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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Film set in Playa Santiago vanished

Many visitors to La Gomera are asking if there are parts or traces left to be seen of the film set of In the Heart of the Sea, which was recently filming with director Ron Horward in Playa de Santiago. The short and simple answer is 'No' - everything has been restored to exactly the same condition as before the film scenes were shot. There is nothing in Santiago which might indicate the changes and all the activity during the last months of 2013 as the pictures below prove:
Beach during shooting of scene
Beach now back to original condition
Where props, workshops and containers were situated...
…is now a 'green field site' again
Santiago's harbour full of all kinds of vessels during filming
...is now a sleepy fishing port again.
Nearby Playa de Tapahuga with concrete tank during the shoot
…is now restored and you'd never think there was a tank.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Russian frigate visits Canary Islands

The ‘Shtandart’, a replica of the Russian frigate commissioned by Peter the Great in 1703, spent the winter in the Canary Islands and offered 4 itineraries for young people to experience sailing in the 18th century as well as explore the islands. You can find out how this came about and the purpose of the Shtandart Project by clicking the link.
The above was first published by Queenie's Daily Snippets

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Carnival in the Canaries 2014

Santa Cruz 2014 poster
Soon it will be carnival time in the Canary Islands once again and the carnival in Tenerife's capital Santa Cruz is said to be second only to that of Rio. Gorgeous participants, stunning costumes, marching bands, samba schools, music and happy mayhem. Though tied to the Easter celebrations elsewhere there is nothing at all religious about this month-long party here. The dates don't necessarily coincide with carnivals in other parts of the world and different towns party on different dates over the coming month and well into March 2014.
The main events of the month-long carnival in Santa Cruz de Tenerife are as follows:
Wednesday Feb.26th,2014:  Election of the Carnaval Queen. This event is a huge evening gala.
Friday Feb. 28th:  Once it has it's Queen, Santa Cruz Carnaval takes to the streets on the Friday evening, with the Cabalgata Anunciadora, followed by a huge fireworks display and dancing to major bands after that.
Tuesday March 4th, 2014:   The Main Parade in Santa Cruz (the Avenida de Anaga and Marítima), from around 4pm ending in another fantastic fireworks display at around 9pm.
Wednesday March 5th:  ''Burial of the Sardine'' to ''end'' the carnival. Men dress up as "Widows" to mourn the poor old sardine and generally party the night away after another great fireworks show.
N.B.: 
Poster contest entry
for VGR's carnival
These are just a few main events and even after the carnival has ''ended'' there's more to come. All in all there are hundreds of events, dances, parades, concerts, as well as dozens of stages and venues, plus several more large fireworks displays. All together it is lasting from early February to March 9th 2014 after which everyone involved definitely will need a good rest.
Full programme in Spanish: www.carnavaltenerife.es


Here in Valle Gran Rey the whole affair is a lot smaller in scale and lasts 4 days from the 5th to the 8th of March 2014 with the main events staged in the harbour. The theme for this year's parade is 'Terror'. Help !


Friday, January 24, 2014

10 new tourist information points on La Gomera

At a ceremony in La Gomera's government buildings the island's president Casimiro Curbelo together with the councillor for tourism Fernando Mendez accredited ten businesses all over  La Gomera as new tourism information points where visitors can receive information, brochures and maps, etc. After a strict selection process the accredited shops and services will now do their best to help the information-seeking tourist and act as a first point of contact for advice. It is hoped that further such points will be added to the system in the future. The ten PITs (puntos de informacion turistica) who are giving their services free of charge and are not receiving any remuneration from the government are as follows:
In Valle Gran ReyShop 'Vino Tinto'  (Vueltas harbour, corner opp. 'Tuyo')
                            Fitness Centre 'La Fortaleza' (behind Spar market)
                            Hotel Gran Rey  (La Puntilla)
                            Hotel Jardin Concha (La Calera)
                            Boat Excursions Tina (on quay)
In Las Hayas:        Restaurant La Montaña/Casa Efigenia
In San Sebastian:   Hotel Parador de La Gomera (on cliff above harbour)
In Vallehermoso:   Ymaguara Hiking Shop (near town square)
In Hermigua:         Arte Floral Laurisilva  (Tel. 0034-922144026)
                            Trujillo Gamez (traditional mill on main road)


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Entry fee for national park visitors proposed

Will they be charged for their visit in the future ?

