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Hope you enjoy my travel blog, comments are not necessary but much appreciated.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Adios Fuerteventura, it's sort of been good to know you

This is the end beautiful friends….actually no beautiful or otherwise friends left behind.  I did however manage to score a few points with the more senior citizens due to my limited internet skills.  A lot of them received tablets or IPhones for Christmas and no clue as to how to use them.  I don't own either one of those but I've learned from kids, the computer won't go kaput if you try different buttons which is what I mostly do until I strike "gold" maybe more like copper actually since the internet at Ambar Beach is anything but reliable.    Here are a few parting thoughts on the island in case any of you ever want to venture this way.

We walked the beach to Jandia on Wednesday.  Jandia is the main shopping hub for many tourists who happily want to spend their euros on perfumes, bags, shoes, cosmetics and the like.  The Canary Islands are a tax free zone hence the cheaper prices on those expensive items.  The day of the walk was one of the nicest days we've had here although the walk itself was a bit arduous.  The beach does have lovely yellow, powdery sand but it's been greatly eroded in many parts and one then has to walk on volcanic rocks of various sizes which litter the beach.  Once in a while there's a clearing with sand but mostly you're walking on rocks till you get to the beach at Jandia which is a beautiful stretch of sand with no obstruction to speak of.  The weather was so nice I thought I might give dipping my toes in the ocean another try.  Unfortunately I wasn't wearing a bathing suit.  Decided to go in any way in my black undies and beige tank top, not too many people around plus wouldn't really care if there were.  It wasn't much of a swim, the water was quite cold and the darn waves were pretty freaky.  At least I can say I went in the ocean twice if only for short yet sweet periods of time.  Significant other didn't go at all, too scared of a little cold water.  On the parts of the beach where volcanic rocks are found in abundance, people have built semi-circular fortress like structures of varying heights to ensure privacy for some nude sunbathing which is highly prized by Germans, not too many French appear to indulge, they're more modest I suppose or like us they don't like to expose their naked, older bodies.

Regarding the all inclusives, one week here would have been enough.  There really isn't much to see because it's so dry and overall not all that pretty.  I feel we got to see the prettiest parts.  The weather which was meant to be quite reliable did not turn out that way.  We had a few good days at first with a  few good days in the last week of our stay.  The wind is unrelenting, some days it was so strong it made walking actually difficult.  This endless wind can be very tiresome indeed.  Overall the food was good but it was seldom hot.  We found the microwave on the last day of our stay.  Deserts were not great except for flan, perfect since I don't believe I put on any weight.  There was a young team of animators all French speaking which did its utmost best to provide entertainment throughout.  We didn't participate in anything because that's the way we roll, we don't enjoy having a great time especially when heavy socializing with other people is involved. (haha)  In any case kudos to them they really try their best.  The pools outside were beautiful but I only got one dip in them, frigid is an understatement.  The pool inside was cold, water was never warm or heated like the brochure stated but I was able to do my laps most every day.  We didn't play ping pong or squash never got around to it, you had to rent the rackets for 20 euros a shot and I never had any money on me.  The t.v. was beyond bad, only slightly better reception than the one we had in Cuba.  It was quite hilarious you could be watching something or other and all of a sudden the whole screen would freeze with a statement in Spanish saying:  "El signal es deb ill"  debile in French means moronic, it was moronic indeed.  Of course we were able to catch CNN and BBC with their endless droning on, they don't just attack a topic they pummel it into the ground till it's blown to smithereens.  I was exhausted merely listening to them.  There were hardly any Spanish stations, the whole experience was a bit weird in that it barely felt like we were traveling in a different country where the lingua franca was Spanish.  I did my best to try and use my Spanish,didn't make any improvements.

Today it's grey and there's even a little misty rain.  We had to check out of our room at noon, took a local bus to Jandia to get some money, now it's just a waiting game.  It's going to be a long, long day and night.  Adios for now hope you enjoyed my blog.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

My Travels And A Little Bit of This And That: By bus around the island of Fuerteventura

My Travels And A Little Bit of This And That: By bus around the island of Fuerteventura: On Wednesday we went for our first excursion.  It will be our one and only due to the fact that the excursion prices in the euro currency ar...

By bus around the island of Fuerteventura

On Wednesday we went for our first excursion.  It will be our one and only due to the fact that the excursion prices in the euro currency are pretty steep for our limited budget.  Not sure if any of you reading this have been following the news but it's not great for the Canadian economy.  Thanks Mr. Harper for putting all our eggs into the same leaky oil basket.  With the price of oil at its lowest since years the Canadian dollar has taken a precipitous nose dive.  Last time I checked it was 83 cents to the American dollar which regardless of how well their economy is doing (not great) is always the one investors go to in times of "manufactured crisis".  I say manufactured because it's another instance of "the market" let's call it by its real name of grubby, shameless,greedy,manipulative bastards, the market is once again playing with pretend money but making real money.  I don't get it but it doesn't matter whether I get it or not what I do get is that I'm being screwed again and so are most of you reading this unless you're part of the 1%.

