A small rock in the Atlantic

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

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Friday, 2 May 2008

Fiesta de la Cruz

Tomorrow is Fiesta de la Cruz -- The Festival of the Cross. Like many Catholic places, La Palma has a great many roadside crosses. Tonight, practically all the ones in Santa Cruz, Breña Baja and Breña Alta will be decorated, most of them gorgeously. Since most of the crosses are hung with jewelry, the people who worked on them sit close all night, usually making a party of it ans setting off lots of fire-crackers. Some groups have been working all year.

The decorations will stay up all day tomorrow (May 3rd), but most of the locals go around admiring crosses late tonight, which is much more atmospheric. If you're on the island and you don't have small kids, get a hire car, quick! The easiest itinerary is to go up to San Isidro on the road and follow the old donkey track down. Yes, it's wide enough for one car, and tonight it'll be one way, downhill, past the crosses. Just follow the crowd. Keen photographers should try to get someone else to drive, and you'll want a high ISO setting if you're shooting at night.

Alternatively, you can see plenty of crosses just by walking around Santa Cruz. Look for places brightly lit up in the middle of the night, surrounded by bunting and green branches closer to the cross itself, and follow your nose.

Either way, take plenty of small change. Each cross has a collection. They aren't trying to make a profit here, just looking to collect enough to buy materials for next year's cross.

These photos are from last year's fiesta. You can see more at:
Fiesta de la Cruz 2007

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Wednesday, 30 April 2008

San Jose Manor House, R.I.P.

San Jose has a ruined manor house, dating from something like the C16th. I don't know the building's history, but the island has lots of old manor houses left from the days when sugar cane made the island was rich. I've always dreamed of one day being filthy rich enough to buy it and restore it, because it must have been gorgeous once. It's no bigger than my modern house, but it had carved balconies and wooden ceilings.

For some time it's been empty and far too dilapidated to live in. I heard that the owners couldn't get planning permission to fix it, so it slowly decayed while they argued with the bureaucrats. I found that rather sad.

And this evening it caught fire. The roof beams were tea - resin-filled heartwood from the Canary Pine. It doesn't catch fire easily, but once it gets going, there's no stopping it. It also burns with a distinctive smell, clearly noticable even from my house at the other end of the village.

So I imagine that's pretty much the end of that. I can't see anyone restoring it now. So that's a bit more of the village's heritage gone.

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Monday, 28 April 2008

Taking the Hump

Crater of St Antony's Volcano. You can see people on the skyline at the right.

The most recent eruption in the Canary Islands was Teneguía, in 1971 (see Thursday, 21 February 2008 Which Planet Are You On?). It's a nice place to visit, but you have to be fairly fit.

St. Antony's Volcano (Volcan San Antonio) is nice in a completely different way. For one thing, it looks like a volcano should look, and you can walk halfway around the spectacular circular crater. You could even get a push-chair most of the way. For another, there's a car park, and a visitor centre with a café, shop, and a rather good exhibition.

The last eruption was from November 13th 1677 to January 31st, 1678. There were earthquakes, sulfurous gases and thirteen lava vents, one of which buried the hot spring that gave the borough its name - Fuencaliente. This left the spa town without a spa, and did the local economy no favours at all.

Crater of St Antony's Volcano looking back towards Los Canarios.

If you fancy taking the hump, you can ride a camel along the path for 6.00€. The sign says they start at ten, but when I went there, they still hadn't arrived at 10:30. So no photo. Sorry.

The catch is that you have to pay. The car park is 3.50€ for visitors and 1.75€ for residents, but this includes the visitor centre.

Coffee with milk (cafe con leche) was a startling 1.70€. In most places it's between 1.00€ or 1.20€. So I didn't try the cake, although it looked good.

So does the view from the crater.
View from the crater, north towards Las Indias.

To get there:
The easiest way is in a hire car. Take the main road to Los Canarios and follow the sign from the village centre. Alternatively, bus L3 will take you to Los Canarios, and you can walk downhill from there (perhaps 2 km).

You can also continue your walk from St. Antony's volcano down to Teneguía and the coast. Bus L31 goes back from the lighthouse to the village.

View from the crater, south towards Teneguía and the salt factory

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