A Lesson in Siesta

Since the moment I arrived in Costa Brava the previous day Norma, my lovely hostess, had kept me busy. Two and a half days, she kept telling me, was simply not enough time to experience the area. My itinerary left almost no time to relax – unless over a meal, of course, and I soon realized that I was absolutely forbidden to acknowledge any jetlag, on this first stop of my DoubleTree by Hilton DTour.

With a combination of about six hours of sleep for the past two nights I hit the ground running and was up before the sun to make the most of my limited time in Costa Brava. That is why I was so surprised when, after finishing the picnic lunch at the end of our short bike ride to the beach, Norma rolled over onto her stomach and explained our next activity. “Alright,” she smiled, “now it is time for siesta.” I looked around at the rest of the visitors at La Gola del Ter. A couple of people had waded into the water lazily, several more were doing just as Norma was doing: siesta.

The setting of my lesson in siesta.
The setting of my lesson in siesta.

My former experience with siesta was during my semester in Rome. I had always assumed that siesta was an optional activity but Romans took the practice very seriously. Shops closed after lunch and didn’t open again until late in the afternoon. Residents and visitors alike rested in parks, on benches or in their homes, observing the daily ritual religiously. Several of my fellow students embraced this practice but I could never wrap my head around it. I’m not a natural napper and the idea of “wasting” so much of the afternoon wasn’t something I was interested in doing. I used to use these hours of quiet to get lost in the city and discover new areas and streets without the usual crowd.

“In Spain, it’s not like that!” Norma explained when I told her my impression of siesta. “No one has the time to sleep for several hours. In the summer months when it’s very hot and nothing can be done outside, maybe. On holiday, maybe. But normally, no. Just a short rest, that’s the Spanish siesta.”

But at first I was restless. I dipped my toes in the water and walked up the beach toward La Gola – literal Catalonian translation is the throat of the river, equivalent to the mouth of the river in English. I snapped a few photos, admired the sea and eventually returned to our picnic where Norma was already enjoying her siesta. With a sigh I decided that a siesta on a lazy beach on a Sunday in Costa Brava was actually a good idea. I lay down on the towel and allowed myself to drift off, the lapping of the waves my lullaby.

Like a real Spaniard, I awoke on my own about twenty minutes later. Lifting myself onto my elbows and squinting in the sun Norma turned her head toward me and smiled, “you do siesta very well!”

“I guess it helps to have a good teacher.” And with that, siesta was over and it was on to our next activity.

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