Rainy Days in Oviedo

It’s raining in Seville, rare in September but welcome after a hot and excruciatingly long summer. They’re those sort of spotty showers that come and go as fast as takes you to find a cozy cafe to wait it out. Usually, I’d be cursing having to take public transportation to work or scrambling to bring in laundry I’d hung in the sun, but this last week of rain has been incredibly relaxing.

In between the raindrops, people run into the street to do their errands, to have a coffee, to meet with friends. I was virtually the only person on the street last Friday as I let the bottoms of my jeans get wet on the way to sue my bank (pequeños placeres, people). For sevillanos, rain means literally raining on their parade, but so many places in Spain get rain almost daily.

I spent two days in Oviedo last summer with my local friend Claudia, ducking into boutiques, cider bars and bakeries when the rain clouds closed in and sipping coffee in the sun when they dissipated. In the summer months, the capital of the Principality of Austurias still gets rain nearly half of the day!

Clau lives right behind the train and bus station, so after I set down my bag, all packed for the Camino de Santiago, we stopped off at a bakery for an early afternoon treat. The repostería’s outdoor seating area looked inviting, so we caught up between mouthfuls of cupcake.

Just as we were counting out change for our coffees, a waiter came to zip the plastic enclosure around the patio. Asturianos are like dogs – they know when the weather is about to change.

I’d been to Oviedo once before with the Novio and some friends – his mom’s family is from Asturias – so we could skip the museums and touristic sites. The rain came and went quickly, leaving the marble pavement in the city center slick. 

Claudia is Argentian and once lived in Seville, where we met. After years of almost nothing but sun, she’s learning to live with rain.

Even with the spotty weather, Asturias shone. The colorful buildings stand apart amidst the grey skies that dogged my first of seven days in Asturias.

Having known one another for five years, Clau led me exactly where I wanted her to: a place to eat and drink in Plaza Fontán. We ordered a bottle of cider and two bollos preñaos, hardly breaking our chatter to have a bit to eat.

Once again, the sky opened and we could hardly hear one another over the rain drops on the canvas umbrellas. Unlike in Seville, no one ran for cover, but scooted their chars a bit closer to the table, lest a few raindrops splatter on them.

We ordered another bottle of cider to wait out the storm. Now with hazy brains, we took long naps and headed to Calle Gascona later on for endless rounds of cider, cachopos and giggles. 

The next day’s sun burnt the clouds off early in the morning. We hiked to the Pre-Romanesque churches of Monte Naranco, taking time on the way down to stop in bars for the views over the valley, have a caña and share a few snacks.

The rain held off all day in Oviedo, only to pour that evening in Avilés. No wonder the cows here produce such great milk – the grass really is greener on the other side of the Picos! 

Surprisingly enough, for the five days Hayley and I walked through Asturias on the Camino de Santiago del Norte, we had not one drop of rain. We were instead met with soaring temperatures and beach weather, a rare but celebrated thing in this corner of Spain.

I’ve dealt with rain in Lisbon, in Brussels, in Ireland, often sticking around in my hostel to relax or get to know other travelers in the bar or common areas. But somehow, rain in Oviedo just seemed like something to work around, and not get worked up about. Way to not be an aguafiestas, lluvia!

How do you cope with rain when you’re traveling?

The Rain in Spain

“I knew the weather was changing during my morning cigarette yesterday,” the Novio mentioned as he smoked his [fifth] evening piti.

That’s the problem with being a pilot, he confessed. You start to understand the weather patterns. His friends nodded, confident that we were about to enter the Veranillo de San Miguel. Like most moments in my life in Seville, I shrugged and gave them a puzzled look.

Alas, not three weeks after returning to Spain, I’m putting away my summer clothes and actually sleeping under sheets. We welcomed Autumn this week with spouts of drizzle, chillier temperatures and the need for a jacket in the evening. Now is the time people start chiding you for not wearing a scarf (reason for getting a cold), for sleeping with your window open (reason for getting a cold) and walk in stocking feet in your house (reason for getting a cold).

Spanish idioms about the weather are some of the silliest I know, and I’ve made a point to put them into my speech for a dramatic effect when talking about Seville’s 300 days of sunshine, and 65 days of cold, damp grossness (for the record, the only think I like about Fall is anything pumpkin-flavored).

Veranillo de Membrillo/de San Miguel – Indian Summer

The little summer of quince or Saint Micheal is what we Americans call Indian Summer – a deceptive window of time where summer returns for just a few short days, complete with high temps and sunshine. Currently, it’s been in the low 70s, and sevillanos are hoping to squeeze out one more beach weekend.

