Sunday, January 25, 2015

Largest cruise ship to visit La Gomera this season

'Mein Schiff 3' in the harbour of San Sebastian on Friday...
The newly-built Mein Schiff 3, owned and operated by TUI cruises, visited the capital San Sebastian de La Gomera again last Friday. She's about 900 ft long, 105 ft wide and can accommodate 2.500 passengers plus 1.000 crew on her 15 decks. 
It has now emerged that next year her almost identical sister ship Mein Schiff 4 which is nearing completion at a Finnish shipyard will also include Ls Gomera in her winter 2015/16 cruising schedule.
...and leaving for Lanzarote at 6pm

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cafeteria shipshape in ship-shaped ferry terminal

Los Cristianos ferry terminal, built in the form of a ship
The refurbished bright interior
Good news for travellers to an from the western Canary Islands of La Palma, El Hierro and La Gomera: The cafeteria in the ferry terminal on the pier in Los Cristianos on Tenerife has reopened under new management this week. The upstairs facility had been closed for a long time and it was a fairly long walk to the nearest bar or cafe in the port to get any food or drink. Now the refurbished bright interior with its long self-sevice counter and the large terraces overlooking the harbour once again provide sustenance and rest for weary travellers while watching life in the busy harbour. 
Meanwhile the cafeteria in the ferry terminal of San Sebastian de La Gomera is still closed, but the rental contract has been awarded to new management by the authorities (the terminals are public buildings) and it is expected to reopen soon as well.
The upstairs entrance. Photo taken early in the morning just after opening

Left and above: The ample terraces

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Oil and gas exploration ends without find reports:
Oil firm admits exploratory drilling in Canaries 'unsuccessful'
Spanish oil giant Repsol has announced that it has not found oil during its two-month exploratory drilling off the coast of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura and the volumes of gas discovered at the site do not justify costly extraction work. 
The Rowan Renaissance drilling ship used by Repsol
The explorations, which were authorised by the Spanish government despite massive opposition in the Canaries, where the authorities have filed a string of legal challenges to block the work, have now been halted and the drilling ship used since 18 November is to be redeployed off the coast of Africa. Sources at Repsol said early today that a total of 750 personnel had been employed in the drilling work and the results were not a surprise given that the explorations had been given "only a 15-20% chance of success". "The analysis of the samples shows that, although there is some gas, it is insuffcient in volume or quality to warrant extraction. Furthermore, the layers of hydrocarbons located are too thin to be viable" said the firm in a statement. The news has been welcomed by opponents of the search for oil off the Canaries, who have always maintained that a hypothetical oil industry would be a serious threat to the islands' tourism. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A tenor for a tenner

As part of the 31st International Music Festival of The Canary Islands the renowned tenor Manuel Gomez Ruiz will perform in the cultural centre of Valle Gran Rey tonight at 8:30 pm. The centre is located near the town hall in La Calera and doors open an hour before where tickets are 10 Euros.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Dancing in the dust


Live music is making a bit of a comeback in Valle Gran Rey these days after a long musical drought. There are quite a few events taking place in various venues. Last night the ska band Skazz from Ireland were playing in the sociocultural centre Casa La Familia to a very large enthusiastic crowd of tourists, who were dancing in the dust of the unpaved grounds in their fashionable footwear alongside barefooted hippies. Casa La Familia is a private initiative where homeless people are given food and shelter and it is the best venue by far for live music on La Gomera. It is in the walled yard of a former car rental premises, set back a bit from the coast road between La Playa and La Puntilla, where there are no neighbours to complain about the music. It has some of the old 'La Gomera hippy vibe', but attracts many well-dressed tourists who are looking for something special. Their fantastic generosity and support keeps the place going and the musicians who pass the hat around playing. Last night there were visitors from at least a dozen countries all having a wonderfully good time - see short video.
Regular La Gomera visitors Skazz will be playing at 'Salsa Burger' in La Playa tonight at 8pm, on Tuesday Jan 20th they'll do an acoustic gig in the new 'Cafe del Sol' in the harbour village of Vueltas, and on Sat. 24th of January amplified again in Casa La Familia at 9pm.

