Friday, December 17, 2010

Madrid, Spain: Talk About The Weather

Madrid has been a great city to live in. We've been here since the beginning of September, 2009. We live in a quiet neighborhood between the airport and the center of the city, close to the metro, and near Ricky's school. Madrid, contrary to what many think, has a fairly extreme climate. This morning, when I took Ricky to school, it was cold. It wasn't sort of cold, or a little brisk, or even chilly. It was simply cold. It wasn't damn cold, either - this is not Wisconsin or Minnesota cold. It was cold enough for me, though. It was in the low 20s, cold enough to make the cheeks burn when I returned.

In the summer, Madrid swelters. Temperatures are routinely above 100 degrees, and the city shuts down. Air conditioning, while far more commonplace than it once was, is not the rule in most homes. The time-honored practice is to leave the city in August, heading either to the beach or the mountains. Many businesses simply close up shop for much of the month, leaving a small, handwritten note on the door stating when they intend to reopen. During lulls in the heat, August is one of the best months to be in Madrid. The traffic which plagues the city completely vanishes, and distances seem to shrink almost to nothing. A drive that ususally would take 45 minutes is through in 15. The stores that are open, mostly the large department stores or the supermarkets, are a pleasure to shop in, with short lines and frequent sales. Also, there are traditional ways of fighting the heat, such as drinking horchata de chufa, a sweet, nutty-tasting beverage, or the agua de cebada, a sort of barley tea, served ice cold. These things were once sold in hundreds of corner stands throughout the city, but they have mostly vanished in favor of the ubiquitous vendors of ice cream and Coca Cola.

The winters here are long and unpleasant, with frequent strong winds cutting through the layers. The temperature patterns during the day are different than elsewhere, with the coldest times running from 5 a.m. on until about 10 a.m., and the warmest times lasting from 3 p.m. until about 7 p.m. For Ricky, it means that whatever he wears when we walk to school in the morning will leave him significantly over-dressed for the weather when he comes home. This morning, while we walked to school, he told me "I want to leave the winter." Soon enough.

We continue to prepare for our travels. Every day, we sort our things, deciding what will be discarded, what will be saved for later retrieval, what will be given away. Oddly, we are pretty much finished with packing what we will actually be taking with us when we leave. It's more just a matter of figuring out what to do with what we are leaving behind.
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