Gran Canaria – A great Escape from the Cold

Imagine an island... lush farmlands to the north, rolling sand dunes to the south... Peter McGregor Eadie finds out more

At this time of year to enjoy the sun and swimming you have to get south of the Mediterranean. One of Europe’s most popular venues that isn’t long haul are the Canary Islands.

Keen to feel the heat of the sun in our bones, I booked a half board stay for two in Gran Canaria with Thomson for just over £2000 at the H10 Playa Meloneras Palace.

As I had badly twisted my knee I sought assistance with buggy and wheelchair to get from the arrival terminal to departure lounge. The service was brilliant at both Gatwick and Las Palmas airport in Gran Canaria. I was also able to hire a mobility scooter for a couple of days so that getting around remained easy.

The charter flight itself is OK for anyone who can fit comfortably into a mediaeval suit of armour. Always get a seat by the exit if you can.
Gran Canaria is like a miniature continent. To the north lie green and fertile farmlands with an abundance of banana plantations that provide the small and tasty bananas for which the Canaries are famous.

The south is more desert like and it is here on the rolling sand dunes one can take camel rides. The Thomson hotel holiday representative warned the ladies not to wear perfume if they decided to participate because it gets the camels all excited.

Pine forests and rugged mountains are the hallmark of the island’s centre. Tejeda is a pretty village overlooked by Roque Nublo the highest point on the island. The Caldera de Bandama is a vast extinct volcano crater rising 1900 feet above sea level.

Green and fertile and half a mile in width one can see at the bottom of the crater a small farm which can be reached by a steep and narrow path.

Our hotel was on the southern tip of the island’s coastline and just outside the hotel gates is the beginning of a three mile promenade that leads to a large lighthouse at the far end. It stands tall and proud at the rocky sea edge.

People stroll along the Faro Promenade and many choose to sit out by seaside restaurants and cafes enjoying exotic drinks under colourful umbrellas.
There is an excellent round supermarket by one of the cafes midway along and behind it is a shopping centre with many boutiques that would not be out of place in the Champs Elysee in terms of the latest fashion. At the back of the shopping mall on the ground floor is a French cafe that we visited on many occasions which serves excellent cappuccinos and natural fruit juices.

Amusingly, on the wall alongside the promenade you will see a live green statue of King Neptune with his trident decorating the shoreline. It is worth a euro in his shell to take a photograph.

To the right of the hotel looking out from the balcony is a golf course and directly in front are several swimming pools some ideal for children, others for adults. There are also several beaches available for those who wish to be by the sea.

Meals at the H10 Playa Meloneras are splendid buffets of great imagination. Plenty of excellent salads and speciality dishes for starters. And each night a great variety of different meat dishes, sometimes steak, lamb chops or turkey carved in front of one. There is also a selection of fish dishes and pasta. A table is devoted to a great variety of ice cream and a delicious selection of different deserts. There is a good wine list mainly of Spanish origin.

It is no longer inexpensive to eat out abroad. Exactly two years ago when I stayed in the same area in Gran Canaria the value of the pound was strongly in our favour. To-day to all intents and purposes the value of the pound is the same as the euro. Coffee capuccino for two on the sea front can range from five to six pounds and a bottle of reasonable wine is around £12.50 in the restaurants. So prices are equivalent to what you pay in most of the United Kingdom. This devaluation of the pound means that it is wise to pay for as much as you can in a package. All inclusive holidays are the best buy or alternatively self catering unless you have a strong purse despite the recession.

For the first time in 40 years of travel writing, I was hospitalised. I contracted gastro enteritis, I don’t know how but then there is a lot of it about, judging by the number of overseas visitors I saw in the hospital. Fortunately I was insured by Saga which I have found has good rapid positive response in cases of emergency.

You have with Saga travel insurance to pay the first fifty pounds. The hospital I was sent to by the hotel doctor was reasonably proficient but they did try, while I was ill and being checked, to get my wife to pay and then claim back. Fortunately she did not comply with their wishes.

There are plenty of activities available and public transport is cheap by comparison to the UK. We took the bus to Palmitos Park. It is the best run aviary and natural park I have visited. There is a fabulous collection of colourful birds ranging from small hummingbirds to eagles and a funny circus show is performed by parrots. Other attractions in the park include the orchid house, butterfly house and aquarium.

From the fishing village of Puerto Mogan, you can see exotic fish on the seabed from a yellow submarine. The biggest and best waterpark in Gran Canaria is Aqualand where people of all ages can participate in adrenalin pumping rides.

For a night out try Garbo’s dinner shows. Here you get a roller coaster ride of song and dance and are dazzled by special light effects and colourful costumes.

With it comes a three course dinner. All the above activities can be arranged by the First Choice and Thompson hotel representative. Be sure to collect the ‘Out and About’ brochure listing the above activities and many others.