Lanzarote with a baby

Lanzarote, with such a name, should be a medieval city near Venice or Pisa, where knights showed off their shiny armour and princesses were rescued every now and then. Instead, this is a Spanish island and the easternmost of the autonomous Canary Islands, in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 125 km (78 miles) off the coast of Africa and 1,000 km (621 miles) from the Iberian Peninsula, covering 845.9 square kilometres (327 square miles). From London Gatwick Airport, UK, it is a three-and-a-half hour flight (we made it in just three hours courtesy of EasyJet and, I presume, tail-wind). We travelled in mid February, that part of the year where I do not understand why so many people drive a silver car when everything around them is of exactly that same colour. The last time I had seen the sun, I mean, a proper view of the sun and not just a pale disc hiding behind the angry clouds, was not within my memory records so flying over where the sun is guaranteed to be present is already something to be looking forward. And if that place does not even require to change the time in my watch given that it shares the same time-zone as in the UK, then I am doubly looking forward for it. 

My family is formed by four members. My son, 5 years old, my daughter, 7 months old, my wife, with an undisclosed amount of years in her bags, and truly yours, 43. I won’t go into the details of the journey because nothing special happened and because I get normally quite stressed before the flight takes off, due to almost always arriving late at the airport for reasons completely outside my control. Yes, you guessed it, it is quite well within my wife’s control instead. However, I must admit this time we arrived at Terminal North on time and even had the  luxury of having lunch at the lounge that my wife booked in advance for the not-so-horrible amount of £35 per adult. 

We stayed at the Princesa Yaiza Hotel, a five-star hotel which has been built with children in mind. It is one of the most child friendly hotels I have ever visited. There is a kids club which is more a fun park than one of those typical, rustic, pettily organised, kids club many hotels offer. It is an annex of the hotel and every day has plenty of activities for children of all ages. This fun-park is called Kikoland and is around two acres big. It’s got outside activities, a theatre and the staff is genuinely adorable with children. The Princesa Yaiza Hotel also offers activities for children every night -in addition to a soft-play area in the hotel itself which opens during the morning and the afternoon for around two hours each time- which forces you (at least me) to allow your child to stay up till quite late since he’s having so much fun with other children. 

The restaurants at the hotel are phenomenal. There are some good options, the best ones to me are the ones with a buffet, especially the Restaurant Yaiza, which has a selection of dishes that made me lose complete control of my ambitions to lose weight (at least for a week!). I cannot remember having seen such a wide variety of dishes for me to taste and of such high refinement. There is also the dish for kids.

The hotel location, just metres away from the beach, is great. 

For once we rented a car and explored the South part of the island. It was enough, considering that we were dragging a child and a baby with us. The tiny town of Yaiza is beautiful, cosy and harmonious. All of its houses are white (as in the rest of the island) with the added characteristic that they are extra-white, in the sense of cleanliness, and the streets and roundabouts and the little parks (made of volcanic stone)  are as tidy as a classroom of Reception on a Monday early morning. 

We also visited the National Park of Timanfaya (advice: go early (pre 11:00am) or face an hour queuing in your rented car, waiting for parking) which is ok. It definitely did not blow my mind as I was promised by a friend it would. But if you are into exploring and seeing variety of landscapes, it is worth a couple of hours or perhaps more of your time. The volcanoes eruption in the 18th and 19th centuries left an unmistakable scar in this island. It basically reshaped the landscape and made the soil very difficult for flora and fauna to develop. You now drive or walk through lunar landscapes (as if I go every weekend on a lunar expedition) with a monotonous dark brown colour covering most of what you can see, save for the occasional exception of a crimson coloured hill and some yellow hills and some, very rare, hills plastered with green patches of some crazy bush that did not realise on time where it was growing. 

But then again, the human race never stops surprising me. The small and very exotic vineyards in La Geria (the Napa Valley of Lanzarote) produce fantastic wines at fantastically affordable prices. You should see by yourself how they have invented a new way (because I’ve never seen such a thing anywhere else) of planting grapes, at very low height and surrounded by a semi-circle pile of stones, all the way up the mountains (by the word ‘mountain’ do not misunderstand me as the highest you can climb in this island that looks as if splashed by mouse au chocolat, is 700 metres). 

The days passed by as if on top of a cloud. My main job was to fight in the beach a lost battle against the sea tide while building a sand-castle. It is bizarre how much efforts men put on their son’s castles in the beach. Some dads take it really seriously and bring almost real size spades to dig deep holes appropriate to bury a corpse rather than to be creative with their children. Some get annoyed at their kids because the walls have not been built sufficiently robust to stand a tsunami. Some others look at your own little and, well, sand-made, castle with contempt as if saying what a little piece of crap have you built for your son. But they all get washed away in the end. 

At some point I stopped what I was doing and looked at all of us, fathers, on our knees, bent over towards a moat of sand and sweating like pigs and realise that a big part of the beach looked like a parade of medieval architecture with foundations of children’s fantasies. I felt I was part of a funny movie, where all diligent fathers do what they are meant to do: the project management for the construction of a sand-castle on the beach. 

And then, there’s this crazy boy that all he enjoys is to destroy other people’s castles, other people’s work. He comes running like a bulldozer and kicks one of the towers first and, if you are still in disbelief and have not yet pushed him out of the way, he jumps on top of the centre of the castle and laughs the silly laugh some children have. These things seems to be running in the DNA of some boys. You can’t change them; all you can do is try to protect yourself and your children from them. Yes my son, there are also grown ups that make a living by destroying other peoples’s castles.

Seeing my young boy playing in the sand, enjoying this time of peace, of activities unconnected to his incipient school duties, I am surprised at how time defies us. When I was young I was very conscious of the concept of time and of things developing, maturing and dying. Indeed, my first short-story, at the age of seventeen, was titled “Time”. But I was also of the impression that I was somehow detached from it, that I would grow up but only up to my wishes. Now, at forty three, I see the journey of my childhood repeated by my own seed but in his own singular way. So although I see it happening it is not actually happening. I see myself coming down the mountain rather than climbing it. It is as if I am part of a record, an old Long Play disc, that is sometimes played at slow motion and some other times somebody pressed fast forward and I find myself in another place, another time, a different me wondering how is it that things happened so fast. To be conscious of the present and to apprehend it, seems to be the most difficult part of our journey through life. 

Another trip, another experience worth the experience. Federico F