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June 2009

Get ready for “Horario de Verano”. That’s one Spanish phrase you should know. It literally translates as “Schedule of Summer” and means the opening hours for many businesses will change to accommodate the heat. When I first learned about “Horario de Verano” so many years ago, I thought it couldn’t be true. How could we change opening hours just because it was summer? Impossible. But in fact, it was true, not only true, but necessary! Just imagine trying to work through the heat of a southern Spanish summer.
Now this is exciting news: The World March for Peace and Non-Violence, organised by the NGO World without War, is coming through Spain starting on the November 13, 2009 in Barcelona. Participants will march south to Madrid then on south to Andalucia. The march will continue across our region before heading into Morocco on November 17, 2009. This event may seem to be a long way off but numerous high profile personalities from around the world are already working hard to promote this march.
So many people come to Spain to spend their holidays at the beach, but have you every wondered how Spaniards spend their time off? Of course they head for the beach like everyone else, that’s why it’s so crowded in the summer. The difference, perhaps is how they go to the beach – usually in large groups of family members – and how they generally spend this big, jolly family holidays. My first summer with the Spanish family was pure culture shock – mainly because I kept waiting for something exciting to happen.
The most appropriate thing to do in the face of the summer heat is to live like the Andalusians. One of my favourite changes that summer brings is dining "al fresco" (yes, I know this is not "do as the Romans" - but the phrase does fit). While some love to breakfast in the sunshine, I prefer to lunch on a shady terrace - especially if we have a light breeze. The cool of the evening is also a perfect time to have late meals outside.
Andalucia is known for sun, sand and sea. This region is also known for its bullfighting and flamenco. And some know that the south of Spain is an important producer of olives and olive oil. But how many people know about these other traditional, highly appraised crops: chestnuts, grapes, avocades and... pine nuts? Yes, this past pine nut season - December to April - nearly 145,000 kilos were harvested in the mountains of Córdoba, Cádiz and Huelva.
Life is speeding up, people say. There's not enough time, is the big excuse. And it's a fact, in some cultures, people suffer from a time deficit while in other cultures people seem to enjoy a time surplus. I wouldn't say Spain actually enjoys a tremendous surplus, but there is a lot more time here than - say - northern Europe or the United States. Those poor regions of the world seem to be constantly running out of time.