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Stopover presentation: Lanzarote

Fifth stopover of the cruise: The island of Lanzarote.

Lanzarote is recognized for its unique landscapes shaped by volcanic activity. In 1993, the entire archipelago was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and parts of Lanzarote, such as the Timanfaya National Park, are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Le Chateau de San Cristobal

A little history...

Lanzarote was probably inhabited by the Guanches, an indigenous Berber people, long before the arrival of Europeans. The Guanches led a relatively isolated life on the island. This has been known since Antiquity. It is visited and then frequented by Phoenician merchants and navigators who come to look for orchilla, the precious plant for red dye that grows on the rocks in the north of the island.

In the early 15th century, European explorers began venturing into the Atlantic. The Castilian expedition led by Jean de Béthencourt and Gadifer de la Salle landed in Lanzarote in 1402, marking the beginning of European influence in the Canary Islands.

Lanzarote, along with the other Canary Islands, became part of the Kingdom of Castile (Spain) in the 15th century. The islands served as a strategic stopover for ships traveling between Europe and the Americas.

Due to its proximity to the African coast, Lanzarote will be subject to attacks by Barbary and European pirates. In 1586, the Barbary corsair Amurat took the island with five hundred men and captured the lord's family. In 1618, Suleiman invaded and razed the island. On his final expedition in search of El Dorado, Sir Walter Raleigh attacked Arrecife in 1617 and razed the town. The population took refuge during the attacks in the cueva de los Verdes, the “cave of the greens”.

Lanzarote, like the other Canary Islands, faced economic difficulties in the 17th and 18th centuries due to piracy, droughts and volcanic eruptions. Volcanic activity in the 18th century significantly affected the island's agriculture.

Parc National de Timanfaya
Parc National de Timanfaya

On September 1, 1730, between nine and ten in the evening, the earth opened at Timanfaya, two leagues from Yaiza… and an enormous mountain rose from the bosom of the earth,” according to the testimony of priest Lorenzo Curbelo. The island was completely transformed. Ten villages were buried and for six years the lava extended to the south, covering a quarter of the island and covering the surrounding plains with volcanic ash.

In 1824, eruptions resumed in Timanfaya. Terrible famines followed, and a large part of the population was forced to emigrate.

Since then, the landscape has been transformed thanks to the agricultural techniques of growing on volcanic lapilli that the conejeros use to retain moisture from the trade winds. The Timanfaya National Park offers a nice overview of the remains of the eruption.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Lanzarote experienced increased economic activity with the development of agriculture, fishing and tourism. The construction of infrastructure, such as ports and roads, contributed to the modernization of the island.

At the end of the 20th century. Visionary artist and environmentalist César Manrique played a crucial role in the island's tourism development while preserving its natural beauty and traditional architecture.

My selection of sites to visit

San Gabriel Castle (Castillo de San Gabriel): located on a small island called Islote de los Ingleses, this castle dates back to the 16th century and was built by order of King Philip II of Spain. The castle is connected to the city by two bridges, including a drawbridge, the Pont de las Bolas. The castle is nicknamed "hunger castle" because its construction gave work to the inhabitants, while the island had just been ruined by major volcanic eruptions. It has been used for various purposes over the years, notably to defend against hacker attacks. Today it houses the Arecife Ethnographic Museum.

San José Castle (Castillo de San José): this fortress, located on the outskirts of Arecife, was built in the 18th century to protect against pirate attacks. It now houses the International Museum of Contemporary Art (MIAC), showcasing modern art.

Church of San Ginés (Iglesia de San Ginés): This 17th-century church is the main religious building in Arecife. From the 16th century, there was a small hermitage on this site, dedicated to San Pedro and San Ginés. In the 17th century, it was completely destroyed by floods, and was replaced by this lovely church. The church was then enlarged in the 18th and 19th century. Every evening around 7:30 p.m., residents celebrate San Ginés, the patron saint of the city. You absolutely have to go inside to see if you will fall under the spell of the three delightful children at heart, who offer to donate money for the poor. The church tower is inspired by that of the Iglesa de la Concepción de Santa Cruz, in Tenerife.

César Manrique Foundation: Although not directly in Arecife, the foundation is located nearby. César Manrique's former home showcases the artist's work and offers insight into his vision for integrating art with the natural environment.

Timanfaya National Park (Parque Nacional de Timanfaya): A must-visit, this national park is a lunar landscape shaped by past volcanic activity. Visitors can take guided tours to explore this unique terrain, watch geothermal demonstrations and enjoy panoramic views.

Cueva de los Verdes: A fascinating underground cave system formed by lava flows. Located in the north of the island and integrated into the vast volcanic landscape of Malpaís de la Corona, it is one of the wonders hidden in the bowels of Lanzarote, endowed with a mysterious and particular mythological character.

The length of the cave reaches almost 8 kilometers, consisting of a complex of tunnels and recesses with fascinating vaults and interior lagoons. Its visible section is made up of one kilometer of superimposed galleries with vertical interconnections, and inside they reach up to fifty meters in height and fifteen meters in width.

Cueva de los Verdes
Cueva de los Verdes

La Geria: This wine region is characterized by its unique cultivation method, where the vines are planted in small craters and protected by semi-circular walls. Visitors can explore the vineyards, taste local wines and learn about winemaking.

Some celebrities who left their mark on Tenerife

Cesar Manrique: born April 24, 1919 in Arrecife and died September 25, 1992 (aged 73) in Tahiche, was a painter, sculptor and environmentalist, mainly known for his architectural projects and his passion for the island. In 1945 he attended the “San Fernando” School of Fine Arts in Madrid and where in 1950 he obtained a master’s degree in drawing and painting. In 1964, Nelson Rockefeller invited the artist to the United States where he exhibited for four years in Houston and in New York, in the “Catherine Viviano” gallery.

Cesar Manrique
Cesar Manrique

Returning to Lanzarote, César Manrique founded the project to transform his native island into one of the most beautiful places in the world. The project plans to only allow Lanzarote's traditional construction method, to renounce buildings higher than two floors and even to remove all advertising signs located on the sides of the roads. In 1974, César Manrique opened the multipurpose cultural center “El Almacén”, in Arrecife, which aimed to be a meeting place for all those interested in art. The “El Aljibe” art gallery was to allow artists to exhibit their works for the first time in Lanzarote.

In 1980, he was awarded the Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports. Manrique is developing several tourist attractions for Lanzarote and neighboring islands.

The main characteristic of its architectural art is the integration of rocks, stones and frozen lava flows into a harmonious living space.

Culinary foray...

Conejo al Salmorejo: Rabbit cooked in salmorejo, a flavorful sauce made with garlic, vinegar, paprika and other spices. This dish reflects the island's historical reliance on locally available ingredients.

Conejo al salmonejo
Conejo al salmonejo

Queso de Cabra: goat cheese is an important part of Canarian gastronomy. Lanzarote produces its own varieties, often served with honey or local wine.

Lapas: Limpets are a common seafood delicacy in the Canary Islands. Grilled lapas, often seasoned with garlic and parsley, are a popular way to enjoy this local seafood.

Lanzarote Wines: The island is known for its unique vineyards, protected from strong winds by semi-circular stone walls. Malvoisie wines, made from a local grape variety, are particularly renowned.

In his art history lectures, Fabrice Roy combines the past with the present, in a poetic and playful evocation of the 19th century in France...


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