Sunday, November 29, 2015

Gran Canaria Day 8: Art, Walking along the Port and Gelato--A trifecta!

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”
Albert Einstein, The World As I See It

Interior view of CAAM (Central Atlantic Art Museum) decorated by Paul. This was formed from the "bones" of an 18th century building. Very modern. There is a small interior courtyard that still pays homage to the old building.
Today, I swore I refused to rise prior to 10 AM. Wrong....but I did make it until 9am which is a personal best so far for loafing this vacation (if you don't count the initial jet lag allowance.) After breakfast at our hotel, we ventured out to the Vegeuta area of Las Palmas. The town seems to be divided into about three sections. The La Cantera beach area where we are staying (and home to supposedly the best beach in Europe), the Vegeuta area which is the true downtown with its aged edifices and winding, narrow streets and La Isleta at the far end of La Cantera. You can go there, but you need a permit,since much of it is a military instillation.

A good thing is that Sunday is the Spanish day for the family, so some of the museums were closed. But the Central Atlantic Art Museum (modern art) was open with abbreviated hours. A modern art museum nearly always suits us just fine. This museum does not have a permanent collection, but keeps several temporary exhibits. Today, they had an exhibit by Juliao Sarmento (who has a permanent collection at the Tate Modern in London as well), Abraham Lacalle, a Spaniard, and Santiago Ydanez, a quirky Spanish artist who was probably my favorite of the three. Lotsa humor on this last guy, whom I was not familiar with at all.

This exhibit was called below my breasts. There were a number of these sketch-like paintings with typed words and book passages.

A film by Sarmento from about 2003. The lady in the film walks into the studio, stands dressed in front of a white wall and undresses, then dresses. Not a lot of fanfare, but the film is pretty interesting because it is run in reverse and has obviously been spliced and sped up/slowed down in segments to create some fascinating visuals, especially with her long dark hair.
Sarmiento is Portuguese and apparently, this is his first exhibit in the Canaries entitled, Guest or Host. This is said to relate to his the artist hosting to the scenes for you, but stays outside of them as well. The exhibit was designed to walk through the repetitive themes of Sarmiento's works: eroticism, memory and desire with cultural allusions of film and literature. The above pictured film was really fascinating, but my favorite film was one in which a model read the work "the House that Jack built" and used plastic figures lined up to represent the house, the malt, the rat, the cat, the dog, the maid, the man, the priest, the cock and the farmer from the old Mother Goose nursery rhyme. I doubt many people know this rhyme anymore and someone a bit younger probably associates The House that Jack Built with Metallica, but this was the Goose! Really funny video and classic Sarmiento.

This exhibit basically used only the plume from atomic test explosions OR the Niagara falls to reinterpret them in a number of ways. Above, as a hairdo or cotton candy. This was in the student section of the exhibit.

A section of the museum is dedicated to the students of the University school of art. I loved the exhibit above. That area is the only surviving portion of the old building which was also nice to see.
The courtyard of the very modern art museum pays respect to its predecessor by preserving the courtyard area. Student art is displayed here.
The next artist on exhibit is an unknown to me, Abraham Lacalle. I really liked his work however and it was entitled War Paint. He has some prior series I am unfamiliar with called Jail, Landscapes, Battlefields,and A Place Where Nothing Happens. This series is meant to be A Place Where Dreadful Things Happen and explores death, loneliness and devastation. Most of the paintings were on bare, unframed paper and were with black/white/grey themes or else bursting with color. It was quite a contrast to see these different works.
A room of works by Abraham Lacalle meant to represent the "darker elements of life."

Abraham Lacalle. I love that he let the paint run with gravity.

A much different and perspective from Lacalle with brilliant colors captured on plain paper and also reflected on the marble floor of the museum. The couple seen in intense study of the work seemed to be a part of the mystery of the art itself.

The last artist on display was another unknown to me, Santiago Ydanez. This gent was born in 1969 but didn't really burst onto the Spanish art scene until the late 1990s. He has a really great sense of humor in his painting.  His exhibit was entitled Side Glance.
Santiage Ydanez shows us some humor.

This was a wonderful series of knife sets that are boxed. He has painted the inside lids with a variety of diverse images including baby pictures, women diving, birds, fencers. Let's not talk about the dogs second from the left....bad boy Santiago!

Apparently he likes to paint eyes onto sharp objects.
I have to say a special word about Ydanez next painting which is of a German sheperd. We talked to a docent specifically about this painting of a German sheperd which was literally painted onto the wall of the museum. She told us he painted the entire thing in 2 hours and used the wall itself to mix the colors. It was quite spectacular.
Ydanez painted this directly onto the wall of the museum. The foreground is the floor and you see the corner of the wall near the dog's front paws.
After seeing this wonderful series of exhibits, Paul and I were able to do some Canarian Christmas shopping in the art gift shop. And then, Mr. Parris needed sustenance.

I can't say cheese because I am eating cheese.
We were able to make a visit inside the church, but since mass was being spoken, no intensive perusal was possible at this time. We will likely go back later.

