by, 01-09-2009 at 10:29 AM (1812 Views)
When my daughter was in eighth grade, her French teacher took a group of students to France over Spring Break. I went along not as a chaperone, but as a participant, since the teacher had chosen fellow teachers to chaperone with her. Since my daughter and I wanted to spend longer than ten days on the trip, we were put on a different outbound flight from the rest of the group. When we showed up at the airport, we were told that the flight was full and were asked if we would like to take the same flight the following day. In compensation, each of us would receive $800 in Lufthansa vouchers. I immediately told the attendant that we would volunteer to be bumped, but my daughter was extremely hesitant because she wanted to catch up with her classmates whose flight had left half a day earlier. After explaining to her that the airline was offering us a combined $1600 in vouchers and that we would use those vouchers to buy tickets for another great trip in the future, my daughter reluctantly agreed to get bumped.
We spent that night at the Embassy Suites near the airport, going for a swim and having a great dinner at the airline's expense. The next morning, we took a shuttle into Portland and spent the day shopping and eating a good lunch. Upon arrival at the airport, we were once again told that the flight was full and that each of us could have another $800 in Lufthansa vouchers, but this time, my daughter was adamant about leaving Portland. I noticed that one of my daughter's old soccer coaches was checking in in the next line, and I asked him if he would keep an eye on her. Being a very precocious thirteen year old, I felt confident that she would be able to fly by herself. I collected my $800 voucher, giving me a total of $2400, and waited with her at the departure gate.
I caught up with my daughter and the entire group a day and a half later in Anguleme in the south of France. We had a great trip and the best part was the extra week that my daughter and I spent in Spain without the group.
After returning home, I had one year to figure out how I wanted to spend my vouchers and another year in which to fly. As the year went along, I kept thinking about the vouchers and how I wanted to use them. After much deliberation, we decided to use our vouchers to get to Frankfurt and from Frankfurt get to the Canary Islands on our own. We chose the Canary Islands because it was December and we wanted to go somewhere warm. In addition, while most people have heard of the islands, few people can identify them as part of Spain, and very few Americans actually travel there. The Canary Islands are the southernmost points in Europe, and being that we had to use our vouchers to fly to Europe, we opted to do a four island trip.
Our first stop was in Lanzarote, where we spent a week. Lanzarote is a beautiful island that is easily explored in several days. The art of Cesar Manrique is everywhere on the island, and you can see it at roundabouts, in museums and in buildings that he designed. We ate our share of potatoes with mojo, the most famous local dish, and enjoyed the warm weather. From Lanzarote, we took ferries to Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Tenerife. Each island has its own distinct environment and flavor. Unfortunately, all of us far preferred Lanzarote to the other islands and we were disappointed after we left Lanzarote.
The Canary Islands are a great place to visit, but they've become overrun with tourists from England and Germany. The most popular tourist destinations are teerming with condos and time shares and there is very little that is quaint or authentic in those areas. My advice to anyone who is considering a trip to the islands is to avoid the tourist areas. Spend some time in the city of Gran Canaria. Rent a car and get off the beat path. But most important, spend a lot of time in Lanzarote.