A Corralejo Escape

‘Here we are now at your hotel in Corra-lechhhho’ the rep’s voice boomed around the coach as we arrived at the Riu Oliva Beach Hotel on the island of Fuerteventura.  Very nice it was too set in the middle of the Correlego National Park, miles away from the resort town. We had fallen on our feet once again despite booking a room we got an apartment with a separate bedroom too. No kitchen though as the Riu was all-inclusive and we were just in time to catch the last servings of dinner, before crashing out for the night.

 

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The following morning we took off down the beach. There’s an awful lot of it.

Beach Taxi

Beach Taxi

It shelves out for a long way into the Atlantic and beyond a certain point no swimming costumes are required.

The island of Los Lobos and beyond that Lanzarote

The island of Los Lobos and beyond that Lanzarote

Back at the hotel the pool areas were teaming with families in Deutchland/Engerland (delete as appropriate) shirts. As a rule the Deutchland shirts had snaffled all the best sun loungers at some unearthly hour, only for the hotel’s cats to enjoy shedding fleas on their nice comfy towels while the ‘Chermans’ were at breakfast or back in bed. Our own countrymen tended to sit around the bar area drinking all-inc lager from opening time, so they were nice and pissed up by the time the footy started.  I’d also fondly imagined that there would be no rugrats there as the school holidays hadn’t started, but there were loads of them getting under your feet when carrying boiling hot water in the restaurants and generally grizzling all the time. Since the beach was such a pleasant refuge we didn’t hang about the hotel too much.

Hoopoe

Hoopoe

We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food and drink at the Riu, after our Riu experience in the Cape Verde Islands I was prepared for dreadful wine and staff who couldn’t mix a Bloody Mary without adding Soy sauce, but the Oliva Beach was great. The on tap wine wasn’t exactly premier cru, but it was perfectly drinkable and the spirits didn’t rip out your stomach lining. All the staff were very pleasant and helpful and the Canarian restaurant in particular was excellent, especially the pimento de Padron!

White Egret

Down by the water’s edge there was a flurry of whiteImage

It was a white egret and he had caught something.

 

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We were not the only people with a fish supper in Playa Blanca that night.

 

Photos copyright QueenMab/Shipscook Photographic. contact simon.ball3@btopenworld.com for commercial reuse

‘The Chiperones are a bit bigger than usual’

So said the manageress of the Bodegon Las Tapas (Avenida Maritima, 29, Playa Blanca, Yaiza, Lanzarote) and she wasn’t kidding.

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These ‘baby squids’ were about the size of a ten-year old’s shoe and must have been more like teenage squid. They were still delicious though with a squeeze of lemon.

We had been expecting them to be tiny wee things and had also ordered some sardines in raincoats (battered sardines),

 

Sardines in Raincoats

Sardines in Raincoats

pimentos de padron, catalan toast and a bean stew, however the portions in Bodegon Las Tapas were a bit on the huge size for tapas. Despite a valiant effort it was all too much and I’m afraid one of those squid gave their life to provide a meal for someone else.

P1100121  With beers, water and coffee it clocked in at about €65 for two, good value for such wonderful food with a view over the sparkling blue Atlantic.

Photos copyright QueenMab/Shipscook Photographic. contact simon.ball3@btopenworld.com for commercial reuse

Mojo Sauce – How Hard Can it Be?

I love the cuisine of the Canary Islands and one of my favourite dishes is wrinkly spuds with Mojo sauce.

Best little restaurant in La Palma

Best little restaurant and chef, in La Palma the one man El Sabrosito Tapas Bar

The sauce comes in red and green varieties and the best (and I don’t mean most expensive) restaurants make their own. Personally I like the red sauce best so I usually make a point of buying a few overpriced jars of it at the airport on the way home. Now having just polished off the last jar from our trip to La Palma I thought let’s see if I can make my own.

First things first: some little spuds in their jackets were soaked in salty water, traditionally the islanders use seawater, before being bunged in the oven.

Wrinkly spuds

Wrinkly spuds (plus peri peri chicken)

Now from the label on the jar I had deduced that the Mojo sauce contained: red pepper, garlic, salt, olive oil and vinegar. So into the hand blender’s jug went two red peppers, four garlic cloves a pinch of sea salt and a small glug each of olive oil and vinegar. I let rip with the blender and ended up with a fairly liquid red sauce which I ladled over the spuds.

