Tuesday 14 May 2019

Exploring Lanzarote

When the sun comes out at this time of year, I want to lie outside and soak up rays like a solar battery. This year, I got an early charge when we flew to Lanzarote for a week's stay over the Easter holidays.

Swimming pool at Princesa Yaiza hotel, Lanzarote
One of Yaiza's many pools
We took a family suite at the hotel Princesa Yaiza in the Playa Blanca resort. The hotel was vast and we were tucked away in a distant wing (the family zone) but there was lots to keep us entertained. As well as three swimming pools and numerous restaurants in the hotel complex, there was the 'Kikoland' sports facility, where we got addicted to paddle tennis (a cross between tennis and squash). We could also walk to a pretty (if busy) beach nearby.

Holiday for me is a way of decompressing. I need those lazy days by the pool to free up space in my brain and think more creatively. At home, like many mums, I spend too long in problem-solving mode, organising the kids and our family social life.

Lounging by the pool in Lanzarote allowed me to shift gear. I became absorbed in lengthy articles from my London Review of Books without skimming (like I'm prone to do) and effortlessly planned out a new plot line for my latest novel. Without the distractions of home, my butterfly mind was able to settle - call it vacational mindfulness.

Let's not forget, however, that I have a husband who can only lie about for so long (two days' max). His instinct to explore took us on a tour of the island, from the volcano park at Timanfaya to Teguise in the north.

Volcanic crater, Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote
A volcanic crater at Timanfaya Park
In places, this Canary island resembles a lunar landscape following volcanic eruptions in the 19th century, but the lava deposits are fascinating in their own way. It's prettier in the north, where horse-shoe shaped terraces protect pockets of greenery from the winds. There are also dramatic coastlines to admire and whitewashed towns, adorned with purple bougainvillea. For me, Lanzarote is one of the more interesting islands in the Canary collection.

Notes from my Travel Diary

Timanfaya National Park

We hired a little Opel Astra with a sun roof to visit the park. Once within its confines, we left the car and hopped onto a coach to tour the craters and barren landscape. Got the heebie-jeebies on the coach as we lumbered around hairpin bends with dramatic drops on either side - the whole experience was heightened by music from 2001: A Space Odyssey blaring out of the coach stereo. To add to my discomfort, my seatbelt was broken. Give me a rollercoaster anytime!

Amid that bleak volcanic landscape, we listened to the tale of a hermit who settled and planted a fig tree. It took root but never bore any fruit because of the extreme heat underground. Even today, park rangers induce geysers of hot steam to shoot out of the earth for the entertainment of the tourists.

Hot geysers at Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote
Hot steam at Timanfaya

Volcanic deposits in Lanzarote
Lava lunar landscape

Famara beach

We first visited Lanzarote 16 years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter. One of our favourite spots - the photo has hung in our hallway for years - was Famara beach. So we were obliged to make a pilgrimage back there with the teenager and her younger brother on board. It was busier than our last visit, with surfers and body-boarders riding the waves. If it had been a tad less windy and cold, I might have braved a swim! The craggy cliff behind the beach was as dramatic as ever, just touching the clouds.

Famara beach, Lanzarote
Me and the 'baby' at Famara beach


We stopped here on our way home for coffee and ice-creams. It seemed almost deserted until we wandered into the pedestrian zone, where we happened upon vibrant cafes full of locals and live music in the lava-cobbled streets. Ended up in Constitution Square as the Sunday market was packing up, and bought myself a green scarf from an artisan bar/boutique. My new scarf nicely complemented all the green doors fronting the whitewashed buildings! If we'd had more time, I'd have come back here for dinner.

A doorway in Teguise, Lanzarote
Green scarf and green doors

Montana Roja, Playa Blanca

Found a little dirt track, off a residential road, leading up the 'red' volcano. We climbed up just before sunset (my husband can't resist a sunset pic) and were rewarded with stunning views from the top, across to the sea and over the dormant crater. It was a good way to work off too many buffet breakfasts at the hotel.

Montana Roja, Playa Blanca, Lanzarote
The view from the top of the red volcano

Playa Mujeres

We hired bikes to ride to the celebrated Papagoya beach (think clear green water and white sand). But, after a hot, steep climb over the cliffs, the kids and I tied up our bikes and collapsed at the first cove - Playa Mujeres. My husband heroically cycled onwards to the cafe at Papagoya to get supplies (Magnum ice-creams) which duly pepped us up. Mujeres is a lovely, wide stretch of sand with sparkling breakers crashing onto the shore. Post-Magnum, my hubby and I abandoned the kids for a brief immersion in the ICY seawater and jumped over a few waves. It was the highlight of the day for me and energised us for the long ride home.

The cliffs near Playa Mujeres, Lanzarote
Hot cycle ride over the cliffs

Playa Mujeres in the sunshine, Lanzarote
Beachlife at Playa Mujeres

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