OOPS I forgot this was a travel/film blog which has now turned into a political blog, sorry I do get carried away.  One final note found out today in one of those ticker tapes which endlessly runs on the bottom of CNN and BBC news that all Target stores will close in Canada, yes TARGET.  They booted out Zellers and  soon Target will be history too.  Apparently Canadians don't like Target I know I didn't.  Another dismal failure but with an over saturation of retailers already littering the field it's not all that surprising and let's not forget the phenomenal staying and growing power of Wal Mart and Costco those two are here and they're not going anywhere.

So Wednesday boarded the bus at 8:30 with a whole bunch of other Frenchmen eager for the experience.  Strangely our guide turned out to be a transplanted Brit who spoke French quite well but with one of those funny accents I myself use when I want to make kids laugh when I'm reading in French.  His knowledge of the island lore was superb and he kept us entertained.  Apparently French tourists in the Canaries are a relatively recent phenomena.  In the past they traveled  to Morocco or Tunisia but with "the problems" brewing they've decided to give those two nations a pass and try their weather luck here.  This explains the lack of fluent French guides also the fact that most of the information is written first in Spanish then in German followed by English.  Sometimes there's a smattering of Italian there too plus we also noticed a fair number of Polish tourists not sure how they're doing with their zwote currency maybe they work in Europe, possibly England where there is a large expat. community of Poles.

Fuerteventura is a sly one, it's a bit shy about revealing it's beauty keeping it well hidden under masses of volcanic rock.  It takes a certain light, a special angle of a sun's ray to suddenly reveal its radiance.  It never overwhelms but there is beauty to be had in bends around the road ready to seduce the unsuspecting traveler.  What is fascinating to me is the fact that all the Canaries emerged as volcanoes from the bottom of the Atlantic ocean.  This process can be explained in geological terms but it doesn't take away the magic or the mystery.  How bottomless and huge are the world's oceans to have given rise to such wonders!

The road we were on was a very sinuous one and in excellent condition.  Due to the dry virtually almost rain free climate there is very little damage to the roads and they are all in great shape.  Our first stop was to a very famous cheese "factory" a fairly small, family run affair.  They had three types of goat cheese on offer one of which was recently judged best in the world in its category.  We bought a sample to bring back to Canada, it's a little spicy, very tasty indeed and the pride of Fuerteventura.  Goats are the animals which thrive the best here because they'll eat just about anything.  There are sheep too but not as many hence the cheese is mostly all from goats' milk.

Continuing on we stopped at a village where the church is known to have distant Aztec motifs, the guide was not too clear on why that was.  We were free to roam around a bit to visit at our own pace although in fairness there wasn't all that much to see.  Village was pleasant enough especially since it had spots of green with the planted palms and bougainvillea which normally one finds everywhere in Mexico but is quite a rare sight here requiring, I suppose, too much water.  We stopped for lunch at a little roadside restaurant where we were able to do a little more "bonding" with our French companions.  They can be a friendly bunch once you get to know them a little.  In the afternoon we visited an aloe vera "fabrique".  Fuerteventura is quite famous for its aloe vera one of the sturdiest plants around since it can survive without a drop of water for five years, that's phenomenal and hard to believe.  We did a little sampling of the various creams and lotions.  In its purest form, as a gel, aloe vera is transparent and smells like onion, not an overly attractive characteristic for a cream but that's how it works best.  We passed on buying a cream there since the prices were too high for our budget.  Lastly we stopped at an old windmill one Don Quijote might have liked and sampled a cookie made out of flour which has been roasted and requires no further baking.  All it requires is a little oil, water,pinch of salt and sugar.  It's a little pasty and definitely an acquired taste, on an extended camping trip it might come in handy minus the oil.

Fuerteventura is not the most interesting islands culturally, don't believe the other Canary islands are much different in that respect.  One comes more for the scenery and the pleasantly mild weather.  We learned that only 30% of islanders are involved in the tourism industry which is not as high as I thought with all the resorts around.  Nevertheless this percentage exerts a snowball effect on the rest of the island in terms of the jobs it gives rise to, such as doctors, mechanics, teachers, nurses etc….  The employers are loathe to hand out permanent contracts.  The most one can hope for is a one year renewed to a second year never more.  It sounds typical of most employers nowadays who don't want to have to pay for benefits, sad situation worldwide and growing.  The guide did say that usually it's not too hard to find another employer since there are so many tourist outfits here, it still negates the opportunity of full, regular employment.  The population of Fuerteventura has now grown to about 110,000 it used to be only 8, 000 not so very long ago and there have been growing pains in terms of infrastructure needs particularly water.

I'll have final thoughts on the island and our trip here before we leave which is this Sunday, sorry for the political rant at the top, had to get it off my chest, now I'm over it.  Have fun reading…..or not.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A little spot of cloudy weather-pros and cons of all inclusives

It seldom gets cloudy on these Canary Islands where the canaries have not yet dared to make an appearance.  Taking advantage of the lack of sun to reflect on our experience here thus far and the pros and cons of all inclusive travel.

