Dining outdoors wearing short sleeves in December

The Mediterranean is just feet from our table.

The Mediterranean is just feet from our table.

Friday was seven days until Christmas Day, one week to go exactly, and we enjoyed a lovely afternoon meal outside in the sun.

We had returned to El Faro Restaurant in Villaricos (see https://50shadesofsun.com/?p=932 for our first visit there) for its superb Menú del día (Menu of the Day) that offers an amazing salad platter and bread to share plus three courses, a

Our main course, partly eaten when photo was taken,

Our main course, partly eaten when photo was taken.

drink from the bar as well as coffee for just 12€. That’s about £8.80 or $13, a pretty good price for all that.

So, while the UK was experiencing temperatures peaking at 12-13°C/53.5-55.5°F with winds of 30mph and gales forecast, we ate lunch on the restaurant’s terrace overlooking the Mediterranean just a matter of feet away, as we enjoyed a shade temperature reaching 23°C/73°F and no wind at all. We were both wearing sunglasses and I was more than comfortable in a short-sleeved polo shirt.

Short sleeves, sunglasses and sangria. Cheers.

Short sleeves, sunglasses and sangria. Cheers.

Spain is the sunniest country in Europe and the climate on the Costa Blanca has been described by the World Health Organisation as being among the healthiest in the world. Its Mediterranean coastline, from the Costa Blanca to the Costa del Sol, enjoys an average of over 300 days of sunshine each year. When northern Europe is being deluged or is frozen, you can almost guarantee that the south of Spain will be bathed in sunshine.

After we got back home, I checked a world weather map online and I found that the afternoon temperature was almost on a par with Honolulu and higher than many other ‘hot’ places including Cape Town and Sydney.

Lapping up the December sunshine. The cardigan soon came off.

Lapping up the December sunshine on the terrace. The cardigan soon came off.

It is no secret to our family and friends that Lisa and I moved to Spain for its delightfully sunny weather, but why does southern part of the country benefit from such weather?

Having donned my researcher’s hat again, it seems that the country actually has three main climate zones: Atlantic, Continental and Mediterranean. Basically, north-west, central and south-east respectively.

Well, we live in the province of Almeria which, along with most of Murcia and Alicante, has what is described as semi-arid climate – indeed, Almeria is said to be the driest part of Spain. Although we have not experienced it yet, having only arrived last month, it is very hot during the summer with average highs of 30°C/86°F but temperatures can exceed 40°C /104°F and the drought usually extends into the autumn.

South-east Spain is known for having a sub-desert climate, with rainfall as low as 120mm/4.7in a year in the Cabo de Gata which is supposedly the driest place in Europe.

We know our winter has yet to arrive and fully expect it to be cold but our neighbours tell us that only occasionally can we expect a morning frost and that snow has only been seen once in the last eight years. We shall see!

 

 

Stunning Mojácar and a date to remember

mojacar

Yesterday, Sunday, started off with an overcast sky. Despite it being December, it was the very first really cloudy sky Lisa ad I had seen since we arrived here in Spain. But, before you smile too much, I should point out that the sun did come out in time for us to enjoy a siesta-timed lunch in a delightful restaurant right on the beach.

It was at a place called Mojácar Playa (‘playa’ means beach) where we went after taking a look at the amazing town of Mojácar itself. It is unlike anything that I have ever seen in the UK; and Lisa says that she has never come across such a sight in the US either.

Although I called it a town, it is really a village that has become much more than that in both size and importance. It has been inhabited since around 2000 BC and, at various times has attracted different peoples. These have included the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks and the North African Islamic Moors. When the Moors established themselves in Spain in the early 8th century, the province of Almería came under the authority of the Caliphate of Damascus.

Visually, and I suppose architecturally, Mojácar is stunning. In its lofty hillside position, its white buildings glisten in the sun as it commands amazing views over both the surrounding countryside and out over the Mediterranean.

