Nov 24 – La Palma

24 NOV  La Palma, Spain
Las Palmas

travelling each night between the Canary Islands I had no sea/teaching days and 5 consecutive days of shore excursions. The next morning brought us into a small harbour quite near the town frontage. Huge bluffs of golden stone shone in the sun as we moved closer to the pier.
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Palm trees lined the roadway waterfront and a brief stretch of larger buildings was backed by a tall vertical escarpment, above which rose colorful old walls and houses sprinkled up the mountain. Rugged peaks lush with native bush in every direction. Not the terraced plantations of the previous islands or the pervasive condomimum and hotel development.
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I had intended to go up to the Volcano on a tour – but the ticketing was incorrect and there was no room for me. A fortunate mixup as I discovered it was only a 1/2 day ashore and I was to be on board teaching at 2pm! So only a short foray into the old town was on my agenda.

With my painting kit bag and very plain clothes & boots I don’t look much like the other aged voyagers, and I usually try to head away from the hoard of walking, wandering passengers and find a quieter area. Most times they are headed for the shopping and restaurant zone and when a ship with almost 2000 lands in a tiny place like this it is a mad crush for a short time.

So I went in the opposite direction. There was a green break in the stone wall that seemed to lead up to the next level of old buildings above. More stairs = less people proved true again and under the lush palms and banana tree there was a splashing stream and a impressive zig-zag stair well. Up Up Up. 07_LaPalma (4)Perhaps 200 feet above the street below I didn’t have to go far to find an ancient church and viewpoint. The sun came out, I parked my stool in a less windy corner and  was welcomed by a local lady looking out from her window above. My limited spanish has served me very well in cases like this.
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Our Queen Victoria at the pier in the distance. My home away from home.
I have to say I love my “adventures” ashore but I fell better when I can SEE
the ship and know it is only a short walk away when it is departure time.

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Besides the locals walking their small dogs, only a couple of the other dancing “staff” from the ship and one of my students appeared throughout the morning. I headed down around 11 for wonderful coffee and pastry in a christmas decorated narrow street nearer the pier. Another wonderful shore day. Only wish the time to stay was longer.
I think this was my favorite place so far. Las Palmas.
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Look one way DOWN the hill…

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and then turn to look the other way UP the hill.

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When I asked a young local girl what the decorations were for?   ” Oh…a festival”
What occasion to celebrate ?   “Oh…just a Saturday”  Gotta love it. any reason for a party.

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My cafe break overlooked the old walls of what turned out to be the cultural museum. I have been seeking a sample of the traditional Cochinilla / Cochineal Dye and figured this was my last chance. They were very helpful, but surprized that I even knew about it.
I was given the names of a couple of old folks up the town of El Paso, but sadly had run out of time to explore further and track it down. It turns out there is a fabulous Silk Museum up there with traditional production. Dang. missed my chance. Must come back ;-)

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RED dye. Developed by the Incas. Taken by the Conquistadors. Once the 2nd most profitable export for Mexico (next to Silver) the dye is made from secretions of a small bug that lives on the Prickly Pear cactus. The Spaniards had brought the cactus + bug to the Canary Islands and begun production there. Unfortunately the bottom fell out of the “red” market when Alizarin Crimson was developed in Europe. Hence my interest in the history of colors.
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Cochinlla is now still used in some food coloring & products and craft but is labour intensive to produce.
And thanks to those original entrepenuerial souls, Prickly Pear is now an invasive plant in the Canary Islands, Spain and Australia. ( the British/Australian settlers tried to get in on the profit…the bugs died…the cactus didn’t)
One of my students said the white “fuzz” produced by the scale bug was a real problem in gardens throughout her home area of Andalucia Spain.
As most of the arts, crafts and souvenirs that I saw were pretty cheap and tacky I would think some industrious local could create some fine products that would be historically relevant to the Canary Islands.



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