Taurito Princess, Gran Canaria – hotel review

10 things you’ll want to know about staying here

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.

Hotel atrium with white marble floor.
The atrium

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.

2. Rooms

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.

Hotel bedroom, including sofa, desk and two single beds, looking towards the double windows.
Our beds
Hotel bedroom, including sofa, desk and two single beds.
The seating area in our room

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.

Hotel bathroom with shower over bath and dark tiling.
Our bathroom washbasin
Hotel bathroom with large white sink unit.
Our shower over the bath

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.

Bananas, melons, kiwis and other fruit on hotel buffet
The hotel’s fresh fruit buffet

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.

Tables in outside restaurant with red table decorations
Al fresco dining on St. Valentine’s Day

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!

Melon, grapes, kiwi cream tart, cup cake
A mix-and-match dessert of mine from the buffet.

4. Drinks

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.

5. Wifi

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.

6. Outside

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.

Swimming pool outside large white hotel, with beach bar in background.
One of the swimming pools

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.

7. Beach

There is a small beach at Taurito, with a lifeguard and paid-for sunbeds.

Beach, promemade, large hotel, blue sea and sky
Taurito beach

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.

8. Weather

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!

White, ginger and tabby cats begging for food on blue and white paving.
Some of Taurito’s cats

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.

White-washed cottages and palm tree beneath blue sky
Harbour-front cottages at Puerto de Mogán.

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.

Sandy bay with hotels behnd, captured from the coast road heading south of the resort.
Puerto Rico

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.

My verdict

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.

Other hotel reviews you might enjoy:

Sol Gavilanes, Menorca

San Ranieri, Pisa

Have you stayed at the Taurito Princess? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

2016 in photos

Sunset over the mudflats of the Couesnon estuary by the Mont St. Michel

Woman in black dressThis year, armed with a new prime lens and a softbox, I took my photography in a new direction: portraiture. With Southampton-based model Helen Stephens I got great photos outside the city’s Guildhall. A month later, I worked with Gemma Wilks in Romsey, who subsequently cut a striking presence in red for me on a windy evening in the New Forest. Also in August, I got some lovely photos of two teenage sisters in Romsey’s Memorial Park.

Woman holding hands with little boy and girl, walking through sunlit New ForestBroadening the age range still further, my camera and I joined Gemma and her two young children on an autumn walk in the New Forest. The light was ideal for seasonal colour.

Wide-angle shot of Mont St. Michel as night approaches

Three travel experiences stand out in 2016. In September, my wife and I paid a 24-hour visit to Normandy. I was amply rewarded with ideal weather and a beautiful sunset and sunrise at the Mont St. Michel.

Three months earlier, I shot the sunrise in Clovelly. The north-facing coastal village only catches the full sun early in the morning near the summer solstice. Luckily for me, the clouds parted just after sunrise and, apart from a couple of fishermen, I had the harbour wall to myself. Read the story on Adobe Spark – a great platform for story-telling if you don’t have a website of your own.

The third one is the main holiday Rachel and I took to the Lake District in early October. We enjoyed great weather here, too, so my camera got lots of exercise. Unfortunately, higher priorities meant I haven’t yet had a chance to process and share my photos from Windermere, Ullswater and elsewhere. Maybe in the New Year…

Managing the Facebook accounts for Romsey Abbey and its choir is one of these major commitments. I post on Twitter, too, but that it’s format inhibits meaningful user engagement. I chronicle services and events throughout the year with photos; despite Facebook’s algorithm restricting exposure to page posts unless you pay to ‘boost’ them, they help my posts regularly reach many more people than actually follow the Abbey’s pages.

Large orchestra rehearsing in Romsey AbbeyAs well as services, I also shot a few concerts, including one by the largest orchestra the Abbey has ever hosted: the Charity Symphony Orchestra, specially enlarged to play the spectacular Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss. I hope to work with more musical ensembles in future; here are suggested shots that work well.

