The Travelog

Gran Canaria January 2007

This is my 5th visit to the Spanish homosexual haven of Gran Canaria. An island created from the results of volcanic activity thousands of years ago in a chain of islands known as the ‘Canaries’ which still has at least one semi active volcano and another, Mount Teide on Tenerife being dormant. The volcanic history of the islands makes for an interesting landscape with vast moonscapes and a mix of lush sub tropical vegetation.

Gran Canaria boasts the dunes to the south which have been formed by sand from the Sahara desert no less being blown westward. It holds what are for me some mysteries but which are probably, for the locals, known about facts and totally uninteresting. One of these being an apparent road system beneath the sand which can be clearly seen from space and, very occasionally, whilst walking across the dunes. These may be natural ducts or ancient roads to who knows where.

The climate is mild year round and rarely extremes of anything. Winters are typically around 21 and summers up to 35, in short, quite a pleasant place to be should the cold not be your cup of tea.

For such a small island the temperature on it can also be quite different which depends greatly upon location. The south can be as much as 10 degrees warmer than the north with the mountains controlling that aspect by protected the south from the cold winds. Even some resorts, protected as they are by high cliffs on either side can be warmer still.

With me living in Northampton and my being expected to present myself at Gatwick by 09:30 on a Monday morning I opted to stay overnight at a reasonably priced bed and breakfast establishment in Horley, just a few miles from the airport.

It is run solely by a woman named Fiona who has several dogs which are generally well behaved but prone to occasional outbursts of barking which can be a little annoying at times but not as much as Fiona herself who seems to make a hell of a noise whilst cleaning the nearby rooms of which there are only 6. She really needs to consider that doors can be shut quietly and do not have to be left to slam of their own accord. Though this was early in the evening it was still somewhat off putting when one is attempted to use the facilities!

Fiona at Rosemead, for some reason I just cannot get along with her, she seems quite often distant and difficult to talk to and I talk to most people just fine. She’s like a lesbian, more tolerant than friendly, polite but not social except if one engages in conversation about the dogs, a subject clearly close to her heart … I suspect the lady needs to get out more.

After a sumptuous breakfast of cereal and full cooked English it was time to set off for the airport and by 8:20 my taxi was already awaiting me outside. With a surprisingly quick run on reasonably clear roads, strange for the rush hour I was within the terminal very quickly, indeed, only 10 minutes after leaving the bed and breakfast.

The queue for check-in was very small, just me, some ageing hippies and more homos, a very pleasant change from the enormous queues I have been in previously. I asked for and got a window seat, always on the right of the aircraft for some reason though I never stipulate either. My luggage was well under the allowed weight, something which is always a moment of anguish for me with things being put in the case, taken out again, exchanged for lighter alternatives all in an effort to allow me some room on my return journey for some choice items. Once checked in it was a simple matter of a short walk over to security to get ‘air side’ and I could relax in the departure lounge.

The queue for security was a fair size though, estimate of around 30 minutes.

They have the ‘no liquids’ rule in place whereby they don’t allow anything through above 100ml … ironic then that there is a drinks machine in the queue area selling 500ml drinks!

The woman in front of me who sounded American but I can’t be sure was a problem. She was a Ryanair priority boarder with her £23 ticket and considered this made her immune from the rules everyone else was following. She had 2 items of hand luggage which she finally accepted she’d have to amalgamate into one. Then there were the perfumes and toothpaste she insisted were essential items of hand luggage for her flight which she did not want to place in the secure bags provided. Turns out, when we get to the 1st security desk that she had not been to Ryanair at all to get her boarding pass and only had 15 minutes to board her flight … silly and cow come to mind.

