So this Christmas I went away to the beautiful Canary Island of La Palma, a lil place to the Northwest of Africa, and frankly it's easily become my favourite island ever. With a vast majority of the island made up of lava rock, resulting in striking black sand beaches and dramatic backdrops, it's a real surprise that it's not a major tourist destination. Still, as more people learn about the existence of this island, tourism will hit it, hard. I doubt it'll look anything like it does now in ten years time, and that's kinda sad. But alas, the lack of holidaymakers was evident, which meant that I didn't have to passive aggressively wait for old Keith from the taaahn's ass to move out my shots like I usually do (I know, thank god). Only thing was, with the lack of English speakers I had to rely on my Spanish to talk to anyone, and whilst I adore the way the words feel in my mouth, I am pretty damn crap at it at times. But hey, at least their English was worse than my Spanish.
The second I stepped off the plane I was hit with the smell of cigarettes and fuel and ocean and sunshine, and with the backdrop of mountains and sea I immediately fell in love. As our bus driver took us up and around the clouds of a dormant volcano to get to our hotel, we passed little white buildings with orange roofs and pastel homes surrounded by banana farms - and it was so insanely quaint and gorgeous. I think that on small islands like this you've really got to take in and adore the little things as you're now living an island life, laid back and beautiful. The hotel itself was gorgeous, with an indoor koi karp pond and an aviary and grand pianos dotted around, as well as this massive stand of bananas that you could just take from due to the sheer amount of plantations around us. It has a good few pools dotted around, with my favourite being this one that overlooked the mountains and sea - and even during their winter, it felt warm enough to swim in. We soon discovered that the hotel puts on entertainment every night, with jazz performers and Spanish singers and bands and traditional Canarian dancing, and as they also do a buffet at all major meals of the day we quickly found that it's the sort of place you could spend your whole trip at, never even having to step foot on the Spanish soil outside. I don't know what lunatic would actually want to waste a week like that, but hey, each to their own.
Anyway, so in regards to the hotel (simply called 'Sol'), we went to watch the entertainment one night as my fabulously camp new Spanish friend Gabrielle would be performing in their production of Mamma Mia (as Harry, no less). It was insanely good, with their handmade outfits and flair and Spanish dialect, and we literally had the best seats in the house. At the end, a guy goes completely bonkers with his praise and spooks everyone a little - but we later became friends with this absolute nutter and my family and I find that his friend used to be in this big ass ganster squad which sounded badass as heck. And also slightly over exaggerated. But hey.
Situated in Puerto Naos, this little place is conveniently right by the beach, shops, boutiques, anything you could ever want at any give time - so you can access it from anywhere, and then pick up a scarf on the way home. And of course, the food is to die for. To be completely frank this place was probably my favourite, but then again that could just be because of the vegetarian options being perfect. The evening we went, there was a family problem going on with the staff that couldn't be helped, and yet they bent over backwards trying to make our visit as wonderful as possible whilst they struggled in the background. Literally amazing people and food. And the restaurant was super pretty.
We ate here on our first night, and it instantly became another favourite. Considering it was such a beautiful restaurant, I'm surprised it's not a lot more commercialised. Like, we were able to eat in the evening warmth as the sun set over the ocean beside us and locals chatted and the waves hit the Spanish mountain shrines designed to bring luck upon sailors (because there totally isn't an official name for these I should know). It was adorable, and when I told the woman I was vegetarian she told me (in Spanish, crazy enough) about all these marvellous things they'd cook just for me. Literally the most adorable thing ever.
Whilst I usually just stick to food home to the area I'm visiting (like actual Spanish food in an actual Spanish island, rather than an English fry up made by people who've never had a proper one before), whilst visiting Tazacorte my family and I needed a quick food fix otherwise we'd quite possibly die of hunger. However, what initially started as some snacks at this place eventually turned into a full-bodied dinner. I found myself with the most incredible pasta, and apparently everyone else's food was great also (I couldn't prove this as I'm vegetarian whilst they're not), so I'd definitely recommend this place to y'all. The had incredible, albeit not strictly regional cuisine, and was situated literally five feat away from the ocean, with cliff tops and heladerias towering behind us.
Don EscaldónWhilst it looks like the sort of place you'd have to reserve weeks for in advance, that turned out not to be the case and so my family and I were pleasantly surprised when they were able to give us a table. With beautiful house wine and warm handmade bread greeting us within the first five minutes or arrival, we already knew we'd love it. And we did, completely stuffing our faces with all the wonderful food on offer. My only qualm was that I'd been served non-vegetarian soup, but the second I pointed that out they fixed it for me, with the waitress telling us about her own vegetarian experiences. Literally the best place for food in Los Llanos.
