Last Friday night I popped down south to Playa del Ingles as I entered my last weekend on Gran Canaria. Playa del Ingles is a popular resort for many people. I can understand why but having seen it over the past 4 years I do find it for the most part soulless.
The Canary Islands have been a big beneficiary of many peoples reluctance to travel to previous popular tourist resorts. Saftey concerns by many Europeans have seen a downturn in trips to places such as Turkey. Egypt and Tunisia. Other countries difficulty has been the Canary Islands opportunity.
Hotels in resorts such as Playa del Ingles and Maspalomas never had it so good. 100% hotel occupancy for most dates are the norm. Every time I visit the south prices in bars and restaurants seem to be higher than my previous visit. I have seen very little evidence of any this increased revenue been reinvested into the resort. It looks tired and outdated. I suppose if you are a hotel filling up with customers you might think why should I invest. Eventually, people will return to Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia. Nothing ever remains the same. Maybe then some of the Canary Islands resorts will regret not investing when they had the chance and the money.
Winter is the peak season in the Canary Islands. This is because the Islands are the closest that Europeans need travel for winter sun. Also, many retired Europeans base themselves on the Islands during the winter. Particularly Scandinavians escaping the long dark Northern European winter. The peak season begins from September until Easter. Many Irish and U.K people visit the Islands during the peak school holiday dates in July and August. People from the Spanish mainland visit all year but August is a particularly popular month for Spanish visitors to the Canaries. If you are looking for the cheapest hotel deals the months of May and June are the quietest and cheapest time to visit the Canaries.
The Yumbo centre Playa del Ingles.
The Yumbo is Europes biggest gay area. The Yumbo will never win any awards for architecture. No expense was spared when it came to buying concrete. At least it looks better than its rival the nearby Kasbah centre but that is like saying world war 2 was a bit better than world war 1.
Don’t get me wrong. I have spent many an enjoyable night in the Yumbo. There is a great selection of bars, restaurants and drag shows. It can be a fun place to spend a night. It actually in recent years has become a place to go for straight couples and families. Looking around on Friday night it looked a very 50 50 mix.
While I think everyone mixing is great I do hope the centre does not lose its gay identity. As we are always striving for equality some gay people can be a bit mad. I remember going into a gay bar in Hanoi Vietnam. I got talking to a guy from the Philippines. He told me he had been in Vietnam for 10 years working in P.R. I said you must have seen many changes in 10 years. Yes, massive changes he said. I asked what was the one biggest change you have seen in Vietnam in the last 10 years. That is easy. The guys are using a lot more face creams. After a few seconds of silence, I could only reply. That is what I was thinking as well.
While my feelings about the south of Gran Canaria can be a bit lukewarm I still am a big fan of the Canary Islands and its people. I have been lucky to have visited all the Islands. The 3 smallest Islands La Palma. La Gomera and El Hierro are probably the most unique Islands. What they lose out in not having great beaches they gain by amazing scenery.
Dennis O’ Daly La Palma favourite Irishman
La Palma is known as La Isla Bonita. The Pretty Island. Here you can find Rainforests. Volcanos and barren Deserts. The capital is Santa Cruz. The main street of Santa Cruz is called Calle O’ Daly after an Irish man from my own county of Cork.
Dennis O’ Daly left Cork in the 17th Century after his family land was taken by the British during the plantation period. He eventually ended up in La Palma where he quickly got into the Banana growing business. The business prospered and he married a newly arrived drapers daughter Andrea McGee.
O’Daly became disturbed by how poorly the Island was run and how most people survived on fern bread and water. O’Daly ran and was elected the Mayor of La Palma. The local elite soon had the election overturned on the grounds he was a foreigner and was to be jailed.
After some time on the run, O’Daly’s dream was realized. King Carlos of Spain supported the reforms and abolished the government of the local elites. La Palma became the first place in the Spanish Empire to give working-class men the right to vote. Woman had to wait until 1924 along with the rest of Spain.
What is it about us Irish. We are never happy unless we getting involved in an argument. I will need to behave myself in Sofia. I don’t want be causing a national taxi strike like I almost did in Bahrain.
Hot and sticky days in Bahrain.
I had worked for a while at the Sheraton hotel in Bahrain. While it was an interesting period of my life I have to admit I am not likely to visit there again. Bahrain is a very small Gulf state. There is not much to do there other than work and drink beer. I do like beer but even I need a bit more. Maybe it has changed since. My job also included the need to visit other Gulf countries. Some of the places I got to see such as Egypt and Syria were amazing. Other places like the U.A.E and Qatar I was happy to see. Once.
One of the big problems with Bahrain is the heat and humidity. The first day I reported to the hotel I refused the offer of a car to pick me up at my apartment. I thought the hotel is a 15-minute walk away. No need for a car. By the time I arrived at the hotel I looked like I had swum to the hotel. A quick return by taxi to the apartment for a shower and a new suit was needed.
The other issue I had with Bahrain was the local taxis. They waited outside Hotels and bars all day for visitors and expats. Getting a taxi was a big event. For a journey that may have cost a local 3 euro the following process had to be played out.
How much to take me to the shopping centre. Whatever you want to pay my friend. Ok, 3 euro. My friend, I am waiting all day. You are my first fare all day. If you had your meter on many expats would use you and you would be working all day. My friend, I have 7 children. That is your problem, not mine. Just tell me the price. 50 euro. Whatttttttttttt. Eventually, I might get him down to 10 euro. Both of us were not happy about this.
I had become increasingly frustrated with this. It took more time to argue a price than the journey itself. One day I decided to pen a letter to the English speaking newspaper the Gulf news. I cut loose. I said they were ruining whatever chance Bahrain had of becoming a tourist destination. I said they were cheating expats on a daily basis and could not be trusted. I did actually tone it down from the first draft I had done and shown my Philapino reservation manager. Mr Pat are you crazy. You cannot say that.
My letter was published. I started an avalanche. Within days the small letter page became 4 pages. People began to write in with their horror stories. I was quite pleased.
A few days later the General Manager called to see me in my office. Are you the person who started the letters in the newspaper. I am I proudly replied. The Sheraton was owned by the King. As part of his duties, the General Manager had a weekly audience with the King. The King mentioned that he had just met the taxi drivers representative. They were unhappy with all the negative press and were considering a national strike. I mentioned maybe they should try to take the criticism onboard and offer a better service. The King was not happy so my boss was not happy. He said I needed to keep my head down for a while.
I had signed the letter Pat Ireland. A few days later I had to use a taxi. The driver a young well-built guy started complaining about the letters in the newspaper. He said if I ever see this Pat Ireland I will kill him with my bare hands. I said never mind that Pat Ireland you are doing a great job as I gave him a nice tip. I lived to fight another day and maybe a more important battle. I knew in my heart these guys would never change and at the end of the day, they would be the biggest losers as us expats did our best never to use the taxis in Bahrain.
Just 4 days now until I got to Sofia in Bulgaria to live. Every place I am visiting in Las Palmas it is with a heavy heart. Saying my goodbyes to this special place.
I have joined a group called foreigners in Sofia on facebook. To my surprise, I saw a post from an Irish guy asking if anyone wanted to play hurling in a park in Sofia. Hurling is an ancient Irish sport. It is said to be over 3000 years old and the fastest field sport in the world. As a Corkman, a love of hurling is in my DNA. The knowledge that there are other people interested in hurling in Sofia has given me a boost before I arrive in Sofia.
Join me on my Journey.
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