Gran Canaria – Part 4 of 4

IMG_2655The next morning and our penultimate breakfast; fruit and yoghurt followed by fried bacon, egg and beans. Just as we were finishing up, Jen, the lady with coeliacs disease stopped and mentioned that I could get GF bread from the restaurant if I asked. We then went over to their table and I introduced ourselves (we hadn’t actually done that formally) and then sat and chatted for 15 minutes. Norman was recently retired and previously was a BT engineer so we instantly had something in common to talk about. He was also an Arsenal fan (someone has to I suppose).
Tina spoke to Jen about the ups and downs of celiac disease.
Back to the suite to change before hitting the poolside for the last full day. Overnight a note was left under the room door informing us that the transfer coach was departing at 5.35pm leaving much of the day for more sunbathing.
IMG_4456The day seemed hotter than previous days so the brolly was kept up until the temperatures cooled to a more bearable amount. We took lunch at 1.30pm; the usual cold meat and salad followed the now standard dessert choice for me of jelly, fruit and ice cream.
The pool area seemed busier, probably due to the new influx of guests that arrived the previous day. Not sure what happened to the Yorkshire couple, they seem to have disappeared and the Liverpool couple have been conspicuously quite, although we did ensure when we selected our beds we kept well away from them. There seems to be a few more younger people arriving this week although the hotel is predominantly made up of the older generation. Still judging by the ones that were dancing to Elvis on Saturday night they have some get up and go.
IMG_4490We remained by the pool until just before 6pm, making the most of the sun as we know that when got back to the UK opportunities would almost certainly be limited if the usual British summers are anything to go by. For the last hour by the pool there was a live guitarist knocking out tunes, which was nice and different to the normal tunes you hear at the poolside. That said, this particular hotel has no pool music playing all day which initially I thought gave the place a somber feel but with guests relying on their iPods for their own music choice. It actually made for a relaxing atmosphere. In fact earlier today the water park adjacent the hotel had some sort of event going on and with the loud music it felt out of place and even I was thinking ‘turn it down, will you!’
Back to the room and a letter was waiting for us from the management – the second in as many days. The first one we received highlighted the fact that there would be a power cut between 2am and 5am on our last nights stay and should we need it a small flashlight ‘in case of need’ was provided. The torch was miniature and so any emergency would have to be dealt with in the dark!
IMG_2667The second letter covered the situation regarding the late room booking; we knew we would have most of the day at the hotel so wanted somewhere to shower before we headed home so pre-booked this when we booked the holiday, for an extra of course. The letter confirmed we had a room, but not necessarily the one we had been staying in all week. A visit to the reception in the morning of departure would confirm whether we had to move.
We began to pack our cases with the dirty clothing, which didn’t take long as we’d travelled light and then showered and got ready for our final evening meal and, at last, the final time I’d have to wear those damn long trousers.
The final meal was up to the normal standard; considering the volume of people they have to cater for the variety and quality was excellent. The restaurant was getting busier each evening and by the time we had eaten most tables had been taken. That said we didn’t have to queue for any food or wait for a table ourselves. We left and I went and changed out of those white trousers before going on our walk. Back at the hotel we sat watching the day turn into night and then retired to the piano bar for the final time of the holiday, listening to Nico bash out his now familiar tunes.

For me the planned power cut during the night wasn’t noticed but Tina remarked that she heard the phone ‘bing’ a couple of times. We got up just after 9am and went to reception to check that we’re able to stay in our room until the transfer bus arrived – but we couldn’t and had to change rooms by midday. We therefore went for breakfast for the final time before returning to our suite to temporarily pack the cases. The new room, 2012 was two floors below and slightly smaller than our previous home for the week but would suffice for showering. We decamped and made our way to the pool, finding the same beds as the previous day available again. The skies were full of broken clouds, keeping the temperature lower but still warm enough to burn.

