Friday, November 27, 2015

Gran Canaria Day 6: Agaete/Puerto de Nieves--Churches, Gardens and the Deep Blue Sea

The whitewashed city of Agaete
“When you increase the number of gardens, you increase the number of heavens too!”
Mehmet Murat ildan

For today's adventure, we went from La Aldea, the sleepy tomato farming village we are staying in at 9 o'clock on the map to about 11 o'clock to the twin towns of Agaete and Puerto de Nieves.
 Today, we ventured to the furthest point north we have gone thus far in Gran Canaria. Our day started with a bus ride across curvy mountainous terrain (do you see a theme here?) and eventually, about an hour and a bout or two of nausea later, to a town on the coast. We chose the city of Agaete because it is small, not very touristy and it had a botanical garden as well as natural beach. For anyone interested in the Canaries, Agaete also has a direct high speed ferry to Tenerife which apparently arrives in about 90 minutes.

Catedral de Nuestra Senora de Concepcion in Agaete
After our bus ride where we were greeted by a lady who insisted on walking us to the tourist office, we were disappointed by finding the office sign that said it opened at 9 was still closed at 9:45am. But we are living on Canarian time, which is a bit warped. Not to worry. We found a tiny bar open on the pebbled beach and drank a diet Coke and pondered the possibilities. We saw the ferry coming in from Tenerife. It was full of people, cars and large trucks. Really, there is no other way than ship to transport goods between the islands. This one is best known for tomatoes, bananas, mangoes and goat cheeses that are exported out to Europe and the other islands. The number of lorries on the ferry was pretty impressive. When we got back around to the tourist information center, we met a lovely Canarian woman who once lived in Ohio! She gave us great information about the area and a map. We took off on foot to the church--Our Lady of the Conception. (Apparently, immaculacy is not a major issue out here in the Atlantic Ocean!)  The church was really nice as you see above and I said a five candle prayer in the grotto for someone's house in Knoxville to sell.(You know who you are.)

The altar of the church in Agaete.

Example of the architecture and style of this relatively small community. It reminded me alot of photos of the Greek Islands without the blue rooves.

From the church, we walked a short distance to the botanical garden which once was owned by a wealthy citizen who planted many trees. It was then rented to the former garden of this person and then to a sculptor who took a notion to plant even more trees.There are some flowers there, but this garden is given particularly to trees from six of the seven continents and is quite lovely. It's obvious that there has been a lot of work put into it...which is true of nearly any garden. The city of Agaete bought the garden when the sculptor passed away in the mid 1970s, so there have been trees here for about a century and a half.

The Mexican calabash tree.

Paul enjoys huerta de flores in Agaete

Angelic feline from whom we received cat therapy. He seems to be a denizen of the garden and quite content here.
We had a lot of fun not only getting to know the garden cat who is exceedingly friendly, but learning about the many trees world wide and their uses...either medicinal, ornamental or industrial or some combination of the three.

The knobby bark of the floss silk tree of India 

The bark of the spotted fig tree of China. This one stood over 50 feet tall.
The lady at the info center told us not to leave the garden without sampling the local coffee from a plantation about 6 kilometers north of the city.  It is in fact the only coffee plantation in Europe. Why that unique distinction did NOT stick in our heads while we were in the tourist office, I have no idea. But Paul is a coffee hound so we tried the coffee. We thought, we should go to the only coffee plantation in Europe! But it closed at 1pm so that opportunity passed us by. Nevertheless, Mr Parris enjoyed his cupajoe.

Coffee anyone?
From here, we meandered back to Puerto de Nieves. It's only a mile or less back to this active fishing port with the ferry. We enjoyed a very nice lunch of "misted seafood" ( mixed seafood, to those who write English more correctly!)
Seriously? this is supposed to be for 2 people! It's an enormous plate of 4 whole fish, an octopus and enough potatoes, bell peppers and tomatoes to feed an army! Delicious though! We could not dream of eating all this.

We then walked along the boardwalk of sorts. One nice thing here is that they have some natural "swimming pools" where the volcanic material has made a rim that the waves crash into and fill the pools up but there is plenty of water for paddling around without dealing with undertow, etc. that sometimes comes with oceanic areas. Very safe and beautiful as well. We spent quite a while watching waves come in and Paul said, "I could sit here and watch this all day. " Not only were the waves breaking gorgeously, but we could see up the whole pristine west coast of the island. Lovely and breathtaking.

Eventually, we did have to get back to the bus stop to get to La Aldea. It is the last night of the organized hiking trip and we were having a farewell dinner at the local cactus park called CactuAldea. Someone went to a crazy amount of trouble to bring 1200 species of cactus, many local but many not and organize it into a beautiful recreational park. They have an eating area and the chef made our group of 16 very nice paellas for our bon voyage party.
The chef and the seafood paella. Tasty!
We have enjoyed every moment with our group of 4 Canadians, 12 Brits and a Dutchman!

A small glance at a very large cactus garden! The white stuff behind the cacti are the greenhouses for tomatoes. There are literally hundreds of these in La Aldea.
Afterward, there might have been a bit of dancing?
An anonymous Dutchman struts his stuff.
This has been a wonderful vacation so far and we have the independent part left. We are looking forward to it, but we are so grateful to these folks for making it even more enjoyable. We will miss them.

“Entering a garden  was like succumbing to a dream. Every detail was intended to produce a specific effect on the mind and body, to excite and soothe the senses like a drug. To awaken the unconscious self.”
Linda Lappin, Signatures in Stone 

Paul's Ponderings:  A final great day out on the "hiking"part of our trip.   The bus ride over to Agaeate was a bit of a grind (think US roads before interstates), but manageable.   We like the port area more than Mogan due to its "local" feel.  We had a great seafood lunch and wandered about a bit, which was quite a change from the strenuous hike yesterday.   Tomorrow, we transition to Las Palmas for a different experience.   Bueno!

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