Christmas under palm trees

Dear all,

actually, I would have been home for five days now, spending Christmas with my family - and eating my grandmother's delicious vanilla crescents. At least, if we start from the status of my last blog post. But as we have all learned, things always turn out differently than planned at my journey. And so today I'm still writing to you from La Palma and telling you how this happend.

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First of all, I hope that you had wonderful Christmas days - with delicious food, quiet moments and loud laughter, shining children's eyes and / or beloved people with you - whether virtual or real.

I am glad that my Christmas was really beautiful and special - even if different.

I had decided to stay a few days longer on the island and not as planned on December 19, but to travel back on December 23. I was very happy about my decision, because I just enjoyed the island so much and had hoped for nothing more than a few extra days. And it was up to my decision - and knew I was taking a bit of a risk. Because the Coronavirus on Tenerife rose enormously and the Canary Islands (whose island are not rated separately) threatened to regain the status of risk area after two months. And so it actually happened. Since December 20, departures from the Canary Islands are again associated with quarantine in Germany. And according to this, I would have had to spend Christmas alone at home on my return flight on December 23. And to use the return flight on December 19 did not feel good for me after all the anticipation of the extra days gained and an associated abrupt end within a few hours with quick packing. It's just not a short vacation but a three-month trip, which for me also deserved a special ending. And so the decision was certainly not easy for me, but I made it: And rebooked my return flight for December 30.

So it was to be my first Christmas under palm trees - whether I would have thought that possible three months ago? Certainly not. For 29 years, I spent December 24 in Ladenburg. With the walk to the cemetery to grandpa, the time with my family, decorating the Christmas tree, eating fondue and the cozy get-together. And I've always loved Christmas with my family - getting in the mood weeks before with cookies, decorations and Christmas market visits. Christmas spirit didn't come up for me this year - I didn't really get into the spirit here. On the one hand, certainly because of the mild climate, but on the other hand also because Christmas meant the end of my trip for me - and I wanted to enjoy it as long as possible. And so Christmas was by no means a decision against Ladenburg and my family, but rather a decision for me and for a few more days of magic in my so special adventure. I understood here that Christmas is also just a date. And rather, what counts is that you yourself are happy with the decision. "If you are happy, we are happy," my family said. And Grandma, I'm really looking forward to your vanilla crescents that you made especially for me. You'll see, in quarantine they'll probably be empty in no time. And after the quarantine, we'll just celebrate the day of love again - because there doesn't have to be a speical date!

And so I thank once again my girls and my beloved people here on La Palma, as well as my family, who have supported me in the decision.

Now you want to know for sure how Christmas looked like for me. In Spain Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December and the 26th of December is a normal working day. There are also gifts only on January 6th. But since I was celebrating with Germans we stuck to Christmas Eve on December 24. I started the day with a walk on the beach, unlike announced without rain but with sunshine and blue sky: what a wonderful gift! I am still so happy every day about the great weather here and at Christmas it took on a special meaning. After the walk, I met up with Barbara and Ove for Christmas brunch in Los Llanos. Carmen (the family I reported on in the last post) had given us a great tip - the Palmerita Cafe. Tucked away in a backyard, we had breakfast under palm trees of homemade bread, banana pancakes, porridge with fresh fruit (I can only repeat myself, I love this juicy fruit here), avocado toasts and homemade nut nougat cream. The day couldn't have tasted better - in the best company. Thank you for this wonderful tip, Carmen!

Afterwards, we went for a walk to Tazacorte on the beach - soaking up more sun, letting our eyes wander over the sea and feeling sand under our feet: just linger for a moment, pause and realize what happiness you are experiencing. I was more than grateful.

Back on board with the two of them, we did our little gift-giving and had coffee and cake. The ride back to Santa Cruz I used to play the first time the Christmas playlist - whole three songs I held out, then I listened to "Silent Night, Holy Night" - I looked in the rearview mirror on the glittering sea, drove along the palm tree avenue and folded down the sun visor in the car - then went the handle to the radio and I had to put an end to the playlist and laughed as on the radio "Walking on sunshine" sounded - so and no different sounds Christmas in the sun: Merry Christmas.

I was happy to spend the evening with Bobby and his dear family. Here in the kitchen an incredibly delicious four-course Christmas menu was conjured up and we all burst sheer after the delicious chocolate soufflé. A big thank you to the good soul of the kitchen - even if she and her three men made me at the subsequent "Mensch Ärger dich nicht" game properly finished ;-) But you are forgiven. Because it was such a nice evening with you and I want to thank you again! And I also got to know a new Christmas custom here. In Slovakia, people put money under the plates with the wish to experience prosperity in the coming year. And no, even if the children used to hope it - they were not allowed to keep the money ;-)

With my family, of course, I also talked on the phone - a special thanks to my brother, who once again amused me with his sayings - what do I miss you and so glad to see you all again! Yesterday was his birthday, so I missed him especially: I think of you very much Maurice and bake you as promised in my quarantine belatedly a cake ;-) Speaking of cake, some attempts at baking and cooking went wrong with me already. But here on La Palma I have actually already baked three edible cakes! Whether that was luck or is depending on the climate here, I will see then.

