A reader of my blog recently expressed surprise at seeing a photograph of me in hat, coat and scarf here in Spain. We have also had comments from friends saying “I imagine you are lying by the pool this Christmas” which makes me realise that many people think we have hot sunshine year round. Well, we do and we don’t. During the winter which is really only December, January and February we can have some very cold weather indeed especially up here in the mountains where snow is not unheard of. This is our fourth winter here and we have woken up to temperatures of below freezing on a couple of occasions so far and had a few cloudy and windy days where the temperature has been pretty low requiring, for me at least, coat, hat and scarf. On the other hand, when the sun is out and the wind isn’t blowing the temperature on the terrace can go as high as 26 degrees, but only for a couple of hours and once the sun starts to set the temperature drops dramatically. The air temperature is cold too and whilst if you are in the sunshine the temperature can be very pleasant, on the north side of the house in the shade, it is perishing. In 2005 apparently, there was a heavy snowfall in the area and various bars and cafes in town have photographs of the event on the walls. Last winter, snow caused traffic problems up in the mountains of Alcoi and Ibi which are only twenty minutes from here.
Down at the coast the temperatures are much higher. We are just thirty minutes by car from the coast but we notice the difference if we go down to the shopping centres in Elche or Alicante having set out from here in jackets and jeans, we find people (usually English or Dutch) in shorts and T-shirts. We took the dogs for a walk on the beach on New Year’s Day and there were people swimming in the sea and yesterday, although it was cooler and windy on the beach it was still warm enough to sit and have a coffee outside in the sunshine. If we go further south to Murcia, to visit Ikea, it is even warmer although it is generally still the Northern Europeans in summer wear, the Spanish are wrapped up warmly from October onwards. I was reproached by the man in the bank for wearing short sleeves in November on one occasion. Obviously, the further south you go, the warmer it is and southern Spain has much warmer temperatures year round however I did see photographs of a snow covered Andalucia last year.
The big difference in the weather throughout the winter is the amount of sunshine and the lack of rain. There are very few grey and cloudy days and it often only rains at night. There was rain off and on the other day and Steve and I were hard pressed to remember a day where we had to walk in the rain during our time here. Usually, when it rains, it buckets down for an hour or so and then stops.
The weather starts to warm up significantly in April although March can be very nice but it is often windy and cloudy. There are definite rainy seasons here and April, although warmer, can see a lot of rain. The countryside bursts into life, the wild flowers bloom and the weeds go mad. The weather can be gorgeous in May and June, hot and sunny without the oppressive sultry heat of July, August and often September. The very high temperatures of the summer months are perfect for holiday makers and spending the days lying by the pool and the evenings drinking wine on the terrace. Working in these temperatures is not so quite so idyllic although the knowledge that a swim awaits at the end of work is a lovely feeling.
Swimming under the stars is magical and cools you sufficiently to sleep for a few hours. The reason for siesta becomes apparent at the height of summer when, the intense heat of the afternoon until about six o’clock makes it difficult to anything other than doze in the cool of the shade or our sitting room on the north side of the house. The apartment bedroom too is faces north and, if the shutters are kept closed during the day, remains cool and comfortable for siestas and restful sleep at night. Many Spanish houses have only small windows despite glorious views and we have heard many English house hunters dismiss potential houses as being too dark, but keeping the sunshine out of the house in the summer is important. Many English people have their terraces closed in with large glass windows which must be unbearable in summer but in winter they are lovely warm places to sit. In fact, during our first winter here when we were trying to save money by only turning on the central heating twice a day (false economy as we have discovered), the warmest place to sit during the day was the car which heated up nicely as it faces south on the drive.
The sunshine is what makes the difference to life in Spain. Someone once told us that in Spain you never go for more than three days without seeing the sun and the effect that this has on everything especially for me, my mood cannot be underestimated.