As you drive or walk around Gran Canaria you get the impresssion that it's a dry island because there is no water flowing in the valleys. However, this is an illusion as almost every barranco on the island should have a natural stream.
Before tourism, water was life in Gran Canaria. Vast networks of water channels carried it from natural springs and deep galleries carved into the island to where it was needed for drinking, washing clothes and watering crops. These stone waterways and aqueducts were built to last for centuries and managed communaly by the people they supplied. The washing points were meeting points for local commmunites and the flowing water kept valleys cool and allowed the island's birds to drink. The water was chanelled but still leaked out to keep palm groves watered.
Nowadays most of the water runs through undergound pipes. The old water-sharing agreements have disappeared to be replaced with commercial contracts. Water no longer flows free and a shocking amount goes to irrigating unprofitable banana plantations that only make money thanks to huge subsidies.
Palm trees all over the island, such as the Agaete Valley and Telde, have died in their hundreds and there are no streams to act as natural firebreaks during the summer.
A growing number of local people are calling for change. Why does the island's water flow out of view? Why do a few people get to decide what it is used for? Why don't we put it back where it belongs; running free down the island's barrancos? Why do we spend a fortune keeping a few farmers in business when the money could be spend on rewilding the island, replanting its forests and making Gran Canaria a more attractive place to live and to visit?
If Gran Canaria wants to be a more attractive place for walkers and visitors, putting the water back would be a good start. You only have to look at the popularity of the few places where free-flowing water remains; Azuaje, Barranco de los Cernicalos, Barranco de la Virgen up by Fontanales, and the water town of Firgas.
Firgas is the place in Gran Canaria that most visitors associate with water. The islands eponymous mineral water is bottled nearby and the main street in town has a flowing water feature. The old part of town is dotted with restored water mills, aqueducts and water channels.
In the surrounding countryside, the main crop isn't bananas but watercress or berros, essential ingredient of one of Gran Canaria's most famous dishes; potaje de berros.
And where better to try it that in Firgas itself?
Any restaurant in or around town will serve you up a bowl of watercress, maize and pork soup, often sprinkled with gofio (toasted maize flour).
But one restaurant has upped its berros game beyond just potaje...
El Rincón de Marcos, five minutes walk southwest of the Firgas church, puts watercress into everything. Green, pepperry bread, cress croquettes, green alioli, salads loaded with watercress, watercress soup, even a flan (creme caramel) with a greenish hue for dessert.
The potaje de berros, alioli and croquettas are excellent, as is the bread. The dessert and a couple of other green dishes are more about the novelty than anything else (does anyone really need a green flan?). It also serves plenty of non-watercress options like steak, calamares and papas arrugadas.
The restaurant itself is rustic with an outdoor terrace for warm days and cosy indoor rooms for the inevitable wet days. There's a reason why Firgas is famous for water; it's one of the island's rainiest spots.
Book el Rincón de Marcos if you plan to visit Firgas at the weekend but you should be fine just walking in on weekdays, especially if you turn up early (before 14.00).
Firgas town in north Gran Canaria is famous for water. The island's eponymous mineral water is bottled nearby, the main street has a waterfall, and the old part of town is dotted with restored mills and aqueducts.
We found a small and informal but delicious Thai restaurant in Playa del Inglés and we think everyone should try it.
Sawadee in San Agustín, and soon also in Meloneras where the outdoor cinema used to be, is a great Thai restaurant but it is also quite big and even over the top. It's almost like eating in a Thailand theme park. Fun definitely, but not really what we associate with authentic Thai food.
The best we've eaten has always been at a roadside restaurant, often cooked on a tin sheet, or in a family-run restaurant by the beach. Ok, so they have a few flashing lights and maybe even an electric flamingo; but not a whole flock!
So while we approve of the Sawadees, we were really excited to find that the Thai Bangkok Street Food restaurant does really good, authentic Thai food.
This little place, at the back of Playa del Inglés at the bottom of Apartamentos Los Molinos (no longer rough and ready), is basically a standard Spanish cafe with outdoor tables. There's no airs and graces at all.
However, the food is clearly made by a Thai cook who knows her stuff and is spot on. We had the Pad Thai and Green curry and both were tasty and spicy with the right balance of Thai flavours.