Mojo daubed spuds

Mojo daubed spuds

Well did it taste authentic? Yes it did even if it was a bit more liquid than I had hoped. I think the fresh peppers in our supermarkets must have a higher water content than the Canarian sun ripened ones, but on the whole I was pretty pleased with the result. The Mojoed spuds went great with the Peri Peri chicken and salad

Tenerife 2013 – Food, Drink, Golf and Fountains in Los Christianos

Maybe not quite as memorable a title as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but you have got to do at least two of them. One of the problems with any place that does the mass tourism thing is finding a place to eat that isn’t trying to cater to absolutely everybody and the resort area of Los Christianos is full of places knocking out burgers, steak, pizza and pasta, plus Indian, Chinese and Mexican themed joints, but very little in the way of authentic Spanish cuisine

Fountains at the Safari Centre Los christianos

Fountains at the Safari Centre Los Christianos

Now I’m not knocking burgers and pizza etc, because when they are good they really hit the spot as was the case at the Country Bar Caribe on our first night. One place we had tried before was the Restaurante Tapas and Wine  in the Avda Santiago Puig. The quality of the food was really good, particularly the sizzling hot plate of spicy chorizo sausages (€7.50), but I thought the portion sizes of the tortilla (€3.25), bacalao (salt cod balls €4.75) and the pimento de padron (€4.75) were a bit stingy for the price we paid. With wine and water our bill came to €75.44 for four people.

Further down the Avda Santiago Puig was Linares IV. Again we had eaten in here before and found it to be quite good. Linares does a good paella at €19.05 for two persons, but they now have an entertainer and we found ourselves squeezed into a table beside his electric organ. Resident entertainers of variable talent knocking out rock ‘n’ roll classics, C & W murder ballads and Irish drinking songs are now endemic in most restaurants and bars on the island and the fellow in Linares put me in mind of the Vic Reeves pub singer as he proceeded to murder Route 66 and I Can’t Help Falling in Love Again.

Oh no, it's Michael Buble tribute time

Oh no, it’s Michael Buble tribute time

And not just in the restaurants, when we stopped off at the Cafeteria Plaza in the main drag of Los Christianos for a nightcap we were confronted with a nightly tribute act that included Mickey Bubble, Tom Jones and Vegas Elvis complete with red jumpsuit, shades and Mancunian accent! However their Lubumba (hot chocolate with lots of rum) is very good, which of course it should be for €8.

Cactus Garden a haven away from Elvis

Cactus Garden a haven away from Elvis even if it involved crazy golf

Some respite from the pub singer could be had in the Cactus Garden behind the Cafeteria. If you have ever wondered what would happen if Antonio Gaudi had been asked to design a crazy golf course you will find the answer here with the mosaic bordered cactus beds separating the windmills and rockeries. It has a bar too.

The Safari Centre is the place to go to catch the free nightly fountain and light shows, nestled amongst the expensive designer shops and international restaurants. Avoid at all costs watching it from Harry’s Bar, which of course is no relation to Hemingway’s Parisian hangout. It is the place to go if you fancy an expensive watery cocktail served by a miserable waitress while listening to a pretty dire sax player though.

Sadly the Mojo Picon family restaurant that we enjoyed so much back in 2009 seems to have gone, but we did find this fantastic little place El Paladar (C/ Noella Alfonso Cabrera) just around the corner from the Columbus.

El Paladar

El Paladar

It was not really on any of the main tourist drags and it didn’t look much from the outside, but we did notice the area under the green awning was always full of middle aged Spanish men watching football, smoking, arguing, drinking beer and generally having a good time. Well that looks like the sort of place that will do decent tapas I thought . I wasn’t wrong either.

Inside El Paladar

Inside El Paladar

We liked this place so much that we ate here three times during the week. Stand out items were the fresh tuna steak, the sizzling prawns, the Russian salad, the Canarian baked potatoes and the battered squid rings which were seasoned to perfection. There is no entertainer and the proprietor also insists on that old-fashioned nicety the complementary digestif. For a meal with wine, beer and water we paid between €55 and €80 depending upon how greedy the four of us were. It was also one of the cheapest places to get a pint of beer in resort at €2.20, no wonder so many old Spaniards hung out there.

Tenerife 2013 – The Return to Los Christianos

The small hours of Good Friday morning found us bleary eyed at London’s Stansted Airport waiting to check in to our Thomson Airways flight to Tenerife. Baggage dumped we headed for security, which despite the early hour was really busy. I suspect this was because the security goons have recently been given some of those total body scanners to harass every fourth traveller passing through, in their efforts to prevent any liquid being taken into that huge shop full of big bottles of inflammable liquid beyond.

Beach at Los Christianos

Beach at Los Christianos

As flights go our outward journey was very pleasant. It made a big difference having an early flight this time, most of our previous trips had arrived around 11pm, effectively losing us a day and delivering us into the resort far too late to get a decent evening meal. This time we arrived at the Aparthotel Columbus at around 1pm, ready to slip into some shorts and hit the beach bar for lunch. Or rather we would have had our room had been ready. No, despite knowing when we would turn up, we were told that we’d have to wait an hour for it to be done, so we took the baggage to the bar for some beer and chips (well we had the chips and beer not the baggage ,that was heavy enough already). Worse than that we could not have a safe deposit box key until 3pm, when the cashier was supposed to turn up, not a good idea on an island that certainly used to have a big problem with both hotel room burglaries and street crime.

