MadridMan: Summer vacation exodus begins in Spain
July marks the start of summer in Spain where city dwellers head out to the villages and beaches in search of cooler pastures.
This article is reprinted with permission of MadridMan.
The outpouring of Madrid's residents is a yearly affair that takes places at the end of the first week of July, leaving the bustling capital city a shadow of its former self.
By the start of the second week of July, the city becomes somewhat dormant until 1 September. Many say August is the more popular month for Madrileños to take their month-long holidays. So if you think July is quiet, just wait until August! You'll never again have so much parking available as during this month. Sunday mornings in Madrid are usually quiet but a Sunday morning in August reminds one of a ghost town.
Finding an open restaurant in Madrid in August - outside of the Puerta del Sol tourist centre - can also be a challenge during these months. Many times tourists come to Madrid during the summer months with the desire to try a new restaurant they've heard, only to find it closed.
But terrazas abound! The Madrileño masses - as well as their tourist counterparts - take advantage of the slightly cooler evening temperatures and pack those terrazas full. It's usually at these moments, while you along with other groups of people who are waiting for the next available table, when you ask yourself: "And I thought there was no one in Madrid in summer!"
Some of these terrazas - usually the fancier ones like those around the Plaza de Oriente - have incorporated a kind of water-misting-canopy system which sprays its clients with fine droplets of cooling water. I don't know about you, but I don't think I would appreciate having my glasses sprayed over while dining or having drinks, HOT OR NOT!
So where do people go on summer holiday? The most popular destination is still al pueblo -- to the family village to spend time in the old family home. This destination is becoming less and less popular, however, as the elders die off and the family home in the village is sold.
Apart from the village, many Spaniards travel to the coasts near Catalonia, Galicia, Cantabria, Valencia, and the Costa del Sol (those whom have the wherewithall, that is). The coastal beaches are packed with not only Spaniards but also with Germans, English, Dutch, and others from the colder northern European countries.
Apart from Spanish coasts, an increasing number of young people are using their summer time off to visit other worldly destinations such as Russia, The United States, England & Ireland, Morocco, and some of the "newer" or newly-accessible Eastern European countries.
Places mostly avoided by Spaniards during their summer vacations include, among many, the hotter summer destinations, almost all of which are in the southern region of Andalucia such as Seville, Córdoba, and Granada but also Salamanca, and Zaragoza. Non-Spanish tourists, however, will drive themselves to these destinations no matter what the temperature is.
The village can be quite lovely. I too have been fortunate to spend a little time, one week or two, in a particular northern valley village with only 25 inhabitants and surrounded by tall yet gentle mountains. There, days can be warm but nights cooler, mosquitoes can be pesky but the natural beauty and its accompanying silence far out-shadows them.
In the village, life is definitely simpler. Some of the smaller ones I've stayed at don't have any stores, bars, or restaurants. A van goes from village to village every morning, with their horn-a-honkin', raising attention to their arrival. Each van uses their own "style" of horn-honking so the residents know which horn belongs to which van. Different vans sell different things. There's usually the bread van, the cheese van, and the meats-and-chicken van. Sometimes there's even a fish van.
Resident will often make small daily purchases from these vans, sometimes making once-a-month trips to the big stores to stock up on other things, frozen foods, canned foods, milk (non-refrigerated), soft drinks and the like.
The days in the village are quiet except for the sounds of distant cow and goat bells, dogs barking, kids shouting while riding their bikes, neighbours chatting while walking the streets, and maybe the sounds of some traffic from the distant main highway. If the days are quiet, the nights are totally peaceful, making every chirping cricket sound like a live orchestra.
Village life is different from city life. In the village, neighbours come over (unannounced) for coffee and a casual chat while you're hanging your laundry or reading a book on the porch or patio.
I've yet to experience and entire beach holiday in the summer months but they certainly look like decadent fun, from what I see on Spanish TV news reports. All those people laying on the sand, packing into the beachfront terrace restaurants for seafood meals, working on their tans, reading books and taking walks. It all seems so relaxing and, well, totally self-indulgent too.
I'm already looking forward to my week away this summer. Although I love the city, I don't care much for the heat which gets absorbed by its asphalt, concrete, and brick. It's amazing how notable the temperature change is just by passing a grassy park or alongside a fountain.
And for the rest of you, happy summer holidays!
MadridMan / Expatica
The writer is from America and has lived in Madrid for four years.
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