At the end of February, I was pleased to shoot an employment event organised by Triangulate, Romsey’s local mental health charity, whose website I manage. It was the final event in the Abbey to feature The Light, a four-metre illuminated globe designed by Richard McLester and suspended from the Abbey’s vaulting.
The trustees of Triangulate were delighted to attract an audience of over 100. It included Cllr John Parker, Mayor of Romsey, members of the Chamber of Commerce and respresentatives from a wide range of employers. Richard Frost, from Mindful Employer in Exeter, endorsed Triangulate’s messages in a short talk.
The Abbey’s AV team projected a series of films onto the globe. They included filmed conversations with Triangulate Trustees. Ian Cox spoke about the support Mindful Employer can give an employer, and Bridget Brook focused on the need for employers to treat mental wellbeing in the same way as they would physical wellbeing. The Vicar of Romsey, the Revd Canon Tim Sledge expanded the theme to include support for the whole person.
Informal discussions with Trustees, Richard Frost and his colleagues concluded this very worthwhile event.
My wife Rachel and I had long wanted to take a winter sun break; this year we took the plunge. The Canaries were the obvious choice. They’re easily accessible from our local airport, and offer reliably warm weather at this time of year. Having travelled with Thomson before, we booked our week with them less than four weeks from departure. We chose the Taurito Princess on Gran Canaria because it was in a quiet resort, all-inclusive and highly-rated by other guests. This is my review.
1. The hotel in general
Located right next to the beach, white marble is the architectural theme of this hotel.
The atrium is very light; the central staircase less so. The hotel comprises over 400 rooms over eleven floors. You have a bit of a walk and a slow but scenic lift ride to get anywhere if your room is on one of the upper floors. Members of staff are reasonably friendly and the hotel is very clean.
We stayed in a junior suite on the second floor. It was spacious and included a desk, TV, sofa and armchair, two large single beds, generous hanging space and balcony. Other rooms in the hotel have yet to be refurbished, I believe.
There are four electrical sockets, so recharging multiple phones and other devices shouldn’t be a problem. Our bathroom was a very good size, and its shower over the bath was the hottest and most powerful I think I’ve come across in a hotel.
We paid €21 to use the safe for the week (this includes a €5 key deposit). The interior of ours was about 30cm tall, wide and deep, with a single shelf, so if you intend to bring a DSLR and lens or two, they should fit.
3. Food and drink
This hotel works on an all-inclusive buffet basis. Whatever your nationality, dietary needs or general preferences, I imagine this hotel caters for it.
Breakfast is served in the main restaurant on the ground floor. You can enjoy their version of the full English: egg, bacon, sausages (not really in the English style), beans and so on. I loved their scrambled eggs, in particular. A selection of cereals, fruit and yogurt are also on offer, along with cheese and cold meats for continental palates.
Lunch is served in a smaller restaurant on the floor above. As many people do, you can take this meal out to the terrace around it. Rachel tended to stick to salads. I loved the chance to try different fish, like tilapia, hake and panga. Their ratatouille-like vegetable dishes are very good.
Dinner takes you back the main restaurant on the ground floor. It’s very busy early in the evening, so we tended to wait until about 8.30pm (it closes an hour later). Again, there’s a very wide selection and a griddle, where meat and fish is cooked throughout the evening. We found most dishes well cooked and delicious. Each night has a different theme – French, Italian, Tex/Mex and so on – with the restaurant decorated to match. Our stay coincided with St. Valentine’s Day, so each table acquired a balloon and other romantic decorations.
At lunch and dinner, dessert choices tend to be cold. Cream sponges featured throughout the week; fresh fruit and ice cream were also available. Expect to go home a pound or two heavier!
