WHAT comes to mind when most people think of Andalucía is the warm Mediterranean, stretches of olive groves and palm tree-lined white beaches. The heat defines the region, where even the structure of the working-day revolves around a siesta.
I was escaping the dark damp days of London for Andalucía and I knew it wasn’t going to be sunbathing weather, but I was quite unprepared for just how cold it would be.
I found myself in a traditional home in a pueblo blanco, with views stretching across rolling hills down to the coast.
While these houses are designed for the scorching heat of summer and do a fantastic job of retaining the cold, they utterly fail to be comfortable in winter when the mornings and evenings can be surprisingly chilly.
With tile floors and no carpets, little roof insulation and no central heating I soon discovered I would need jumpers, scarves and slippers to keep warm inside.
Was it just me feeling the cold? How do the locals keep warm? I started to ask around and even reached out to readers of the Olive Press to share their tips.
My colleague Elena Gocmen, a 25 year-old who lives in Marbella, described an ingenious piece of furniture that has pride of place in her grandmother’s village house during the winter.
Called a ‘mesa Camilla’, this table has a specially designed base with a hole cut out to store a brazier for hot coals. A heavy blanket is draped over the table trapping in the warmth so that those seated around it can ensure their feet and legs are kept toasty.
Other tips from Spanish friends included ‘constant supplies of hot drinks’ while others insisted on swathing themselves in dressing gowns and blankets when at home, and one admitted she wears bed socks that sometimes stay on her feet for days.
One young Spanish man said his family do put carpets down in winter as a protective layer against freezing cold stone floors – but roll them up again come spring when they are packed away in storage until the autumn.
I also reached out to the expat community to see what advice I could glean from those who had experience of swapping well-heated homes back in Blighty for a villa in the sun.
Expats Maureen Croft and Anne Crosskey agreed that the best investment they made was an electric blanket. “After 14 years in Spain and a recent bout of sciatica, I have just bought one and it is absolutely the best thing for the winter.”
Jennifer Santolla admitted to wearing ‘hooded PJs as a winter uniform’. “My flat is SO COLD in winter we skip showers often. it’s an ice box in here,” she wrote on The Olive Press Facebook page in a discussion about keeping warm in Spain. “A heater doesn’t do much to warm these cement walls.”
Fellow expat Jenny also wraps herself up. “A vest, 2 sweaters, fleece trousers, knee length socks, furry slippers and a scarf which does a good job of keeping the heat in. Pretty much what I used to do in the UK as I didn’t have central heating there either.”
Janice Groom revealed she had made an ingenious alteration to her drapes: “Thermal backed curtains have made a big difference in my cold apartment.”
While Sonya Llewellyn admitted to using every available tool in the fight against the cold:”A gas fire, a blanket, thick pyjamas, a hot water bottle and an electric blanket.”
Kevleigh Bastin said he had to use more drastic measures to keep warm in his home: “There is nothing worse than being cold and I did not come here to do so,” he wrote.
“Most Spanish houses do not have insulation in the roofs, we made sure that we bought a house that needed a new roof and made sure that good insulation went in when it was reformed, otherwise you are just throwing money away trying to heat a place that has nothing in the roof and fighting a losing battle,” he explained.
One thing that seemed to be universally agreed upon was to spend as much time as possible outside with your face turned to the sun.
“Go out more as it’s warmer outside,” was the final word from one reader.