Interior view of Cathedral Santa Ana. Yes, we prayed for your house to sell AGAIN!
From here, we walked back to the Playa Cantera area along the waterfront. This is a pretty busy port. We passed many docks, container ships anchored at the dock and in the harbor, cruise ships, many yachts and pleasure boats and a bustling marina area. It was about 4 miles back to the hotel. I needed the walk, because I want to eat a nice dinner tonight!

Container ships and the dock area

Someone besides us is having a good time in this area!

After completing about 7 miles of walking for the day, my husband asked the obvious question: Where is the closest gelato shop? We found it about a half mile away on the beach.

Gelato on a beach at sunset? Count me in.
We enjoyed watching the sunset over La Isleta.
Not too shabby.
On our way back to the hotel, we found a shop that was the equivalent of everything's a dollar. We needed some tape to bring our wine purchases which we hope to make later in the week back in one piece. So we went in for duct tape, but they had the world's weirdest collection of items.
And you thought you had never seen a purple cow.
We usually send my mother in law a postcard, but that seemed inadvisable here.
Or she might like them....what happened to pictures of sand dunes and such??? :)
We were also impressed by some really wonderful sand carvings which included an insect farm, a Christmas tree and this wonderful carving of Brahms.

Wonderful sand band.
Our last project of the day was getting an outstanding meal. For this, we referenced the Michelin guide. Paul was telling me how the Michelin guide was a "happy accident" generated by the tire company from France generating a list of places to eat along the highway.  No restaurant here has even a single star, but several have a recommendation. Tonight we chose the Hotel Santa Catalina's kitchen at La Terraza. The chef, Thomas Leeb, hails from Austria and has a definite golden touch. We had lovely gin and tonics in the "piano bar"--there was a piano with no one playing it. :)  Gin and tonic is something of an obsession and art form in Spain which is right up Paul Parris's alley. WARNING to the undereducated: FOOD PORN ALERT! Do not view this while hungry.

Gran Canarian Crazy American tourists preparing to chow down

Gintonic (yes, they run the two words together here) ala Canaria. Really pretty.

Our Canarian wine selection

Scallops in lemon foam with coriander sauce, lemongrass pearls and trout roe.  Amazing. Thank you Michelin guide!

Paul's entree: Deer steak and pears with chestnut puree

My entree--beef tenderloin with Bernaise. Too delicious!

The Hotel Santa Catalina. We swear everyone else there was British and at least 60+ but it seems to make for an outstanding menu selection. Thank you British Colonies. Something went right. We won't mention the rest...mostly because we have no room to criticize. :(
So another lovely day on Gran Canaria. A little art, some great gastronomy (even that was artful)  and about 7.5 miles of walking about to make item #2 possible,

“Art and love are the same thing: It’s the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you.”
Chuck Klosterman, Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story

Paul's Ponderings:  Slow day in Las Palmas, which we think we deserved!   We did enjoy the art museum and a bit of light dining here and there prior to our dinner.    Then, the main event, a Michelin listed restaurant at the Hotel Santa Catalina, which was fabulous all around.   Keep in mind that most food here is imported, putting aside fruits and a few odds and most of our meal was "not from here".

The weather here was overcast and cool all day, which mean no beach time, but still warm....around 70 degrees Farenheit all day.   We still ended up walking about 7.5 miles on level ground, regardless of the off day!   

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Gran Canaria Day 7: Relocation, Exploration, Imagination and some folks departing from Vacation

Paul wandering about on Market Day in Galdar

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

Our lovely new friend Jill from Dover who is about to tackle a calzone!
Today is the end of the organized segment of our tour. First off, let me say that the British company, EXPLORE. ADVENTURE CENTER whom I have been travelling with since 1988 is amazing!! One of the many nice things about this company is that they keep their vacations very economical. And since it is a UK company, most of our fellow travellers are British, with an occasional Scot, Welshman or even another ilk of European. Rarely, there is an American. This time,we were pleased to have a Canadian cadre as well. The beauty of the company, Explore,  is that all the hotels are perfectly adequate and the budget is a big deal.  Nothing is exorbitant. And what we find is that outdoor budget travel brings together a wonderful group of people. This group was amazing. We travelled with a geologist, a judge, a school teacher, a doctor, a nurse, a psychotherapist, an economist, 3 government employees with what amounts to HUD in Canada, an IT specialist, a college lecturer, a tree surgeon and his wife and a priest led by a Dutch actor and male model cum tour leader. What a wonderful group of humanity and such fun. We are massively grateful to these folks for enriching our experience. Today, unfortunatley, we had to bid them goodbye. We will not forget this amazing group and their kindness and humor.  Fortunately, we did spend until late in the afternoon with them in transport to La Palma, the main city of Gran Canaria.

