“Ugh. I hate the end of summer,” he says. He’s tall and blond, something in the surfer-dude mold. He should have been living on a beach. He loves driving his elegant, vintage boat around the Lake. He’s oblivious to the fanasties he stirs in female imaginations.
“Really,” I reply. “I kind of think of Autumn as a new beginning. I don’t mind it, so long as it’s not too wet!”
It was the first time I’d considered mourning the end of summer, but then, there had never been a summer quite like that one, and I guess that’s why the memory of that moment, that conversation sticks in my mind (even though the guy’s name escapes me).
You’d be forgiven for assuming that seasons don’t exist here. Afterall, this is called “The Land of Eternal Spring,” and there is something in that. Summer is hotter though. The Canary Islands are in the northern hemisphere, even though they are subtropical. School is out. There are still many folk who take their entire vacation time in August. There are offices which still close early, and it’s difficult to get paperwork done.
When dusk falls, life pretty much moves outdoors. The island is on almost the same latitude as Orlando, give or take a couple of tenths of a degree, but where summer nights in Florida are hot and humid, summer nights in the Canary Islands are mild and cooled by the breeze – at least outdoors. There is nothing like sitting outside, feeling the breath of evening on your sun-warmed skin, ice clinking in the drink you’re nursing, even feeling a slight shiver as night draws on.
Summer mornings are lethargic for some, folk do what they have to do, sometimes with ill-grace, since these days more than half the world seems to be on the beach in El Médano, and they would like to be there too (heaven forbid one should mention to these folk that the unemployed soaking up the rays would, actually, like to be working).
I watch from the boardwalk. The morning beaches are taken over by different groups, some bused in from villages in the foothills. Pensioners form a conga line around a fitness instructor on the main beach, lifting first one knee as high as they can, and then the next. Tubby grannies abandon their clothes on the rocks and waddle down to the sea, where they bob around, gossiping, having fun. You know, good for both these groups, at least they are in the fresh air, and being active.
A tad later, young guys in uniform Ts set up nets, and coach the local kids in soccer or volley ball. In the main plaza guys are setting up for whatever the night’s event will be, pop music, food fair, folk concert. There is always something going on in summer. Some mornings there is a zumba class blaring away there. People in general scurry around to get their chores done whilst there is still some cool. One of the great things about this climate is that the heat doesn’t set in that early, unless the wind is blowing directly from Africa, bringing dust and sand as well as sultriness. And all the while there is a constant morning parade: windsurfers scanning the horizon for waves or carrying their gear down to the beach; cyclists with baskets full of shopping; some runners (though most are earlier still); valiant street cleaners who here fight an uphill, daily battle against wind as well as ignorance; dog walkers, seniors paddling in the shallows, delivery guys, and folk strolling to their favorite brunch place.
As the day slides into hot, afternoon streets are abandoned, no kiddies on the playground opposite my block, anyone out on the street seems to be walking purposefully, hurrying away from the hot concrete. The horizon is filled with multi-colored sails and kites, bright against that cobalt sea/sky background. The beach is now chock a block with families, kids screaming, moms shouting, dads strutting. Anyone not on the beach is taking a siesta. The apartment block in which I live is silent as the grave these summer afternoons. It’s a great time to go supermarket shopping (but not, say for clothes because the small shops take the siesta too). But the best way to while away the afternoon heat is perhaps in a shady bar, where the sea breeze keeps us cool, nibbling seafood and drinking cold beer.
But as the sun sinks, and the air becomes less heavy, people emerge in dribs and drabs, until at 7pm the playground here in Plaza Roja is teeming, and the other half of the square is taken up by an iniatiatve from the Town Hall, involving kids’ activities, presumably aimed at keeping older kids occupied and not roaming the streets after dark (would that they would do this every night of the year!) . Queues are long outside my favorite gelateria, the streetside bars are filling up. Life will circulate around the streets, the boardwalks and the plazas for hours yet.
Last night was a tapas and wine fair in the main square. It was vastly over-attended, Traffic entering the town apparently collapsed for a while, The World Windsurf Tour was also rolling into town, and at 9pm when I stepped out of my door, the streets were buzzing. Not everything here is wonderful by any stretch. The jostling at the stalls was unpleasant, and the prices were misleading. I remember in a past year taking our wine and sitting on the steps to the beach, enjoying the wine and the warm breeze; but seemingly marketing has improved, or because it coincided with the Windsurf Tour, or there are simply more people around than there used to be, it was more like a can of sardines than a can of sardines. The good news was that it was pretty easy to find somewhere more peaceful to sit and enjoy a drink, since everyone seemed to be in the plaza……which of course begs the question, who actually makes money out of these affairs, because it certainly didn’t seem to be bringing business to the local eateries or bars, many seemed to be quieter than normal. As I turned my key around 1am the streets were far busier than they had been at 3 pm. In wintertime the streets are deserted at that hour, except for a few young bucks, even though by the standards of those of us brought up further north it’s quite mild.
This town, without a shadow of doubt, has had a unique vibe. Almost everyone remarks on this, adjectives like quirky, bohemian, hippy or laid-back are the ones you hear most. Last summer, when it promised to be the way it is now I decided I wouldn’t spend another summer here, yet here I am. You might say it’s a general malaise I feel, an eagerness to be moving on, but I don’t think so. It’s simply that the vibe changes in summer. This much remarked-on quirkiness which results in El Médano’s unique energy, is suffocated by the tourist vibe. These summer visitors don’t come to ride waves or bikes, they don’t come to admire the sunrise or the volcanic beauty, they come, it seems to me at least, to bake themselves on the beach, and spread litter around the town. In winter there is a quite remarkable mix of nationalities and interests, and energies – sporting energy, creative energy, an energy which connects man to sea and land, but in summer there is lethagy. Perhaps the Windsurf Tour will stir it up a bit. I’m sure I’ll miss a lot about El Médano, but I’m kind of glad I won’t be spending next summer here.
I don’t do advertising on this blog, directly, nor indirectly, but if I find something I like, a product, a book, a movie, a restaurant I like to let the world know! So…..all photos on this post except the first one and the one of the turtle release were taken with my Sony Xperia. I’ve had it a few months now. Didn’t set out to buy it, but am very happy with it, especially the photos.