This is our second stab at an all inclusive vacation.  Our first attempt was also for two weeks in Varadero, Cuba at what was, ostensibly, a 3 star resort but turned out to be more of a no star resort.  In Cuba if you want a modicum of service you need to go 4 stars, better yet 5 stars if you can afford it.  Those of of you who have read my travel blog on Cuba know that it wasn't an entirely satisfactory experience, both food and accommodation were sub par only the lovely Caribbean waters made up for the hassle.

The Canaries specifically this island called Fuerteventura is our second experience for the same amount of time.  It's not as disappointing as Cuba but it's not entirely wonderful either.  This time the food is plentiful and somewhat appetizing although I haven't felt super hungry.  Meals seem to be expedited fairly fast.  I'm mostly appalled at the amount of food wasted by me by everybody else.  Try something out if you don't like it leave it to the side a waiter comes and swoops it up, into the garbage it goes.  This is repeated many times over for every meal.  Last night I went into the dining room once dinner was over to check how much food was left.  It was a bit surreal actually, I know they recycle some of it but not all can be recycled and a lot of it ends up being dumped.  We are so spoiled in the West, it's the price we have to pay in so-called societies of affluence although right now wherever there is money food is being squandered and wasted not just here.

That's one drawback of all inclusives, hard to know how much food to prepare so there's always too much.  The room we're in is perfectly serviceable.  It's not total luxury, more pedestrian comfort than anything else.  It's got the required bells and whistles but it's not like the rooms they advertise on T.V. for Sandals, Sandals appears to be the ultimate in all exclusive luxuries, I write this tongue in cheek of course never having been there myself.  In terms of what a four star offers there is a level of so-called entertainment.  The kids are well taken care of but 70% of the tourists are retirees, difficult to get them motivated in terms of physical exercise.  Furthermore there's no way anyone would be likely to engage in any sort of water sport, the water in both outdoor pools is so frigid it took my breath away when I dove in.  Enough to give you a heart attack therefore there is never anybody in the pool.  I do all my swimming in the indoor pool which is only slightly heated.  If you want to exercise there is morning pilates, there is also a group class before lunch and exercise machines.  Some people are playing "petanque" today and I did find a squash/volleyball court upstairs.  Might try some squash today.  In the evening there is a meeting place/theater where one can enjoy the drink of the evening usually very light on the booze but heavy on color.  Many do come back after dinner to enjoy a spot of disco dancing needless to say hell will freeze over before we indulge, significant other not a huge fan.

I'm starting to think that these all inclusive vacations are what I would term generic.  They basically

always offer the same things regardless of what country you're in with some adjustments to quality here and there depending on the star rating.  Of course there are always the side excursions to take advantage of with the euro costing us so much a side trip can easily cost us $200.00.  We are doing the tour of the island one and that cost 100 euros which is still $150.00 with our lousy petro dollar, should be all right, will give us a good overview of Fuerteventura where frankly there isn't that much to see.  The island is super dry filled with either black volcanic pebbles or boulders.  Even the yellow sand beach is mixed with black volcanic powder.  The island can't deny it's violent origin. This is probably the last all inclusive I will book.  Perhaps in the early days of Club Med. when all inclusives were a novelty and really put out for its customers but now they're a dime a dozen. Furthermore I prefer a little difficulty with my traveling something to challenge even if it's only booking a trip on a bus in the language of the country.  There is the satisfaction of never having to worry about one's basic needs while on vacation and I don't blame people for wanting, desiring that level of comfort and satisfaction, it's not something I necessarily enjoy.

Regarding the beach it's not that long or wide.  Parts of it have been eroded by the constant pounding of the surf and wind.  We have seen much nicer beaches over the course of all our travels.  Actually it's hard to beat Mexico in terms of beaches and warm waters.  Here you really have to force yourself to go in and since it's always windy outside it's never that tempting.  The people who do go in on a regular basis are the German tourists fans of nudism.  Apparently this area is famous for that.  I had the "chance" to be in the water with some of them.  They're certainly a hearty bunch.  Being so close and personal I was able to observe that most of them male and female appear to shave their nether regions,yes no grey bits allowed and since they're mostly all over 50 I can see that it would be a plus.  After all they want to put their best "foot" forward..haha well I found out something new I really had not been aware of that.  Speaking of nationalities we still have not "bonded" with any French people although we have made some eye contact and said a few "bonjour" to people we habitually see.  I can tell it's going to be a long drawn out process vacation will be over and we won't even have shared a comment ca va. LOL  Have to say the French women are always very smartly dressed especially around dinner time, ditto for the men.  They do go that extra mile to look attractive with the perfume and the jaunty scarves knotted in just the right French way.  Actually feeling sad right now, should not joke about the French after what happened at Charlie Hebdo but freedom of speech cannot and will not be silenced.  JE SUIS CHARLIE. Hope you enjoy this latest blog, know that my blogs are not exactly the typical travel blog but hey that's the way I roll.