Tuesday, 17 November 2009


A week in the warmth can do wonders for the soul, mine's been well and truly simmered in the Canarian sun for long enough for me still to be well thawed. This will be the warmest I'll feel for some time, and now I have a thermometer in my head the mercury will soon start to fall steadily towards the coldest February of my life so far, but I suspect I may get a taste for it. I am still feeling verywarmclaire

Day 1
It didn't start well. We arrived to be picked up by our 'VIP collection service' which turned out to be a shared people carrier with the owner of our Finca on speaker phone having a heated discussion with his wife about who had payed what and who should have been responsible for what, but sadly not what the status of the accommodation was. A bottle of £2.50 Cava was handed round the truck but its benefits didn't last as having been up from 4am, the last thing we needed to find was that our yurt was still occupied by a family who had ended up in hospital overnight and had not been able to check out. We felt for them as they had not even been able to get back to pack and gather they things, but being told that we'd have to go and wait on the beach because 'check in wasn't till 4pm' (even though we had been collected by the owner at 12) wasn't really what we wanted to hear.

Tila, our host, did everything he could to get the situation sorted and once he had stopped panicking and being told to fob us off, the  yurt was blitzed and we were taken back from the beach to our home for the next 6 days. It was love at first sight.

Yolanda the yurt - our haven with views of the stars, a comfortable bed and cool marble floor for lying on after a run. She's a bit like a tardis, looks like a little tent on the outside but the space inside is wonderful.

By the time our host had taken us to the supermarket to make up for the fiasco and we had poured our respective glasses, everything seemed to fall into place. Before I knew it Mertz was scheduling the whole week, planning meals, working out where he could get fresh bread and wine each day and to my surprise and delight, promising to cycle with me on my run in the morning. We feasted on home made tapas and paella with the left over Cava before collecting our solar powered lights, Moroccan storm candles and retiring to the womblike structure which was going to be our haven. She looked even more gorgeous at night.

Day 2

Started well. I could really get quite used to this personal trainer lark. I ran, he cycled, it worked really well till it came to the deep sand and hills when I usually came off best. Although the bikes provided were of the All Terrain shape, they were not really capable of coping with all terrains, as they couldn't all change gear. The first day he got lucky, but that wasn't always the case. Having been told, 2 weeks ago by a bike salesman in Suffolk, that we shouldn't buy a mountain bike because we were obviously over 28, and no-one over that age should have a mountain bike, Mertz seemed to manage quite well. There was one problem though - the seat wasn't padded and nor were the tracks, so he sought alternative solutions and shoved a cushion down his trousers (see photo best viewed full screen...).

We did discover, on this holiday, that Mertz and I have  been on a food
motorway, traveling in different directions for the last 15 years. When we met he didn't have any interest in food, and consumed very little other than Consulate menthols and Barcardi and coke, and I was obsessed with eating and cooking. Now we meet in the motorway service station, but how long for, I wonder. I feel the drag of the other carriage-way and feel sure that his interest may soon become an obsession, how that will leave us I don't know. It bodes well for my weight, as he weighed less than me when we met (he's over 6ft), but planning our new kitchen is down to me - perhaps I should hand over the reigns?

He promised he couldn't find a smaller glass.

I ran slowly to start with as the sand was quite tough, but once I had a feel for it it was quite thrilling as going down the slopes was a bit like treading water. When we got back, having stopped for a stretch for me and some fresh bread for him, Mertz had to have a bit of a lie down. After breakfast we found 2 bikes and set of to explore. I was quite nervous to start with, especially coming down the tracks, but was great to be able to go across the lava rocks and get to the cliffs.

We had a quick dip and as the waves were up and the sea was full of surfers Mertz decided to bring the boogie board down tomorrow. He said he would check with Josh, the resident surf expert about tides or rips or whatever they are and I wished him luck with that, as although he's ranked 4th on the island, Josh is only 14 and already has the blond tousled long hair and the blonde tousled look in his faraway eyes.

Day 3 etc.
It just got better and better, I fell into a routine of run (with personal trainer Mertz), yoga, breakfast, cycle, swim, eat, read, eat, drink, read, with various trips, activities and pleasures as the week wore on. Each day we met a wonderful old boy and his dog, he shouted amusing anecdotes at us, at least we assume that's what they were as he assumed we were German, but he seemed to be suggesting that I might have left my bike behind, and on the third day he offered me his. One one occasion we had to hand over our track to the boys though.

Inspired by their speed and ability to get up the mountains, we hired a car to discover Cesar Manrique's houses, gardens and art. It was quite humbling to see what in impact he has made on the island, in fact impact is probably the wrong word as he has managed to work with the island to produce work that can only be from the island, as well as laying down guidelines for what can and can't be done, architecturally.

Jameos del Agua

The Cactus Garden staircase

It was awe inspiring and although Brian, my wonderful architect friend, recommended we went, I think he might regret it when I start planning a white swimming pool with black and white rocks.

By the end of the week I was running down the hill, past the first stop of the fresh bread and around the village, where the local police hang out, watching surfers and polishing their ambulance, trying to look cool in their Raybans and uniforms. On the last day one of them finally said hola. The last day was certainly our hottest and I was grateful for the marble floor to lie on after the run, and for the pool just below our yurt, which I hadn't felt the need for till then. It was really, really bloody cold. Apparently it is fed from the well, which would explain it.

The shape of the pool was actually perfect, why are private pools usually so big? They don't need to be, this was great for lengths, but also parties - which there was one of on our last night, but we were just too happy, tired and wanted to have our last night in out wonderful yurt. It may also have had something to do with the fact that I had started the second Stieg Larsson in the trilogy that morning and had got to page 356 by supper time....

Having had a rocky start we left the island planning a return. The Finca is wonderful and Tila's charm won us over after the first day, regardless of the glitches its a fabulous experience; sleeping in a yurt, open to the stars and cooking outside either on the barbeque or the outdoor kitchen - just like posh camping really...

On my return I found that I had had some very generous sponsorship for the trip, thank you so much:

The Salmon Family, Warwick and Caroline Comer-Stone, Lizzie Whittenbury, Barney Andrews, Neo Stefanou, Julie Button, Anna Coleman, The Hamilton Family, Christine AGAIN!, John and Chris Fernihough, Dayami Amador-Espinosa and Anna Swann. I shall be running for you all tomorrow!

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