The commission of national parks which is part of the federation of municipalities of the Canary Islands (FECAM) has proposed the introduction of cover charges for tourists visiting national parks here. The unanimously approved motion was adopted at a meeting held last week, and will have to be tabled at the executive committee of FECAM.
The national park of Timanfaya on Lanzarote is already collecting fees from visitors and this measure could now be introduced at all national parks in the Canary Islands. The reason's given were that most similar parks around the world were charging visitors without any problem, and that the measure was essential to guarantee the maintenance, preservation and further development of these unique places. The autonomous region of the Canaries couldn't afford the luxury of providing free access anymore. Local residents would be exempt from the charges, however, according to the proposal.
The recent cutbacks in public spending might have something to do with it, I guess.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Beautiful La Gomera video

7stories is a project by Turismo de Canarias to rediscover the landscape and people of the seven Canary Islands through the eyes of seven young and high-profile film-makers. One of them, Juan Rayos, was invited to La Gomera an this is his vision after a week's travelling around the island. His short video is called A Volcano in the Sea but it should be added that La Gomera's volcanic activitity has been totally extinct for millions of years, unlike that on some  other islands in the archipelago. 

A volcano in the sea by Juan Rayos on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Good catch, but what is it ?

You can often see fishermen proudly carrying their catch through the streets of Vueltas, the lively harbour of Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera. Mostly I  recognise the species, but a few days ago this large fellow on the cart baffled me. 
A few days later I met the fisheries inspector and showed the picture to him. He immediately said that this is a Mero, belonging the grouper family of fish. The fellow in the picture is of average size as meros can grow much larger and may even attain 500 lbs  (250 kgs) weight. They're highly valued for their excellent taste and the lean white meat has been  compared to chicken. The head makes a delicious soup, I was told, but their gills are razor-sharp, so handle with care.
They are very difficult to catch as they live in holes and caves on the bottom of the sea and usually make for home as soon as they're hooked and have the abilility to bite through strong lines. They also use their powerful gill muscles to 'lock' themselves between rocks and are almost impossible to be dislodged, 
A subspecies is called mero capitan and is beautifully  golden-yellow on the whole body. When a fisherman is lucky enough to catch on of the 'captains', he keeps it alive in a cage to be then submerged again near where it was caught. The mero capitan will subsequently 'call his crew', i.e. attract other groupers away from their hide-outs, and the fisherman has a much better chance of catching them. If you happen to catch it on the menu anywhere, go for it.

Monday, January 20, 2014

New ambitious project planned for Valle Gran Rey


At a public meeting in Valle Gran Rey on Wednesday plans for a new viewing point, a multi-purpose building and ancillary works were introduced and discussed. The proposal is for the derelict school Juan Rejon which occupies the highest spot in the La Calera area of Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera. The former school and the level area to the south of it enjoy phantastic views of lower Valle Gran Rey and the Atlantic with El Hierro in the background. 
It is planned to landscape and remodel the area to provide a viewing platform. The old schoolhouse will be redeveloped to provide a multi-purpose building which could house exhibitions, meetings, courses and events. For the ambitious plans about one million Euros have been put aside in the island's 2014 budget and the construction phase will last a maximum of 14 months, according to the architect.
Locals were worried about the lack of parking and narrow access roads and it was promised that these problems would be addressed at a later stage. Other proposals by attending residents included a suggestion that the new space should exhibit the Gomeran giant lizards in a  terrarium, which was rediscovered in the cliffs not far away from the proposed centre and successfully  being bred. This idea found approval by all and the public may finally get to see the reclusive animals.
I just hope they first of all dismantle the now disused and unsightly mobile phone mast.
The proposed development of Juan Rejon 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Renowned chamber orchestra plays La Gomera