If you can do Pad Thai right, you can pretty much do the rest so we are more than happy to recommend this place to everyone.
We'll be going back soon to get the whole story about how the Thai Bangkok Street Food and to try the rest of the menu.
Bululú, quite appropriately on the corner of Calle Venezuela and Olof Palme in Las Palmas, is a South American restaurant that looks towards the Caribbean and beyond for its inspiration.
Its food is a fascinating fusion of South American and Latin Caribbean ingredients and dishes with a healthy hint of Lebanese influence mixed in.
If that sounds like too much geography for one restaurant, don't worry: Bululú pulls it off. This is a restaurant that really understands food and specifically what makes Latin American food so delicious.
It plates up an elevated mix of sweet, hot, rich and crispy in every dish. Pabellon criollo with crispy arepas and bananas fried to the point of caramelisation. A fatoush salad that is generous and moreish, hummus with marrow and curry, served with excellent falafels. For dessert, a rich quesillo with just the right amount of dulce de leche.
The quality food comes with service to match. Friendly, efficient, always smiling, happy to advise. In fact, Bululú pretty much has this whole restaurant game nailed down.
Great value and just the perfect spot for lunch in Guanarteme if you are bored of the tyranny of always having to sit on the beachfront.
Book for a weekend table or arrive early for weekday lunchtime as Bululú has a loyal local crowd.
Tel: 828 66 10 79
We stopped at Blossom Art & Food for lunch just because it looked so pretty and most of the other stands at the food strip on the top floor of The Market wetren't open. The serfvice was frioendly and efficient and the food did look like a piece of art. Unfortunately, it tasted like one too.
It feels mean to give a restaurant a bad review during these times when just being open is an achievement. However, the freedom to be honest is one of the main reasons we decided to go down the route of member-only content.
Blossom Art & Food has a great location at the tip of The Market shoppping centre. All tables are outdoors and shaded by yellow canopies and umbrellas. It feels bright and airy and there is a good breeze.
The menu is international and the Thai dishes caught our eye straight away so we ordered the Thai salad followed by the Pad Thai. The salad looked great with a generous helping of prawns and bits of mango. The salad was a bit old and we had to fish out a couople of brown bits. And they seemed to have forgotten the dressing because it was dry. The prawns were fine although the batter could have been crispy rather than soft.
The Pad Thai was of a smiliar quality with mushy spaghetti instead iof noodles and the sweet/ sour balance all wrong. It tasted like it was made by siomeone who had never eaten a real one.
Maybe we asked too much by ordering two Thai dishes at a restaurant that isn't a specialist but if they are on the menu, they should be good quality.
We'd go back for a sunset drink just just for the location but I don't think we'd eat here again.
Now, I'm vegetarian. So I do like that Italian restaurants exist. As it happens, I do like good pizzas too, and if friends ever go to a good, new pizza place, chances are they will tell me about it. And I've been to the really good pizza places all over Gran Canaria. It is a real coincidence, that the very best pizza place of the whole island happens to be righ in my village: Agaete.
If you get to Puerto de las Nieves (the harbour of Agaete) you'll find lots of restaurants at the sea front. Most do excellent fish if you're into eating dead animals. ;) Look for Pizzeria Dibe, try a pizza there and tell me if you think I'm wrong. I personally prefer the "Celso" pizza, but that is only an option if you like blue cheese and kapers. Any pizza there is really good. The bread bit of the pizza is just amazing!
Anyway, have fun and bon appetit!
This is how curry is meant to be eaten: In the heat by the sea, with cold beer on the table and the cricket in the background. Happy Valley by Amadores beach is excellent.
Every tourist coming to Gran Canaria comes within metres of Ojos de Garza beach, but nobody ever visits.
The best Canarian seafood often comes in restaurants with Spanish menus so here's a handy guide to the most common types of fish, seafood and dishes in Gran Canaria.
You find them in caves, hanging out over the sea and clustered together in shopping centres but most Gran Canaria restaurants belong to one of these eight kinds.
It's easy to find great spots to eat nowadays. You just go to Tripadvisor, pick one close to the top of the list and fine dining and satisfaction are guaranteed. Or not ...