IMG_4529The pool area seemed quieter – I assumed many people either were leaving or gone off site on excursions. We went for lunch at the La Choza restaurant for the last time then used the final couple of hours to top up our tans before leaving to get ready for the journey home. For the first time in the holiday I thought about work and what was waiting for me on my return, even though I still had a week left of the holiday albeit at home rather than away. Tina’s sister had confirmed earlier in the week that their dad had found a care home so help was needed to relocate him and his things into his new place so that would keep us occupied for a day or so. We also have our Egypt reunion to look forward to on Saturday down in Dorset.

IMG_2675Just before we were about to leave the pool we saw Jen and Norman and wished them well for the rest of their holiday. It was nice to meet a couple that were friendly to talk and clearly as laid back about their time away as we were. We returned to the temporary room where we showered and pack the cases for the final time.
After getting a quick drink we then checked out at reception and waited for the transfer coach, which turned bang on time. The journey took around an hour or so collecting other holiday makers on the way through. At the airport we were one of the first to check in and then made our way through to security. At Birmingham I had no problem with my carry on bag whereas Tina’s was hand searched. This time around she went straight through whereas I had to re-submit my bag minus my iPads which had to be separated. You would think that security rules would be the same throughout the world. Clearly not.
We bought something to eat at extortionate airport prices then soon boarded the plane, with seats at the rear. Good news was that I watched our cases being loaded into the hold so that would be one less thing to worry about when we landed knowing we would have baggage to collect.

The flight was quicker on the way back despite it being all uphill and we arrived at the airport just after midnight, collected the car and were home shortly after 2am.

As well as the photos taken and posted on these blogs I also put together a video, highlighting some of the more amusing moments of the holiday. Enjoy!

Gran Canaria – Part 3 of 4

IMG_2633Again, the morning resulted in a sore throat but diminished as the day went on. More time was spent at the poolside – we returned to the same spot as the previous day. This time though our Yorkshire ‘friend’ sat close by and whilst he didn’t actually speak to us there were a couple of close calls when in the pool. We had observed this couple s few times during the previous days – often sitting with other couples but we believe now it wasn’t through choice on the others. It looked the Yorkshire guy was a serial stalker, willing to talk to anyone and if you spoke back you were we’ll and truly latched! Whilst I was in the pool Tina overheard him tell his captive audience that he had complained to the hotel management over the noise emanating from the building works across the bay stating that there was no mention of this in the brochure.
We also chuckled after he was overheard saying that the pool towels they had left on the beds to reserve them had been removed by management. “If they think I’m paying for another lot they are mistaken!” Of course delivered in his thick Yorkshire accent! Oh how we laughed later.

IMG_2603The evening meal was, once again, of good quality and choice, although after a while the menus tend to merge into the same type if food. I felt like some stodge so inquired about the chips and whether they were GF. Unfortunately they weren’t so I had to stick with roasted potatoes instead. Prior to that I had cream of carrot soup, gluten-free I was assured but when I started eating it was of a very thin consistency, with the cream in shirt supply. I suspect the idea is that you should bulk it out with the croutons adjacent the serving dish.

After dinner and another walk, this time in reverse direction of the previous night; nothing better than a but if variety to keep things different. Just up from the beach was an area that appears to be run by one of the hotels – there were children on the stage dressed up in costumes and lots of people gathered around watching.
IMG_4448We made our way back to the hotel and spent another relaxing evening in the bar listening to the live pianist knock out modern and classic tunes. Another short walk was taken before retiring g to bed, slightly earlier than the previous nights. Earlier on in the evening my nose had started running in what turned out to be the start if the cold proper.

The night was broken a number of times with coughs and nose blowing, resulting in me having to take paracetamol to try to stem the flow, so to speak.

IMG_4463Friday was market day in the nearby town of Puerto de Mogan and we’d decided that it would be worth a visit as it was the biggest on the island and the town was quite picturesque too. The hotel provided a free coach but as a) you had to book your tickets by Wednesday and we didn’t and b) it left the hotel at 9.30am and we didn’t get up in time we decided to get a taxi instead. We had breakfast and then walked up to reception where we enquired about a taxi to be told it costs around six euros. Armed with this info we then walked to the nearby taxi rank, slowing down when we spotted Yorkshire couple ahead just in case taxi sharing was on their mind. Fortunately they opted for a bus instead.