Wine on tap was one of the highlights. I’m sure it’s just table wine, but it was very drinkable and spared us the extra expense of a new bottle every couple of nights. Beer and soft drinks are also available on a similar basis. Fruit juice is some sort of concentrate – the pineapple is OK – and hot drinks were dispensed from machines. I recommend the hot chocolate, but coffee with milk was weak. Cappuccinos seemed to be some sort of concoction involving chocolate – best avoided. Smoothies and cocktails are also available to buy at the poolside bar.
This was disappointing. It’s €19 for the week, or €12 for three days, and only available in public areas on the ground floor. The hotel is closing in May for refurbishment, I understand; I hope it’s one service they’ll improve.
Built on the side of a cliff, the hotel makes the most of its small grounds. There are two main pools – one heated in winter – plus a couple of paddling pools for young children.
During our stay, they were only open between 10am and 6pm. Sun loungers are plentiful and patiently rearranged by the poolside team at the end of each day. Beach towels are provided. Reserving loungers them first thing in the morning is futile; hotel staff remove towels and items left on them.
There is a small beach at Taurito, with a lifeguard and paid-for sunbeds.
Its sand is volcanic: dark grey and moderately fine. Even in February, the water is warm enough for swimming. With currents coming in from across the Atlantic, breaking waves can be big. There are submerged rocks on the south side of the beach, so be especially careful here.
Average temperatures on Gran Canaria in February are about 21 Celsius, and a lot hotter during the summer. Half-way through our week, thanks to the Calima wind blowing in from the Sahara, they soared to 27C. We had lots of sun, one afternoon of cloud and a bit of rain in Taurito. We understand the weather was worse in the capital, Las Palmas, on the north side of the island.
9. The resort
Enclosed within a deep canyon, Taurito is quite a small resort. It’s dominated by big hotels like the Taurito Princess. Apartment blocks, a waterpark (€15 for adults) and some bars and gift shops also feature. Probably its biggest attraction, at least for Rachel, were its resident cats. They now have their own Instagram account, @tauritocats!
10. Getting around
There’s a daily courtesy bus from the hotel to the neighbouring resort, Puerto de Mógan. To use this on a Friday – market day – you need to ask for a ticket from reception at least a day in advance. The resort styles itself ‘Little Venice’, although this overstates the case somewhat. Its beach, protected by a breakwater, is nice – and there’s a very pleasant grid of whitewashed houses behind the harbour.
Local buses are plentiful and cheap. We took one to Puerto Rico, a few miles down the coast (€1.40 per person each way). The coast road is pretty hair-raising, so you can understand why millions were spent boring motorway tunnels a short way inland. Puerto Rico is a bigger resort than Taurito, but there isn’t much to see there.
We thought about visiting Gran Canaria’s capital, Las Palmas, but didn’t on this trip. There’s a semi-fast – and probably inexpensive – direct bus from Taurito.
Various excursions are available from the hotel. A tour of the island in an eight-seater people-carrier tempted us – but again, perhaps next time.
This hotel is a great place for a week away from it all: good food; comfortable rooms and reliable weather. Unless you make a few excursions, you might go a little stir-crazy if you stay longer. Rachel and I would happily return, and use it next time as a base to see more of the island.
Earlier this month, it was my pleasure to photograph the Friends of Romsey Abbey Music Epiphany Supper for social media and the Abbey’s parish magazine. I was chairman of the Friends for four years until 2016, and this is our annual fund-raiser. Thanks to an outstandingly successful chorister recruitment campaign by our Director of Music, George Richford, we had outgrown our previous venue, the Abbey’s Church Rooms. The Vicar, the Revd Canon Tim Sledge, therefore kindly gave us permission to hold it in the Abbey itself for the first time.
The evening began with carols sung by the choir:
Candid moments at the dining tables:
Even Sita, the Verger’s lucky black cat, put in an appearance:
Musical items followed the meal, including a rendition of the the Twelve Days of Christmas with enthusiastic audience particpation:
The Vicar spoke for everybody as he thanked the organisers at the end of the evening.
Nearly 120 people served from the Church Rooms, separate from the Abbey – a real feat!