Canary Islands, Spain

We arrived on the island of Gran Canaria after a magical stay in Madeira. We’d grown accustomed to being surrounded by lush greenery, flowers, and waterfalls, so it was a bit of a shock to land in the Canary Islands and immediately be surrounded by highways and industrial buildings.

As we drove closer to Las Palmas, we watched the giant oil rigs pumping off the coast and wondered what the Spanish territory had in store for us.

Luckily, Las Palmas has plenty of beautiful old architecture and charming cafes to make up for its gritty industrial scene.

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As a country, Spain loves to shop. And when they tire of their own stores, they vacation in the Canary Islands. From open-air markets to blocks of boutiques, you’ll find it all on Gran Canaria. We explored the old town’s Triana District, which is lined with sidewalk cafes and has everything from high-end designers to shopping mall staples.

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I’d seen a store named Stradivarius on the map, and I was eager to see a boutique filled with beautiful violins, violas, and cellos. Turns out, it’s just trendy Spanish clothes much like H&M. Wonder how the esteemed artist would feel about that?

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We had a wonderful dinner at Cokí Triana, where the extremely generous whiskey pour gave us flashbacks to our fifth anniversary in Madrid. We wandered the streets after dinner, finally winding up at a cute little cafe in the middle of a park. Mike ordered a beer and, due to the language barrier, wound up with a cappuccino instead, the first he’d ever had in his life. (He was up until 3 a.m. that night.)

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The next day was spent walking the city, eating delicious Chinese food and leftover pizza, reflecting on the past month of travel, and planning the next phase of our around-the-world adventure.

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After three days and two nights on the island, we were ready to head back to the continent and continue our exploration of Europe. But Las Palmas and Vueling airlines had something different in store for us.

We woke in plenty of time to get to the airport for our 8:30 a.m. flight. As we prepared to leave the apartment, we remembered we no longer had a rental car as we’d had for the past few weeks, so we scrambled to call taxi services for a ride. None of them serviced our part of town. I began to panic a bit, and Mike suggested we walk a couple of blocks to a bus stop. As we walked out of the lobby, a taxi was slowly driving down the street looking for fares. One New York-style whistle from Mike, and we were on our way to the airport.

Crisis averted … or so we thought.

We arrived at the Vueling check-in desk, only to be told that the flight for which we already had boarding passes was no longer running. Canceled. And it would cost us over $700 USD to book another flight for later in the day since the rescheduled flight had already departed earlier that morning, regardless of the fact that it was the airline’s change.

Biting the bullet, we bought the tickets to Barcelona and settled in for half a day of waiting at the Las Palmas airport.

Had things been too good to be true so far on our trip? We’d traveled for a month without a single hitch. No missed flights, no lost reservations. There hadn’t even been any rain.

No matter how well you plan a trip — and Mr. Mike Ballard is an outstanding trip planner — you’re bound to encounter issues that are beyond your control. And it isn’t how you enjoy the wonderful, easy things that makes you a seasoned traveler. It’s how you take the unexpected chaos into stride and don’t let it throw you off course.

I’m working on that every day.

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