A small rock in the Atlantic

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

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Friday, 19 September 2008

Tuning Cars

poster for tuning cars

Santa Cruz hosts a tuning car show this evening and tomorrow afternoon. Tonight (Friday) starting at 5pm, is kids' day, with bouncy castles, and a circuit for mini-motors and quads. Later on there will be an open-air dance (verbena) with live music from the group Mayeya.

Tomorrow (Saturday), from midday until eleven pm, is the main show for adults. There will be prizes awarded in twenty-four categories (oldest, cleanest, best interior lighting, etc.)

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The other Princess

No, not the Princess hotel, although I've heard that's very nice.

Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn from Thailand visited La Palma on Monday, and stayed the night. In the morning, she inaugurated the
Siam Park in Tenerife, which will be the biggest aquatic theme park in Europe when in opens. Then she came to La Palma and visited the observatory, where she visited the huge new Spanish telescope GranTeCan (Gran Telescopio Canario, Big Canarian Telescope) and the William Herschel Telescope. She also saw observing at the Herschel, and with some amateur astronomers from the island, and then stayed the night. On Tuesday morning, I saw the convoy coming down the mountain road as I drove up to work as a tour guide.

According to wikipedia, her royal highness is known for her interest in applying science and technology to Thailand's development. I'm told she seemed to thoroughly enjoy her visit.

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Thursday, 18 September 2008

Wild Cherry Tomatoes

Wild cherry tomartoes
These tomatoes grow wild on La Palma, and they're about the size of marbles. The locals call them tomates bicacaros and don't think much of them, perhaps because people used to eat them when they couldn't afford anything else. I believe that the only reason they don't sell for some daft price is that they've got very thin skins, so they don't keep. I have some in my garden, and I pick them just before we're going to eat salad, add a little dressing, and watch my son happily eat his vitamins.

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Sunday, 14 September 2008

El Hierro

view from La Peña, El Hierro, Canary Islands
View from La Peña, El Hierro, the smallest of the Canary Islands

No, this blog's still about La Palma.

But there's practically nothing on the web in English about El Hierro, compared to not much on La Palma. And I thought that anyone trying to decide which one to visits would appreciate at least a little information.

El Hierro is shaped roughly like an equilateral triangle sucking its cheeks in. Each side of the triagle is about 18 km (12 miles) making it much smaller than La Palma. And the population is just 10,500, compared to 86,000 on La Palma. If you want to escape crowds, it's great.

Like La Palma, the mountainsides are very steep, which makes for great scenery and wonderful viewpoints. But the highest peaks are there are far fewer trees, which is probably why the island is much dryer. Most of it looks rather like the south-west of La Palma, although there is a pine forest and the only juniper forest in the Canaries (Juniperus phoenicea).

Charco Manso, El Hierro, Canary Islands
Charco Manso, El Hierro

Forget beaches - there are hardly any. But there are several inlets which have been adapted. And I've heard that the diving is terrific, particularly off Restinga in the south.

Apart from the scenery, there aren't many tourist sights.
The smallest hotel in the world, El Hierro, Canary Islands
The smallest hotel in the world, El Hierro

There's what claims to be the smallest hotel in the world, although other places claim that distinction too.

Giant lizard, El Hierro, Canary Islands
Gallotia simonyi, the giant lizard of El Hierro

The island has a unique species of giant lizard, Gallotia simonyi. A different species was recently discovered on La Palma, but you can go and see the ones on El Hierro. They're about 60 cm long, although most of that is tail. And for the same modest entrance fee, you can visit the ethnographic museum and see traditional houses from various times in the island's history. My God, people were poor!

Teh Ethnographic Museum, El Hierro, Canary Islands
A house in the museum, El Hierro

The old zero meridian runs though the western end of the island.
view from La Peña, El Hierro, Canary Islands
The old zero meridian, and the end of the world.

This used to be the edge of the known world, and it still feels like the end of the world. There's no trees or grass, just scrubby little bushes. The minor road turns into an unclassified road and then a dirt track. Then we had to park and walk a mile. The only building in sight was the lighthouse, at least a mile away. The mobile phone had no signal. As we arrived, a couple of people were just leaving in a 4x4, and that was the only other car we saw the whole time.

The monument itself is modest – just a block of concrete with half an iron globe poking out of it. But it was amazing to think that we were the most westerly of the 497,000,000 people in the EU.

The local tourist office will give you a pretty certificate to say you've been, and they take your word for it.

Which brings me onto my final point. The locals are nice. I mean really, really nice.

For all that, I think most people would prefer a holiday on La Palma, unless they've already seen La Palma several times.

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