A small rock in the Atlantic

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

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Friday, 6 November 2009

The Rum Factory

Rum Distilling Equipment, Puerto Espindola, La PalmaRum Distilling Equipment

La Palma has a small rum factory, at Puerto Espí,ndola, in the borough of San Andres y Sauces. Unlike most rum factories, they start with sugar cane rather than molasses. After all, La Palma had commercial sugar cane plantations in the 15th century, before the West Indies had them. At harvesting season, the factory's south building smells of sugar cane being crushed and fermented.

Distillation happens in the north building, which is the one you can visit. The still is wood-fired, and surprisingly small. Then the rum goes into oak barrels, to mature.

Rum Barrels, Puerto Espindola, La PalmaRum Barrels, Puerto Espindola, La Palma

Once the busy season is over, there's just a couple of people in there, folding boxes, filling them with bottles, and keeping an eye on the place.

You can visit without an appointment. In fact it's wonderfully informal - just stick your head around the door and say, "Hola." The downside of the informality is that they don't do guided tours (well, maybe for a coach party by appointment). I went with a friend and we were waved towards a board showing the stages of rum-making. and then we were given samples in the shop. Such a shame I was driving! If you like sweet drinks, I recommend the "ron miel" which is rum and honey (very comforting if you've got a stinking cold, but you don't need to wait until then).

Me, I'm trying to work out how to wangle an invitaton to their Christmas party. Cheers!

The shop, Puerto Espindola, La PalmaThe shop, Puerto Espindola, La Palma

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San Andres

The Square, San Andres, La PalmaThe Square, San Andres, La Palma

San Andres is a very pretty little village in the northeast of La Palma. From Santa Cruz, you take the main road north until you're almost at Los Sauces, and then take the little road down towards the coast (yes, it's signposted).

The church was built in the early 17th century, when La Palma was rich from transatlantic trade. It's supposed to be beautiful inside, with two particularly good Flemish statues. Unfortunately every time I've been there, it's been shut. But there are lots of lovely old houses (it was the first part of the region to be settled after the conquest) and the square is particularly delightful.

Even better, there are two restaurants and a bar, all nearby. So you can admire the view while you eat. The restaurant on the lower level serves very nice fresh fish. I haven't tried the one higher up (with the red parasols) but a friend tells me they do very good tapas.

Old lime kiln, San Andres, La PalmaOld lime kiln, San Andres, La Palma

There's a footpath running north along the coast from the village to Charco Azul and Puerto Espíndola. One of the first thing you see is this limn kiln, which is being restored. At one time, everybody painted the insides of their water tanks with lime to kill off the bugs, and most people painted the outside of their houses with lime, too.

The path is paved, and smooth enough for a wheelchair or pushchair, but the climb back up into San Andres is steep, and I think it would be rather hard work.

Last time I went along the path, we found this baby gecko (Tarentola delalandii). Since the adults are about 6" (15 cm) long, it must have hatched very recently. Good luck to it - they're on the red list of threatened species.

Baby gecko, Charco Azul, La PalmaBaby gecko, Charco Azul, La Palma

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Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The Island Council's Exhibition Room

Of course there's more than one exhibition space in La Palma - there are at least four in Santa Cruz alone. But the Island Council runs a very nice one on the main street, just south of the Plaza España. The exhibitions there usually run for two weeks each. At the moment, it's an artist from Puntallana called Rosa Vidal, who makes her own paper.

Rosa's exhibition is open from 10:30 - 1:30 and 5 pm- 8 pm.

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