Despite the apparent long wait to get through this part of the process I was soon running way too early as I allowed extra time for the check-in delays which didn’t happen. Do I have another coffee and risk having to pee all through the flight or just chill out around the shops … I shall get back to you on that one … Oh, almost forgot, I got frisked today, very cute he was too. I also noticed that people are basically just sheep. One bloke took his shoes off so all the people behind him followed suit and for no reason except that he had so perhaps they had to… this spread rapidly to other queues and before long most were removing shoes! It was really quite amusing but I am more than pleased this happened early in the day before the feet had a chance to really sweat! I guess it doesn’t help that the notice boards around the area of security are vague and have different boards for different things as they have been added over time. It would be really helpful if they just made it very clear to people exactly what was expected of them. Laptops for example … they only had it on one quite small sign that these needed to be removed from hand luggage for separate inspection. Not an issue for seasoned travellers like me but others around me were guided more by my actions than they were from these hard to find signs. I noticed with relief in her voice a young student type behind me say that she was right when she expected she’s need to remove her laptop, again, this is the sheep mentality, I could have just done it to wind people up, but it also shows more of the shortcomings of security than anything else, they need to keep the public informed.

Through security and on to air side and time to relax, chill for a while and wait for the call to the gate where ever that may end up being.

Gatwick has quite good facilities and adequate for most waits which is seldom more than an hour or so but much beyond this and the place would become very tiresome. Many of the high street stores are represented here and whilst they advertised no tax on their prices they are, in fact, generally more than one would expect to pay outside of the airport because of the overly excessive profit margin attached to the goods on the shelves. One item I had looked at before I left home I had priced at £27 yet at Dixons in the airport the same things was £36! The level of profit on that must be huge when we consider that 17.5% has been removed from the base price.

Not sure who was worse, the guy for trying to sleep there or the kids that were running around like idiots all over the benches surrounding the play area or, maybe their parents who didn’t seem to be about … no, my mistake, mummy is about, single mummy who clearly has little interest in what her daughters are doing.

The smell from the smoking zone permeates throughout the lounge in departures making it really unpleasant. I wonder if in July when the ban on smoking in public places is introduced, airports will be obliged to follow the law or whether there will be an opt out clause somewhere?

I am not really very close to the play area yet nearly had my laptop knocked off my lap by out of control kids … heaven help the folk in resort where these people are going!

In need of the loo, probably because of the 3 cups of tea I had at the guest house. By some strange quirk of luck I bashed into someone I knew at the loo, Jim Darby. By an even stranger quirk, turns out he’s staying at the same place as me at the same time. He is also hoping for someone to eat with which is like so cool! The problem with travelling alone is eating alone. Many places seem to see the lone diner as second class, after all, they take up as much room as at least two people yet are almost certain not to make them as much money and probably, and this could just be me, sit there reading a book and nursing a coffee for ages preventing new guests from indulging in the culinary delights of the establishment.

Probably worth mentioning I am looking at a lot of virgins and I don’t mean the mad kids either. No, it’s those red and white planes from Virgin airlines which always manage to look better than any other on the airfield. Rarely have I seen an aircraft operated by that company look sub standard, always they are pristine.

On time the flight was announced to be departing from gate 33 which is some 20 minute granny steps away, for the rest of us it is no more than 10 minutes walk. The gates at Gatwick are better than I remember they used to be. I recall not having any facilities there just rows of seats with the nearest toilets always a very long walk away encourage people to hold on longer than perhaps they should and then having to go just as their boarding is announced! These days we have small coffee bars and toilets nearby. Amazingly, and here I am on my high horse again, but amazingly they allow smoking quite openly throughout the coffee bar with no apparent distinction between smoking and non smoking areas.

We boarded on time which always has to be a good sign and there were no difficulties that were going to delay as. There was a couple who had decided that despite their ticket numbers clearly being toward the back of the plane they wanted the front seats with extra leg room. This was quickly sorted out by an attendant who was polite but insistent that seat allocation was final and that she was not about to swap customers around on a full to capacity aircraft, well done her.

Followed Delta for a while then a BA nipped in first just because he required a shorter runway.

