Heat

As lifelong Oregonians, weather was among the larger changes we expected moving to Barcelona. But we didn’t expect to land in the middle of a heat wave.

We arrived during July 2018, with record temperatures popping up all over Europe. Many of my coworkers confirmed–this was abnormally hot, even by their standards. In Barcelona this meant every day exceeded 90F/32C, often by quite a bit. Oregon summers hit those heights; in fact, during those first weeks, Portland often had a higher max temperature. But that comparison excludes a crucial factor: humidity. Nestled on the lovely Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona’s humidity hung anywhere from 75-90% day in and day out, remorseless and thick. You could practically swim in that air, though not a swim that would refresh you.

Our first two weeks were in a hostel where, thankfully the room and common areas had some air conditioning. The hallways between were left as a broiling challenge, though, the moment you left your door. The front lobby was extra chilly, and I was often willing to run errands if they afforded the chance to pass through that frigid air.

Space in the shared fridge was tiny, but we sacrificed a chunk to a big jug of cool water since the taps provided little relief on their own. We would often treat ourselves by ducking out to the big grocery store 10 minutes walk away for a bag of ice. Hurrying home, we’d paint the pavement with sweat and melt-off from the ice almost the whole way. Once back, we’d stuff every water bottle we owned with what remained frozen and rejoice.

A key tactic for dealing with heat is simple avoidance–don’t go out unless you have to. Unfortunately in those early weeks that wasn’t an option. We had to explore neighborhoods, visit flats, and purchase necessities from stores often long distances from Poblenou. These activities rarely happened in the early morning, so it wasn’t uncommon to set out on a mission in the heat of the day. Needless to say, our energy for completing all those tasks wasn’t what it could have been in a cooler period.

There’s a particular feel to that humid air, a speed with which your shirt starts sticking and your forehead moistens. I haven’t felt anything like it since Mali, and there at least rain every couple of days broke the humidity a bit. I started commuting to the office while the heat persisted, and descending into the Metro proved particularly stifling. Each step you could feel the heat climb a degree, while the air closed around you like an unwelcomely warm blanket. Blessedly, the subway cars had air conditioning, a small relief to anticipate, quickly chilling all that sweat you’d accumulated on the walk and wait to the station.

The beach (which we’ll discuss more later) also provided respite. The water was perfect for swimming on these blazing days, just cold enough with no threat of frozen limbs as on the Oregon coast. We trekked out to the beaches every few days, risking sunburns to bob in the soothing water.

Our flat also has two air conditioners, which proved perfect for keeping things under control. We’ve continued cooling water and introduced a Brita filter in the process. There’s always a refreshing drink to be had in the fridge.

And worst come to worst, if you’re willing to break away for a couple minutes down the rambla, there’s always gelato to soothe your fevered head.

PS. Hilariously, since we’ve returned to the US for a month to finish our visas, Amber has found herself freezing all the time. Admittedly, San Fransisco was a bit cooler than Portland, but I didn’t expect that the tables would turn in just six weeks. I’m ready to return and see what October in Barcelona looks like.

PPS.

One thought on “Heat”

  1. My wife and I are following you and we’re going to get in touch with you when we return to Europe. We met Amber at the WinCo store in Albany the other day and I are ultimate goal is to travel and remain in southern Europe and when were there next time we will try to get over to see you. We are David and Phyllis and we are currently in Newport, Oregon.. This was a great write-up and we enjoyed reading it.

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