An old Irish seanfhocal proclaims ‘An rud is annamh is iontach’ or ‘what’s seldom is wonderful’.
Jetting off to a foreign land to bask in some sunshine was a ritual for many of us each year, but of course the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in our entire calendar of annual fixtures being dramatically altered. Having been unable to embark on a sun holiday since 2019, I was eager to take to the skies as soon as possible –and ready to relish every moment of an experience which I previously took for granted.
In late September, for my first foreign trip in our new post-Covid world, I travelled to Lanzarote which has been a firm favourite for Irish holidaymakers of all ages for decades. The most northerly of the Canary Islands, it was also the destination for my first foreign family holiday (and my first flight) many moons ago and therefore holds a special sentimental attachment.
I embarked on my long-awaited trip to Dublin Airport with eagerness, but I did have some reservations about the overall travel process. Having heard so much about airport queues and onerous checks on documentation, I wondered if the process would be as arduous as I envisaged.
Having researched rules and requirements, I was armed with my EU Digital Covid Cert as well as my Spanish Passenger Locator Form. The latter must be completed online at www.spth.gob.es within 48 hours before your arrival in Spain. It requires you to upload a copy of your vaccination cert, proof of recovery from Covid-19, or a negative/not detected result on a Covid-19 diagnostic test. Passengers must also provide information such as flight number, arrival date and address during their stay in Spain.
Dublin Airport was surprisingly busy at the time of my Monday afternoon flight, but I progressed through security relatively quickly and hassle free. Dining options were slightly curtailed, and the capacity of general seating areas was also noticeably diminished, due to social distancing requirements. It’s therefore worth packing some snacks to avoid having to join lengthy queues at shops and cafés.
I arrived at my departure gate with plenty of time to spare so sat back and engaged in some people watching as I reacquainted myself with the thrill of airport life. When it was time to board, I had to compress my giddy excitement as I itched to take to the skies once again.
Fellow passengers included families, young couples, retired couples and solo passengers – an eclectic mix of human life clearly illustrating the diverse appeal of Lanzarote as a holiday destination. Having become engrossed in my book, the four-hour flight passed expeditiously and suddenly it was time to land.
Gazing out the window as we descended towards César Manrique-Lanzarote Airport, I admired the attractive white buildings dotted along the coast. In line with strict planning regulations, buildings on the island are low rise which augments Lanzarote’s appeal and provides a welcome contrast to many of the high-rise blocks dominating some sections of mainland Spain’s coast.
Home from Home
It’s certainly easy to see why Lanzarote is such a popular choice for Irish holidaymakers. It’s a safe, welcoming island which exudes holiday charm. Puerto del Carmen is the largest and most popular resort on the island, located a ten-minute taxi ride from the airport, and home to an establishment in which I enjoyed one of my best ever sun holiday stays.
Aqua Suites is a luxury four-star boutique style hotel located in a quiet area less than ten minutes by foot from Puerto del Carmen’s main strip and beach. The hotel is run under the expert guidance of vivacious Irish woman Geraldine McFadden who has a passion for hospitality and is keenly attuned to the requirements of Irish holidaymakers.
The hotel is spotlessly clean, possesses an intimate feel, and its layout and design are in keeping with the island’s traditional appearance. Outdoor amenities include a main pool, Jacuzzi, kids’ pool, and sun lounging areas.
Our suite was spacious and homely, consisting of a large main bedroom with an enormous, very comfortable bed, and a small bedroom suitable for one adult or two children. Suites (both two bed and family) include a TV, tea and coffee making facilities, air conditioning etc. while the balconies have ample space for sunbathing and include two sun loungers along with a table and chairs. A large portion of our stay was spent relaxing on our balcony on which, thanks to its location, we could bask under the sun’s rays for most of the day.
Food, Glorious Food
Staying on a half board basis meant we had breakfast and dinner included as part of our stay at Aqua Suites. For breakfast, there was a wide selection of cereals, fruits, and pastries as well as fried breakfasts and omelettes cooked to order. Such a broad selection means there’s something to suit every palate.
Without doubt, dinner was the highlight of my stay at Aqua Suites. Each day, while reclining on a sun lounger or taking a dip in the pool, my eyes wandered to the blackboard advertising that night’s menu. Because of the quality of the food at Aqua Suites, a large part of our day was spent contemplating our gastronomic choices and eagerly looking forward to that night’s meal.