Heladeria la Dolce Vita
For those of y'all that have to get that sugar fix, this little ice-cream place sells the sweetest ice-cream on the island. It's also right next to a store that sells the harem pants I'll talk about later, which is a plus (if you're not spooked by crazily chatty Spanish shop owners).
Where to Go
This is where our hotel was situated, so I felt blessed to be able to wake up to black sand beaches and little boutiques and wonderful food places every morning, with everything I could possibly want within a two mile radius. At some point I have an overwhelming desire to visit a La Palman black sand beach, and so I head down to the famed one in Puerto Naos. It's such a simple joy to be able to go down to the ocean and feel volcanic dust beneath your feet, surrounded by rocks that have probably been here since the dawn of time, slowly getting smaller and smaller. It was so beautiful. The only experience I can think of that was more beautiful than that in La Palma was going back to my hotel and finding that they have macarons (!!). I swear, I audibly gasped when I saw a table filled with lime and strawberry and chocolate and vanilla macarons.
This was the first place we adventured to and was so insanely adorable it was unreal. It was quaint and not commercialised and very, very pretty, and I fell ever so slightly in love. Galleries, cathedrals, and cafes - this place was full of culture and dainty little local places. Someone told me that it's more popular than the capital, which is odd but totally understandable. Whilst Santa Cruz is somewhere you'd go for a day out, Los Llanos is somewhere you could lose yourself in. I absolutely adored it.
Santa CruzOne place all the travel guides (and by that I mean all three, because who would write about an island void of tourists?) recommend visitors to explore is, unsurprisingly, Santa Cruz, the capital. We didn't spend much time here as there wasn't an awful lot to do in comparison to other places, and this was basically the equivalent of spending a day in Croydon when you have Southbank and Camden down the road (behold, the most British anecdote I've ever said in my life, ew). At some point though my family and I grab a meal at a little place, where me mam orders the food in broken Spanish. She finishes up the order and then the waiter just goes "you from England? Maybe order in English then, eh?" and I swear my mams mouth fell open. It was hilarious.
It's no wonder they're so religious here - they're so blessed. Yet, for such a deeply catholic island, Christmas surprisingly isn't a big deal for them. And so, for Christmas we went to a little fishing village called Las Hogas, right by La Bombilla. Simply put, this little town is my new favourite ever. It's like it's been left completely untouched by the Western world, with dogs running around and women hanging out laundry from their shutters (if they even had them), and old men sitting around with beers. It stands on the lava flow from San Juan, a volcano that's named after the fact it erupted after the 'Night of the Witches', which is mystic and beautiful and wonderful. It's like every crevice of this place is seeped in culture and stories and legends, and I love it. It's rustic and filled with families who've probably lived in the same little bright, flaky, windowless shack houses for centuries. It's raw and I adore it.
At some point my family starts talking to this man and his father who were building a little house, and the family took my dad (who's insanely interested in start up buildings like this) inside and showed him around, exchanging contacts and promises. There's this word that people use in Japanese, wabi-wabi, which basically means something the beautiful in the old and worn, and I couldn't think of a better use for it than for describing this little town. Like I say, love at first sight. Honestly, it saddens me greatly that these small homes in this wonderful village will eventually become hotel chain duplexes.
So after a bus ride that makes your ears pop from being so high up in the mountains, we arrived and I spent all my euros on jewelry made of volcanic rock and some gorgeous handmade harem pants. The latter I found nice enough to compliment to the shop owner in Spanish, only for him to take that as fluency and start going on a crazy fast spiel, like AY MUCHAS BERENJENAS NO ES MUY BONITA Y PARA TUUUU (well, not that because it talks about eggplants, but you get my gist) which I was just like ...what? He dumbed it down but I still couldn't quite get what the heck he was on about, so we both gave up and I decided to never try that again, ever.
So, long story short, I personally adore La Palma with its sun and mountains and sea (and the amazing hot chocolates - Colacao they do!), with its completely un-commercialised manner and workers carrying hands of bananas on their backs. One day we had a tropical storm where the hotel locked us in as sunbeds flew into pools and the like, which just goes to show how unpredictable and wacky and wonderful this island it. I knew from my first day that I wouldn't want to go back to cold, dead London, and boy was I right. I fell in love with the island, and despite the ugly black mosquitoes I'd constantly get attacked by whilst eating outside, I'd adore the opportunity to go back. Everything about this place is lovely - and I say that even after getting tested for drugs I did not own at the airport.
I hope that some of my stories have been good for y'all, and that any advice I've offered is useful. Let me know in the comments below!
And as always,
Have a good month y'all!