A small rock in the Atlantic

All about the island of La Palma, in the Canaries.

Click for La Palma, Canary Islands Forecast

Saturday, 2 February 2008


As most people know, the local currency is Euros, just like the rest of Spain and most of Europe.

Click to Mix and Solve

Here's a jigsaw of 200 euros. Just click on it to play.

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Spain celebrates Carnival in the week before the season of Lent. I always say people are making sure they have something really juicey to repent, but these days most people just regard it as a darn good excuse for a party.

It wasn't always that way. Franco banned Carnival. It's always been a time when people could say and do things they wouldn't normally get away with, and perhaps he didn't want people walking aruond with placards asking inconvenient questions. Perhaps, more seriously, he thought that a couple of thousand people in the with several drinks inside them might just start the counter-revolution. You know, like the old song, "As soon as this pub clo--o--ses, the revolution starts." Or perhaps he just felt that people should be working hard instead of having fun.

So there was no Carnival in the street organised by the town hall. Instead every club on the island held a "Winter Fiesta" that week, complete with fancy dress.

Carnival's just getting into serious gear, although the funfair's been here for a week. Last night was the children's parade. The photo shows the kids from the local infant school practising with their Carnival bus. The bus's weight is taken on its wheels, but it's pushed along by the kids, like Fred Flintstone's car.

The school were delighted when I went around with photos.

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Friday, 1 February 2008

Where the heck is La Palma anyway?

I originally came to La Palma to work at the astronomical observatory here. Almost as soon as I heard I'd got the job, my paretns went to a travel agent to find out how much it would cost to visit.

The girl at the desk said, "Las Palmas de Gran Canaris? Certainly Sir. I'll just look it up for you."

"No," explained my father. "The island of La Palma. My daughter's going to work there. It's the Civil Service, so I don't think it's a cover for the white slave trade."

"But there's no island in the Canaries called La Palma. Just the city of Las Palmas on Gran Canaria." And she got out a map to prove it. It showed the four islands where they sold package holidays: Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fueraventura.

I can just picture my Dad trying to keep his temper at this point.

So my parents went across the road to the bookshop, who knew them well enough to loan them an atlas. They took the atlas to the travel agent, and said, "Look!"

"Oh!" she said, much astonished. "In that case it can't have an airport."

My father took a deep breath. "My daughter is not planning to swim there."

The travel agent finally admitted to ignorance.

To be fair this was 1990. Not many travel agents would have done any better at the time. These days there's a direct flight from London Gatwick, and the place is onthe map, literally.

But for the benefit of anyone still in the dark, the seven (not four!) Canary Islands are an autonomous region of Spain, but they lie about 125 miles off the coast of Morocco. La Palma is one of the smaller ones, at the top left-hand corner of the archipelago. It's about 31 miles long, 16 miles wide, and an amazing 8,000 ft at it's highest point.

And yes, it has an airport.

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