Hasta el 40 de Mayo, no te quites el sayo – Bring your jacket

Like the Veranillo de Membrillo, the above refrán refers to just the opposite: to not be deceived by warm weather, as there will always be a burst of cold. It literally means, until June 10th, don’t take off your light jacket. This old idiom begs you to consider covering up so as not to catch a cold.

Tiempo de perros – Foul weather

The weather of dogs means nothing more than bad weather – storms, blustery winds and the like. Use this idiom with the verb hacer to talk about the weird weather that descends on the land of sunshine and siestas to impress your Spanish friends.

Tener más frío que robando pingüinos – To be very cold

There exist dozens of ways to talk about cold, including the “cold that peels” or the cold that likens you to playing with seals. My favorite is to be colder than robbing penguins, conjuring up a winter wonderland at the North Pole. In Seville, it hasn’t snowed and stuck for over 50 years, so the blue skies that are ever-present in winter trick you into thinking it’s warming up. Nope. Get your penguin-catching nets ready.

Tener carne de gallina – To have goosebumps

Goosebumps are weird sounding, but the Spaniards go ahead and make it goose skin. Even weirder.

Estar calado/a hasta los huesos – To feel damp

I didn’t realize just how cold Seville gets in winter until the Christmastime rains came. All of the sudden, my clothes wouldn’t dry and I found myself shivering under the covers with the heat on, nothing more than my eyes peeking out over the top. Because the city sits in a river valley surrounded by mountain ranges, Seville weather is damp and humid at any time of the year, prompting old ladies to admit to being damp in their bones as the walk their carritos to the supermarket.

Similarly, Spanish employs weather terms to describe people and situations.

Darse ni frío ni calor – to not matter

Spend the last weekend of Indian Summer in la playa or the mountains? No me da ni frío ni calor, really – I’ll take a weekend outside of Seville and away from my computer anytime. Anyone who is wishy washy uses this expression with a shrug to reaaaally let you know that they don’t care, and it’s translated literally as not giving you neither hot nor cold. Cue Katy Perry music.

Cambiar más que una veleta – to be fickle

Speaking of which, you probably have a friend who tells you it doesn’t give him hot or cold, but then changes his mind. Someone who changes more than a weather vane is said to be fickle, and I could easily blanket stereotype with this one, but I won’t. Hey, we’ve all got friends like this.

Llover sobre mojado – When it rains, it pours

As I listen to the rain finally pounding down on a very dry Seville, it’s easy to envision this idioms: When one bad thing happens on top of another, it’s raining over what’s already wet. I made friends with another auxiliar when she was living in Huelva five years ago. As much as she loved Spain, she got dealt one bad hand after another, finally leading her to leave spain after one year. Her reason? It didn’t just pour, it poured over what was already wet.

Pasar como un nube de verano – to be short-lived

You know what passed by like a summer cloud? Summer itself! I have to admit, I’ve never planned my outfits around shoes, but when you haven’t got many options for Fall shoes on a sudden rainy day, it happens. Anything short-lived is remembered nostalgically as a summer cloud. The only problem is, in Andalucía we’ve got either zero clouds or sun protection, or the icky grey skies known as borchorno.

Que te parta un rayo – to go to hell

Straight out of Greek mythology? Damning someone means wishing they get halved by a lightning bolt. I like it.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Got any other to share? Leave them for me in the comments – I love learning Spanish idioms almost as much as teaching them in English!

The Rain in Spain

Rain in Sevilla may just bring about the Apocalypse.

Being from Chicago, I’ve adapted to severe cold and extreme heat, rain, tornadoes, and everything in between. But now that I’ve moved to a city that sees five times more sunny days than rainy ones and reaches 115 degrees in June, I forget that rain and snow must seem like the world is coming to an end for a normal Sevillano.

I watched the rain spill over Triana from Jaime and Maria’s seventh story piso this afternoon. Uff, como cae, Maria remarked as her mother told me the hour was up and I collected my 14 euros. I wasn’t far from home, but the rain was falling so hard that I couldn’t see more than a few blocks over my neighborhood.

The whole length of their street, Avenida de Republica Argentina, is covered by soportales, or porticos. It’s one of those big, grand boulevards that I usually like walking down, but the businessmen and quiet buzz of traffic was non-existent. I looked for a taxi, willing to pay to be dropped off in front of my house. Every taxi that passed had its lights off. The two buses that went by were so full, that no one was getting on or off.

