The bit between Christmas and New Year is normally a busy time for us as there is family and friends to visit and birthdays to celebrate. But, this year was different as we were in a marina, on an island where we didn't know anybody. Still, we would make the most of it and enjoy ourselves.
Boxing Day is not recognised or celebrated in Spain and everything goes back to normal on the 26th December, so I planned a day out in San Cristobal de La Laguna, set in the hills above Santa Cruz.
It was the former capital of the Canary Islands and is the third most populated city of the islands. The city centre where the historical attractions are found, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. It's often described as ‘Florence of the Canary Islands’ because of the number of churches, convents and old historical buildings. I would be in heaven!
Catching the tram from Santa Cruz, we slowly wound our way through the streets of the city and up the hill towards La Laguna. The views of the city laid out below were pretty impressive, although Mark would say the views of the Atlantic were far more impressive.
What gives it its ‘Florence' feel is the neoclassical front and its large dome, covered in copper plates, imitating the cathedrals of central and northern europe.
Inside, it is a very grand Cathedral. Not quite as grand as those I've seen in Malaga, Granada and Palma but nonetheless, pretty impressive. There are nine side chapels, each adorned with statues and seating for prayer, but it was the Chapel of Our Lady of Remedies that was most breathtaking. A baroque altar piece from the first half of the 18th century, carved in gold, it is the largest altarpiece in the Canary Islands.
Next up, after coffee and with the promise of a beer afterwards for Mark, was the site of the Iglesia de la Concepción. Established by Alonoso Fernández de Lugo after the celebration of the feast of Corpus Christi in 1496, the church of the Conception was founded in 1511.
The church houses the largest bell in the Canary Islands and to our surprise, it still works and is very loud when you're standing right next to it. They could have warned us!
It also houses some magnificent carved pieces. In particular, the ceilings and the pulpit were pretty amazing. Wasn't to sure though about the tomb stone with the skull and crossbones, considering he was a captain!
All churched out, we wandered through the streets until we found a quaint little restaurant away from the hordes of tourists and had an enjoyable leisurely lunch.
Following day was my birthday. Compared to other years, it was a quiet day spent with Mark, but I got some beautiful flowers, great birthday wishes from family and friends and a chocolate birthday cake.
New year's eve and we agreed it would be a quiet one for us as we didn't fancy joining thousands of people in Plaza de Espana to watch the firework display, we would have a great view from the marina. However, earlier in the week we had been asked to move our boat as there was a party of eight Spanish boats coming in who wanted to be berthed together to celebrate New Year's eve. So we knew it may not be that quiet on our pontoon!
Our day started well, with a bit of shopping and a leisurely wander through Parque Garcia Sanabria . With numerous sculptures, tropical trees, plants and an abundance of wildlife, it is one of the most beautiful parks I've seen in a longtime. It's hard to believe that something this gorgeous is set in the middle of a capital city. Birds singing, Parrots squawking and frogs croaking, it was a symphony of nature's finest.
Back at the boat, we trimmed up Offbeat’s cockpit with fairy lights, tinsel and of course, the disco ball. We got a bit glammed up, put dinner on and opened the bubbly/beer and sat in the cockpit to celebrate the night and wait for the firework display at midnight. And that's when our plan started to unravel.
By about 11.30, the party on the pontoon was in full flow so the four of us agreed that it would be rude not to join them. Armed with wine, beer and grapes we made our way to the party. We did get bit of a look from them, but as they were Spanish, Eduardo spoke with them and that was that. We were welcomed into the fold like long lost family.
It is a tradition in Spain that at midnight you eat a grape with every chime of the bell. Hence taking grapes with us. If you've never done it, you should try as it's no easy task, especially if you've had a few drinks. However, come midnight with mouths full of grapes, hugging complete strangers, we watched the fireworks and saw in 2024.
We called it a night at a out 2am, slightly worse for wear, but looking forward to what 2024 has to bring.