Arrecife de Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Our third stop in the Canary Islands was the city of Arrecife on the island of Lanzarote.  Lanzarote is the easternmost of the Canary Islands about 80 miles west of Morrocco.  The island is the driest in the Canary Islands with rainfall, on average, only sixteen days a year.  The rest of the year is sunny and dry.

The indigenous people of the Canary Islands called it Tyterogaka which means “ochre,” which is the predominant color of the island.  Lanzarote had a lot of volcanic activity from 1730 to 1736 and still does not have much vegetation growing on the volcanic rocks.  Europeans began arriving in 1336 and soon conquered and enslaved the indigenous people.  Arrecife is the largest city and capital of the island of Lanzarote.  It has a population of 64,000 which makes it the smallest of the cities we visited in the Canary Islands.

Arrecife is a pretty place, with most of the buildings painted white with blue shutters and accents.  In fact, the only building we saw that wasn’t white was the Ikea store, located close to the dockyard.  Ships of all sizes dominate the seascape around the city.

The dockyard is quite large and Holland America provided a shuttle bus that took us to the entrance of the port, close to the town center.  Tom and I had a short list of places to visit on the Sunday we were in port.  Most of the stores, restaurants, and all of the museums are closed on Sundays.  The Catholic church was open, but we didn’t go in because they were having services.

Tom and I thoroughly explored the town center.  We walked around the Charco de San Ginés, a man-made lagoon used by fishermen.  There was lots of art and we took our time admiring it.  We saw the Playa Reducto, the town beach, and the Castillo de San Jose.  The Castillo was particularly unimpressive, just a small round building.  It houses the Museum of Modern Art.  The best historical building on the island was the Castillo de San Gabriel which houses the Historical Museum.  Unfortunately, it too was closed on Sunday.  But there were some cool cannons outside the fort.

After checking out the historical structures, Tom and I walked along the main shopping street of Arrecife.  Most of the shops were closed but we found a souvenir shop open so I could get a demitasse spoon.  There were also several shoe shops and clothing shops open.  But the SuperDino was closed.  No grocery shopping on Sunday.  Locally made aloe lotion is a big thing in the Canary Islands and Arrecife has its own brand.

After wandering around for a while we decided to try some food at Lisa Real Cafe.  It had two advantages – it was open and it had the food displayed in a case which makes it easier for non-Spanish speakers to get food.  We got an Arepa Pollo and a Zanahoria Indus to share.  Zanahoria Indus is carrot cake and it was delicious and familiar.

The Arepa Pollo was also delicious but unfamiliar.  An arepa is a dough made from ground maize and stuffed with meat and cheese.  The one we selected had chicken.  I asked the waitress what it was called, and she, not speaking English, smiled and said “picante” and brought us a bottle of hot sauce.  I figured out what it was called when I saw it written on the check.  It was very good and something we would gladly eat again.

After our meal we spent some time people-watching, always a favorite activity.  Then we headed back to the shuttle to the ship.  We didn’t stay very long in Arrecife but we enjoyed our visit and saw everything we wanted to see.

Our three days in the Canary Islands were very enjoyable.  They weren’t a place we had ever heard much about, but they were central to the age of exploration that resulted in the settlement of the Americas.  They reminded us of Hawaii, with their volcanic origins and the different geology of each island.  Like Hawaii, there are cruise ships that take people around the islands for a week.

One of the ships we saw frequently was the Aida Cosma, full of families from Europe enjoying the warmth, sunshine, and beaches.  Aida is a German cruise line, owned by the Carnival Corporation.  The Cosma is a ship about twice the size of the one we are on, the Nieuw Statendam.  It amazed us that 7,500 passengers from two cruise ships could arrive at the same time and then melt into a place so that it never felt crowded.

Arrecife de Lanzarote was a good stop in an place.  It would have been even more interesting if we hadn’t been there on a Sunday, but it was good to see a place where things slowed down one day a week.