I had to walk. I dug my umbrella out of my bag and propped it open, heading down Esperanza de Triana. The streets, being as old as they are, have seen a lot of wear and tear, and although Sevilla is flat, my flats soon became waterslides. I jumped from puddle to puddle, barely avoiding water more than a few inches deep. Old women, obviously oblivious to the fact that I was in a hurry, constantly stepped in my path as they dragged their carrito to the supermarket.

After dodging a few spindles of umbrellas, I arrived to Calle San Jacinto, the main artery thru Triana. Cars welcomed me by their usually beeping, not because I’m famous, but because the street construction coupled with the rain and EVERYONE hopping in their cars makes it impossible to pass thru the city in an effective manner. The bus I tried to take had probably moved three blocks, I thought to myself. The normally crowded street was a ghost-town, with Trianeros scrambling to ge underneath awnings or into any cafe that sells coffee. I had no choice but to go on towards home, stepping through the rivers of water on the streets and wishing I would have put on my rainboots before going to class.

I can’t complain much. In the last month, it’s only rained three days and it’s still in the 80s. For October, we call this Veranillo de Membrillo. I call it paradise, rain and all.

The Snow in Spain Falls Mainly in Madrid

All of my kiddos practically spat out the words when I saw them: “THEY SAY IT’S GOING TO SNOW ON FRIDAY CAT!” I had enjoyed a few blissful minutes of Iberian sunshine and warmth after arriving back to Spain from frigid Austria, only to have my reverie interrupted by some smart-ass weatherman on the radio who warned that temperatures in Sevilla, the hottest city in Spain, might get as low as one or two celcius degrees (35-37 F).
“Not like it matters for you,” Kike said. “You’ll be in Madrid and it will snow there for sure.”
And snow it did. A LOT. I arrived to Atocha about 21h30 and met Alvaro and Isabel, two friends who live there. We headed out for some din and a few beers and I went to bed early. I had to go to Madrid to get a visa to go to China, and the office is only open a few hours a week.
When I left Alvarito’s house at 9am the following morning, the snow was starting to fall but not sticking. It left wet puddles all over Puerta de Toledo. I hopped on the Metro and went 17 (yes, créetelo. 17) stops to Ciudad Lineal. Callejero street guide in hand, I followed Alvaro’s advice and hailed a cab. The Chinese Consulate is practically at the airport! I hailed a cab and he told me that the traffic was so bad because of the sudden snowfall, I would be better off walking. So I asked a bus driver. He told me the same things – half of the buses that should have been out on the streets, weren’t. So I took off walking, happy to have my umbrella with me because the flakes were FAT. And wet. My new boots have a line of salt halfway up because I walked nearly a kilometer.
I was so cold- the bus stops along the way read -1 celcius or lower – and thinking that with my luck, the consulate would have been moved to another location. Thankfully, 40 Josefina Valcarcel had posters written in chinese character welcomed me. It took a whopping three minutes to get to the front of the line and the lady was wonderfully helpful and nice. I ended up paying 123E for the visa – 90 for just being American and 33 to have it expedited immediately so I didn’t have to come back. Then it was back into the tundra, passing four of the same buses and traipsing through about 12 cm of snow.

Plaza Nueva under a blanket of snow

I met my buddy Jeremy in Plaza de España, one of the central plazas in Madrid. The whole city was blanketed in snow, but it didn’t stop the Madrileños from coming out of their houses and building snowmen, throwing snow balls and marveling in how the city had been converted into a white playground. Jeremy, who is from Chicago as well, took me to a shadddddy Chinese restaurant underneath the plaza. We ordered dumplings, rice, chicken with vegetables, sesame bean curd deliciousness and soup, and Jeremy taught me to use chopsticks (joder, I’m in trouble!). Then he said, “OMG LET’S GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY!” as if the native Chicagoan had never seen snow. We walked around Plaza del Debod, Campo de Casa, past the Palace and national Cathedral, through Puerta de Toledo and Sol.

Later, I met Alvaro and his two roommates to have dinner at their house and we switched on the news. Alvaro told me he didn’t make it into work because the roads were shit with the snow. 400km had been full of cars and traffic jams in and around Madrid, the airport shut down for a few hours. These people get snow a few times a year but the whole city shut down on Friday.

I spent the rest of the weekend with Alvarito and Izzy and made it out to Valladolid to celebrate Lucia’s 2.5 birthday and see Aurora’s new convertible. Why anyone would buy a car like that for a city that gets four months of warm weather a year is beyond me. It was nice to have real food and be in good company. I love Spanish host moms.

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