Morning in Vegueta

I’ve been working here in Las Palmas, Canary Islands for about 3 weeks now. This hitch I’ve been working nights on the DS-11 (drillship-11). I like it. It’s been pretty quiet so far, so I have some time to catch up on writing and photos. I can even go ashore once in a while in the daytime when things are open. 

It’s not often we get the chance to go ashore any more as mariners. At least not when we’re working for any of the oilfield companies. It makes such a huge difference in crew morale. I don’t even know how they get away with it. In the Deep Sea fleet, companies must pay overtime if they restrict us to the ship. No such thing in the oilfield. 😦

I do very much prefer sailing deep sea. Of course I would be doing that if I could. I have been looking for the opportunity to get back out there since I was laid off my last ‘regular’ job- late 2015. There still is nothing out there. 

In the meantime, I’m happy to get any work anywhere. It’s been so long between jobs! This gig is one of the best I’ve had lately. I love working overseas (outside the USA). The traveling was one of the main reasons I chose to sail as a career. The other was that the job depended on your skills and knowledge- not what you looked like or how you dressed or talked (too bad that’s changed so much).

I’ve been able to go ashore a couple of times this hitch. It’s just so nice to be able to get off, walk around, see something different.

Plaza de las Ranas

Tuesday morning I met my friend Josito who lives in town. He works here too, but he’s on his off time. I took a cab from the ship in to town and we met at the Plaza de las Ranas (frogs). I get off watch at 7 am and need to get some sleep before watch, so I wanted to get to town as early as possible. But the people here like to stay up late and they don’t get started early in the morning.

Nothing was open, the streets were empty at 0800 when I met Josito. We decided to go to the market in Vegueta- the old town. The market was old too, it opened in 1863. It was full of individual little shops selling fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, breads- and pastries that made my mouth water (I skipped breakfast). Josito explained that lots of the shops were closed because so many locals go on vacation this time of year.

I wasn’t really shopping for food anyway. I just like to see how other people do. I always like to go look around the grocery stores whenever I travel. Just to see what’s the same and what’s different.

Here, we met a very friendly storekeeper who answered all my questions about his exotic wares. He had so many things on display: guavas, mangos, papayas, passion fruit, huge (6″) tomatoes, raspberries, dragonfruit, lychees, kumquats, loquats, 4-5 different kinds of bananas, all kinds of spices fresh or dried and packaged.

Jose and Josito
me and Jose at his fruit and vegetable stand

He had things I’d never seen before like guanoabana (not sure of spelling). It’s the big green fruit in the photo, above the tomatoes. It was white and fibrous inside, full of juice, and tasted very tart. Jose let us taste anything we wanted. I have to admit, I was not thrilled with a lot of the tropical fruits. We bought a big bunch of Canary Island bananas to bring back to the ship.

Vegueta is compact, it’s easy to wander around the old cobblestone streets and find all the major attractions: the Cathedral, casa Colon, the market and lots of little shops, bars and restaurants. We stopped for a snack as we wandered the neighborhood.

The Cathedral de Canaries (or Cathedral of Santa Ana) is one of the most important historic sites in Las Palmas. They started building it around 1500, they built and rebuilt it over 500 years (that’s why the different architectural styles- gothic, renaissance and neoclassical). It’s dedicated to St Ann.

The people here haul a float through the town with her statue and a huge silver ‘crown’ that surrounds the entire statue. They keep the float in a barred off section of the cathedral. There’s Semana Santa (Easter Week) and Corpus Christi in June, and the feast on the anniversary of the dedication of the cathedral on November 26. I imagine these processions must be a real sight to see.

You’re allowed to go up the towers of the cathedral. The view should be fantastic, since these towers are the highest point for miles around. There’s an elevator, it costs 1.5 euros, but there was no one in attendance so we had to pass on going up.

The walls of the cathedral are hung with beautiful old paintings of Jesus, Mary and the saints. A gorgeous pipe organ stands close to the entrance on the left. They were having a small funeral in one of the chapels while we were there. I felt like an intruder so didn’t get too close to that side of the church.

I took a close look at the pulpit, with its excellent carvings of angels and saints. I’m not really religious, so can’t say much more about the place except that it was cool, quiet and peaceful. A nice place to relax and rest and meditate or pray if you want.

Next to the famous Viva Vegueta sign, we found the Iglesia de San Agustin, another beautifully decorated church. It’s not as grand as the Cathedral, but had some very interesting artwork inside. It’s also mentioned as the Sanctuary ofSt Rita, patron saint of “impossible causes” (also of abused women). I had an aunt named after her. Mary Rita- quite a saint herself. 

There were quite a few more churches to explore around Vegueta, including the Ermita de San Antonio Abad, which was where Columbus prayed while he was here. I would’ve liked to check it out, but it wasn’t open while I was there.

I never have enough time to explore when I’m working, but at least I got the chance to see a few of the more interesting things around Las Palmas. The old area of Vegueta was a perfect choice to spend the morning. I did get to see the Casa Colon too, but it would be too long a post to write it up here. Check back later. 😉 

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