Halloween is not a traditional Spanish fiesta. Ten years ago, it was something the children learned about in English classes. But you know, kids love a chance to dress up, and they especially love an opportunity for legalised begging,(and I was just the same). Naturally they love the idea of Halloween, and so do the shop keepers (obviously). And slowly, Halloween is becoming more popular. Don’t be too surprised to see pumpkins, or to find pint-sized zombies and witches ringing the doorbell.
I rather like the current exhibition in the Calle Real, by Mariana Arranz. For one thing, the paintings are very varied, but I liked nearly all of them. For another, they’re rather cheap.
The exhibition will be there until Friday. Do pop in if you’re in town.
There’s a shop of crafts from La Palma beside the museum at Casa Lujan in Puntallana. It sells things like traditional embroidery and ceramics. In the centre of the room, there’s a traditional loom, although they didn’t have any rugs for sale when I was there.
(Palmeran rugs are made with a linen warp, and rag weft. If you order one, you generally have to prepare the weft yourself. That means cutting the old clothes into strips 1 cm wide and sewing the ends together, and winding it into balls. You need patience.)
They also have more modern arts and crafts, like this mobile by Rosa Vidal.
Open Monday-Saturday 10 am- 1 pm and 4 pm – 7 pm
Google map here.
Courtyard of Casa Lujan, Puntallana
Casa Lujan is much more fun than you’d expect from the brochures, which describe it as an “ethnographic museum”. But it’s not a collection of stuff in dusty display cases. It’s an 18th century house, with whole rooms restored to show how the comfortably-off lived between about 1920 and 1960. Even better, there are people “living” in the house. And rather than use shop mannequins, the “inhabitants” are giant rag dolls, called mayos because they traditionally make an appearance at Fiesta de la Cruz, in May. So one set of mayos are smoking and playing dominoes in the living room.
Living room of Casa Lujan, Puntallana
While this lady is busy sewing. (I used to have a reconditioned, treadle, Singer sewing machine much like this. I also used to have similar hair and glasses.)
Morning room Casa Lujan, Puntallana
Meanwhile this servant is working in the kitchen
Kitchen of Casa Lujan, Puntallana
In 1919 the local council bought the house to use as a village school until about 1980, and the school room downstairs has been restored too.
The schoolroom, Casa Lujan, Puntallana
It’s not just the furniture: they have posters on the walls explaining why you shouldn’t go birds’-nesting, notebooks on the desks, and an old set of weights and measures.
Set of measures in the school of Casa Lujan, Puntallana
Open Monday-Saturday 10 am- 1 pm and 4 pm – 7 pm
Google map here. Admission is free, but there’s a box for donations in the school room.
School notebook, Casa Lujan, Puntallana
Fuencaliente town hall has decided to have a craft stall in the visitor centre at San Antonio volcano, just for those days when there’s a cruise ship in port. As you can see, there’s plenty of embroideries on sale, but they also have lovely soaps, hand made with olive oil and natural fragrances.
Santa Cruz de La Palma has been working on a new beach for some time. The idea is to create better sea defences (very necessary with global climate change) which look good.
I’ve always rather liked the idea, although we all dislike the lack of parking space while the work goes on. Now that it’s nearing completion, I think the idea’s getting rather more popular. At the northern end, the sea walls are done, and they’re making the beach. that’s the black zone towards the top of the photo. (The southern end isn’t nearly so far along.)
When I say they’re making the beach, they’re spraying it. There’s a dredger out in the bay, feeding sand into a long, fat pipe, which sprays it onto the beach where the big diggers spread it out.
Apparently the whole town of Santa Cruz de La Palma has a new hobby – watching the sand spray onto the new beach. All day long there are people – grown ups – watching the mo-mos. Because they’re hypnotic.
Do come and see the show if you can.
A collection of old weights
As well as the workshop making replica ceramics, the windmill at Mazo houses a small museum. Entry is free, but there are a couple of places you can make a donation. Upstairs is mostly a collection of old tools: an old Singer sewing machine, combs for flax, knife grinders, braziers…
… the millers glasses, shepherd’s poles, long handled pallets for putting bread in a large oven. To be honest, it’s all crammed in rather haphazardly, but it’s almost all labelled, and it’s rather fun.
But the best bit is downstairs. Much of the bottom of the windmill is still there. You can see the main flywheel and the gears, and hoppers for the grain.
Best of all, you can still turn some of the mechanism by hand. Of course young boys love this.
The brake and the bread kneader
Inside the workshop at El Molino
The Benahoaritas (or Auaritas or Awaras) were the people who lived on La Palma before the Spanish invasion. They lived in caves and wore animal skins, but they farmed, and they had ceramics. The older ceramics are simpler, and the newer ones usually more decorated.
At El Molino, in Mazo, they make replicas of these ceramics. The business was started by Ramon and Vina, but these days they’re retired and other people work there.
Cutting the design into the clay
Each design — usually a bowl — is an exact copy of a object made before the Spanish invasion in 1492. The walls of the workshop are lined with the reference pieces, each one labelled with the place where the original was found. The finished items are for sale in the shop, and prices range from €12 to €200. They also sell a good variety of souvenirs.
Smoothing the bowl with a pebble.
The workshop is in an old windmill. To get there, take the road from Santa Cruz to Fuencaliente which passes below Mazo, and look out for the signs and the windmill’s sails. The windmill also houses a small museum (more in another post) and it’s set in a beautiful garden.
Open Monday to Saturday, 9 am to 1 pm and 3 pm to 7 pm. Tel 922 440213
The kiln at el Molino where the finished pieces are fired.
The north of La Palma is one of the best places to see dragon trees. These exotic-looking plants grow throughout the Canary Islands, and also in Cape Verde, the Azores, Maderia, and western Morocco, but on La Palma, they’re still reproducing naturally.
The Canary Islands used to have a large, flightless bird, something like a Dodo. This bird ate dragon tree fruits, so the seeds evolved to have a hard protective covering to survive the bird’s digestive tract. Now that the bird is extinct, this covering makes it had for the seed to germinate. In other places they put the seeds in an acid bath for a few hours (much like the inside of a bird) to remove the hard coating before planting the seed.
The Latin name is Dracaena draco. Although they grow anything up to 12 metres tall, botanically, dragon trees aren’t trees. They don’t have annual rings, for one thing. Actually, they’re classified in the same order (Asparagales) as garlic and asparagus, although they look nothing like each other. In fact, young dragon trees look like giant loo brushes and mature ones look like broccoli on steroids.
Because they don’t have annual rings, it’s hard to tell their age. The trunk branches every time they flower, which isn’t every year. So you can tell how often a trees has flowered, and make an educated guess at its age that way. The tree in the photo has flowered just twice. The oldest ones seem to be about 650 years old.
The resin is reddish. In ancient Roman times, people used to dry it and sell it to alchemists as dragon blood. It must have fetched a packet.
One of the best places to see them is at Buracas, below the village of Las Tricias in Garafía which is where I took the sunset photo. The photo below is of another lovely group at La Tosca, in Barlovento, which you can see from a viewpoint on the main road from Barlovento village to Gallegos. And there’s the famous twin dragon treesin Breña Alta.