Clouds, couscous, and queens in the Canaries

As mentioned in my last post, I spent last week in the Canary Islands, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to be more precise. Roxann and I were looking forward to packing nothing but swimsuits, towels, and sunscreen, and spending all week on the beach. It’s a good thing we brought a little more than that. This was the view from our room’s terrace:

Note the beach, then look up to the not-so-blue sky

We still tried to soak up some sun. Boy did we try. We plopped down in the sand and looked up at the sky, searching for gaps between the clouds, estimating the movement of the clouds, and getting excited for the ten minutes of sunshine we would get when the sun came through a particularly large gap.

Come on sun, I know you want to come out of there!

But the clouds couldn’t damper our day. We had our good friends Ben, Jerry, and Don Simon to nourish us, an old man exercising in a speedo to entertain us, and this to look at:

Other than “sunbathing,” the trip consisted of interesting food experiences including deaf and mute waiters, and excellent sushi but poor communication because the waiter really wanted to speak his less than fabulous English to us. There was Canarian puchero and Lebanese food with deceiving menus where “couscous” is a whole lot more than just couscous in both price and portion. Thank goodness the hostel had a fridge because I asked to box up my leftovers for the first time in Spain (something unheard of here).

We ventured down to the south side of the island one afternoon hoping for more sun, which we didn’t find, but there was less wind, so we were able to enjoy sipping beers at a cafe with our toes buried in the sand. (My apologies, I forgot my camera that day)

One last very cool thing we were able to experience was a little bit of Carnaval. Apparently the Canaries are second in Spain only to Cadíz for their Carnaval celebration, but unfortunately we were only there Monday through Friday, so we didn’t get to see any of the weekend insanity. Each night there was some sort of production or competition in the center of town. We saw what we decided is the Spanish equivalent of Miss America, but instead of a swimsuit or talent contest, they simply parade around in these ornate contraptions like peacocks with their feathers spread in display. The more glitz and glam, the better.

I, of course, didn’t take that picture because I was no where close enough. Here’s mine of the final dramatic ceremony in which the winner was announced:

And the winner in pink, who can’t express her excitement too much due to being strapped to something the size of a car.

But my favorite part of Carnaval there was above and beyond the drag queen show. We only got to see the preliminary competition, as the final was the following weekend. We actually didn’t even get to watch it inside the stadium because it was sold out. We, along with dozens of others, huddled around the perimeter where we could see the plasma screens inside, but that was enough of a view to be blown away. I am definitely adding drag shows to my list of things that the Spaniards do damn well (Right after fried food and napping). I’ll bet you’ve never seen Darth Vader turn into a drag queen, accompanied by Jedi with light sabers. How about “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” translated into Spanish and a Mary Poppins drag queen? Here are some of the winners: (If you don’t want to see men in banana hammocks I suggest you watch only the first minute or so of each one)

To top off it off we saw some of the dancers (maybe even a reina) after the show at a bar. It was strange seeing them in jeans and jackets, drinking and smoking, still in full bejeweled makeup, and it took all of my will power to not ask to take a picture with them.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by how universally enjoyed drag shows are in Spain. What many in the U.S. would call obscene and inappropriate is a highly esteemed art form here. The fact that the drag shows were the only events of Carnaval requiring a purchased ticket (and that they were sold out!) speaks loads of their popularity. In the videos above, take a look at the shots of the audience. We were in the company of men and women from all walks of life trying to get a glimpse of this show.

The verdict on the Canaries: Not the weather we were hoping for, but definitely a worthwhile trip that left us longing for a few more days.

One last benefit of the super cheap, 6am Ryan Air flight back home- getting to watch this in slow montion:

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