Source and to see full programme of festival for all islands: gobiernodecanarias.org 
As part of the 30th Festival Internacional de Musica de Canarias the highly acclaimed chamber orchestra Kremerata Baltica will play in San Sebastian de La Gomera tomorrow, Monday Jan. 20th 2014, at 8:30 pm. The orchestra is comprised of musicians from the three Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. They have won numerous prizes including a Grammy and specialise in unusual compositions and arrangements. Details below:

KREMERATA BALTICA


CONCERT:
DateJanuary 20th 2014
Time20:30h
VenueAuditorio Insular Infanta Cristina en San Sebastián
IslandLa Gomera
Price15 €

PROGRAMME:
ConductorGidon Kremer
W.A. MozartAdagio and Fugue on B.A.C.H. for string trio
S.I. TanejewString Trio
M. WeinbergSonata for two violins
W.A.MozartString Quintet in G minor KV 516
Schnittke"Moz-Art a la Haydn” for violin duo

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Now 100.000 Readers


I started this blog in a hurry in the summer of 2012 (see my first post and my second one) when the fire had just broken out on La Gomera. I wanted to counterbalance the sensationalistic reporting of the fire, and for the following weeks the fire here was the main theme.
However, the original intention in starting this blog was to give general information about La Gomera in English, as there were numerous websites, etc. in German and Spanish, but nothing much in English. I didn't have a clue about blogging then and 'learned by doing', making lots of mistakes. Exactly 333 posts later I'm still learning, and I want to continue (b)logging information, as well as sharing views, images and personal experiences relating to La Gomera and the Canary Islands while trying to keep my personal opinion to myself.
I didn't expect too much interest when I began, but by now 100.000 of you have proven that there is a tremendous amount of interest in La Gomera out there. Most readers came from  English-speaking countries (foremost the U.K.), but lagomera1.blogspot.com was read in every corner of the globe. Even some of the Spanish media and the international press have used material from this blog. 
Thank you all, and special thanks  to the many readers who commented favourably and to the many new friends that I made through this blog.
…and for a change here's a photo from the West of Ireland .

Friday, January 17, 2014

Palm honey problems

The sap is rising…
Image courtesy of: © Alexius Jorgensen
La Gomera is home to the largest number of the Canarian palm tree (Phoenix Canariensis)  in these islands and the species is protected and cherished. More than 100.000 specimen have been counted on La Gomera and they are also a source of income for local farmers. Especially the sweet palm 'honey' (miel de palma) plays an important part in our economy. Palm honey is not really honey, but the syrup obtained by first cutting the crown of the palm tree, then collecting the sweet and watery sap (called 'guarapo') that rises up the trunk and further boiling the sap down to a syrupy consistency to obtain the 'honey'. This liquid is delicious, full of minerals etc., and highly valued. A Canarian palm tree may be exploited in this way only once every five years without doing damage. It is very hard work to first climb the trunk and the battle with the very tough and sharp fronds of the crown. Most of the sap rises during the night and thus involves nightshifts for collection. To obtain one litre of palm honey eight litres of the sap are needed. The 'guarapo' (sap) tends to ferment very rapidly and so needs to be boiled soon after collection.
The island's government wanted to get the name 'miel de palma' (palm honey) officially recognised and protected, but now the regional government have stated that this can't be done as the product is not 'miel', i.e. honey, as it isn't produced by bees.The product is just the concentrated sap of the palm and  'honey' is defined as having been collected and stored by bees. That is according to national and EU definitions for the sweet stuff.
The island's government with the help of the Canarian authorities now want to try to make 'palm honey' an exception to the official definition due to the product's historic and cultural background and importance. They also stress it's uniqueness and the fact that 'palm honey' is already established as a name which most people will not confuse with 'bee's honey'. It has a much darker colour than 'real' honey and a different, less sweet taste. They remain hopeful that an exception will be made in view of many similar local products all over the EU that were allowed to retain their original names. 
After all 'soya milk' isn't milk produced by cows which have chewed on soy beans, either. We'll see, but maybe in the future 'palm honey' must be called 'palm sap syrup' ?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Locura wins world's toughest rowing race

