3 January 1997


spot – but

only just…

For a guaranteed warm, out-of-season break, the Canary Islands have always been a British favourite. James Evans sampled Fuerteventura, only 60 miles off the coast of West Africa

ALL the big tour operators go there and they all call Fuerteventura a get-away-from-it-all island. Right away you know, in your heart of hearts, that something doesnt add up.

In mid-April, we left cold and miserable Gatwick and, a brief three-and-a-half hours later, landed under an African sun made benign by Atlantic breezes.

First impressions were of an island manufactured by the major travel companies – no rain, no cold, no industry, nothing except golden beaches, rugged coastlines, a brooding mountainous interior and a ready-made battalion of locals to service the tourist hordes.

Get-away-from-it-all? Fuerteventura is still in that category, but only just. The building and tourist developments have nowhere near plumbed the depths of the worst "Costa-risation" of Spain and some other Mediterranean venues.

Our apartment, in a tasteful complex in the middle of the eastern coast, was well designed and only minutes from a lovely natural beach. Some of the newer developments we saw, regrettably, featured English pubs, karaoke bars, fish-and-chip shops, burger joints, discos and other home comforts.

But away from the worst excesses, there were miles of clean and sandy beaches, good restaurants – although we were unsuccessful in hunting down any local dishes – and good roads to be enjoyed with cheap car hire. One more little niggle. All the perfectly tarmacked, two-lane roads, presumably made with cash from EU coffers, had crash barriers flush against each verge. The busy traffic made it all but impossible to stop and enjoy a view or a walk and take a few photographs. The local bus system was easy enough to fathom and we found bussing far more fun than driving.

In common with most popular holiday destinations, our German cousins had already colonised the loveliest part of the island in the south. The town of Morro Jable we renamed Stuttgart-on-Sea. The Teutonic quotient was almost 100%. All signs and menus were in German and only German newspapers were sold. Mind you, the bratwurst and sauerkraut were delicious…

Fuerteventura is indeed an island of great contrasts. The value for money is excellent.

Turn a blind eye to the relatively few abominations and you will find your winter blues being borne away on the gentle Atlantic winds.

&#8226 A self-catering apartment for one week, plus the usual flights and transfers, cost about £260 each with Airtours.

Top to bottom:The good, the bad, and the unspeakable. Widespread building and mass tourism vulgarity are taking their

toll on Fuerte- venturas claim to be a get-away- from-it-all holiday destination.

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