Taking the sun in the Plaza de Colon.
Finally there are definite signs that winter has skulked back from whence it came and given ways to the joys of spring. Well, I write “spring”, but to an Englishman for whom summer means temperatures in the low 20s with more than occasional rain, today’s predicted maximum of 29 in Madrid is wonderful.
I was in Andalucia last week, almost as far south as you can go in Spain before hitting the resorts. I was a thousand metres up in the mountains and after a couple of days of chilly rain, (winter has been quite tenacious this year!), the sun burnt away the cloud cover and did wonder for my tan. I certainly have a darker complexion than many Madrid office workers.
But they are working hard to catch up. Walking in the Retiro on Sunday afternoon I saw my first bikini of the year (definitely a good sign) and girls who had not come similarly prepared had taken advantage of these modern bras that are pretty enough to be worn as a bikini top and were striving to replace the winter pallor.
A suspicious many, though, were still fully dressed, some in knowledge that until the “fortieth of May” the weather can be fickle, were still in winter jackets. With a similar uncertainly I was carrying mine. I remember well a hot, sticky day in the Retiro where I had spent a quiet hour with a book suddenly transforming into deluge of rain with accompanying thunder and lightening – and a drop in temperature that chilled the bone. Best take no chances.
I had gone to the Retiro to meet a visiting Canadian friend. After the deprivations of a Canadian winter he was taking full advantage of the sun by dressing in the “guiri” uniform of baggy shorts and shirt. I forgot to check if he was wearing socks with his sandals, but had it not been for the fact that my friend is a relative giant in this land where the average height make even me taller than a lot of my friends, he would have been a prime target for those who prey on tourists.
I have written about this before and my friend actually commented, ironically, on that particular post. But given his size he was safe. However, waiters and the kind people who offered to take our group picture in the gardens of remembrance had no hesitation in addressing our group in English. Remember that if you don’t want to be ripped off when you come here. Madrid has to be one of the safest cities anywhere, but don’t go making yourself a target for the low life that we have to share the city with. Try to blend in.
The city is festooned with tulips. On every roundabout, in parks and gardens these gorgeous flowers brighten the city tremendously. Down in Andalucia last week the scent of lilac blossom was almost over-powering. Trees that have looked dead for so many months have a new covering of green. Terrace tables are appearing on the narrowest of pavements. I will never get over the willingness of Madrileños to take a coffee, or even eat a meal, within feet of vehicles belching exhaust smoke. But cafés and bars put rows of table at kerb sides and the people come. It gives me a somewhat ironic amusement that although from sometime in the near future the smoking of tobacco will be banned in catering establishments the residents of this city happily breathe in carbon monoxide with their café cortado whether they smoke or not.
My local park, built alongside the inner city motorway, must have a permanent cloud of noxious fumes hanging over it, but my neighbours walk their dogs, let their children play and partake in various forms of sport there. Reports suggest the city is the most polluted in Europe, although it’s getting better, but we still had record time for the Madrid Marathon last weekend. And I didn’t see anyone running in a face mask!
But some of the competitors complained that by the time they were approaching the finishing line Sunday’s soaring temperatures seriously affected their efforts. A drop or two of rain would have been more than welcome.
I am so, so lucky!
PS. My Canadian friend is now in Seville. He reports temperatures of 35 plus. He’s officially dying!!!
PPS. I commented on this glorious weather to a student yesterday. “It’s going to rain by the weekend”, she remarked. Sometimes the Spanish are so English!!