The sounds of laughing, running children drifting through the open windows at midnight after a lazy summer day. Flower-covered terraces stretching across modernist buildings. The stillness that settles upon the usually-bustling squares and streets just after midday. Welcome to the Mediterranean.
Summer has a different pace of life in Southern Europe, especially in places that enjoy proximity to the Mediterranean Sea and therefore live the so-called ‘Mediterranean lifestyle’. Numerous books, tv shows, magazine articles and the like have been dedicated to teaching how to replicate the ‘Mediterranean diet’ or the ‘Mediterranean way of life,’ but the best way to experience this inimitable phenomenon is to see it firsthand.
The regular busyness of life is interrupted when the summer heat descends on Southern Europe. Hurrying from place to place suddenly seems like too much effort. The days are longer, stretched by luxurious siestas and sleepy meals that last far after the food is cleared from the table. The sun refuses to budge from the sky until after children’s bedtimes and the stubborn heat takes even longer to dissipate. In August, locals retreat to their vacation homes, the beach or their ancestral village to spend time with family. Young people are forever in search of a new hangout spot to enjoy long conversations with close friends over a bottle of wine and a picnic.
What does this mean for tourists? Although many restaurants and shops close in late summer so their owners can enjoy a well-deserved holiday, the summer months are also the perfect time for traveling and taking in unfamiliar sights and thrilling new experiences. The days are longer, the sun shines brighter, people feel freer… Eager to jump right in and experience it already? This will definitely be easier with some insider help.
Summer calls for tranquility. You can’t delve deep into the Mediterranean lifestyle if you’re running from attraction to attraction without a stop to breathe in the middle. Live it as it is intended, taking advantage of its inherent slowness and ease, its emphasis on good company and enjoying the moment. As always, it’s quality over quantity. Opt for a small guided tour with attentive tour guides who give you an authentic insight into Catalan (and Spanish) culture. Whether it’s a tapas tasting, a day at the sun-drenched Costa Brava, or a cultural tour through Girona, the guides will teach you how to slow down and take in the summer. They’re fun, knowledgeable, and highly personable; Spanish Trails tours are often described as “a day out with friends.” After all, slowness is just one aspect of the Mediterranean lifestyle; equally important is quality time spent with people. For many Southern Europeans, summer means returning to the town your parents and grandparents grew up and reuniting with extended family. The months of July and August are often synonymous in childhood with preparing food with your grandmother and running around in the cobbled streets kicking a soccer ball with cousins.
The laid-back lifestyle seems like a little escape from the ‘real world’, but the reality is that this is the real world for those who live in the Mediterranean. There’s no way to experience this authentically unless you take it in from its original source and location. The next time you’re yearning for some tranquility and ease in your days, consider doing like the Europeans and planning a trip to coastal Spain.