If I could have smuggled anything or anybody back home to the UK from my trip to the Canary Island of Fuerteventura it would have been a mixologist, a masseuse and a dancer.
They made my trip to a strange land where windmills you’d expect to see in Holland and sand dunes from the Sahara Desert collide with a landscape from the dark side of the moon.
This Spanish isle of superlatives: the oldest, longest and most sparsely populated of the Canary Islands – there are more goats than humans – is just over 60 miles off Africa but cooled by the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
Move over goats. This is the place for surfers and year round sun worshippers, volcano trekkers and walkers, cyclists and swimmers, snorkelers and scuba divers. Beach bums have a choice of almost 100 miles of sandy shores.
And if that’s not enough to float your boat we discovered the ideal base for dabbling in all these delights: the bespoke Pierre & Vacances holiday village of Origo Mare, (Origo Mare Fuerteventura) located in Majanicho, between the villages of Corralejo and El Cotillo, close to the spectacular nature park Las Dunas de Corralejo.
This is the kingdom of Marco the Magician, schooled in the sublime art of cocktail making. His White Russians and Nectarine Bellinis were pure nectar – frothing, foamy, cooling confections with a kick.
He was a perfectionist with a keen eye to detail, just a dusting of rose petals there, a dash of honey there. His masterpieces were a fitting end to days spent surfing, paddle boarding, snorkelling and trekking for two hours up a thankfully dormant Calderon Hondo volcano to peer into the yawning mouth of its crater in the company of scampering Barbary ground squirrels.
And if Cava was the ticket for that first drink of the day as we shook off the dust of a sunset coastal horse ride on docile Apache at the Tara Caballos ranch across an arid land 20 million years old then Marco was on cue. Beaming and balancing a tray of unbreakable flutes and ice bucket he was ready to pour the bubbly by the swimming pool where, oh joy, none of the guests, whatever their national tendencies, was allowed to reserve loungers.
His drinks were also the ideal prelude to fine dining _ fabulous fresh fish, colourful paella, juicy steaks and papas arrugadas, wrinkly potatoes served with hot pepper sauce. They were the forerunner to a star gazing session under the guidance of an astronomer with a very large telescope. And they kicked off some wild dancing.
Senor Torso (I never did find his identity as there was no place to pin a name badge on his glistening, muscular upper body) was one of the lively entertainment team tasked with looking after guests, young and old, families and young couples at Origo Mare.
And could he dance. He so inspired a couple in our party that they took the shortest route to sashay under the stage disco lights _ through the swimming pool. They didn’t miss a beat.
After taking the drier way round to slow-jive with this mesmeric mover I feel I could give Strictly’s Mrs Murray a run for her money.
With all that activity, plus frolics in the surf off the Corralejo Dunes where the waves rotated you in a dizzy spin-cycle, r-e-l-a-x -i-n-g was in order. The gentle hands of Vanesa weaved her magic in the Aura Wellness salon with a Shiatsu face massage using lotion of Aloe Vera, which is grown on the island.
Although there’s everything in this 300 acre complex, including supermarket, pools, and all the activities and facilities you would expect of the Pierre & Vacances Center Parcs group don’t be tempted to stay exclusively within its confines, however comfortable your accommodation.
There is so much more to do and see: a boat trip to Lobos Island, food and craft markets, historical sites of an island invaded by the English, French and Spanish, plus art, sculpture park and many cultural and heritage goodies. One must: a dramatised tour to immerse yourself in Fuerteventura’s history (www.lacasadeloscoronels.org)
Two great places to eat outside Origio Mare are: 722 degrees restaurant near the volcano, known for live music, artworks, brunch and black risotto with shrimp; and the traditional rustic Casa Marcos in Villaverde, where we feasted on crab mousse, fried aubergine, marjorero goats milk cheese and roast goat. (www.visitafuerteventura.com).
I have a stash of memories to bring home and only one regret. Sadly my wheelie suitcase just wasn’t big enough for Marco, Mr Torso and Vanesa.
Spread over 120 hectares, Origo Mare is the largest bespoke resort in the Canaries. The luxury accommodation is clustered around several swimming pools giving an informal feel with a choice of bars and restaurants. The houses and villas can accommodate between four and seven people in style and comfort: all have a terrace and a private garden, air conditioning, fully equipped kitchen, TV with national and international channels, direct dial telephone and personal safe.
There are facilities for tennis, cycling, mini-golf, gym, petanque, and table tennis with Mini Clubs for youngsters aged 3-17.
For a family break at Origo Mare prices start at £380 for 7 nights in a 1 bedroom house with accommodation that sleeps up to four on a self-catering basis, see here: Origo Mare Fuerteventura
Fuerteventura is easily accessible from the UK with flights from London Gatwick, Stansted, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and Bournemouth
Monarch, the scheduled leisure airline, operates year round flights to Fuerteventura from Birmingham and Manchester airports with fares, including taxes, starting from £89.99 one way (£186.94 return)
easyJet operates flights to Fuerteventura from £244 year round, from London Gatwick. For further information or to book easyJet flights please visit: www.easyjet.com
Norwegian offers flights from London Gatwick to Fuerteventura for £235. For further information or to book Norwegian flights please visit: www.norwegian.com.