Jan 20, 2015: Things No One Will Tell You About Spain

We’ve safely made our way to the sunny and ever clement shores of the Canary Islands, a tiny offshoot of Spain on the coast of Morocco. We chose these islands mostly because they have been voted to have the worlds most pleasant weather. It helped that they also had a convenient direct flight from Germany.

Other than the weather, I had no idea what to expect when we got there. But, as often happens, everything seemed normal. Good public transit, friendly people and plenty of tourists. It wasn’t till we’d been here a few days that we started to notice the differences that no one seems to mention.

First of all, as avid coffee drinkers, we were disappointed when we couldn’t find coffee beans. Anywhere. Not at the grocery store and not at coffee shops or cafes. After asking around (a lot of asking around) someone directed us to the Triana neighborhood, a large shopping district a short bus ride away. They thought we might be able to find it there, though they were puzzled as to why we’d want beans when coffee is available pre-ground. After an hour of searching we did find one store with a few beans in the back. They were mostly stale and had been heavily flavored with liquor to cover up that staleness. We bought a little out of desperation, and were unsurprised to find that it tasted as bad as it smelled.

We’d been on the hunt, not just because our time on the West Coast of Canada has left us spoiled for great coffee, but because the coffee here is primarily robusta beans; a cheaper bean with a stronger, acrid flavor that we’ve never really developed a taste for. It’s been three weeks and we still have yet to find the coffee we’re looking for.

It hasn’t been an easy search either, given that almost all stores close daily between about 1pm and 6pm. They take their siestas very seriously here, and you’ll only find tourists walking the streets between those hours. I’ve no idea whether everyone naps during those hours, but the blackout shutters every apartment window seems to have would indicate that many people do.

Another side effect of siesta hours means that stores are open late. Retail is usually open till 8pm, and bars are open till nearly 4am. For the first few weeks I thought everyone was out late because of the holidays. Turns out that an afternoon nap can keep you going well into the wee hours of the morning.

In an attempt to get the most out of our trip, we’ve been trying to switch our sleep schedule to something more spanish. Catch a nap in the afternoon and go to bed late, and somehow wake early enough in the morning to get a few hours of activity in before naptime. So far, we stay up late, sleep and have nearly a 50 per cent rate of success when it comes to waking before 1pm.