IMG_4475We managed to get a ride to Puerto de Mogan and indeed were charged the correct amount. The road to the next town follows the coastline and despite being a newly surfaced one was still quite a scary experience as it winds itself up and down the rocky hillside before dropping down into the main area of the port town.
We pulled up right outside what we thought was the main market area and wasn’t very impressed. The stalls were full of – I can only describe as ‘tat’ and within 15 minutes we’d had enough.
We made our way to the seafront and stopped for a drink; experiencing the novelty of having to pay for them and the started to head back. IMG_4481At that point we ran into the celiac lady’s husband and her (didn’t catch his name but hers was Jen) and we chatted for 10 minutes or so. He then asked whether we had been to the area known as ‘Little Venice’ which we said we hadn’t. It appears we had completely missed it and so we went back towards the beach and found the area and more market stalls. Again the stuff being sold was all much of the same, but the boating area was quite nice to walk around. We spotted a pharmacy so bought some tablets to try to clear up my cold then walked back to the taxi rank and got a lift back to the hotel.

IMG_2637We got changed into out swimwear and then headed for the pool, again sitting in the same spot as the previous day. What a mistake – but more of that later. We set our towels out and then retreated for some lunch and then returned back to the beds for a relaxing afternoon by the pool. Unfortunately the two couples that arrived the previous day decided to tell each other their life stories in the space of two hours, with everyone sitting anywhere near them, including us, having to listen to it too. Tina decided it was the younger Liverpool couple that did most of the talking as later she called them serial stalkers as we saw them later that evening pounce on the same couple again.

IMG_2608We stayed as long as we could stand the chatter but eventually gave up and went back to the room. As we walked back we discussed what they had been talking about including the fact that the younger woman was on IVF treatment and there was an eighteen year difference between the London couple. I’m sure if we had stayed we would have got their both bank details!

Dinner was a themed night; Black and White and surprisingly the restaurant had made a bit of an effort to try to make the room more cosy by putting candles on each of the tables in black candle holders. It didn’t really work though although it was a nice try. Dinner for me was lamb and potatoes, with the head chef confirming personally what I could have (chips were definitely not allowed).
IMG_4524Another walk after dinner to try to burn off some of the calories before sitting and watching the daylight turn into night, then listening to Nico playing some tunes in the piano bar.

A cloudy start to the morning meant we didn’t go straight down to the pool after breakfast but instead had a walk along the steps adjacent the hotel, commanding great views of the bay and Puerto de Mogan. Around 11am, as the sun broke through, we set up camp by the pool and remained there for the rest of the day, continuing to top up our tans. I managed to finish off the book I was reading.
IMG_2657At dinner, set with a Spanish theme, I chose squid as my main course, but found it a bit tasteless (the first meal I didn’t really enjoy). After dinner, we took our obligatory walk around the resort but were soon back at the bar enjoying the relaxing atmosphere of the piano playing Nico. In the main bar there was an Elvis tribute act, which we debated as to whether to go and watch. In the end we did and enjoyed it; he didn’t take it too serious and in the end had many of the guests dancing on the stage. I did laugh when he was asked to sing ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, which seemed to take him by surprise, especially as it was one of the legends most famous songs.

The final installment soon…

Gran Canaria – Part 2 of 4

IMG_2665The next morning as I looked out on the bay observing our view for the week ahead I heard “GOOD MORNING” booming out from the balcony above. A guy with thick Yorkshire accent, asked us if we had just arrived and then went into verbal overdrive. In the space of five minutes we learned that the town around the next bay was worth visiting for a couple of hours (but not any longer), a taxi ride there costs ten euros and it was too dangerous to walk. We learned that the visible clouds, that were keeping the morning distinctively chilly, normally burned off quite quickly. We learned that they had to move apartments as soon as they arrived as the electrics were faulty.

