Happy New Year! Have you noticed how the changing pattern of TV adverts has guided us through the festive season? Perfume, cologne, turkey dinners and forced jollity have been and gone. The momentary appearance of Alka-Seltzer and Rennies on our screens has passed. Now is the season for the holiday adverts. There seem to be fewer this year, apart from cruises and price comparison sites, and it's the latter which fascinate and aggravate us in equal measure.
Perhaps we're not really qualified to comment on the pricing policies of the big tower-block chain hotels, but the range of prices typically shown on those adverts is implausible. Certainly when it comes to small hotels, the hotel sets its rates and every booking website should be able to offer the same. You should be able to book with any site and get the same rates. We think the deciding factor is which website gives you the best information and the warm feeling of dealing with real people who are dedicated to their calling. And we hope you'll choose Little Hotels.
Most of our recent additions are in the Canaries, so let's start with Wavia Hotel close to the beach in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. It's a crisply-styled boutique hotel with a singular and distinctive decoration that celebrates the underwater photography of the renowned Arturo Telles.
For people who don't want to be a part of the usual holiday crowd on Tenerife, there's the Casa Rural Morrocatana. It consists of four self-catering cottages on the edge of a tiny village in the mountains. The views and scenery are absolutely spectacular, yet Los Gigantes and the nearest beach are only 5 miles away.
We've not just been adding hotels, but also a whole new island, Fuerteventura. As always, quality comes before quantity so for the moment we list just three hotels. For a real taste of authentic Fuerteventura, Hotel Rural Mahoh ticks an awful lot of boxes. Constructed of local volcanic stone and new and reclaimed timbers, it powerfully reflects the spirit of the island. Located between the west and east coasts, neither is very far. It’s a 10 minute drive to the beaches of El Cotillo (west) and a similar distance to Corralejo (east) with it’s long sandy beaches and extensive sand dunes.
I'm sure we're all heartily sick of it by now, but I can't avoid a brief mention of Brexit. It's not for us to say whether Brexit will be a disaster or a massive benefit, nor whether Mrs May's deal is a negotiating masterclass or the biggest sell-out ever. Let's just address the realities.
What about visas and stuff?
Britain has never been in the Schengen Zone so we have always had to show a passport when travelling to Spain. That won't change. No-one has suggested a need for visas and the Spanish and other governments would never allow it. Tourism is far too important to the Spanish economy to do anything that will jeopardise it. We foresee "business as usual".
Won't the exchange rate make it much more expensive?
The pound/euro exchange rate has moved by about 25% in the last 10 years, with most of that being before Brexit was decided or even proposed. Markets always look ahead, so we believe any Brexit-effect has already been factored in. (But of course, if I really could predict the movement of markets I would be a lot richer than I am!)
In this issue we focus on two of the rarest and most critically endangered animals in Europe, living only in tiny pockets in Spain. Although your chance of seeing them is negligible, it's good to know they are there.
First of these is the Iberian Lynx, technically a "big cat" but in reality just a little bit bigger than a household moggie. The lynx is an incredibly handsome animal though, with distinctive ear tufts, a characteristic "beard", heavily spotted fur and long legs. Unfortunately, like many other species, its beautiful fur led to its persecution at the hands of hunters.
At the beginning of the 21st century the population had plummeted to a mere 100 individuals, but now thanks to the efforts of many people the population has quadrupled in just 15 years. Many challenges still remain, including human encroachment on the animals habitat, availability of food (mainly rabbits), genetic diversity and (would you believe it!) hunting. The lynx is concentrated in just two remote areas of Spain, but at least it's encouraging to see the numbers rising.
In the north of Spain, another rare creature impresses more for his size than his beauty. The Cantabrian Brown Bear can grow to 200kg and stand over 2m tall on his hind legs. Despite this size though, the brown bear is timid and will avoid human contact wherever possible. The tiny population of no more than 150 bears is divided into two enclaves within the Cantabrian mountains and it's the separation of the two that has resulted in some unfortunate in-breeding effects. Recent evidence has shown some cross-breeding between the two groups though and possibly an expansion of their terrain, so there are reasons to be hopeful.
We'll continue with more on this topic in the next issue.
White Knuckle Walking
The Caminito del Rey has held a strange fascination for us, ever since we first saw this video. At the time it was ludicrously dangerous, verging on suicidal, but in the last couple of years it has been tamed, reconstructed and re-opened as a proper tourist attraction, even if we would still only recommend it for people with a head for heights. The Little Hotels closest to the caminito are El Chorro Villas, Cortijo Valverde and La Fuente del Sol.
Recently we discovered a worthy alternative that is less scary than the old caminito, and less busy than the new. It's called the Pasarela de El Saltillo, and it starts from Canillas de Aceituno in the east of Malaga province. The nearest Little Hotels are Posada La Plaza and La Casa.
And finally.... If you think education is expensive, you should see the cost of ignorance.