Spain Thus Far
Spain is hot. Everybody told me it would be hot in August, so the heat does not come as a surprise. Even so, knowing something and experiencing it are two different things. No wonder they nap so much here. Just being outside for five minutes makes you feel as if you’ve eaten a big meal and need to lie down. We’ve been here three days and I’ve spent ninety percent of my time supine.
When I was looking for houses to rent my only requirements were that it be large enough to host friends and that it have a pool. The kids, I figured, would want to spend most of their time swimming because children enjoy swimming the way people from the Midwest enjoy buffets. But even though I got it for the kids, the pool has become our home’s center; each day begins and ends there because it is the only reliable relief from the Spanish sun, which is geographically very close to being an African sun, and we all know how hot that is.
Nor does the house have air conditioning. Most Spanish homes, I am told, do not. I do not know why this is. Perhaps because they are savages. Of course I was worried that this would be like not having running water, but I am surprised how quickly we’ve all become accustomed to being surrounded by untreated air. Lesson learned: the human body is amazingly resilient. Who knew one could survive indoors in the summer without having the discussion about whether “turning it up” or “turning it down” means making the room colder. We have not had that conversation once since being here, and frankly, I haven’t missed it.
We are staying in a small beach town called Sitges, which is south of Barcelona. Sitges is the gay capital of Spain, as evidenced by the muscular men in sleeveless t-shirts strolling around eating flan. Actually I haven’t seen any flan yet, which I find strange. I expected to see flan in Spain the way I expected to see rock stars in London: everywhere. In both cases, my expectations went unrealized. I don’t know where they’re hiding the flan in Sitges, but it’s certainly not being consumed by the town’s large homosexual population. Or if they are, they are doing it in secret, which doesn’t make sense since it seems like the homosexuality would be a bigger secret than the flan. So much has changed since Franco.
Our British friends have joined us here, and our old French au pair, and my wife has an old friend living in town with his wife and their children, recently decamped from Italy. Consequently our vacation has taken on a real international flair, a whirl of unintelligible romantic languages whizzing around me as everybody trades familiar gossip about what it’s like in Milan and Brussels and Connecticut. A confession: international flair makes me squirmy. Yes, the European Commission for Such-and-Such is a worthwhile topic of conversation, but so are the Yankees. Nobody wants to talk about the Yankees here, not even to complain about their obscene payroll. Nor is Taco Bell as popular a topic as I would like it to be. So I am having to pretend to have heard of various Spanish architects and feign interest in seeing cathedrals and museums, and I find myself saying things like, “Doe this kava must come from the northern region?” In America, we never discuss regions. Or kava, for that matter (which is like champagne, only Spanish so it’s made out of paella.)
The Spanish lifestyle if well-known, of course. An early dinner is eight o’clock, and things don’t really get hopping until around ten. This a little much for me simply because I don’t have that kind of enthusiasm for life. Last night we were out until midnight, which felt extravagant. We ate fish and drank kava sangria and finished the night with mojitos fifty yards from the Mediterranean. The kids ran along the beach laughing and reciting Hemingway from memory, which I found to be a touch gauche.
We are here for another week, and our lives have already settled into a lazy, languid pace. Sleep until late morning, then off to the pool where we watch the kids almost drown for several hours, then a small lunch, naps, followed by several hours of discussion about what we are going to eat for dinner. Then dinner with some sort of booze, more hanging out, and finally bed. It is a fine way to end our summer, and I can understand why people choose to come here for vacation. The only thing that would make it complete is flan, but I am too embarrassed to ask where they are hiding it.