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Arrecife is a municipality of Lanzarote, and has also been the capital of Lanzarote since the 19th century. Since then, a large part of the administrative and commercial activity of the entire island has been concentrated in the city. There are many visitors to the island who want to get to know the city, apart from the most visited tourist areas such as Puerto del Carmen, Playa Blanca, or Costa Teguise.
Arrecife is a small city but it encompasses the largest concentration of population on the island, with some 64,497 inhabitants, it can practically be explored on foot, but it is especially a pleasure to stroll through its bay. We anticipate that talking about the artist César Manrique here is inevitable, since his hand is also noticeable in the capital.
We start our tour from the Castillo de San José, an 18th century fortress, conceived to defend the city of Arrecife from pirates, which César Manrique turned into one of the first and most ambitious centers of contemporary art in Spain. Highlight its internal spiral staircase, and its Restaurant, where some special bottle-lamps adorn together with a spectacular panoramic window with views of the sea and the cruise ship dock.
We continue through Puerto Naos, spotting the old salt pans and leaving the Fishing School behind to head straight for the historic center of Arrecife.
We anticipate that if you arrive at the "port" (as the locals call the city of Arrecife) with "jilorio" and desire to eat something delicious, you should not miss the opportunity to eat the typical fish or squid sandwich from the Ginory house bar. We know you won't be disappointed. In any case, there is a lot of gastronomic offer around the Charco de San Ginés and the entire bay of Arrecife.
And with a full belly we will walk along the shore of the Charco de San Ginés, which is a lagoon formed by a direct inlet of sea water, where Manrique spent his childhood playing with the jolateros and enjoying the entry and exit of the little boats that there they rest.
We cross the alley of Luis Hernández Fuentes, El Aguaresío, a living example of the island's coastal architecture, and arrive at the Plaza de Las Palmas, a small square that Manrique embellished. In his head he devised the large white balls of the square, built by Luis Morales, a fundamental collaborator of his team, and covered it with benches and vegetation, a small garden of pine trees, palm trees, Indian laurels and a large casuarina that today day provides a relaxed shaded area.
If we continue through the alleys, leaving behind the church of San Ginés, we will arrive at the Casa de Cultura Agustín de la Hoz where he painted his first mural work, in 1947, while he was still a student at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando.
The reef marina
We continue towards the José Ramírez Cerdá Park, also known as "the onion dock", since the island's onion harvest was deposited here, the trade in this precious vegetable at the time was the main activity on the island. The merchandise ships arrived, right at the Puente las Bolas pier guarded by the Castillo de San Gabriel and picked up the merchandise at that point, which was also the first park in Arrecife.
Built in 1959, it reclaimed land from the sea and was baptized with the name of the former president of the Cabildo, who was a childhood friend and a decisive collaborator of César. There they built a playground with beautiful edges covered by "pebbles" and a special pavement designed with volcano slabs that contrast with the grass. All this bordering a beautiful fountain with volcanic remains that, together with a small bridge, gave life to the park.
There are two places mentioned above that are a must. The views of the bay of Arrecife from the islet of Castillo de San Gabriel are the most characteristic picture of Arrecife next to the Charco de Sán Ginés.
The Castillo de San Gabriel was built in 1573 as a fortress against the maritime attacks suffered at that time. In 1586 it suffered a Moorish invasion that caused a great fire, which led it to be reformed and rebuilt later on several occasions. At present, it contains the Archaeological or History Museum of Arrecife in its interior, where it is possible to see archaeological remains of the time. It is also used for carrying out astronomical observation activities.
This castle is connected to the mainland by the Puente de las Bolas, a unique construction of its kind in the Canary Islands. Its construction also took place in the 16th century, in the case of a paved bridge of about 175 meters, with three cannons in its central part and two pre-Isabelline pillars finished in its highest part by two balls.
The Wafer Regatta
Leaving behind and heading towards the Arrecife Gran Hotel, the highest hotel on the island, and from which you can see the city of Arrecife from the heights and some spectacular sunsets, in its beautiful cafeteria on the highest floor.
We will arrive at the old Parador de Turismo, the current headquarters of the UNED. In 1950 Manrique received his first major commission: the decoration of the first tourist building in Lanzarote, in the neo-Canary style. In the cafeteria of that charming inn (today the UNED library) he painted a colorful Allegory of the island, which the Francoist authorities considered out of tune. Because of the "rogue" beautiful female nudes, and ordered to cover them with painted fabrics. In the restaurant of this old inn (today the Aula Magna) he painted three scenes, The wind, fishing and the harvest, a praise to the titanic work of the peasantry, whose survival depended on harmony with the natural environment.
The regatta is a tradition in the capital, both the Latin Sail and the radio-controlled Barquillos regatta. From the current headquarters of the UNED, the models of the sailboats are managed from land, and sail the waves drawing a beautiful picture in the bay of Arrecife. Friends who have these wonderful handcrafted works of art gather there to train for the competition and also to hang out.
Right in front we arrive at the Real Club Náutico de Arrecife, to which César was linked since his childhood, being a member of the swimming team. His cafeteria has a wood and iron relief that he assembled with scrapped elements from old boats, designed in 1962, called Anatomy for a Boat.
From any point in the Arrecife marina you can see an islet made of volcanic rock and white cubes. It is the Islote de la Fermina, an original project by César Manrique, which has been modified over the years, but still with touches by the artist such as the lighthouse, the swimming pools, the socos, the bar...
If we continue towards the roundabout in front of Reducto beach, we will see a sculpture-tribute to the birth of the wind. It is called Barlovento, but the locals call it “Tribute to the Marine or Scrap”, since in this work jallos (debris thrown up by the sea on the beaches), water tanks, glass bottles, volcanic stones and naval gear were used. When admiring it, it is inevitable to remember that Arrecife was a port long before it was a city.
Not far away, if we walk a few meters, we will arrive at El Almacén, a 19th-century mansion restored by César, opened as a self-managed cultural laboratory in 1974. It was avant-garde at the time, receiving visits from artists such as Pedro Almodóvar, Rafael Albertí or Brian Eno, among many others. They say Soo's best sweet potato pudding, something unique to the island, was served while visitors enjoyed art books. In 1990 it was acquired by the Cabildo de Lanzarote, which has managed to preserve the original structure of the building, its art gallery, El Aljibe, and the Buñuel cinema.
We wish you enjoy the city of Arrecife!
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