As with many unique things about the Island of El Hierro, its capital city Valverde is the only capital city in the Canary Island Archipelago that is not on the coast. It is also called the city in the clouds
Valverde is over 600 metres above sea level and when first built it was not visible from the sea to passing pirate ships.
The best place to start your adventure in this small city is to start at the Plaza Virrey de Manila. The Plaza has a mesmerising pattern of tiles that appear to change shapes in the bright sunlight. The tall imposing building to the right of the Plaza is the local town hall. If you walk to the white stone parapet’s it gives you a spectacular view over the church Nuestra Señora de la Concepcion.
In the distance you can see the Island of La Gomera, with Tenerife behind. Today Mount Teide is capped with snow, quite a contrast against the blue sky and sea. Outside the church the white flag fluttering in the breeze is a reminder that this year is the 4 yearly Fiesta of La Bajada de la Virgen de los Reyes.
I descend the steps and enter the imposing church, through its large solid wooden doors. As your eyes become accustomed to the light there is a magnificent painting to your left depicting biblical scenes interposed with iconic symbols from the Island. To the right is a painting of Christ featuring a well-known British actor, it’s just propped up against the wall of the church. The inside of the church is quite impressive with lots of lovely architectural features and icons.
I then left the church and walked back out into the bright sun light. I turned right onto Calle Dr Gost and walked past the only hotel in the city The Boomerang Hotel and near by the imposing building that was once the home of Dr. Gost, now the home to the Institute of Architects. I took the next road on the left Calle Veintidós de Febrero. To my left was a statue in memory of Salustiano Brito Beboso. My nose tells me I´m outside one of the local Quesadillo bakeries. I keep to the left and take the path up the side of the gully or Barranco as they are known locally. When you come out into the car park, I took a quick detour to the right and looked for the post box on the outside of the post office. When I was first told you post your letters into the mouth of the lion, I thought I’d misheard! (There is also one in the airport).
I then crossed the road and walked up the cobbled street at the side of a car park, you then cross what used to be the main road in the city and climb a few steps onto another track which goes left onto the now main road out of the city. I turned left and followed the road, Avenida Dacio Darias towards San Juan. One thing you will notice is that many of the roads are named after ex residents of the city. (There is a book which explains many of the origins and a brief bio of these people, but it only comes in Spanish). To your left in places you have views down to the airport, coast and views over the city. You could also see the Island of La Palma at the back of me. The views are quite beautiful and everywhere is so lush and green, you can see where the city got its name from. Valverde translates as green valley.
As I crossed the road I passed Calle Aquilíno Padrón on my right and came across what appears to have been an old well for the city. It’s now a seat and provides shelter from the sun. A few yards further on is an old wooden house called Casa Del Conde which is surrounded by a virtual forest. The tracks in the garden look to lead to all kinds of interesting corners, I would have loved to have been able to explore its nooks and crannies. A little further on I turned right onto Calle Armas Martell and after only a few yards I was at one of the cities visitors centres, Casa de Las Quinteras. I paid a small admission fee and went off to explore, and there was plenty to see.
I took the path at the side of reception and walked up to the first of the exhibition areas. This room was partitioned off into different zones which depicted a weaving workshop showing an old traditional loom, and examples of local cloths, still made to this day on the Island.
Next to this was an old blacksmiths workshop, which featured the biggest pair of bellows I have ever seen and many old pieces of equipment. As I moved onto the next exhibition area you can’t help but notice the plants growing wild on the outside of the buildings. I then entered the textile exhibition area. This shows old clothing through the ages, old shoes, traditional blankets, costumes and bags and many other curios too. There is even an old hat mould.
The next room was dedicated to old wooden utensils, from forks, spoons, barrels, plates and many other pieces of artefacts. There was also local pottery which came in all shapes and sizes, some in mint condition and others had obviously been repaired. The quirky window seats give different views over the city. Some of the old stools, in corners, where lovely, curious and looked extremely comfortable and well worn.
Lastly there was an eclectic collection of curios from the 19th and 20th century displayed in huge cabinets. They don’t appear to be in any particular order and it takes a while to take everything in. There was literally something for everyone to see.
I then went back down to the reception area which doubles as a small shop selling lots of souvenirs from drums to key rings, local costumes to mugs.
Back out into the sunshine I turned right and walked back down the road, through the small tunnel under the main road and down into the centre of the city, back to my starting point. There you are spoilt for choice for bars and cafes to have a much needed coffee. I chose to walk back onto the Plaza and take a drink in the appropriately named Bar Cafeteria Plaza which is newly refurbished and has an enormous window looking out across the Plaza. Suitably refreshed I was ready to explore more.
Who says there is nothing to do In Valverde.