries

I firmly believe that no-one, ever, says, in anticipation of breaking the night’s fast, “Yum, yum. I can’t wait for my musesli this morning.” Although I am told I’m wrong in this.

Museli is something I tolerate, in the absence of a tastier, healthy alternative. However, having inherited a huge jarful, and finances being bleak a while back, I decided it was waste not, want not. Austin had also left a quarter packet of gofio, so I tossed that into the jar and gave it a good shake, also in the interests of waste not, want not. To my surprise, the gofio gave the dour museli that missing kick it needed, the je ne se quoi. I scoffed the lot, without a grimace, inside of a week.

What  is this miraculous stuff, that can transform something which tastes, essentially, like sawdust into a tasty treat? Gofio is best described as a type of flour, made from toasted grains and seeds. A simple bag of it may contain only wheat, or it may contain, these days, up to seven different components, such as barley, rye, chickpeas, maize or different local seeds.

But, more than foodstuff, it is, I’ve been discovering during my wanderings, a link between the islands of this chain, a constant, a comfort, a slice of island history. Local author, Marcos Brito wrote a book about it, “Sabers y Sabores: El Gofio” (Gofio: Wisdom and Flavor)* which reads like an ode to something loved, and which he describes as a tribute to “the men and women who live in harmony with nature.” Gofio is a tangible link to the past, and the story of the working man.

Its exact origin is lost in time, and we can only go as far back as when the conquering Spanish set foot on the islands in the 15th century. In Tenerife, the Conquistadors found  a people, the Guanche, living in caves, mummifying their dead, and living what is generally refered to as “a Stone Age existence.”  There are some variations from island to island. In Fuerteventura, where there were less caves, they created homes by digging holes into the ground and lining them with stone, creating a cave like dwelling. Guanche origins are still uncertain, but it is generally accepted now that they came from the north of Africa, that they were Berber, and possibly that there were different waves of emigration. There remain a lot of unanswered questions, but it has been fairly easy to work out their eating habits, and amongst the evidence of seafood, goat, fruits and even cacti, it is known that they ground seeds into a type of flour, using crude stone handmills.

Gofio handmill in the Gofio museum in Valle Guerra, Tenerife

Gofio handmill in the Gofio museum in Valle Guerra, Tenerife

The Guanches used all manner of wild seeds to make gofio. In Fuerteventura they say that the creeping red cosco (mesembryanthemum nodiflorum), which I never see without thinking of “War of the Worlds,” was used, but other versions say this plant was imported after the conquest. As usual here, consensus concerning history isn’t easy to find, but what does seem certain is that the ingredients now mostly commonly used, wheat, maize and barley were brought over by the Conquistadors, and the habit of toasting the grains continued. This was done to preserve the grain, and the custom spread from here to various South American countries with the various waves of Canarian emigration over the years, so that countries like Venezuela and Cuba also have traditional dishes made with toasted-grain flour.

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Time to Move On Again

A brief post after too long an absence, due to returning to La Gomera, some family time, and back problems. Long story short, in reverse order, I have spent most of the past week more-or-less on bed rest as an old back problem re-emerged. Most days, to be honest, it was too painful to sit and type, or the meds were making me sleepy. Happily it seems to be well on the mend now, so I have a lot of making up to do!

The previous week my son, Guy and his gorgeous girlfriend, Rachael, were here, and it made me really happy to show them around La Gomera, as well as some old haunts in Tenerife. Social media more or less bit the dust, except for some personal photos, and it was nice to switch off and relax!

The journey from Fuerteventura to La Gomera proved much more interesting than the outward journey, which was mostly at night, and marked by fitful slumber on the Gran Canaria to Fuerteventura ferry. Had I not been enjoying the experience of being somewhere new then I would certainly have been grumpy!

Leaving Puerto del Rosario in Fuerteventura at 1 pm, and watching the island I had come to know drift past my window was a much better option. I was able to spot the lighthouse atop the cliffs at Entallada, the achipelago’s closest point to Africa, and the long, white sand beaches of Jandia.

Beach at Morro Jable on the Jandia peninsula

Beach at Morro Jable on the Jandia peninsula

Lighthouse at Morro Jable on the Jandia peninsula

Lighthouse at Morro Jable on the Jandia peninsula


The lighthouse at Entallada, the closest point on the archipelago to Africa

The lighthouse at Entallada, the closest point on the archipelago to Africa

Because of the location of the ports on Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria this part of the trip takes 5 hours, but the Armas Ferry was comfy enough, and quiet (I’d figured that midday ferries wouldn’t be too crowded), so I set up my own space at a table for four with a plug alongside (not too many of these, note, if you’re planning this journey, but there are a few around if you scout enough. I’d missed them, until I noticed someone charging a phone, asked, and looked on the opposite side of the boat to find the equivalent there. The food was acceptable, and likewise the coffee, so much more fun than flying! The downside of a quiet ferry is that the people watching isn’t so interesting, but I did enjoy the guy who flopped near to my window and took a timple (small, guitar shaped Canarian string instrument) out of his backpack, and strummed for a while. Mostly, the passengers are truck drivers who ply between the islands delivering cargo from the major ports in Gran Canaria or Tenerife to the smaller islands. Many of them take a cabin and get some shuteye, even when traveling in the daytime, so that reduces the clamor too.

