The Ballards - Spain Lanzarote


A winter break snatched in Lanzarote in 1997 showed us that it really is posible to be warm during November and December without breaking the bank. My parents had the girls and we disappeared out of the cold, dark murk that is England during winter to emerge blinking in to the African daytime that characterises the Canaries.

Quite why Spain has a territorial claim over The Canaries is anyone's guess: apart from the fact that the populace is almost entirely Spanish the whole kit and caboodle is much nearer Morocco than Spain. Why don't the Moroccans complain? Evidently at one point Morocco was richer than Spain (citation needed here, obviously) so how come Spain has The Canaries?

We stayed in the worst hotel either of us can recall: our room was on the ground floor, next to the pool table beside the swimming pool, and at midnight drunken horrors would shoot pool and fight outside. At 2am the Cockneys upstairs would try to kill each other until about 4am when we could all finally get some sleep. We did get our revenge however, by ensuring we woke all of them at 8am when we went to breakfast...
Had we been older and a bit more assertive we would have ignored the Receptionist's repeated assertions that the Hotel was "full" (it clearly wasn't) and demanded to be moved to a quieter zone (of which there were plenty). However, being young and naive and English we suffered in silence and spent most of the holiday out and about, swearing we would never go back.
And thus far we haven't.

Lanzarote is a strange place: like the remainder of The Canaries it's a volcano sitting on the sea floor that just happens to be tall enough to rise above the level of the sea. Most of the landscape was created by massive eruptions in the 1700s which in geological terms is the twinkling of an eye and as a result the island is mainly volcanic rock: incredibly abrasive, very stark and yet to be worn down by time and the elements, unlike the other islands whose features are more rounded and sculpted by the wind and rain.

But it is possible to escape the hotels and fish 'n chip shops to explore the undiscovered side of the island, beyond where the EU has injected huge funds in to wind farms and new road surfaces, where only a 4X4 can venture.

The Canaries do have an excess of wind and not only do wind turbines up on the hills make sense but they are great for parascending. Mind you, I wouldn't want to be landing on my bottom on that jagged, friable soil.....

Most of the island is pretty uninhabitable but as a result interesting to visit. You woinder how on earth nature gets a start, but slowly it is doing so: the soil gets less barren every year as bacteri colonise the rocks, followed by plants and then animals (and, logically, humans, who then proceed to cover the place with concrete...)

Some agriculture is attempted: vines are grown behind low, crescent-shaped walls designed to trap moisture and afford some protection against the wind. But mainly it's tourism that fills the island's coffers: the desire for Nothern Europeans to escape their weak winter sunshine for the clean light of the sub-tropics without forfeiting European standards of cleanliness, electricity and mobile phone signal... not that I'm cynical.

Go... but demand a quiet room from your hotel management.