With less than a week until my trip to Greece, I couldn’t resist re-watching Shirley Valentine for the millionth time the other day. If you’ve not already seen it (because it is a classic), I’d thoroughly suggest you go to HMV and pick it up on DVD. Mainly because Shirley Valentine herself is without doubt one of the best characters ever. The story (in a nutshell) is about a bored, middle-aged housewife who rediscovers herself on holiday. It’s a funny, raw and poignant film about someone broadening their horizons through travel. And of course falling in love with Greece. But there’s one moment that really gets me every time. A scene where she’s sat by the sea drinking wine and she laments. She laments the life that she’s been leading, the opportunities she’s missed and the dreams she’s let fade away:
“I have led such a little life, I have allowed myself to lead this little life when inside me there is so much more. And it has all gone unused, and now it never will be. Why do we get all this life if we don’t ever use it? Why do we get all these feelings and dreams and hopes if we don’t ever use them? That is where Shirley Valentine disappeared to. She got lost in all this unused life”
The idea that one day you might look back on your life and have those sort of regrets terrifies me. And it’s no secret that in the past year I’ve prioritised travel as a means of healing old wounds and changing my perspective. So it felt fitting to start my series of travel posts, with my more unexpected trip to Lanzarote back in May. Having found myself at the brink of a huge change in my life, and made the leap towards the unknown (and self employment), my parents offered me the chance to tag along on their trip to Lanzarote. And although I’ll admit it’s never featured on a list of places I’d love to visit, I couldn’t resist a few days in the sunshine. Although I didn’t think for one moment I’d find the place to be so full of raw, natural beauty.
Going on reputation alone, I hadn’t heard much that was overly inspiring about Lanzarote. But after falling in love with Fuerteventura earlier in the year, my parents decided they’d like to explore more of the Canary Islands. Despite the all-year-round sun appeal, the impression I had was very much of a touristic beach resort littered with Irish bars. And head to some of the larger resorts and you’ll find this to be a pretty accurate reputation. But leave Puerto del Carmen and the main beaches behind, and you’ll find a very different side to the island. Heading north away from the hustle and bustle, we drove inland for about 30km until we reached Teguise. Formerly the capital of the island, la Villa de Teguise is a small village steeped in history. It’s one of the oldest towns in the Canaries. But wandering around its white-washed buildings and quaint squares, it’s hard to imagine it suffering at the hands of attacking pirates. From traditional textiles to novelty gifts, the tiny shops offer carefully curated stock, made by local craftsman and artists. Likewise, the small selection of tavernas offer a more traditional assortment of tapas and local cuisine. We stopped by Cantina and settled in their sunbaked courtyard to share a Tabla Canaria, a delicious selection of local cheeses, Canarian Potatoes, stew, Padron peppers, gofio, mojos and bread.
Heading even further north but back towards the coast, it’s easy to appreciate Lanzarote’s harsh beauty. The long, flat roads pass across the island cutting through volcanic rubble like an eery wasteland. Hugging close to the shore, the road leads you to sleepy fishing villages, great surfing spots and unbelievable virgin beaches. Make a pitstop in Órzola to take a little time enjoying a cafe con leche in the sunshine and watching the fishing boats floating in the peaceful harbour. With wide open road stretching out away from the trashy tourist resorts, it’s worth spending a couple of hours in the car to reach the smaller coves of Caleton Blanco. Rather than a large stretch of coastline, Caleton Blanco comprises a series of small coves tucked just off the main road. The untouched white sand and crystal clear shallows are a far cry from the commercialised beaches of Puerto del Carmen. Framed with black volcanic rock, the coves offer little pockets of sand, sheltered from the elements, that make the perfect place to spend an afternoon. There’s no amenities in sight for miles, so it’s definitely the kind of place you might want to bring a picnic.
In the last 8 months, I’ve been lucky enough to get the chance to visit so many places I’ve always wanted to see. But my impromptu trip to Lanzarote showed me that any travel opportunities are worth making the most of. It doesn’t really matter too much if a place has been on your list for a long time. Or not at all. Whether it’s a last minute invite, or a cheap flight that’s just cropped up, grab it with both hands! You never know the places you’ll discover if you head just a little way off the beaten track. My advice? Invest in a Lonely Planet to do some research. Head to Instagram and search out geolocations and local bloggers to find hidden gems. And of course, if you can, hire a car. Sure, driving on the wrong side of the road, and traversing a roundabout backwards is a little daunting at first, don’t get me wrong. But nothing beats having the freedom to explore a place on your own terms.