Somewhere along my journey I forgot all I knew about Las Islas Canarias; what the people looked like, how they talked, where on the globe it was… Before learning Canarias was part of Spain (many years ago), I used to think of it as just another group of independent islands—like Dominican Republic and Cuba (which they sort of are, except they sorta are to Spain what Puerto Rico is to The US)—and so I was pretty sure Canarians looked and talked like Caribeños.
Then I just forgot about all that, too, and imagined Canarias being like any other Spanish coast city, until I visited Las Palmas de Gran Canarias, for the first time, the weekend of May 31. Canarias is a group of autonomous Spanish islands. Most Canarians do have a distinctive look to them, meaning they look a little more “exotic,” most likely due to the Guanches, the believed first aboriginal inhabitants of the islands. I don’t know why I find these little things so fascinating, but I was very intrigued by it.
As soon as we got on our taxi ride to Las Palmas from the airport, the taxi driver—a girl, something not too common in Spain—spoke with a different, yet familiar, dialect. The first thing I noticed was that she didn’t pronounce the C as a Z. I thought she was probably South American. But then it was everywhere; speaking differently than what I had been used to for the past nine months. The people at the hotel. The guy at the pizzeria… they spoke my language: Caribbean Spanish. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me as Hispanic America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands were originally largely settled by colonists from Canary Islands and Andalusia, so the dialects of the Caribbean islands were already similar to Canarian and Andalusian speech, but I was still taken aback.
But enough of history!
Chris and I had a great time in Canarias. It was a little cold the first night, but the second day the weather was more favorable. We took advantage of that and spent the day at Playa de Las Canteras (Canteras Beach). It was very relaxing. We rented two beach chairs for a total of 5€. (If I’m not mistaken, renting one beach chair at an US beach would cost you somewhere around 15-20 bucks—might be more by now—so I thought we got a deal.
Anyway, we sat in the sun for as long as we could, as it was going to be the only sunny and hot full day we were going to have in Las Palmas. Unfortunately, despite of literally showering in sunscreen lotion and re-applying every so often, and even buying an extra high-protection sunscreen lotion, Chris’ ultra-sensitive skin got burned badly on parts of his shoulders and chest. Sunburn is the worst! We stopped at a local convenience store on the way to the hotel and got one of those after sun Aloe lotion, which helped him relieve his skin a bit. The burning bothered him for the following week or so…and that was some “nice” inexpensive souvenir!
Besides Gran Canaria, the most popular islands and the ones I have interest in visiting are Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, and La Palma. I had hoped we visited Fuerteventura and Tenerife by boat, but that was not possible. Otra vez será.
The next day was warm enough for beach again, but we had to avoid the sun. We stuck around the area and instead walked to places (in the shades). We had lunch at a Cuban restaurant, which name I cannot remember, but the food was really good. Greasier than usual, but really good AND the plates were huge! Our server, who I’m pretty sure was the owner, asked me if I was Dominican. He said he had just visited the Dominican Republic and then came back with a huge bottle of Mama Juana: a root drink from the Dominican Republic that is made with rum, red wine, and honey.
These soak in a bottle with tree bark and herbs for days, weeks, months…before you drink it. Just imagine that.
They say the taste is quite similar to port wine, but in my opinion it depends on how long the liquor has been soaking for. Also, Mamajuana tastes stronger. It is not the first time I try Mamajuana, I just never liked it. Chris, however, enjoyed his chupitos.
Preparation: Basically, Mama Juana is a mixture of bark and herbs left to soak in rum (most often dark rum but the use of white rum is not uncommon), red wine and honey. The solid ingredients (local leaves, sticks and roots) vary from region to region.
He brought out the Mamajuana so that we could have shots after we had already ordered Mojitos. The mojitos themselves were pretty strong—stronger Mojitos I’ve ever had. So, the whole combo was—like I like to call it—a shot of bad idea. I passed out for the afternoon.
Then, after sleeping for a few hours, we decided to have dinner at a seafood place by the beach which menu looked delish. Unfortunately, I wasn’t still feeling 100% and ordered just a soup thinking it’d make me feel better. It didn’t; the smell made things worse. I had to walk out and back to the hotel, which was a short walk, leaving Chris behind finishing his dinner. We were both wounded soldiers by the end of that night. Want my advice? Stay away from (mixing) alcohol, kids! Ha ha. I’ll probably ignore my own advice, but really, it may ruin the moment.
Anyhow, to me the most interesting thing in Canarias I guess was the people and the similarity between their culture and mine. Nothing was really different from what I grew up knowing. On another note, I thought the sand castles artists build by the beach are pretty amazing. That requires talent. I can barely draw a heart in the sand! The deep-blue see and the sunset were also beautiful. I am already looking forward to going back, with loads of sunscreen and zero Mamajuana. 🙂