A summer in Spain

Canada is a great place to live, but as the cold November winds begin to seep into my bones I can’t help but reminisce about my summer in Spain.

Last year I spent four months in Madrid as an au pair with a fun-loving Spanish family. When I arrived at the home and was greeted by two live-in servants who could not even say hello in English, I realized I was in for an interesting summer.

I found the Spanish way of life to be carefree and relaxed. I knew I would like Spain from day one when my “dad” suggested I go have a siesta. These are afternoon naps that take place daily, after lunch. I had nap time in Kindergarten, but this brought napping to a whole new level.

In small Spanish towns, stores actually do close down for a few hours because of siesta time.

Something about the hot weather makes it appropriate to lie around, either on a hammock, or by a pool, or in bed for a couple hours after lunch. It is the perfect break in the day and leaves one refreshed for a night of partying and enjoying the company of others.

Spanish people in general are so outgoing and inviting that I never felt like an outsider. There was always someone who wanted to practice their English on me, or learn more about “America.” (I became adept at explaining that Canada is not part of the United States).

It was amazing how quickly I adapted to parties that would start at about 10 p.m. and end when the sun was coming up. The weather, being just perfect at night, caused most young people to stay up until the wee hours of the morning. Sangria flowed freely at most social gatherings.

Girls in flowing, bright dresses would dance and spin around; the guys were not afraid to dance either, and would sing and clap to fun Spanish music.

And this wasn’t dancing like the girls and guys at Phil’s on a Wednesday night; their moves had a grace and flow to them that we Canadians just can‘t match (though believe me, I tried) They felt the music from the tips of their fingers to their toes, and they moved with it.

Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. A city on the Mediterranean Sea, the vibe I felt while I was there was incredible.

I only had three days there and it seemed a waste of time to go to sleep because there was so much to see and do. There were streets so narrow you could put your arms out and touch both sides. Yet these tiny streets were always bustling with a cornucopia of sights and smells and people and food.


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Yenny Van Andel and her new-found Spanish friends


Food is an important part of the story. If you’re a fan of eating and gaining weight, Spain is an excellent destination. Every time we went out for dinner, which was often, I tried new and exotic foods.

I enjoyed a myriad of seafood, especially when spending time in coastal cities. With my family, absolute staples were bread, olive oil, pasta, meat and wine. Vino was an experience on its own – my family would get crates of it shipped to their house on a monthly basis, both red and white.

After Italy and France, Spain is the third largest producer of wine in the world. If you don’t like wine right now, spend four months in Spain and you will.

My final experience in the country was a two week vacation in Mallorca, a Spanish island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. You have not seen blue water until you see the world-famous beaches there. I just wanted to capture the beauty of it in my mind and soul and never forget it.

My family and new friends spent afternoons on sailboats, lolling around and then jumping into the sea. I had to get used to the teasing shouts of the children shouting medusa! (jellyfish) whenever I was about to jump in.

There were small risks when swimming in the sea, but hey, my whole summer was one big risk, so why not one more? Nights would be spent lingering at sea-side restaurants drinking wine for hours. I didn’t want the dream to end.

I could write about that summer for a lot longer, but I’ll leave you with this: If you ever get the chance to travel through Europe, I highly recommend visiting Spain. The culture is so different from our way of life in Canada. The people are relaxed and ready for a good time. You will have memories that will last you a lifetime. I know I’ll never forget my summer in Spain.

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