The flight was OK, watched ‘Click’ with Adam Sandler and it was really very good in a bad copy of ‘It’s a wonderful life’ kind of way. I believe I may have fallen asleep for a while after the movie as it seemed shorter than normal and that’d be a first for me to doze on a plane! Landing was good though the zigzag approach taken into Las Palmas airport was ‘interesting’. It seemed like the pilot had veered off to far west on his approach to the island so had to fly a fair way east to compensate before heading south and then a complete about turn for final approach.

Compared to my stay in Ibiza late last year the baggage handling at the airport here was excellent with few having to wait long for there suit cases to arrive and none seemed to have been damaged. There was no passport control, indeed, only once during my journey had I been asked for my passport and that was at the boarding gate back in Gatwick, more a measure to ensure my ticket was valid than any sort of nationality check. Our man from Respect Holidays, Raymond was awaiting us land side and directed us to the transport which would take us to resort some 20 minutes to the south.

No one on this Respect week is staying anywhere other than the Almendros Apartments which meant a much easier check-in … even better that Jim was around because his case just about fell out the coach when it was opened and mine was second from last off. I was cheeky and just joined him at the front of the queue, bad of me or what!

The acquisition of the Los Almendros Apartments by Respect Holidays a few years back was inspired. Formerly a complex of 36 bungalows for general use by the straight community they were swiftly converted to the requirements of the gay community. This involved replacing the child swimming pool with a huge Jacuzzi, removing the play are and placing a gym in its place. Finally a bar and restaurant were added and one final touch, and iron and ironing board in each bungalow, instant homosexual heaven! The only drawback of the place is the location and we all know how important location is to any property. This one is at least 10-15 minutes walk away from the centre of this gay resort, the Yumbo (often pronounced ‘Jumbo’) Centre. This does not seem to unduly bother the Almendros guests many of whom simply avail themselves the use of the taxis which wait outside.

I did find myself for a while altering my plans to fit in with the inclusion of Jim then slapped myself and reminded me that the point of this was to just look after me and what I want, not worry about someone else. It’d be nice to spend some time with Jim chatting but it’s not essential.

Oh, I seem to have a cold which is just so damned annoying!

Most of today it’s been like I have been on autopilot. Every now and then I’d take notice of something and go wow, I am on an airplane or wow, this is Los Almendros, wow … etc. I got to Pub Nestor and it was just weird, it was like visiting a museum and seeing something famous yet not being very enthusiastic about it, ah yes, there’s Pub Nestor, I should clarify … Pub Nestor is probably the most prominent vanilla gay bar in Playa Del Ingles. ‘by Vanilla’ I mean that sex is not really an issue there, it’s not the primary reason for going which is solely to have a drink. They do have competition nights twice a week known as ‘Open the Box’. Standard stuff, behind each box is a prize ranging from totally crap to the current top money prize which is around €600 at best. The drag queen host seems to change frequently and is either excellent or rude and horrible, seldom much in between. There are two lads, always (or nearly always) cute who have to be stripped to their pants (if they wear any) by a member of the audience chosen by the drag queen for maximum humiliation potential. It is actually just a cheap giggle with minimal outlay gaining maximum revenue for the place by virtue of the crowd it attracts in the hope of seeing cock.

As it happens, on this occasion, there was nobody familiar there, certainly not Gary and he’s the only one there who is really sociable. Had to eat at Miramar, an upstairs cheap looking outside venue because Silos, a quality inside restaurant was closed along with Merlin’s, another such place, on Monday … might just be a good restaurant guide, if they are closed on Monday they are worth visiting! Speaking of the Miramar, I like my steak rare but I think had I been there just a moment earlier I could have milked it, it was that raw. It was barely even warm just the outside slightly brown with the inside as it was on the cow, more blue than pink and it was a little much for me so I left a third of it, not that I was very hungry anyway and the service there this evening was appalling.