               Peter, the charismatic Skazz trumpet player who can sing like 'Satchmo', in action last night.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Ron Howard's new movie to be released much later

While trailer and poster still say that the Ron Howard movie In the Heart of the Sea, which was partially shot here on La Gomera late 2013 will be released on March 13th, the latest post on the film's facebook site (see below) now states that it won't be released until December 11th 2015. Ron Howard has posted a reply stating that he favours this later release. 
We'll soon find out if we really have to wait almost nine additional months to see it. Personally I feel that  it suits the mood of the story better than early spring.
However, in my opinion Friday, November 20th 2015 would be the perfect day for the release as it is the day of the 195th anniversary of the whale attacking the Essex.

‪#‎IntheHeartoftheSea‬ will now be released on December 11th, 2015.
Award season aside I've always felt Nov/Dec was the best time of year for people to experience ‪#‎IntheHeartoftheSea‬
Like ·  ·  · 1,88780

UPDATE: The official website for the film has now changed the release date:

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Dust from Sahara for a few days

The current weather situation with very deep low pressure systems that are bringing storms to much of Northern Europe and very strong high pressure in the central Atlantic is now steering an easterly air current from North Africa directly over the Canary Islands, bringing some dust from the Sahara desert. This current is called calima in the Canaries and much dreaded. More information: Calima: Weather from the Sahara
This time of the year the heat wave normally associated with calima is more like a cool breeze as the Sahara is pretty cold in the depth of winter, and while the regions further up in the mountains may become a couple of degrees warmer, it is a bit colder than normal around the coast and in the lower regions. The presence of cold air in the upper layers adds a chill to this 'cold calima'. However it won't be as bad as last weekend and no warnings have been issued.
This present spell of calima is expected to last well into next week and once again the eastern islands are bearing the brunt of the dust due to their closeness to the Sahara while La Gomera will get less of it. Above is the forecast chart of the University of Athens' SKIRON model for noon today showing the relatively minor surface dust concentrations, and below the same for Tuesday, January 13th.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

La Gomera weatherman working like a slave

I had drawn the attention to this story in a Canary Islands weather forum recently, but here's how reports the poor working conditions at La Gomera's airport weather station:
La Gomera airport lounge
“Slave” weatherman
The plight of the only person currently manning the Met Office’s weather station at La Gomera airport has been highlighted by a local trade union, which says he is being forced to work like a slave due the lack of personnel.
08.01.2015 - Union CSIF says that the long-term sick leave of the head of station and the departure of another Met Office employee at the tiny airport means that the only remaining member of staff has been working 21 days in a row, on shifts of 11 hours, to make sure weather data are collected and entered into the system.  The union demanded a meeting with the head of the Spanish Met Office recently to discuss the working conditions, which are in breach of working time regulations.  It has also written formal complaints to various Government departments at regional and national level. 

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

La Gomera makes ABTA top ten destinations

La Gomera features among the top ten destinations to watch in their Travel Trends Report 2015. The UK’s largest travel association, representing travel agents and tour operators that sell £31.5 billion of holidays and other travel arrangements each year has the following to say about La Gomera in the report:
''La Gomera (Spain)
The Canary Islands are a firm favourite with UK holidaymakers particularly those looking for winter sun. Temperatures rarely dip below the mid twenty degrees centigrade all year round. In 2015 discerning holidaymakers will take the short ferry ride from Tenerife to the beautiful, unspoilt island of La Gomera. It also features for the first time in the brochures of Thomas Cook. La Gomera offers a range of attractions including the Unesco World Heritage site, Garajonay National Park, subtropical rain forest and wildlife species that are unique to the island. La Gomera is largely undiscovered and is perfect for holidaymakers who don’t want the bright lights and glitz of a busy resort. They will love unwinding in its relaxed main resort Playa de Santiago or on one of the island’s many unspoilt beaches. There’s also plenty to do for the more active, with miles of walking trails throughout the beautiful interior or scuba diving over La Gomera’s spectacular reefs. ''

This is the full list of ABTA Destinations to Watch 2015:
 Austria                                    
 Botswana
 Cuba 
 Dominican Republic 
La Gomera (Spain) 
 Latvia 
 Japan 
 Norway 
 Pacific Coast (USA) 
 Singapore
 The Netherlands
 The Peloponnese (Greece)

Sunday, January 04, 2015

You need a change...

