SUMMERTIME and the livin’ ain’t easy, to misquote Ella Fitzgerald.
It’s that point in the year when we jaded residents mutter the expletive, ‘tourists!’ and go to ground, only emerging for the weekly Mercadona shop. For ten months of the year we have the paseos, parks and parking spaces almost to ourselves.
Then suddenly half of Spain, his wife, their kids and two sets of abuelos are squeezing into the family Seat and heading for the Costas, where an international crowd has already established a beachhead stretching from Nerja to Gibraltar and round the corner into the Atlantic.
It’s a wonder the entire litoral doesn’t sink under a scum of suntan oil and stressed plumbing.
From now until September 15, when the tide of visiting Spanish retreats like bathwater gurgling down the plughole, those of us who haven’t gone off to Galica – quite ‘The Thing’ among savvy locals down here – will be praying for the speedy advent of that auspicious date; and going to church isn’t a bad idea, if you want sepulchral cool and quiet. But here are five better ones:
GO TO THE MOVIES
‘Screen’ yourself from dazzling UV rays in the dark, air-conditioned depths of your local cinema and escape the reality of August. You can take chilled wine and cava into the one in Puerto Banus. Mine (on the less-palatial Los Barrios industrial estate) is so quiet it’s like attending your own private premier.
FIND A DESERTED BEACH
On the Costa del Sol? Forget it. Even the sweeping Atlantic beaches of the Costa de la Luz are a secret nobody’s keeping. However the dune-fringed sands edging Doñana National Park are still impressively virginal – although you’ll have to pee in the sea and bring your own beach furniture and picnic. There are no services – to protect them from tourists.
CHILL IN SEVILLE
Yes, I have been to Andalucia’s capital city in August and no, I’m not mad (yet). The +40C noonday heat is positively the only drawback – and all the best restaurants have air conditioning outdoors and in. It’s an easy drive on fast roads as los Sevillanos are headed in the opposite direction, which means shorter queues for attractions and cheaper hotels. Splash out at the iconic Alfonso XIII, turn up the aircon, don’t venture out between 14.00 and 20.00 and everything will be cool.
POSE AT THE POLO in Sotogrande.
It’s mobbed on cup final days (although with a select set), and matches chukka off in the daytime when it’s still el scorchio but it’s worth the sweat for the gladiatorial thrills. And after sunset, the vibe in the elegant white-tented village pitched between Santa Maria Polo Club’s mint-green fields is wonderfully chilled … more so if you base yourself at the Grey Goose Vodka Ice Bar.
The obvious choice for avoiding the heat, the crowds and the madness. I spent the first two weeks of July watching Wimbledon with a bowl of strawberries (from Huelva) chilling in the fridge and a pitcher of Pimms (from Morrisons) at my side; beats getting all het up in traffic and worrying that the Guardia Civil will haul you over at the next roundabout.
Embrace it or escape it, here’s to August!