Type ‘winter sun’ into Google and Lanzarote will come up time and time again. With temperatures typically around 20ºC in December and little rain, this Canary Island comes up trumps for those wanting a winter warmer. But is the place formerly known as ‘Lanzagrotty’ your best choice?
A 4-hour flight costing under £100 transported us from Gatwick to Lanzarote Airport in Arrecife. It took around 40 minutes and €10 per person to get a transfer south to Playa Blanca (http://www.lastminute-transfer.com). A taxi is quicker but around €45 so choose depending on the size of your party, or wallet. For the first 3 days of our trip, we stayed at the adults-only H10 Sentido White Suites Boutique Hotel (€159/room/night, half-board but there is a 5% discount if you’re a Club H10 member; note that Thomas Cook also offer packages to this hotel). If you have any special requests for a room, even something as simple as having a twin room rather than a double, do check with the hotel beforehand to save you hassle like we had when you’re there. (But if your request is for a quiet room, bear in mind that you might be disappointed!)
After finally being allocated a suite, we walked past a luxurious-looking but small pool area with lights spiralling up palm trees into the night’s sky. As we got closer to the room, we could hear a loud whir of a nearby generator and, being light sleepers, desperately hoped that we wouldn’t hear it in the room. We were disappointed. But the hotel staff said that, after other complaints about it, they’d checked and it stops at 11pm, maybe slightly later some nights. We could live with that. But we were disappointed. If it stopped at all during the night I wasn’t aware of it, and I’m pretty sure that I was awake the whole time so I should know. In the morning, we asked to change rooms. But there was no apology, just commiserative faces being pulled. There was another, quiet, suite available, but we couldn’t have it until 2.30pm and needed to vacate our current room straight away. So, the first part of our holiday was spent re-packing, leaving our luggage at reception and using toilets throughout the day to get changed in.
We thought that there would be another main pool area in addition to the one we saw the previous night. We were disappointed. What we saw was it – two small pools. But, aside from their size, the area was really nice. In a way, I liked this set up because it meant that there were separate and secluded areas so people could spread out and you weren’t all lined up side by side on sunbeds. There’s even a nice balcony area with a jacuzzi. But for swimming, it wasn’t as good. The choice of water temperature was between freezing and cold (in the heated pool). Although this meant that there was little demand for the pools, in the height of summer I can imagine them looking like a World-Record attempt for how many people you can fit in a swimming pool.
At 2.30, we could pick up our keys. The new room seemed much better, with a lovely balcony. Apart from there being a welcome note to ‘Mr Barry’, we were happy. Until nighttime, when we were disappointed. Where would you put people who had asked for a quiet room? Maybe somewhere, I don’t know…quiet? Away from the entertainment, right? Wrong! Maybe they thought that this was an extra service – having the entertainment without even having to leave the room. Ok, so maybe we shouldn’t have been so boring and if we’d have gone to the entertainment there wouldn’t have been a problem. But, maybe, if we’d have slept the night before we would have. I just think that if you’re told a room is quiet, it should be quiet. The next day we complained to the Manager. She apologised and said that we should never have been put in that room as it is noisy. Finally, someone saying sorry! She also offered us a complimentary 25-minute relaxing massage each. At €40 each if we were paying, I wouldn’t have had one otherwise, but I was glad of the offer and in need of relaxing.
My friend wasn’t that impressed with the massage, saying it definitely was a relaxing one rather than for getting rid of any knots. I agree – it’s far from a deep-tissue massage but it does what it says on the tin and I didn’t want it to end. I’d normally avoid 25-minute massages as I think that by the time you start to relax it’s all over, but this was worth it. So if you fancy a treat I would recommend it, unless you wouldn’t want to be massaged by a man.
We were found at the pool by staff saying that our room was ready, so we packed again and moved. This one was the same as the other but on the outer rim of the complex. By this point, we discovered that there were a few similarities between all of the rooms – they all smell, they all have these weird little flies crawling around in places, and none of them are particularly quiet. At night, we could still hear the entertainment, though it was much quieter than the previous night. This room had a sofa bed so we asked for that to be made up, effectively giving us separate rooms. But I felt dirty after sleeping on it. There was also an insect flying around my head all night, so I ended up in the spare twin bed anyway.
An ‘extensive programme of activities’ is on offer at the hotel, ranging from Zumba and Pilates to rifle shooting and wine tasting. With breakfast being served from 8-10.30, and me tending to eat A LOT when it’s all you can eat, I’d have preferred the morning classes, such as yoga, to have been on first thing in the morning so that you could eat afterwards, rather than being at 10am. And don’t expect the fitness classes to be tailored in any way – at Pilates I told the instructor that I’d hurt my shoulder so might not be able to do everything, so then the first thing she said was that we were going to work on our shoulders. Given that I made up 50% of that class, I’d have thought that could have been avoided. It was the same with the toning class, where I made up 100% of attendees. I felt more like I’d gate-crashed her training session.
The hotel is opposite a supermarket and is a short walk from the beach, where there are bars lining the promenade that provide the perfect spot to enjoy a cocktail while watching the sun set. Although Playa Blanca means ‘white beach’, I have suspicions that the person naming it was colourblind. The beach is lovely, but far from white.
I also question the naming of the hotel as ‘boutique’. The website boasts that the hotel has been fully refurbished, but I’m guessing not recently, and the food is nothing special. There was an area where you could select a meat or fish on offer and it was cooked in front of you, but this just meant waiting and it would have been better for them to have some cooked in advance. I also didn’t eat some because I don’t think it was fully cooked. However, the majority of people on Tripadvisor loved their stay here. Maybe you will too, especially if you make the most of the entertainment. And it’s a great place to relax in the day (if you’re not busy changing rooms instead).
On our last day, we visited the much more up-market Princesa Yaiza Hotel for lunch and dreamt about staying there. A magnificent Christmas tree adorned the foyer and there was even an indoor garden area! The food was lovely, too, and they offer gluten-free bread for sandwiches. Pop in if you get a chance.
Up to this point, we’d had nothing but sunshine and temperatures around 22ºC. But was all that about to change when we moved up to Costa Teguise? Find out in Part II.