PLACEDiscovering the CanariesWhenever my wife...

MY FAVORITE

February 14, 1999

MY FAVORITE PLACE

Discovering the Canaries

Whenever my wife, Betty, and I visit our daughter and her family in London, we make a point of looking over British travel catalogs. We have always been puzzled by the overwhelming coverage devoted to the Canary Islands. What gives? Here is a place it seems Americans never visit.

When a little study revealed that the Canary Islands are Europe's favorite resort, with more than 6 million visitors a year and hundreds of hotels, we decided that on our next trip to London we would take a side trip to the Canaries.

So, off we went in late November to Tenerife. The Canaries, which belong to Spain, stretch 100 to 300 miles off Africa's northwestern coast, and are 2,000 miles from London. The 70-mile trip from the Tenerife airport to our hotel was made in a taxi at 140 kilometers an hour (84 mph). To compensate for the lack of seat belts, the driver had religious objects dangling from the rearview mirror.

Our immaculate 284-room, ocean-front, cliffside hotel had its lobby at ground level, which was the 16th floor. You take the elevator down to your room. Our hotel imposed two Spanish customs on us: Make it as difficult as possible to get ice, and never serve tea or coffee at the evening meal. But they made up for this by giving us unlimited amounts of champagne at breakfast.

Tenerife is a combination of Hawaii, with its ocean and vegetation, and New Mexico, with its deserts and mountains. Winter weather is similar to central Florida's, making it possible to go swimming - in the hotel pools, not in the ocean. A snow-covered, dormant volcano provides a picturesque background to many sights on the island. Incredibly, its 12,198-foot peak is less than 20 miles from the ocean.

In Puerto de la Cruz, our resort city, flowers are everywhere. Poinsettias grow over 10 feet tall. Banana groves surround the resort. We strolled the resort's tile walkway along the cliff overlooking the ocean and the old town 20 stories below.

One day we watched enormous waves crash against the sea walls and cliffs. We tourists lined the overlooks gazing with fascination as splashes rose 40 to 50 feet high, sometimes drenching the braver viewers.

So, these are the kind of things that attract visitors to the Canaries.

The Canaries are a bargain. Our $675 per person covered airfare, seven nights in a five-star hotel, gourmet meals at breakfast and dinner, and a taxi to and from the airport, all tips included. And three-star hotels are much less. The

Europeans know what they are doing!

John A. Feroli lives in Aberdeen.

MY BEST SHOT

New Zealand sheep scene

By Sharon Jones, White Marsh

We visited the ``Agrodome'' in the North Island of New Zealand, where the characteristics of sheep were explained. Suddenly, a sheep dog ran into the arena and across the backs of sheep, who stood unfazed. The dogs are trained to do this so they can exit from the middle of a flock. We particularly enjoyed watching a sheepherder instruct his dog through a series of whistles into steering a flock into a pen.

READERS RESPOND

Where is your favorite bed and breakfast?

Gettysburg, Pa.

Lorene and Tom Creekmore,

Severna Park

``The Doubleday Inn in Gettysburg is on the same land where the first day's battle was fought. You lie in your bed at night and think about the young men who died there. Out of your bedroom window you can see the Eternal Flame, which has burned since 1938.''

Key West, Fla.

Karen and David Henelde,

Owings Mills

``The Blue Parrot Inn is in the heart of Key West's historic Old Town district. This beautifully restored, 115-year-old mansion boasts magnificent tropical gardens, the perfect setting to enjoy a poolside breakfast and contemplate the day's activities.''

Cape May, N.J.

Phil Brendel,

Baltimore

``The Angel of the Sea in Cape May, an 1850 National Historic Landmark, is one of the most elegant B&Bs in the world. We enjoyed sumptuous breakfasts, afternoon teas, evening wine and cheese, bicycle riding, and a uniquely furnished room.''

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