We were late arriving in Gran Canaria, where we changed ferries to complete the ride to Tenerife as dusk began to fall. Odd being back on familiar turf, knowing just which road to take and which traffic lights would change as I drove south to stay, briefly overnight with friends Colleen and Pablo, before an early start for the third ferry the next morning, and, finally, the also familiar 40 minutes from the ferry to Hermigua, and the whirl down the rabbit hole to this green and beautiful valley.




Back to the lush forests and nestled again in this stunning valley, with guardian peaks all around, the hot, red soil of Fuerteventura is a world away. It’s hard to realize that Fuerteventura and La Gomera are in the same island chain. More about both islands very soon.


The Best Meatballs Ever

I’m early, so I wander around the small shopping mall, because, you know, I’m English, and we don’t do early just as much as we don’t do late – well, not unless you’ve lived on island time for a few years at least.

The mall does not inspire. It is the familiar mix of tourist tat, but years of living in or close to tourist resorts have taught me that it’s as foolish to be snobbish about them as it is to confine oneself to their boundaries. And, to be honest, I’ve become a little blasé about traditional foods, and crave something “foreign.”

I’ve walked past the restaurant twice, and the aromas of oregano and garlic trail me as I make another circuit, until I can stand it no longer, and step over the threshold of Portobello a tad early.

I’m in Lanzarote for a week to work with Sands Beach Resort, and they have arranged for me to dine at Restaurant Portobello in Costa Teguise this night. I am to ask for Natty, short for Natividad, who is the owner.

The cosy restaurant is buzzing in a relaxed way, and I guess that the diminutive figure with the huge smile, talking animatedly with a group at one table is Natty. It is, and she turns her sparkling eyes and warm smile in my direction, and I know that I am in good hands.

I adore Italian food, and although Natty hails from Andalucia, she makes sure that the food coming out of her kitchen is prepared with the same love and passion that traditional Italian mommas put into their cooking, this much I have been told, so I ask what she recommends. She doesn’t hesitate. The meatballs are especially good tonight, so I order them, and the paté to start because it makes a point on the menu of stating that it’s homemade.

Good choices, the paté is tasty but smooth. It slides down like liquid. Then come the meatballs. When I see the steaming dish I wonder if the paté with all the toast was a good idea. The smells evoke memories of Italy, the herbs, the sunshine, the love of good food. La dolche vita. I halve a sphere, and pop it in my mouth. Zing. Every taste bud throbs in happiness. I spear the other half to make sure. Yep. I am in for a treat here. I consider figuring out what the ingredients are, but decide to simply let my senses take over and enjoy the moment. I eat slowly and savor every single mouthful. This is the secret of Italian cuisine, I think, to take something unpretentious and make it ambrosial.


Hoemade pate at Portobello

Hoemade pate at Portobello

As I eat, I watch as Natty glides from table to table, greeting people, advising, describing dishes; and the staff, one of whom is Natty’s son,  who work together with that efficient familiarity which makes you think they’re telepathic. Afterwards I learn that the couple in the table in front of me have been every night for a week; another family have visited the restaurant several times, even though they sport the bracelets of an all-inclusive resort; and another group are locals who come regularly. I’m not surprised. I’d very much like to work my way through the menu.

What made Natty and her husband, who came to Lanzarote 36 years ago, (her children were born on the island) open an Italian restaurant? Their story, is one that resonates with a lot of us. 23 years ago, stressed and dissatisfied with the pace of life in the business world, they looked for an alternative, something about which they could be passionate, and saw the opportunity in offering something other than traditional Canarian fayre in the fledgling resort of Costa Teguise. committment to quality in both food and service rapidly gained them a good reputation, which only grew as the resort expanded and more restaurants opened. To stay the course that way speaks volumes in the restaurant industry, where fads and fashions come and go, or businesses become complacent. I asked how they were surviving Spain’s horrific recession, “La Crisis” as it is known (as if there has never been another). They managed by judicious pruning, but since 2012, they’ve seen much improvement, and have even taken on extra staff.

It’s a family affair, and it’s my belief that shows  in the restaurant business. Walking into Portobello is something like walking into your favorite auntie’s house, where you are as welcome as the flowers in springtime, and spoiled – just the right amount.

Additional Notes:

1. Portobello doesn’t really (yet!) have a social media presence, so you just have to take my word for it! If you’re in Lanzarote you can find them at Commercial Center Las Cucharas in Costa Teguise. If you want to ring for a reservation it’s 928590241.

2. I am really, really sorry that my photos turned out badly apart from this one from my phone :( – hah! Need to go back to take more!

3. I was invited by Portobello to sample their menu, but you don’t honestly think I would rave about it like this if I didn’t mean it, do you?
















































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