Early on in his biography of the novelist Kingsley Amis, Zachary Leader quotes a hilariously misanthropic letter Amis wrote to the poet Philip Larkin, one of his closest friends. Amis, at the time in his early thirties, was complaining about a three-month stint he and his family – including his son Martin, then five years old – spent abroad, as required by the terms of the Somerset Maugham Prize, which he won in 1955 for his first novel, Lucky Jim (Martin would also win it in 1973 for his debut, The Rachel Papers). Clearly not impressed with his surroundings in Portugal’s Algarve, Amis listed a ‘sort of basic kit’ of things he thought necessary for a visit to the country in the mid 1950s:
1: a DDT [mosquito] spray with a half-gallon storage tank; 2: a placard saying in Portuguese WHAT THE F***ING HELL ARE YOU STARING AT?; 3: a crate of detective novels; 4: a jar of pills which promote constipation; 5: a solicitor as travelling companion…
As I face my ninth summer living in Andalusia (jeans folded away, duvet removed from bed, red wine stored in fridge, air-conditioning unit dusted off), Amis’s grumpy letter got me thinking about what you need to bring or to know if you’re visiting Spain’s most southerly region during the hottest months of the year. You won’t necessarily require items four or five from his survival ‘kit’, and you certainly won’t need item three, implying as it does that there’s not a great deal else to do. But number one is a good idea (unfortunately), and number two (in Spanish, obviously) could be handy if you’re staying in tiny rural villages – although a slightly less combative tone is recommended.
Apart from that, here are a few other tips that might be useful to survive a summer visit to Andalusia:
Be near water
I can’t overstate the importance of being near water during an Andalusian summer, even if it’s just your hotel’s rooftop plunge pool.