Maybe this is just typical of the Yumbo, it’s all very hit or miss there and lacks consistency. Let me explain … The Yumbo has two facets, the straight daytime shopping centre where a holidaymaker goes to buy their mainly tacky gifts courtesy of cheap labour in China and the night time almost exclusively gay venue full of gay bars varying from vanilla to outright sleaze and beyond. As mentioned before there is Pub Nestor and, I forgot to mention, whilst it is owned by Holgar, a German, it is predominantly an English bar. There are several others along similar lines on that side of the lower level which are either German or Dutch. Around the other side it becomes heavier both is sexual preference and also, quite literally by weight as we enter the arena of the bears and leather brigade. Further still, on the opposing side to Nestor’s we have extremes. Drag bars which prefer to call themselves ‘Variety Bars’ and sex bars with their dark rooms, harness and sticky patches on the floors, clothes in the latter of those two are most definitely optional. The variety bars appeal mainly to the straight audience believing this is what being gay is all about; dressing up as women, total rubbish but it keeps them away from the reality I guess which is that they have probably been surrounded by gay men for days without realising it.

The architecture, and I am loathed to refer to it as such, is generally a mix of concrete blocks pieced together to form a centre of tack and sleaze from a hole in the ground the size of a few football pitches. This building is never going to win design awards. It’s functional and never pretends to be anything else.

Today, being my first full day here and with a streaming cold was my chosen day to go for a stroll, just to get out a bit and see stuff. It has to be said that not only do I sometimes need to say no to others I also need to say no to me because that was one crazy mother of an idea!

The theory was sound … walk down to the main stretch of Playa Del Ingles and then head along the surf into Maspalomas some three miles away, do Faro 1 & 2 (shopping centres) and then head back for lunch. The plan was bound to work and as I turned out of my accommodation instead of heading for the surf I thought heading directly across the dunes would be a cool idea. If I ever suggest this to anyone again, can they please talk me out of it! It was one hell of a long slog up and down mountainous sand heaps feeling like I was getting nowhere fast (and indeed I was). My back was killing me, everything hurt and I had barely started. Not one to give up easily I meandered on and soon entered the shaded territory of the lecherous huge naked German men … Come on guys, share the sun, there is enough or it for all of us! Thankfully I managed to out walk that lot and I owe them some thanks as they served a useful distraction from my other discomforts.

The surf was up and it was very amusing watching fully dressed people not using their brains and walking on the wet sand and getting caught by the occasional huge wave soaking them through. Not that I laugh at the misfortune of others of course, that’s not my think at all … yeah, right.

Eventually Maspalomas loomed and I was in Faro one before I knew it taking photo’s of the giant shit they have there. On I went now deciding that the rather attractive little port area I saw on Google Earth wasn’t that far away and headed off there … I can be so thick at times! Take a look at the map on Google Earth … find the lighthouse and then keep going round to the left until you find the little harbour. Yes, I really am that insane!

Having got there which was a good feeling of achievement, I have to concede the place was fairly crap really. I was thinking crystal clear waters, loads of fish and amazing atmosphere from harbour side cafés but, the reality was much different. It was a nice harbour but the waters were cloudy. There were some lovely yachts there from all over the place including a few from the UK. Not up to Monaco standard but then, if they were they’d be in Monaco or St Tropez not some anonymous little port nowhere on Gran Canaria! There were no cafés, no restaurants, nothing but a vending machine over by the diesel pumps. It seems that this whole place is there just for some reasonably well off people to moor up and stay in their nice houses (yes, some of those too) and maybe see a little of the island. In short, this ‘resort’ was not my scene at all.

From there and extremely knackered by this point, I headed for my final destination of Faro 2 when I finally conceded defeat and got a taxi. The place was open but all my enthusiasm has drained away, I just wanted to get back, get my sandals off … oh yes, did I mention I did all this in a pair of sandals? As an aside, this pineapple juice I am drinking tastes of washing up liquid!