Once we boarded the bus, our destination initially was the city of Galdar. It is best known for the archeological find of the Cueva Pintada (painted caves.) The pre-Hispanic history of the Canaries is not well known, but they do know there were natives here. Human genome project has shown them to be Berber (barbarians, per the Romans) of North Africa. No one knows exactly how they arrived but there were multiple settlements on Gran Canaria associated with organized cities and crops of wheat, beans and bananas. The Cueva Pintada is a part of a settelment discovered beneath the modern city of Galdar.
The ongoing excavation under the modern city of Galdar. This area was the city center near modern shops and residences.
The pre-Hispanic Berber community was cooperating to grow crops at the arrival of the Spanish. Apparently a Frenchman landed first in the 1500s but Spain tried to take advantage of the islands resources. 
A reconstructed round stone home
The houses around Galdar were round and made of stone. The area that is excavated consisted of storage areas for grain and several stores as well as the painted cave, where various religious rituals were held.. They worshipped idols here.

Proposed internal dwelling design.
They unearthed many pieces of pottery, tools, decorative items and also mummies in the region.

The highlight of the excavation is this panel of the Painted Cave. The meaning is not known, but there is some suspicion that due to the geometric being based on the number 12, it may have been a calendar or crop planting diagram. However, since mummies were found in this chamber, and it is obvious that this was a funery area, it may be related to a death ritual.
When I asked where the mummies were, I was told they "disappeared."

There are some native mixed individuals still on the islands. The guide told us that on Gran Canaria, less than 10% of people have native heritage, but on the smaller island of Fuereventura, up to 40% of the residents can still claim the blood of the Guanache heritage.  

The museum was extremely well done and modern. Additionally, they have two movies which can be presented in a variety of languages which explain the site, its founding and the lives of the ancient people who inhabited the island from about the 5th century AD until 1500.

We absolutely loved the museum, and the history. After living in a tiny tomato growing village for a week, it seemed daunting to be in a city of 25,000 people!

We then visited the cathedral briefly, the Iglesia de Santiago de Caballeros. We love the look of the simpler, less ornate churches we have seen here. They are reminiscent of many on the St James Way.
Per usual, the cathedral is located on the town square. Fortunately. also it is a pedestrian area.
We did also discover that the Canary Islands have their own St James Way and of course, it runs right past the church here.

The altar. Again, prayers were offered for the sale of a certain home in Knoxville. Yep, you know who you are! We did not mention the wine tunnel you plan to build in your new neighborhood while supplicating for your home sale :)

One thing we see a version of here that is gaining popularity in the US, but is a tradition here is market day. The local farmers and butchers and fisherman's place here was small but colorful.
Pulpo. Just boil it, pour olive oil on it and sprinkle with paprika!

Salted sardines

Prickly pear cactus fruit. They make jellies and juice from these.

Wax beans

A lovely vegetable stand.
I love to see how the locals live, shop and eat. One very disappointing item, however, is the attempt to get Europeans to embrace the concept of Black Friday. It's a bit depressing, really. We saw quite a bit of advertising for Black Friday in remote town in the Atlantic Ocean of only 25,000 people. A sad sight.
The Canaries embracing an American tradition I am not particularly proud of...
From this city, we bused our way into Las Palmas. There is a very big beach here, considered by some to be the best in Europe. Paul booked us in a nice hotel next to a wonderful city park slightly off the beach called Bed and Chic. The room is lovely.

The bed. Very comfy. Makes for a great nap.

Spacious shower.

The view outside our window onto Parque Santa Catalina. They were giving a native dance demonstration when we arrived.
We checked in and then enjoyed a last lunch with our new UK buddies and guide, Bert. We will so miss them. We had a lovely if large Italian meals before our last farewells.
Sara, from Wales is quite pleased with a vegetarian pizza.
After we bid our compadres adieu, Paul and I took a much deserved 2 hour nap. We have been getting up early every day on vacation and doing extended hikes. We aren't complaining, mind you, just stating we have never accommodated jet lag, hikers fatigue, etc. Need I say the rest time was glorious??? I did not even have to give Paul a coloring book (but that's another story...)

From there, what else could we do but go up the roof of the hotel. admire the view and have a gin and tonic????
Nighttime view of the Park and downtown La Palma

A happy gin and tonic recipient.

Gin and tonic on a roof. What's not to love?
From here we made our way to evening repast at a lovely very tiny restaurant of 8 tables called Don Quixote. The shtick here is that you cook your own meat on a hot stone. It was so much fun and really delicious. I must send out kudos to the waiters who were massively attentive and minimally obtrusive. Bravo!
Pimientos de Padron...roasted peppers. Very simple.Simply delicious.

Internal view of Don Quixote restaurant. 8 tables for but massively good taste.

Meat cooked on a stone. SMOKIN!
Overall, this was  a very pleasurable day with a mix of history and unfortunately a little sadness. It's always a bit heartbreaking to meet someone, really appreciate them and then realize, you most likely will never see them again. It's why we live in the now...appreciating them for whatever time we are given. We are grateful to have met them and shared the experience of travel. Samuel Clemens spoke the truth and these folks helped us realize it:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”
Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It

Paul's Ponderings:  We moved on today to Las Palmas and unfortunately left our lovely hiking friends to move onward.   Overall, a slow day, with a stop in Galdar and then a lunch in Las Palmas, followed by a nap and then a leisurely dinner.   Not too sloppy as we say at home.   

A great time here to date....we look forward to the following week, which will start with a slow day!