To the naked eye the sign announces what type of establishment it is. A bar. A place where bartenders serve alcohol to those who are of legal age to consume it. But to locals and visitors alike in Castrillo de Murcia it is more than meets the eye. It is a place to order café or tea. A place to play cards while catching up with friends and enjoying una copa de vino (a glass of wine.) A place to watch futbol (soccer) on tv, eat a snack, or buy a pack of cigarettes. It is an establishment frequented by almost everyone in the small community. Farmers stop by for a cold one before heading back out to the fields. Parents walk in with their children in tow. Una cerveza (a beer) for them and un mosto para los ninos (white or purple grape juice for the children). Or un helado(an ice-cream) if the day is hot. Life is good at the bar.
I recently wrote about what I thought I would miss about my life in Chicago if I moved to Spain. It wouldn’t be fair to say that I would loathe such a move. I have also given great consideration as to what I might relish should I have the opportunity to live there one day.
Here is my list:
The educational opportunities for my children, especially for them to become for fluent in Spanish. Believe it or not, they understand a lot, but are lazy when it comes to speaking the language.
A chance for my children to experience the culture of their father and forming strong relationships with their extended family in Spain.
The food, particularly the cheese and yogurt selection and los mariscos (seafood). Americans have become obsessed (in my opinion) with fat-free products, which are lacking in taste (again my opinion). I salivate just thinking of all the varieties that I can find in the local mercado (grocery store)
More places and spaces to walk about in. The country is very well designed for people to get around by foot as well as just go for a walk. It is a common sight to see people of all ages strolling around various cities in the late afternoon hours enjoying one another’s company.
A good cup of coffee is typical in every bar, café, restaurant and household. No watered down American versions here. The Spaniards like their café strong and so do I.
Call me old-fashioned, but I love the old styles of houses that are typical in Spain and other parts of Europe. In these homes you can close the door to the kitchen, the dining room and the hallway that separates the rest of the house from the bedrooms. They block noise, keep cooking smells from traveling to other parts of the house and create a more intimate feel while entertaining friends. I have always lived in homes where the living room, dining room and kitchen are somewhat open and connected to one another and I would look forward to inhabiting a house with a more traditional European layout.
In keeping with the European design, homes in general are smaller, but in my opinion better designed. I especially like the kitchens. While they are small in square footage, all of them provide a space for a small table with chairs. No kitchen in Spain is complete without this small area to eat breakfast, have a snack or sometimes eat dinner. The appliances are well placed, as are the types of cabinets, utilizing all the space efficiently. Most of the kitchens even have room for a built-in washing machine.
Longer vacation time and more holidays. Need I say more?
Respect for eating/resting/family time. Did you know that most stores close for a few hours each afternoon? Spaniards have to plan their shopping and errands accordingly. It is not a 24/7 society like in the U.S., and I hope it never becomes one. If jobs do not allow for a siesta during the week, it remains alive and well on the weekends, holidays and during vacation. The people of Spain are not the type to try to cram it all in as little a time as possible. They enjoy their food, their friends and families and their time off.
Bars are not what they are in the United States. In Spain people meet their friends at the bar, have coffee at the bar, have a snack at the bar and bring their families to the bar. You read that right. Perhaps because of their lax views of alcohol consumption or their emphasis on family, or both, Spanish bars are a place where people come together to share a drink, catch up and yes, bring their children. I have shared many a drink (clara – a mix of beer and clear soda or lemonade, if you must know) with friends while my children have had a juice at the same table as me, or played at the park while I remained at the table. Which brings me to my next item:
Parks are wonderful here in Spain. They are everywhere. You often find them next to a bar or outdoor café. As I mentioned above, families come together, order drinks and snacks while children come and go with their friends, free to run around and explore or play on the equipment. The parks are original and unique, unlike the cookie cutter versions that I tend to see everywhere in the States. Towering climbing structures where children can practice their skills and pretend all at the same time. None of them have rubberized turf underneath, just plain old dirt. Of course children fall sometimes, but that is part of childhood. How else will they learn how to be careful , take risks and learn to get along with others if even their playground equipment is so protective.
Until that day comes, I will disfruta mi tiempo cuando estoy en vacaciones en Espana (enjoy my time when I am on vacation in Spain.)