Brits Mike and Tom have beaten 15 international teams to win the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, the world’s toughest rowing race.  They completed the gruelling 3,000 mile race from La Gomera, Canary Islands, to Antigua in 41 days, 2 hours, 38 minutes and 54 seconds.
Rowing in shifts of two hours on, two hours off, 53-year-old Mike and 30-year-old Tom who make up Locura Rows the Atlantic, competed in the arduous race to raise money for the Generous Hearts Foundation
The team have battled 40ft waves, tropical storms, seasickness, sleep deprivation, excruciating body sores, a capsize and even an encounter with a six-metre marlin which left a small hole in their boat.
Mike from Yorkshire met Tom, originally from Chichester and now living in London, in 2010 when they competed in the same crew of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race where they finished in fourth place. (Source: www.taliskerwhiskyatlanticchallenge.com)

Locura is a Spanish word meaning madness. Well done and congratulations !
The Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Rowing Challenge's started with delays due to bad weather from San Sebastian de La Gomera in December. Below photos of the preparations here:
One team ready to row
Others were provisioning

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Serious motorbike crash in Arure

A motorcyclist was severely injured yesterday afternoon when his rented bike left the road and he subsequently collided with a rock near the cemetery of Arure, a mountain village in the municipal area of Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera. The German tourist in his mid-fifties suffered multiple serious injuries and was first transferred by ambulance to the quay in the harbour where an air ambulance landed immediately after. It took the emergency services more than an hour to stabilise the patient sufficiently for further transport by helicopter to the university hospital on Tenerife.
Arure, taken from near the scene of the accident

La Gomera's institutions close ranks on ferry issue

Several politicians and representatives from La Gomera, among them the island's president C. Curbelo and the mayors of Alajero and Valle Gran Rey, held a meeting on Tenerife on Monday to discuss ways to reinstate the ferry service between the ports of Valle Gran Rey, Playa de Santiago and San Sebastian on La Gomera and Los Cristianos on Tenerife. This so-called 'interior line' ceased operations just a year ago despite having been declared an 'obligatory public service' by the Canarian government some years previously.
The ferry route had been operated by three different companies over the years and attracted 150.000 passengers per year on average. The meeting discussed several options and proposals and even an increase of subsidies for residents was suggested to make the service more viable and competitive. 
A few days before this meeting La Gomera's president had demanded that any new company covering the badly missed service should be exempt from paying harbour dues for the initial phase of operating the connection. Apparently  there is one company in particular very interested in serving the route with complete applications submitted already.
It is worth remembering that by ferry  it just takes about 30 minutes to travel from Valle Gran Rey to the capital San Sebastian, while the public bus needs about 110 minutes to get there. The route by sea would also reduce the amount of traffic that has to pass through the centre of the national park now.
UPDATE: The director of the department of transport of the Canarian government has since stated on radio that the department is actively 'looking for a solution which will facilitate companies wishing to operate the route by reducing the costs for same'.
Let's hope they are successful    Photo: ©gomeranoticias.com

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Record tourist numbers in December

''According to figures released yesterday by airports authority AENA, December saw over a million foreign visitors to the Canaries.
14.01.2014 - In total, 1,063,844 tourists flew into the archipelago, 124,239 more than in the previous year, an increase of 13.22 per cent.  During the year, 10,591,260 passengers entered the Islands via the airports, 4.85 per cent up on 2012 – almost half a million more tourists.
The Deputy Minister for tourism in the Canaries Ricardo Fernández de la Puenta underlined that, “these figures confirm the good condition of the tourism sector in the last quarter of the year…Provisions in the sector indicate that this tendency will continue.”

By islands:Tenerife saw an increase of 10.06 per cent in December, five per cent over the year; Lanzarote received 19.99 per cent, 9.77 per cent over 2012, Gran Canaria has 13.71 per cent more visitors in December, and an increase of 4.87 per cent in the year; Fuerteventura 14.38 per cent and 0.73 per cent more respectively and La Palma an increase of 3.9 per cent and 13.89 per cent over the whole of 2012. ''

Monday, January 13, 2014

New Ron Howard movie now in post production

The upcoming film In the Heart of the Sea which was partially shot on location here in La Gomera by director Ron Howard has now entered the long post-production stage about a week ago, as Ron reported on his Twitter account (below). The provisional release date isn't until March 2015, though. Hurry up guys, I can't wait to see it
Meanwhile Ron Howard's previous movie Rush has been nominated for Golden Globe awards.