When we asked him about the evening dinner dress code and whether the men’s long trousers rule was observed he said that there were lots of blokes wearing shorts and he wore them on the first night, informing us that “He was a Yorkshire man” and he didn’t give a damn what others thought!” and we should be alright. All this was delivered in a five minute conversation, with his wife chipping in towards the end. We made our excuses and then promptly walked down to breakfast, followed by a stroll to the nearby shops where I managed to buy a pair of white of trousers, clearly ‘I wasn’t a Yorkshire man’ and therefore wasn’t going to prompt any unsavoury moments with the hotel staff.

IMG_4419By now the skies were clearing so we headed for the pool, which although not a large area has plenty of sun beds, albeit tightly packed. Most had umbrellas adjacent to them. We found a couple of beds close to the pool and we were soon making the most of the holiday sunshine. With the beds so close it was not easy to ignore your neighbours and I soon spotted that the two guys next to me were a bit too friendly with each other. I think the rubbing of suntan on each other and the smiles gave it away. As the hotel is an ‘adults only’ one, there was definitely an air of maturity around the place, with a few older families (mother, father, daughter and son-in-law) being a popular mix. The family in the next row were from the West Midlands, Birmingham in think, with their thick brummie accents a familiar sound in our family soon.

IMG_2640After a short while, the heat forced us into the pool, the temperature pleasant enough to want to make regular visits thereafter. Close to the pool were bars where you could help yourself to cold drinks, all part of the all-inclusive package, helping to make the whole experience very relaxing and easy going. Food was also in abundance, lunch in the form of a BBQ, being served from midday. Having had a large breakfast earlier in the morning, we didn’t go to the restaurant until later but were pleased with the choice, with cold meats, hot food and salad a well as the freshly cooked BBQ chicken.

IMG_2643For me food was always going to be challenging, knowing what I can and can’t eat, gluten-free wise. Whilst at home I can be pretty certain of the ingredients that make up the food I eat, being abroad isn’t quite as straightforward. At breakfast, the choices were extensive; cereals, fruit, yoghurt, pancakes, fried food so I kept to what I knew was safe by having some fruit followed by bacon, eggs and baked beans, not before asking the chef to check the catering tin for the ingredients. This constant requirement of having to ask someone whether the food is GF can be embarrassing, especially when the foreign waiter hasn’t got a clue what your talking about. Still I got through two meals unscathed, although Tina was dubious about whether the chocolate mousse I had for my lunch dessert was gluten-free. It was nice though:)

IMG_2605Just before lunch we had attended the obligatory ‘Welcome Meeting’ where we had to listen to the advice of the travel company, get the lowdown on the excursions and to tell us where to look for the information for travelling home (even though we’d only been there a day). Stephen was particularly amusing, delivering his talk on the ‘Drag Night Out’ in a very camp, albeit natural way. I suspect he might be one of the acts at night!

The remainder of the afternoon was made up of more sunbathing and swimming, with our untanned bodies slowly getting redder and redder. At around 5pm, we decided to go back to the room for a rest from the tiring day by the pool, with many of the other guests clearly doing the same judging by the number of empty beds by the pool.

IMG_2671After showering and inspecting our sunburn, we then made our way to our first dinner, with me wearing my newly acquired white linen trousers. The pair were large and baggy and not the type of clothing I would normally wear, but as needs must I put them on ensuring I would gain entrance to the dinning hall, and more importantly get some food. Just as we arrived, the obligatory photographer was waiting to pounce on us and so we has a few shots taken as a couple and individually, being informed that they would be ready for inspection in the morning.

And so to the meal.

We were shown to our table by the maitre d, who was obviously guarding the door to enforce the ‘gentlemen must wear trousers’ rule but was also there to offer help to newly arrived diners. He walked us through the restaurant before pointing to any of the tables saying we could sit where we liked. He then gave us a brief overview of the buffet choices but was completely lost when I enquired about the GF choices. He summonsed a chef, who also didn’t seem to know what I was asking. I nodded in agreement as he pointed to food I knew I couldn’t have, deciding I would have to make my own judgment based on my observations of the food on offer.

