Summer in Spain is great if you have nothing else to do but lie around sunbathing to your heart’s content. You can stock up on supplies at the beginning of the month, load up the fridge/freezer, and spend the long days out on the terrace.
But when you’ve no choice but to take to the street in the intense, baking heat – which can reach up to 45C here in the south – you’ll quickly lose any enthusiasm for sunbathing and probably find yourself shuffling along with your back against the wall like a vampire in a matter of life or death.
Even now, in June, as I sit here typing on my terrace, the tarmac of the street below me is melting away and my washing has just completely dried in about 20 minutes. Nobody – except tourists and the odd guiri – is mad enough to go outside in such unbearable heat, if they can possibly avoid it.
It is extreme and relentless during July and August. You will break sweat by breathing too deeply and not sleep for more than a 2-3 hours at a time. Clothes are rarely worn and underwear becomes a distant memory (for some of us).
Personally, I prefer to spend my summer in Spain camping on the coast or going to Spanish music festivals. But if you’re stuck at home for whatever reason, you’ll need to be as prepared as possible when you have to leave the house, lest you return a disoriented, red-raw, sweat-drenched mess. Here are some tips to help you avoid that scenario…
Survive Summer in Spain #1: Take it slow
Leave plenty of time to get to places. The last thing you want is to have to run for a bus in unforgiving 40˚C heat; there is no recovery from this, until you find a cold shower, which may not be for a long time. Walk slowly and in the shade whenever possible, or take an umbrella!
Survive Summer in Spain #2: Drink LOTS of water
Never be without water. Keep at least two 2L bottles chilling in the fridge, two in the freezer, and one with you at all times. Keep the rotation going to ensure you have a constant supply and that it’s always cold. Don’t be tempted by soft drinks or alcohol (unless it’s beer o’ clock of course) as these will only make you more dehydrated.
Remember, the ‘lunch hour’ in Spain is abnormally long – usually 3 hours from 13.00 to 16.00 – so don’t rely on being able to find an open shop at this time. However, if there is a ‘chino’ store nearby then you’re in luck, as these places never close.
Survive Summer in Spain #3: Use fans
Many rented properties in Spain do not have air conditioning installed, and if they do, it usually costs a bomb to use . Good old-fashioned fans do the job nicely and help you save money. Keep one in your bedroom – vital if you want a good night’s sleep – and another in your living room. You could even buy a mini hand fan to take out with you, or just a regular abanico (these are quite ladylike).
Needless to say, leave all your doors and windows open (if you live above the ground floor) at all times. Without a fan, sleeping is virtually impossible during the stickiest stage of the Spanish summer.
Survive Summer in Spain #4: Shower a lot
A two-minute cold shower makes the world of difference. You’ll probably need to hop in at least three times a day, and spray yourself with water at regular intervals in between showers (do this then stand in front of the fan – it’s heavenly).
Another tactic I use when out and about is standing under those cold water shower things that are fitted into umbrellas outside restaurants. They hang down over customers and constantly spray water to keep them cool. Soak it up for as long as possible.
Survive Summer in Spain #5: Cream up
Sunscreen is generally pretty irritating; hardly anyone wants to cover their bodies in cream and spend the afternoon sweating it out, but the alternative is of course far, far worse. Even if you just pop to the shop for 10 minutes, leave no patch of skin unsmothered, no matter how resistant or well-tanned you think you are; you will be punished mercilessly. Once you’ve burned, you are bound to the indoors, and that’s no fun.
Same goes on the beach of course. Always wear cream, take a parasol and don’t use oil as protection or you’ll fry! I always use Hawaiian Tropic SPF30 or SPF15 when I’m feeling brave.
Check out my guide for the best beaches in Andalucia if you are a serious beach-goer!
Survive Summer in Spain #6: Eat light
Avoid stodgy, hot food as this will make you feel more uncomfortable in the intense heat. Eat light and you’ll cope a whole lot better.
A typical Spanish summer diet consists of coffee, tostada and orange juice for breakfast; gazpacho soup and bread for lunch; and something fishy with a salad for later in the evening. That said, there is nothing else more gratifying than barbecued calamari and octopus by the beach, which is hardly light, but we ought to treat ourselves every now and again.