...and feel unique on the unique island of La Gomera - that about sums up the Spanish voice-over in this well produced promotional video. I'm looking forward now to the upcoming visit to my favourite Canary Island next week and I promise to report 'live' from there once again.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Christmas festivities on La Gomera start tonight

Ermita de Los Reyes in El Guro, Valle Gran Rey
In Spain and some Latin American countries,the 6th of January is called El Día de los Reyes (The Day of the Kings). It marks the day when the Three Kings or Magi, as related in the second chapter of the gospel of Matthew, arrived to worship and bring their gifts to the baby Jesus after following a star in the sky.  In Spanish tradition on January 6th (Epiphany) the kings  Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar (representing Arabia, the Orient, and Africa) arrived on horse, camel and elephant, bringing respectively gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus. Children (and many adults) polish and leave their shoes ready for the Kings' presents before they go to bed on the eve of January 6. The next morning presents will appear under their shoes as the kings  take the role of Santa Claus here . Most towns in Spain arrange colorful parades representing the arrival of the Reyes Magos to town a day or two before, so children can see them on their camels or carriages and hand them letters listing their wishes.  Wine, snacks, fruit and milk are left for the Kings and their camels. In Spain, children typically receive presents on this day, rather than on Christmas Day, though this tradition has changed a bit in recent years, and children now receive presents on both days.
The Ramo
In Valle Gran Rey the Kings begin their tour in the mountain village of Las Hayas on Jan. 5th at 4 pm and then continue through all the villages and barrios of the valley and will finally collect the letters addressed to them near the town hall.

V.G.R.'s oldest church is in El Guro and dedicated to Los Reyes. Every year the Fiesta de Los Reyes in honour of them takes place there and this year the proceedings begin tonight, Jan. 3rd with all night dancing to the usual pop-salsa bands from 10 pm. On Jan. 6th the 'Ramo' is made in the morning at the cultural centre in La Calera, from where the procession to the chapel of Los Reyes starts at midday with the typical dance steps and chants. After arrival there's a mass in the chapel in El Guro followed by more salsa bands and partying.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Great farewell session

I am packing to travel to La Gomera and will arrive once again next week. I 'accidentally' got a great send-off with a dozen musicians playing a stormer of a traditional music session for charity last night - and I won a bottle of French champagne in the raffle (to be kept here to celebrate my return soon). My 'replacement' (due to injury) was an eight-year-old girl who played in a lovely style. I will miss all the music and all the musical variety when I'm in the Canaries, though. Ireland is just ROCKING with all kinds of high quality music, thank God. That brings in many extra tourists, too... and often the music is VERY LOUD and boisterous. To enjoy life, live music music is essential. 'Music is food for the soul', they say around here. 
A very funky night one Monday in one Irish  bar/restaurant. Half the crowd was Spanish tourists...
...enjoying the freedom of high quality live music anywhere almost anytime.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve fiesta

Finally the town hall has released a poster for tonight's main fiesta in the harbour of Vueltas, Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera (see yesterday's party tips). The salsa bands are poshly called orchestras (orquestas) here and will start at 11pm for dancing into the small hours of 2015. The Spanish 'Nochevieja', literally 'old night', means New Years Eve.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Year's Eve party tip

Memories of one Vueltas party last year...
To see off 2014 on La Gomera the best parties are once again to be encountered in the port of Vueltas in Valle Gran Rey. There will be an official stage with bands in the harbour, private but wide open parties that you couldn't overlook with a bar where you can buy a drink, and for those publicans that want the late trade there is a general bar exemption for the whole Valle Gran Rey area until five o'clock in the morning. I'm sure there is going to be something special happening in the legendary 'Cacatua' bar as well, both downstairs in the beer garden and in the old 'upper house'. It's conveniently situated in the harbour area of Vueltas as well, where some pyromaniacs might even let off a bit of fireworks. There will be more action on New Year's Day with the same bar exemption for those who still find the energy to continue.
Here in Ireland there won't be much in the line of fireworks, but there'll be much partying all the same with a bar exemption until 2am and plenty of events everywhere to cater for all tastes. They'll even have a band called 'Mojo' not too far away from where I sit...

