Santa and sand may be a nice alliteration, but the two words will never go together in my mind. Tropical Christmas trees and sleighs on the beach just don’t seem right. But on Gran Canaria, one of seven Canary Islands off the West coast of Africa that’s just what you’ll get–along with 75 degree weather and plenty of friendly Spanish hospitality. So with much of Europe in a cold spell, we decided to spend our final European adventure in the continent’s southernmost outpost.
A glittering coin in the Atlantic, this round island is home to almost a million people. But you wouldn’t know it from the sparse moon-like landscape along the south coast where we stayed. A few scrubby aloe plants dot the rocky arid hillsides and a large swathe of golden dunes does a nice impression of the Sahara –never mind the two days of rain we experienced!
But the sun and constant temperatures bring the tourists. Our charter flight was packed with more gray hair and orthopedic shoes than bingo night at the local VFW. Katie and Lizzie single-handedly lowered the average age at our resort by a couple of decades. That’s probably why they were so puzzled when an evening’s entertainment that promised rock and roll classics turned out to be a tribute to Buddy Holly, Bill Haley and Little Richard. “Who’s Jerry Lee Lewis?” Katie wondered. I asked the same question after listening to the Spanish singer pronounce “Gooness grazias, gray boas of fur.”
The northern half of the island boasts greener vistas and the island’s capital city. Originally a Spanish military garrison and host to Columbus on his way to the New World, Las Palmas hosts a number of interesting museums and shopping districts. We stocked up on a few last minute Christmas presents and marveled over the pre-computer age practices of some of the shops. In a paper store with fifteen foot ceilings we were invited to browse through the back room, a maze of packed shelves and half open boxes holding decades worth of merchandise. Board games tucked near the ceiling were all faded a uniform powder blue, reams of three-ring binders and composition notebooks blocked the passageways. Yet the clerks were constantly busy servicing a steady stream of customers. Two efficient ladies bagged your purchases and sent you to an old curmudgeon in the corner who manned the single cash register, calling out the prices in sing-song Spanish across the room–no scanners or electronic beeps here!
Our visit to Gran Canaria was a fine coda for our three-year European adventure. A bit of sun, foreign foods, a new culture. Throw in some history and some centuries old buildings and what more could you ask for?
In January we will be returning home to Minnesota, back to our old house in Edina, back to old friends and family. We’ve had a wonderful time here and enjoyed sharing it with you. Time now for new adventures.
Merry Christmas to you all!