Monday, February 16, 2015

Gran Canaria

We're taking full advantage of opportunities to take vacations. I had leave from my previous job and saved more during 5 months of mandatory training. We've taken short weekend trips so it may look like we're on vacation a lot, but this was only our second full week of vacation since Dec 2013. My office has another IMS which gives me the luxury of taking time off as long as he's working. I may be the only one in the office at a future smaller post so I'm taking advantage of this while I can.

We headed south to the Grand Canaries to escape the Swedish winter and soak up some sun. The Schengen Area lets us travel around participating EU countries without international border control. It was as easy as flying around the US when we flew 6 hours to a Spanish island off the coast of Africa. I thought this might be the southernmost Schengen Area destination but Wikipedia lists EU's southernmost point as the French island of Réunion near Madagascar. This job definitely gets me looking more closely at world geography in a hands-on way.

Playa del Inglés on Gran Canaria is a popular winter destination for northern Europeans and is huge with the Germans. We heard lots of Spanish, German, and finally English as the last resort for speaking with Scandinavian and UK tourists. We picked out a little spoken Swedish now that we recognize it even though we don't understand it. Menus included various Scandinavian languages but the locals mostly spoke English with those tourists.

I'm starting to associate my native tongue with the UK flag as the common mark for English. The US wasn't much of a thought or consideration during the vacation. Americans just don't vacation there so we were an oddity. I think most people assumed we were Scandinavian. A few people asked us where we were from but only one person talked about it by telling us how much she loved the US because of what we did during World War II.

The locals working to get us into restaurants or sell things tried German or English on us. One guy got caught up in figuring out where we're from and got mad at us for claiming the US. He called us liars and was firmly convinced we were Finnish as we spoke to him with our American English. I assumed he was trying to sell timeshares or something that must only work with EU citizens since he was noticable irritated we stuck to our very true origin story. We didn't want to say we currently live in Sweden because then he'd probably insist we're Swedish.

Overall, we had a nice vacation with some fun and relaxation. Here's some pictures of the beach:






We found an American old west park called Sioux City:






We took a buggy tour and got to do some offroading but was too busy having fun to get pictures of that part of it:




Then we took a longer van tour that really explored the interior mountains of the island:








The last thing we did was a Carnaval parade in Las Palmas. This was a small island carnaval but the parade went on for over 2 hours and I can't imagine seeing a bigger parade. The last stage of it was a procession of over 20 party trucks blasting music and filling the streets with dancing people. It looked like most of the city was there!