Hot Beach, Cold Nights

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There are five clouds on the horizon – fact, not metaphor. Every other day this year the skies over Cadiz have been royal blue and vast. January was always such an easy month to work through in London; no inclination whatsoever to leave the desk, unless to meet someone in Soho for drinks at six, that is. But here it’s a little more tricky. Daytime temperatures have been in the low 20s, and hiking the muffled trails through pine forests at the top of the sierras has proved irresistible, as has lying with a book in the long, herby grass by the henhouse, even pruning the last olives. But then I haven’t got any interesting work on at the moment. A few days ago I pushed a kayak into the water and paddled slowly across the mirror flat lake, looking up at Zahara, everything steamy hot, and still and silent apart from goat bells up the mountain, a tractor, and choughs – one of the five kinds of non-tropical birds I can name.

And depending on the wind strength and direction, it’s hot two hours downhill, curled up in the dunes as well. Bolonia is never crowded, even in August, but in January people are so spread out along the long beach they look like dots. Further towards Tarifa the dots are swinging from pink and orange kites – kitesurfers skimming the surface of the sea. They don’t stop for winter either.

There are fewer people around, and some of the bars and restaurants are shut (many of the chiringuitos included, along with cheery Lola’s in Tarifa), or operating on a whimsical (annoying) ad hoc basis, but the coast is as lovely a place to be in winter as summer. It’s still got the sun, sea, sand.

Having said that, night and day in winter are as different as . . . well, night and day. The heating gets turned off in the province of Cadiz around 5.30pm, even before the sun goes down, and the temperature sinks to four or five degrees. I know that’s considered balmy in Philadelphia, Siberia, and Toronto but the daily rise and fall means I’m constantly surprised first by how hot, and then by how cold it actually is.

Dress code 10am-5pm: jeans and t-shirt. Dress code: 6pm ’til late: jeans and t-shirt, and two pairs of socks, two thermals, polo neck jumper, scarf, bobble hat, padded winter coat . . . and that’s just indoor wear.

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