How we adjusted to the Andalucian Time Table
When you move to a very different country it takes a while to adjust or even cast off some of your own habits.
Moving from the chilly shores of Ireland to the extreme heat of southern Spain is as radical a change as you can think of. Now living here five years, I have watched myself from walking on the sunny side, to catch as much heat as possible in the early days, to now walking on the shady side of the street. This took me two years.
Now, I always wear sun glasses, as my eyes are naturally dry and the hot, dusty air makes them sting. I also always apply sunscreen on my face and hands in the morning.
We have adjusted our meal times from eating regularly around 13.00 to between 14.00 and 15.00, as the mornings are fresh to do outside work. During the siesta time, between 14.00 and 17.00, we stay out of the sun. In the evening more gardening or walking can take place.
I use the siesta time in town to go shopping at Mercadona, as it is then mercifully empty and I can get my shopping done quicker. It’s a chore to be done, not a particular pleasure, and as all other shops are closed and people are having their lunch and siesta and I can breathe through the aisles.
It is only April and the temperatures are already up to 30 degrees, a fairly sudden jump, paired with a dramatic lack of rain. The rivers are only small rivulets and the lagoon at El Rocio is drying out already. Our well is at its lowest level, but holding steady. At this time of year, it should have its maximum level, but it is nearly too late to hope for a lengthy deluge to fill up the water levels.
Daily hundreds of thousands liters of groundwater are pumped up to irrigate the strawberries grown here on more than thousand hectares of land. This water is exported all over Europe, but hardly replenished if the drought in Europe continues. This is criminal. It is depriving the Doñana National park and its wetlands of its most valuable asset.
Already last year the indigenous horses, the Marismeña race, had to be taken out of the National Park as water and grazing was lacking to support this ancient way of husbandry. Farming here is mostly subsistence, very little feed is bought and the Doñana was a huge grazing ground for free for many centuries. We witnessed the deterioration of the condition of the horses in the last couple of years when they are herded through the town of Almonte at the ‘Saca de las Yeguas’ in June every year.
Excuse the rant, dear reader, but this means, everybody has to adjust to the progressing desertification of the South of Spain, not just the newcomers and guiris (foreigners). Old farming methods and traditions also are in danger of becoming a memory of the past.
You can read more here: https://www.euronews.com/2022/11/02/spains-donana-wetlands-are-drying-up or here:
or here: https://wwf.panda.org/wwf_news/?6327466/Dont-blame-the-drought-for-drying-out-Donana.
We exchanged the lawn for an artificial version, which is permanently green and needs no watering; an expensive investment but a water conservation decision.
In my first and second year of gardening here I seem to have had more success even though this climate was new to me. Now however, it’s so much harder, even the wine dried up last year due to the hot, dry wind, people told us.
My tomatoes and aubergines only started producing fruit after the hottest time was over by September, and then lasted until December. This year I will save myself the bother and only grow in the autumn and winter. Our potatoes however are doing well and starting to flower. We already harvested two containers. This is the only way to keep the water available for the plants, to plant in containers. Or of course drip irrigation, which is too complicated for me to install, as my space is too big and expansive.
Types of Guests We Encounter
As guest house owners, or rather Rural Tourism provider for the past five years, we have a lot of stories to tell. We never know who comes through our door and when, so it certainly makes life interesting.
All sorts of people and couples come through our door. Our house has been used for prostitution, for a honeymoon, for a first date, for recovery and a refuge and many interesting life stories have been told.
We can categorise our guests into several common types:
- the ‘Book-and-Canceller’
We get quite a lot of them; particularly when they book weeks in advance for some fiesta happening in El Rocio and then cancel a few minutes later or a few days before. At this stage I don’t even get excited about any booking until 3 days before, only then it gets written into the calendar and my guest list for sending out the directions on Whatsapp.
- the ‘Book-and-not –turn Upper’
Every guest gets a confirmation email from Booking.com and also from us. On the day before arrival another email reminds our guests that check-in is open from 14.00 to 20.00. This was needed as some Spanish like to go to El Rocio and meet friends and turn up at midnight or later for check-in. A day prior to that they will receive a Whatsapp message with directions to our finca, with a written description, a map and coordinates. And still some Spanish get lost.
And some do not merit this care with a reply, which usually means they accidentally booked or their plans have changed but they do not bother to admit this and just let the reservation go and don’t turn up, which is an easy way for me to earn money as they have paid in advance. But the lack of communication and respect is still annoying.
- the ‘Thousand Questions Asker’
If a guest bombards me with question after question through Booking.com that often means trouble. It shows that they do not take the time to read our detailed description and want everything hand-fed to them. He is closely related to the following type of guest,
- the ‘Not Read-but Assumer’
These guests usually want a self-contained abode, a small cottage for themselves with a kitchen to have family and friends around for the price of one or two rooms. Maybe there are places like that available, but certainly not for just one night. They read Almonte, Finca, Double room, a low price, great. When they appear you can see on their faces the dawning realisation that we actually live here and they have to share this house with us.
One of those guests, a flashy guy with gold necklace from Malaga, actually started arguing with us. In the end Nigel used his Irish charm on him and he loved it here.
- the ‘Never-mind-the-Time’ Guest
At booking, we ask for the estimated arrival time or guests will reply to my Whatsapp message with a time. Sometimes they will ask to come earlier to drop off luggage, which is no problem. But sometimes they will give me a later time, like after 16.00 or later, which gives me time to do some shopping after doing up the rooms. However often these guests will then actually arrive much earlier, which means we really can’t trust their estimated arrival time. Only since I introduced a fee for late check-in are guests abiding our check in times. Obviously, if people arrive by ferry or plane at a late time we allow for that, and at least they will now let us know beforehand.
- the ‘We-Love-It-All’ Guest
We do have a lot of appreciative guests that like the personal touch, the friendly vibe and rustic set-up. So far we have achieved every year the Booking award through the high ratings of our guests. And that makes it all worthwhile.
- The ‘I lock my door’ versus the ‘I leave my door open ‘ Guest
We did not always have locks on our doors. In fact, we only got them installed last summer, after four years of hosting strangers, and yet still we don’t lock our door. Sometimes we might remember to lock our room when we both leave the premises and we have guests.
We did have some guests remarking on our lack of security and now about 50% would use it when they leave to go to town or elsewhere. I guess for them it’s a kind of habit from staying in hotels. It does at least give them the choice and a feeling of security.
Excuse me for the lack of pictures. As I have reverted to the free version because I thought I don’t really get the benefit out of my yearly payment I now realise that the space for uploads is full and it will not allow me to add more. I will have to remedy this, as a picture says more than a thousand words and they make this blog more colour- and meaningful.