“I have two doctors, my left leg and my right” – G.M. Trevelyan
I have recently spent a glorious week in Puerto Rico in Gran Canaria rambling up hill and down dale, so to speak. This place is challenging enough and rambles in the early morning or after five in the evening are recommended. I hope I’m never there during an earthquake!
We have been coming here now for the past ten years and each visit uncovers new delights, improved pathways, steps and roadways. Our favourite walk is the Cliff Walk between Puerto Rico beach and the man-made Amadores Playa. This is an easy ramble and often a preamble to more strenuous excursions.
We invariably book accommodation on the lower level, Corona Cedral would be our favourite place of all but we have also stayed in Monte Verde, Letitia del Mar, Maracaibo, Canaima and also Rio Piedras with its terracotta terraces overlooking the beach. All these are very central – near the main Shopping Centre and also the beach and its many restaurants.
Our favourite restaurants are all on the beachfront. We’ve been evangelists for Oscar’s Restaurant for years and recently it seems to have amalgamated with its near neighbour Restaurante Aguaviva but I’m glad to report that the standards haven’t slipped – the most fantastic prawn cocktail, salmon, fillet steak, Crepes Suzette and all washed down with copious amounts of Marques de Caceres Crianza! The nearby El Greco apartment complex also has three restaurants which are worth a visit, especially La Cantina which is the best of the three El Greco options. The new kid on the block is Frank’s Gourmet Restaurant and after our one visit on this trip, it is guaranteed to keep the others on their toes!
The only drawback I find with Puerto Rico is its distance from the airport – approximately 40 kilometres. However, Gran Canaria has a first class public transport system and once free of Arrivals and the terminal building you can go to the bus terminal and get the 91 bus to Puerto Rico for €5.45 – as opposed to €50 for a taxi. Alternatively, Ryanair and others provide reasonably priced shuttle services to and from the airport.
As one becomes familiar with the area one becomes more confident in foraging out new trails, loops and challenging treks. The one thing to notice is that there are steps everywhere linking the various levels. The local authority has done fabulous work in the past five years building a series of steps from the beach to the high point near Puerto Azul apartments. In all, there are 756 steps in this series – individually counted! – and depending on your exertions you can decide to descend the 756 or take on the more daunting challenge and ascend – or even decide to work both into your evening ramble!
I am reminded that numerous philosophers and novelists have also wandered and wondered. Kierkegaard did so in the countryside near Copenhagen, and suggested that it might be good for his niece, Jette, to do likewise. Prompting her in 1847, he came up with a notion I repeat on my own travels:
“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. I walk myself into a state of wellbeing and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it” (A Letter to Henrietta Lund from Søren Kierkegaard, 1847, trans. Henrik Rosenmeier, 1978).
I haven’t read many of HG Wells’ novels, but there’s another mantra from one of the non-fiction works, Modern Utopia, that I’ll happily take to my deathbed: “There will be many footpaths in Utopia.”
And whether I’m rambling in the Ballyhouras or in the hills above Bormes Les Mimosas or in Puerto Rico my favourite nugget of wisdom is, of course, T.S. Eliot’s evocative words from The Waste Land (1922), surely one of the most beautiful poetic lines ever written,
“In the mountains, there you feel free.”
In conclusion, I am often reminded of the lovely Latin phrase, Solvitur ambulando – ‘it is solved by walking’ – sometimes attributed to St. Jerome or Diogenes, or St. Augustine, maybe even Thoreau or Chatwin, inter alia…..
So, put your best foot forward!