Gran Canaria
Jess Velardo
Jess Velardo

Jess Velardo

“Gran Canaria is inspirational. There’s something captivating about this island.”

Jess works as a clinical psychologist with children and young people in a medical centre in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Jess hails from Madrid but last year she decided to follow her intuition and moved to Gran Canaria to begin a new stage in her life. The island has brought her peace, quiet and above all, inspiration.

Why did you decide to move to Gran Canaria? Was there a reason behind it, apart from the good weather?

Well, the truth is that it was partly intuitive. I was four months off finishing my residency in Valladolid, I fancied a change and during a conversation in Madrid, someone told me, “Listen, it’s a great life in the Canary Islands and there’s also great weather and plenty of work.” And that was when I said, “I think I’m going to go to the Canary Islands!” And that’s what happened, although I didn’t know a soul here.

A short while later, the chance came up to work in Gran Canaria. Everything came together and made me feel like I had to move here, both professionally - my colleagues, the people who had been supervising me in my clinical placement - and personally - my family, my friends. It seemed like a good idea to everyone, and me too, so I took the plunge.

Jess in Alameda de Colón.
Jess in Alameda de Colón.

How has your life changed Jess since you moved to Gran Canaria?

I’d say it’s changed radically. For me, the island has been inspirational. Coming to a completely unknown place, without knowing anyone here really, was like a blind adventure. Deciding to come here, realising that I could find my own way, was a wonderful experience, opening the door to new things. I really wanted to get going on some new hobbies that I hadn’t been able to do for one reason or another. It was a great experience actually.

What has Gran Canaria brought you personally?

It was a life-changer: going from being a resident to an actual physician and also seeing myself here at first, alone but not lonely. It was one of the best learning experiences I’ve ever had. Coming to the island without knowing anyone and feeling good about myself; feeling that actually all the people that mattered to me were just as close, if you see what I mean. Plus being able to count on people.

Jess on the steps behind the Cathedral. Calle Herrería, Vegueta.
Calle Herrería, Vegueta.

Have you had the chance to explore the island?

Yes! After I’d been here a couple of weeks, a colleague came to visit. We had been residents together and shared a flat for a couple of months in Valladolid. She had also finished her residency and didn’t really know what to do either. Gran Canaria sprang to mind. She asked me how I was finding it and I told her, “Get yourself over here!”

We’ve explored the island together non-stop! It’s been lovely to discover so many different places and spots, so many different people. I find the island really inspiring and I think this has helped me open up and get to know other people and learn new stories. Well, I’m really always learning stories because, like I told you, I’m a psychologist.

Jess in the Tamadaba Natural Park.
Tamadaba Natural Park.

Where did you choose to live in the capital?

I live in the Triana neighbourhood. Before I got here, I checked out areas on Google Maps to get an idea of what Gran Canaria was like and the app let me take a good look around here. As I roamed the map, I zoomed in on these streets and thought, “Wow! That’s amazing!” I asked a friend who lived here for three years, “Tell me, what’s Triana like?” And she said, “I think you’ll like it because it’s quite bohemian”.

So, I came to the island and when I visited Triana, it felt so familiar. I also love Vegueta; between Vegueta and Triana, I’m in heaven.

Jess in Plaza de Santa Ana, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
Plaza de Santa Ana.

In general, have people made you feel welcome?

Very much so. People made me feel at home straight away. I feel like I owe everyone, like, “But why? Why are you so nice to me?” [laughs]. It was a lovely feeling. And there’s such a great variety of cultures here. As just one example, my former flatmate is Venezuelan and also feels at home here. It is lovely to see people arriving from elsewhere and how they feel part of the island straight away.

Now that you know the island, what do you think people looking for when they pick Gran Canaria for their holidays?

Inspiration. I think that there is something inspiring here. That’s what happens to artistic people I know when they come to the island. I love art, sometimes I paint, or I write... And being here, the sea, it’s very inspiring, particularly for writing.

Jess in Plaza de Cairasco, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
Plaza de Cairasco, Las Palmas.

Would you recommend anywhere in particular? Anywhere out of the ordinary or that you like especially...

There are a couple of places. One is El Confital. I remember one day that we were out for a walk, and we found a perfect gap between two perfect rocks where the waves hit, a sunset with amazing was magical! The image is etched in my mind, and I’ve been going back there ever since.

I also like the west of the island, around Tasartico. I’d recommend it for the contrasts, for that feeling of suddenly finding yourself somewhere else, but at the same time, feeling right at home. You drive through the mountains feeling like you’re in the United States, with all these colours, and then suddenly you get to the sea. I love contrasts and that's what you’ve got on this island: contrasts left, right and centre.

Which restaurants or bars on the island would you recommend?

