Living and working in Spain

Beating the Heat: Summer in Madrid

As far as I remember, most house buyers in the UK crave a south-facing garden. When we bought our current flat here in Madrid, Marina was quick to point out how lucky we were that if faced North. This didn’t make much sense to me until we spent our first summer here, but now it is something I’m constantly grateful for. It means we can open our shutters and let a bit of natural light in after about 11 am. Before that, as we actually face slightly north-east, we have to keep the shutters in the living room firmly down to make sure no sunlight gets in.

At night we sleep in the living room as well, on the sofabed, as the bedroom is far too hot to use during July and August. We keep the windows overlooking our roof terrace wide open, and enough air comes in to cool the room to about 25ºC by 7 a.m. (on a cool day). That’s the time I wake up, see the first rays of sun creeping in at an acute angle (it’s that north-east angle again), and quickly bring all the shutters down, in the hope that we can maintain something close to that temperature all day long. I then go back to bed for half an hour, before running round to the small spare bedroom/study (also too hot to use) to shut the window and blind there too, before the sun starts pouring in on that side of the building as well.

So in the mornings we work in the living room, in near darkness, ceiling fans spinning above our heads, and in the afternoon we sleep a little and work drowsily (no one can argue with a siesta when you’re only getting 6 hours hot sleep at night). All things being well the inside temperature maxs out around the 30º mark, and we sit it out until 8pm, when it’s cool enough to go out to the park.

Thank goodness this is a cool summer, with outside temperatures in the shade rarely topping 33º in the last couple of weeks. On a wine tasting course I went on recently, the girl in charge was explaining how alcohol content in wine is increasing as a result. I don’t remember the exact reasoning (something to do with the changing way the grapes ripen), but she basically said, “You just don’t get those crazy hot summers in Madrid any more, where you would see 40 degrees or more on a regular basis.”

It’s true, and such a relief. Otherwise we’d be moving the sofa bed onto the terrace every night. Or ourselves to somewhere a lot cooler… like the Basque Country or Asturias. Now there’s a thought…