A week in Gran Canaria

Looking for some winter sunshine I looked at Gran Canaria to book a week long getaway. OH and I are not ones for lying on a beach so after much searching decided on an AirBnB apartment in Agaete – a small fishing village on the North West of the island. A long drive away from where the majority of tourists lie starfished in the sand.

imag5840We hired a car from the airport and drove anti-clockwise around the round island. We were not disappointed when we were shown around our new home for the week. The view of the mountains and Atlantic was amazing (the wine and beer left in the kitchen for us were also great). After stocking up on some essentials we chilled for the rest of the evening enjoying the first of many amazing sunsets whilst sipping wine and nibbling cheese.

The following day (Sunday) we drove in to the capital of the Gran Canaria, Las Palmas. It was the day of their annual marathon so the city was buzzing. Groups of drummers lined the route, helicopters and motorbikes followed the runners and the locals cheered and clapped as the sweaty athletes sprinted (or limped) past. There is also an old town aspect to the capital, which was definitely prettier on the eye than the new builds and chic shopping centre.

The weather on Monday was perfect for a drive, this time clockwise, down to Maspolomas where we found miles of sand dunes. Imagine the Sahara Desert but with a coast. img_20170124_180703_063

There’s a main road, which runs from Agaete round the majority of the island and is the sensible route to take if you’re going anywhere. Additionally, there is also a spiders web of roads, which wander through the middle of the island clinging to the sides of the mountains. These roads are seriously narrow, have sheer drops, crazy hairpin bends and don’t offer the chance to get into 3rd gear too often. However, as well as the near death experiences they offer, they also give you breath taking views. So after a wander over the dunes we drove back to Agaete through the mountains. img_20170124_180233_758imag5685Stopping off at Roque Nublo, a precariously perched volcanic rock and the second highest point in the island.

This drive messed with my hands and nerves giving me white knuckles, sweaty palms and muscle cramps as I tensed at each and every corner (and I wasn’t even driving!) but they also give some amazing views – img_20170125_170331_759the kind of scenes you wouldn’t normally see unless you’re the type that actually enjoys leaving the car behind and trekking up a mountain for hours. Incidentally, the roads were also full of cyclists. Lycra clad mentalists pedalling along the extreme roads, cycling just as fast as the cars could drive.

imag5734When I booked the break in Gran Canaria the last thing I was expecting to hear was that I could visit a coffee plantation. Yes! They grow coffee in the Agaete Valley at Finca Los Castaños. This was only a short drive for us but it was still another scenic trip into the valley where we loved the relaxed tasting of their own red, rosé and white wines accompanied with cheese made from cow and goats milk and some pork pate on chunky bread. This was then followed with a lovely cup of the only coffee grown and produced in Europe and some delicious home made cake. This was all enjoyed whilst being surrounded by orange trees, grape vines, coffee plants and lush green mountains. The word you’re looking for right now is bliss.

Our apartment looked over Puerto De Las Nieves making it only a short walk down through a cactus garden and along the coast. The working port boasts a string of fabulous fish restaurants. We could easily have dined in a different place each night and not been disappointed. As the area isn’t full of tourists there were very few menus with photos or waiters trying to coerce us to a table so it was great to wander and choose at will without pressure. imag5707Additionally, the lack of beach seekers meant the meals were reasonably priced and didn’t break the bank at all.

As well as the amazing fish dishes we also managed to eat like cavemen when we dined in a restaurant, which had been carved out of the mountains. Restaurante El Centro Guayadeque The menu was fascinating. Eventually OH decided on a Steer Steak, which, when it arrived, covered the whole plate and looked like at least half of the beast. I had chicken skewers, which I couldn’t finish but wanted to. Both dishes were beautifully flame grilled. Like Fred and Wilma, we ate our meals sitting at a stone table in a cave, which was surprisingly cosy.

I could go on and on and tell you about everything else we did and every meal we ate but I’m already way over my usual word count so will stop now.

So, in summary, a lot of people have preconceived ideas about Gran Canaria. Perhaps thinking it’s just a place to go and lie on the beach. This certainly isn’t the case. Gran Canaria is an absolutely beautiful island, which has something for everyone and even more if you venture off the beaten path. I, for one, wouldn’t hesitate to go back.imag5675

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Isle of Mull

OH has been at me to go to the Isle of Mull for eons. To be honest it’s not really my thing. Usually when OH wants to do something outdoorsy I will volunteer to sit in the car and read my book or sit in the hotel lobby and write. The promise of scenery doesn’t hold me as much as a good atmosphere in a pub does. So, on the promise of wine and much merriment, I eventually relented and looked up dog friendly hotels and ferry times.

2016-06-17 12.37.27The dog appeared to love the ferry – sticking her muzzle between the bars and sniffing the sea air as we made our way from Oban to Craignure. OH had planned a route beforehand that would take us down the island to Fionnphort – the very edge of the island where you can catch another ferry over to Iona – a small and beautiful island with a population of only 120 people. Our trip down made me realise the difficulties of travelling lengthy distances on a one-track road. Passing places became friendly places to stop and wave to other drivers. However, the novelty soon wears off and quickly you learn to drive as if some idiot is going to speed round the next corner at you. I’ve decided I’m going to invent a plastic hand that attaches to your car and waves for you whenever your car comes to a passing place. I’d soon be a millionaire. Well, maybe I’d make a few quid at least.

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Fionnphort

When we arrived a Fionnphort we (me really) decided not to catch another ferry but to allow the dog to have a walk and perhaps leave Iona Abbey for another visit. I have to admit the scenery was amazing. With the colour of the sand and sea you could have been anywhere in the world.

