From Marrakesh we took a flight to Casablanca. We had a short layover and then finally left Morocco on a flight to Las Palmas. Las Palmas is a city and capital of Gran Canaria island, in the Canary Islands. The Canaries are an archipelago and autonomous community of Spain located on the Atlantic Ocean, 100 kilometres (62 miles) west of Morocco. The Canaries boasts amazing weather year round and Las Palmas is famous for its beaches, walking paths, and its volcanic crater, La Caldera de Bandama. I had visited Tenerife back in 2001 when I studied abroad in Seville so I was excited to see more of the Canaries.
From the airport, we took a bus to our Airbnb then went to get groceries. The Airbnb was pretty nice and only located about a 10 minute walk to the beach. It was so good to be back in Spain. Diem still wasn’t feeling well from the Moroccan food so we just had a quick dinner down toward the beach then went back to go to bed.
The following day was pretty rainy. We needed to rest after our long day of traveling yesterday and to allow Diem to recover so we spent an easy day inside. After sleeping in, we went out to get tapas for lunch. We ordered a lot, happy to stuff our faces with Spanish food. We ordered way too much and decided it would be good to have for dinner as well. We packed up the leftovers and spent the rest of the day resting and watching TV, living the dream.
The next morning I went for a run down by the beach. There’s a great park dedicated to Alfredo Krauss, a distinguished Spanish tenor from the Canary Islands, at one end of the beach. There is also a nice Promenade along the Playa de las Canteras which takes you to the other end of the beach. In the morning, not many shops were open and the path was pretty clear of pedestrians. Later on that would not be the case. After my run, I showered up and grabbed Diem and we took a walk down around beach to get lunch. Many places were closed because of the holiday (Conservation Day) so we just picked a restaurant on the boardwalk that was open. We got some fresh seafood that was pretty good and tried some of the sangria which wasn’t as good but still hit the spot. After lunch we walked further along boardwalk which was starting to fill up with people. It was a beautiful day so we took our time before heading back to the Airbnb. It was a nice walk but Las Palmas reminded us of a retirement community. It seemed like we were the youngest people there by at least 30 years but not a bad place to retire. On our way home we stopped at a grocery store to get food for dinner (sausage, veggies, and champagne J). After dinner we worked on errands and booked our Auckland to Buenos Aires flight in May.
We took an early flight to Madrid and had 9 hour layover before making our way to Cape Town. We decided to make the most of the layover and took a train to center of Madrid. We had skipped spending extended time in Madrid because my memory of Madrid from 2001 was that it was just another large capital city of Europe. While I still think that is the case, Madrid does have some cool neighborhoods (Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, etc.), world famous museums (Prado, Reina Sofia, etc.), and beautiful buildings (Royal Palace). From the metro station we had lunch around the Plaza Mayor. Apparently it was a holiday in Madrid because the streets were completely packed with people, music, and balloons.
After lunch we went to the 2 PM Sandeman’s Free Walking Tour of Madrid. The tour was pretty interesting but it was tough to move around because of all the people. We learned about Spanish history including the height of the Spanish Empire, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Spanish Civil War. We walked by the Royal Opera House, San Miguel’s Market, the Royal Palace, and the Plaza Mayor. We also stopped at an unassuming building where nuns bake and sell cookies that are supposed to be the best in Madrid. Unfortunately it was closed when we stopped by but the procedure is to: 1) ring the bell; 2) wait for a loud response; 3) speak your order; 4) wait for the nun to come to the door with your order; and 5) pay with exact change, ala the Soup Nazi of Seinfeld. After a bit more walking, we ended the tour outside the Royal Palace. It was a nice day out and it was good to see some sights of Madrid before heading back to the airport. It was sad to finally say goodbye to Spain but we were excited about visiting Cape Town and starting our African Safari.
See the full gallery of our time in Las Palmas and Madrid here: Las Palmas and Madrid.