I spent the weekend with the in-laws down in a small town in La Mancha region of Spain. It was *damn hot* and there was no a/c so we did very little in terms of activity, but it was nice. Ana's parents are there as well as her brother and sister-in-law and they entertained and took care of Alex all weekend. So even though we weren't in our comfortable little house and Alex didn't sleep well so he kept us up half the night both nights, it was actually quite relaxing.
We got out to see a movie on Saturday (something that doesn't happen much here in Madrid) and though the movie sorta sucked, the best part was walking home after. Imagine at 11:30 at night, the streets filled with people. Whole families out having a late dinner or just a coke. Kids running around in their "nice" clothes, every other street corner filled to the brim with tables from the "bars" who've made make-shift terraces, and every chair at the those tables filled with people relaxing and chatting and just enjoying the summer evening.
It's very nice. Ana's town, Puertollano isn't small, but it's not huge either. It's got a long thin central park where during the whole year people go for their "paseos" and which has swingsets for the kids, a restaurant with tables outside ("La Habana"), a bandstand, etc. It's also got a ton of side streets, many of which have their own little squares which also have tables outside, etc.
On the walk back from the movies I was not surprised or amazed as I have been in years past, but still its interesting to see the life that comes out of doors when the sun goes down even in this 21st century air conditioned world we live in. Traditions, it seems, die very hard, especially in Europe.
I *never* want to leave Spain during the summer. It's a shame it can't be like this all year long. But the fact is that here in central Spain (where I pass all my time) the summers are particularly harsh and short. By September the weather changes and cools and by October first you need your jacket. Maybe that's normal for the rest of the world, but to me that's too little life and too long hibernation. The Spanish make the most of it though and culturally every weekend Madrid empties out now that the weather has changed. They head to the mountains where its cooler or to the beach to tan. EVERYONE has a tan here during the Summer. To not have a tan is to somehow admit that you don't have a life. Something is *wrong* if you're not tan during the summer.
In a few weeks July will start and that's when Madrid will start getting quieter and quieter until August comes and the whole city stops dead. During the day in August, you can hear the birds chirp like you were in the country. No cars, no construction, no people on the streets (only mad dogs and Englishmen, so the saying goes) nothing.
But back to the Spanish towns. The town where Ana grew up had its own form of small town torture that we all went through - I went to high school in the backwaters of New Hampshire and it was less than fun. Ana has her own stories of her hometown as well. However, during a summer night like Saturday with all the families out and the weather perfect you can really imagine yourself spending the rest of your life in that sort of idylic scene right out of an imaginary Spanish Norman Rockwell painting...
It's too bad Summer in Spain doesn't last forever. ;-)