Met up with Jim later in the evening and we had a chat. Neither of us had eaten a lot so decided to have a wander and see if anything inspired us. It really didn’t though Jim did have some pizza to take away from a place just across the road. This is the problem with having a cold, I can’t really taste much (except for washing up liquid apparently) so I am actually thinking about whether or not I am hungry rather than how nice something smells and eating it. We came back to the complex and Jim shared some of his honey rum, I thought I’d take him up on that offer as I seldom seem to get any when we have some at home. We chatted about his dive earlier on that day and looked through his pictures which were really rather good though, I have to admit I was not that aware of the shark population having around the coast. One topic we got back to often was teenagers and how to bring them up. Jim has taken in a fair brood of strays locally all around 18 and has all the same difficulties as most parents even though he’s never been a biological parent himself. I’d say he’s got a very good instinct for it, maybe a little too soft but that’s a minor thing, none of his kids seem to be taking the piss out of him so he must be doing something right.

One thing we did certainly both agree on is the need for a kid to, when they are ready, move out and live for themselves. I am finding this with Matt, my nearly 19 year old. He really doesn’t want to take my advice anymore, he finds it all too intrusive and possibly he needs to make more of his own mistakes without the safety net to move on and he really can’t do that at home because it’s my job to keep him safe, to try and make sure he doesn’t take a fall too hard, try and stop huge mistakes happening. The reasons for that are complex but I guess can be summed up in two points. The first is my parental need to protect my kids, do what is best for them and the other is a selfish need to go for damage limitation. Far better to prevent a crisis than it is to clear one up.

Jim left at some time after midnight I think, I don’t know because I don’t really do the time whilst I am holiday but I recall him saying it was somewhere near midnight anyway.

I slept really well, right up to 11 and just cleared the bathroom in time for the cleaners to come in. I so planned to do nothing today but as the cleaners were just outside with their cleaning buggies I didn’t want to have breakfast in the apartment or on the patio because it was just so busy. Instead I braved the throng of pensioners and headed for the Yumbo for breakfast. I could taste the bacon, that was OK but everything else was tasteless thanks to this cold, the coffee felt nice. The blister on my foot is causing me mega grief, kept sticking to my shoe. Most of my joints are aching like hell as well but then, after the stupidity of yesterday, this is hardly a shock.

Guys outside are being sociable and I am not sure I am in the mood for small talk. I have two things on my mind to do right now … read a book or go to bed, the latter seems quite appealing. Seems like a waste to be in a lovely place but to go to bed but then, I feel guilty for going to bed during the day every time when I am at home and this week, for one week only ladies and gentleman, I am not feeling guilty about anything so if I want to sleep, I just will. I think the guy in the apartment next door fancies me too which is awkward. Coincidentally, I was sitting next to him on the plane as well, quite freaky that! He could just be a nice guy being sociable of course but I am a little sensitive to guys chatting me up, I just don’t need it because I have a wonderfully handsome, funny, loving boyfriend waiting for me at home and I just don’t have the inclination to be messing with that in any way.

Restaurant Silos on Av Tirajana is just wonderful and it was impossible for me to feel as though I was eating alone there and why people walk past is beyond me, wake up and smell the coffee people, its brilliant!

Thursday already and finally I am resting, sunbathing, no less having secured one of the padded sun loungers for my own use not after my rise from bed at 9:30 this morning.

In a moment of what I can only think of as pregnant appetite I did myself croissants with cheese and honey and they were marvellous. I poured the washing up liquid flavoured pineapple juice away and had some grapefruit instead which tasted of grapefruit much to my drinking pleasure.

I picked up my Nigel Hawthorne autobiography which had been barely touched and proceeded to read. Feeling a little hungry decided to do myself some lunch, it was 3:10 and I was already two thirds of the way through the book! I guess this is probably a good read and it’s been a long time since any book has captured me quite so much.