Monday, December 29, 2014

Year ends with further drop in population

La Gomera's population has decreased further in 2014. Latest figures show the total of inhabitants at 20.721, down 2.355 since 2011. All five municipalities across the island have suffered losses and the population now is spread as follows:
San Sebastian:  8.668
Valle Gran Rey: 4.181
Vallehermoso:  2.913
Alajero:           1.954
Hermigua:       1.919
Agulo:             1.086

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Spanish 'April Fool's Day' today: Atlantis sighted

Atlantis seen making an initial exploration, surfacing for a comeback in Atlantic waters not quite controlled yet by Spain

Saturday, December 27, 2014

New trailer for Ron Howard movie shows La Gomera

Hard-working Howard aboard the 'whaler Essex' with the southern coast of La Gomera in the background. Despite the tough challenges and the long hours Ron always had that twinkle in his eyes and a smile for everyone during the five weeks of shooting on (and off) La Gomera.      Image:  © Jonathan Prime/Warner Bros. Pictures
An official second trailer (below) for the upcoming Ron Howard directed film 'In the Heart of the Sea' has just been released by Warner Bros. and in this one the outdoor filming location of La Gomera can be clearly seen. Right at the start of the trailer the wide aerial shot of the whaling ship 'Essex' shows the island of La Gomera as a spectacular backdrop and there's a very short snippet of a scene that I remember very well... Can't wait now to see the full movie, due for release in most parts of the world on March 13th 2015.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Holly on La Gomera hasn't got spiky leaves... its Irish counterpart (Ilex aquifolium, above), because no mammals existed in the Canaries to browse on the leaves and so Canarian holly (Ilex canariensisdidn't have to defend itself with spikes on them.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A great new Christmas song

This has got to be one of the best Christmas anthems around. The talent who wrote, produced and performed it are all from Kenmare in County Kerry in the south-west of Ireland. Kenmare (aka Neidin in Irish) is the gateway to the beautiful Ring of Kerry and the even more stunningly scenic Ring of Beara.  
A very happy Christmas 2014 to you all 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tenerife supermoon in Wall Street Journal reports:
''A spectacular photo of the moon taken in Tenerife has made the Wall Steet Journal's album of Pictures of the Year for 2014.
The picture was taken by astrophysicist Daniel López at the Canarian Astrophysics Institute's Observatory at the foot of Mt Teide on a night that attracted a host of photographers and astronomers given the likelihood of a so-called 'supermoon' phenomenon as the moon reached its closest point to earth during orbit and shone 30% more brightly than usual, while also appearing significantly larger.  The spectacular shot, which has made the national headlines in Spain, was taken on the night of 10 August and shows the moon against the silhoutettes of two solar observation towers at the Observatory.''

Monday, December 22, 2014

Refuelling facilities for La Gomera airport demanded

A Binter Airlines commuter flight approaching La Gomera's small but beautiful airport GMZ to land 
The parliament of the Canary Islands has adopted a resolution calling for the installation of refuelling facilities at La Gomera's airport (GMZ) last Thursday. It was stated by the leader of the Canarian nationalist group in the parliament that La Gomera's citizens deserve to be treated like the rest of the Spanish population and that the Spanish airport authority AENA left the airport without a tanker to supply fuel and that there wasn't even lubricating oil for emergencies. He also said that several Spanish airports with less air traffic than La Gomera had all these essential basic services at their disposal. They weren't economically viable but essential and vital in case of emergencies, he concluded.
The resolution was adopted with the support of several parties and as one deputy put it ''because above all it stands to reason''
I think he's right. The shooting of the upcoming movie In the Heart of the Sea by Ron Howard involved several days of shooting from a special camera helicopter which needed numerous refuelling trips. Even though many scenes were being filmed in the sea just a very short distance below La Gomera's airport, the helicopter had to fly further away to refuel from a tanker truck that had been brought especially from Tenerife, meanwhile we were refuelling with smoothies and resetting the scene.
A couple of years ago a route from London Gatwick directly to La Gomera was to be opened and tickets could be pre-ordered online - until they discovered they couldn't refuel at the destination.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter solstice Ireland where I'm now planning my next trip to La Gomera for some warmer winter sun.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Movie 'In The Heart Of The Sea' nearing completion