Day 2 in editing room on In the Heart of the Sea. Another fascinating post prod challenge akin to Rush or Apollo 13

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Luckiest lottery winner hails from La Gomera

A 57-year old man living in the south of Tenerife has just won 75.000 Euros in the Spanish El Niño lottery, but that's just in addition to the win of 375.000 Euros he won only 16 days before in the El Gordo lottery draw. Never mind, Jorge Gorrin the lucky sports car driver also won a  salary of 6.000 Euros per month for 25 years in 2006, and in the 80s he won 172.000 Euros in two draws, all in the ONCE lottery in aid of the blind. His sister once also won 120.000 in the El Gordo lottery, the largest-paying draw in the world.
He doesn't have a system for picking and buying lottery tickets and says that it is just down to pure chance and luck. He was born on La Gomera near the bay of La Rajita which is situated on the south coast between Valle Gran Rey and Playa de Santiago and where the now disused tuna cannery is located. His father died there when he was only ten years old and his mother then took the family to Tenerife to work in a hotel to support them. Later in life he worked as an electrician and as a fisherman, got married, had two children, got divorced after ten years of marriage, and fathered ten more children with 'other women'. He's known as El Rey (The King) and says: ''Work ? No way !'' 
La Rajita bay with the former fish canning facility

Friday, January 10, 2014

Cold front 2 - now with added improvement

There was a second cold front yesterday evening and night, but as the low directly over us even deepened further to 1005 hPa it became more benign and after leaving a good bit of rain the night before (rain at night is the BEST rain), it only brought a few good  showers after that. The depression will begin to fill and dissipate today, making room for a new high of 1020 hPa within 48 hours. That means that we'll be back to sunnier and warmer weather - business as usual - and the farmers are happy to have had a good watering of the crops. The temperature will remain below the average for this time of the year for today before recovering on Saturday to regain the 'eternal spring' values that the Canary Islands are normally blessed with, and the the odd shower expected tomorrow will keep La Gomera in verdant splendour. All the irrigation water reservoirs are now at 85% of full capacity already, and a colourful blossom-laden spring is almost guaranteed.
This minor weather interlude here was due to the repeated extreme storms that hit Ireland, Britain and other parts of northern Europe since before Christmas. Keep 'em coming !
I met tourists and visitors yesterday, clad in T-shirts with shorts and flip-flops while I was wearing four layers of clothing including a padded raincoat and heavy boots. They felt warm while I was frrrreezing. It's all relative...
The southern sky at 3:30pm yesterday still looks threatening as a shower closes in on El Hierro on right
Similar view 2,5 hrs later: The southern sky has cleared and the sun is blazing again to dry the wet ground
The photo of the (yester-)day that says it all and was taken from La Gomera, however, goes to to © lavozdelagomera.com with this impressive take from above the statue over San Sebastian de La Gomera with Mount Teide on neighbouring Tenerife island partially snow-covered in the background (well done, chico, we don't see that too often!):

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Cold front

A cold front brought good rainfalls to Valle Gran Rey last night and further showers can be expected today. The polar air that came with it makes it feel pretty cold today and the minimum temperature on my thermometer last night read only 10,5ºC, making it the coldest night during my time here. By now (10am) the temperature is back up to 15ºC, but this still is colder than usual. The low pressure of about 1007hPa that has formed over the Canaries will remain stationary for today, but is expected to fill and move away in 48 hours and the normal, warmer weather with more sunshine will have become established again.
Hiking and walking in the mountains is inadvisable as for the rest of the day there are weather warnings of heavy showers and thunderstorms.
A fairly overcast and cool morning Jan. 9th, 2014

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Urgent meeting demanded to discuss ferry service

 The mayors of Alajero (which includes Playa Santiago) and Valle Gran Rey have called for an urgent meeting with the representative of the Canarian government responsible for public transport to discuss and analyse the proposal by 'one ferry company' to reinstate the ferry connection between the three ports of La Gomera and Los Cristianos on Tenerife. The two mayors both have stated that the meeting should be held on La Gomera and should involve all authorities concerned as well as the government of La Gomera 'as soon as the Christmas festivities are over'.
It is understood that the proposal is by Garajonay Express, the company which successfully operated this ferry service up to a few years ago. We're keeping the fingers crossed...

