Canary Islands

Trip Start Nov 07, 2013
Trip End Dec 11, 2013

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Flag of Spain  , Canary Islands,
Sunday, November 24, 2013

Today we docked in Lanzarote, Canary Islands Spain. There are canaries on the island but it is speculated that the birds were named after the island not the other way around.  Canaria refers to dogs.  The islands may be named after a kind of dog that was found here when the first Europeans came, but thos dogs may have been monk seals, which are now extinct.  We docked in Arecife and climbed on our bus to learn about agriculture on the island and about the artist, Caesar Manrique.

All of the Canary Islands a total volcanic,  on Lanzarote there are 110 volcanoes and more than 300 craters.  There are no trees to speak of and the center of the island is jut pretty much bare volcanic slopes, in the colors of brown, red and black.  The unique chimneys on the houses show the Moorish influence (see photo). In case you were worried, there is an IKEA store that we drove by.  140,000 people live on Lanzarote, it is the easternmost Canary Island. 

We learned that there is only one high rise building on Lanzarote, wchi is a hotel.  They now have legislation that prevents any building from being more that 6 flors on the coast and 2 stories inland.  All of the houses are one of two stories and are painted white. Doors can only be blue (on the coast), green or brown.

They only get 5 inches of rain a year here – lucky for us then that we had the opportunity to experience rain on the island.  Water has been a constant issues throughout the history of the Canary Islands.  It is difficult to sustain life when the only rain you get is 5 inches.  This all changed when they build a desalinization plant in 1964.  This has allowed them to step up their agriculture and the tourism industry.

Our first stop was an agricultural museum.  This place was very interesting.  The style of agriculture is unlike anything we have ever seen.  They grow grapes here and make a passable wine.  The grapes they use are native to the islands and are called Malvosio.  They also grow potatoes, corn, watermelon, tomatoes, chickpeas and lentils.  Then just import everything except the goat meat they raise here.  We saw their unique system of grape agriculture.  They have half-moon stone walls and they plant one grapevine in the middle of the half moon.  This somehow keeps the water on the grapes.  They cover the ground with black volcanic ash, which is very porous and lets the rain soak in and keeps the soil most.  The farmhouse we visited was painted white and was two stories high.  They had goats, chickens, a camel, turkeys and ducks.  They gave us some wine, which was white wine and an odd color.  It looked a lot like sherry but was quite good.  We also have some goat cheese which was excellent and something called cofio, which is a sweet made out of toasted corn, sugar and honey.  The people on the island believe that it is good for your bones and feed it to children and old people.  Neither Andrea nor Ken liked it.

We then went on to learn about Caesar Manrique.  He was born on the island in 1919.  He was well educated and was dedicated to keeping tourism from taking over the coastline, as it does in Southern Spain.  He is god like to the people of Lanzarote.  He died at the age of 72 in a car accident on the island.  He was a champion for low-rise development and trying to keep Lanzarote as it has traditionally been.  He was instrumental in keeping the houses painted white and limiting the height of the buildings on the island.  In fact, he had left the island and had been living in New York when he heard they were building the desalinization plant. He came back to the island to make sure any development spurred by the easier access to water didn't ruin the island.  We visited a cactus garden that he created in a volcanic ash quarry.  As you drive up to it, you don’t even know it is there, once you step into it is amazing.  It took ten years of planning and gathering cacti to get it going.  Cactus is not native to this area and the cacti are imported from all over the world.  Very impressive.  The cactus garden is huge and spectacular,

Manrique’s home was built in volcanic tubes, so most of it is underground.  It has many rooms and even a swimming pool.  However, we are noticing a pattern to the residences we have visited.  They never show us a kitchen.  Apparently the rich people just ate in restaurants.  I can’t this very unusual home in words so check out the pictures.

After Manrique’s home, we came back to the ship for a relaxing afternoon.  I expect we will lose a trivia again this afternoon and bingo will be cancelled.  Tonight we are having dinner with some of the cruise critic people we met on the first day.

Tomorrow another Canary Island, Tenerife.  We are visiting wineries there and we will let you know how the wine is.
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