Friday April 10, 2009
Splashing About In The Puddle
The inland lagoon of El Charco lies in the heart of Arrecife. And whilst this atmospheric area doesn't feature on too many tourist itineraries it's still well worth exploring for anyone visiting the island capital. As it boasts a weekly market and plenty of bars and restaurants. Along with a recently opened art exhibition space and some interesting patches of traditional Canarian architecture.
Background and History
El Charco is known locally as The Puddle. A title that doesn't really do justice to this picturesque inland lagoon located in the centre of Arrecife, adjacent to the main shopping street of Calle Leon Y Castillo (aka Calle Real).
El Charco first evolved as a small harbour for local fishermen, with a barrier controlling the influx of seawater. And was very quickly converted into a small trading port, where goods from elsewhere could be disembarked.
During the 1980´s it fell into a state of some disrepair and was regarded by locals as a bit of a borderline area. But all that has long since changed and the area is still visibly smartening up its act today.
Things to Do
Bars & Restaurants
El Charco is somewhere to enjoy a pleasant stroll around the lagoon for an hour or so looking at the small boats, visiting the Sala de Exposciones gallery space and soaking up the atmosphere. And also makes a great venue for a cup of coffee or bite to eat, as there are five bars all with decent views across the water, along with a number of other restaurants in close proximity. Such as the highly regarded Restaurant Casa Ginory.
Depending on the weather the east side of the lagoon is the most sheltered from the wind. And here, just around the corner from the car park (see below), is the Restaurant Leito De Proa. Which has plenty of outdoor seating and is a popular lunchtime location. Offering tapas dishes along with a full menu of seafood specials.
The opposite side of the lagoon is home to the more up market restaurant La Puntilla - which offers good quality (and relatively expensive) tapas with a twist. During the summer months, when the nights are warm, this makes for a really atmospheric spot. With outdoor tables giving great views as the lights twinkle across the water from the other side of the lagoon.
Just a few minutes on from La Puntilla is Bar Lemon - which serves more basic snacks and drinks. Whist at the top end of the lagoon, where El Charco touches Calle Leon Y Castillo is the Cerverceria El Charco, which is another ideal spot for a beer and a snack.
Sala De Exposciones de San Gines
This exhibition space often has exhibitions featuring the work of both local and international artists and is open daily (except Sundays). Admission is free of charge.
The Church of San Gines is located just around the corner from El Charco. And the series of narrow streets running away from El Charco to the church contain some good examples of traditional Canarian architecture.
Such as the tiny Callejon Luis Hernandez Fuentes. Whilst the recently re-opened La Recova - once Arrecife's main food market - is also in close proximity, just one street down towards the seafront from the Church. Open Monday to Saturday from 09.00 to 14.00, with stalls selling a wide array of fresh produce along with arts and crafts.
Fiesta de San Gines
Every August El Charco plays host to the Fiesta de San Gines. Formerly the Bishop of Clermont, during the 16th century he was responsible for the construction of a small hermitage, now the Church de San Gines.
Legend has it that during the 1700's a portrait of the Bishop appeared, floating on the waters of El Charco. And from that moment on the “porteños” (port dwellers) proclaimed him the Patron Saint of the city.
Parking in El Charco
There's a couple of impromptu car parking facilities close to El Charco. The biggest and easiest to use is right next to the lagoon. Follow the seafront road past the Castillo San Gabriel on the right and then past El Charco on the left, the parking on rough ground then comes into view on the left hand side.
The etiquette is to leave your car here and hand the attendants some coins when driving away at the end of your visit.