I don’t know what made me decide to visit the Canary islands other than I have been experiencing a growing attraction to the Spanish way of life. I guess I was also looking for the warmest place within the EU around the Christmas holiday. All indicators pointed to Gran Canaria as the place to go, but when investigating accommodation prices, I found out that Gran Canaria and Tenerife are hot-spots for British tourists. Not that there is anything wrong with British tourists other than the addage ‘when two or three British tourists are gathered together there shall be bacon and eggs in their midst.’ I wanted to experience the Spanish culture first hand and a pseudo-British resort wouldn’t serve that purpose. So I honed in on Fuerteventura. Granted, I had also seen that name plastered on departure boards at Luton Airport in connection with RyanAir and EasyJet, but perhaps less so than the other two. I completely ignored Lanzarote, as I had heard that they cook food over active volcanoes on the island. Why tempt fate?
After some research on hotel and resort prices, I came to the conclusion that accommodation for myself, my partner and my son would involve two rooms no matter which way I looked at the issue. No-one wants to share a room with someone who snores like a polar bear (me). So I turned to AirBnB for my accommodation requirements and found a delightful maisonette in a gated complex with a communal pool. The place was an hour’s drive south from the airport in a town called Costa Calma. It sounded peaceful and calm and past tourists’ photos of the area and its beaches were breathtaking. I corresponded with the owner via WhatsApp and she seemed to be fine with communicating in English. She sent me a photo of herself next to a tall man dressed up as Gandalf (Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit). I said ‘Oooooh, Gandalf’! To which she replied: ‘Who’s Gandalf’? She explained that she had sent the pic to me so that I could see how to dress in the evenings, as it was cool at that time of day. So I replied: “Yes, I see. Wizard’s cloak and pointed hat. Thanks”. She sent back a facepalm emoticon. I was fascinated to see the property was owned by ‘Jesus y Maria’. So we would be spending Christmas with Jesus and Mary! How cool is that?!
I made the mistake of asking her if she knew of any place that could do a decent Christmas dinner to which she replied that she and Jesus owned a tapas restaurant in the vicinity and that they were doing a ‘special dinner’ on the night of Christmas day. Now feeling obligated, I booked us a table for the event. It was only after the booking had been made that I read reviews of the restaurant and was not impressed by the comments left by past diners, but I had committed us to it and felt duty bound to honour the commitment.
The day of departure arrived and we boarded the flight bound for Fuerteventura. Little did I know that I had accidentally booked ‘Plus’ seats on the SAS flight out of Copenhagen. It turned out that ‘Plus’ is the SAS euphemism for ‘Business Class’! We were duly pampered by the charmingly camp air steward. Warm moist towelettes were followed by a glass of prosecco and small boxes of chocolates. It thus that we arrived at Fuerteventura in style. Although I knew that the island was mostly devoid of greenery, I was shocked, looking down from the plane at what looked like the surface of an alien planet. I hoped that we would see some palm trees before long.
It took just over an hour to drive south from the airport to Costa Calma. I had chosen that seaside town, as I had read that it was not so populated by British tourists. I was right. It was almost entirely populated by German tourists to the extent that even the waiters and cockroaches in the restaurants spoke mainly Spanish and German. The town appeared as an oasis in the otherwise barren landscape. The first impression was of the tree-lined road into the centre and yes, they were mainly palm trees. We found the housing complex quickly and waited for Maria to arrive with the key. I was pleased to see that the complex had its own mini grocery shop peddling everything from cigarettes and condoms to fresh fruit and bread. As it turned out the main supermarket in town was a 20-minute stroll down the hill and on the way to the beach.
Maria arrived after ten minutes, very apologetic for having kept us waiting and greeting us with the obligatory kisses on both cheeks. I submitted to this physical contact, as we needed a place to stay and didn’t want to offend her. She began to chat with us in Spanish as we walked towards the apartment. I tried to chat back in English, but she simply stared at me blankly as if I had spoken some martian laguage. “No comprendo, no comprendo”, she insisted. I realised, with sinking feeling, that we had corresponded so well on WhatsApp, as we had probably both been making good use of Google Translate. Now we were down to the wire. Communicating face to face in different languages without the luxury of a translator. Given this awkward situation, I expected her to hand over the keys and let us find our own way around the place, but it was not to be. She insisted on giving is a comprehensive guided tour of the property, explaining in Spanish and with hand gestures that we should keep the next-door cat out of the apartment, that the beach could be good if it wasn’t raining and that cockroaches on the island were roughly the same size as the cat next door. We struggled through the rest of the awkward briefing until she finally left and I breathed a sigh of relief, but not before she ensured that we would present ourselves at her restaurant on the eve of December 25th, which we duly did.
In retrospect, I would have to say that the three wise men probably had a better meal at the birth of the original Jesus than we did on Christmas day at the tapas restaurant of our Jesus and Maria, but then we didn’t have to spend the night in a stable.
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