We don’t have an air conditioner in our apartment.
Let me preface my post by explaining I grew up a country kid on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in a time when central air conditioning was not common. We used fans to cool the house unless the temperature rose to over 90 degrees F for several days. Then, and only then, my parents would crank up the big AC unit they had in the living room. We had to be careful to close the doors when we entered or left the room.
Later on they added a second unit in the kitchen and between the two the entire downstairs could be cooled, provided we closed all the doors to the bedrooms and bathroom.
A fan at night cooled our bedrooms down enough to let us sleep…unless a mosquito or two happened to enter the house and whine around our heads. We got into a habit of spraying bug killer before we officially went to bed. That was life without air conditioning while growing up.
Not many people have air conditioning in Spain. Electricity is expensive and the government tags a 21% Value Added Tax onto the bill. So the people are frugal. They turn out the lights when they leave a room and if they have electric hot water heaters, they take short showers.
The Spanish have their own ways of coping when the mercury rises.
Most people do their errands in the morning when it’s still pretty cool and the sun is low in the sky. As the sun climbs the intensity increases. You walk out of the shade and feel the difference right away. Everyone walks in the shade when they can. They even stand in the shade when waiting for the light to cross the street. Trust me, I’ve picked up the habit myself!
The clothing changes from suits and ties for men to slacks and short sleeves shirts. Women still dress up, but their shoulders are bare and the high heeled boots are replaced with cute summer sandals and painted toenails. At home the clothing is less formal. I change into a very unfashionable house dress and Rick is usually in boxers.
Both women and men carry fans. The fans used by men tend to be solid colored, whereas the fans carried by women can be fairly elaborate. They can be used to shade your eyes from the light and they’re great for cooling the air around your head.
Spanish construction typically has very thick walls and deep window wells with shutters or shades. We have metal shades called persianas that get lowered to block the sun and the heat from the surrounding buildings. It’s still warm in the house, but it’s cooler than the outside and the dark is actually a bit of a relief. It’s a nice time to take a nap. At certain times during the day we can create a wind tunnel effect by managing the persianas and the open windows. Still, despite our efforts, some rooms get pretty close.
People make use of the public areas in the city to escape their stuffy apartments. Many places have deep shade and lots of benches to sit and chat. The most popular restaurants have a nice shady terrace where you can sip a cold drink and enjoy a refreshing snack. In the summer the tapas tend to be cooling foods like cut up fruits, salads and gazpacho. A terrace that’s exposed to the sun remains empty until it’s in shade or the sun goes down, whichever comes first.
It’s nice to grab a cooling shower in the evening before heading to bed. Fortunately it cools off at night and it’s very comfortable with a fan blowing. Despite the lack of window screens mosquitoes aren’t too much of a problem. A sheet, Rick snoring next to me and a pair of earplugs are all that’s required for a good night’s rest.