From Fionnphort we headed north towards Tobermory, where we were staying that night. O2016-06-17 16.59.43n the way back up we just had to stop for a Kodak moment outside Salen where 2 boats sat looking completely abandoned and unloved but extremely picturesque.

After taking a multitude of snaps we took to the road again until we reached Tobermory, where we were staying for the night. Our hotel turned out to be quite fabulous.

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Room with a view

Well the view from The Western Isles Hotel certainly was. The hotel itself was a little tired but it was dog friendly, had great staff/service, tasty food in the restaurant/breakfast room and everything you could need in a hotel room – not to mention again the view, which was phenomenal.

During our stay we literally travelled the length and breadth of the island. To my surprise I was impressed with the scenery, this was helped with the fantastic weather we had, which unfortunately you can’t rely on. Well, it is Scotland afterall. During our visit we didn’t see any otters but we did see some red deer, a Golden Eagle in the distance and I’m sure I saw the red feathers of a crossbill. There were also numerous ravens, grey backed crows and hunners of Highland Coos too amongst the other more regular wildlife on the island.

OH stuck to his promise and we enjoyed ourselves in the few pubs there are in Tobermory. The atmosphere was lively and we had a laugh with both locals and visitors alike. I managed to beat a Canadian at pool but was then thrashed by a local (boo). We met a couple from Motherwell who got us totally trashed and unable to make breakfast on Sunday morning – so that was definitely a good news – bad news moment.

All in all it was a top weekend and I won’t bore you with anymore details but I will leave you with just a few of the many pics I took and a recommendation you should go too.

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Tobermory

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View from Art in Nature, Calgary

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Beach at Calgary

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Tobermory

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Western Isles Hotel

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Anchors at the harbour in Tobermory

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Traffic jam in Mull

Venachar Lochside

On Sunday morning I woke up to a beautiful Autumn day, which just begged me to go for a drive around The Trossachs to make sure the oak trees had turned auburn. OH didn’t need asking twice so off we headed north. DSCN3855.JPG

The scenery is never disappointing and the views over the different Lochs were amazing.

Often when we are in The Trossachs we will pop into Venachar Lochside. If you’re a regular reader you may remember the last time we were here I raved about the food and criticized the service. We were hoping this would have changed since our last visit as we stopped in for Sunday lunch.

When we went in, the dining area was busy so when I asked for a table for 2 I wasn’t surprised to hear that we could either have the couches or sit upstairs. I hate bending over a low table to eat so we opted for up the stairs. We went up on our own and realised that the table with the best view needed clearing, which we did ourselves. We also wiped the table and helped ourselves to cutlery. Eventually, the waitress appeared with menus and asked us what we would like to drink. I went for a large glass of white wine and OH had a coke.  As ever the views were fantastic  – I mean this was our view for lunch —> 2015-11-22 13.52.19-1.jpgWhat’s not to like??

After another wait the waitress appeared to take our order. I decided on the Sunday Roast, which was beef done 3 ways with parsnip puree, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, winter greens, carrots and gravy. OH went for the Venison burger with Blue Murder Cheese and hand cut chips.

As we waited we admired the view.

As we waited, Mini-him phoned and OH went outside to speak to him as he couldn’t get a signal inside. He also went to the toilet.

As we continued to wait I realised the light was fading and queried if I would be able to go out and take some photos before it got dark. OH said go for it. I did. I took a number of photos and the food still hadn’t arrived by the time I got back.

2015-11-22 14.30.13When it did arrive I have to admit it was worth waiting for. My Sunday roast was amazing. The oxtail fell to bits and melted in my mouth. The textures, flavours and variety were so good. Honestly I couldn’t compliment it more.

Well, in saying that I did say to OH. “I’ve only got one complaint.”

He said, “it’s too much?”

Piggy me replied, “Nope, not enough gravy.” Oink, oink.

OH’s burger was good – nice and juicy but in contrast to me, he said it was far 2015-11-22 14.30.22too much for him. The added extra of strong blue cheese went well with the gamey taste and the generous sized chips were indeed, hand cut.
He said it was too much for him but he still managed to clear his plate.

Sitting back content after our filling lunch we stared at our empty plates and waited.

I had enjoyed my wine and often when OH is having a dessert I will plump for another glass of wine so I had already decided this was happening. When I put this to OH he said he’d just have a coffee as he (really) was full and would just like to sit and enjoy the view. So we waited.

and waited, thankful for the view.

Eventually, I went downstairs and, after waiting to speak to a waitress, ordered a coffee and another glass of wine. “House?” “Yes please.”

I went back up the stairs and we waited.

and waited…

and waited.

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Pic whilst we waited

After some time we decided to give up on ever receiving our drinks and  I went back downstairs to pay the bill. I cancelled the previous drinks order and did receive an apology, although I don’t think she appreciated the abysmal service we had received as they were still run off their feet. This isn’t totally their fault as being understaffed is just bad management.

Then I looked at the bill. “Excuse me, £8.95 for a glass of wine?” She looked at the bill and then at her till. “Er yes. I’ve never noticed the price before I just press the button.” When I got back up the stairs I checked the menu – she had given me the most expensive wine on the wine list so that was a lesson learnt the hard way.

The food is fantastic, the views unbeatable – if they could just sort out their service this would be the place to go every time you wanted to eat out.

However, considering how busy it was (and considering it was the same the last time we visited) I guess they are getting away with it so won’t think to change the staffing levels.

One ridiculously priced glass of wine, 1 coke, 2 main meals – £36.72.

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On the drive home I couldn’t resist another quick pic in Doune.