Instagram has been my focus in terms of social media activity this year. I have acquired just over 500 followers since joining late last year. My photos regularly get well over 100 likes. I think this follower/like ratio compares very well with other people with much larger followings. I was also invited to be an Instagrammer of the week for Ordnance Survey (my employer) in October and, earlier in the year, to be featured in the #swisbest 2017 calendar, which came out in November.

A couple of my photos were also used in the artwork for Adoration, a CD released earlier this month by the Choir of Romsey Abbey (I’m one of its tenors) It’s great to be getting recognition like this.

And so to 2017. My resolutions are to:

  • continue to develop my photographic style, particularly in terms of portraiture;
  • blog and network more effectively;
  • be the best person I can be.

I wish you a very happy New Year, and look forward to working with current friends and many people I have yet to meet.

Lightroom CC: quicker, better, even more clever than before

Adobe Lightroom CC

Lightroom CC was released today and I’m looking forward to getting started with it. Your graphics card now handles intensive image processing it , so you should see significant speed improvements in the Develop module.

Headlining the great new features there is the ability to create panoramas and HDR images within Lightroom. Before spending perhaps a couple of minutes waiting for Photoshop to produce either type of file – and then not really liking the results and having to start again, Lightroom CC uses the JPG previews of your target raw files to create a preview. You can then kick off the rendering process and move onto your next task in Lightroom while it makes its complex calculations in the background.

Better still, your new pano or HDR is in the raw DNG format. This offers two major benefits. Firstly, you have access to all of the 16-bit data, meaning great noise control if you lighten shadows to expose hidden detail. Secondly, the files sizes should be a lot smaller than the huge uncompressed TIF files generated by Photoshop.

Use of gradients and radial filters is now better controlled with the addition of a brush tool. This enables you to prevent a gradient you might add to darken your sky from affecting a foreground element that you want to stand out against it. Serge Ramelli has released a video that ably showcases these improvements:

Back in the Library, I’m delighted to see that Adobe has introduced facial recognition, enabling you to tag people you know in your photos quickly and easily. This was a feature I suggested in one of the online surveys circulated by the Lightroom product marketing team; it’s great to see that they’ve actually included it.

Since I take a lot of group photos and like to be able to keep track of who’s in which one, I had installed Picasa on my desktop to use its face tagging feature in conjunction with Jeffrey Friedl’s Picasa face-recognition import plugin. Now I can leave both behind – thank you, Adobe.

At the Import stage in the Library, you can import photos directly into a Collection (at this stage, you still specify the physical location to which you copy the actual files). This makes good sense if you want to get straight on with creating a photo book, for example.

The Web and Slideshow modules have also been enhanced. The former now enables you to export galleries in HTML5 – ideal for sharing previews of your work to clients. The latter gains panning and zooming effects, plus more background music options. These could be of use as a way of building showcases of your work for upload to YouTube or use on a monitor at a trade show.

Lightroom CC is available both as part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud plan – the bundle with Photoshop is currently £8.57/month – and as stand-alone Lightroom 6 for £103.88, which doesn’t include Lightroom Mobile. Adobe has done its best to hide this option on their website.

Are you a Lightroom user? Feel free to share your thoughts about the new release. Here for example are six features that PetaPixel says ought to be in the new version but aren’t…

San Ranieri, Pisa, hotel review – a good base for exploring Tuscany

In early September, my wife and I spent a week exploring Tuscany and used the Hotel San Ranieri on the outskirts of Pisa, as our base. We chose Pisa because it is served by a weekly direct Ryanair flight from our local airport, Bournemouth (at the time of publishing, this route doesn’t appear on its Summer 2015 schedule). It is, moreover, an interesting city in its own right and offers good road connections, both to the heart of Tuscany and northwards to the Cinque Terre in Liguria.

The San Ranieri was our chosen hotel because Continue reading →