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Caution: Big waves today

All the way from the storms in Ireland...
La Puntilla, Valle Gran Rey at lunchtime Tuesday Jan.7th, 2014

Sunday, January 05, 2014

New tourist office and interpretative centre

Church La Asuncion (left) and new tourist office with interpretative centre  (2 doors on right)
The previous tourist office in the small colonial customs house near the main square in San Sebastian de La Gomera, which in its courtyard boasts the well which is said to have provided the water for Christopher Columbus to baptise the New World with. This is now closed for renovations and will reopen as a museum. The tourist office has moved 200 yards up the main pedestrianised street to a beautifully-restored Spanish colonial house occupying the corner of the square in front of the historic church La Asuncion.
The new tourist office in La Gomera's capital is already open to the public and will be launched officially in a few days' time. The same building also houses a very attractive new interpretative centre themed on the island's geology and culture, titled The Memory of Stones. All displays and exhibits are labelled in English as well as in Spanish and very attractively presented, making this interpretative centre a must-see when in San Sebastian. The entrance is through the bright courtyard and the remainder of the building will be used for exhibitions.

Inside La Gomera's new interpretative centre 

Friday, January 03, 2014

Second Christmas Presents and Fiesta

In Spain and some Latin American countries,the 6th of January is called El Día de los Reyes (The Day of the Kings). It marks the day when the Three Kings or Magi, as related in the second chapter of the gospel of Matthew, arrived to worship and bring their gifts to the baby Jesus after following a star in the sky.  In Spanish tradition on January 6th (Epiphany) the kings  Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar (representing Arabia, the Orient, and Africa) arrived on horse, camel and elephant, bringing respectively gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus. Children (and many adults) polish and leave their shoes ready for the Kings' presents before they go to bed on the eve of January 6. The next morning presents will appear under their shoes as the kings  take the role of Santa Claus here . Most towns in Spain arrange colorful parades representing the arrival of the Reyes Magos to town a day or two before, so children can see them on their camels or carriages and hand them letters listing their wishes.  Wine, snacks, fruit and milk are left for the Kings and their camels. In Spain, children typically receive presents on this day, rather than on Christmas, though this tradition has changed a bit in recent years, and children now receive presents on both days.
Ermita de Los Reyes in El Guro, Valle Gran Rey
The Ramo
In Valle Gran Rey the Kings begin their tour in the mountain village of Las Hayas on Jan. 5th at 4 pm and then continue through all the villages and barrios of the valley and will finally collect the letters addressed to them near the town hall.

V.G.R.'s oldest church is in El Guro and dedicated to Los Reyes. Every year the Fiesta de Los Reyes in honour of them takes place there and this year the proceedings begin on Jan 4th with all night dancing to the usual salsa bands from 10 pm. On Jan. 6th the 'Ramo' is made in the morning at the cultural centre in La Calera, from where the procession to the chapel of Los Reyes starts at midday with the typical dance steps and chants. After arrival there's a mass in the chapel in El Guro followed by more salsa bands and partying.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

La Gomera's population decreases

In 2012 La Gomera had a population of 22.350 and this went down to 21.153 over the past year, leaving the island with 5.36 % less residents. The latest figures by the Spanish National Statistics Institute (INE) reveal that more than half the decrease of the total number took place in the municipal area of Valle Gran Rey with 620 residents less than at the end of 2012 leaving a total of only 4.240 people living there. The second highest loss of 356 was in the island's capital San Sebastian de La Gomera which now has 8.699 residents. In the remaining four municipal areas of Vallehermoso, Hermigua, Agulo and Alajero (which includes Playa de Santiago) the population loss was less marked, but none had an increase.
Valle Gran Rey had an alarming loss of population of -12,8 % in 2013