The film 'In The Heart Of The Sea' which was directed by Ron Howard and shot partially on location in La Gomera is in the final stages of production. The film is due for release by Warner Bros. in March of next year. 
Brendan Gleeson, one of the actors starring in the movie, had this to say about it: “I just saw it in the last week and I’m really happy with what it does. It ‘s a kind of extraordinary, full-on idea of what you can do with a film, but it has a heart and soul to it. I’m very happy about it.”
Meanwhile Ron Howard keeps us informed through his Twitter account:
Another intense action moment harsh uncomfortable but proud movie making flash-back for me
A last bit of music to mix for coming Mar 13 in US & most of the world

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Action on ferry demanded by president of La Gomera

There has been total silence surrounding the promised re-establishment of the 'interior line' ferry which covered the connection between the three La Gomera ports of Valle Gran Rey, Playa de Santiago, San Sebastian de La Gomera and then continued on to Los Cristianos on Tenerife. Now La Gomera's president C. Curbelo has called on the president of the government of the Canary Islands Paulino Rivero to make sure that his promise of a re-introduction of the service before the end of this year not just ''remains good intentions, but to redouble all efforts to make sure it becomes a reality in the shortest time possible'', reminding him that that the year is ending very soon. 
Curbelo also said that this ferry line is a basic necessity for La Gomera's citizens and stressed its social and economic importance as well as its significance for visitors to the island.
We'll see if this appeal will have any effect, but a least the silence is broken and the ferry hasn't been totally forgotten yet. I can see from my blog statistics that all articles concerning this ferry are amongst the most read, and the first question I'm always asked when talking about La Gomera is ''Any news about the small ferry ?''

Monday, December 15, 2014

Don't get caught out by new Spanish tax laws

Spain on the rocky road to nowhere ?
The following clipping from an article in The Telegraph was written some time ago for British expats, but it equally applies to all EU citizens living in Spain or intending to do so:

British expats living in Spain will have to be on their toes to keep up with the new Spanish tax rules

By Liz Phillips
''There are a number of changes afoot which could trip you up faster than a flamenco dance. These include:
· A new double tax treaty
· New disclosure rules
· New tax allowance bands
Before becoming too entangled in the new rules, you need to clear whether you are a resident for tax purposes. This applies to expats and homeowners. You are a Spanish resident if you spend more than 183 days (roughly six months) in Spain in one calendar year , and they don’t have to be consecutive days.
But you will also be presumed to be a Spanish resident if your “centre of vital interests” is in Spain. For instance, if your husband or wife lives in Spain and you’re not legally separated.
“The centre of vital interests was introduced to prevent fraud where individuals maintained their whole life in Spain, but made sure they remained under the 183 day barrier,” explains Jason Porter, Business Development Director at tax and wealth management firm Blevins Franks.
Double taxation
The UK and Spain have had a Double Taxation Convention for some time, but the new treaty only came into force in June with further rules covering income tax and other taxes kicking in on January 1 and April 6, 2015.
“The new treaty is especially relevant to individuals and companies who are tax residents in Spain, but who draw income from the UK, as well as those who split their time between the two, perhaps paying tax in both,” says Richard Way, Editor of the Overseas Guides Company.
“For example, the new treaty could affect the amount of tax certain expat pensioners’ pay.”
Government service pensions paid to retired members of the fire service, police, civil servants, armed forces and local authorities are exempt from Spanish tax. Under the new treaty the amount of the pension is still exempt but must be included when calculating how much tax is due in Spain. This could have the effect of pushing any other income - perhaps from investments and rent - into a higher tax bracket meaning you’d have to pay more tax in Spain....
The new Spanish ‘disclosure’ rules mean that Spanish residents and expats living in Spain will have to declare all relevant overseas assets worth more than €50,000 combined. This includes bank accounts, property and life assurance policies...
“Tax authorities are now openly sharing information about citizens’ taxable assets in order to claim unpaid tax,” says Rachael Griffin, head of technical marketing at Skandia.
''For Spanish residents who have been declaring their assets already, this should simply be an extra administrative burden. However, for those who have not been declaring assets up until this point there is a potential for a significant tax charge and fine. Individuals in this situation should seek professional advice as soon as possible”
And in a move that’s led to mutterings of a new Spanish Inquisition, the Spanish authorities have started automatically taking tax debts from people’s bank accounts.

