By Harry King
The main reason why people visit or stay in Spain is its climate. Spain sells itself on its sunshine. It even names regions after the sun – Costa del Sol for example. Sunshine has a beneficial psychological effect and a big influence on life style. More time is spent outdoors, meaning life is more active, sportier and more sociable. Breakfast, lunch and dinner can be taken outdoors on sheltered terraces… even in winter.
Summers in the UK can be delightful. But summers in Spain are very hot - too hot really. It is fine for a two week holiday but for a permanent resident a whole summer in Spain is very tiring. It is ironic when tourists flock to Spain during July and August, Spain’s resident foreigners go back home to the UK to escape the searing heat. Even in Spain people complain about the weather. They moan and whinge about the stifling, tiring, oppressive heat which by necessity gives way to that other well known Spanish characteristic …the siesta.
The siesta is a wonderful Spanish old institution intended to protect people from the heat of the midday sun. Wisely it has been carried forward to today. There is something wonderful, particularly in the summer months, about drawing the curtains and lying down for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Many quickly learn to appreciate a siesta, even stray cats and dogs. It is best to expect very little activity between 1.30 pm and about 16.30 pm, when offices, public buildings and shops tend to be closed. A siesta also allows the body to deal with late Spanish nightlife.
And there is the summer wind too. Wind that blows hard from the sea every afternoon! The Costa del Sol was formerly called the Costa del Viento, the windy coast, but it was renamed the Sunny Coast by those clever marketing men in Madrid. As the old name suggests the coast can get very windy, although not as windy as the area around Tarifa and the Costa de la Luz. It is so windy there if you don’t find adequate shelter on the beach you end up getting sand-blasted.
But Spain’s climate isn’t as good as many visitors think. When the winter weather is warm and dry, then great, but it can be cool and wet for weeks. It is possible to see visitors from the UK wearing vests and shorts in a stiff breeze and squally rain, seemingly unwilling to accept it can ever be anything but sunny. This can seem to be odd when locals and ex-pats sit huddled in coats and fleeces.
Unfortunately Spanish property is not designed for cold weather. Spanish homes are great in the summer, keeping out the heat very efficiently… but in the winter they are like fridges. North facing properties, open plan design, marble floors and air bricks result in wearing several sweaters to keep warm. Heating and air conditioning are now seen as a necessity to year round living.
Are we ever happy? We do like to whinge about the weather…where ever we are.
Harry King has written various books on Spain including How to Buy a Home in Spain, Knowing the Law in Spain, Spain -Your Guide to a New Life and Buy to Let in Spain all published by How to Books
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