It is hardly surprising that, despite the overcast start, we were able to enjoy lunch in the sun as Mojácar has more than 3,000 hours of sun per year. Rainfall is seldom and weak, with an average rainfall of just 200mm (that’s less than 8 inches) per year. The average yearly temperature is around 20 °C.

The average temperature in summer varies between 26 °C and 32 °C. while in winter it is between 10 °C and 18 °C. Winter is normally mild and never lower than 4 °C.

Thanks to Mojácar’s being close to the sea, the maximum temperature in summer is considered mild. However, in the inland zones of Almeria, during summer, day time temperatures can reach 40 °C; even the low evening temperature is high enough to warrant the use of air-conditioning, especially during June, July and August.

Today is a bank holiday because yesterday, Constitution Day was on a Sunday. Another grey start but already we can see patches of blue sky and have some sunshine.

1941

IMG_0089Before closing today, I need to draw your attention to it being the74th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. We went there last December and visited the memorial that stands over the USS Arizona that lies where it sank on that fateful day and which is the last resting place of 1,102 of those killed on board that ship.

We all owe everyone in our armed forces a debt of gratitude for the service they give and the risks they take on our behalf. To those serving now, and to veterans of former wars and campaigns, I salute you.

Picture: Part of the Roll of Honor in the Memorial, listing all who died.

Around and about

IMG_0804_edited

So many of you have been asking about the environment here in our part of Spain that I thought that I had better answer your questions in a post.

Our home is in the province of Almeria in southern Spain, between Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca but, thankfully, nowhere near the popular tourist destinations. We are in a small community of about 30 or so properties (I have never counted) in a valley completely hidden from the main road. There is a village in walking distance and a town some 8km/5m away.

The market is only yards from the sea.

Lisa shows the market is only yards from the sea.

The climate, as by now you must be aware, is sunny. It is said to have 330 days of sun here every year. As such, we are surrounded by palm trees, oranges and lemons grow just down the road from our front door and there are a variety of plants that grow well in tropical climes as well as some desert ones.

Agriculture is one of the major economies with melons and lettuces being two of the major crops. Near us, it was fascinating to see, just last week, people working for a local co-operative arrive and harvest a field of lettuces by hand.

We are in an area where desert meets the mountains and sea. Indeed, we can be on a Mediterranean beach in 10 minutes. Most of the rivers are dried up but they occasionally flood when the rains come. The wettest month of the year is September and the worst of winter tends to be January and February.

That's me, wearing sunglasses by the Mediterranean.

That’s me, wearing sunglasses by the Mediterranean.

Average temperatures reach their peak in August with highs of 30˚C/86˚F but occasional days of 35C/95F are not unknown. At night the average low temperature is 22˚C/62˚F. Spring and autumn temperatures are more moderate; they go up to about 23˚C/73˚F and down to around 12˚C/53˚F.

November’s average high is 20˚C/68˚F but, in fact, yesterday it reached 22˚C/62˚F. The nights, however, are quite chilly with average lows of 10˚C/50˚F.

This morning, Sunday, we visited a market in a nearby town right on the Mediterranean. The stalls were set among palm trees (see main picture), the sky was blue and the sun beat down. The temperature was 23˚C/73˚F; another glorious day. Did I mention it is sunny here?

 

 

Two days to go until we head for better weather

rainy day

Dateline: 24th October 2015.  It’s a cold, wet and quite miserable Saturday in what passes for autumn in North Wales; actually, not only here but across the UK generally the weather outlook is no better,

In fact, yesterday a storm warning was in place for this weekend and into next week and, although nothing at all like the scale of Hurricane Patricia, meteorologists were predicting winds of up to 60mph, heavy rain and, in mountainous areas, snow at higher levels. Today, though, the forecasts have become less extreme but still very wet and cold.

Still the spirit in our home is really upbeat, despite what the weather is doing outside, as we are spending our last weekend here before setting sail on Tuesday to cross the Atlantic aboard Royal Caribbean’s luxurious cruise line Anthem of the Seas.