I am finding that there is simply not enough on this island for a single guy to do beyond 3 or 4 days unless there is transport involved and, as I have committed to not renting a vehicle and don’t really do buses, I am kind of out of ideas as to how to spend my time. This is not proving too distressing as what it is also doing is making me rest a lot more than I usually do. Having nearly completed my book, eaten properly and been for a walk in today’s not particularly warm temperature and blustery winds, I can say that I have not really wasted my time. I grabbed a few hours sleep earlier too even though still, at 11:30pm I am feeling tired. This cold is still lingering in me, sometimes a runny nose, others a cough and just generally draining so, apologies for the lack of interesting stories but it just isn’t happening like that.

Guys around me were speaking for some time earlier about the comparative virtues or otherwise between Marks & Spencer, John Lewis and House of Fraser. Which of those offered the better deals, had better customer care, better after sales. All of this I find strange as I personally measure such shops by the quality of their café and whilst M&S do a wonderful hot chocolate and House of Fraser can be reasonably priced, John Lewis simply have the better choice, end of really. There, you see, not really any titbits to report that are in the slightest interesting. O the couple earlier he spending some 20 minutes plus attempting to explain to his female companion why it is that she cannot purchase bottle water outside the airport to take on the aircraft with her but that she could once she had cleared airport security. Her argument was constant and unrelenting that a bottle of water is a bottle of water, where she bought it was not important which sadly was actually missing the point that the matter was not open for debate in any way in which her male informant could control. Some things are just rules and, unless we have lots of time to spare on such matters, are simply not worth fighting against. Was Jim’s lodger Lauren right to be annoyed that her four other lodger types were out for in excess of four hours when they said they had only popped out to buy some weed? I think probably not but then again, a little courtesy on the part of the others would not have been a bad thing. Telling her they may actually not be back that evening could have been better than allowing her to not make her own plans on the basis that they were returning. But they are stoners and, she too is one and the like do not have a lot of consideration for others when their priority is the next joint or two and she should know that. Poor Jim does try to understand, support them and sympathise but the root here is that he’s dealing with kids who much of the time are not thinking with their own clear minds, they are doped up. He needs to remove the drugs before he can get them thinking with true responsibility and not just acting it. Thankfully and I hope it remains so, this is not an issue I have had to deal with within my own family.

January, the current month here in Gran Canaria, is a very pleasant contrast to those weather descriptive of the UK. If someone here says ‘it’s quite cold’ they don’t mean its ‘cold’ because the concept doesn’t really exist here. Cold here may mean the need to wear a light jacket and would seldom apply during daylight hours except in the north of the island. Were someone to suggest it may snow here, one could reasonably expect to be aloft one of the mountains. Relatively speaking, right now, with a temperature of 27C it could be described as chilly by the locals as summertime temperatures rise to over 30 and sometimes 40. However, with the weather stats in the UK showing a maximum today of 4C with the possibility of snow, here is ‘very’ hot.

To further describe the resort here one need only listen to the midday conversation around the pool. The couple next to me are describing how they parted company last night around 11 and went off in different directions in search of sex. One of these described in great detail visits to bars with names such as ‘The Cellar’, ‘Cruise’ and ‘Construction’. He proudly boasted how he’d “Had more men then drinks and I can’t remember how many drinks I had”. That really sums up the nature of many men to this place. They are here to have a good time and that is measured in the amount of condoms they get through, or worse still, just by the amount of men. They ask someone that is not here for sex what they did last night and seem genuinely uninterested to hear about the lovely meal, the hilarious chats and bubbly personalities. It’s as though if a guy has not fucked his way through his holiday that he has not had a holiday, he just as well of gone to Eastbourne where, no doubt, these guys would still go in search of as many shags as were available regardless of whether or not there was a pulse attached to the body.

Many here this time of year are of a more mature type, the retired and infirm. It can be argued that it is possibly cheaper to move somewhere like here rather than pay for the exorbitant fuel prices of the UK. This would be as dull as ditchwater for me as I need to have some life around me, I need to be surrounded by the young and young at heart and there is not a lot of that here in January.

Gran Canaria can be a fun place to visit but it helps to have limited vision at times, deaf ears and a liking for the tacky and sometimes ridiculous. This is the wrong place for history and culture.

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