Laura, the project director at “La Casita de Laura – Learn Spanish” which offers the best way to learn Spanish on the island, talking about Gran Canaria, Las Palmas, her project and life on the island in general.
Lots of insider information for you guys!
We love to cooperate with other projects done and created with a lot of purpose, love and dedication!
1. Where were you born? Have you ever lived anywhere else?
I was born here in Gran Canaria and I have lived most of my life in here. But I have travelled a bit, too. I did my Erasmus in Lyon (France), and I worked for the Spanish Embassy and Instituto Cervantes in Toronto (Canada) for 3 years.
On top of that, I have visited most of the main cities in the Península Ibérica and also been to other places in France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland Hungary, Czech Republic, Canada and USA. All very different with very interesting languages, culture and gastronomy. I love learning the language of my destination when I travel, so I have managed to learn a bit of all those languages. Call me “language freak” hehe
2. What makes Las Palmas de Gran Canaria unique compared to all the other places you have visited?
The city vibe and the quality of life. The weather, the people, the food, the beach, the nature…Gran Canaria is a “continent in miniature”. In less than 1h you can get to another location with a completely different look and temperature.
Take for example a trip to the south, where Maspalomas is, and you have the desert-looking sand dunes and compare it to a trip to the centre of the island, where Roque Nublo is, and there you have a pine tree forest and very high mountains with amazing landscapes; then a trip to the west of the island, where Agaete is, and you have a little Greek-looking village overlooking the ocean. And if on top of that you add a very low cost of living, it’s the perfect destination for a short vacation or a medium term workation!
And many people have already understood this as we are getting more and more digital nomads and remote workers every year, despite the pandemic (or probably even more during the pandemic, as Gran Canaria doesn’t have so severe restrictions and most places are still open).
Laura with her students from all over the world learning Spanish in Las Palmas.
3. How has Las Palmas changed to your eye – lets say in the last 20 years? Is it very different to the city you experienced as a child?
It has indeed changed A LOT! If you looked at the very old pictures of Las Palmas in “Bodegón Pachichi” (best place for Canarian tapas and cheap beer) you could get an idea. Avenida Mesa y López and Galicia street (Mercado Central) were not pedestrianised until a few years ago. Santa Catalina Park was also very different.
They created green areas and added a lot of nice plants with flowers and Luis Morote was turned into a pedestrian street around 2018. Same with Calle Ruiz de Alda, near Mesa y López area, which is now filled up with cool restaurants and has a nice vibe specially in the evening.
They have also finally created the bike lane connecting the city and a public bike rental service called Sitycleta that goes from one side of the city to the other (around the same time). That makes it so much easier and safer especially for tourists to go around the city without having to fear so much the way Canarians drive hehe
I want to share a funny anecdote. Around 25 years ago, the Auditorio Alfredo Kraus (concert hall) didn’t exist. That area looked like favelas and the people there were relocated to build it up. And the Paseo de Las Canteras was completely different, too. La Cicer area didn’t have a paved “paseo”.
I remember my dad used to park the car in front of “Ca’Ñoño Restaurante” (amazing sandwiches and fish tapas) which didn’t have a full building like now but a garage on the side and you could see the people going to the auditorio, well dressed and smelling to nice perfume or colonne, having some tapas and beer or wine before the show; but also the surfers, with their neoprenes opened, half naked, still wet and smelling like the ocean, coming in and out with “bocadillos” and screaming to their buddies outside what type of bocadillo they wanted: “¡¿calamares, pulpo o pescado empanado?!” (squid, octopus or breaded fish). That always amazed me!
4. How do you see the Las Palmas of the future? (lets say in 10 years)
Greener and even more terraces inside the city. In this last year or so (COVID19 pandemic) I think people have really valued how important is to have good and fresh air, plants and trees, and being able to be outside, even during winter times (unlike our centre or eastern European friends).
La Casita de Laura trip to the Dunes of Maspalomas – more than just learning Spanish.
5. What do you personally love the most about living in Las Palmas?
Having that “city vibe” but still being able to listen to the birds singing in the nearest palm tree or go the beach in my lunch break or after work if I feel like it. Here people are more relaxed, you can tell by the way they walk – they don’t rush! Maybe only taxi drivers and buses can drive a bit crazy sometimes, but the rest we are enjoying life and everything happening around us. I could not live in Madrid or Barcelona… Life goes way too fast! And there are too many options of activities to choose from!
Having so many options brings sometimes a negative feeling about your choice, like if you were missing on something. You never know if your choice was the correct one or you always feel like you could be doing something else. Here in Las Palmas you don’t get that feeling.
There are plenty of things to do, and for every taste, but not too many to make it easier for you to choose and be ok with your
6. What is your motivation and inspiration in your project “La Casita de Laura”? What keeps you moving forward with it?
Teaching Spanish to foreigners who are visiting or maybe even moving to Gran Canaria is so rewarding. Knowing I can help change their lives here for the better by showing them the key words to say or the key things to do in order to save them time and money makes me feel really good about myself and my project.
