The last week has pretty much been us in holiday mode, because Nick’s parents came out to visit us one last time before we leave Europe for the foreseeable future on the ARC .This provided a much-needed break for us, although the week wasn’t entirely without work. Nick would often get up early and spend an hour or two in the morning working, and he’d usually scuttle off at least once a day to the chandlery. But we managed to get a lot of the big chores done before Gwen and Marco arrived, so we were able to relax a little, and watch the ARC plus depart.
Actually, it was noted by many of our neighbours that we were, in fact, looking a little TOO relaxed. We did spend a lot of time in the cockpit drinking, eating and chatting, I have to admit!
When we weren’t people watching on our pontoon, we explored Las Palmas. No-one expected much from this city. I don’t know why. I personally assumed it would be a big, charmless, modern city that I’d be quite happy to leave. Certainly the view from the marina does nothing to challenge that assumption. All we can see is a line of tasteless high-rises and not much else.
However, we’ve been pleasantly surprised. The old town of Las Palmas is just beautiful, dominated by a cathedral like most European old towns- but this one is surrounded by palm trees which is certainly a sight you don’t see in the rest of Europe! We went to visit the Spanish writer Perez Galdos’ house (Gwen’s a big fan of his, so we all went along), and- much more up my street- the Christopher Columbus museum.
This place was awesome. It’s called Casa de Colon, but Columbus never actually lived here. Apparently it was an inn that he may have stayed at once or twice. A fairly tenuous link, then. But it was a fantastic museum and the building itself was gorgeous. Nick and I were especially fascinated by the maps of the four crossings he made, for obvious reasons. It really put what we’re doing in perspective! At least we have a fridge, a water-maker and self-steering. Not to mention a proper bed, and showers! Columbus had his own cabin, but the rest of the crew had to basically curl up to sleep wherever they could, and lived off dried and pickled food. No steak or fry-ups for them!
We also visited the Maspalomas dunes and Puerto de Mogán, a sweet fishing village-turned tourist resort with gorgeous streets filled with flowers.
Just take him for a walk down the beach and he’s happy!
While Gwen and Marco were here we also attended the ARC+ farewell/ ARC welcome fiesta, put on by the Gran Canaria tourist board. We went along expecting it to be, well, a little lame if I’m honest! However, when we were greeted by Miss Drag Queen 2015 for a photo op, and then swiftly handed a sangria, we admitted to being pleasantly surprised. I mean, that’s the way to get a party started! We went inside and the entertainment began.
First, there were… hmm, how to describe them? Basically a bunch of girls wearing only a long skirt, painted to represent a series of scenes from the sea. Think mythic sea creatures and lots of wavy blue lines. They slowly walked in a line wearing very serious expressions, while everyone tried not to look at their bare chests. Then we had dancers performing what was apparently a traditional Canadian dance (boobs out here too, just in case you were wondering; their skimpy costumes didn’t quite offer enough coverage… not that anyone seemed to mind!), and a few audience members were dragged onto the dance floor to join them. The adults were predictably a little inhibited, but when the dancers invited a young girl of about 12 on stage, she showed them how it was done! A band followed, and by then the free booze had done its work and the dance floor was packed. They sure know how to party, this lot!
On Sunday we went out in Eupraxia, John and Sandra’s boat, to not only run some tests on their engine (well, they ran tests while the rest of us sat with a cup of tea), but to farewell the ARC + boats. The ARC + are also doing an Atlantic crossing, but they’re stopping at the Cape Verdes first for a week or so. The ARC leaves two weeks later and we all meet back in Saint Lucia. This year the ARC + fleet was 64 strong, and the ARC has 202 boats. (A quick aside: Nick enrolled in the ARC on the day they opened for 2015 entries last year, hoping to be given the racing number 001. Guess what number we got? Yep, 202. That’ll teach us for trying to be clever!)
Unfortunately the seas were a little on the choppy side and Gwen soon succumbed to seasickness, so after the engine checks we headed back to the marina. Even though Gwen was feeling miserable (something most sailors completely empathise with; we’ve all been there!), there was quite a sense of excitement amongst the rest of us, waving goodbye to the ARC + boats as we passed them on the way back into the harbour. Sandra, John, one of their crew Miles and I jumped on our bikes and cycled down the road to view the start. There were plenty of spectators, many of them ARC participants, and I couldn’t believe that in only 2 weeks time we’d be doing the same thing!
I’m going to do a separate post detailing our ARC preparations for those who are interested! Hopefully that will be up within the next couple of days. Until then- adios!