We’d stayed at the Columbus a couple of times before, but despite an ‘all guilt and flash’ (as Keith Moon said in Bellboy) tart up of the reception area, the apartments themselves were starting to look a bit shabby. Mab and I nabbed the bedroom which had just about enough room to circumnavigate the bed, while Nick and the Powder Monkey were in the living area/kitchenette. I wasn’t very happy with the cooker, where the worn away numbers on the dials had been replaced by daubs of magic marker or the broken soap dispenser in the bathroom. When I reported the broken dispenser, the hotel’s genius technician turned the broken part to the wall by way of a repair, unsurprisingly it still didn’t work so I gave up and just unscrewed the nozzle, who says we Brits can’t innovate!

On the plus side it was cheap, so once we were settled in we set off to explore our surroundings.

Feral Parrot Tenerife

Feral Parrot Tenerife

From the Columbus it’s a short walk down to the beach, not much had changed in the four years since our last visit, although I did notice that there do seem to be a lot more feral parrots around the town.

Feral Parrot

Feral Parrot

Being a bit of a bird nerd, I’d love to know what species these birds are, they are obviously not the ring-necked parakeets that are so common back in London (and Amsterdam and New York etc.), so if anyone has any idea comments are most welcome below.

After a couple of beers at the beachside kiosk it was time to head back to get ready for our first evening out. Not wishing to waste any time while our travelling companions had the first showers Mab and I went in search of the travel agency where we’d booked trips on previous visits. It had gone, but in a little street called Caribe down by the seafront we found the Ticketbox where the helpful Rab sold us trips to Loro Parque and Siam Park and a day out whale watching on a catamaran. We’d already checked the package tour operator prices and Rab’s deals with fully licensed and insured tour companies saved us quite a considerable amount of cash proving that it’s always a good idea to shop around.

Surfs Up Los Christianos

Surfs Up Los Christianos

Rab also recommended the restaurant next door to the Ticket Box The Country Grill Karibe. Now this had been an Italian place with decent enough pasta and pizza last time we visited the island, but the menu has now been expanded under the new management to include meat and fish dishes and even goulash for eastern European guests, so we thought we’d give it a go after taking a bracing walk west along the seafront towards Veronicas to watch the surfers crash out.

Mixed Grill more like a mixed gorilla!

Mixed Grill so big it was more like a mixed gorilla!

Rab’s recommendation was pretty much spot on. I’m not ashamed to admit that I like a good hamburger and the Karina’s did not disappoint leaving me well stuffed, although I could not resist a scrap of the Powder Monkey’s bacon pizza after she said it was the best pizza she’d ever had. She wasn’t wrong either, it was delicious. Her dad’s mixed grill was huge with chicken, pork, steak, sausage and a mountain of chips soaked in tasty meat juices, while Mab had to admit defeat with her pepper steak, it was just too big!

We liked the place so much that we ate there once more during our stay average price for four with a couple of beers wine water and soft drinks was about €63.

 

Photos copyright QueenMab/Shipscook Photographic. contact simon.ball3@btopenworld.com for commercial reuse

My Travel A to Z ~ Letdown to Moment I Fell in Love with Travel

So what’s my greatest letdown in a lifetime of travel, five continents and 44 different countries?

L – for Letdown is

The Astronomical Clock in Prague.

So that's all it does then?

Yes I know it’s a very clever piece of 15th century engineering, but when all is said and done the most common thing I have heard the people, who have patiently waited in the cold for that clock to chime and for the little figures to jiggle about, say is “was that it then?”

M – Moment I Fell in Love with Travel

Let me take you back in time to England in the 1960s. It wasn’t quite in black and white, though you may be forgiven for thinking it was, there were only three TV channels, no home video or internet and your best chance of a foreign holiday before 1967 was a wet weekend camping in Wales. You might have even thought we were still at war with Germany given that it seemed to be the focus of most adults conversation twenty years after the event.

The cinema was a place to escape from that monochrome world. Back then you didn’t just get one blockbuster and a bunch of trailers, but a full programme of A and B feature, a Warner Pathe Newsreel (although that was in black and white and the news was about a month behind what you had already seen on the telly, it did have a great theme tune and a chicken though),

and quite often a travelogue too. The one that caught my imagination was one for the Canary Islands. I was entranced by the lush vegetation and banana plantations, the camels carrying travellers through the Moon like lava flows of Lanzarote and the cable car reaching for the peak of snow-capped Mount Teide on Tenerife.

Champagne above the clouds in the shadow of Mount Teide, only missing Raquel Welch in that fur bikini.

It was all very exotic, I thought it the stuff of unattainable dreams, just like trekking through Mexican jungle in search of Mayan ruins, looking down on the roof of the Chrysler Building from the Empire State Building  or taking tea at the Cataract Hotel in Aswan, all seemed to be to a north London kid, at the time. You tell kids today that and they will never believe you!

So much for nostalgia eh? little wonder it was once classed as a disease.

This film was shot in Tenerife in the 1960s too, the swim wear had become a bit briefer by the time we got there in the 1980s, but my hairstyle was pretty similar.

However I think our holiday there was miles better than Chuck Heston’s, that didn’t end well.