The food throughout our stay was truly scrumptious and was served by very friendly and attentive staff in a relaxed and comfortable setting. Tantalizing options included a mixture of traditional Irish and UK favourites along with some seductive Spanish dishes, with one of my personal highlights being a delectable Galician octopus starter.
A sample menu during our visit included Bruschetta Pepperonata and Goats Cheese; Salmon Fishcakes with Aioli, Lemon and Dill; and Ropa Vieja (which consists of shredded meat) for starters. Main courses featured Cottage Pie and Vegetables; Mixed Fish, Prawn Bisque and Saffron Potatoes; Stuffed Aubergine; and Chicken Breast, Pancetta and Asparagus. Meanwhile, the hotel’s range of tempting desserts included Blueberry Cheesecake Cup; Chocolate Mousse, Strawberry Bakewell Tart; and Fruit Salad.
Our final night’s menu consisted of Caprese Salad; Chinese Beef Skewer with Tonkatsu Sauce; and Smoked Salmon Tart with Herb Vinaigrette for starters. Baked Lasagne served with House Salad; Slow Roast Pork Ribs served with Paprika Wedges and Corn on the Cob; and Seabass served with Crushed Potatoes and Braised Fennel, were the succulent main course options. Surprisingly, we still managed to find room for dessert and could select from Mango Vanilla Cheesecake; Lemon Merengue Pie; White Chocolate Mousse; and Fruit Salad.
I didn’t feel excessively guilty for partaking in such indulgence as I managed to motivate myself to complete some beach running sessions along Puerto del Carmen’s sandy shore during my holiday. If I hadn’t, my waistline would most certainly have been carrying excess baggage on my return flight!
Heaven on Earth
Aqua Suites collaborates with a number of other quality establishments in Puerto del Carmen. There is an option of swapping a meal at Aqua Suites with a dining experience at one of its sister restaurants. Although we didn’t avail of this option, we heard many favourable reports from other guests who had.
However, we did venture to another associated establishment for a drink and to listen to some music on our final night. After descending the steps to Café Ola, a popular and highly rated venue located on Puerto del Carmen’s main strip overlooking the sea, we truly felt we had arrived in paradise. In her massive global hit of the late 1980s, Belinda Carlisle famously sang that ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’ – and she could well have been singing about Café Ola!
As we soaked up the wonderful atmosphere, listening to the talented saxophone player who performed some well-known tunes by the likes of Ed Sheeran, we didn’t want our time in Lanzarote to end. Gazing out at the Atlantic Ocean, sipping from a glass of wine, and tapping along to the ambient music, I reflected on just how fortunate we were to have come through the past 18 months unscathed and I finally understood the meaning of ‘an rud is annamh is iontach’.
During this visit, we primarily stayed within Puerto del Carmen and didn’t venture far beyond its confines. Rest and relaxation were the order of the day on this holiday, accompanied of course by some indulgence in the form of the wonderful food at Aqua Suites.
If you do decide to venture around Lanzarote, there are numerous options for interesting day excursions which allow tourists to explore the island’s dramatic volcanic landscape. Most trips incorporate the famous Timanfaya National Park and its lunar like features, and offer the chance to enjoy a camel ride, as well as wine tasting in the La Geria region. Other popular stopping off points are Jameos del Agua, La Cueva de los Verdes and the Cactus Garden. If you’d prefer to take to the water, there are ample opportunities for cruises and water sports, including from picturesque Puerto Calero.
After such a stressful 18 months, I was content with soaking up the sun, chilling out, and savouring the simple things which we once took for granted. In fact, guests at Aqua Suites will discover that they may not want to leave the surroundings of their accommodation at all!
Whenever you decide to venture abroad for your next sun holiday, remember that Puerto del Carmen is waiting to embrace you and a warm welcome is assured at Aqua Suites.
The average price of a stay at Aqua Suites, Puerto del Carmen is €170 per night for two people on a half board basis. There are options to swop to other restaurants in the old town (Sassi’s Bar and Grill and Emma’s Cantina).
For more information, visit www.aquasuiteslanzarote.com