There is more information in a 'This Is Money' article - click below:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Scenic road still closed after massive landslide

The scenic road past the El Rejo volcanic cone is subject to frequent minor rockfalls and landslides. During the recent bad weather in late November this stretch of road was closed for a few days after a larger landslide, then briefly reopened after debris had been cleared off the road. Then another landslide a few days later forced the renewed closure and it has remained closed since. Work is being carried out to prepare for reopening, but due to the very steep incline stabilising the hillside is proving difficult as conventional methods such as strong mesh-wire and concrete walls cannot bre employed due to the unstable terrain and for environmental reasons. 
The minor mountain road is popular with tourists and connects the main north road with the main west and south roads through the national park. For locals using this short-cut the closure means very long detours and the administration of Hermigua has  made a complaint to La Gomera's government which is responsible for this road.
Both mages by

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Yet another death in Argaga gorge

The body of a 73-year-old German tourist was recovered in the gorge of Argaga which is close to Valle Gran Rey with the help of a helicopter yesterday. The man had been reported missing when he failed to return from a hike in the ravine which is the most dangerous on La Gomera. It is presumed that he slipped and fell in diffult terrain, but a post-mortem is to be carried out today to establish the precise cause of death. There are regular rockfalls in Argaga any weather and the paths there are very steep, eroded and difficult to find and follow. Officially the hike through the gorge has been closed for years, but it is still featured in several guide books, particularly the older editions. Most rescue missions on La Gomera concern the Argaga area and the spooky ravine has claimed several lives over the past few years. Even the most experienced and very fit hikers have gotten into difficulties there. My advice is to avoid the Argaga gorge entirely, as there are plenty of safer but still challenging alternatives.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Tapas route through Valle Gran Rey

Tapas are tasty Spanish snacks usually eaten with a drink. The word tapa means lid or cover and originally tapas were intended to cover your glass with a small plate of items of food to keep the fruit flies from spoiling the wine. Nowadays they can be quiet substantial and a few tapas will substitute a meal. 
Starting tomorrow you can go on a 'tapas walk' in Valle Gran Rey when several bars and restaurants will offer special tapas for the reasonable price of only € 3. About 18 hostelries throughout the valley are participating - most of them in the lower part of Valle Gran Rey, but in the upper valley and in the mountain village of Arure some tasty tapas are on offer as well. Click map below for all tapas stations. The tapa route (ruta de la tapa) will remain open until December 23rd 2014 and if you have tried the snacks in at least four different hostelries you are eligible to enter a draw for several prizes.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Street festival in La Calera

Tomorrow Saturday the 6th of December 2014 there will be a small street festival in the narrow lanes of La Calera, the oldest part of Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera. On offer will be food and drink, arts and crafts, workshops including El Silbo whistling, and live music. The event will start at 4 pm and all are welcome. The best way to get to it is to climb the steps between the juice bar Carlos (best selection of fresh juices on the island, by the way) and the town hall and then left up lots of steps more behind the town hall and you'll arrive in the centre of the festival where you'll be glad to get that drink.