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| Cunard Queen Elizabeth 2015 - 2016
Christmas and New Year Cruise - Part 2
Queen Elizabeth approached the island of Lanzarote on Boxing Day morning in difficult weather. The previous cruise in December which was scheduled to go to Lanzarote had not managed to dock because of the weather and the ship had cancelled and proceeded to the next stop, Gran Canaria, where berthing was easier and everyone was pleased to have an overnight in port. Thomson Majesty was already waiting and our Captain announced that the weather was again too difficult with gale force winds gusting to over 40 knots and that the visit to Lanzarote was cancelled. Other ships had cancelled too. Otherwise the sun was shining as we passed in the gap between Lanzarote and Fuertaventura, and we could see the little local ferries crossing from Playa Blanca. It was sheltered between the islands and we remembered many years ago when we had a two-centre holiday where the transfer was by these little ferries. An unexpected day at sea meant that the Daily Programme on board changed and we were able to book lunch in the Verandah restaurant.
We steamed at around 20 knots directly to our next port, La Palma, where we docked at 2100. After dinner we disembarked and walked around the capital city, Santa Cruz de la Palma. It was our fourth visit so we knew that it was a pretty town but much much smaller than the capital cities of the other Canary islands. Other passengers looked with some shock at the smallness of the town so we directed them towards the centre and then followed. A few of the pavement bars and cafes were open and the unexpected influx of crew and passengers merged with all the local people who were celebrating on a typical Saturday evening.
The following morning we awoke to find Fred Olsen's Boudicca berthed behind us, having arrived on schedule in the early morning. It was a fine day to explore the town properly. It was also Sunday so the church of El Salvador in the Plaza de Espana was open, but the Town Hall opposite was closed.
The souvenir shops and duty free shops were open and some of the boutiques were open too. Pauline admired a gorgeous bright pink formal evening gown in the window which was good value at 135 euros and wondered whether their idea of size 12 was the same as in the UK. Although the Mercado (covered market) was closed the stalls were all in the car park by the port alongside lots of craft stalls and second hand stalls. We bought glasses of freshly pressed sugar cane juice before checking with the Information Office about special events. We were told there was live music by Tihuya Cats in the main street and then there would be an enactment by a historical group of soldiers practicing their drills in Santa Catalina Castle. This defined our walking route for the first hour.
After watching the soldiers and viewing the Queen Elizabeth in the distance we continued along the coast until we reached the concrete and scumbled Santa Maria Barco de la Virgen which contains the Maritime Museum. There is a festival every 5 years, most recently in July/August 2015, to the patron saint Our Lady of the Snows. Her statue is 14th century and is kept in the village of Las Nieves, just 5 kms from Santa Cruz. She is carried down into Santa Cruz in procession. The replica of the Santa Maria wooden boat is a traditional part of the festival with thousands of people participating in the area of the Barranco and the castle opposite. The dwarf (enano in spanish) with a tricorne Napoleonic hat is unique to La Palma and there is a statue in front of the Santa Maria. In mid-July in festival years there is dancing by a troupe of 24 dwarves, in the park by the McDonalds, and short videos can be found by searching on YouTube. The first reference to dancing dwarves was in 1905. Today it was quiet and we found a seat in the Plaza de Alameda outside the ice cream shop, where a double is still less than 2 euros.
We walked back along the main street to the Church of San Francis where we were greeted by the same guardian as on our previous visit. He showed us that the nativity display had expanded with an extra shepherd, and was proud that he was responsible for painting the faces. Inside the treasury we admired the silver processional throne which was newly refurbished. The Museum next door was free for 65+ but 4 euros otherwise. It was interesting because of the archive picture of previous festivals, showing other versions of the Santa Maria. The present one is said to date from 1940 and have been restored in 2010.
In spite of being Sunday the Duty Free Shops were open and busy and we bought a bottle of 5 year Torres spanish brandy which is excellent to pour over Christmas pudding. The shop also had some excellent and expensive wines, including the very expensive Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva. We later found a different year in Waitrose at a similar price. La Palma has a reputation for good prices for duty free drink and tobacco and all the shops, cafes and bars were overflowing. It was also the first shopping stop for us since Southampton.