ABOARD THE SILVER SPIRIT – We boarded the ship yesterday and had a fairly fast day with moving in, touring the ship, going to the opening cocktail party by the pool and having dinner with new acquaintances, Karen and Lee from Chicago.
This morning began very bright and early with breakfast in our stateroom before we headed off on a day-long tour of the rather small Canarian island of La Palma.
It turned out to be an exceptional day for several reasons. One reason is that there were only five of us on our day-long excursion. Another is that the weather was perfect. We also had an exceptionally nice small bus. But the main one is that we had a very special tour guide: Trix.
Those of us who cruise regularly know how really, really rare this occurs…a great guide who is knowledgeable and enthusiastic and will to vary to plan to enhance the day. It became evident early on that the five of us could move a whole lot faster than a busload of 50 so she added a few stops to the original plan.
But I digress. First, Trix (Beatrix Magdalena Meierhofer) has a fascinating life story. Originally from Germany, she was first an academic, then she and her husband sailed the world for seven years before settling in La Palma. There were also stints in Seattle and Alaska. She has lived on the island for more than 20 years and was instrumental in establishing tourism here.
Over the day, we learned that she has eight dogs and seven cats (or maybe the other way around) and 50 goats. All of the dogs are black labs and because islanders do not like black animals (“they think they have the soul of the devil”) she lives on mountain acreage and has no neighbors. She is 61 and has been married to Dieter for 45+ years.
Until August, she also had chickens and rabbits as well as orange and avocado orchards but these were wiped out by a fast-moving fire that almost destroyed their home.
And there is a very sad note, her beloved Dieter has terminal brain cancer.
Now why in the world would we learn all this? Because the minute she started the tour she declared that the five of us were “family.” That this tour was going to be intimate and fun. And that is the way she treated us.
To be sure, she shared her love of La Palma with us. We learned the island is volcanic (like all of the Canary Islands), has 89,000 residents and that the two sides have very different eco-systems. One is quite wet and one is quite dry. Early on this Saturday, she walked us through the most historic part of the city and then we set off for the countryside.
We saw the key sights: The church of Las Nieves, with its venerated “Virgin of the Snows” statue, the sunning ravine view at the Taburiente National Park, the volcanic flow outside of El Paso. In this area, Trix added in a visit to the “Place of Glory,” a lovely park decorated with mosaics, and a couple of champagne stops…which were a hit with our small group.
I came away with lovely impressions of a tranquil island that offers quiet and personal vacations, mostly to Europeans.
All in all a most satisfying tour…kismet, to my way of thinking. Trix is a lady that I would love to meet again.
Photos by Chet Janssens
November 17, 2012