Telde - and goodbye Gran Canaria
Our last out of town trip was to Telde - the 2nd most populous city on this island. Although the city is less than 20 km from the capital of Las Palmas, like many other places here, it takes a bit of effort to get there on the bus. Telde is actually a municipality in the east of the island and has quite a few beaches, which are a big tourist attraction - but we were interested in the city itself and it didn't disappoint…..although, due to our mistaken route to get there, we didn't spend quite as much time in the city as we'd anticipated.
On our our outbound bus trip, we went via another town where we changed buses, then waited 90 mins for the bus to Telde. This bus took us on a very mountainous and indirect route of 15 km, taking up most of an hour. The "up" side of the journey was the scenery, which at times was pretty amazing. The mountains were beginning "green-up" after the arrival of some warmer temperatures, and the gorges we travelled across and parallel with, were spectacular. We also went in and out of the tiniest of villages where the streets were so narrow that any other vehicle had to backup until a space was available for them to pull in. The "down" side for me was the travel sickness as we went up and around the winding roads!
Upon arriving in Telde, the helpful bus driver suggested that rather than go to the terminus we get off in town on its main street, which was a good idea…..we decided to take a walk through one side of the city first and then the other. The first "side" of the city has a nice pedestrian area, with shops and cafés lining the streets, the majority of which meet at the Plaza and church de San Gregorio. The church unfortunately was closed, with no indications on when it might open. We meandered the streets back to the main thoroughfare, crossing over into a much older part of the city - which to us was more interesting.
With many historical areas, Telde was founded in 1351 and many remains of its pre-Hispanic past have been found. Documentation prior to the 1483 conquest is vague, but it's known that city was founded on the area of an ancient Canarian settlement. The San Juan and San Francisco neighbourhoods are 2 of the oldest parts of Telde - both are interesting and attractive, with brightly coloured colonial houses and cobbled streets.
Our first stop was at the León Castillo House Museum. The museum is the house and birthplace of 2 brothers - Fernando and Juan de Léon y Castillo - distinguished gentleman who were influential citizens of the city during the 19th century. Fernando was a diplomat, a Marquis and an ambassador to France. Juan was an engineer, responsible for much of the infrastructure in the area. The house is a good example of the Mudejar style of architecture (the use of brick as the main material), which became popular in the 12th century. This was due to Jewish, Muslim and Christian cultures living side by side in Spain and Portugal. Although the house was small, we saw an interesting collection of furniture, porcelain, sculptures and Spanish paintings dating from the 16th to the 20th century. The house itself is lovely. Open every day, we were told by the nice lady at the entrance "Entrance is free - you're in Spain."
Just a little further on is the Basilica de San Juan Bautista and just like the church of San Gregorio, it was closed. The only sign of life was a couple of men with ladders moving from one lamp-post to another, while cleaning the iron work and the glass decorative casings. The church is surrounded by a lovely square of the same name - John the Baptist being the patron saint of the city. The afternoon was sunny and warm, so we took advantage of it by sauntering through this charming old neighbourhood. With few people around we enjoyed the tranquil beauty of its narrow streets, alleyways and small plazas. These small and oldest areas of San Juan and San Francisco definitely evoked a different "time" in Telde. One of the loveliest plazas we saw was La Plaza Conventual with its convent church - originally an ancient hermitage - alongside the church. There were also rooms where a religious recluse could stay. We could still see signs of that kind of solitary lifestyle - just behind some iron gates in a little courtyard, there were a few pieces of laundry on a line, and a quiet, but watchful dog keeping an eye things. One side of this plaza has an expansive view of the mountains, surrounding countryside and villages.
Making our way back to the "newer" part of town, the last thing we stumbled across was a tiny square with a huge laurel tree, beneath which was a stone cross. There was also a small chapel nearby. The cross is the work of a Telde born artist and the laurel tree is a mark of the island's colonial history - this time from the English, who brought that particular species of tree from England. The site was formerly a traditional meeting point for social gatherings and gossiping. An information board that marks the area also quotes a local poet:- "When we reach a certain point, we must choose the paths we wish to follow." We chose the path into town - and our path was towards "home"....but this time on a better, and more direct bus route!
Our last few days in Playa de Arinaga were spent in walking and relaxing in some of our favourite spots. We again hiked to the lighthouse and to the small "off the grid" beach of Playa del Cabrón. Some days were hot while others were cool and very windy - which is typical of this area - but not that bad for February! We sat gazing out at the ocean, drinking a cold beer or consuming an ice cream, while sitting on wooden steps, or with our backs against the stone walls surrounding the beach. We made daily stops at our favourite bakery where a couple of yummy pastries and a baguette cost us less than €5. We walked the 2km promenade from end to end on a regular basis, never tiring of this rugged, windswept area. Sadly our favourite pizza place closed for some vacation time and we missed their "Pinsa" Pizza. (A dough that's fermented for up to 72 hours and made from a combination of soy, rice and wheat flour - and is more hydrated than "regular" pizza dough). We did find another local pizza spot that made us welcome - but truthfully, the pizza just didn't compare!
One other highlight we experienced here was the town's Carnival, which took place the weekend prior to the start of Lent. For one weekend this quiet, traditional and sedate town had a party. A stage was set up on the small main street and the place was full of singing and dancing - with almost everyone wearing costumes and coloured wigs. During this weekend of individual and family celebrations we saw no evidence of over indulgence or disagreements of any kind…and no one was kept awake by celebrations that went too late into the "wee" hours. We never did find out if this carnival was of a religious origin - or not - but were told by many that it is simply a tradition that everyone looks forward to and enjoys.
As we left Playa de Arinaga we felt that by doing just a little bit of research - and quite a lot of serendipity, we'd been lucky to discover and spend time in quite a unique place. A place where families of all kinds are close and spend lots of time together. A place where kindness and tolerance of all people are the norm. Although not the prettiest place, with its mostly black, rocky beaches and perpetual winds, it is a special one….and one that we'll remember with a lot of affection. Time to move on to Estepona in the south west Spain…"talk" to you there!
Val You sound reluctant to leave …. but onward & upward … new adventures await in Estepona!
Caroline Enjoyed these blogs from Gran Canaria….we’re currently rereading and making notes following your recommendations here in Lagos, Portugal.
Gloria Milton Thankyou again for your fabulous blogs Glynis & Trev, I feel like I am walking with you, I can picture everything … perfect!! Xx
Glynis We did love this area, Val- and enjoyed exploring Gran Canaria…but we love moving on too! Appreciate all your comments - thanks for supporting my blog - and my ramblings! X
Glynis Hi Caroline, good to hear you’re out and about in Lagos - and that my blogs in that area may be be of some help…thanks for reading and supporting me x
Glynis Thanks for travelling with us, Gloria - we love having you along! It’s great to get your support! X