Like I am part of their life “puzzle” and we are working together to get it done, piece by piece, putting them in the right place. It gives me that feeling of being “useful”, like I found true meaning or purpose to my life. I do feel I was born to do this – helping others improve their lives by learning a new language.
Laura & the Dunes of Maspalomas. A magical landscape on Gran Canaria.
5. Ventana Azul and La Casita de Laura have started cooperating long time ago but could you explain our future guests how they can benefit from this cooperation?
They can imagine going to the market or meeting a local and being able to communicate with little problem. As a newcomer this will make you feel excited and like you belong to this new city you just stepped into.
The experience is so nice that many guests who have come back to the island have contacted us to continue with their Spanish, cause they really enjoyed it. It’s been a wonderful collaboration! I love the Ventana Azul vibes. It’s amazing what they have created.
6. What can our guests expect if they book Spanish classes with “La Casita de Laura”? What is your methodology? What are the classes like?
The lessons are very practical and useful, but most importantly FUN! We try to simplify the crazy grammar for our students, so they learn only what they need at every step of the way. The lessons are mainly focused on conversational Spanish so our students can start using it in the real life situations while they are in Las Palmas.
We also offer DELE preparation, or we tailor the program to our students needs and goals (we can offer business Spanish, or Spanish applied to a specific work field if needed. Some students request preparation for job interviews in their specific professional background).
We also share tons of tips for things to do and places to visit around the city, the island and the other Canary Islands, too.
7. As a local, which are the Top Places on Gran Canaria you can’t miss if you are visiting?
Many of my students have asked me the same question throught the years. If it’s your first time on the island this are my 2 personal favourite road trips you can do to get at least a taste of the islands’ most iconic locations:
DAY 1: start as early as possible – I recommend 9AM the latest, or even earlier if it’s winter season, as you want to get the most of it while there’s still sunlight.
Drive through Santa Brígida; San Mateo (great local market!) ; Cruz de Tejeda, Roque Nublo (hike to the base of the rock and back = about 2h if you do it slowly, taking pics for Instagram hehe and maybe even having a picnic on the top); then head south through Fataga; stop at the Maspalomas Dunes (get in the public panoramic view area going through the hotel Riu Palace Maspalomas and careful not to finish your phone battery here taking too many pics – TIP! You can easily find FREE parking going to the right once you are with the car facing the hotel building).
Next Puerto de Mogán (not Mogán itself, but “Puerto”) and enjoy the sunset maybe with some drinks or dinner there; head back to Las Palmas using the highway, easy!
DAY 2: ideally start around 10 AM Drive first to Arucas (park in the big parking lot at the entrance, by the big church) and visit its downtown for about 30min and then drive up to the mountain in the middle of the city overlooking the area you will be heading to right after:
Teror (wander around downtown for about 30min, it’s not very big); Bañaderos (nice natural swimming pools in El Puertillo) ; Gáldar; stop in Puerto de las Nieves in Agaete (eat something there, maybe even at a restaurant – I personally recommend ANGOR, their Paella is delish), and enjoy the little port and the natural swimming pools (for the pools you need to walk for about 10 min to the north); head back to Las Palmas old town called Vegueta for tapas (if its a Thursday night even better!) or Las Canteras Beach for dinner if any other day.
Laura just left her Casita to enjoy Las Canteras Beach. The best urban beach in the world. No reason to be too humble 🙂
8. And which Top Experiences in Las Palmas would you recommend to our guests?
Maybe include a DAY 3 to stay in Las Palmas. Start by going around the capital city, preferably walking or by bike if you can rent one (check the bike lane routes online); wander around Vegueta (the old downtown) and visit the market; then stop for a swim in Las Canteras Beach and have lunch or dinner there.
El Típico Español is our favorite restaurant for PAELLA and seafood; “Basal Grill and Beach” or “La Maravilla de Las Canteras” for meat and other delicious recipes of their own.
Remember to book ahead to make sure you get to eat there. You can do so via Instagram, or their booking platform. The service in both places is very friendly. They even know our names. I love that personal touch! It makes you always feel very special.
Extra TIP! We love going to the rooftop bar at Aloe Hotel for a drink and a nice sunset experience overlooking Las Canteras. Totally worth it!
10. Which are your favourite outdoor activities on Gran Canaria and why is it the perfect place for these activities?
We love hiking whenever we get the chance. Gran Canaria is full of hidden gems and amazing locations. I have lived here most of my life and I haven’t discovered all of them yet. I have shared some already, but I am pretty sure you can ask any of the front desk staff at Ventana Azul and they can show you their guest’s favourite routes or maybe even organize a fun trip together.
Also, I have recently discovered kayaking and stand up paddle in Las Canteras and I love it! Gran Canaria is one of the best and safest destination for water sports in Europe. And it’s also very cheap! You can rent equipment for your stay and not worry about extra luggage at the airport.
I hope you enjoy your stay at Ventana Azul and that you get to experience Gran Canaria.
Let me know if you have any questions. I am always open to help in what I can.
f you want to know more about La Casita de Laura to improve your Spanish, check out the video down here or visit “La Casita de Laura – Learn Spanish” website.Lauras website.