We just returned from a trip to the Canary Islands—a group of Spanish islands off the coast of North West Africa. This vacation marks the finale of our 3-year tour in Europe. Initially, my husband planned a fantastic cruise that would shuttle us from Venice Italy to Haifa Israel and then back again through the countries of Greece, Croatia and Montenegro. Having an ambitious toddler changed our plans drastically. Cruise ships offer tiny rooms, extremely tumultuous dining environments where food and people are flung in chaotic disarray and off-boat excursions that require you to disembark the ship as early at 7am. It would be too stressful. We wanted to end our adventure here in a relaxing place, without any hotel or country hopping as we usually do.
I’m not going to lie, flights to all the places we’ve travelled (and we’ve travelled a bit) are not always pleasant with a squirming toddler aboard our laps. And it isn’t the crying or screaming that really gets to us—never has been. Dealing with a crying baby is quite easy. The bigger issue is the baby’s literal inability to hold still—for one second. She’s always been squirmy and hyperactive and sometimes so strong it’s hard to hold her down. She fights to jump and move and run, run far away from us. This means a lot of energy is exerted in the process of keeping her within our tiny space. We are exhausted from physical exertion by the end of the flight. Not to complain though….my husband is an amazing trip planner and decides all our trips and destinations. The baby and I are the lucky ones who get to go along. We LOVE IT—especially once off the plane! Thankfully, all the places my husband chooses are ones that seem interesting or fun—he’s not picking places like North Korea or China after all.
The Canary Islands was the perfect consolation prize for our change of plans. We spent our time on the island of Tenerife. This island is an extremely popular destination for European tourists and Russians too. Huge numbers of British tourists make their way to these Spanish speaking islands every year. It is very uncommon to find Americans here though. We didn’t meet or hear a single one during our visit. Shopkeepers and hotel staff were always shocked (and sometimes dismayed) to discover we were Americans. The Canary Islands is like Europe’s Hawaii.
Favorite Part of Trip
My husband’s favorite part of the trip was going up to the top of Mt. Teide—a 12,000 ft. active volcano with incredible views of the Island. He also enjoyed our visit to Loro Parque (we all did!). Such a lush and verdant zoo—the vegetation and landscaping makes you feel like you’re in a manicured rainforest. This place features a ton of parrots from all over the world as well as dolphin and Orca Whale shows. Yes, for those of you wildlife activists, Loro Parque is one of the only places left in the world where Orca Whales are still in captivity and do performances with their trainers. It’s quite surreal to see one of these shows. We were close to the last ones seated and were forced to sit in the wet seats. Those whales will drench you if you’re not wearing a plastic parka. Thankfully, the day was hot and dry. My favorite part of the trip was walking along the promenade near the ocean, afternoon tapas, going for non-alcoholic cocktails in the evening and swimming in the ocean.
Although packed with beach bums and half naked tourists, Tenerife has beautiful and perfectly clean beaches. Crystal clear aquamarine waters transition into cobalt blues. On a bright day, the colors are magnificent. You will see topless women everywhere of all different ages. We found a couple beaches with gentle, friendly waves and shallow areas for our baby to play. She loved playing with her sand toys and dipping her toes in the waves. My husband and I took turns baby watching and swimming in the ocean. It was blissful. Our favorite beach was Playa Pinta.
Tapas and cocktail bars are scattered all over the promenade that runs adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean. Island cuisine is something we will miss. After a week of fresh papayas, fish and lean meats, we feel detoxified. They make an assortment of mouthwatering dips and sauces here too. My favorite was the spicy pimento sauce—a fiery sweet sauce with notes of both savory and sweet. I can’t even begin to describe how delightful it was to have buffet dinners in our hotel every morning and evening with every food item imaginable. It was great to not have to wash dishes or clean up the table every night during our vacation.
The climate here is the best in the world. It’s almost always sunny and warm with a temperature in the 70’s. An unusual aspect of this climate were the hot desert breezes that must originate from the Sahara itself. Everyone knows what a cool breeze feels like. Hot breezes are a pleasant surprise.
Shopping And Stuck-Up Shopkeepers
There were lots of gift shops for tourists as well as luxury shops with designer purses, shoes and apparel. There is an extraordinarily beautiful beach in Tenerife called “El Duque”. The baby and I walked down to this beach as we heard that it was rated #4 on this island. We also trekked through the luxury/designer shopping district near this stunning beach. We must have walked into a wealthier district. I must say, the shopkeepers in this area are extremely snooty. They glare at you like you’re a fat, aging, frumpy, poor woman when you walk into their stores. It’s understandable, I guess. Some of the items were thousands of dollars. One piece of stolen merchandise would really put a dent in their weekly totals.
We got glared down and followed around by one security guard who thought I was there to steal designer clothing. Don’t even get me started on how many shopkeepers told me they had “bigger sizes in stock for someone like me”. No. They did not think I was pregnant. When I told them that “I was pregnant” they sincerely looked at me in a “Yeah, right” kind of way. Not kidding. They must have heard my American accent and immediately thought, “You fat American”.
Forget Americans being “superficial” and “obsessed with looks/weight/appearance”—in our many experiences in Europe, Europeans are ten million times more concerned with these things.
The Canary Islands were a gorgeous place to vacation. Sunny and beautiful; it has lovely beaches and incredible volcanic terrain intermixed with a Sahara Desert look. There is so much to do. You can go to water parks, hike around Mt. Teide, see lots of wildlife or enjoy the sunny warmth and a nearby beach. Tenerife has wonderful paved paths and walking areas for pushing a stroller. It is a very child and family friendly place. We loved our vacation to the Canary Islands. This was the very first trip where by the end we weren’t saying to ourselves “I’ve had enough” or “I’m ready to go home.”