Following a week at sea, we will view the New York City skyline and then see the city grow larger as we approach before docking in Port Liberty. Actually, I wonder if you realise that the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island is not in New York at all. In fact, geographically, it’s in the neighbouring state of New Jersey.

Anyway, once we leave the ship, Lisa and I are spending nearly 10 days touring the north-eastern states of Massachusetts, New York (the state, not the city this time), Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Being born and growing up in the city, in the Bronx to be exact, Lisa has an everlasting attachment to it and she can hardly wait to show me more of the area. We started my tour last December when we stopped off in New York City on the way back from our trip to Hawaii, now it’s time for part 2.

This time, of course, apart from a brief visit to the UK to collect Pooka and Prissy from the cattery and then wish them bon voyage on their overland journey, we will be flying to Spain to start the newest chapter in our lives in our new home.

And the weather here today just redoubles the feeling that we have made the correct decision when choosing to move to be close, well just a 10 minute drive, to the Mediterranean. The area has an average 320 days of sunshine a year. Actually, neither during the crossing of the Atlantic nor on our NE America holiday, do we expect to enjoy the best of weather conditions. It won’t be until we reach Spain exactly three weeks tomorrow, on Sunday 15th November, that we expect to see reasonable weather.

Some people have asked about how the sunny weather will affect my MS. It is true that both hot and cold do have an effect but we are all different. Some people cannot take the heat, some find the cold difficult and others don’t like either but just feel happier somewhere in the middle. I have found that it is the changing temperatures that have the most negative effects for me. When we visited Spain in April and May, I found that my condition improved a little. Longer sunshine means more vitamin D, which is something else that’s good for fighting MS.

I’ll keep you up to date on developments.

It’s summer? Really? Where is the sun?

cloudy sky

Do you get fed up with news reports claiming that this, or next, month is set to become the hottest July, or whatever, since records began? If so, you are just like me.

You see, it is not only the weather that irritates me with so-called summers having too much rain, overcast skies even when dry and biting winds. It is the seeming inability of the weather forecasters to get any prediction of sunny weather correct. They have no problem with rain; if that is forecast then it’s pretty definite it will rain. But say that we are set for sunny day, or even a collection of them, is doomed to failure.

Saturday news on the internet was quoting meteorologists as saying yesterday would see temperatures to rival Spain with them reaching 26 Celsius (79 Fahrenheit) in England, 24 (75) in Wales and 22 (72) in Scotland. Guess what, nope didn’t happen at least not here in Wales. Here it was only 19 Celsius (66 Fahrenheit) just after midday.

Looking out of the window, yesterday I saw a completely overcast sky with no blue showing at all. Also, although it soon died down, the wind was whistling around where we live.

So much for yesterday being the start of a heatwave.

And, for all the media hype about hottest months in the UK, there has not been one in 2015 so far. In fact, the hottest June, August, September and October since records began all happened in 2014.

This, in comparison, July got off to a great start with the hottest July day ever on the 1st but that was it. In fact, July was so cold on some days that we turned our heating on and, from talking to people, I know that they did the same thing. Needing heating in July is plainly ridiculous.

August is supposed to have a heatwave and with three weeks left that is still possible. But realistically it really is only possible, not probable at all. I would not put money on it and I am most certainly not going to be holding my breath in anticipation.

It may be memories that have improved with time but I can remember sunny summers in my childhood. Not every day, of course, but days and days when I could enjoy being out in the garden enjoying the sunshine. And I can clearly recall my mother and then teenage sister sunbathing on our lawn much more frequently in the early 1960s than would be possible now.

As for yesterday equalling the temperatures in Spain, what a laugh. Even if they had reached the predicted levels, they would not have been anywhere close to those in Spain. Checking yesterday’s weather where we will be moving to in November, I found it to be 31 Celsius (87 Fahrenheit), a bit different from the UK.

It just makes our plans all the more attractive and confirms that we are most definitely doing the right thing. All that lovely sunshine and natural vitamin D too. Lisa and I really cannot wait to be there.