The starter was easy; plenty of choice of cold meats, cheese and salad but when it came to the main hot food that wasn’t so easy. Luckily, the chef who I inquired about the baked beans earlier in the morning was on hand and confirmed what I could and couldn’t have. As I spooned the beef strogIMG_4467anoff onto my place, another female guest asked me whether I was a coeliac, clearly overhearing the discussion I had had with the chef. I confirmed I was and she said she was too. We got chatting I soon discovered she had been diagnosed for 12 years, her twin sister was a celiac and her daughter was also diagnosed recently. She said the staff were very helpful, reiterating that the chef Antonio who helped me earlier was the best one to give advice on the food.
After dinner we found the piano bar and spent the remainder of the evening relaxing, enjoying the live music and drinking the rather strong – the bar men don’t seem too worried about measures – drinks.

IMG_2606The following night resulted in both Tina and I getting a better sleep, with Tina locating a blanket in the wardrobe to keep her warmer and my trouser problem resolved. We went down to breakfast, down being in the same location as the evening meal restaurant, where a much more relaxed dress code was being observed (shorts and t-shirts the main choice of garb).
I was a bit naughty in my choice of cereal, I went for cornflakes which almost certainly would be above the recommended dose if gluten, but I just couldn’t face another bowlful of fruit. This was followed up with a large plate filled with rashers of bacon, omelet, baked beans and tomato. Just as I was about to sit down a voice shouted across the room “is that gluten-free?” and I turned to see the celiac lady (at that stage I didn’t know her name) I had met the previous day. I confirmed it was before sitting down and polishing off the lot.

IMG_4425As we left the restaurant we stopped to purchase a photo that was taken the previous evening of Tina and I posing. We didn’t but the ‘extra’ ones the photographer took of us individually.

Once again the sun was late in burning through the morning clouds but the temperature was reasonable so we quickly went back to the room, did the ritual of sun creaming our bodies before making our way to the pool area.

This time we chose a different spot to sit and were pleased with the location, although I was a bit perturbed when a couple of Russian blokes sat next to us and promptly put their umbrella up, completely shading my bed. So inconsiderate! We remained at poolside until lunch, dipping in and out of the water to cool down, with plenty of soft drinks to keep us hydrated.
Lunch was taken outside the La Choza restaurant, the only area serving food during the day, with a good choice of hot and cold food. The rest of the afternoon was passed either listening to music, reading or in the pool.
Around 5pm we retired to the room and a little siesta after our tiring day.
After showering and changing, with me in my new trousers, we went to dinner and enjoyed another nice meal, the theme being Italian.
IMG_4432During the meal we discussed the holiday so far, with the trouser issue being the most disappointing rule. It seemed odd that men were not allowed to wear shorts, yet women were, and some women wore very short shorts! In Tina’s own words “it looks like they’ve come straight from the pool and been dragged through a hedge backwards!”
The other small criticism of the holiday was the main restaurant. Despite the staff’s best efforts it felt like a works canteen. I know it must be difficult to create a nice atmosphere when catering for so many people but a little more effort with the tables could have gone a long way – the arrangement of the tables was very regimented in straight lines. Very efficient for the waiters clearing the tables but not great for the guests who would like a quite, intimate dinner. I suppose their excuse would be that you can attend their one-off bookable ‘romantic’ dinner at the La Choza where you receive waitered service but on checking the menu it did really appeal and didn’t seem very gluten-free.

