Thursday, November 29, 2012

10 Tips on How to Stay Warm in Your Apartment in Andalucía in the Winter

We’re already almost finished with November, which means winter is here to stay in Andalucía, the region in the far south of Spain. You’d think its latitude on the globe would protect it from the bite of cold but, nevertheless, it does get cold here; I’ve heard many language assistant bloggers mention that the “coldest winter of my life” was experienced right here. Now, I think much of that is simply exaggeration (just compare Andalucía’s monthly temperature and precipitation averages with those of, say, Chicago or Fargo, N.D.) but a lot of it has to do with facing the weather head-on. In the U.S., many of us are blessed to have central heating in our homes and cars to drive anywhere we need, so we’re fairly insulated (pun intended) from the worst of the winter.

Here in Spain, however, most apartments or homes don’t have heating (calefacción), and people use their feet instead of their wheels to pick up the milk, meet up with friends, and go to work. Naturally, winter feels much more bitter than it might back home. This month I’ve been doing a few things that have helped me stay warm in my chilly apartment.

Spanish brasero
El brasero (de picón, por supuesto) by A. Antolín Hernández on Flickr

1) Use a brasero

A brasero is a circular table, usually in the living or dining room, with a long, heavy tablecloth that covers a little furnace that sits on the floor beneath the tabletop (recursion overload, sorry). People sit around these modified tables with the tablecloth draped over their legs (and sometimes arms), basking in the warmth from the electric heater. A long time ago, they used to have little bowls that they laid coals in, but now you just plug an appliance into the wall.

2) Use a space heater

You can either get one of those tall, rectangular ones that shoot warmth throughout an entire room, or you can get a little Nintendo 64-sized one that my flatmate has, which directs heat at a specific location (kind of like an oscillating fan, but a different idea).


3) Stay in bed with lots of blankets

Sometimes this is all you can really do.

4) Wear jackets, sweatpants, and socks

Back home, I usually go to bed in a t-shirt and basketball shorts (or less, depending on how sweltering Texas weather has decided to be), but here in the winter it is always sweatpants, and often a hoodie. Don’t even think about going around barefoot, especially on the linoleum! Get yourself some slippers or put on some socks.

5) Drink coffee and tea

Or liquid chocolate with some Spanish churros if you’re craving some carbs. Something I like to do is boil water and steep a bag of green tea with torn spearmint leaves and a spoonful of sugar; it reminds me of the té marroquí (Moroccan tea) I first had in the Albaicín neighborhood of Granada earlier this month.

6) Eat soup or stew

Related to #5 above is eating warm food. A heaping bowl of Texas-style chili (preferably spiced up with plenty of chili powder) foils even the worst winter evening.

7) Exercise or run up and down the stairs

I live on the fifth floor (“fourth” floor in Europe) in my apartment complex and when I finally reach my door I am always out of breath and ready to take off my jacket. I’m sure running up and down the stairwell a couple times would generate enough body heat to last me a good half hour…or so.

8) Take a warm shower

I love that, at least in my apartment, we use these huge silver tanks of gas that heat up the water very well. If I turned the shower handle all the way to the left, I would leave the bathroom with burns—and I’m serious. There’s nothing quite like the waves of warm, fuzzy feeling you get from the contrast of almost too-hot water and your igloo of an apartment.

9) Make sure the windows are closed

I feel like this should be an obvious tip, but we often leave the windows in the kitchen open to air things out (read: let the fumes from my burned curry leave the premises). If you forget to close them at night, be prepared for an arctic blast for breakfast.

10) Leave!

If you just can’t keep warm, just…leave. Often for a euro or two you can get a coffee or drink at a cafetería with central heating and snuggle up in a corner for a few hours. Many shops, restaurants, and other public place usually have heating, so start mooching off of those gold mines!

From native Andalusians to seasoned expats, what advice can you give to those of us struggling to keep warm this winter? Comment below!
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