Thursday, 18 August 2011
Escape from the heat?
Average temperatures in summer are at their highest in Spain in the region of Jaen. During the past week, parts of Jaen have been well into the 40s - degrees centigrade - and Bailen, just north of the capital of the province, is officially the hottest town in Spain with temperatures reaching over 30 degrees on average in August.
Here in Alcala, at almost 1,000 metres above sea level, the temperatures tend to be a couple of degrees lower than elsewhere in the province but even so, you have to believe me when I tell you, it's hot here. Today it's 39 degrees. About the only place to feel cool is near the fountains.
The mornings see people bustling about as usual - out shopping, walking their dogs, strolling, taking a coffee or eating a 'tostada' (toasted bread with a variety of tempting and delicious toppings) in the bars. Come midday, an eerie hush falls. People disappear from view. The streets, where the sun hits them directly, are lifeless. A few shadows lurk in the shade; particularly if there's a bar there, but there is still a quietness and a certain lethargy about the people who sit at the tables. This is highly unusual in my experience of Spanish people - of the people of Alcala - who usually sparkle with vitality.
When we open our front door to take Darwin to the park, the heat hits us with a real vengeance. From the relative 'chill' (25 degrees) of the house - and that with the air conditioner on all the time - it takes one's breath away and Darwin has to be carried across the tiled pavement to avoid him scorching his new little paws.
And so it continues until about 8 or 9 o'clock in the evening. And then Alcala reverts to its usual lively self as its inhabitants venture out once more onto the still warm streets. No wonder they're out and revelling until the early hours!
Anyway, we were getting a bit over-cooked and so, having looked at the weather forecast for Tuesday and seeing there was no let up due, we decided to pack up and visit the cooler costa.
The journey down through Granada province was as spectacular as ever and we were able to enjoy it as Darwin has continued to be a good traveller and after an initial moan about having to sit in the back in a box, he settles down and sleeps most of the time. We headed for our favourite beach in Almunecar and even found a parking spot right in front of the promenade. This was looking very good. Then one of the first things we noticed - and should have considered beforehand - was the 'Perros No' sign, indicating very clearly that Darwin would not be welcome on the beach.
Of course not, who wants dogs on the beach? I've never wanted dogs that run around, kicking sand and leaving unwanted deposits when I've been in the past. Hmmm... surely that sign couldn't apply to our little puppy, who would sit nicely and well-tethered under our umbrella? Who wouldn't dream of doing anything smelly or sticky, heaven forbid, or if he did, his owners would immediately remove, disinfect and leave clean the area.
We didn't dare take the risk of a fine so pushed on east along the coast until we eventually found a little cove or cala, where we discovered a few little dogs, neatly ensconced under chairs and so unloaded our not inconsiderable beach trappings.
(Cesar likes to load two umbrellas, two folding chairs, a picnic table, a rucksack full of flippers, snorkels, goggles, a bucket and two spades, our two picnic bags, the straw bag with suntan lotion, books, spare clothes and the 'black bag' with all the towels - oh, and a two man tent!)
When we eventually hit the sea, it was with the very greatest of pleasure and considerable need - I personally was so hot by the time we'd unloaded and set ourselves up and put lotion on the kids and tethered a puppy that I think my entry to the Med raised its temperature by a good 2 degrees! I swear the water gave a hiss as it touched me. And it was delicious. The sea around Malaga always has a little current or two of chill water that sneaks in from the Atlantic through the Straits of Gibraltar and makes bathing so much more enjoyable than it is in the soupy waters around Alicante or in Majorca.
Darwin was taken in for a dip - he swam and enjoyed it very much - then spent an age rolling around in the sand and digging holes under the chairs before settling down and behaving beautifully for the rest of the hot day.
And the children spent almost the whole day in the water, snorkelling - Romy doing it most balletically!
And after our lunch, which comprised a roast chicken and ensaladia rusa, (a delicious concoction comprising potatoes, carrots, peas, artichokes, asparagus, eggs and anything else you fancy, smothered in home made mayonnaise), everyone went back in to the water armed with various chicken bones to attract the fish - and so many came that at one stage, Cesar was getting a little worried lest barracudas hear of the feast and come rushing up.
It was all very interesting below the surface! The children counted many different varieties of fish some of which were amazing colours and shapes. We're going to try and find out what they were, using the wonderful resources of the internet. I'll let you know!
And, when the sun slipped below the mountains behind us and we'd showered ourselves and our sandy little puppy, piled ourselves back into the car and set off for home, we realised we had survived our first family day out, dog and all. No mean feat, considering the extreme weather!