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6 years, 9 months ago

Julie Burchill and HouseTrip in the Canary Islands

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This post by renowned English author, journalist and columnist Julie Burchill, exclusively for Trip+


There is something of the spaghetti Western about the Villas Salobre, Gran Canaria, with its parched landscape and baking, empty streets. But the only thing I’ll be going mano-a-mano with is an over-sized G&T at the clubhouse.

I love the Canary Islands. I never fail to be amazed that it only takes just over four hours from London for the plane to put you down, blinking in a year-round haze of brazen sunshine the like of which you ignorantly thought you had to suffer at least twice that for. Others may look down on them as brash and inauthentic, but I’m with Oscar Wilde when he said ‘Being natural is simply a pose, and the most irritating pose I know.’ I have done the authentic experience with HouseTrip before in Amsterdam and loved every minute of it. But authentic isn’t what Gran Canaria was made for. It’s for sun, sea and surfing your way to the nearest cocktail.

Canary IslandJF Marrero

In Gran Canaria, only the phoney feel the need to call themselves travellers and bother the indigenous people; those who by nature believe in keeping it real have no trouble at all being tourists and frequenting purpose-built resorts. The Salobre – with its two huge golf courses, umpteen swimming pools, and perfect villas with plunge pools – fits this description to a tee-off.


Only ten minutes in a taxi to Maspalomas promenade and the delightful inauthenticity continues. A girl croons New York, New York on the seafront. We go to a gorgeous Mexican & sushi restaurant. A white man sings the blues at The 19th Hole, a golf-themed bar, restaurant and shop where the waiters wear plus-fours and show you the menu on a tablet. The strange lunar sand dunes of Maspalomas are made of sand blown straight over from the Sahara. The Canaries are a mixed-up, shook-up shlock of the new, and I’ve never had a bad time there. I invariably stay in 5-star hotels and limp off the plane at Gatwick having lost much of my life-blood through over-generous tipping (a better rush than any drug, in my experience) so I was interested as to what the benefits of borrowing someone’s house would be.


It was very, very cheap, comparatively, which until recently I would have only used as a diss – but desperate times call for desperate economies, and when you could go on four of these trips for the price of one week in a 5-star sleep-factory, needs must. Another pleasing aspect was the privacy angle, which if you’re as keen on loud, sweary marital combat and equally vocal making up as I am is much nicer for the neighbours in a detached villa rather than a hotel room. Though I missed being on a beach, a shuttle bus left for a beach club on Maspalomas prom several times a day.


The week passed in a blur of blazing sunshine (while there was springtime snow at home), extreme drinking and aggressive splashing in the various pools and once more I left the Canaries keen to return ASAP. You can keep the authentic pleasures of Tuscany and Provence – I prefer my peasants wielding tequila guns and pirate hats.

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