I chop and change a lot but to go out for food or for a drink, I like this area, Triana. Also, in Vegueta, I like the street with all the little bars on it, Mendizábal although less so at night, because it’s noisier. That’s something I’ve discovered here: I like going out in the afternoon, enjoying a glass of wine or a cup of tea, and taking it easy, making the most of that time of day, watching the sunset.

Another place I’d recommend is the Restaurante Texeda. We walked the route between Roque Nublo and Tejeda and then we stopped to eat there as my friend had been told about it. I love a good meal after a hike. They change their menu all the time and, depending on the day, you only have certain dishes available, and I like that, sometimes it good to let others choose for you. It was all beautifully presented, and the setting is lovely. You can see the mountains and all the’s a cool spot!

Jess having a beer with friends in Plaza de Las Lagunetas.
Las Lagunetas, Triana.

Would you recommend any particular festival or event?

I really liked the Temudas Fest, a Theatre, Music and Dance Festival. For instance, I saw a girl doing a clown performance that was wonderful, and then two dancers in harnesses performing a vertical dance routine. I was fascinated by the magic of these two shows and what’s more, they were in Vegueta, right on the façade of the Theatre, I loved it!

How would you describe life in Gran Canaria in just three words?

Inspiring, as I move from one stage of my life to the next, transcendental and creation.

What would a perfect day be for you?

That’s difficult! There are many perfect days. A perfect workday would be to get up after a good night’s sleep, have breakfast on my little terrace in peace watching the sun come up, jump on an uncrowded bus. Get to work, greet my colleagues who are so lovely, they are always in such a good mood in the morning. Have coffee with them, feel calm. I’d be told that my first patient hasn’t come because they feel fine and say they don’t need to make any more appointments. And then I’d meet patients with inspiring stories, one who tells me that they have found something new in their life that has inspired them.

A perfect day would also include going out to lunch with my friends followed by a climbing trip in the afternoon. Dinner with my partner or a friend, or both. Chilling out at home, with people who make you feel good seems like a lovely way to spend my time. I think that would be an awesome day. Even at the weekend. I could swap going to work for something else: a few more hours in bed for example.

What else do you like to do in your free time?

Apart from writing or drawing, I do improv theatre. I did it for 3 years in Valladolid and now here as well, these last 6 months. I find it’s like therapy for me. On the one hand, you have to face up to your fears, your insecurities and your needs, and on the other, there’s how other people react to it.

Improv creates magic in the group that help you take all of that on board. You get so much out of it, even in your everyday life, making it more fun.

Jess in rehearsal with the ImproCanarias theatre company.
Rehearsal with ImproCanarias.

As well as the rehearsals, do you usually go to the theatre in Gran Canaria?

Improv theatre above all. My theatre company, ImproCanarias, puts on a show in Vegueta every Thursday, although maybe I’d like to connect more with classical theatre, conventional plays.

Surely you don’t have time for any more hobbies...

I do! I also go climbing. It’s one of those new things that I wanted to try. I began by going to a climbing wall and I loved it. I’ve always been the kind of person who likes to clamber around; I can’t sit still. Climbing is not a competitive sport, although great physical exercise, packed with adrenaline, and constantly challenging. Everyone tries to help you so you can keep on improving. I think that’s wonderful. Then the idea of being able to go out into the countryside with your own equipment and start climbing, that’s something really great about this island, because the weather is always nice, and you can enjoy your sport whenever you want.

Jess climbing in Tamadaba.
Climbing in Tamadaba.

Apart from the climbing wall, where do you usually go climbing?

Now that I’ve picked up a few skills, more or less, I’m beginning to go off to the mountains, to be able to enjoy the outdoors. That’s actually one of my goals for climbing.

Jess in the Tamadaba Natural Park.
Tamadaba Natural Park.

Is there anywhere in particular that you would like to climb?

I’d really like to climb everywhere. Well, there is one spor, Roque Nublo, although I think it might take a few years. What’s more, it was one of my first excursions on the island, so it’s a very special place. They told me that people climb it, so I want to climb it too!

Do you see yourself in Gran Canaria in 10 years’ time?

I can’t answer that question right now! I originally came for two months, as a transitional step, and then I said to myself, “What if I came to work?” And then I thought, “Just a year!”

But there is something on there’s something captivating about this island, I feel calmer every single day. Maybe it’s to do with the time difference, but there’s a feeling of calm, peacefulness, even when the bus is packed [laughs]. Yes, it’s a really peaceful feeling. So, I don’t know if I could live in the whirlwind of a ‘big city’, surely not. I also think that I need to live near the sea, that’s important. It’s something about the island that I need and I’m going to need, wherever I live.

Jess during a rehearsal with the ImproCanarias company.
Jess during a rehearsal.
Jess climbing in the Tamadaba Natural Park.
Jess climbing.
Gran Canaria