Silver Travel Advisor Alan Fairfax writes his Blog from the deck of Fred Olsen’s Braemar on his Canary Islands cruise in March 2013.
6.30 am and the alarm clock is telling me it’s time to get up. Looking out of the window I can see that we are still at sea but the island of Gran Canaria is coming into view. The sky is blue, the sea is smooth and the sun is just starting to rise over the horizon. This morning I am determined to go to breakfast, and I am so glad I did. I decided to eat in the Grampian Restaurant which is our groups’ usual dining room. On arrival, I am shown to a table by the window from where I get a beautiful view of Las Palmas. Presented with a menu I have the choice of ordering from the large selection shown or availing myself of the buffet. On this occasion I choose the buffet. Taking into account that this is a small ship and a small number of passengers that are being catered for the buffet selection is excellent. Two styles of scrambled egg and boiled eggs, two types of bacon, European style and crispy. These dishes are accompanied by sausages, grilled tomatoes, French toast, baked beans etc. There is also an excellent selection of cereals and fruit. On returning to the table with my selection a waiter approaches with the toast which is nicely browned and hot. Coffee arrives soon after. Another nice touch was that as soon as I had used one of the Marmalade containers it was replaced with a fresh one.
Breakfast over it was time to head off to the Neptune Lounge to meet the group ready for the days tour. There were 4 tours, and we were booked on the Bandama and Santa Brigida. Once on the coach we met our guide Teresa and our driver Fernando, no he was not in his hideaway!! On leaving the port area we make our way through Las Palmas and it was immediately noticeable how wide the road and boulevards are which are lined with flowers of many colours and palm trees. We were quickly through the town and heading onto Gran Canarias excellent motorway system to our first stop at Bandama. It was not long before we are heading along a narrow road going up Mount Bandama. The views were indeed spectacular as we wound our way to the top passing the mouth of a volcano crater on route. Finally, we arrive at the viewing point 569 metres (1,866ft) above sea level. From here you can see across all points of the island and my camera worked overtime.
Next stop was the village of Santa Brigida where we arrived after again admiring the views including those of the crater. Following a tour of this small village we visited a winery where everyone was entertained to a short film on the origins of the wines of Gran Canaria and it was very interesting to note that the vines began life hundreds of years ago in the area now known as Greece and Bulgaria. It was then time to sample 3 of the wines, one red, one dry white and finally a sweet white. This was accompanied by tapas that included goat’s cheese, olives, nuts and small Canary potatoes. One of the dips on the table was so delicious that I asked for the recipe. Olive Oil, ground Red Pepper, Garlic, Cumin Seeds and add chilli powder to taste. Fabulous.
Back on the coach, and we were heading back to Las Palmas along roads where wild Geraniums, colourful Bougainvillea, were growing in abundance. The main reason for this next stop was to visit the Casa de Colon which is Columbus House and dedicated to Christopher Columbus. Full of models, maps and replica areas of the old ships this is definitely worth a visit. On the short walk we also passed the Santa Ana Cathedral together with buildings whose architecture has survived from a bygone age.
Finally, it was back to the ship for lunch and an hour in the sun before entering the afternoon quiz. We called ourselves the Silver Travellers and on scoring 17 out of a possible 20 thought we had done quite well until it was found that 3 of the other teams had scored 19. With that we quietly left.
Before I go I forgot to mention the ships Safety Drill that we carried out yesterday. Very thorough, and it should leave no one in any doubt as to what to do in an emergency. The procedure and demonstration of how to put on a life jacket were very clear. After everyone had donned their jacket it was inspected by a member of the crew. Everyone was then lead in ‘crocodile’ fashion out to their lifeboat station where further explanations were given. Very reassuring and a first class job by the crew.
Tonight is the Captains Welcome Cocktail Party so it is out with the dinner jacket and bow tie. I will report on it in my next blog.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines