Gran Canaria

One of the best things about 2013 was: Gran Canaria.

My wife and I took our honeymoon in the Canary Islands, which unbeknownst to us is a very uncommon destination for U.S. residents. The folks we met were constantly trying to guess our nationality — Dutch? Swedish? — they could tell our accents weren’t British but couldn’t place them. When we’d say “American,” they’d assume we were expats and ask if we were living in the UK or what. Because no one from the U.S. goes to the Canary Islands anymore. It’s a long, difficult trip with a connection in Madrid so badly conceived that we missed our connecting flight despite hauling ass to the check-in counter.

(There used to be a direct flight from JFK International to Las Palmas, but evidently traffic tapered off after that flight became part of the worst airline disaster in history).

We considered traveling among the islands, but ultimately decided to stick to Gran Canaria. And it was great. The people were friendly, the food was wonderful, and the usual “boo hiss ‘Murcans suck” you frequently encounter while traveling abroad was nowhere to be found because no one had any idea that were weren’t, you know, Dutch, or something. The Canary Islands are one of the most popular vacation spots for British and German nationals, and we just kind of faded into the background.

Gran Canaria isn’t a very big island, but the entire time we were driving around I could only marvel at how much it felt like the setting of an RPG. If the next Elder Scrolls looks like this…


…well, don’t be surprised.

Like any good RPG world, Gran Canaria has a single major city to the northeast, Las Palmas. We stayed at a smaller city, Maspalomas, at the south tip of the island, though we hit all the major points from Las Palmas and around 180 degrees to Puerto de Mogán, until we couldn’t go any further clockwise. The island basically becomes an uninterrupted string of steep cliffs plummeting into the sea after Puerto de Mogán. You know how when you get a boat in a Dragon Quest game and decide to go out exploring, you quickly find that every inch of coastline except the handful of places you’re meant to go next are inaccessible due to the coastline consisting of inaccessible cliffs? That’s legit. Gran Canaria actually works like that.

And even elsewhere, the island rises steeply once you move more than a mile or two from the coast. The large town nearest the center of the island, San Bartolome, sits at nosebleed heights and can only be reached by navigating a series of winding, often backtracking highways. The west side of the island mostly consists of beautiful mountain scenery whose elegant view is spoiled only by the acrophobic terror of driving along “two-lane” highways barely wide enough for a single car with a 500-meter drop at the edge of the road (which usually doesn’t come with guard rails).

On the other hand, there’s an area of the island nestled in a deep valley pockmarked by caves that people have bolted doors to and turned into homes. Which is just wondrous and fascinating. We ate in a cave nearby that had been converted into a restaurant. We also went to this town off the beaten path where a restaurant on the sea served nothing by fresh-caught fish, flash-fried and served whole in a basket. For the meal’s side, they didn’t offer mere bread or fries; they served a huge helping of the best paella I’ve ever tasted. It was less than $20 per person for the freshest, most delicious seafood I’ve eaten outside of Tsukiji Market.

So in short, I had a great time on Gran Canaria. In part that’s because I spent some of my time there imagining how I could turn the whole place into an RPG, but mostly because, well, it was my honeymoon. It helps that I managed to time my transition to a new job around the honeymoon, so I literally was between jobs and had no responsibilities for the week I was there, though I did have enough severance pay to be able to try a few nice restaurants. Nice one, 2013.

9 thoughts on “Gran Canaria

  1. This might sound tacky, but it would be nice if your RPG would put some Americans back on the island. This could both harken back to the “good old days” when Americans were there and quietly express hope that Americans will return.

  2. Maybe this is sort of the opposite of what you were going for, but comparing the exploration of a detailed, cohesive game world is a lot like travel. World-building is an interesting topic in games. When the time comes for you to turn the Anatomy gaze towards RPGs, I think an analysis of game worlds and such will give you plenty of interesting material to mine. Especially starting in the PS1 era we saw games show a new depth of detail in relation to the game’s world at large.

    One of the reasons I’ve always preferred the PS1 Final Fantasy titles isn’t because of a superior story, characters, or gameplay, but because of the detail afforded by the (static) pre-rendered backgrounds. FF7, though not always consistent, especially stands out to me in this regard. Probably the one facet of the game that hasn’t been over-analyzed by the internets.

  3. Did you have to learn much Spanish to talk to people there? Would your RPG keep the people there speaking Spanish to maintain the exotic feel?

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