Saturday, 18 February 2017

Saramago, Manrique and Omar Sharif What do they have in common - Lanzarote

Mundo Senior - holidays in Spain for the oldies to escape winter. We decided this year to try Lanzarote, a volcanic island in the Canaries which we had not been to. Strange island covered in lava and black volcanic ash and a difficult existence. That is until the artist Cesar Manrique decided that unless they attracted tourists, the economy would remain in doldrums.

Manrique is associated with all the good things in Lanzarote, conversions of homes, tourist spots adapted to tourism and general ecology of the island. Several initiatives are attributed to him. These include the absence of Advertising boards, the limit of 4 floors on buildings and the white colour that all buildings have. Apparently one pays 2000 Euros a year in taxes if they want a different colour, and there are virtually no exceptions. Manrique's own house and the building that houses the Manrique Foundation are worth seeing. Sadly Manrique died in a traffic accident in 1992.

Saramago won the Nobel prize for literature in 1998 and his house is a gem of a place. We were shown around by a family member and loved the place. The library that houses his book collection has many books dedicated by the authors. One shelf contains all of his books translated into different languages. Our guide pulled out a couple translated into Indian languages of which I could read the Hindi but not the Tamil. I had not as yet read any of his books, but I certainly will read a few after that visit. At the end of our visit the guide said that Saramago always invited visitors to a coffee in his kitchen, and this custom has been maintained and we were treated to a lovely cup of coffee in the kitchen overlooking the garden.

And Omar Sharif, what can I say about the house called LagOmar that was designed for him and built into a mountainside. Its a terrific place on a grand scale. The curious thing is that if we are to believe the tale, one week after it was completed OS (who was an accomplished bridge player) lost the house in a bet while playing bridge with the constructor. Apparently OS did not know that the opponent was an international bridge player in his own right!

So there you have it three big characters share the common ground of a small island in the Atlantic.

The following is a list of things that we got around to seeing apart from the buildings listed above:

Paseo de Playa Blanca - a nine kilometer walk on the south side of the island in the town of Playa Blanca where we stayed in Lanzarote. While most of it is packed with restaurants and bars there are long sections with stunning scenery, beaches and in the evening views of sunsets not to be missed. The Marina Rubicon is also a very lovely area which this paseo goes through.

The Timanfaya volcanoes - This is a bizarre and frightening landscape where everything is flooded with lava flows. Temperature very near the surface can exceed 200 C. No one is allowed to either drive or walk around. A bus takes the visitor through the landscape on a single lane road. You would not want the bus to break down in this hostile but beautiful environment! Yet, that is exactly what happened to a bus ahead of us. About half an hour passed while it became clear that there was no way out, and then by some miracle the drivers of the buses cleared a space in the lava and luckily the inoperative bus was on an incline so they could ease the bus down to one side. We could then drive past, waving sympathetically at the stranded passengers.

Mirador del Rio, which has spectacular views over the island of La Graciosa

Charco de los Clicos, near the nice town of Golfo

Jameos del Agua, a lava tube created by the gases and explosions during lava flows, which was converted (again by Manrique) into a restaurant, bar and some concert spaces. Perfect acoustics.

Caves of Los Verdes, a lava cave which is probably similar in formation to the Jameos, contains a surprise which those who have seen it are obliged not to reveal!

Mercado de Teguise, a Sunday market where all tourists end up. The town is very nice but probably best appreciated on non-market days.

The vineyards, different from any others elsewhere because of the way the vines are protected from the wind with walls built from lava rocks. Hard work and this probably explains why the wines are not cheap.

The Museum of Modern Art, a converted fort refurbished again to a Manrique design. It is said that to start off the collection, Manrique did an exchange of his own works with some famous artists.

The Red Mountain, about which much has been said, that its a place where a lot of UFOs and aliens might be found etc. It was just around the corner from our hotel and we duly went up for a walk. It did not disappoint in terms of natural beauty and an interesting crater, but we did not see any aliens or indeed any UFOs.
Once again it was time to pack our bags and return home, wash clothes, recover from an upset tummy and then head out to our next destination. Madrid and ARCO 2017.
A retired life is equal to a tourist's in that it is hard!