The 25th of December I started with a hike - from Santa Cruz it went 9 km a circular route towards old water mills and Las Nieves, back over an old riverbed and the market hall. "Las Nieves" means snow and a hike to the snow on Christmas Day could not have been more appropriate or? Of course, there was no snow at 23 °C. But the village of 13 inhabitants gained its name and fame from a legend. That's why even today many visitors make a pilgrimage to the pilgrimage church Virgen de las Nieves, located to the east. The importance of the Virgen de las Nieves as the patron saint of the island is said to go back to an event in 1646: at that time the volcano Tigalate was rumbling, but - according to the belief of the islanders - it calmed down because the virgin let it snow.

The church is located in the beautiful surroundings of pine-covered mountains, palm groves, gardens and few houses on a mountain flank. A look inside the church is also worthwhile - already in 1517 the church was built and has developed through generous donations to its current appearance.

I especially enjoyed the small village cafe and, almost startled, routinely ordered a barraquito. I will miss that in Germany!

The hike itself included sections that I'm sure hadn't been hiked in a few years, as the paths were barely discernible and went through brush and grasses that almost reached my height. A couple of times I thought of turning back, but since symbols of the trail were always recognizable, I knew I was right and my curiosity drove me on. Again, this hike took me along seemingly private paths of farmers, across their farms, past 50 goats, cats and dogs. Then there were again the sympathetic dogs and the less sympathetic dogs, which let me rather take an extra km detour than probably be eaten alive. I did not want to become their christmas lunch.

The panoramic view of Santa Cruz from the old mills is also very nice - well worth the climb. These old mills used to be powered by water supplied by a canal system. The mill buildings are still partially inhabited today.

I noticed the many grasses that began to bloom - especially fascinating during this hike. On the 25th of December - again a kind reminder that I had done everything right. And so I have also captured for you a few flower greetings with the camera.

After the hike, I was invited to dinner on Christmas Day at Christinas house. Christina and her great lava jewelry I had already introduced you in one of the last posts. We hit it off right away and I visited her in the store every now and then when I was shopping in Santa Cruz. Over Christmas, her children came to visit, who study in Madrid and northern Spain - she wanted to introduce me to them and so I was looking forward to having lunch with them. Not only a great Christmas menu was waiting, but also interesting conversations and two lively four-legged friends, of which especially the only four-month-old Siena entertained us very well. As a small puppy of the water dog breed, she just discovered the family's small pond and thus her element. The fact that the family has a garden and a beautiful plot of land enjoyed especially daughter Anna, when she took the last plane at the first lockdown to La Palma. "I found out in the evening that my university may no longer open and did not hesitate, packed my things and booked the flight - in retrospect, that was the best decision of the year," says the 19-year-old. Because her brother was unfortunately not lucky, he could not leave northern Spain and spent months in lockdown in his small apartment. I admired above all his serenity about the situation at the time, when no one knew how long this lockdown would last and what proportions of the pandemic we were talking about. But all the more he appreciated being able to be with his family over Christmas. He is currently learning the trade of goldsmith at a private training school and his sister Anna is studying nutritional sciences. So it's clear, "island kids" are forced to leave their home country after graduating from high school at the latest, because there are neither universities nor career prospects here. "But that's what I was looking forward to, finally moving to a big city where everything is on your doorstep," Anna told me. And around Christmas, Easter and in the summer, all the "island kids" come home - enjoying their home, meeting up with their old friends and appreciating the family get-together.

I was particularly interested in how Christina and her family ended up on the island. And sometimes it takes a few tries to get to where it feels like "home." That's how Christina and her husband found themselves drawn south more than twenty years ago: "I wanted more sun, mild winters and a different mentality of life," says Christina. First they moved to the south of France, from there they went to Andalusia - but the fierce winds and cold winters made them move on to La Gomera - and finally they landed in their heart's home, where they have now lived for over twenty years: La Palma. But all the stops were necessary to feel what they were really looking for and had now found. How nice to see that they live here happily and everything has fallen into place. For a few years now Christina's sister has also been living on the island with her daughter and supports Christina in the store. Even if 2020 was a very hard year for their business with massive losses in sales, I feel with them above all confidence that here too, as in their life story, everything will fall into place - and gratitude for what they have, especially each other as a family!

And so I too am thankful this Christmas for all I had - the sound of the sea, delicious food, laughter together, fresh air and warm rays of sunshine, lovely messages from my heart people at home and wonderful moments with my loved ones here on the island - because the best gifts are not to wrap, it is the encounters with people that make life so special. Thank you - especially to Ove and Barbara, Sonja and the whole family, and Christina and her family!

Now I enjoy my last days on the island and will report about my hikes and experiences before Christmas and after Christmas from the quarantine - I'm sure you understand that I want to enjoy the last hours of sun 100% before the plane takes off on December 30 at 2 pm on La Palma towards Frankfurt! The start of my return trip and the end of my adventure - at least this adventure - because another big one is waiting for me in 2021, which I may tell you about in the next post! You can't imagine how much I'm looking forward to it....

Your Laura

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