Going Local in… Gran Canaria

Once again, I thought I’d got it all sorted and then a curve ball came my way.

I’ve been booking trips and holidays on the internet for at least 12 years. The first time was fairly tame, using a tour operator’s website to choose the destination and hotel, leaving the rest to them. It was one of the best holidays we’ve been on!

Over the years, I’ve got braver, booking flights, transfers, hotels and tours independently through a variety of sites. It can take hours but I feel like I’m getting a better deal. Having said that, it’s probably best not to add up all the man hours of work and research it takes!

Our holidays have had varying success. My other half has quite simple holiday requirements. Sun, sea, beach and restaurants at a stone’s throw away from the self-catering apartment we would rent. We could stay at home except that my tastes are normally more demanding, swinging between romantic luxury and sightseeing overload.

Given free rein, he’d vote for us spending every holiday in the Canaries. Far enough that if we fall out, we can’t drive home, but similar enough to what we have here. After all, that’s what we love and that’s why we live here. He’s got a point.

Last year, I tried to ease him out of his comfort zone by booking a holiday to Madeira, not too far from the Canaries. It was a resounding… disaster.

She said: Beautiful hotel, amazing view, lots to see.

He said: No beaches, pool surrounded by more mature folk (not his words exactly), this place is “closed”.

So, I’m adamant not to let him down again. Of course, I could insist that he help with the whole decision making process but then we’d end up staying home! Instead I’m going for something radically different and just a little bit adventurous.

Well that was the plan before I came across Matthew Hirtes new book, Going Local in Gran Canaria. Before I’d even looked inside, the cover had me doubting my non-Canarian holiday resolve. Immediately you can tell this isn’t your average guide to negotiating the nightclubs and English breakfast joints that I so detest in resorts like Playa del Ingles.

Instead I was completely seduced by the striking cover photo of the sun setting over a rugged and mountainous Gran Canarian landscape. Described as a guide on how to turn a holiday destination into a home, buying this book would be a sensible investment for those planning a holiday on the island, but an essential “bible” purchase for those intending a new life there.

Hirtes has been living on Gran Canaria for eight years with his Canarian wife and their children. In Going Local, he has successfully gathered all the bits and pieces we would hope to find (but probably fail to find) via an awful lot of google research and created one handy guide. I am the queen of gadgetry and an internet surfing goddess, but even I would prefer to filter out all the trash available and have one succinct guide book when going on holiday or relocating. I might even buy it as a paperback, although to be honest, you’re more likely to find me consulting the kindle version!

Generally history sections of guidebooks leave me cold. I try my best to read and digest but usually skim, not taking it in at all. My other half, conversely, loves the historical facts, figures and statistics which introduce most books of this genre. Full points to Hirtes. Not only did I (properly) read the Brief History chapter, but I have retained a few facts as well! Hirtes and I share a similar dry, slightly juvenile sense of humour. His writing style hooked me in right from the start. In what other guidebook would you read: 1502 – An old friend returns as Columbus visits Maspalamos as possibly the south of the island’s first tourist. As well as catching some rays, he stocks up on explorer essentials: firewood and water.”  Historical facts for the historically challenged – I love it.

Also, let’s face it, I’m a nosy parker. The injection of his family’s personal story into the chapter appealed hugely to my voyeuristic nature and left me wanting more. Not only did I get more of his story, but I also got to read personal anecdotes from other contributors living on Gran Canaria. What a treat!

The book includes sections useful to those relocating to other parts of Spain as well as to the Canaries with tips on language and how to learn it, healthcare entitlements, school enrollment, property buying vs. renting, form filling, setting up in business and so much more. Specific to Gran Canaria are chapters about climate, culture, public transport, and employment to name but a few. Far from boring the reader with practical advice, Hirtes manages to combine useful facts with an honest description of the island’s limitations.

My favourite section suggests ways that different groups of travellers from romantics to sports fanatics can enjoy the best that Gran Canaria has to offer whether they are there for just a weekend, a week, a month or a lifetime. Hirtes then moves on to discuss each individual area of Gran Canaria in his witty, informal and chatty style concentrating on food, beaches, accommodation, nightlife, fiestas and attractions.

Going Local is a fantastic guide for holidaymakers. But, if you are thinking of making a permanent move to Gran Canaria, it’s an essential for your hand luggage. Moving to a new country is baffling even for the seasoned pro but this guide will help smooth the way.

My one complaint is that Matthew Hirtes has in fact created the guidebook I wanted to write about my little corner of Spain. Do you think he’d notice if I stole his format?

Going Local in Gran Canaria: How to Turn a Holiday Destination into a Home by Matthew Hirtes is published by Summertime and available to buy from Amazon as a paperback (£11.99) or Kindle e-book (£4.86). For more information, click on the link below or visit our bookstore:

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