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Wintering in the sun

We have rented an apartment in Corralejo, Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands until mid March, by which time we hope that the winter weather at home will have passed.

Before I retired, we always had a winter holiday on one or other of the Canary Islands and that started with a drive to the airport, usually Birmingham. After I handed back my company car, there didn’t seem much point in having another while we were boating so we’ve done without and as a result have done a lot more walking. Of course it isn’t always practical to walk so we have become quite adept at using public transport and since we didn’t fancy walking to Birmingham airport, we went by train instead. Birmingham International station is right next to the airport and the two are linked by monorail so it’s all very easy and civilised. We like to take things easy so we went to the airport the day before we were due to fly and spent the night in the Novotel, which is a two minute walk from the terminal.

The following day, all we had to do was to get up and have a leisurely breakfast before checking in and although the flight was delayed slightly, we still enjoyed it. All went smoothly on arrival and we were picked up by Keith, the property manager, who brought us to the apartment and showed us where everything was. We made a quick trip to a nearby supermarket where we bought some basic essentials and after dropping those off, we headed into town for something to eat.

We’ve visited Corralejo many times before on holiday so you might be forgiven for wondering how we have spent our time in a town which is essentially a holiday resort. We’ve made a point of walking every day, anywhere between four and twelve miles but generally averaging around seven or eight. From where we are living, there are many different routes to follow that take in the beaches, the harbour and even an out of town supermarket. Inevitably we will stop somewhere for morning coffee or if it’s afternoon I can usually be tempted by a cold beer.

We have travelled by bus to other towns in the north of the Island including the capital, Puerto del Rosario. The bus services are regular and they have a card system similar to London’s Oyster card so it is very easy to get around. Buses are known locally as Guaguas (pronounced Wah-wah) – a term that is also used in the Caribbean, but not in Mainland Spain.


Tiadhe is the local bus operator in Fuerteventura

Because we are here for a few months, we have not eaten out as frequently as we would have done on a normal holiday so this has meant that we have had to do a lot more grocery shopping than normal. We have a good choice of supermarkets in Corralejo, Hiperdino, Mercadona and EuroSpar with the latter being the only recognisable name to us. All three stock pretty much everything needed by visitors and locals alike. They all have a wide range of fresh produce, their fish counters in particular are exceptionally good, putting the UK supermarkets to shame. Shopping has been interesting and fun on occasion because of course almost everything is written in Spanish. Some items are easy to recognise, others take a bit of working out but that’s where Google’s translate app is a Godsend (Download it here). After a while, product recognition becomes second nature and it seems as easy to go shopping here as it does at home. Nevertheless, that heady mix of confidence and complacency can soon lead to mistakes and it wasn’t too long before I bought a bottle of hair conditioner thinking that it was shampoo and then wondered why I couldn’t wash my hair properly! Embarrassingly, the Spanish word for shampoo is champú so I had no real excuse!

Top Tip: When buying fresh chicken, use the phrase “puedes cortar la cabeza, por favor?” **

When it comes to eating out, there really isn’t a language barrier because virtually everyone working in the cafés, bars and restaurants have a good command of the English language making it easy for us lazy Brits to order food and drink. We assume that English is a major subject in the local schools, it would make sense given the number of people who are employed in the tourist industry. We have probably eaten out once or twice a week on average and maybe the same again for snacks or light meals. The food and service has been good to excellent everywhere that we have eaten but needless to say we haven’t sampled anywhere near the reported 275 eateries in town. Top of that list, according to TripAdvisor, is The Ugly Duckling. We have visited it twice and have to say that it deserves its reputation and probably deserves its number one ranking.

Whether eating out or shopping in the supermarkets, the cost of living is more or less the same as at home in the UK even with the weaker pound. Even adding 10 – 15% tip to a café or restaurant bill doesn’t break the bank here.

So a combination of being a resort in which English is widely spoken and almost everything that can be bought in the UK is here, our time in Corralejo has hardly been a cultural revelation. However we knew that before we came here for the winter, all we wanted to do was to migrate rather than hibernate. The question of culture is about to be turned on its head in the next few days. February is carnival time in Fuerteventura and on Friday it is the turn of Corralejo to host its carnival. We’ve never been here during the carnival before but we can see from the preparations and from pictures of the carnival in previous years that the town is going to come to life in a much different way than we have experienced so far.

** puedes cortar la cabeza, por favor? means “can you cut its head off, please?”

Here are a few pictures of Corralejo and El Cotillo