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 parents 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…

January 16, 2015
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The Canaries win Tournament: Earth 2014

This year’s winning photo in NASA’s Tournament: Earth is the Canary Islands again. This time all seven of them. This photo was taken by NASA’s Terra satellite on June 15, 2013. The prevailing wind and current here comes from the north east. Downwind and downstream from each island, you can see a few wisps of cloud, and long shiny areas of sea. “According to sailors’ guides to the area, winds…

April 8, 2014
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Nativity Scenes

Christmas trees are a newish thing here, although probably most houses have one now. The main traditional decoration is nativity scenes. Some just show the stable, but some public ones are so elaborate that they include the whole village, and it’s always a Canarian village. Obviously that’s historically inaccurate, but no more so than all the English nativity scenes where Mary and Jesus are blond. This one was on display…

December 6, 2013
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The Dragon Tree Viewpoint

There’s a rather nice viewpoint in Puntagorda, on the main road at km 78. Its most obvious attraction is the dragon tree, leaning much further over than the tower at Pisa. > But when I was last there, I was charmed by a tame red-billed chough, Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax barbarus. They’re relatives of rooks and crows, but this particular sub-species only lives on La Palma where they’re called grajas. They’re something…

July 30, 2013
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Fiesta del Carmen in Puerto Tazacorte

Wednesday was the Fiesta del Carmen, which is celebrated in Santa Cruz and Puerto Tazacorte. They have a special mass, and then they take the statue of the Virgin of Carmen out for a procession. So far, so much like most fiestas on the island. Only in this case, they take the statue of the virgin out on a boat parade, to bless the fishermen.These photos are fromPuerto Tazacorte. The…

July 17, 2013
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Rooftop Viewpoints

Traditional roof with a space to view the port. These days, Santa Cruz de la Palma is a bit of a backwater. But three hundred years ago, it was the third biggest port in the Spanish Empire. Almost every ship traveling from Spain to the Americas stopped here. In the 19th century, it was still a major port, and many of the inhabitants waited anxiously for a ship bringing their…

January 9, 2013
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