After dinner I went up to the suite to change my trousers into more comfortable and cooler shorts and we went for a walk, leaving from the 6th floor reception area and walking the short distance around to the seafront. The resort of Taurito is quite small with four main hotels, two each side of the steep cliff face. Our hotel is the closest to the sea, with the one directly opposite closed for renovation. This closure gives the resort an air of tiredness and lack of atmosphere, especially in the evening and whilst there are family activities in progress as we walked around the rest of the area seemed deserted. At the seafront we came across a number of feral cats, many of which were kittens but surprisingly all seemed well fed, probably getting the benefit if the all-inclusive food sneaked out by feline-loving guests.
We returned to the piano bar again but as no live music was playing we moved into the main entertainment area and watched a Spanish version of ‘Lord of the Dance’ which was quite entertaining.
We retired to bed once the show had finished exhausted from another tiring day 🙂 During the night I woke several times with a sore throat; I  feared a cold had been on its way as I’d had one each morning since the Sunday before but nothing seemed to materialise.

Part 3 soon…

Gran Canaria – Part 1 of 4

The flight out from Birmingham Airport to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria was without incident, even Tina seemed fairly calm during takeoff, clearly those hypnosis sessions still paying dividends. We arrived shortly after 7.30pm and after a lengthy wait for our luggage we found the Thompson’s tour guide rep and boarded the correct transfer coach. We are always a bit apprehensive with both baggage collection and the transfer process after bad experiences in the past. On our first foreign holiday together Tina and I were told to get on the wrong bus in Corfu and ended up stranded in a completely different town on the other side of the island. IMG_4531That was a bit scary. And flying back from Crete a couple of years ago, we went through that horrible situation of standing by the baggage conveyor belt in Birmingham airport with no more cases to come through. Anyhow, on both counts this time things turned out OK and we’re soon on our way.

The resort of Playa Taurito, where we were heading for the week is situated in the South West corner of the island and the quickest access is via the GC1 autopista (motorway), which our Thompson’s guide on the coach Chloe stated had only been open two months and would cut the transfer time down by half. The journey was pretty impressive, with a string of tunnels (I lost count of how many we went through penetrating the volcanic rock, the longest must have been over a mile in length).
As we got closer to Taurito, the anticipation regarding the hotel grew but we were relieved to see the entrance was quite grand, with glass fronted panels and marble flooring, suggesting we’d made a good choice.

IMG_4404We booked the Hotel Suite Princess after reading some very good reviews and weren’t disappointed on arrival, with our initial observations positive. We received a friendly welcome by the señor on reception, who indicated that our room was located on the 4th floor. Even the couple who got off the transfer bus with us, who coincidentally we also sat next to on the plane from Birmingham, said it was their second visit to the place in six months. Clearly the hotel was good enough to want to come back to.

We were handed a leaflet regarding the hotel restaurants, the hotel rules and our keycards and informed that the serving of hot food had stopped but there was a cold buffet available at 10pm for guests that were late arriving. We made our way to our room, a large, spacious suite with a huge double bed and a balcony overlooking the hotel complex pool and a great view of the sea. We quickly unpacked and glanced briefly at the hotel rules, one if which particularly caught our attention:

‘GENTLEMEN MUST WEAR LONG TROUSERS FOR DINNER’

Now that was going to be a problem as I’d deliberately packed light, even travelling in shorts as I was determined not to overdo the packing of unnecessary clothing. “Bugger”‘ I said, “I wonder how strict they are?”. We were really surprised at this over-zealous ruling, it wasn’t as if we has booked into a 5 star hotel, or a cruise where we were expected to dine with the captain. IMG_4451Dressing up for dinner was not something we did at home and couldn’t see why would have to on bloody holiday!

As it was way past shop opening times, there was nothing that could be done about the situation so we tentatively made our way to the restaurant. Fortunately none if the staff appeared slightly interested in my inappropriate attire and so we made our way to the cold buffet counter, which contained a selection of cold meats and cheese, with another counter displaying a variety of ‘out of bounds’ gluten-laden breads. We ate lightly and then had a wander around the complex, noting that the majority of guests were following the imposed dress code. Damn!

We soon retired to bed but neither of us sleeping well; Tina complaint of being cold during the night and we worrying out whether I was going to eat for the rest of the holiday.

Part two tomorrow…